Valencia's International College Program with Academic Training
at the Walt Disney World© Resort

U.S. Customs & Culture

Culture Shock

Culture shock is the term used to describe the anxiety and feelings of surprise, disorientation, or confusion felt when people are required to operate in a culture different from the one in which they live, or in a social environment different from the one in which they grew up. During the orientation, we will review the common elements of culture shock and what students can do adjust and thrive in a new environment.

American Culture


It is very important in the U.S. to be on time for appointments, classes, work, etc.  Arriving late is considered rude and may result in penalties for classes and work. 

Conversation Etiquette

It is considered rude in the U.S. to interrupt someone when they are talking.  Wait until they are finished to make your comment or ask a question.

"Safe" topics to discuss:

  • The weather
  • Classes and jobs
  • Travel experiences
  • Sports
  • Music and movies
  • Fashion, shopping, and clothes

Topics to avoid:

  • Money (how much one earns or how much their house, etc., cost).
  • Family problems
  • Religion
  • Politics

"Personal Space"

In the U.S., people value their space and do not like it when someone stands too close to them when talking. A typical form of American greeting is a firm handshake (extend the right hand) when meeting someone for the first time. When you greet friends, it is common to hug them.

Public Displays of Affection

Public displays of affection are frowned upon (passionate kissing or any other sexual behavior in public).

Making inappropriate comments or touching someone in a personal manner can be considered sexual harassment and is not acceptable.  What may seem like an innocent comment or gesture on your part can be interpreted differently by someone else.

American Culture (Classroom Behavior)

Education in the U.S. is "learning centered", meaning that students are encouraged to listen, take notes, read, think critically, express different perspectives in class, participate in discussions, and demonstrate understanding of a topic as opposed to memorizing what they hear or reading and taking a test on that topic.

Interaction and teamwork are common in the classroom, and questions and discussion are encouraged.  Many instructors will tell you that there is no such thing as a “stupid question” and if you are wondering about something, chances are that other students are wondering the same thing but are afraid to ask.  Instructors are always available after class or through email if you want to ask a question privately.

Use of Cell Phones

It is considered impolite to talk, text message, or do anything which conveys the impression that you are not paying attention to the instructor or to other students when they are talking or making a presentation.  Cell phones have become a major problem in classrooms, and many teachers will deduct points from your grade if you use your cell phone in any way during class or even have it visible.  Cell phones should always be turned off and put out of sight in class.


Cheating is not tolerated in the U.S. classroom and has repercussions.  Many times you will fail the class if you are caught cheating.   Even though students are often encouraged to work together in groups or teams, tests and quizzes should be your own work and copying or discussing answers with another student is considered cheating.