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A pleasant side effect of coming to the U.S. is that you will meet and befriend lots of Americans. In general, they handle exactly like other people but their offense cues are, I’ve noticed, subtly different. You may risk coming over as rude if you engage in any of the following behavior.
1. Heavy swearing
It takes little provocation for a Brit to curse profusely and at volume. Sometimes, we mean it with malice so the recipient is right to take it to heart. Other times, though, it’s a more of a reflex response. Or, it could be meant with deep and sincere affection. It’s hard for an outsider to gauge where we’re coming from with this. Americans are generally more sensitive to profanities, so keep it in check, especially around children who aren’t yours.
2. Scoffing at patriotism
If an American makes a point of telling you how they’re not at all into all that flag-waving, pledging allegiance stuff, then you’re probably not going to upset them by admitting that you find it creepy that every other house on your street flies the Star-Spangled Banner. But if you haven’t had that particular talk, then assume you’re not on safe ground.
3. Making light of sentimental moments
As previously mentioned in many a Mind The Gap post, Americans are a bit gushy. They over-share and cry in front of their friends, and this makes us profoundly uncomfortable. In these awkward moments you’ll be tempted to channel a Victorian era governess and tell your friend to look lively, buck up and possibly even be seen and not heard. This probably isn’t the best way to handle things if you’d like to hold onto the friendship. Making a risqué joke is an equally poor comforting choice.
4. Toilet talk
Contrary to popular opinion, Americans will not burst into flames or shun you should you accidentally ask where the toilet is instead of the “bathroom.” But, they are a bit more prudish than Brits, and not primed to appreciate your candid description of that epic colonic irrigation session your friends got you for your birthday.
5. Talking about religion or politics
Keeping the conversation polite in America means avoiding these topics. Back home, where political divides are less extreme and society is on the whole more secular, you need to tread less lightly.
What are some touchy topics for conversation in America? Tell us below:
Ruth is a British freelance journalist who recently swapped east London for Brooklyn. She writes about TV for Radio Times and is working on her first novel.