Cultural Faux Pas for First-Time Travelers to the US

When traveling, 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 research the cultural differences between the place they live and the places they are visiting. We have discussed the cultural faux pas for first-time visitors to the US.

Cultural Faux Pas:

This can lead to faux pas in all aspects of your holiday, and you may even accidentally insult someone. It’s, therefore, best to take a look at cultural differences before you travel. In this article, US car rental firm Alamo takes us through some 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 several 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 organize roadside assistance and repairs. However, in the US, ‘AA’ stands for Alcoholics Anonymous, which is an organization that works with alcohol-dependent people. So, if you happen to have an accident in your car while 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.

The Term ‘AA’ Stands For Very Different Things:

Another term that may be confusing if you break it 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 type of ladies’ hat. The appropriate term for the ‘bonnet’ when driving in the US is the ‘hood.’

In A Restaurant:

In a Restaurant
Image by: Pixabay

Food is one of the biggest attractions of the great American road trip, but there are several 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,’ a slang term for sausage. However, in the US, the word ‘banger’ means a gang member. It is essential not to use the term ‘banger’ in certain mob-run restaurants for obvious reasons.

Common Faux Pas:

A more common faux pas in a restaurant is using the word ‘bill.’ In the UK, this is 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 asking for making money instead of a way to pay the waiter.


Image by: Flickr

The word ‘brew’ in the UK is a slang way of referring to a cup of tea. However, in the US, the term ‘brew’ typically refers to beer, so if used incorrectly, you might 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.

Final 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 refers to a loose woman. So by asking for directions to a chippie, you could end up in a very undesirable place. These are just a few 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.

By Alex B

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