For some people, the definition of who is and who isn’t an American defies logic, historical accuracy, common sense, decency, good manners, the milk of human kindness, enjoyment of the good things in life, and love of good food. — Walter Kamau Bell


Different cultures behave in different ways. So, to function effectively in a different culture —along with the language— you also need to learn what things are or are not acceptable. They can be everyday situations such as chewing with your mouth close, apologizing, saying thanks and please, and other more specific ones that vary from country to country.

Here are some ways to show good manners in the United States.


1- Saying “please.”

Most Americans say “please” when they want something. For example, if you are ordering food at a restaurant, you can say, “I will have the roast beef, please.” Or if you’re asking someone else to do something, remember: “Could you please get the report ready for tomorrow?”

If you ask for something and don’t say “please,” Americans will think you are rude.


2- Saying “thank you.”

People only say “thank you” for significant events in some cultures. Americans say “thank you” or “thanks” a lot, even for small gestures. Remember to say “thank you,”, especially to anyone helping or trying to help you.


3- Saying “sorry.”

Americans also say “sorry” more than people in other cultures, even for little things like stepping on someone’s foot or bumping into someone in a crowded place. 

You can also say “I’m sorry” when the situation is more personal or express sadness for something that happened to you, even though they were not involved in the event. For example, you may tell someone that you were sick or that a relative died, and they might respond, “I’m so sorry.”


4- Saying, “excuse me.”

If you need to ask somebody for some information, you always must say: “Excuse me, would you know where the nearest supermarket is?”

You can say “excuse me” when you sneeze.


5- Saying “hello.”

When Americans meet someone for the first time, they typically say, “Hello” or, “Hi, nice to meet you.” If you have someone else with you, it’s polite to introduce them. The next time, you can say, “Nice to see you again,” or, I remember meeting you last month. How are you?


6- Looking in the eye

Americans tend to look people in the eyes when they are talking. They may not look at you in the eyes for the entire conversation – just part of it. If someone talks to you and you will not look them in the eyes, they may think you are trying to hide something or being secretive.


7- Stand inline

Most Americans are taught to wait their turn in a line from a young age. Generally, people line up one by one. Sometimes you may see someone “hold a spot” for someone else, but most Americans expect to wait their turn. 


8- Gifts

Americans do not have as many customs and taboos concerning gifts as many other cultures do. If you are invited to someone’s home for dinner or a party, bring flowers, a potted plant, a fruit basket, wine, a book, or a small household gift. 

Art and crafts from your country will always be appreciated. Cash gifts are never appropriate.

Most government employees are not allowed to accept presents. Do not be offended if someone cannot accept your gift.


9- Dating

In the United States, the “asker” is not limited by gender. In other words, women can freely initiate the dating process. The person asking is offering to pay and planning to spend. No matter what sex they are. The recipient may offer to pay or to contribute. Or they may add something special to the original invitation. This is still a mark of good manners though not something to be demanded, required, or expected.

Keep in mind that a date is a planned activity that could include but is not limited to: going out for dinner/lunch/breakfast, watching a movie, playing golf, or even going to a theme park. 


10- Driving

Honking your horn means a lot in America and can make drivers angry if it seems unnecessary. Limit how often you honk your horn.

Keep in mind, in the States; people always wear their seat belts even when they sit in the back seat.



Appropriate: suitable or proper in the circumstances.

Unacceptable: not satisfactory or allowable.

Common sense: good sense and sound judgment in practical matters.

Decency: behavior that conforms to accepted standards of morality or respectability.

Accuracy: the quality or state of being correct or precise.



Chill out: go easy, relax —often used in the imperative. 

Chill out! We’ll get there on time!”


Put up with (something): tolerate.

“I can’t put up with it any longer.”



Mind your manners: be polite, be courteous.

Mind your own business: not ask about something that does not concern you.


Related Articles:


Bad Manners in American Culture https://www.englishpriority.com/bad-manners-in-american-culture/

American Workplace Culture – Part 1 https://www.englishpriority.com/american-workplace-culture-part-1/

American Workplace Culture – Part 2 https://www.englishpriority.com/american-workplace-culture-part-2/


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