Saturday, May 28, 2011

Tipping Hairdressers and Barbers And The Social Importance of These People In America

For tipping a hairdresser, I suggest reading this excellent article at entitled How To Tip A Hairdresser. It's worth noting that in America, a hairdresser is someone of significant importance in a woman's life. A hairdresser is expected to keep things in confidence the same way a therapist or psychologist would. My understanding is that hairdressers take a course or two in psychological issues and advice giving.

A woman's hairdresser in America might know things about his/her clients that their closest friends or husband might not know. A hairdresser has a connection to his/her clients that is in some ways more intimate than that of a husband. Women feel safe and comfortable in a salon; they do not have to censor themselves or keep up the filters that they need to keep up in the world outside..

As such, women in America tend to keep their hairdressers happy and tip well--and leaving a hairdresser is done rarely and not without great emotional turmoil on the part of the woman. They also buy Christmas gifts for them, give them cash gifts at Christmas, and give them referrals, which are the best gift of all.

Incidentally, for men, in America, it is often the same--a man will see the same barber (a barber is a man's haircutter) for years. I personally expect to see mine for haircuts once every five or sixe weeks until he passes on. He is 80-odd years old; he is the only one who can cut my hair. I have known him for perhaps fifteen or twenty years.

Men are more particular about barbers In America than women are and for the same reasons. They don't have to censor themselves--a barbershop in America is virtually certain to be an all male place, except possibly for a female barber who often adopts a "three monkeys" (hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil) attitude towards whatever she sees and hears there.

To solve further questions about American culture and corporate culture, or to take advantage of your free phone consult and to schedule your free trial lesson, give me a call at (732) 618-4135. Call today!

Tipping in America (Gratuities When Eating In Restaurants, Coffeeshops, etc)

Here is an American cultural topic that you'll need to know for the summer and one that confuses many non-Americans who live here. That issue is tipping or giving gratuities to waitresses, waiters, people who serve food, and counter people.

Tipping is not that complex if you remember a few basic things.
  • In a restaurant, diner or what have you where there is table service tip 15% for lunch and 20% of the before tax bill for dinner ALWAYS. If you can't afford to offer this gratuity, it's best not to eat in the restaurant or diner.
  • In a coffeshop or donut shop or bakery or somewhere similar, where the food is "takeout" (in other words you take the food from the deli, pizza place, bakery, or what have you and eat it at home) and the server is a person who works the counter, a dollar is usually appropriate for most orders and two dollars for a bigger order.
  • In other situations, such as a shoeshine person in a train station or airport, people pay whatever they like over and above the cost of the shine. People who work in the financial district regularly pay $20 or even $50 for a $4 shoeshine; I pay considerably less--usually $6-7. Remember in my last blog post how I talked about Americans and hard work and entrepreneurship and gumption? A shoeshine person is seen by most Americans as having gumption, as someone who is working hard to "make it". As such, we tip that person.
All right? All right. Remember that I offer a free phone consult and a free, no obligation one hour trial lesson. Check out my website or call (732) 618-4135 for details! Now that it's summer, you might have time to take lessons!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Yard Sales And Memorial Day Weekend

Hi everybody! Just a quick note on Memorial Day weekend, lemonade stands, and yard sales.

Memorial Day weekend is what most Americans consider the start of the summer season. Most non-seasonal businesses slow down their operations, and people dress more casually for the workplace. Americans tend to love summer more than any other season, and it shows.

Kids often start "lemonade stands"--they make lemonade, put some ice in it, perhaps purchase a few bags of chips, and set up shop on the sidewalk and try to get passers by to buy lemonade from them. If a child in your neighborhood opens a lemonade stand in your neighborhood and you happen to be taking a walk, it would do no harm to buy a glass of lemonade.

(Lemonade stands do not generally require any licensing or supervision by the government or municipality. There have been incidents of lemonade stands getting shut down by over zealous health authorities or politicians but it's considered by most people to be a waste of resources and there is usually an apology afterwards.)

Be aware that the lemonade will vary greatly in temperature and quality, but you should always smile and thank the child running the stand. This is because, once again, in America we encourage children to learn to work for their own money and earn their own money. It is part of what we call our American work ethic. A child who does things like that is considered to have "moxie" or "gumption"--a kind of get up and go. He doesn't wait for his parents to give him money, he goes and gets it himself. This is consistent with American cultural values.

Americans, particularly on Memorial Day weekend, which this year is May 28th & 29th, hold "yard sales". A "yard sale" is a sale where people put tables out on the sidewalk or the driveways of their home (NEVER THE STREET) and try to sell goods they own no longer use. They advertise their yardsales in the classified section of the newspaper under "garage sales" or "yard sales" (the words "garage sale" and "yard sale" are interchangeable--they are regional expressions for the same thing) and on craigslist and other classified ad sites, and sometimes you see signs around town directing you to a yard sale.

You can get great bargains on used goods at yard sales--most people are trying to sell things for whatever they can get for them, believing that used things that still work should not go to waste or be thrown out (another American cultural value--we think of ourselves as a people that doesn't like wastefulness). A garage sale is a very appropriate place to haggle and bargain. Many people make a day out of garage sales--having breakfast at a diner or a local place early in the morning and then heading out, going by car from sale to sale, looking for bargains on things they want or need.

Sometimes collectors show up at yard sales. There are people in America who collect all kinds of things, from guitars to rock n roll memorabilia to baseball cards--they often go to garage sales. Sometimes you hear about a "garage sale find", where someone finds a high end, expensive collectible at a garage sale for $5-10. I myself have heard of people finding expensive electric guitars and Stradivarius brand trumpets for $10 or $20. Even if something like that is in terrible condition, for $20 purchase price, it's worth it to buy it and have it repaired.

Just a quick note: if you want to hold a garage/yard sale of your own, you'll usually need a permit. It's easy and no trouble to get one--you just go down to the town hall and ask the clerk for one, pay a negligible fee and they'll give you one.

It's unusual for a town to crack down on unlicensed garage sales, but in this era of towns and municipalities desperate for cash, it can happen. The fine for having an unlicensed garage sale will be considerably more than the fee for the license.

So that's the story with garage sales.

Remember, I am open for business, I give ESL and accent reduction lessons to help New Americans do business, socialize, and be comfortable in America. I offer a free no obligation phone consult and a free 15 minute trial lesson. See my website for details or call (732) 618-4135 to speak directly to me, David Berlin. I look forward to hearing from you!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Another American Conversational Taboo: How much did that cost?

Here's another video describing another American cultural conversational taboo. Generally in American conversational culture, you try not to ask people how much things cost. It's actually considered in some quarters to be less polite than asking how old someone is. Asking how much something cost is a really big social mistake when conversing with an American.

So that's our lesson for today. Remember, if you have any questions about English learning, accent reduction, or American culture, feel free to call me at (732) 618-4135 to discuss them, or to get your free fifteen minute phone consult and a free trial lesson. You can check out my website for more information here:

David Berlin's Accent Reduction and ESL Lessons

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'Til next time, take care! Call if you have cultural questions or want to book lessons! (732) 618-4135