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March 2, 2018

Travelling with your ESTA: practical tips for proper conduct

Are cultural differences between the United Kingdom and the United States a source of conflict? It could happen, which is why we would like to share some general rules of conduct with you.

Americans are very respectful of the rules. They have a good sense of humour, but they tend to be direct in conversations.

It is essential to be sure of yourself in a conversation, and it is not recommended to use metaphors. Americans are direct, they do not beat around the bush. This is reflected, for example, in the way they write; most of the time in a very straightforward way. In general, a frightened or shy attitude could lead to doubts: are you hiding something?

Remember this when presenting your ESTA on arrival at the airport. The immigration officer will be very courteous, but he/she will pay close attention to your attitude when you answer the questions asked. Do not be fooled by questions about the details of your trip (where you will go, where you will reside).

Not sure if you can apply for USA Esta? Check here for the application requirements.

Neutral Conversation Themes to Break the Ice: As we said earlier, British and American cultures have differences. Although some rules seem odd to you, you must respect them.

If there is some trust in your interlocutors, questions about family are welcome. How are your children? Your family? In general, it is a good starting point for a pleasant conversation.

Work plays a central role in American society, why not discuss that topic? The economy in Europe is very different from the economy in the United States; exchanging your experiences could be very informative.

Another possible subject of conversation – sports. Unlike the UK, most popular sport here is not football or soccer, as the Americans call it. Basketball, baseball, and especially American football are the most popular. In fact, the Super Bowl (the football championship final) is one of the most watched sports events in the world. Take note and learn the basics of these sports. Do not be afraid of cultural exchanges. The differences in your country will provoke a lot of questions. The ensuing conversations will enrich your trip to the United States.

Conversation topics to avoid: Some of the social issues that are often discussed around a table with friends in your country are not as neutral in other countries. Avoid political, racial or religious subjects.

If you are curious about the laws that allow you to possess firearms, let your questions be neutral; know how to listen to other peoples’ reasons. We do not recommend that you address the issues of sexual freedom, abortion or the death penalty in the United States justice system.

In general, you could find yourself in a very uncomfortable position if you decide to impose your point of view on the topics we have just mentioned. America is known for its respect for differences of opinion, but you should not talk about these subjects unless you are with friends.

Fully understood body language: Remember that eye contact should not be prolonged, you may interfere and even offend those you observe. If someone introduces you, a smile is the best way to react.

Body language to avoid: Americans do not have a propensity for physical contact. In fact, they do not greet their friends by kissing them. During a conversation, avoid physical contact and always maintain a “safe” distance. This differs from Latin cultures (Portugal, Spain and Italy) and is similar to German or Swedish culture, for example.

Body language with one’s partner: As we have said, American culture is fairly formal. So, if you are travelling as a couple, pay attention to public displays of affection; they are not well received.

To conclude, do not be afraid of cultural exchanges. The differences in your country will provoke a lot of questions. The ensuing conversations will enrich your trip to the United States.

See also: What items can I bring when travelling to the United States?