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12 Unspoken Social Norms Some Americans Need a Refresher On

There, we said it: Some Americans could use a refresher on social interaction and basic etiquette.

Combining experience and science, Mindfully American put together this list of social rules that aren’t usually spoken about but are expected of us.

1: Setting Boundaries 

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Having ample personal space is a thing in the US; most Americans don’t enjoy being talked at by a person standing so close that you can feel their breath. Proxemics is a fancy term for the amount of distance people are comfortable having between each other during conversation. So, what’s the magic proxemics number? You should stand at least eighteen inches away from someone during casual conversation. 

2: Stick Together 

Friends laughing.
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If you bring a friend along with you to a party, abandoning them if they hardly know anyone there is a major no-no. So, get that gal or guy’s number that’s flirting with you to have a long convo with them some other time; potentially losing your friend’s trust or respect isn’t worth it.

3: Keep It Clean 

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Let your messy flag fly if you’re in your own home. But when you’re in a shared space like an office, clean up after yourself. This might be one of the rare “unwritten” social rules that might suddenly get spelled out in a snarky mass email from a frustrated coworker. According to a poll, 49% of Americans admit to ignoring messes with the hope that someone else will clean them.

4: Check Your Bags 

Luggage belt.
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Don’t forget your manners when you hop off the plane and get to baggage claim. It’s a rude move to crowd the belt before your luggage arrives. Even though the general rule of thumb is to stand two feet away from a moving luggage belt for safety reasons, standing further back and staying there until you spot your luggage is the polite thing to do (assuming you’re tall enough to see over the crowd in front of you, of course).

5: Closing Time 

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Any current or former employee working at a store where customers enter can attest to this one: It’s an unwritten social rule that you should leave the store before it closes, not at the exact closing time. While you might feel fresh and ready to shop, many of the employees are ending a full shift, are tired, and ready to be off the clock.

6: Fishy Situation 

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Here’s another unwritten office rule for you: Heating a stinky meal in the microwave. No one wants to smell your lunch for the rest of the day at best, and the remainder of the week in worst-case scenarios. According to KitchenerClean, the worst foods to microwave for their terrible stench are fish, curry, popcorn, vegetables, and hard-boiled eggs.

7: Be Aware of Your Surroundings 

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Show some courtesy when stopping to chat with people you know in public by not blocking entryways or entire sidewalks. Similarly, be mindful of where you place your shopping cart, regardless if you’re alone or having an impromptu family reunion in a grocery store aisle.

8: Flushed Away

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Okay, most of us have seen this written once or twice, but generally speaking, it’s an unwritten social rule: Flush the toilet after using it. Epidemiologist Dr. Engel says there isn’t a health risk by using the philosophy, “If it’s yellow, let it mellow; if it’s brown, flush it down.” However, social norms in the US undoubtedly make flushing under all circumstances a must-do when using public spaces.

9: Conversation 101 

Friends laughing.
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Showing interest in the person you’re talking with by letting them speak is vital. So, instead of launching into a Shakespeare-style monologue, ask the person you’re talking to questions. According to a Harvard study, asking someone questions makes you better liked. And let’s face it: A huge reason Americans follow unwritten social rules is to be liked and accepted by the people around them.

10: Hands to Yourself 

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Although you may want to offer encouragement to a pregnant person you see, there’s a right and wrong way to do it. Never walk up and touch a pregnant woman’s belly, especially when you don’t know them. If you know the person, it’s an unwritten rule that you should ask the woman if it’s okay to touch their belly before doing so; they’re not a petting zoo.

11: Keep Right

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There are fewer things more frustrating to a person in a hurry than a group of people taking up the entire width of a sidewalk or walking on the wrong side of the sidewalk; this is the US, after all, not England.

12: What’s the Rush?

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While you should follow unwritten social rules when it comes to which side of the sidewalk you walk on, that isn’t a reason to be rude to others who are following the rules and not in as much of a hurry as you are. Tailgating and other brash moves are not only socially unacceptable, but they can also put you and other individuals in danger.

50 Weirdest Laws in Each State

Three ice creams.
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Most Americans are clear on treating thy neighbor as they’d want to be treated to reduce the chance of fines and jail time. But did you know you could be breaking the law by carrying an ice cream cone in your pocket? These are the weirdest laws in each state, most of which courts don’t enforce.

50 Weirdest Laws in Each State That’ll Make You Chuckle

19 Things Many People Don’t Know About Native Americans

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Too many people have a monolithic view of Native Americans, but they’re hardly a single-minded group. Tribes vary in language, tradition, and culture. As these facts reveal, there’s a lot more to Native Americans than what you learned in school. 

19 Things Many People Don’t Know About Native Americans

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