International Student Affairs

Cultural Matters

Entering college life is a big adjustment for any student, especially when you are also adjusting to a new country with different cultural norms. Below are a few notes about American cultural practices and how to respond to them.


The typical American greeting is a quick "Hi" or "Hello." When you are introduced to Americans, whether they are men or women, it is appropriate to shake hands and say, "It's nice to meet you." Some Americans greet each other with hugs after they have established a friendship.


Most Americans are conscious of time, often consulting their watches or electronic planners. When you need to see a faculty or staff member on campus, it is common practice to call ahead and make an appointment. If you can't make it or will be late to an appointment, a phone call is always appreciated.


Boston offers a wide variety of restaurants and cafés at every price point. You can walk into most restaurants without notice, but some require you to call ahead and make a reservation. Some higher-end restaurants also have dress codes.

Customers are expected to tip their waiters and waitresses. The minimum tip is based on 15 percent of the bill. You do not need to leave a tip when you order at more casual restaurants such as Subway or Starbucks.

Liquor and Tobacco

It is illegal to consume alcohol if you are under 21 years of age and to provide alcohol to someone who is under the age limit. It is also illegal to drink and drive.

Furthermore, it is illegal to use tobacco products if you are under 18 years of age and to provide tobacco products to someone who is under the age limit.

Please review the College's Resources and Policies section »


Emerson's campus is surrounded by shopping hot spots: Newbury Street, Downtown Crossing, Quincy Market, and more. A 6.25 percent sales tax is applied to your purchases, excluding some items, such as clothing.

Prices on items in shops are not open to negotiation. The only time you pay less is if the item is on sale. In this case, a new price will be noted on the item, or the price will be reduced when you pay for it.

Some companies do not accept certain methods of payment. For instance, some may not accept personal checks, and some cafés are cash only. Ask the company what methods of payment it accepts.

If you have a credit card, do not lend it to others or give someone your credit card number or social security number over the phone. When shopping online with a credit card, make sure your information is secure.