5 cultural tips for travelling the USA

The UK and the USA have lots in common: We speak the same language, we watch the same films and together we’re a little obsessed with the royal family.

But needless to say, there are also differences. Not only regarding our travel money, but also culturally too…

Get them right when travelling and you’re a local hero. Get them wrong and you look a bit silly.

Strangers talk to each other

Don’t panic. If someone starts a conversation on the street or on public transport it doesn’t mean they’re crazy!

This will be a foreign concept to those who regularly take the tube in London, but there’s no better way to learn about a new city.

Your accent is also likely to garner lots of attention. Prepare for lots of ‘Oh my gosh, I love your accent!’.

Keep it lighthearted and friendly

In the UK, teasing and at mildly vicious mockery between friends is the closest we get to a Public Display of Affection (PDA), In the US things are a little different.

Americans tend to be more patriotic than the average Brit and use less sarcastic and self-deprecating humour. Laughing at themselves or at political situations comes less naturally to them.

But on the other hand, Americans tend to be more open. Don’t be surprised if they are interested in your cultural background and your upbringing when they meet you. It’s completely normal for Americans to be less reserved in this respect.

Hidden charges can be common

There are a few things to watch out for when it comes to hidden charges.

Prices in the US are often given excluding tax. The percentage to add on this will also change from state to state. It’s worth finding out the percentage amount before getting to a state and not at the till.

Places in Florida, Las Vegas and Hawaii are known to have hidden ‘resort fees’ of between $15- $40 a day. It’s often added to the bill at the end so enquire about this before deciding on accommodation.

As you may know, tipping is not seen as optional as it is in the UK. The only situation you don’t tip is if the service is seen as truly awful.

Small tips can also cause offense. It’s been known for waiters to loudly return tips of 5% before customers manage to leave the restaurant.

Driving in the US

Driving in the US is not as daunting as some European countries but there are a couple of things to bear in mind.

Firstly, get in the right-hand lane. Also, make sure you’re in the correct lane because if you miss or take the wrong exit your journey could get long. Real long.

Turn right on red – Turning right is allowed in most states at a red light if safe to do so. Definitely one to research before doing!

For a more comprehensive driving guide, check out our full guide to steering your way around the States.


Whilst it's perfectly normal to have a few cold beers on an evening, you generally won’t find people sinking as many as on a night out as on this side of the pond.

Drinking socially has a time as a place too. Whist it’s fairly common to have a drink with co-workers for lunch on Friday, that would be very much frowned up across the pond.

The exceptions are college frat parties where red cups, kegs of beer and group chanting are all expected. See American Pie and/or any teen movie for reference.

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