ip target image
You are currently browsing our site with content tailored to students in your country
The basics
THE USA: Essentials - Must read

Essentials: Culture in the US

Learn about American culture, including dealing with culture shock, what to wear and how to behave on campus...

share image

As we pointed out in our previous guide, America is a large country with a whole spectrum of different cultures, people and ways of living. This can make it quite difficult to know what to expect in terms of how people socialise, communicate and dress etc., as this will depend on where in the country you’re studying. Many suffer from culture shock as a result. Generally though Americans are very friendly and outgoing though their demeanour may seem a little direct or “in-your-face” at times.



Campus life

Campus life on American campuses is rather relaxed, even fun. There will always be something going on such as charity events, rallies for the university’s sports teams, (safe, non-violent) political demonstrations and more; plus you’ll see students socialising, reading, playing sports (like Frisbee) and more. Things might be a little more formal on some campuses, especially at more prestigious universities. But don’t worry; campuses are large so you’ll always find space for yourself.


Many American movies depict university campuses as rather raucous with parties all the time. Remember, the legal age to buy or consume alcohol is 21 years old! However it is generally accepted that students do find ways to get their hands on alcohol at parties, though you should be careful as you can still get into trouble with law enforcement if you are caught. However there are plenty of ways to socialise which don’t involve alcohol so don’t feel pressured that you should.


A rite of passage at American campuses is the sharing of a dormitory room with another person (of the same sex). This person could be a lifelong friend you make, or at the very least the person you'll discover campus with in your first few weeks.


Find out more about campus culture in our guide, ‘The US higher education system...simplified’.




Most students will greet each other with a light handshake or hug depending on the relationship or scenario. Usually a ‘Hi’ or ‘Nice to see you’ will get the conversation flowing (plus it saves you if you’ve forgotten someone’s name or if you’re not sure if you’ve met them already). If you bump into someone you know while out with your own group, make sure you introduce everyone to one another so they don’t feel left out.


Watch the clips from our Hangout with two international students in America, directly from their campus at Rowan University in New Jersey.




Before beginning to eat dinner in the evening, many Americans say a short prayer (or “Grace” as they usually call it) even if they are not particularly religious; this is normally to give thanks for the meal they are about to eat and simply for the good things they’ve received that day. Meanwhile those who are not Christian will say a prayer from their own religion too. A knife and fork are customary; though with many different foods from around the world becoming the norm in American society, using your hands or other eating utensils is also allowed.




Sports are a major part of not just American culture, but American university campus culture in particular. On a large campus you can find students from all corners of the world, studying different subjects; so it can be hard for them to find something which they all have in common. That’s why sports teams which represent universities are so popular and why students turn out in great numbers to support them. In fact, college sports are just as highly regarded as national sports, with widespread television coverage of games which take place in huge stadiums on campus – often the largest sports stadiums in a state will be those located on campuses.


Furthermore sports are one way which students receive scholarships to study at American institutions.


Read more about football culture in American universities




This depends somewhat on the climate of where you are. Though the seasons are the same no matter where you are in the country (approximately, summer from July to August and winter from November to January), the weather across this large country can vary wildly. The east coast of Arizona, Nevada and California is considerably warmer (Californians hardly see clouds), while the west coast sees more rain. However it’s not quite as simple as that. Several states like Minnesota which border Canada experience colder weather while Seattle is famous for its heavy rainfall all year round. Several states in the south like Louisiana experience rather erratic weather, ranging from humid heat to severe storms.



Now you know more about American culture, start searching for a course in the States.



Read more:

‘The US higher education system... simplified’

‘Tuition fees in the USA’

‘Applying to study in the US’

‘Applying for a US student visa’

‘Student accommodation in the USA’


Main image courtesy of Columbia Pictures

Study in the USA


'Study in the USA' eBook

Enjoy what you’ve read? We’ve condensed the above popular topics about studying in the USA into one handy digital book.

Get your eBook

Must read

article Img

Essentials: 5 Places you MUST visit in America

If you’re travelling from afar to the States, it’s worth trying to see as much of America while you can. Paying for airfare to see it again once you finish your studies will be expensive; so make the most of being close while you are. But where should you go? Here are 5 areas which should be circled on your map already....   New York City, New York “Bright lights, big city” is certainly a phrase that can be used to describe New York City.

article Img

Essentials: US student visas

Offering students the chance to study at world-class institutions across virtually any course of study, America ’s allure as a study abroad destination is no secret. With the nation’s tight immigration laws in mind however, getting a visa might seem overwhelming or scary for international students. Don’t worry: thousands of students successfully head Stateside to study every year, so obtaining a student visa is a well-worn administrative process that is quite