Internet is full of French travelers who've experienced the United
States and have things to say about the strange ways of Americans. With
the help of Google Translate, Americans can get a peek at these
revelations. We know that there are no doubt many Flossers who can
translate French better than Google can (though probably not as
hilariously), and we welcome any additional information in the comments.
1. Be Friendly to Nosy Strangers. Grind Their Knuckles!
Our custom is to kiss before, during, and after each
social encounter, with 1, 2, 3, or 4 kisses. This is not the custom in
the United States. For a friend, we will hug, with a great tapping on
the back and a big smile. For colleagues, greet with a good handshake.
Americans have a firm handshake, so do not hesitate to grind their
knuckles. It is also a sign you have confidence in yourself.
Be prepared for an onslaught of friendliness. You may be approached
by a stranger on the street asking you where you got your coat.
Passersby greet each other cheerfully in the street. Your neighbor may
compliment you on the curve of your muscles, and the cashier at the
supermarket may ask you what you are doing with this beautiful weekend
(and the three cases of rosé you've purchased). [Source]
2. You Have to Help People, And Look Like You Really Mean It
A passerby stumbles and sprawls in the street, an old
lady can barely control Brutus at the end of a leash, a small tricycle
driver loses control of his vehicle. Politeness means, of course, that
you come and help all these people. American culture wants you to quit
all your activities and rescue the unfortunate. In America, you cannot
pretend to not have noticed all these little quirks. You must rush to
provide assistance to all who need it. [Source]
Whether in the street, public transport or any public place, we must
adopt this reflex. Hard, tough, because it must be done without looking
first to the right and left to see if someone is already trying to help
the person in trouble. In short, it must be done spontaneously and with
good heart. I like it when it happens: for example my keys jumped out of
my bike basket when I hit a hole, and the Americans rushed at me to
help. It's cool. I smile. [Source]
See Also: 4 Russian Travel Tips for Visiting America
3. They Feel No Humiliation about Their Eating Habits, even when asking for a "Doggy Bag"
Americans eat and drink anything and at any time of the
day: in the street, in a meeting at work, in the car, on the subway, in
the elevator, the movies ... So, there are drink rests everywhere:
cinema seats, baby strollers, shopping carts at the supermarket, in
cars, some bike handlebars. [Source]
The portions are often gargantuan in the United States (but you
already knew that). Americans are not embarrassed to ask for a "doggy
bag" to take home. They'll even take home the rest of the tortillas
The art of asking for a doggy bag (for a French person) is sometimes
difficult to implement; between servers who disappear faster than their
shadows, and the dread that you will appear stingy, it is not always
4. You Can Not Abandon Ugly Children. In Fact You Must Praise Them.
Want to drop off your pants at the cleaners, leave an
item with the hotel receptionist or pop into the supermarket while the
kids do their homework? Know that leaving children alone, whether at the
home, in the car, or the hotel is frowned upon, even prohibited. [Source]
Rejoicing in the presence of children or pets. This is the correlate
of "smile to strangers," it is mandatory to have a smile or a little
"how cute" tilt to your head if you come across a child or pet. Even if
they are ugly. [Source]
5. The White Man and the Countdown
Crossing the road as a pedestrian is not always easy, you
often have to wait for ages. When the white man is on, you can cross.
And then a stressful countdown shows the time remaining for you to
cross, sometimes only a few seconds to cross large avenues. [Source]
6. They Don't Steal Your Stuff!
If it should happen I need to leave my stuff unattended
when I'm in the coffee shop, I just ask someone to look at it for the
time it takes for me to go to the toilet. When I forget something in my
bike basket, it is still there, even at night. And when you have
packages waiting for you at home, they remain in the lobby and no one
takes them. It may seem normal and civic way of doing it, but I am
surprised. Since coming to America, I've become much less suspicious. [Source]
7. Their Plumbing is Insulting
The stuff that insulted my common sense is the fixed heads of showers. [Source]
I still have not understood how it is that in my American sink I
have, in addition to the tap, a flexible head (as in a French shower) to
rinse the corners of the sink but in my shower / tub which is three
times larger, I have a fixed head on the wall! No logic! [Source]
The other very strange occurrence is violent flushing. Be prepared
when you flush to have the impression of being in an airplane toilet! [Source]
See Also: 10 Japanese Travel Tips for Visiting America
8. Everything is so damn inspiring
"Inspiring" became a word I heard every day: everything
must be "inspiring" and push transcendence. We go to the movies, there
is a choice between the biopic Lincoln, the Avengers or Misérables, each
so inspiring in their own way. The books are inspiring, everyday people
are inspiring (such as all the people with children and a job at the
same time, teachers, etc...). I confess that I have a little trouble
with this cult of everyday heroes. [Source]
9. They have orange pill pots and carefully prepare your medication, like in the movies!
I have to arm myself with patience for each passage to
the pharmacy. Here, we will prepare your requirements in an orange pot
in your name, with the correct number of tablets and the dose
recommended above (yes, just like in the movies). So, it takes for ages.
The trick? Post your order and continue shopping, then return later. [Source]
10. They All Go to the Bathroom Together in the Same Room. No Walls or Nothing.
If you want privacy (in a public restroom), no chance.
There are no real walls, only partitions that do not even go to the
ground. So you can see the shoes of your colleagues, hear all the noises
... And even the doors do not help much. You can see the faces of the
occupants through the slits in the doorway. [Source]
11. Cut in Line and an American Will Cut You
The film will start in 3 minutes and there are still 15
people in front of you, including a family of six children who are
unable to decide anything. You would be tempted to quietly scrape
forward a few places so as to be sure you get your popcorn and miss
nothing of the film.
Never! In the United States, small barriers often mark out the
entries, lines on the ground indicate where to stop and there is no “He
who goes hunting loses his place" mentality there. [Source]
There is no chaotic rush to be first, not even if a spot opens
unexpectedly, no "I didn't see you there." Here each have their turn in
order of arrival, even the elderly. It's pretty relaxing actually, even
though I liked the excitement of notching in the queue. [Source]