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Trip to the USA - American Customs

This question launched on Reddit recently has been receiving an endless stream of replies:  What American customs seem outrageous/surprises you most?

In fact this is an interesting question if you are heading to the USA soon. Here we have compiled a selection of American habits and customs that set the non-Americans aside when they travel to the States. 

"Plus Tax": get used to this expression, which you will hear very often. As we’ve mentioned before, in the USA tax is added after products are scanned, and are not included on labels or menu items. For those who hate maths, think about getting your calculator out to avoid any nasty surprises.

The habit of litigation: when crossing the USA, travellers often note an excess amount of disclaimers in advertisements, public spaces, etc. These warnings rid the companies of any responsibility when using the product or service. Why? It’s because Americans have a reputation for suing for anything. Judge for yourselves.

Commercials on public channels: if you turn on the TV during your stay in the States, the adverts that come on every five minutes are enough to make you ill… which is probably why the majority of Americans pay for private channels, thus avoiding endless commercials.

Medical fees: speaking of falling ill, best not to do it in the States. Medical care fees are extremely expensive, according to many of the Reddit post’s comments. When travelling to the USA, it’s a good idea to purchase travel insurance before you leave.

Jaywalking: ah yes, the shocking concept of getting a fine for crossing the street when not at an official crossing. In the USA, this is a reality: as well as being dangerous, it’s against the law to cross the street this way. Of course, in the big cities, the police are a lot more tolerant with regard to ‘crossers’, but you can still get a fine. The penalty varies in each state.

21 years old to buy alcohol: this is unbelievable for many people, particularly seeing as you can drive and own a firearm before this age. For many of the posters on Reddit, being able to buy a beer at 18 years old should be a right!

The obsession with tipping: ‘They should just pay decent salaries!’, explained one of the internauts speaking about tipping arrogant servers. But as this BBC video proves, it’s hard working in hospitality, so don’t be so tight!

Finally, we ought to dissect a comment from one of these internauts. Having travelled a lot during his life, he complains about the administrative steps necessary with the American consulate. For those who’ve experienced this, the fact that American consulates are so security-conscious is a nightmare.

Of course, security is a major priority for American diplomats, but it’s not all that complicated. As you are applying for a visa, you must arrive on time, have all the required documents, and as the official embassy website says, ‘go through a security check to access the building. Mobile phones or any electronic equipment are not accepted’. It is recommended not to bring big rucksacks, suitcases or packets during your interview, as there is no cloakroom service available.

On the other hand, what could be better than avoiding red tape, waiting time and visa costs? You ought to know that the USA has simplified their administrative steps for tourist and business trips to the country. ESTA travel authorisation can be requested online and the response is usually immediate. You can travel to the USA in the blink of an eye!

Request your ESTA online and discover the whole array of surprising American habits for yourself!

Travelling to the United States? Do you have your pre-planning checklist in order? Visit our ESTA Guide for more information about obtaining your travel permit. We'd love to hear from you. Send us your comments or questions for travel assistance.