Cultural Faux Pas for First Time Visitors to the US

When travelling, either for business or pleasure, it’s always best to do a little research on the country you are going to. Although most people tend to look at maps and research attractions, accommodation, weather and travel, very few people actually research the cultural differences between the place they live and the places they are visiting. This can lead to faux pas when it comes to all sorts of aspects of your holiday, and you may even accidently insult someone. It’s therefore best to take a look at cultural differences before you travel. In this article, US car rental firm Alamo take us through some of the common faux pas made by UK tourists visiting the United States of America.

If You Break Down
If you are touring the US in the car, there are a number of words that you should not use if you happen to break down. The first is that you shouldn’t ask someone to phone the ‘AA’. In the UK, the AA stands for the Automobile Association who organise roadside assistance and repairs. However in the US, the ‘AA’ stands for Alcoholics Anonymous which is an organisation that works with alcohol dependant people. So if you happen to have an accident in your car whilst in America, it’s probably not best to mention the ‘AA’ as they may think you have either been drinking or have an alcohol problem.

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The term ‘AA’ stands for very different things

Another term which may cause confusion if you break down is the word ‘bonnet’. In the UK, this refers to the front opening of the car where the engine is housed. In the US however, a bonnet is simply a types of ladies’ hat. The appropriate term for the ‘bonnet’ when driving in the US is the ‘hood’.

In a Restaurant
Food is one of the biggest attractions of the great American road trip but there are a number of terms relating to dining out that have different meanings in the UK and US that you should be aware of. The first is the UK use of the word ‘banger’ which is a slang term for sausage. However in the US, the word ‘banger’ means a gang member. It is particularly important not to use the term ‘banger’ in certain mob-run restaurants for obvious reasons.

A more common faux pas when in a restaurant is the use of the word ‘bill’. In the UK this stands for the amount the meal comes to in total and is used when paying (like an invoice). However in the US, this refers to paper money. So when in a restaurant in the US and you request a ‘bill’, you are actually asking for money instead of requesting a way to pay the waiter.

The word ‘brew’ in the UK is a slang way of referring to a cup of tea. However in the US, the word ‘brew’ is used for beer so if incorrectly used, you could end up with an alcoholic beverage instead of a hot drink.

When looking for somewhere informal to eat, especially in an office, don’t use the word ‘canteen’. Although in the UK a canteen is an informal dining area, in the US it is a water container so you’re unlikely to satisfy your hunger by using this word.

The final word you should never use when referring to food is ‘chippie’. In the UK, this may be used to find or refer to a fish and chip shop but in the US, it actually refers to a loose woman. So by asking for directions to a chippie, you could end up in a very undesirable place.

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These are just a few of the common faux pas of a UK tourist visiting the US. There are many more and research is recommended before you travel to avoid some embarrassing situations.

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