Five Things Every International Student Should Know Before Coming to the U.S.


Another surprise associated with eating out is generous tipping on the price of your meal. Wait staff are typically paid less than minimum wage so tipping is their means to make a reasonable salary. Typical tipping amounts are 15-20% of the cost of the service. Many others who work in service industries expect tips as well including your hairdresser and taxi driver.


You will even need to calculate your final shopping bills at the clothing or grocery store to reflect the U.S. Federal and State government taxes that are placed on some goods and foods. It is not incorporated into the total cost as it often is in other countries. It is best to add up what you plan to buy and then add anywhere from 5-6.25% of the total so you are not surprised at the checkout.

5. While Americans are generally known to be friendly, they can also be confusing. They will ask you how you are as a form of greeting. They don’t really want to know, it’s just an expression. They may also suggest that you get together with them sometime. This is an intention. It is a positive sign that they have felt a connection with you and would like to get to know you better but unless you have a date, a place, and a time, it is not an invitation. My advice to you, is to follow up by suggesting a time and place to meet. Americans also procrastinate even when they have the best intentions so why not beat them to it?

Now that you know a little more about Americans and their culture, have fun with it and pay attention to other differences you run into. The challenge is understanding why the differences exist. There is no right or wrong way, only different ways.


Special thanks to Tina L. Quick for providing us with this article. Tina is the author of two extraordinary books dedicated to international students going to study in America: Survive and Thrive: The International Student’s Guide to Succeeding in the U.S. and The Global Nomad's Guide to University Transition.