Cultural Issues

Social Invitations:  If you are invited to someone's house for dinner, ask if you should bring some food to share (such as a desert or drink). If you are invited to special occasion (such as a wedding or baby shower), you should bring a gift or some cash, depending on your relationship to the host. 

Hygiene: Americans are careful about personal hygiene and grooming. They usually take a bath or shower at least once a day, use underarm deodorant, and wash clothes frequently.

Individualism and Privacy: Americans like to have their personal space, so they don't get too close when talking. Casual acquaintances don't touch each other or make physical contact; people often shake hands when greeting each other, but don't usually put their arms around their shoulder, touch their face, or hold their hand.

Directness and Assertiveness: Americans are more assertive than people from some other cultures. They often begin a conversation by getting straight to the point with the most important information, accomplishments and facts. However, being aggressive is usually not tolerated, so it's best to keep a positive attitude and smile even when you are upset. Making eye contact with the person you are speaking with is an important sign of honesty and interest. Punctuality is also important, so try to arrive on time or a little early for appointments, and phone ahead of time if you will be late.

Friendships and Relationships: Being polite is important to Americans, so they are usually pleasant and professional, but sometimes they may keep being nice and friendly to you even if they do not want a deeper friendship. Many Americans move often, so friendships tend to be  shorter and less intense than in other cultures.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual Harassment consists of unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other physical or verbal behavior of a sexual nature. If you feel that you are being sexually harassed it is important that you tell someone. Sexual harassment is a crime in the United States.

American Holidays: Most federal offices are closed on these official holidays: New Year’s Day (January 1), Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. (3rd Monday in January), Presidents’ Day (3rd Monday in February), Memorial Day (Last Monday in May), Independence Day (July 4), Labor Day (1st Monday in September), Columbus Day (2nd Monday in October), Veterans Day (November 11), Thanksgiving Day (4th Thursday in November), and Christmas Day (December 25). For state and campus holidays, see the ISU calendar. 

(Source: International Student Guide to the United States of America, Spindle Publishing Company.)

Many people coming to a new country and different culture experience "culture shock." When everything is strange – language, food, customs – it will take time to adjust.

The Guide for New Immigrants has information about American culture and resources, translated into several languages.