Be on time, don't talk politics, don't be overly physical with strangers, tip generously and bring a casserole if you're invited to a potluck. These are some of the nuggets of wisdom guidebook writers offer foreign visitors to the U.S.
If you think you know America, you don’t. Everyone’s got their preconceived views of what Americans are but, as Culture Shock! jokes, they’re all a bit skewed: “Brazilians find us work-crazed, Japanese think we are self-indulgent, Chinese think we’re selfish, British consider us unsophisticated, and Mexicans see us as greedy.” Even your perceptions of each region of the United States may be off. Lonely Planet notes: “You’ll find elites in the Ozarks and hicks in Manhattan, and everything in between.” Above all else, “the United States is not the America of television and movies,” as Wikitravel says. It’s big, bold and unpredictable. “What's most surprising, perhaps, is how such an initially daunting land can prove so enticing,” says Frommer’s. “Its vibrant mix of peoples, striking landscapes and city skylines, and rich musical, cinematic, and culinary heritage seduce almost every visitor in the end….” “Deciding exactly what version of America you want to see,” Frommer’s adds, “may be the hardest decision of all.”
Going farther ... Truck stops offer America's greatest culinary adventure. Men should hug only on the sports field. And the South can be, well, confusing.
This is America -- or at least it's the version reiterated in the guides foreign travelers use like Bibles. Each sells America as an idea: a place for baseball, apple pie and a day at the mall.
What in this massive country deserves to be seen and why, the authors wonder? And what makes Americans American?
The answers may seem comically oversimplistic to some. After all, Americans already know what a "garage sale" or a "doggie bag" is, why barbecue is better in the South, and when to talk about guns and with whom.
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But by looking at what makes the U.S. different from everyone and everywhere else, these guidebooks tell us as much about the U.S. as they do the inquisitive world.
From Fodor's to Frommer's, Lonely Planet, Rough Guides, Wikitravel and more, here's a look at 10 things guides tell foreign visitors about America.
Press "Start" to be enlightened.