Americans Are Sharing Things You Absolutely Should Not Do On Vacation Here, And Some Of Them Might Save Your Life

·11 min read

Traveling abroad can be a lot of fun, but it's important to understand that many countries have different laws, customs, and cultures from what you're used to.

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The US is a major tourist destination for people who live here and abroad. Recently, Redditor u/FarmSuch5021 asked "What should a foreign [visitor] absolutely not do when visiting the USA?" Here are some of the best responses.

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1."The US is MASSIVE. Each state can be VASTLY different from the next state with its own culture and laws."


2."Don’t forget [sales] tax is not included in pricing, and varies state to state."


3."Don't smoke in public buildings; this is illegal. Don't smoke in someone's house, apartment, or condo without asking for permission; this isn't illegal, but it's still extremely rude."


"Also if someone is renting a home, smoking may be against the contract."


"In some apartment complexes, it's not allowed anywhere on property, even the parking lot."


"Hotels may have specific 'smoking' rooms that you can request in your reservation. If they don't, then you must go outside to smoke; you'll have to pay a hefty cleaning fee if you smoke in a non-smoking hotel room."


4."A lot of people don't realize it's illegal to fly drones in national parks without permits. Quick way to get yelled at."


"...And arrested or fined actually. Park Rangers take that stuff very seriously, especially in busy parks that get a lot of international tourists."


It's illegal to fly drones in many places in the US (not just national parks) without a permit and authorization. Make sure you follow all Federal Aviation Administration guidelines while operating a drone.

—Author's note

A drone
Richard Newstead / Getty Images

5."Large animals like bison, elk, and moose may attack if approached, especially if they have young nearby. Being closer than 50 or 100 meters is a threat to them."


"This applies to most predators, too, such as black bears and coyotes."


Deadly animal encounters at Yellowstone National Park, in particular, are much more frequent than they should be due to people approaching aggressive wild animals for photo ops. Be sure to follow all park rules and keep a safe distance from the wildlife.

—Author's note

6."Don't go off trail when hiking or backpacking. It adds [to the existing problem] of degradation and erosion in our natural spaces."


7."Don’t try to haggle prices. I know in some countries you can negotiate, but here, the price is what it is."


8."Sit on the toilet seat; do not squat on the toilet seat."

A man on the toilet


Toilet seats may break if squatted on, but plenty of online retailers sell foldable travel squatty potties.

—Author's note

Jordan Siemens / Getty Images

9."In the men's room, you always leave an empty urinal in between you and another person using the other one, eyes straight forward."


10."Only put toilet paper (and your bodily waste) in the toilet."


"There is usually a little square metal thing in each bathroom stall. That is where used sanitary items should go. Wrapping toilet paper around it first is a courtesy. In a private home, I would say, wrap it well, and put it in the bathroom's little trash can. Don't flush it. Or you could have a plastic bag in your luggage, and only after wrapping it well with TP, put it there if you are too embarrassed. 'You' meaning anyone."


Even plenty of Americans still flush used tampons down the toilet, which almost no sanitary waste system/pipes in the US are able to accommodate. Tampons (not just the applicators) are not biodegradable, and therefore, should not be flushed.

—Author's note

11."If a local person specifically tells you not to do something, LISTEN TO THEM. We’re not out here trying to ruin your fun; we just may have some very valid concerns for you and your well-being."


12."Don't go to the upper Midwest during winter. Unless you are Russian or Nordic, you are not prepared for that degree of cold. Don't go to the Southwest in summer. Definitely do not rent a minivan and try your luck cross country in Death Valley."

A road going through a snow-covered forest
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13."Gonna give a few pointers for New York City specifically:

- Don’t take happy vacation pictures at the 9/11 memorial. Pictures are fine, just be respectful.

- Don’t hold hands three across, don’t stop on the sidewalks, and generally, just don’t block the flow of foot traffic, assume someone is right behind you trying to pass you at all times. If you stop because you want to look up, step to the side against the wall.

- Don’t forget to tip: 20% in restaurants when served, 10-15% taxis, optional at counters/cash registers especially on the iPads.

- Don’t stop at the entrance/exit of the subway or at the top of escalators."


14."Don't try to see multiple geographically distant attractions in a short period of time. Look up travel times. You'd be surprised how many people visit New York City for a week thinking they can swing by Chicago and the Grand Canyon.

"Anything further than 4ish hours by car is a day trip in and of itself. Even if it is technically possible, I know I wouldn't want to spend an entire vacation bouncing from place to place with no time budgeted to actually enjoy those places. Don't make your vacation a 'Things to See' checklist. Take time to enjoy the place you're visiting (that's good travel advice in general, though)."


15."I know words like [the C-word] are tossed around pretty loosely in [some places], but it's a pretty big word here. Also, be careful about things that have different meanings in the US.

A speech bubble

"Thongs are underwear to us, not shoes. And don't use 'fag,' even if you are just talking about a cigarette. A lot of Americans are willing to give you a pass of understanding, since you most likely have an accent, but there are definitely people who aren't as understanding."


Epoxydude / Getty Images/fStop

16."Don’t apologize for not having perfect English! You probably speak it better than a lot of native speakers. A lot of Americans are very friendly and love to help, so we wouldn’t have any problem trying to figure out what you’re talking about even if it’s not perfectly clear."


17."Don't forget to tip."


"It's dumb, but restaurant workers' wages are basically expecting that patrons leave [at least] a 20% tip."


18."Don’t bring outside food into a restaurant."


This violates health codes that restaurants are required by law to follow.

—Author's note

19."[Don't] eat at only chain restaurants and shop for food at gas stations and 7-Eleven."

A burger and fries
Digipub / Getty Images

20."Don't slurp when you eat, and don't ask how much money we make. Both are very rude here."


Conversely, it can be very rude to remain silent while eating in some countries, as it implies the food is not good. It's always important to look into these little things before traveling abroad!

—Author's note

21."Don’t drink alcoholic beverages outside."


22."Don't take pictures of people without their permission or stand next to them to get a picture without asking them."


23."Don't point at people, especially with one finger. You can point at things or animals. For people, you can nod your head that way, or wave your entire hand toward them.

"It seems silly, but we teach children this from really young, and I've seen people get really upset over it."


24."If you are a man, don't walk up to a woman and start talking to her unless she is in a group, or you are in a bar or club or other place that kind of thing is expected."


"Speaking as a woman who did customer service:

"American culture is already politely friendly by default, and in customer service, we are expected to remain exceptionally so. This does not mean we are into you or interested in you, and if you ask us when we get off work, we will probably lie. If you ask us for our phone number, I'll get you the company customer service support line.

"In [some]countries, there's this perception that American women are sluts or that sexual liberation and autonomy = indiscriminately sleeping around."


25."We take the 10 items or less rule very seriously in our grocery stores."

A woman shopping in a grocery store
David Espejo / Getty Images

26."Whatever you do, do not cut in line. We see it, and you will get called out for it, perhaps even assaulted for it."


"We have the same distaste for it as the Brits, but are way more confrontational about it."


27."If staying in a private home as a guest: Do not begin cleaning it without being asked first, or asking. That will be insulting.

"You are saying the house is too dirty for your taste. Worse, that it is so horrible that you can't even wait to be settled in, before cleaning it.

"If you want to be of some help, simply ask, 'Is there anything I can help with?' And then obey the answer. Usually it will be, 'No, you are a guest, please be comfortable.'

"'Can I help with the dishes' after a meal is another common question. Most will say no. Some will say yes. You do not have to ask it."


28."We take our property rights very seriously. If a place has signs saying 'No Trespassing,' do not trespass! Even if it's woods and no one's around."

A Private Property sign
Grace Cary / Getty Images

29."Don't assume health care costs are covered [or cheap]."


30."Come to the US with the understanding that from the age of 4 or 5 we are taught (indoctrinated) nationalism. The American flag is in the front of every classroom, and we say a pledge to it every day.

"That being said, coming here and striking up a conversation with the average American about all the reasons YOU think the US is a mistake or failing is just going to make you look like an asshole."


31."[Be cautious] dealing with American police. Although most are fine, there are a lot that are power tripping a-holes. Especially if you’re a brown or Black tourist, understand that they would be happy and have no qualms with taking you to jail for even the smallest offenses."


"I don’t know if this is actually true, but I heard in some places it’s common to get out of your car if a cop pulls you over and walk over to them. Absolutely do not do that; stay in the car, and wait for the cop to come to you."


32."Do not diss the home sports team of wherever you’re visiting at. People love the teams for a reason."

People waving American flags in a crowd
Image Source / Getty Images

33."Personal space is very valued here. Don’t go up to people and try to be close to someone [you don't know]. Try to stay distant before you get a green light of some kind (a handshake might be a good example here)."


34."I've found other cultures tend to whisper in public places to be polite. When Americans whisper, it's almost always because they are saying something they don't want another person to hear.

"Americans don't like secrets kept from them, so if they see/hear you whispering and don't know what you're saying, they most often will assume the worst. There are a few times you should totally whisper though, like a movie theater, church, or library."


35."Small talk/chit chat amongst strangers is common. You don't need to really engage in it; most of the time, a little smile and a small nod is all it takes."


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H/T r/AskAnAmerican

Some replies have been edited for length and clarity.

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