Living in the United States
Table of Contents and Excerpt

by: Ani Hawkinson and Raymond C. Clark
Copyright © 2006
Eighth Revised Edition

Table of Contents

Chapter 1
First Steps
Money and Banks     1
Food     3
Restaurants     6
Drinking and Smoking Laws      9
Hotels     10
Telephone     12
Mail, Telegrams, Faxes, and E-mail     15
Transportation     17
Shopping     19
Health, Medical Care, and Safety     21
Electricity and Electronics     22
Tipping     22
Measures     23

Chapter 2 Customs and Values   
Greetings and Leave-takings     27
Names and Titles     28
Conversation Topics     28
Friendship     29
Invitations     29
Personal Space and Privacy     30
Time     31
Silence     31
Equality     32
Independence     33
Eating Customs     33
Family Life      35
Leisure     36
Holidays     37
The Environment     40
Business Etiquette     40

Chapter 3 Country Facts  
History     42
Political Map     50
Land and People      53
Government     58
Economy     60
Religion      61
Education     61
The Arts      62
Technology and Change     65

Appendix: The 50 States     67


1. First Steps

This section of the book will help you learn how to live in the United States. We will give you the basic facts about life in the United States, but every state, city, and town will be a little different. You will need to find the differences and the details. For example, we can tell you about restaurants in the United States, but you must find the places that have food that you like. We can tell you about transportation in the United States, but you must find the best way to go from place to place in the town where you live. We can make suggestions, but you must make the final choices. Good luck!

1.1 Money and Banks

The dollar is the currency of the United States. There are 100 cents in a dollar. American money comes in the following denominations: 1, 5, 10, 25, 50 cent coins, and the Sacagawea dollar coin. There are also Eisenhower silver dollars and Susan B. Anthony dollar coins, but they are very rare. In paper money, there are 1, 2 (not common), 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 dollar bills. There are larger dollar bills, but they are not used in everyday life.

Be careful with American bills. They are all the same size and color. They have recently been redesigned, so you may find two different designs for any bill.

American coins have special names which you need to know. They are:

1 cent - a penny
5 cents - a nickel
10 cents - a dime
25 cents - a quarter
50 cents - a half-dollar

It is a good idea to carry some change (coins) because you may need exact change for certain services, such as parking meters, telephones, and buses (see sections 1.6, 1.8, and 1.9). You may also find that large bills ($50, $100) are not accepted at small stores. not carry a large amount of cash. Buy dollar traveler's checks before you leave home, or bring an internationally recognized credit card. They are acceptable almost everywhere.

Nowadays people use credit cards or debit cards for many of their purchases. You must make a payment on your credit card every month. A debit card is connected to your bank account. When you use your debit card, the money is withdrawn from your bank account immediately. MasterCard and Visa are the most widely accepted credit cards.

To rent a car you need a credit card. Most hotels require a credit card when you call to make a reservation and when you check in.

If you bring your own currency with you, you may change it at a large international airport. You can also change it at a bank. It is not always easy to change your currency at banks in small towns. It is usually better to bring dollars with you. When you arrive at an international airport such as JFK in New York, you may need onedollar ($1) bills to rent a baggage cart. Porters are not available before you clear customs, so you must carry your own baggage.

Banks in the United States tend to be local and regional. For example, Citibank is one of the largest American banks, but it does not have branches throughout the United States. For this reason, a checking account with a local bank is not useful outside your hometown - except for paying by mail. However, if you are going to stay in one place for a month or more, you may want to open an account at a local bank. It is very easy to do.

Banks are usually open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and on Friday until 6:00 p.m. They are not open on weekends or holidays (see section 2.14). Most banks offer savings and checking accounts. There is usually a fee for checking accounts, but if you keep a minimum balance (usually about $500), the bank may pay you interest. Banks also offer the ATM (Automatic Teller Machine) service. With your ATM card you can deposit and withdraw money at any time at the automatic teller machine and use ATMs all over the country. There are fees for this service.

1.2 Food

Americans usually eat three meals a day - breakfast, lunch, and dinner (see section 2.11). Certain kinds of food are typical at each meal. Throughout the United States, the food is similar, but there are some regional differences. In general, American food is plain and not spicy.

One of the most popular American foods is the burger. Hamburgers are made of beef, not ham. They are served in a round piece of bread called a bun. They are often eaten with one or more of the following: tomato, lettuce, onion, mustard, and ketchup. A hamburger with melted cheese on top is called a cheeseburger. Some restaurants have other kinds of burgers with other names, such as "jumbo burger" (very big), "bacon burger," "mushroom burger," "veggie burger," or "turkey burger." If the menu doesn't explain the different kinds of burgers, ask the waiter for help.

Hot dogs (also called "franks" or "frankfurters") are a kind of sausage.

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