Discovering our World

Travel, beauty, fashion, style and lifestyle blog by Ashley Liddle

5 things that will surprise you in the USA

1. Smile

Americans are known for smiling a lot. When you go to the checkout in the store, the seller will address you with the words “Hi, how are you?” and will give you a smile. A randomly passed person on the street may also smile at you and talk to you. But no one expects an answer. Typically, such a “dialogue” looks like this:

  • Hi, how are you?
  • Great, you?
  • Great


  • How are you?
  • Hi


  • Hello, how are you?
  • Hi, fine, you?
  • Fine

And that’s all. Everyone goes their own way.

Remember: in Europe a smile can mean something, in the US it means absolutely nothing.

2. Prices

If you go shopping in the United States, remember that the price you see on the label of a given product is not the price you pay at the checkout. This is the price excluding sales tax, which will be charged at checkout. The tax is not the same across America. Depending on the state that regulates it at its own level, the tax is lower somewhere and higher somewhere. Not all products are subject to the tax. For example, in California you will not pay tax on groceries. Then the price given for a given item will be the one you pay at the checkout. Other purchases are subject to tax at 7.25% – the highest in the entire United States.

3. Purchase of alcohol and cigarettes

To buy alcohol or cigarettes in the United States, you must be at least 21 years of age and an ID card is required. No one will sell us alcohol without showing an ID card (or another ID document with a photo and date of birth). If a retailer decides to cater to someone who looks over 21 and has forgotten their ID, then the store could lose its liquor license and pay hefty fines.

An interesting fact – in the USA you also have to be 21 years old to enter the club.

4. Portions in restaurants

First, let’s define the word restaurant. In United States. A restaurant is any place where you can order food. Therefore, the restaurant will be both the Olive Garden chain, Nobu and McDonald’s fast food. Let’s establish that we are talking about diners with service that brings the card and serves the food. There are plenty of chain restaurants in the US (Olive Garden, Chilis, TGIFridays) and the portions are usually huge. One serving in an American restaurant is enough for two people.

If the portions that you see when you enter the restaurant, you see that the portions are quite large, you can safely take one portion. No one will make a problem out of it, and the staff will simply bring an extra plate.

5. Tips

In a restaurant, hairdresser, beautician, manicure, taxi driver, Uber or tour bus – everyone expects a tip from the customer. Americans are taught from a young age that people working in restaurants have very low salaries (often below the national average), and that they need to add at least fifteen to eighteen percent to the bill. Typically, each bill will have the amount of the tip listed below the amount to be paid.