Local traditions and culture in United States of America

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    A tip on tipping

    by melosh Updated Dec 13, 2009

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    Tipping is voluntary but is expected in certain situations.
    The idea is that a tip is a reward for personal service. It is also felt by many that it is a justified supplement for low paid workers.
    When you should or should not tip can depend on the place, time and people involved.
    Do not tip government officials, police officers or good samaritans. Sales people or managers including workers at fast food restaurants do not expect to be tipped. Some tipping of taxi drivers occurs expecially if special service is provided, but more commonly people just round off to next highest nearest dollar. In sit down restaurants with waiters or waitresses tipping generally ranges between 12 and 20% of the food bill. You need not tip on the tax. These workers are paid little salary and they survive on their tips. Usually there is a sharing mechanism so that the tips are shared with all the staff.
    The amount you tip should reflect the service received and the place where you received the service. In general higher percentage tips are expected in bigger cities and fancier restaurants.
    Rarely you may see a "service charge" added to your bill in the European style. Subtract this amount from your tip. Also a fixed 15% tip may be added to the bills for large groups. Again whether you add more depends on what you feel about the service. If the food is not very good and the service poor, tip little if anything unless you feel that the servers were sympathetic and not responsible for the problems.
    Remember, tipping is optional. Do not be intimidated by rude taxi drivers! (See taxi tip under transportation.)

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    Halloween

    by melosh Updated Nov 26, 2009

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    The main cultural celebration we have in the USA in October is Halloween. The roots of this go far into the pagan history of Europe. After Christianity arrived a kind of counter celebration developed around the idea that it was the time to celebrate "all saints". Kind of like a memorial day for the religious good people who have died. I do not think that in America the religious idea of Halloween gained much acceptance.

    As a child it seemed that Halloween was a universal celebration of whatever could be imaginatively scary and a windfall of sweet treats beyond my wildest dreams. It included cutting pumpkins into scary faces and having a night when ghosts and goblins roamed the streets. I think in those times every child was dressed up in a costume and would be taken to go door to door with a bag in hand and the greeting "Trick or Treat?" in the mouth. The trick was suppose to be a threat to do something bad to the homeowner but no one ever did a trick. Everyone received a gift of small candy or fruit. There were probably areas in America where this did not happen, but it did seem to me as a child that every kid got to do it.

    Since my childhood there have been changes. Because of the fear of children going up to the houses of strangers people have been trying to substitute costume parties. Many households just turn out their lights and do not answer the door during the night of "trick or treating". Some religious groups oppose Halloween because they see it as a celebration of evil. This has caused schools to back away from the celebration so as to not be accused of promoting a religiously condemned celebration.

    Another complaint that people level against this tradition in the USA is its apparent commercialization. They see it as a way to sell lots of candy and costumes that has lost any of its tradition meanings.

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    Eating Out at Restaurants

    by hunterV Updated Jul 21, 2009

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    In general, to express satisfaction with service, it is expected that patrons will give wait staff at full service restaurants a tip of 15 - 20 % of the bill.
    It is also customary to give bartenders a 10 to 15 % tip. Small tips are also given to coat check attendants ($ 1) and car park attendants (the same amount).
    It is not customary to tip in fast food restaurants. Customers of these restaurants are expected to dispose of the waste from their meals and stack their trays.

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    People's Behavior

    by hunterV Updated Jul 21, 2009

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    Besides greetings from complete strangers, you can expect all manner of behavior and sounds in public places : loud laughter, yelling, running, etc.
    When people converse, they use direct eye contact and tend to smile a lot. This outgoing behavior can create a lively and vibrant atmosphere.
    You feel you are among friends as I did during my stay there.

    The Thunder River, WI
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    American Politeness

    by hunterV Updated Jul 21, 2009

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    We, Ukrainian aducators, were all pleasantly surprised by the friendliness of people in the US cities.
    The people in the US may smile to you or even say "Hello" or "How are you", which does not necessarily mean these people are attempting to establish any meaningful contact. It's just a US version of politeness and not an overture to friendship.
    Besides, one "hello" during the day is sometimes not enough and very often when acquaintances encounter one another again during the day, they will greet each other again. While there may be too many hellos in a day, the goodbyes are often too few.
    Visitors should be aware that US acquaintances will often leave the room without saying "excuse me" or "good-bye", which is not considered to be rude at all.
    >>>>>
    Live and learn!
    >>>>>

    Wisconsin Capitol, Madison, WI
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    People in the United States

    by hunterV Updated Jul 21, 2009

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    People in the United States tend to guard their personal space and often feel that those who do not respect it are being offensive, invasive or too intimate.
    Whenever possible - when conversing, waiting in line or in public transportation - people stand about two feet apart from each other.
    People in the United States do not shake hands as often as we do, only when they are first introduced to someone or when they haven't seen each other for a long time.

    In Milwaukee, WI
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    Visitor's Challenges

    by hunterV Updated Jul 21, 2009

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    A part of your challenge as the visitor of the United States will be to discover and adapt to the local customs.
    In the United States people tend to be informal. They may, for instance, address each other by their first names, even in professional settings.
    During my internship at school my colleagues and their students called me by my first name as I had asked them to and I called them all (except one colleague who did not tell me his first name) by their first names in return.
    People whom you address may say, "My name's so-and-so" or "My friends call me so-and-so" which means you should call this person by his or her first name.

    Paper Valley Hotel, Appleton, WI
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    Jack Pumpkinhead?

    by grandmaR Updated Oct 30, 2008

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    October 31st was the eve of the Celtic new year but sometime in the 800's, November 1st became the Christian All Saints' Day. The evening before was All Hallow's Eve, or Halloween.

    In the US, children dress in costumes to "Trick or Treat". Each child gets a treat while the householder tries to guess what the costume represents.

    The pumpkin (an orange native American vegetable) is one of the symbols of Halloween. Carving vegetables into jack-o'-lanterns is a Halloween custom also dating back to Ireland.

    "A legend grew up about a man named Jack who was so stingy that he was not allowed into heaven when he died, ... He couldn't enter hell either because he had played jokes on the devil... Jack had to walk the earth with his lantern until Judgment Day. The Irish people carved scary faces out of turnips, beets or potatoes representing "Jack of the Lantern," or jack-o'-lantern. When the Irish emigrated to the United States, they carved faces on pumpkins because..they were more plentiful than turnips."

    A pumpkin also played a role in Washington Irving's story.

    "On mounting a rising ground, which brought the figure of his fellow traveler in relief against the sky, gigantic in height, and muffled in a cloak, Ichabod was horror-struck, on perceiving that (the rider) was headless!--but his horror was still more increased, on observing that the head, which should have rested on (the rider's) shoulders, was carried before him on the pommel of the saddle." -Washington Irving, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow"

    The character Jack Pumpkinhead in Frank Baum's Oz books has a much less scary pumpkin for a head.

    I took this picture of a pumpkin with a witch's mask leaning on it when we lived in Key West.

    My children used to ride as the headless horseman for Halloween. They wore a cape with the neck on the top of their head, and carried a pumpkin with a flashlight in it on the saddle.

    The second picture is my daughter's 1st place for the Scarecrow of Oz costume.

    Pumpkins are baked into pies especially at Thanksgiving.

    Carved pumpkin at Halloween Costumes-witch, Scarecrow of Oz, Black Beauty Elaborately carved pumpkin UPS Delivery driver Bo-Peep and her Sheep
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    Indian reservations

    by DPando Updated Aug 3, 2008

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    There are thousand of it in whole US. Its amazing take a look on a map and discover how many there are !!! the reality is that all stereotype that we could have before to see what is the real life are wrong.. its quite pitty and sad check where and how they are living nowadays..
    This picture belongs to Lower Brule indian reservation in South Dakota. This tribal town are Sioux and i remember now going southwards from Moab (UT) i stop in a road bar to have breakfast and all people were indians, i guess navajo culture.. so you cant see the differences passing by a small road town.

    So they are absolutelly assimilate to contemporany american life, fortunatelly they hold his culture thanks to visitor centers like that where i stay beholding handicrafts, elder pictures and some stuff from Sioux culture !!

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    VISA Waiver Program

    by GracesTrips Updated Jun 5, 2008

    As posted on the link below:

    The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announces implementation of the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), which will begin to accept voluntary ESTA applications starting on August 1, 2008.

    ESTA is a new fully automated, electronic system for screening passengers before they begin travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program. ESTA applications may be submitted at any time prior to travel to the United States, and VWP travelers are encouraged to apply for authorization as soon as they begin to plan a trip to the United States. It is anticipated that ESTA will become mandatory for VWP travelers on January 12, 2009.

    International travelers seeking to travel to the United States without a visa, who are nationals of Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries, should review this important information on traveler passport requirements under the VWP. All VWP travelers, regardless of age or type of passport used, must present a machine-readable passport. An integrated chip is embedded into your passport.

    Currently, 27 countries participate in the Visa Waiver Program:
    Andorra
    Australia
    Austria
    Belgium
    Brunei
    Denmark
    Finland
    France
    Germany
    Iceland
    Ireland
    Italy
    Japan
    Luxembourg
    Monaco
    Netherlands
    New Zealand
    Norway
    Portugal
    San Marino
    Singapore
    Slovenia
    Spain
    Sweden
    Switzerland
    United Kingdom

    A Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) were signed with:
    Czech Republic
    Estonia
    Hungary
    Korea
    Latvia
    Lithuania
    Malta
    Slovakia
    These countries are not admitted into the VWP. At the present time, citizens of these countries must continue to require a US Visa for travel to the US.

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    CHECK out the FAMOUS STARS at THE WALK of FAME

    by AusPinay Written May 30, 2008

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    Check out whether your favourite star has made it or not in Hollywood by visiting the very popular Hollywood WALK of FAME nea rHollywood Boulevard and Vine Street.

    It is really just one sidewalk but wait till you see the famous names embedded on the pavement there!

    The Walk of Fame is nearly a three and a half (3 1/2) mile round trip walk. Locations of specific stars are permanent, except when occasionally relocated for nearby construction or other reasons. To be awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is considered to be as sought after as the Oscars, Emmys, etc.

    So we found our own fave stars, even Bruce Lee's name was there!

    Each star consists of a pink terrazzo five-pointed star rimmed with bronze and inlaid into a charcoal square. Inside the pink star is the name of the honoree inlaid in bronze, below which is a round bronze emblem indicating the category for which the honoree received the star. The emblems are:(thanks to WIKIPEDIA for these.)

    * Motion picture camera for contribution to the film industry
    * Television set for contribution to the broadcast television industry
    * Phonograph record for contribution to the recording industry
    * Radio microphone for contribution to the broadcast radio industry
    * Twin comedy/tragedy masks for contribution to live theater

    Even GODZILLA is here! Checking out the feet sizes too! Charles Bronson, hubby's fave actor another view fo the famous sidewalk
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    GAWK, EXplore, Shop Till You Drop at Venice Beach

    by AusPinay Written May 30, 2008

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    Whatever season, it seems this place is bustling. The sandy beach is not just the spot where people, both local and foreign visitors converge but to do almost everything!

    We joined a bus tour of LA including this iconic beach, Beverley Hills, etc and we were not disappointed! Shopping is fun here as there arfe numerous little shops selling just about anything really!

    My son was happy with his authentic Converse shoes, which don't seem to go out of fashion. The only problem is, his feet had gone bigger so now, this pair which we got for around $22 (compared to Aussie price of about $70) is now just a souvenir from USA.Clothes, especially souvenir t-shirts are everywhere from the funky to the gothic so you don't have an excuse for forgetting a relative or two.

    There are lots of things, people to see, especially the break dancers, muscled men and women showing off their stuff, and many more buskers showing their "talents" hoping to be discovered I suppose!

    Food is widely available so you won't go hungry either!

    Gawk at all sorts of people showing off exploring Venice beach is fun Shop till you drop a quiet part of Venice Beach Street scene at Venice beach
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    SIM cards in the USA

    by cochinjew Written Apr 20, 2008

    I have been able to use my phone which is a Sony bought in France, I usually buy a sim card in the country i am in and no problem.. it works everywhere.
    This is what i do in the USA
    I buy a t mobile sim card, and they give you a number and you can keep the number as long as you keep some money in the account, which you can do on line. it is about ten cents per minute within usa to send or receive a call. in the end it works out well. I usually put 100 usd worth on to the card and it lasts me for ever and ever. you also send and text for the similar amount of money. calling abroad is very expensive on this card but receiving is okay charged at the same rate of ten cents a minute. this is much better than signing up for some service which in the usa requires months and years of comittment. unless of course you are going to live here for a year or two. all the best

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    Loyalty is well rewarded

    by cochinjew Written Feb 12, 2008

    I am a loyal flier on Continental Airlines and they reward you very well. they give me gifts much more that what i pay in fares all year long. Also you get special treatment when you call the special number they give you, special hellos at the various lounges and clubs.
    recently a director of the customer services called me on my usa mobile phone to say thank you for something i had written to them about. and today trying to get to australia to give a lecture: they organized, free of charge,a business class ticket from USA all the way to Cairns and back! and did it very pleasantly over the phone. I am grateful to them and I suppose that is why I am a Platinum Elite member on Continental Airlines.

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    Baggles

    by DPando Updated Dec 1, 2007

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    the best way to start a day !! a lot of bakeries has baggles, circular piece of bread with different tastes like onion, garlic, then you order the ingredients to put into with the sauce and all the vegetables that u want.. its absolutelly delicious. the best i ate was in Monterey, California.. ohh such a delicious breakfast!!

    with my friends in Big Sur Road, California

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