American Culture


Primary Author
Nina Evason,
  • Greetings are usually informal, with first names often used in initial introductions.
  • A handshake is the most common greeting when meeting someone for the first time or in professional settings.
  • Handshakes should be firm and accompanied with eye contact throughout the greeting, especially in business contexts. Being the first person to offer your hand can reflect confidence. However, be aware handshaking can seem overly-formal and awkward in casual settings. 
  • Many people hug in informal situations or to greet close friends and family. 
  • It is important to smile during greetings. Americans generally smile a lot and are likely to appreciate when similar warmth is reciprocated.
  • A formal introduction is not always necessary in social settings. It is sometimes assumed that people will get to know each other as they mingle.
  • If you are a newcomer, take the initiative to introduce yourself to those around you. Your American counterpart may not always give individual introductions and expect you to do it yourself.
  • Many Americans greet by saying “How are you?”. This is usually a form of greeting rather than an actual enquiry about your wellbeing. The common response is “I’m good, thanks. How are you?”. Giving an answer that is deeply personal or less positive can make the situation uncomfortable if you are not very familiar with the person.
  • In opening deeper conversation, Americans often ask people about their occupation (e.g. “So, what do you do?”).

Get a downloadable PDF that you can share, print and read.

Guaranteed secure stripe badge

A unified, searchable interface answering your questions on the world's cultures and religions

Sign up for free