1. Don’t wander in cities. The difference between a safe neighborhood and an unsafe one can be a single block, and if you don’t know exactly where these lines are, it could be the last mistake you ever make.
2. Always carry identification, and don’t ever argue with anybody in a uniform.
3. Men, be prepared for FIRM, almost competitive handshakes. Don’t proffer a “dead fish.”
4. Don’t expect to find a functional public transportation system.
5. When you’ve figured out how much money you’ll need, double it. Don’t get stuck here without money.
6. Prices on everything except high value items (cars, houses, stuff that costs in the thousands) are marked and fixed. No negotiating. (There are often sales taxes that vary by location, usually aren’t more than 5% or so, and aren’t included in the marked price.)
7. Americans have a big personal space bubble. Don’t stand within a half a meter of people.
8. Observe the integrity of the queue. No cutting.
9. If you drive a car, remember that Americans rely more on the rules than the traffic around them. If you ride a motorcycle, don’t even try. This reliance on rules over traffic makes for inattentive drivers, and motorcycles don’t even register for most drivers. No bullshit here. I’ve been a rider full time for many years, have ridden on three continents, and for a year and a half in China and I felt safer there!
10. Don’t come without medical insurance. The healthcare and pharmaceutical industries are among the 5 largest in the country, the costs are outrageous, and the care, inconsistent.
11. Don’t worry about the water. If it comes from a tap, and no one has warned you otherwise, it’s clean and safe. Seriously. I really only mentioned the exception for good form. Water’s safe from coast to coast.
12. Don’t forget to tip. The minimum wage laws, as impotent as they are, don’t even apply to service employees. Wait staff, bartenders, and delivery people live off of tips.