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Mines For International Students

A guide for prospective and current international students at the Colorado School of Mines on adjusting to life on campus.

Cultural Considerations

Overview

 When visiting and/or living in a different country, you may experience culture shock, or the unpleasant experience of being immersed in an unfamiliar culture. You can help limit culture shock and have an easier time making yourself at home in your host country by reading up on your host country's culture. Throughout this page, you will find information about the United States and how American culture differs from those in other parts of the world. Below are some key considerations about being social with Americans:

                             

Time

 Americans value time greatly - as the phrase goes, "time is money". As a general rule, you should arrive promptly on time (or better, five minutes early) to everything from work, to school, to dinner plans, to haircut appointments, and even to casual social gatherings. 

Personal Space

 Americans are comfortable with a lot of personal space. When you are having a conversation with an American, it is a good idea to leave about two feet of space between you. Many Americans are also uncomfortable with being hugged, kissed, touched on the shoulder, etc. unless they know you well. Any physical contact with strangers should be avoided, as well as being too near to strangers when extra space is available. 

Common Phrases

  • Though sarcasm has its place in the American vocabulary, for the most part, you should take "yes" and "no" very seriously. An American will rarely say "no" to something if they mean anything other than "no".
  • A common greeting in the U.S is something to the effect of "How are you?" or "How is it going?" In most cases, this question is simply a polite gesture, not an invitation for long conversations about how you're really feeling. Typically, Americans will respond something like "I'm doing (good/alright/fine), what about you?", even if they are really feeling sad/angry/etc.
  • The phrase "I don't care" is not always intended to be rude. Often, this phrase simply conveys a lack of opinion/easy-going attitude about the topic at hand.

Culture Tip

 Money

It is generally rude to talk to Americans about their finances. For example, it might not be received well if you ask how much money an American makes at their job, or how much something they own cost to purchase. 

Gender Roles

Gender roles and perceptions

  • Men and women are considered equals and tend to share duties and responsibilities in and out of the household.
  • Americans respect consent and take sexual misconduct very seriously.
  • Prolonged contact between people of the same sex (ex: holding hands) may be perceived as an expression of love, rather than friendship. 
  • LGBTQIA + members of the campus community are protected, by law, from discrimination or harassment while on campus. 

Hygiene

In the United States, Americans like to smell fresh and clean and are offended by natural odors that are produced by the human body.  It is expected to wash your clothing often to prevent them from holding any of the odor-causing bacteria that may attach themselves to the inside of your clothing. It is essential to bathe daily and wear underarm deodorant in order to combat the natural body odors.

Drugs and Alcohol

Alcohol

In the United States, the legal drinking age is 21 years old. Bars and establishments that sell alcohol will ask for ID (driver's license, passport, etc.) to confirm that the buyer is 21 years or older. Purchasing alcohol for someone under 21 carries serious penalties for the buyer. Always drink responsibly; driving under the influence of alcohol is both dangerous and illegal, so if you plan on drinking, make sure that you have safe transportation. 


Marijuana

Recreational marijuana is legal in Colorado for those 21 years or older. However, there are many caveats that users should be aware of. Click here to learn more about the legality of marijuana in Colorado. Remember that in most U.S states, recreational possession and use of marijuana is still illegal. Marijuana is also illegal on the Colorado School of Mines campus. Driving under the influence of marijuana is illegal and dangerous, and the drug can stay in a person's system for several hours after consumption. Do your research!


Nicotine and Tobacco

The city of Golden has a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance that you can read here. As of 2020, the legal age for purchasing and using nicotine and tobacco products (including cigarettes, e-cigarettes, chew tobacco, etc.) in the U.S is now 21 years of age. Across America, most public spaces do not allow smoking, including both inside buildings and for a specified range outside of a building. Any designated smoking areas will be marked by signage. Always dispose of nicotine and tobacco products responsibly - especially with Colorado's dry air, throwing a used cigarette on the ground poses a serious fire risk. Besides, littering laws are enforced throughout the state and country.


Drugs for Medical Purposes

Some drugs that are offered over the counter in other countries require a prescription from a doctor in the U.S. Do your research to make sure that you can get the medication you need while in the U.S.

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Addressing Others

Most Americans go by their first name, especially in casual settings. In more formal situations (work, school, etc.), a person (especially of authority) is typically referred to by their title and last name. Below is a list of titles and who they belong to. 

  • Mr. (Mister): a man
  • Ms. (Miss): an unmarried woman, or a woman of unknown marital status
  • Mrs. (Misses) : a married woman 
  • Dr. (Doctor):  anyone who has a PhD 
  • Prof. (Professor): a teacher at a college/university

When addressing Professors on campus, address them as Professor/Dr. [Last Name], unless asked otherwise. Some professors will allow students to address them by their first name only. When in doubt, simply ask a person how they would like you to address them. You can also take cues from how others refer to them, and how they refer to themselves in conversation, email correspondence, etc. 

Religion

America has no official religion and freedom of religion is a protected right. The majority of Americans are Christian (65% according to a 2018 Pew Research Center study), but many Americans practice other religions, including Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and many more. It is also fairly common for Americans to be non-religious. Directly asking about the religion of someone you don't know well could make them uncomfortable. 

The Most Important Part

Most Americans want to be accommodating and friendly. If some aspect of American culture confuses you or makes you uncomfortable, let someone know. If you briefly and politely explain, (for example, "In my country, we do ____" or "I'm not used to ____"), most Americans will be understanding and try to help you feel more comfortable. ‚Äč