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Social Customs & Etiquettes in Baltimore


The US is ultimately a nation of immigrants and as a result is a cultural mish-mash in every sense of the word. Not only is the country populated by people from foreign countries but all Americans in one way or another trace their ancestry back to another culture, whether Irish, German, Italian, Scottish or Asian.

American are generally friendly and informal. People tend to not wait to be introduced, will begin to speak with strangers as they stand in a queue, sit next to each other at an event, etc. Visitors can often be surprised when people are so informal to the point of being very direct or even rude.

In the US, time is a very important commodity. People 'save' time and 'spend' time as if it were money in the bank. Americans ascribe personality characteristics and values based on how people use time. For example, people who are on-time are considered to be good people, reliable people who others can count on.

The family unit is generally considered the nuclear family, and is typically small (with exceptions among certain ethnic groups). Extended family relatives live in their own homes, often at great distances from their children.

Individualism is prized, and this is reflected in the family unit. People are proud of their individual accomplishments, initiative and success, and may, or may not, share those sources of pride with their elders.

Meeting & Greeting

Greetings are casual.

A handshake, a smile, and a 'hello' are all that is needed.

Use first names, and be sure to introduce everyone to each other.

Gift Giving Etiquette

In general, Americans give gifts for birthdays, anniversaries and major holidays, such as Christmas.

A gift can be as simple as a card and personal note to something more elaborate for a person with whom you are close.

Gift giving is not an elaborate event, except at Christmas.

When invited to someone's home for dinner, it is polite to bring a small box of good chocolates, a bottle of wine, a potted plant or flowers for the hostess.

Gifts are normally opened when received.

Dining Etiquette

Americans socialise in their homes and ‘backyards’, in restaurants and in other public places.

It's not at all unusual for social events to be as casual as a backyard barbecue or a picnic in the park.

Arrive on time if invited for dinner; no more than 10 minutes later than invited to a small gathering. If it is a large party, it is acceptable to arrive up to 30 minutes later than invited.

Table manners are more relaxed in the US than in many other countries.

The fork is held in the right hand and is used for eating. The fork is held tines down. The knife is used to cut or spread something. To use the knife, the fork is switched to the left hand. To continue eating, the fork is switched back to the right hand.

If you have not finished eating, cross your knife and fork on your plate with the fork over the knife. Indicate you have finished eating by laying your knife and fork parallel across the right side of your plate.

If you are more comfortable eating in the Continental manner, go ahead. It will not offend anyone.

Feel free to refuse specific foods or drinks without offering an explanation.

Many foods are eaten by hand.

Food is often served family-style, which means that it is in large serving dishes and passed around the table for everyone to serve themselves.

Do not begin eating until the hostess starts or says to begin.

Remain standing until invited to sit down.

Do not rest your elbows on the table.

Put your napkin in your lap as soon as you sit down.

Leave a small amount of food on your plate when you have finished eating.





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