11: Cultural Differences

Dress: It is OK to dress casually when you go to class. Students will, however, sometimes dress more formally for certain class presentations. Casual dress is also appropriate for visits in people’s homes, shopping or movie theatres. You might dress more formally for a special dinner or a special event at the University. Dress is much more casual in Hawai’i than in other parts of the U.S., so if you travel to other parts of the country, you should bring more formal clothes.

Personal Hygiene: To most Americans, personal hygiene is very important. They generally shower and wash their hair daily, and wear freshly cleaned clothes each day. Natural body odors are considered unpleasant and offensive, so deodorants, colognes and other toiletries are used often.

Alcohol and Drugs: The legal age to drink alcohol in the U.S. is 21, although it is not uncommon for people under 21 to drink alcohol. It is common on many college campuses in the U.S. for students to drink alcohol, sometimes excessively (especially on weekends). Marijuana is illegal in the U.S., although it is sometimes casually used, especially in Hawai’i. Americans generally respect a person’s choice not to drink alcohol or use drugs, so do not hesitate to refuse a drink or a drug. There are lots of students who choose not to drink alcohol or use drugs. If you have a roommate who uses these substances and it makes you uncomfortable, talk to your RA (Resident Assistant) or the International Student Services staff for advice.