U.S. culture is as diverse as the geography, and what’s considered good manners often changes from region to region. Americans are generally an easygoing people – famously open and welcoming – but observing a few customs will guarantee a successful trip.
Dress is generally casual; business dress is sometimes required in high-end restaurants and private clubs, but less frequently than even a few years ago. Nevertheless, if you are attending a special event, it’s probably best to risk being overdressed, rather than too casual. Small gifts are appreciated if you are visiting someone in their home.
Tipping is customary for service industry professionals: waiters, bartenders, taxi drivers, hairdressers, hotel porters and chambermaids, coatroom attendants, parking valets and airport skycaps. Tips are an important part of their income. The tipping custom in the U.S. is 15 percent of the total bill – 20 percent or more for exceptional service. Tip coatroom attendants $1 per garment; parking valets $1-2 when you drop off your car and another $1-2 when you pick it up; hotel porters and airport skycaps at least $1 per bag; and hotel chambermaids $3-5 a day.
Look before you light up. Smoking is much less accepted here than it once was. In fact, it’s restricted in many establishments and often banned entirely. Even entire cities – including Seattle and New York – are “smoke free” in most public areas. Check for no-smoking signs and never light up unless you’re sure it’s allowed. It’s polite to ask for permission if you’re in the company of others.