United States of Awesome! America certainly is the land of opportunity and after living four years of my life there, I can gladly say I am well accustomed to the American lifestyle and can offer some helpful tips of getting by in your USA travels! It wasn’t until a friend was asking me on the general rules of tipping that I realised, this was once foreign to me too, I had to learn it at some point and well, who am I to keep it all to myself right?! So here it is:
To Tip, or not to Tip, this is the question! So the common LEAST amount to ever tip is 10% – under 10% and you may be followed home by a pack of angry waiters (no they won’t really do that, but it is quite a slap in the face, especially for good service) 15% is standard and 20% is for really good service. Personally, I got used to tipping 20%, always, because generally you’re getting amazing service, remember, they are working for their tips so you should EXPECT great service. On this note; Some, not all, but some waiters, when they see or hear you are foreign might think “Great (insert eye roll) foreigners! There goes my Tip!” and may not be serving you before their other tables or giving you the best service and I get it, a lot of the time even the foreigners who do know the tipping courtesies in the states will play the “foreigner card” and never tip. Maybe a great way to deal with this is mentioning at the forefront that you are unfamiliar with the tipping and for a little help at the end (which is what I did heaps in the beginning) or if you are familiar something like “yeah, from Australia, but I’ve been to the states a few times, I love it!” so that they get in both instances that you are going to be tipping them and that they need to work for it! But remember, 10%, 15%, 20% – stay within these guidelines, I would only ever excuse not tipping if it is extremely horrid service and you are absolutely within your rights to be upset and not tip, (though I really, really hope you don’t experience this at all in your travels!) or, if it’s for something that doesn’t require tips.
Like what? Well, in my time over there I found a LOT of people would ask for tips for near just about everything, you don’t HAVE to give the cab driver a tip, although if he got you there quickly and safely it’s quite nice to do, that’s the general rule everywhere, if someone is nice and going out of their way throw them a little tip as a thank you, but they get above minimum wage, the taxi prices are normal (unlike the food which is super cheap) and it’s a standard service, it is not required of you, but a lot of them will ask for it, up to you. You don’t have to tip take-aways or anything where you have to go up to get your food, it is just for sit-down service, although every receipt you get will have Total: x Tip: ____ Total Amount: ____ If you’re not tipping put a dash through the Tip space so it’s clear and no one writes it in, if you are tipping calculate the percentage from the Total, write it in the Tip space and then add them together for the Total Amount space. You do need to tip for hairdressers, you don’t need to tip for shopping (clothes, groceries etc) you don’t need to tip for buying tickets (shows, buses etc) but you should tip for bartenders, I usually do $1 or $2 a drink every time standard, they’ll serve you first, give you better pours and you’ll have a great time, a lot of people don’t tip bartenders but for a few dollars it’s worth the great service. Take a note of the check at the end as well too, sometimes for the swankier restaurants “Gratuity” will already be included, this means, they’ve already taken a tip however there will still be a place for you to write an additional tip, sneaky, sneaky! So watch for that! Lastly, don’t be afraid to ask someone to split a bill for you, meaning, give you smaller change, if they only give you back a $20 and a $5 and are expecting the $5 when the 20% would have only been $2 you can ask them to change the $5 for you, remember, they’re working for you!
Haha, the title makes me laugh, more for the fact I am imagining you guys reading and thinking, Really? Natalie? You’re teaching us how to walk? No, no, no, not how but where! I didn’t notice until I first got to the states and then didn’t notice again until I came back home that there is a certain walking etiquette in the states. You know how they drive on the right? (If you didn’t know that, well, they drive on the right!) well, they also WALK on the right, everyone sticks to the right side of the path heading north and the right side of the path when you’re heading south when you’re on the sidewalk, just like the roads! At first, being a foreigner and waltzing wherever I pleased I would think “why is everyone always walking into me and then looking so mad at me for it?” then I realised I was the lone walker infact doing the walking into! I suppose it’s just so populated and busy that it’s just easier that way, but try stick to the right at all times, roads, pathways, escalators etc you will be walking like a local in no time!
I think they’re sticking to a backwards theme here, but the dates are also flipped! Instead of Day, Month, Year, it’s Month, Day, Year – don’t ask me why! When I first went clubbing in the states I had just turned 21, the legal drinking age over there, yay! I brought my Australian I.D. out and my birthday reading 06/01/1990 – Jaunary 6th, actually turned out to be the 1st of June. Here’s me, arguing with the bouncer “Why would I come to a club with an ID that says I’m not 21 yet? You guys are the only people that do your dates like that, here, I’ll google it..” luckily, out of nowhere, bouncer number two comes up, a fellow Aussie hailing from Perth saying “nah, nah, mate she’s 21, don’t worry, that’s a legit Australian ID” but from there on, I didn’t always have an Aussie security guard on my side and had to take my passport out with me which was a little annoying, but hey, if you’re not 21 yet and born on the 2nd of December, helllloooooo 12th of February! Partying aside, you will also need to fill in important docs (I-94 entry card) etc with your dates M/D/Y
So taxes are added on to everything at the end, a little surprise sometimes! I would be standing there, convincing myself $400 was a reasonable price for this gorgeous dress, then would get up to the counter and be told “that’ll be $480 please” but….why….tears brimming in my eyes, it was alas because of the hidden taxes I did not know about, so I would then have to go back convince myself that $480 was now a reasonable price instead for this gorgeous dress! I think it’s 20% on most things like fashion etc so not crazy hard to work out when you’re perusing so you don’t get a shock at the end!
You’re gonna get it almost everywhere you travel, the whole to-MAY-to/to-MAH-to shabang! (tomato…just incase you couldn’t reference my sound spelling) But here are a few lingo lessons I picked up on quick when travelling through the states.
“Toilet” – Americans will know what you mean, but they kind’ve give you a “you’re super ghetto” look and it’s very crass (apparently) so always ask for the “restroom” if you start throwing out “May I please duck to the loo” they will look at you like you’re crazytown
“Heaps” – this is not in any dictionary, just FYI but certainly not known of in American lingo saying “thanks heaps” will cause them looking around for the person called “Heaps” – “Thanks a Lot” is your safe-zone
“Seeya later/Seeya soon” – unless you really are seeing them again later, a lot of the people I met would take this very literally, either start making plans, look at me confused like they didn’t know we had plans, or if it was a complete stranger i.e. shop owner would ask me when I was planning on returning as they shut in 5 – just a plain old “seeya” will do just fine
“Serviette” again, blank look. confusion. silence. awkward. no. You will find “napkin” muuuuuch more useful
“Eftpos” is referred to as “Pay by card” “ATM” “Credit Card” etc – also on this note, if you are paying for anything with your overseas bank card, “Checking” in the states is referring to your everyday account, so wherever your money is in for everyday use, the account type will be called “checking” on the machines. I had one-too-many embarrassing moments when my “savings” came back declined.
“R’s” in general. Go ahead, make like a pirate and pronounce those arrrrgggghhhh’s, it’ll get you what you want a little quicker lol
“Rubbish/Bin” – this is “Trash” or “Trash Can” so that you can be enviro-friendly without getting the blank stares
“Cooler/Eski/Chilly Bin” – haha okay, I learned this one a very funny way; RJ n I were throwing my first party in L.A. and I was asking him for an Eski, “you know like, something you put your drinks in to keep them cool” I would say, “Oh, like, a beer cooler” he replied, “Yes! Sure! That’s probably it!” out he would bring a stubby cooler or beer cooler that you put around your drink to keep it cool *smack face* eventually we guessed it, in America it’s called an “Ice Chest” Yes. I know. Very literal.
“Cotton Buds” – Have you heard of a cue tip? No, this will not help you in playing pool. “Cue Tips” are great for cleaning your ears……..so are “Cotton Buds”
“Togs” – “Swimwear”, “Bikinis”, “Bathing Suit” will all be able to get you by completely clearly!
“Doona” – this is a “Comforter” most will know Blanket but it usually doesn’t come as thick, so if you’re on the chilly side and want something a little heavier for your bed-spread a “comforter” is your go-to!
“Petrol” – ahhh memories, I now say “Gas” like every other americano – sad australian moment.
“Car Park” – I mean, it’s pretty easy to get, but “parking lot” is the preferred term.
“Fizzy Drink” – opt for “soda” “pop” or “coke” etc – also on this note if you want “Sprite” say just that, “lemonade” will get you a lemon-cordial-juice
“Motorway” – is either “highway” or “freeway” and remember, you’re driving on the right-side of the roads!
“Nappy” – your bubba would love some “Diapers” and they also do sell ‘Huggies’ brand if you’re looking, most ‘Ralph’s’ will have them (supermarket) but not WholeFoods (organic supermarket)
– a few words with different meanings.
“Boot” – if it’s on your foot, surrreeee, if it’s attached to your car – “Trunk” – I had some very weird looks crossing the Texas border from New Mexico when I told them my passport was in my “Boot”
“Biscuit” – not a cookie, but a scone-like treat for your breakfast!
“Bum” – the oh-so-familiar joke of the “fanny” but most everywhere will be on the same page with just a standard “Butt” or “Bottom”
“Thongs” – please refer to as “flip-flops” to avoid weird/sleazy/or slightly creepy looks
“Jersey/Jumper” – unless you’re out playing football or trying to start your car, you’re looking for a “Sweater”
“Cheers” – only if you’re toasting your drinks, but not an understood term of “thank-you”
“Chips” – are either “Fries” for hot chips or “Chips/Crisps” for bagged snacks
“Jam” – unless you’re in one i.e. traffic then your toast would love some “jelly” please!
-To top it off, here are a few awesome Aussie sayings that aren’t used in America, very funny blog post, I had a chuckle myself!
Just a heads up if you’re a crazy, wild, party animal. Besides New York and Las Vegas, EVERYWHERE will stop serving alcohol at 2:00am – supermarkets, bottle-shops, clubs etc. Some clubs may even close at 2:00am, but some will stay open as “after hours” but without serving alcohol. On this note, there are a lot of after-parties which were honestly where I had the most fun and met the coolest people, just remember to plan ahead if you want to drink at an after-party by buying your booze beforehand.
Fun Fact: You can turn right on them. UNLESS OTHERWISE SIGNED. Please don’t tell the police officer that I told you you could have an accident. But if no signage, that right turn is yours for the taking, don’t be that foreigner, holding up the queue, for the rest of us 😉
You!!!! Your accent. The cute way you say things. The fact that you’re different! Americans will LOVE YOU!! So be your 100% foreign self and have an absolute blast, American’s love foreigners, and are some of the most friendliest, lovely and accepting people I have ever met! They may be a little on the loud side, but they don’t bite, I promise. Go have fun, make awesome U.S.of.A. friends and send my love!