US customs & traditions

The United States of America: Factfile

The United States of America is a vast country with a population of almost 300 million people.

The capital of the USA is Washington DC, and other major cities include New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Antonio, San Diego, Dallas, and San Jose.

The US shares borders with Canada and Mexico, and has coasts on the Gulf of Mexico, Pacific Ocean and Atlantic Ocean.

The country spans several time zones, meaning that when it is 3pm in Los Angeles it is 6pm in New York.

Each of the 50 US states has its own unique characteristics and style, and they make many of their own laws.

The country is geographically diverse, with deserts, mountains, snowy peaks, lakes the size of seas, dense forests, great rivers, swamps, vineyards, tropical beaches, canyons, immense waterfalls...


The American population has evolved from European settlers, Native American Indians, Latin Americans/Hispanics, African Americans, Asians, and other cultures.

Religion and community play a very important role in the lives of most Americans, with the church being at the center of many communities. Around 79 % are Christian, mainly Protestants, Catholics or Mormons. There are smaller communities of Jews, Buddhists and Muslims.

The unit of currency in the USA is the dollar. There are 100 cents in one dollar. Coins are a penny (1 cent), nickel (5 cents), dime (10 cents), and a quarter (25 cents).

The Americans drive on the right-hand side of the road, and the top speed limit is 65 mph (about 110 km/hr). American cars are generally large gas-guzzlers, but fuel in the US is very cheap.

Tipping and gratuities are pretty much considered obligatory in US restaurants, and are generally calculated as at least 15% of the bill, with up to 25% given for outstanding service. Cab drivers, bellboys and hotel maids should also be tipped.

The US still uses the measuring system of pounds and ounces, yards and miles instead of kilograms and grams, meters and kilometers.

The main language in the US is English, although many people also speak Spanish as a first language.

A young person in the US can drive a car at the age of 16 in most states, smoke, vote, and get married at 18, but cannot drink alcohol until reaching the age of 21.

American people have a very strong work ethic, and are known worldwide for working long hours and taking few vacations.

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