CULTURAL TIPS FOR NEW AMERICANS
ALINA BLIUMIS, JEFF BLIUMIS
To be a foreigner-one who is defined as “not from here”-often means unknowingly breaking rigid social and cultural rules. During “The Festival of Ideas for the New City,” on the corner of Rivington and Chrystie Streets, we asked passersby to share their “Cultural Tips” with us.
By the end of the day we learned that: “When Americans ask ‘How are you?’ they don’t really mean ‘How are you?’”; “When an American asks you ‘what’s up?’ your standard response should be ‘nothing much’”; Allen: “Break the ice with new acquaintances by asking about their children, or their pets”; “Say sorry whenever you touch someone by accident even if you are not sorry”; Kathy: “Pretend to listen, even if you don’t”; Nadia: “Smile even if you are sad”; Helidon: “Be open and look to be kind to strangers”; Emily “Always wish well people no matter what”; Pabi: “Never use a toothbrush that is not yours”; “It is customary to use a tissue when blowing your nose-blowing it straight onto the street is rude”; Molly: “Don’t pick your teeth in public unless it is with a toothpick directly after the meal”; “No double-dipping. Use your utensil and don’t stick back in the food”; Maria M.: “When someone is looking for a seat on the bus/subway, don’t make eye contact or offer to move”; “American men: sit on subway benches with legs spread widely. You are a man-take up space for two people”; Barbara: “When the train comes, let the people get off before entering”; “Stand on the right, walk/pass on the left. And don’t push!”; Erin: “It is okay to talk to strangers when you are standing in line”; “Americans don’t look each other in the eyes when they cheer glasses”; Stephanie: “Wearing jeans and sneakers are okay here”; S.: “It is okay to keep your shoes on inside”; Mary: “Perfume or cologne is not an acceptable form of deodorant”; Bret: “American action movies are a multi-billion dollar export industry but don’t reflect real life. Americans only occasionally drive over 100 mph, shoot each other, and blow things up”; “Buy stuff you don’t need”; “Spend money you don’t have”; “If you hang out with an American for an hour you should hug them goodbye”; Rebecca: “‘Hope to see you again’ does not mean that an American hopes to see you again.”