What's in a Name?

In many cultures, you introduce yourself by saying your family name first.

This is not common in the United States.  It is usually better to introduce yourself by saying your first name first. 

For example, don’t say, “I’m Smith Michael.”  It is better to say, “I’m Michael Smith.”  

International Visitor Guide

Welcome to the International Visitor Resource Guide. We have compiled information here about American culture and customs, the University of Maryland campus, how to navigate your way around the area, and other resources relevant for international students, scholars, and visitors. We hope that you will find this resource useful. If we have omitted information here that you think should be included, please contact us at international-info@umd.edu with your suggestion.

Enjoy your stay in Maryland!

American Cultural Basics

The United States is a very large country, and Americans come from many cultural backgrounds. You will especially see this diversity in large metropolitan areas like the Washington, DC area. While in the United States, you will probably meet people from many different places, of many different races and ethnicities, and with many different religions and belief systems. Most Americans value the diversity of American culture, and may find it difficult to generalize about American culture. However, there are some basic cultural traits shared by most Americans:

  • ­ Individuality and Self-Reliance: American society tends to encourage people to think and act individually, to make their own decisions, and to rely on themselves. This does not mean that Americans do not also rely on family and friends for support, or that family and friends are unimportant. It means, rather, that Americans are encouraged to develop themselves and support themselves independently as much as possible.
  • ­ Time Consciousness: Punctuality is important in American society. People are expected to be on time for appointments, classes, and formal social events. Failure to be on time, especially in a professional setting, tends to create a negative impression.
  • ­ Direct Communication: Americans are more likely to deal with conflicts directly and openly than in some other societies. “Saving face” is still important in American society, but it is not as important as resolving conflicts and misunderstandings. People tend to communicate directly and openly as much as possible.

For useful information about social customs, practices, and etiquette in the United States, you can visit http://www.edupass.com. This website is designed for visitors from abroad who are new to American society. At this site you will find advice about how to greet people, when to give gifts, how much personal space to allow, when and how much to tip, and many other things. You will also find information about such things as American holidays, time and temperature, and weights and measures.