How to adapt to the social etiquettes in your new country of immigration.
The United States of America and Canada have one of the most diverse populations in the world. These countries were founded on immigrants coming to their shores and bringing with them a rich array of traditions, values, foods and religions. Many of the original immigrants were from European and Asian countries, bringing people of all backgrounds. Even with this type of variation, there are significant differences in adapting to a new country and many areas have their own distinct ways of living their lives.
First Generation immigrants may initially find language to be the major barrier and it will be important for both adults and children to learn English as soon as possible. All aspects of life here are based on communicating in English. Depending upon where an immigrant has settled, will also depend on learning the local traditions. These can include ways that people do business as well as the holidays they celebrate.
Learning the new culture of any country can seem overwhelming, but there are organizations that can help make the transition easier. Joining a local club or organization that has been established by people from your own country can introduce you to a variety of people who can provide assistance to both adults and children. Toastmasters International (www.toastmasters.org) is an exceptional organization to introduce immigrants with speaking, colloquial (slang) expressions, networking, education and revitalization. People share their experiences and help with ‘short cuts’ in learning to navigate what will make your life in Americas both enjoyable and successful.
Personal Space etiquette.
People from around the globe have cultural traditions and actions that are accepted and part of their society. In some of the countries that have larger populations, it is not uncommon to see people sitting and standing close to each other. However, in Americas, people have a concept of ‘personal space’ meaning not standing too close. It is unsure if this practice was part of the old European traditions but it is considered rude here to stand very close to someone else when that person does not know you. Although there isn’t a defined ‘distance’ you can easily determine the amount of space you should put between yourself and others. A perfect example of this personal space might be standing in line at a grocery store or at a bank.
Be mindful of staring.
In many countries, it is considered normal to stare at individuals, places or items for a long period of time. This is part of the regular way of life and daily experience within that country. Part of American culture is the belief that staring at an individual or a group of people for a long time is not acceptable. Staring is equated to judging, as well as potential aggressive or dangerous behavior. This information has been included so you know how long it’s appropriate to look at people. Though, never feel like you have to look down or avert your eyes in any manner that would be demeaning. The purpose of this is to alert you to a negative situation that can be avoided, simply by being aware.
Walking, Shopping, Restaurant customs.
While not everyone in Americas abides by these guidelines, it is important for you to know that many do (or that it’s generally expected). Traffic of any kind includes following the rules of the road and this includes walking across the street in the allocated (pedestrian) walk areas and when the traffic lights say it’s safe to walk. Some towns will give you a ‘ticket’ for what is called “Jay Walking” or walking when the light is showing ‘red’. Jay walking is walking outside of a designated pedestrian area. Following the flow of traffic in the same way that road traffic occurs is also the usual rule-of-thumb in retail environments. All retail establishments expect that you enter and stand in line if there are others ahead of you and respectfully wait. Restaurant servers usually receive a tip (or gratuity) as part of their service. In the U.S., a standard 15%-20% gratuity is common, however, tips are not expected for fast food locations or drive-throughs.