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Washington Customs & Etiquettes
 
 
 

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.


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