If you don’t want one of the dishes being passed, simply don’t take any and pass it to the next person.
“In China, people usually follow a strict seating rule during a family dinner. If all family members are seated at a rectangular table, the hosts/hostesses and/or the senior members of the family usually sit at the far edges of the table in order to show their respected identity. Also, nobody should start eating before the senior members do. However, when I came to the United States three years ago, I found out that people here do not follow a specific set of seating rules at all. Most of the dining tables here are round and dinner participants can sit wherever they want to regardless of their identities or the shape of tables. When the hosts announce the beginning of the dinner, people start to pass the food containers around the circle. In this way, regardless of age, everybody sitting on the table can get their food whenever the container is passed to their hands. Whenever the person has food in his/her plate, he/she can start eating without having to wait until everyone gets their food.
Adjusting to this part of American culture always seems hard to me. Now, when I come over to someone’s house for a dinner, I usually observe how other people act on the table before taking actions. Since different households run under different rules, being an observant guest really helps you fit into a new environment and gain respect from others”. (Chubo “Tony” Peng, China)
“Eye contact is very important here, especially in a formal setting. It shows that you are paying attention to a speaker or to your speaking partner. I went to an internship fair at the main campus a month after I began my study here. It was a very big fair and of course, it was very formal. I talked to many recruiters. At first, I felt uncomfortable as they opened their eyes widely and stared into my eyes while I was talking. After a few conversations, I felt better because it was common. Another time while I was giving a presentation, many people stared at me; but this time it felt good, as I now knew they were paying attention to me.” (Orn Ngarmcroh, Thailand)
“I think eye contact etiquette here in the U.S. is much different than back home in Pakistan. Here you have to make eye contact with the person if you’re talking to him/her, but back home different genders don’t make a lot of eye contact.” (Ali Ayub, Pakistan)
Gender Issues, Interactions, and Perceptions
In the States, women are seen as equal to men and expect to be treated fairly. It is normal for both men and women to share the responsibilities of the home and children.
Safety for women: It is not a good idea for women to walk around on their own at night. It is better to stay as part of a group.
“It is not unusual for young Americans to hug you when you greet them. In my home country (South Korea) hugging friends of the same gender means good friendship, but hugging friends with the other gender tends to mean more than friendship. The first time when my male American friend tried to hug me, I got a little surprised, but now I like to hug my friends.
In South Korea, female friends (high school or college) used to walk arm in arm with each other, and it means a close friendship (nothing more than that). Now I realize that in the United States, walking arm in arm with friends can mean more than friendship. We don’t need to confuse our American friends by walking arm in arm with each other.” (Kyungha “Katie” Kim, South Korea)