If you want to travel, or move and live in the United States, there are some things you need to know. The language, of course, is helpful which is why you’re learning with me today and every week. However, there are also behaviors you should be aware of, certain ways you should act and things you should do. Today’s Everyday English lesson is going to teach you some of these American culture necessities, and specifically talk about some faux pas you need to avoid.
In today’s lesson, you’re going to learn:
- the definition and pronunciation of faux pas
- 3 common faux pas in American culture
- how to improve your fluency even more with guided practice
Are you ready?
A Vocabulary & American Culture Lesson
A faux pas is an embarrassing social mistake. The pronunciation may seem strange, because it comes from French, which is why it’s spelled and pronounced differently (like French). Notice, when you see this word, that the pronunciation is not “fox” or “folks”. Watch the video above and listen to learn how to say this word accurately.
One of the inspirations for this lesson was my Conversation Club. My conversation club helps English learners improve their speaking skills and conversational fluency. This vocabulary word (faux pas) appeared in the materials for this month and I wanted to give more information about it.
Another reason that I chose faux pas for today’s lesson theme was because I am currently in a hotel that is near an airpot. There are people from all around the world here. Because we are all together in this small space, I’ve noticed some cultural differences happening. One of the things I noticed was getting on and off the elevator. Here, in the U.S., when you are inside the elevator, everybody on the outside should wait for everybody on the inside to exit before walking into it. Although it seems like such a small thing, it’s an important part of public social behavior.
So what are other faux pas that you could be making in The States?
*Notice: To use faux pas in a sentence, we use the verbs make or committ. For example: Don’t commit these faux pas.
3 examples of FAUX PAS to avoid committing in the US
Kissing – it is not common in the US to kiss somebody that you just meet or an acquaintance. Normally, we just kiss people we are related to or good friends with. We often just shake hands with strangers we just meet. An exception: if a friend introduces us to another friend, we might hug them, be we give a little a notice. We say, for example, “I am a hugger” or “I am going to hug you now”.
Haggling/bargaining – this means to try and negotiate a price. In the US, we do not haggle or bargain. If you do that here in major stores and in most buying/selling situations, you will be committting a faux pas. When you come to the US, and you want to buy something, the price is the price.
*Exception: If you see something that says OBO (or better offer), it means that they expect you to negotiate.
Examples from students in our live lesson:
In Germany, it is not common to haggle either.Bargaining is quite common if you are at the market in Malaysia, but not in the mall or restaurant.
Tipping – To tip is when you give extra money on top of what the bill is (on top of what the price/cost is). When you go to most places that provide a service, when someone is doing something for you, you are supposed to give a tip. Typically, you give 10-20% of the total bill, with the average tip being 15% to 18%. This is simply part of the American culture to tip and if you don’t, it is considered pretty rude.
So what about your country?
Practice Makes Perfect
Practice your English and expressing yourself about this topic! I want to know if these 3 situations are common faux pas where you live. Learn about other cultures and share cultural information on my YouTube channel in the comment section of this video! Click here to practice your English and comment your answers!
Until next time,
Happy Studying! ♥
This lesson was an inspiration from my Conversation Club. This is a fluency training program, and will help you learn English more naturally and confidently! I’ve just added new materials and more speaking practice opportunities. If you want to learn more phrasal verbs, expressions and idioms, and if you want to speak with me and learners around the world, then sign up today! Get the details here: