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Travel | © Yosomono/Flickr
Travel | © Yosomono/Flickr
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8 Things to Know Before Visiting the USA

Picture of Leena Kollar
Updated: 31 May 2017
Headed to the USA for the first time and not sure what to expect? We can’t predict how your travels will go, but we can offer you these bits of knowledge to help you make the most of your journey.

Americans Tip For Services

Be prepared to fork out extra money for some of the things you’ll experience in the USA. Unlike other parts of the world, Americans tip for many services. At restaurants, servers are paid around $2.10 US dollars per hour, earning a majority of their paycheck through tips, which are usually in the 15-20% range. Hairstylists and barbers are tipped, usually between 5-15%. It is also customary to tip bartenders, taxi drivers, and people delivering takeout food a few dollars.

Woman at a hair salon
Woman at a hair salon | © Ralph Daily / Flickr

Nobody Writes Checks Anymore

With the constant evolution of technology, most Americans use cash or credit cards to pay for things. Online billing provides an easy way to pay bills and receive e-statements. There is also the convenience of credit card processing machines that make purchasing things from small kiosks or businesses easier. Since many Americans strive to be more eco-friendly, writing checks is done in very rare cases. Even when a cashier’s check or money order is needed, people often pay with cash to send those items, instead of writing a traditional check.

Uber Is The New Taxi Cab

Trying to hail a taxi cab in a big city on a Friday night can be quite frustrating. Thanks to the invention of Uber, Americans are able to hitch a ride to or from almost any destination. People like the convenience of the service, as well as the ability to connect with people on a more personal level. Simply find an Uber driver in your area who is available, call with your transit details and wait for them to arrive and get you where you need to go.

Man driving
Man driving | © Unsplash / Pexels

People Use Cell Phones For Everything

Americans use their cell phones to call people, but they also use them for just about everything else. From checking email to browsing Pinterest to scoping out the coolest new articles on The Culture Trip, people in the USA rely heavily on their cell phones to handle personal and business matters. Whether it’s for the purpose of communicating or being entertained, you’ll find that most Americans own a cell phone and can’t get through a day without one.

Not Everyone Is Friendly

Depending on where you visit in the country, people may or may not be nice. In some states, like New York, people are known to be a little rough around the edges. In the south, it’s the opposite; most southerners are known for their welcoming nature. Many Americans are happy to help tourists get around, but some don’t want to be bothered. Just be aware that if someone responds to you in a rude or unkind fashion, it’s not a reflection of you, but of their individual personality.

You Can Order Almost Anything Online

Online shopping is huge in the USA. But people don’t just shop for clothing, decor and home goods online. Some grocery stores allow you to place orders on their website, which you can then pick up at a designated time. You can order pizza and other foods, and even purchase automobiles. There are other online services, like scheduling appointments and doing video conference calls that many Americans also take advantage of.

Woman using computer
Woman using computer | © picjumbo / Pexels

Food Servings Are Usually Large

You’ll understand the obesity epidemic in America as soon as you order food at a restaurant. The food portions are usually large, which means that the uneaten food either goes to waste, or gets eaten by someone who is already full and forcing himself to finish. Many high-end restaurants serve smaller portions, but that comes with a higher price. One benefit to having large servings of food is that you can always take your extra food home in a box and eat it the next day.

Sandwich with pickles
Sandwich with pickles | © Michael Stern / Flickr

Sales Tax Is Added To Everything You Buy

Every country has different tax laws and rates, but in the USA, you can guarantee that everything you buy will have sales tax added to it. There are five states that don’t have a sales tax – Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire, and Oregon, but otherwise, expect anywhere from 5% to 10% sales tax to be added to your purchase price.

Man buying sweets
Man buying sweets | © Alicia Zinn / Pexels