American Wedding Traditions

Some of these traditions may occur in your country too.  Read and find out how similar our cultures are.

When a couple gets married the bride needs to wear for good luck:
something old,
something new,
something borrowed,
something blue.

On the day of the wedding, it is bad luck for the groom to see the bride before the wedding ceremony.

As the bride walks down the aisle to her groom, her face is covered by a veil. It is then lifted (usually by her father).  This symbolizes her freedom from her parents and the beginning of her new life.

After the wedding ceremony, as the couple leaves the church or after the reception as the couple leaves,  the guests toss rice at them.  It is a way to wish them well. However, it was found that then birds would eat the rice and it was not good for them to eat the rice. So now, the guests usually blow bubbles at the couple to signify well wishes.

After the wedding, during the reception, all of the single women gather around the bride.  Then, she throws the wedding bouquet and someone catches it.  It is said that whoever catches it will be the next to be married.  I caught one when I was 19 years old, but I didn’t get married until many years later.  So,  I’m thinking this isn’t true.

Good Luck!

These are symbols of luck in the United States.  Post a comment about things that bring luck in your country.

Four leaf clover – If you find a 4 leaf clover in a clover patch, then you will have very good luck.  Usually they are only 3 leaf clovers. The 4 leaves represent fame, wealth, love and health! 

Rabbit’s foot  – To carry a rabbit’s foot is good luck. I had one as a child, I sure do hope it was fake, because to me carrying a foot around is kind of gross.  

Break a leg –  This is something you say to an actor/actress right before they perform.  It’s believed if you say this, then the opposite will occur – good luck.  If you say ‘good luck’ to an actor before a performance, then something bad will happen to them. 

Crossing your fingers – Many believe that if you cross your fingers it will bring you good luck. Also, sometimes people cross their fingers if they are lying. It’s almost as if it is okay to lie if you cross your fingers.

Life of a Cheerleader

When I was in high school I was a cheerleader. It was a lot of fun. My favorite part was being able to wear my uniform to school every Friday during football season. We also put little cow bells on our sneakers. So, whenever we walked around, everyone could hear us coming. Football season is August through November.

Every week we had cheerleader practice after school. We would practice our cheers, make up skits, learn dances, plan pep rallies and paint huge posters for the football game. We also cheered during basketball games. All and all it was a blast!

In order to become a cheerleader, there were cheerleader try outs. We had to perform a cheer in front of the entire school and the students would vote for who they liked best. The 6 people who received the most votes would win. Also, in addition to student votes, the teachers were allowed to vote to make sure the students were good citizens. Tryouts were held in May, the last month of the school year, for the upcoming year.

In the summer, before the next school year, the cheerleaders would go to cheerleader camp. Here, we learned new stunts, cheers and dances. It was a lot of fun, but stressful as well because of the competition between schools to see who had the best cheerleaders.

Please let me know if you have any questions about cheerleaders. And for your amusement, here is a video of me doing a cartwheel. I took this the other day. Don’t laugh too hard!

Bottoms up!

Bottoms up!

This is a toast people say when drinking together. Now that you know one toast to say in English, you can learn about the various drinks we drink.

Good ol’ cow’s milk. This is the staple for many people, especially kids. In the United States we buy it in plastic jugs. 1 big jug is 1 gallon.

In Canada, they tend to drink milk from plastic bags. They put the plastic bags in a little pitcher. This was very foreign to me when I first saw their plastic bags; however it makes a lot less trash and it is much better for the environment. My only complaint is that you have to switch bags often as there is not that much milk in each bag.

Florida orange juice! Mmmmm….many Americans wake up to a big glass of OJ (orange juice). You buy it in cartons and they are found in the refrigerated section of the grocery store. You can buy lots of flavors like Orange-Strawberry-Banana or Orange-Cranberry. Also, there are 2 types of OJ. There is the type that is made from concentrate and there is the kind that is not. The kind that is not made from concentrate is better because it is fresh orange juice.

Another drink people like to drink in the morning is a cup of Joe, or coffee. These days with Starbucks, there are so many different types of coffee and so many different flavors. Some people drink it with cream, milk and/or sugar.

Are you low on energy? You could try one of these energy drinks. There used to be only Red Bull, but now there are so many different brands and flavors. Believe it or not, I have never had one of them, but that’s okay because my husband has ‘downed’ enough for the both of us.

The next drink we have is carbonated beverages or soft drinks. There are so many names for them depending on where you live in the USA. I grew up calling them ‘soda water’. But, here most of my friends call them soda or pop. Lots of people also call all sodas simply coke. Here is an interesting site that shows the statistics of where people call soft drinks soda, pop or coke.

Need a pick me up after or during your exercise? These are the perfect drink for you – Sports drinks. They come in all flavors and they are really good for supplying your body with things that it needs during exercise. They have extra sodium and potassium added.

There are obviously many other drinks in the USA, but I just wanted to touch on a few. Before I end I wanted to talk about one other favorite – iced tea. In the South, where I live, people drink it by the gallon. When you ask for Iced tea in the South, it comes sweetened, unless you ask for it to be unsweetened.

Memorial Day

This coming Monday, May 31, 2010, the United States will celebrate Memorial Day. It takes place on the last Monday of May every year. This day honors and commemorates the male and female soldiers who have died while in military service.

It was first created to honor Union soldiers after the US Civil War, but later it was changed to encompass all soldiers who have fallen while in service. It was stated that the first Memorial Day was celebrated in the Charleston, South Carolina. This was where I live, so I find that really fascinating.

Most employees will get the day off of work to celebrate the day. Lots of people celebrate it by visiting cemeteries and memorials to pay respect of deceased soldiers. This is also a time where people have picnics, barbecues and special family time. Also, lots of people view it as the official start to summer and summer vacation.

If you want to read more about Memorial Day, you can visit:

At a DVD rental store

Want to learn about how to talk to a clerk at a DVD/video rental store? Keep on reading!

Clerk – Hi, may I help you?
You – Yes, I’m looking for a movie…
Clerk – Which one?
You – I think it’s called, “The Razor’s Edge?”
Clerk – Oh yes, I know that movie. It’s in aisle 3 on the left-hand side of the aisle.
You – Thank you so much.

So, you’ve gone and found the movie. Now, it’s time to talk to the clerk again.

Clerk – Oh, I see you’ve found it.
You – Yes.
Clerk – Can I see your membership card?
You – I don’t have one.
Clerk – Fill out this form and show me your driver’s license.
You – Okay, here you go. I’m done filling it out.
Clerk – Great, let me get a copy of your driver’s license.
You – Okay.
Clerk – Here’s your license and your new membership card.
You – Great.
Clerk – I’ll check you out now. How would you like to pay for that?
You – Here you go.
Clerk – Is this credit or debit.
You – Credit.
Clerk – You’re all set. Just sign here.
You – Thanks.
Clerk – Thank you!

As you can see, if you want to rent a DVD from a store, you’ll need to have a membership card. However, lately grocery stores have DVD rental vending machines, so you can skip the rental stores all together if you’d like. Of course the DVD selection is not as good.

Practice the dialog a few times and change some of the answers to make it sound more like something you would say! Let me know if you have any questions.

Going through Customs

Customs used to be very easy to go through. You would just walk through hand them a piece of paper you filled out and say you had nothing to claim. Today, it’s much more difficult. The last time I went through customs in the US, it actually took longer than going through immigration.

They will ask you questions about the places you visited outside of the US and about your home country. They will ask you about what you are bringing into the US. Lots of things are either regulated or forbidden. You can’t bring in meat, soft/cheese or most agricultural products like fruits and vegetables. Oh and in case you were wondering, you can’t bring soil into the US either. Sorry. 🙂

There are other things that aren’t allowed, just make sure before you travel to look it up if you aren’t sure.

Here’s a sample dialog of what could happen at customs:

Customs officer: Hello, can I have your customs form and passport please.
You: Yes sir. (Again be as polite as you can with customs officers.)
Customs officer: Where were you before you came here?
You: I live in Japan. I didn’t travel anywhere before coming here.
Customs officer: Did you bring any liquor or alcohol?
You: Yes sir. One bottle of wine.
Customs officer: Anymore?
You: No sir.
Customs officer:Do you have any fruits, vegetables or plants?
You: No sir.
Customs officer: Do you have anything to declare?
You: No sir. I’m just visiting.
Customs officer: Okay, have a nice visit.
You: Thank you sir.

Going Through Immigration

If you come to the US you’ll have to go through Immigration and talk with an immigration officer. There are different lines for people who are not US citizen or green card holders. I know this process well since my husband is Canadian we usually get the 3rd degree (that means they ask us a lot of questions).

They will ask you why you are here, who you are visiting, how long you intend to stay. If they don’t like your answers to any of these questions, then they’ll ask you more. It is important to be very respectful of immigration officers. Say, “Yes Sir” and “Yes Ma’am” when they ask you questions. Instead of saying “Thanks”, say “Thank you very much.” Keep your answers short, but answer thoroughly.

Try to run through this dialog, making your own answers for the immigration officer’s questions.

Immigration officer: Passport please.
Immigration officer: Why are you visiting the US?
Immigration officer: What city are you visiting?
Immigration officer: Who are you staying with?
Immigration officer: How long do you intend to stay?
Immigration officer: Do you have your return ticket? Can I see it?
Immigration officer: Okay, have a good stay in the United States.

Tomorrow I’ll talk about going through customs. Leave me a comment if you have any comments.

Happy Birthday!

I guessing most of you know this song?

Happy Birthday to you.
Happy Birthday to you.
Happy Birthday dear _____.
Happy Birthday to you.

It’s my birthday (May 14th) and I wanted to celebrate it on my blog! We celebrate birthdays like most of you, I’m sure. A birthday cake, a song, some presents and lots of well wishes.

For children’s birthdays it is more involved. There is usually a birthday party. For some odd reason in the United States, it’s a big deal to have a ‘better’ birthday party than your friends. I don’t play this game, but I have a ton of friends who do. I have been invited to huge parties at jump castle places, parties where a magician shows up and does tricks, a party where a science guy came and did experiments, pool parties, parties with clowns and horses, a party in a train caboose, a bowling party and many others. Mothers try to ‘one up’ each other. It just means they want to try to out do their friends.

Birthday cards are a big thing in the US. People send their friends birthday cards or like one of my friends did today, they may take you out to lunch.

Regardless of how people celebrate it, cake and candles are usually involved. Does your country have any interesting customs?

Spelling differences in US and UK English

Have you ever wondered why there are spelling differences between the US and UK? Here’s the reason…

Benjamin Franklin was one of the main people who pushed for the change. After the American revolution he and Noah Webster wanted to change the spelling of English to make it more easy to spell and closer to how it sounds. They also purposefully wanted to be different than British English.

The differences (The first example is US and the 2nd is UK):

Drop u from -our words – color vs. colour
Drop duplicate consonants – traveler vs. traveller
Transpose r and e – center vs. centre
Change the c to s – defense vs. defence
There are other changes/reforms as well.

There were other spellings that did not make it in the dictionary (and I’m glad too because they are bizarre). Here are a few examples:

Drop silent vowels in word like bread. So, they wanted it spelled like ‘bred.’
Replace some vowels and consonants to be written like they sound. Instead of ‘rough’ they wanted ‘ruf’.
Replace ch with k. They wanted chorus to be korus.

Celce-Murcia, Marianne, et al. 1996. Teaching Pronunciation. Cambridge University Press (New York).