HINTS ABOUT LIFE IN THE UNITED STATES
In business life, the American is usually much more informal and is more inclined to use first names than people of many other nationalities. If, upon meeting you, someone says "Hi there, Jim." or "How are you, Mary?" please do not think they are rude. They are trying to be friendly, and one way Americans show this is by using your first name.
In most offices in the United States, it is the usual practice for individuals to keep the doors of their offices open except when they have visitors, meetings are taking place, or they are working on confidential matters.
Other American habits and bits of information follow:
- Americans do not shake hands at the start of each workday. However, men always shake hands when they first meet; women may.
- Americans do not always hold the door open for persons following. This is not necessarily a sign of rudeness.
- It is rare to telephone anyone at home before 8:30 a.m. or after 10:00 p.m., except in extra-ordinary cases.
- Americans do not regularly identify themselves when answering the telephone or when asking to speak to a certain person.
- The terrain in the Chicago area is flat. Streets and roads are laid out on a fairly uniform North-South-East-West grid. Directions, even for local streets, are routinely given using these directional terms.
- When driving on the toll road there are periodic toll stations where you must pay. From left to right you will usually find these lanes
- I-PASS - this lane is only if you have a transponder that automatically deducts the toll fee. This transponder can be used in all toll lanes
- CASH - lanes have a toll collector who can make change for up to $50.00 and provide a receipt.
- Some ramp plazas are attended, however most are not and require payment in coins or I-PASS. Signs are posted prior to the entrance or exit indicating the need for exact change at the ramp. Failure to pay a toll risks an immediate $75 moving violation ticket issued by police on site. Video Surveillance cameras are located at all plazas to record toll violators.
- If you are in the wrong lane and cannot pay a toll, you are required to pay your toll within seven days. Check out their website for more information: www.illinoistollway.com
- As of January 2005 paying tolls with cash is twice as expensive as using an I-Pass. Therefore if you are planning to stay for any length of time and using toll roads regularly you are advised to purchase a transponder. Pick up an I-PASS transponder at a Tollway Customer Care Center or participating retail outlets. It can also be ordered by mail, phone or online. Remember: A small deposit fee is required for the transponder.
- It is not advisable to walk alone at night in most parts of Chicago. Only when many pedestrians are around is it safe to do so.
- Traditionally, all denominations of U.S. paper money were the same size and color;
The US mint is redesigning all bank notes to increase the difficulty of forging the bills and improve access for the visually impaired. Even with the redesign, US currency is not as visually varied as most other currencies. You must constantly be on the alert to see that you offer the correct bill. Many careless people give a taxi driver a $10 bill for a $1 bill in a darkened cab and don't discover the mistake until it is too late.
- Americans do not usually use bills larger than $20. Many small stores will not accept $100 bills; a few even refuse $50 bills.
- Sending "thank you" notes after you have been invited to an individual's home for dinner is considered a nice gesture. A gift, such as wine, flowers, or chocolates, is not necessary but much appreciated.
- Stamped addressed mail can be left in your mailbox and will be picked up by the letter carrier when delivering your mail. You may also place it in your division's mail drop, or take it to an area mailbox or postal outlet.
- The United States Postal Service (USPS) offers you the possibility to print postage and mailing labels on your computer. You will also find a complete listing of regulations for sending letters and parcel post within and outside the US.
- When dining out in some restaurants, call to make reservations in advance on busy days. Some restaurants do not accept reservations, but it is best to be sure.
- Giving "tips" is a common practice to most service personnel.
- Wait staff in restaurants - 15-20%
- Hotel doorman - $1 for each suitcase or for calling a taxi
- Taxi driver -15% of the fare;
- Barber or beautician - 15%
- Airport terminal porters - $1 a bag;
- Do not tip airline personnel, airport bus drivers, or at gasoline service stations
- The public water supply throughout the country is safe for drinking.
- If the door to a bathroom in a private house is closed, it usually means that it is occupied. Do leave the door open when you leave the bathroom.
- The size of an apartment is not given in square meters but by the number of bedrooms.
- Some large supermarkets and drugstores remain open all night.
- "For Sale " merely means that something is being sold; "On Sale" or just " Sale " means that the price has been reduced.
- Gasoline stations not only advertise their particular brand of gasoline but also their clean rest-rooms. (You may have to ask for the key.)
- Gasoline stations often have a small store which offers basic food supplies and convenience items at a premium rate.
- The Saturday and Sunday editions of the well-known newspapers, especially the Chicago Tribune and The Sun Times , can keep you busy reading all weekend.
- Television programming schedules for the entire week (TV Guides) are included in the
Sunday edition of the major newspapers
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