Did you know that at most of the American airports, luggage carrier trolleys are not free of charge? It is likely you did not know this! You will have to pay a nominal charge of 25 cents to 1 dollar.

There are many aspects of life in U.S. that are not available in any guide or rulebook. This article compiles a list of practical tips shared by contributors on path2usa.com. These tips are likely to be useful for people who have just moved to the country.

Public Transport

  • In public local transport buses, there is no ticket conductor. Also in some places you won't get any formal tickets for traveling, unless you want a day pass.
  • If you are traveling by bus, you need to make a stop request by pulling the bell string. In local public bus, you need to drop the fare into a cash-box by the driver's side. Do not give it to the driver. Dollar bills will go in the machine and coins into the drop box. Always carry the exact bus and train fare since there is no provision to get any change back.
  • In local trains/bus there are two types of travel tickets:
    • "day pass", which allows you to take as many trips as required during the day, or,
    • "one way ticket", which is good for a single ride.
    There is a standard fixed charge for single ride ticket, whether it's for the next stop or the last one.
  • You won't find any taxi/cab waiting in a queue on the road sides. You will have to call them up (at the numbers given in the yellow pages). You will easily find a cab at the Airports and Railway Stations.
  • Most of the Gas Stations (Petrol Pumps) are self serviced. You need to fill it up yourself and almost all gas stations accept credit cards.

Driving Tips

  • Some of the traffic signals are monitored by video cameras. Do not be surprised if you get a traffic violation ticket in your mail box!
  • You can be fined for driving above the posted speed limit. Make sure you know the speed limit and drive at the posted speed limit.
  • Your license can be seized if you are caught drunk while driving.
  • If a cop (police officer) asks you to stop while you are driving, just stop the car at the right side of the road, and wait inside. Never get out of the car. The cop may shoot you for self defense.
  • Never throw any kind of paper or any other waste out of your car windows. You will be fined for littering.
  • Unlike India one has to keep to the right hand side of the road. The driver's seat is on the left side of the car. You will practice left hand driving in U.S.
  • For crossing roads there will be buttons provided on the signal post, which have to be pressed to get the "Walk signal". You must not cross the road unless the walk sign is on.
  • You will be fined heavily, if you walk on the highways. It is for your own safety.
  • If you need to use the restroom you are suppose to take the closest exit, and use public rest rooms. Under no circumstances can you stop on the road.
  • In cars, kids under 12 years of age should always be seated at the back with a seat belt. Additional car seat must be used for infants and toddlers.
  • Try to avoid using car horns, unless required.

Apartments

  • Normally, apartments provide basic kitchen appliances like cooking burners, oven, and refrigerator.
  • Most of the apartments are equipped with centralized heating system. Only some apartments are equipped with air conditioning systems.
  • You would find both "Hot" and "Cold" water supply at all places like you apartment, office and public rest rooms.

Eating out

  • At the restaurants, you won't get finger bowl. You can use paper napkins.
  • At the Indian restaurants, usually you can order "Thali" or "A La Carte". Both of them are served with some side dishes. Places with buffet are comparatively cheaper to Ala Carte. This is not an absolute rule and prices may vary.
  • At fast food joints and restaurants, you would be asked if the food is for "here" or "to go?. "Here" means that food will be served in the restaurant and "to go" means that food will be packed.
  • At most American restaurants, it is a custom to tip the server (not waiter). People tip a sum of 10% of the check (not bill).
  • At buffets, it is a custom to use a fresh plate for each next serving. Once you have finished eating, leave the plate on at the table itself and get a fresh plate for the next serving. The server will pick up the old plate.
  • At any Dine-in place, don't go and occupy any empty table yourself. Wait at the front desk and someone would assist you to get seated.
  • Are you a Vegetarian? Just be careful while ordering to specify "no meat" and do not use words like "without meat", "meat-less" as they don't understand these terms.
  • When you want a drink without ice, specify "No Ice" and not "Without Ice".
  • You would be fined heavily if caught shop lifting. Shoplifting is unlawful and shoplifters may be prosecuted.
  • In US, Beer and Wine is available in the super markets. At some stores you might also find hard drinks like, Whiskey and Rum.
  • Do not forget to carry your ID's having your age proof, if you are going to a bar.
  • Electric switches are operated in the opposite direction, i.e. upside-ON and downside-OFF. Generally, there are no ON-OFF signs next to every plug point. They are always ON. Just connect the plug whenever necessary.
  • Unlike India, in US the T.V. channels can't be tuned according to your wish. For e.g. ESPN will come on channel 39 for everybody, you cannot change it. However, this may change in your area and between different cable companies.
  • Never ever ask for a rubber when you need an eraser. Here a rubber means "condom" !!
  • The date is written as, MM/ DD/ YY i.e. Month/ Date/ Year.

What is say: What not to say!

  • When you are going to smoke, don't say, "I am going out for a fag". "Fag" in British English means "to smoke". In American English, it means a "Gay".
  • Don't say, "Phone was engaged", as here engaged means getting engaged. Instead say "There was a busy tone".
  • Don't say, "I'll ring you back." or "I'll call you later". Here ring is the engagement ring, rather say "I'll call you, or buzz you".
  • Don't call a black person a "Negro" or "Black", it is always polite to call them "African Americans". Also never call an "American Indian" as a "Red Indian", they get very offended.
  • Do not walk or sit with arms around the shoulders of someone of the same sex. You may be mistaken to be a "a Gay" or "a Lesbian".
  • There is no such thing as "eve teasing" in the USA. It is called "sexual harassment", and one can land in jail, if caught in such activities.
  • At work or elsewhere if you want to say Yes, just say "YES". Do not nod your head up and down. Moving your head side to side is very confusing, and it's mostly taken as NO.
  • Avoid talking in your native language in presence of people of other ethnicities in a social gathering. It is not courteous.
  • In supermarkets, if the cashier asks 'paper or plastic' he wants to ask you if you would you like to carry your stuff in paper bags or plastic bags.
  • During your conversation do not say, "I have a doubt", rather say "I have question/query".

Other useful Tips

  • Use water filters for drinking water, as there may be some lead content in it.
  • Here pink color shirt is normally taken as the sign of being a "Gay".
  • U.S. has 4 time zones. Depending on the zone, your time will differ from any other state. For example, there is a three hour difference in the state of California and New York.
  • All watches are reset twice every year (viz. April and October), in order to make the maximum use of the day light. This is called 'daylight savings'.
  • If you are unable to find public toilets at some place, locate the nearest fast food joint like Mc. Donald's, KFC etc. and use the restroom there.
  • Do not offer chewing gum, or a breath freshener to others. It gives them a message that they have a bad breath. Even if that was not your intention, you may send a wrong message and offend someone.
  • In a queue, maintain a reasonable distance from the person standing in front of you. If you stand too close to strangers, they feel you are invading their personal space....Watch Out!!!
  • Usually all ATMs will only give $20 bills and you may only withdraw in multiples of $20.
  • FREE is a buzz word here. You may get hundreds of ads with FREE in bigger fonts. Make sure that you read and understand all terms and conditions. Look for any hidden costs (generally referred to as 'catch') before accepting such offers. It is better to read the fine lines before making a decision.