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From China to the USA: Navigating American Culture

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Brenau chapter.

This worksheet is reference of all the tips and tricks of navigating certain social constructs in American culture……

1. Personal Space Bubble

Here in America, people do not like when you stand too close to them. Personal space bubble is the area around a person that is personal to them. When you are standing in line or having a conversation with someone trying to keep an arm’s length away is important. And if you ever need to step into someone’s personal space bubble say “excuse me” so they won’t feel invaded in their space.This is an example of a personal space bubble:

2. “Hey, how are you?”

When people ask “hey how are you?” you don’t have to explain your entire day, unless it is an intimate conversation. A quick an easy answer to this questions is “my day was great” or “My day was good, how was your day?”. Don’t feel stressed out by the questions is just a way Americans show they care about you. 

3. Walmart or Wally World

Walmart, LITERALLY, has everything … for cheap. Need food, Walmart has it.

Need bed sheets, Walmart has it. Need medicine, Walmart has it. Need any type of clothing, Walmart has it. Need a boat, Walmart has it. My point is there is nothing Walmart doesn’t have for cheap.

4. Tip At Restaurants

Tipping is a cultural practice, of giving a worker (mainly waiter or waitress) extra money on your bill due to their good service.  Learning how to tip the right amount is something that isn’t always easy. I advise to always give 15% tip on any bill. To determine how much to tip,this percentage, multiply your bill total by 0.15. Here is an example:

Your Bill is : $15.00


Your Tax: $1.30


This is how you bill will look although sometimes tip is written out you have to calculate the percentage yourself. This is the quick and easy to calculate how much you should tip.

Take you total which includes you tax:

Total with tax : $16.30


Multiply 15%:     0.15

You should tip: $2.45

Add you tip with the total, which is $2.45, to your bill which is $16.30 which will give you, your entire bill total of $18.75. Remember, tipping isn’t mandatory but it’s always encouraged and sometimes expected especially when the service was good.

To learn more about tipping visit this website: https://www.qantas.com/travelinsider/en/travel-tips/gratuities-and-tipping-in-america.html

5. Americans LOVE Coffee

In Chinese culture, tea is very popular, but in America everyone loves coffee. Coffee is a caffeinated beverage that is very bitter, but sometimes aromatic that gives people energy. But coffee can also come in many different flavors of sweet and bitter. Many people drink it in the morning before work or going to school. Be careful with drinking coffee, consuming too much can give you a caffeine rush, which can cause heart palpitations, upset stomach, and uneasiness.

6. Everyone Drinks Ice In Their Water

Americans love ice in their drinks. When you order water at any restaurant, it mostly will have ice in it. Not sure why American love ice but we do. You can always get water without ice but the water will most likely be cold as well.

7. Creativity is sometimes more important than hard work

Everyone should always work hard but sometimes people value your creativity more than hard work. For example, in school two students might be doing the same project. One student might have completed all the requirements for the assignment right but the other student might be missing some requirements but have a stunningly creative project. The professor might give the creative student a higher grade because it’s different and displays a personalized touch. So whenever doing school work/projects always do what’s required but try to add a personal touch to it such as relating the assignment to your culture, or passions, or something unexpected.

I hope this list helps you with a smoother transition in American culture. American culture has a lot of different practices that are different from Chineses culture, more than what’s listed on this worksheet, but these are the most common and important ones.

If you ever feel stressed out or overwhelmed with life review, this is a sheet of some activities you can do to relieve your stress: