Vanderbilt and Nashville Information for International Visitors

Welcome to the United States, Vanderbilt, and Nashville!

We hope that you enjoy your time with us at the Institute for Global Health and in Nashville! 

Below is information that will help you navigate around campus and the city, find shopping and dining options, and acclimate to life in the southern US. 

  • Obtaining your visa

    • As soon as you receive your invitation letter from our office (including your visa paperwork), contact your local US embassy to obtain your Business Visa. You should start this visa process as soon as possible. A visa interview may be mandatory. Please check with your local embassy as to how to schedule a visa interview.

    Required documentation for obtaining the visa

    • A visa application fee (please pay by yourself and keep the receipt for reimbursement)
    • Please contact your local US embassy for guidance on required visa documents

    Other documents that might be useful to have for the visa interview

    • US Government requirements mandate that applicants must demonstrate to the consular officer that they have binding ties to a residence in a foreign country which they have no intention of abandoning, and they are coming to the US for a temporary period. It is impossible to specify the exact evidence needed since applicants' circumstances vary greatly, however, as a general guide documents related to proof of ties to the home country include financial investments, property, family, a position to return to, etc. It is important to document that you do not intend to immigrate to the US.
    • Official program, grant, or training letter inviting you to VIGH for a specified period and reason
    • Important: Interview document requirements are not uniform and subject to change at any time. Please be sure to check with the local embassy/consular office for updates.

    Immigration information and key terms

    • Please read and understand the following terminology before entering the US. Both our program and the Vanderbilt International Student Services and Scholar (ISSS) Office distribute this information.
      • Visa Stamps: Non-immigrants entering the US are generally required to obtain a Visa Stamp in their passport in order to enter the US, with the exception of ESTA, visa waiver visitors, and Canadian citizens.  You will need to go to the website for the specific US Consulate/Embassy where you will be applying for your visa stamp for specific instructions on how to apply for a visa stamp. You can find links to US Consulates/Embassies on the following US Embassy website.
      • I-94 Document: After you enter the US, you will need to download your entry document, called an I-94, from the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) website. It is your I-94 that controls how long you can remain inside the US and what your status is once you arrive to the US.  Each time you travel outside the US, you must download your new I-94 and check for any errors. Please note that CBP officers handle thousands of entries to the US daily and errors in I-94 data do happen. If your I-94 contains an error (i.e., incorrect expiration date), you must contact CBP to get the error corrected.  You can find information on what to do if your I-94 contains incorrect data on the CBP website.
      • Passports: You are required to maintain a valid passport at all times while you are in the US. Most countries will allow you to renew your passport through their Embassy/Consulate while you are inside the US. You will need to apply directly through your home country’s Embassy/Consulate to renew your passport. We recommend applying to renew your passport well in advance of the expiration date (at least 6 months prior to the expiration date) to ensure you maintain a valid passport at all times.  You can find a list of all foreign Embassies in the US on the US State Department's website. If you travel outside the US and plan to re-enter the US within the 6 month period prior to the expiration date listed on your passport, please note that CBP can limit the time you are allowed to remain inside the US to the expiration date listed on your passport.  
      • Please note: Under the changed circumstances, there is no longer any ‘mercy’ or ‘forgiveness’ on the part of the US government. All rules and regulations are handled in accordance with the letter of the law. If you have any further questions concerning these laws, please send us an email.
      • Proof of Visa Status: The US government requires your original Passport, I-94 card, and visa forms to be on your person at all times. If these articles are stolen, you must file a police report immediately (see below under Emergency Information for contact numbers).

    ​​​​Entering the US

    • When you reach Customs at your airport of entry in the United States, your luggage may be thoroughly searched and your visa paperwork and passport will be examined at length. This procedure can take several hours depending on your country of origin, so please plan your trip accordingly. You will want these pieces of documentation to be easily accessible. If you do not have your passport and/or your visa paperwork with you, you will not be permitted to enter the country.
    • Additionally, if you are arriving from a "high-risk country," you may have to report to Atlanta, Georgia for fingerprinting. This is new federal regulation and we apologize for any problems this may cause.
  • COVID-19 Policies

    Health Insurance 

    • Health care in the US is private, not public, so patients must pay for services, which can be quite expensive. You may have emergency health insurance included in your visit, which can only be used in emergencies, not for routine health care. Please see your host if you have any questions.

    Pharmacies

    There are several pharmacies close to the Vanderbilt Campus, including:

    • Walgreens, 3010 West End Avenue - phone: +1 615-269-0098
    • Medical Arts Pharmacy, 1211 21st Avenue South - phone: +1 615-936-1040
    • CVS Pharmacy, 426 21st Avenue South - phone: +1 615-321-3981

    Opticians

    There are several opticians close to the Vanderbilt Campus, including:

    • Vanderbilt Eye Clinic, Medical Center East, 8th Floor - phone: +1 615-936-2020
    • Warby Parker, 1207 Villa Pl - phone: +1 615-249-1992
    • Milam’s, 3920 Hillsboro Circle - phone: +1 615-297-9017
    • Pearle Vision, 4004 Hillsboro Rd, #105 - phone: +1 615-298-2020
  • Public and campus safety

    Overall, the United States is a safe place. Regardless, precautions should be taken to ensure your safety while here in Nashville. Follow these “common sense” rules of safety:

    • Always make sure you lock all doors and windows of your hotel room and/or car while you are away.
    • Avoid carrying large sums of cash or valuables with you.
    • Avoid visiting public places such as parks alone after dark.
    • Avoid using Automatic Teller Machines (ATM) alone after dark.
    • Do not carry weapons.
    • It is a good idea to ask friends or colleagues what areas of Nashville are less safe than others.
    • If something should happen, do not try to resist a robber or mugger, and contact the police as soon as possible.

    For serious, life-threatening emergencies (including fires): Dial 911

    Nashville Police (Non-Emergency): +1 615-862-8600 

    Nashville Area Crisis Center: +1 615-256-8526

    Vanderbilt Campus Police: +1 615-322-2745 (located near VIGH at 2800 Vanderbilt Place)

    • Money. Please bring funds to cover your incidental expenses (shopping, entertainment outings, etc.). Depending on your funding mechanism, you may have a per diem for daily expenses. Please save your receipts in case you need to be reimbursed.  
    • Documents. Before you leave for the U.S., please be sure to have the following documents with you:
      • Visa paperwork and all other documentation that you received from the embassy
      • Arrival and departure airline tickets
      • Medical records and immunization record
      • A supply of all prescription medications and a description of each medication written by your doctor
      • An extra pair of prescription glasses or contact lenses
      • Passport and additional photo identification, and copies of those items
      • Award letter from the program
      • Local or international driver’s license (if applicable)
    • Receipts. Please bring the visa application receipt with you for reimbursement.
    • Other. Often items such as toiletries are less expensive in the US, so you may wish to purchase them here. However, it may be difficult to find spices or local brand items at the Nashville markets. (Example: There is no such thing as a Zambian cooking stick here. Bring those items with you.)
  • Nashville is spread out and does not have a reliable system of sidewalks, so you may wish to use the city bus (Nashville Metro Transit Authority (MTA), operated by WeGo), a rideshare (such as Lyft or Uber - you will need to download their app to your phone), or a taxi. In addition, Vanderbilt has a campus shuttle bus.

    Using the Nashville MTA / WeGo buses (public transportation): 

    Using taxis: Below is a list of some taxi companies in Nashville. The hotel concierge may also be able to help you find a taxi.

    • Allied Cab                         +1 (615) 883-2323
    • Checker Cab                    +1 (615) 331-7951
    • Diamond Cab Company  +1 (615) 915-0311
    • Grand Old Taxi                 +1 (615) 868-8080
    • Music City Taxi                 +1 (615) 865-4100
    • Nashville Cab Company  +1 (615) 242-7070
    • United Cab                       +1 (615) 228-6969
    • Yellow Cab                       +1 (615) 256-0101

    Note: State and national law require that you wear your seatbelt while in a vehicle. Please ensure this belt is securely fastened before the automobile is in motion. If a seatbelt is not available (such as on most buses and other forms of transportation) please be aware of this situation and be prepared to brace yourself in event of a quick stop.

    Vanderbilt shuttle bus: The Vanderbilt University Medical Center campus is large and you may wish to use the campus shuttles to move between office buildings. Here are Vanderbilt shuttle route maps and times:

    A note on street names:

    • Abbreviations: Avenue = Ave; Road = Rd; Place = Pl; Street = St; Boulevard = Blvd
    • Many major roads in Nashville change names at different places in the city. 
      • West End Ave runs by Vanderbilt University and is a main street in Nashville. It begins as Broadway Ave in downtown Nashville. Broadway then splits into Broadway (which later becomes 21st Avenue) and West End Ave. West End goes out of town to the West and changes name to Harding Road. As Harding goes further out of town, it becomes Highway 70S/100S.
  • Refer to The Weather Channel for up-to-date weather information and history.

    Severe weather

    • Tornados and flooding are common and can be dangerous.
    • In the event of severe weather, tune in to the internet, local radio, or television stations for announcements.
      • Nashville Severe Weather can be a helpful resource: follow them on Twitter and Instagram 
    • During a tornado, take cover in a room with no windows on the lowest floor possible of the building. 

    Nashville has four seasons: Fall, Winter, Spring, and Summer. Weather for each season is described below.

    Fall (September, October, November)

    • The Fall season is quite pleasant, often with warm days and cool nights. Average temperatures range between 40°F/4°C (night) and 70°F/21°C (day).
    • Fall months bring the potential for beautiful weather, but the climate is often unpredictable. Bring a variety of clothing when traveling to Nashville during Fall.
    • What to pack: layers - the weather can be unpredictable (cool one day and warm the next); sweater or light jacket for night

    Winter (December, January, February)

    • Winters are relatively mild, but they can be wet, making temperatures cold. Temperatures range from 50°F/10°C (day) to 30°F/-1°C (night), but there are occasional snaps of even colder weather.
    • It generally snows a couple of times per year and the roads and sidewalks become icy and slick.
    • What to pack: warm, layered clothing

    Spring (March, April, May)

    • Spring is pleasant, with daily temperatures typically above 70°F/21°C and nights down to 50°F/10°C.
    • The highest monthly rainfall normally occurs in May.
    • The Middle Tennessee area, including Nashville, has around a dozen or so tornado watches issued annually, most of which occur in March, April, and May.
    • What to pack: rain gear; sweater or light jacket for nights

    Summer (June, July, August)

    • Summer is the most intense season, with hot temperatures and humidity. Daytime temperatures routinely are above 90°F/32°C, but it can feel much warmer with the humidity. Nights are usually around 70°F/21°C.
    • Summer can be rainy. 
    • What to pack: light, breathable clothes
  • Calendar dates and local time

    • In the US, dates are written as month/day/year. This is the opposite of the British method, in which dates are written day/month/year. For example, April 3, 1967, is written as 4/3/67 in the US.
    • To avoid confusion, it is best to write out dates using the month's name.
    • The US uses a 12-hour, not a 24-hour clock. Therefore, times after 12:59, revert back to 1:00(pm). 13:05 is referred to as 1:05 pm. Times before 12:00 (morning) are referred to as "am.'"
    • Nashville is in the Central Time zone.

    Weights and measures

    • Time is not the only difference. The US does not use the metric system for everyday usage.
    • This may take some getting used to: everything differs from weights (pounds instead of grams) to distance (miles instead of kilometers) to volume (quart instead of liters) to temperature (Fahrenheit instead of Celsius).
    • You may want to carry a small conversion chart for the first few weeks. Here is a link to a printable conversion chart: http://www.metricconversioncharts.org/
  • Handling Money Safely 

    • Do not keep large sums of cash or keep money at the hotel.
    • Most ATMs work with international bank cards. Check with your local bank for their U.S. affiliate in Nashville. Tell them you will be using the card out of the country, so a fraud stop is not placed on your card.
    • Do not give out your credit card number, debit card number, PIN number, card expiration date, or the 3-digit number on the back of the card. Lost/stolen cards must be reported immediately to the company or bank that issued the card.  

    Money dollars and coins

    • One (1) dollar is written as $1.00
    • There are 100 cents in 1 dollar ($1.00 is 1 dollar and no cents; $1.32 is 1 dollar and 32 cents)
    • 25 cents is the same as a “quarter”
    • 10 cents is the same as a “dime”
    • 5 cents is the same as a “nickel”
    • 1 cent is the same as a “penny”
    • 54 cents can be typed as $0.54 or just 54¢ (the ¢ mark means “cents”) When the amount of money is one dollar or more, the $ is always used.  

    Shopping  

    • Most U.S. stores are self-serve, meaning you pick whatever you want to purchase from the shelves. Items should have a price tag that tells the cost of the item. 
    • When you complete your selections, take your items to the cashiers (“check out” counters, which are often stationed near the store entrance or throughout the store) where your purchases will be totaled and you pay. Most larger supermarkets also have self-checkout stations if you wish to bypass long lines. As your items are being scanned, pay attention to the price that shows on the digital screen. Let the cashier know if the price does not match the price tag. You can decline to purchase an item if it cost more than you expected.
    • After purchasing an item, you may return it for a refund, provided that the original price tags are still attached and you have the receipt (proof of purchase).

    Grocery Stores

    • Grocery stores sell all sorts of food such as fresh, frozen, and canned fish, poultry, meat, fruits, vegetables, and prepared dishes. They also sell staples such as flour, sugar, salt, and spices. Bakery goods, dairy products, toiletries (shampoo and toothpaste), paper products (toilet paper, paper towels, sanitary napkins, paper tissue, paper plates, and paper cups), and cigarettes are also available in grocery stores.
    • Self-service is the rule in grocery stores, which means individuals take a cart or basket, select the required items, and present them for payment at a cashier’s counter.
    • Some ethnic grocery stores and international markets in Nashville sell food items from many areas of the world, including Africa, Asia, and Latin America. The most accessible stores are located in the Farmer’s Market on 8th Avenue and K&S World Market with locations on Charlotte Pike or Nolensville Road.
    • At grocery store checkouts, you may be asked, “paper or plastic?”, which means do you want your items put in a paper or plastic bag. You may also bring your own cloth bag or backpack to put the items.
    • Grocery stores close to your hotel and accessible by WeGo bus route "50, Charlotte Pike" include:
      • Kroger: 5705 Charlotte Pike. Offers reasonable prices; sign up for the free Kroger card to receive additional discounts
      • K&S World Market: 5861 Charlotte Pike. There is a larger K&S located further from the hotel at 4225 Nolensville Pike
      • Wal-Mart Supercenter: 7044 Charlotte Pike. This is the largest chain of American mega-markets. Very reasonable prices on grocery items, household goods, clothes, toys, office supplies, electronics, and more. 
      • Aldi: 405 American Road. Very reasonable prices on grocery items. 
      • Publix: 6614 Charlotte Pike. Excellent service and quality.  
      • Downtown Farmer’s Market: 900 8th Avenue North, an indoor and outdoor public market featuring locally grown produce, ethnic food, restaurants, flea market goods and specialty items. 
    • Other grocery stores include
      • Whole Foods: 1202 Broadway Ave and 4021 Hillsboro Pike (accessible on WeGo from Vanderbilt). A national chain that specializes in natural and organic foods. Although expensive, the quality of food is excellent with an emphasis on local produce and products. Their sales prices are comparable to Kroger and Publix.
      • Trader Joe’s: 3909 Hillsboro Pike or 90 White Bridge Road. A national chain that specializes in natural and organic foods. Like Whole Foods, though smaller and slightly cheaper, they limit their inventory to only their store brand.    

    Malls

    • Malls are massive buildings with many stores and restaurants. Some of the stores are also department stores. Department stores can be in a mall or stand-alone and sell various items such as shoes, clothing, appliances, furniture, fabric, dishes, pots and pans, linens, towels, and toys. Most department stores and malls are open from 10:00 am to 9:00 pm, Monday through Saturday. Most are also open on Sunday afternoons until 6:00 pm. Discount stores offer lower prices than department stores.
    • Local malls include 
      • Nashville West: This is an outdoor mall that contains a variety of discount stores, restaurants, a bookstore, Best Buy (for electronics), Target Superstore, Ross (discount clothing), and Publix (grocery store). Located on Charlotte Pike, WeGo bus route 50.
      • 100 Oaks Mall: This mall includes some lower-priced clothing stores (e.g., TJMaxx). Since the mall now contains Vanderbilt University Medical Center clinics, you can also take a Vanderbilt shuttle (black line) during daytime hours from Medical Center North, on the Canopy side. There is a cinema (movie theater) here and Wal-Mart is located across the street.
      • Green Hills Mall: This mall is elegant, fancy, and tranquil. It includes several upper-priced clothing stores and a variety of other stores -- cooking utensils, science/nature toys, and music. The anchor department stores are Macy’s, Dillard’s, and Nordstrom. There is also a cinema. Green Hills Mall is on the WeGo bus route 7.
      • Opry Mills Outlet Mall: This mall is farther away, but it's worth mentioning since outlet stores have less expensive versions of their regular name-brand stores. This mall has a huge selection of stores and restaurants. Even if you are not going to that mall, take a look at its store map; you may be amused to see that it's shaped like a guitar. You will need to take a taxi or rideshare since it's located far from campus.

    Other shopping areas near the Vanderbilt campus

    • West End, near the northwest corner of Vanderbilt and VIGH. Includes some clothing boutiques, restaurants, and UPS. 
    • Hillsboro Village, near the intersection of 21st Ave and Blakemore Ave, by the southeast corner of Vanderbilt. Includes clothing, boutiques, an art/film theater, and many restaurants/coffee shop. Very hip. 
    • The Gulch, east of Broadway Ave on 12th Ave. Includes lots of upscale restaurants, shops, and clubs as well as an organic market. Also very hip.

    A list of shopping malls and stores can be found online: http://www.visitmusiccity.com/visitors/shopping

  • Mailing letters 

    • You can purchase stamps for domestic mail at the post office as well as some grocery stores and pharmacies. 
    • Letters with stamps can be mailed in any blue mail bin or at the post office
    • To send international mail, you should purchase stamps at the post office and mail the letters there. 
    • Close post offices include: 
      • Vanderbilt medical campus: 17 Medical Center Drive; +1 615-322-2290
      • Hillsboro Village (near campus): 2006 Acklen Ave

    Shipping packages

    • You can ship packages at the post office, UPS, and FedEx.
    • Locations close to campus include:
      • UPS: 2817 West End Ave (note: you can return Amazon purchases at UPS)
      • FedEx: 2308 West End Ave

    Note: The US Postal Service (i.e., the post office) is sometimes abbreviated "USPS," not to be confused with UPS. 

    • Coin-operated laundry facility (washing machines and dryers) is available at most hotels. Washing machines and dryers usually operate with quarter coins. Typically, laundry is $2.00 to wash clothes and $2.00 to dry clothes.
    • You need to bring your own detergent, which you can buy at grocery stores, pharmacies, and Wal-Mart.
    • Out of courtesy, do not leave your laundry unattended while being laundered. Instead, stay within the laundry premises or check back often so the machines are available for other guests. 
  • Nashville is a tourist destination and there are many activities to do year-round!

    • Centennial Park
      • Located across from Vanderbilt campus, this city park has a mile-long walking trail, pond with ducks, playground, fields for sports, life-size replica of the Parthenon, and bandshell.
      • The Parthenon was built in 1897 for Tennessee's Centennial Exposition. In the museum below the Parthenon, there is a 42-foot gold statue of Athena and an art museum.
      • There are regularly concerts and festivals at Centennial Park, all of which are free (there are generally food trucks to purchase food during the event).
        • Musician's Corner showcases local musicians on Friday night and Saturday days in the spring and fall.
        • The Celebrate Nashville Cultural Festival is generally the first Saturday in October. One in six Nashville residents are foreign-born and this festival celebrates our city's diverse cultures. The festival includes wonderful performances and delicious food. 
        • The Tennessee Craft Fair attracts artisans from all over the state and is generally at the beginning of October. 
    • Vanderbilt has many sports teams, including football (fall), basketball (winter), soccer (spring), and baseball (spring). Schedules are posted online.
    • Museums
    • Downtown Nashville ("Broadway") has many bars and restaurants, all with live music daily/nightly and various events
    • Explore Nashville's neighborhoods and check out events on Nashville's visitor page
  • The restaurant scene is continually evolving. We suggest using Nashville Guru, Nashville Eater, or Yelp to find restaurants, coffee shops, and bars.

    Gratuities/“Tipping”

    • A “tip” or gratuity is expected for service at a restaurant or bar in the US. Servers typically earn below the minimum wage and they depend on tips to supplement their income.
    • The tip for the server is usually not included in the total amount on the bill you are given to pay. For good service, leave ~20% of the food bill; for exceptional service, 20% or more is customary. Note: For groups of more than six people, some restaurants automatically add the tip to the bill; you should check your bill before leaving or not leaving a tip. 
    • You are not expected to leave a tip at fast food restaurants or places where you order at a counter and the food is brought to you. Some places, especially local (non-chain) coffee shops and restaurants might have a tip jar at the cash register and you can leave a tip if you'd like.
    • In cafeterias or buffet “self-serve” restaurants, most people leave 10% of the food bill for the person who refills their drink and clears away dirty plates.
    • Tipping people who provide other services, such as a haircut is also customary. Generally, a 10% tip is sufficient. 

    Invitations to go to meals with colleagues and friends

    • If someone invites you out for a meal, you cannot assume that they will pay for your meal. It is customary for each person to pay for their own meal. The exception to this is if someone reaches for the check at the end of the meal and offers to pay for your food. Should this occur, it is courteous for you to offer to pay for a future meal for that person.
    • If you cannot afford to go to a restaurant when you are invited, you should decline the invitation or suggest somewhere more affordable.
    • Americans have been taught that the natural smells of people’s bodies and breath are unpleasant.
    • Most Americans bathe or shower daily (or more often if they engage in vigorous exercise during the day), use an underarm deodorant to counteract the odor of perspiration, and brush their teeth with toothpaste at least twice daily. In addition, they may rinse their mouths with a mouthwash or chew mints in order to be sure their breath is free of food odors.
    • It is very common for women to shave their legs and underarms and to use a small quantity of perfume each day; many men use scented cologne or after-shave lotion to impart what they believe is a pleasant smell.
    • Most Americans will quickly back away from a person who has “body odor” or “bad breath”. This backing away may be the only signal that they are “offended’ by another person’s breath or body odor.
    • The topic of these odors are sensitive that most Americans will not tell another person that he or she has “bad breath” or “body odor.”
    • American names are written and spoken with the given name first and the family name last. So John Smith's family name is Smith, not John.
    • In a formal setting, address men as "Mister" (abbreviated as "Mr."), married women as "Misses" (abbreviated as "Mrs."), and unmarried women as "Miss". The abbreviation “Ms.” is widely accepted for either a married or unmarried woman, and many women prefer to be addressed as Ms. (pronounced "miz").
    • If the person has an M.D. or Ph.D., they will often be addressed as "Doctor" (abbreviated as "Dr.").
    • In an informal situation, Americans will introduce each other by first name, without titles. If you are introduced to somebody by first name, you can address him or her by first name the next time you meet. The only exception would be for someone who holds an important position, such as the university president or provost. Unless they tell you otherwise, faculty should be addressed using their title and last name (e.g., "Professor Smith"). When in doubt, use the formal manner of address, since it is better to err on the side of formality. It is also appropriate to ask how they prefer to be addressed.
    • Americans often plan social gatherings on short notice, so don't be surprised if you get invited to someone's home, go to dinner, or see a movie or baseball game without much warning.
    • If the time is convenient for you, by all means accept their invitation. But if you are busy, do not be afraid to decline the invitation, perhaps suggesting another time that would be better. Your host will not be insulted.
    • Even if a friend has invited you to drop by anytime, it is best to call before visiting to make sure it is convenient for them.
    • Invitations are usually issued in person, by email, or over the telephone. The main exception is for receptions and other formal occasions, in which case a written invitation will be mailed. For example, you would normally receive a written invitation to a wedding or a bar mitzvah.
    • For a casual dinner invitation, do not arrive more than 5 minutes early because your host may still be preparing for your visit. Arriving more than 10 minutes late is considered rude if very few people were invited. If many people were invited, it is ok to arrive a little late, even as much as half an hour late. For example, it is ok to arrive late for a party, for a potluck dinner, or for a social gathering involving a large group of people. The main consideration is whether there are enough people in the group so that your late arrival will not be noticed.
    • At a party, don't be surprised if you are asked what you "do for a living" (i.e., what is your job). This is a normal opening line of conversation, and not an insult.
    • If you wish to thank the host for his or her hospitality, it is appropriate to call or send a brief written/emailed thank you note the next day.
    • When two people are talking to each other, they tend to stand a specific distance apart. Each person has an invisible boundary around their body into which other people may not come. If someone pierces this boundary, they will feel uncomfortable and move away to increase the distance between them. (The major exception is family members and other loved ones.)
    • This personal distance is not due to body odor or bad breath, but because closeness lends a sense of intimacy that is at odds with their relationship to the other individual. Interestingly, the average personal distance varies from culture to culture. Americans tend to require more personal space than in other cultures.
    • If you become too close to an American during your conversation, he or she will feel that you are "in their face" and will try to back away. Try to be aware of this; so if the person to whom you are speaking backs away a little, don't try to close the gap.
    • Also, try to avoid physical contact while you are speaking, since this may also lead to discomfort. Touching is a bit too intimate for casual acquaintances, so don't put your arm around their shoulder, touch their face, or hold their hand.
    • Shaking hands when you initially meet or part is acceptable, but this is only momentary. In the southern US, such as Nashville, people may greet each other with a brief hug.
    • Americans believe in the idea of “first come, first served”. Therefore, do not be surprised if you see people forming an orderly line or “queue” while waiting for the bus, at the cash register in fastfood restaurants or stores, in the cinema, etc.
    • If you step in front of someone, this is known as “breaking in line” or “cutting in line.” This practice is highly frowned upon and people will quickly let you know that you have done something unacceptable.
    • If someone is standing around the line, but you are not sure if he/she is in the line, it is proper to ask, “are you in line” before joining the line.
  • Phone conversations

    • When you call someone, it is polite to identify yourself. For example, if your name is John Smith and you were calling Robert Chen, you would say, "Hello, this is John Smith. May I speak to Robert Chen, please?"
    • When you answer the phone, it is OK to answer simply, "Hello." After your caller introduces himself, you would say one of the following: "Hi John, this is Robert. How are you?", "Speaking," or "Robert Chen speaking." "I'm sorry, but Robert is not able to come to the phone right now. May I take a message?"
    • It is not polite to call someone before 7:00 am or after 9:00 pm, unless it is an emergency. The only exception would be if they told you it is OK to call earlier or later.

    Colloquialisms and slang expressions

    You may hear the following common expressions during your stay in the US. Some of these words have more than one meaning or a meaning that differs from other regions of the world. 

    • Bathroom: 1) a room in a private home, where one can take a bath or shower, use the toilet and wash one's hands in a sink; 2) A bathroom in a public building has only a hand basin and a commode and is frequently called a "restroom"
    • Bill: 1) term for a piece of paper money; 2) tally indicating the amount owed for services or goods received
    • Biscuit: A round, unsweetened bread eaten at breakfast. It's common to find "biscuits and gravy" on breakfast menus in the South.
    • Bless you:  A sympathetic comment made when someone sneezes.
    • Bless your heart: A Southern statement made by one person to someone who is having a difficult, stressful experience or to someone after they make a naive statement. It is sometimes also used in expressing appreciation for a gift or an act of kindness.
    • Bug: 1) to annoy or bother someone; 2) a small insect
    • Carry people/Give someone a Ride: to give other people transportation in one's car from one place to another
    • Check: 1) a piece of paper designed for transferring money from one person's account to another person's checking account; 2) the bill a waiter gives you in a restaurant; 3) (as a verb) to review a document or item to make sure it is correct
    • Coke: short for a popular soft drink, Coca-Cola; in the South, it can refer to any soda
    • Commode: toilet or lavatory
    • Cookie: hard and crisp or soft and chewy sweet snack.
    • Cool: 1) pleasant or slightly cold weather; 2) good, nice, enjoyable, attractive, fashionable
    • Hallway: an entrance to a house or a passage
    • OK: all right/that is good
    • Restroom: not a place where one lies down; a room with hand basins and commodes (toilets); also known as a bathroom
    • See ya: a way of saying "good bye"

    Additional Southern expressions and colloquialisms 

    The following is a list of expressions common in the southern US (i.e., "the South"). Each region has its own colloquialisms and slang expressions, so you might hear different expressions if you travel around the US. 

    • Y'all: Short for "you all" or "all of you"
    • Stick with it: Keep going until you finish the job
    • Hang in there: Don't quit
    • What's up/what's new: How are you doing?
    • Feel free to: Make yourself welcome
    • Plug away: Keep at it busily
    • See to it: Make sure it's done
    • Take care of: To do something
    • Get around to it: Do it when you get the opportunity
    • Lost your mind/lose your mind: To go crazy (overwhelmed)/to be confused
    • Lose sight of: To lose perspective
    • Check it out: Look at it with close scrutiny
    • Uptight: Upset or anxious
    • Dead Last: At the very end
    • Out of line: Out of one's place
    • Hang On: Don't give up/hold on
    • Look ahead: Think about the future
    • Blow it off: Forget about it
    • Alongside of: Beside/together with
    • Offhand: Not at one's primary grasp
    • Bat an eye: Blink an eye
    • Kick in Gear: To get prepared
    • End of the line, road, game, etc.: The very end
    • Head Start: Beginning first
    • Ahead of the game: Out in front/ahead of the rest
    • Jump right in: Begin at your own pace
    • Strung out: Very busy
    • Hard pressed: Very busy with very little time
    • Hold back: To keep back involuntarily
    • Out of sync: Not with the ordinary pace
    • Zeroed in/zero in: To get a good grasp of the situation
    • Pull up a chair/take a seat: Sit down
    • Out of Whack: Out of the ordinary/broken
    • Keep an eye out for you: Watch for you
    • Straighten out/up: To correct an error
    • Watch your step: Be careful
    • Head Strong: Stubborn
    • Step out of line: To get out of one's place
    • In the nick of time: Perfect timing
    • Keep in touch: Continue contact/correspondence
    • Look into it: Regard with close scrutiny
    • Take in stride: To receive information calmly
    • You bet: Of course
    • Holding on for dear life: Holding tightly
    • On the phone: Having a telephone conversation
    • Scared to death: Extremely frightened
    • Come again: Please repeat what you just said
    • Crazy about: To like extremely
    • See you around: To meet later
    • Smart critter: Intelligent person
    • This neck of the woods: In the area
    • I'm fixing to: I'm about to, getting ready to do something
    • Brand new: Just bought/just purchased
    • To reckon: To guess
    • To get a hold of someone: To reach them, contact in person or by telephone
    • Over yonder: Over there
    • To chase after someone: To try to reach them
    • A good ways off: A long distance
    • Hey: Hello/Hi
    • My bad: My mistake
    • ASAP: As soon as possible
    • To count on someone: To rely on someone