2019 Annual Meeting, Nov 23-26

The 2019 Annual Meeting will be in San Diego, CA, November 23-26. Register Now!

2020 Regional Meetings

Open Calls for Papers:

Deadline: October 1, 2019

Deadline: October 1, 2019

Deadline: October 15, 2019

Upper Midwest
Deadline: December 31, 2019

Pacific Northwest
Deadline: January 20, 2020


Information on Travel to the U.S.

Passport/Visa     Health     Driving     Public Safety     Electricity     Money     Telephone     Cultural Issues


Information on passport and visa requirements, and how to get visas (if necessary), can be found through the U.S. Department of State,  Please note that residents of some countries can enter the U.S. without a visa only if they carry a machine-readable passport.


Medical/Dental Services

The U.S. does not have universal health care and you will be expected to pay for medical/dental services at the time of service.  If your national or additional health insurance covers treatment in the U.S., medical centers here may honor that coverage, or may expect you to pay for service and then get reimbursement from your health care plan.

Pharmacies (Chemists)

Pharmacies are widely available in the U.S., both as independent stores and in supermarkets.  Twenty-four hour pharmacies are generally common.  You should bring an adequate supply of prescription medication with you, and should bring copies of prescriptions with you.

Pharmacists can advise on routine ailments and can suggest non-prescription medicine, but only a medical doctor can write a prescription.



In almost all of the United States (except the U.S. Virgin Islands) one drives on the right side of the road.  Speed limits are posted frequently, and should be followed.  A thorough introduction to driving in the U.S. is outside the scope of this document, but if you are unfamiliar with driving here please look into available resources to familiarize yourself with road signs and street markings.  Please note that signs are different from designs used elsewhere and that they are often written only in English (without an international symbol).

An important distinction for European visitors to the U.S. is the use of color and the differing meanings of a diagonal slash in a sign.  In Europe, a forbidden activity is colored red on a sign, while in the U.S. (even though signs are categorized by color) signs are designed to be understood independent of the colors on them.  More confusingly, in Europe a diagonal slash means that a particular situation is ending; in the U.S., such a slash means that something is forbidden.  The following examples may highlight this issue:

  U.S. Europe
Without Slash

Trucks are Permitted

Passing is Forbidden

With Slash

Trucks are Forbidden

End of Restriction
on Passing
(i.e., Passing is Permitted)

Another source of confusion arises from the flashing of headlights:  In much of the world, flashing one's lights means, "I am taking the right-of-way."  In the U.S. and Canada, however, such flashing means, "I am yielding the right-of-way."

One traffic environment which is far more common in the U.S. and Canada than in most of the world is the "all-way stop" (also known as the "four-way stop" in the vast majority of instances, in which two roads intersect such that four directions come together).  In the U.S. especially, roundabouts are very unusual, and convergences are typically handled with the all-way stop.  All vehicles are to come to a full stop at an all-way stop; then the vehicles proceed in the order in which they arrived.  In theory, if two vehicles arrive simultaneously, the one on the right goes first.  If two vehicles arrive in opposite directions, the only conflict would arise if one of them were turning left while the other were not; in that case, the left-turning vehicle yields.  In practice, however, there is usually ambiguity as to whether two vehicles arrived simultaneously, or a split-second apart, and drivers will often wave or flash their lights to gesture that they are yielding.

Almost all road markings in the U.S. provide distance and speed information in English units:  miles (mi.) and miles per hour (MPH).

U.S. routes are numbered and fall into various categories.  Following are the most common types:

Interstate Highway Marker
Interstate highways are always at least two lanes in each direction and use limited access ramps in lieu of intersections.
("Interstate" refers to the interstate highway system; an individual road may or may not cross state borders.)

U.S. Highway Marker
U.S highways may be limited access or may have traffic signals; they may be only one lane in each direction or may be wider.

California Highway Marker

Seat Belts

Use of seat belts is mandatory in most of the U.S.


Throughout the United States, a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% is sufficient proof of intoxication and will result in the very serious charge of "driving under the influence."  In many states, it is against the law for the driver or any passenger in the vehicle to have an open containing of any alcoholic beverage, even if the driver is not consuming that beverage.

Drivers under 21 years old with any measurable blood alcohol concentration will be cited for driving under the influence.

Public Safety


Dial 911 from any phone (always a free call, even from pay phones and cell phones).  This is the appropriate number for all emergency calls (police, fire, ambulance).


Police in the United States cannot accept immediate payment for traffic violations, and they are generally unaware that police in some other countries are able to do so.  Therefore never offer money to a police officer in the United States:  It is likely to be confused with an attempt to bribe the officer, which is a very serious offense here.

Amber Alerts

Reports about child abductions in the U.S. are called "Amber Alerts."  You may see or hear notices on public electronic signs, on television and radio, and in other ways when an Amber Alert has been issued.  The alert will typically give information about the vehicle that the child is believed to be in, or a physical description of the child and the person she or he was taken by.  If you see a vehicle or person matching the description, you should immediately call 911 to report the information to the police.


U.S. electrical power is 110-volt with two parallel rectangular sockets, and often with a third, round socket (for grounding).

Note that two-prong devices can be plugged into either two-prong or three-prong outlets.  Note also that the left socket is very slightly larger than the right socket, and some devices are "polarized" so that they can only be plugged in one way.

Two-prong outlet
(can accept only two-prong plugs)

Three-prong outlet
(can accept either two-prong or three-prong plugs)

If you use a voltage converter, please take care that it is set to provide converted current at the correct wattage.  One does not need to worry about wattage with unconverted power, but with converted power it is essential that the device get the proper wattage.

Most electronic devices that use transformers can accept 110-volt current even if manufactured in an area that uses a different standard current.  For these devices you need only a plug adapter, and not a voltage converter.  Check the fine print on your transformer to see if this applies to your device.


Automated Teller Machines
(Cashpoint, Bancomat)

Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) are very widely available throughout the U.S.  Most will require a personal identification code that is four digits; if your account has a longer code or a code that uses letters, discuss with your bank whether that code should be changed or how it should be entered on U.S. ATMs.

Most ATMs will charge a fee (generally between $1 and $5) for each use.

Currency Exchange

Currency exchange can be handled most easily at the airport, although most banks and many hotels will be able to assist with currency exchange as well.  Note that banks have limited hours – typically weekdays from 9:00 AM (9.00h) to 4:30 PM (16.30h) – and that on-street exchange services are not common in the U.S.

All payments for goods and services must be made in U.S. currency or by credit card.


Note that U.S. bills are all of identical size and do not have markings for the visually impaired.  Despite what may appear as subtle shading differences on the sample images below, the bills are generally indistinguishable from each other by color.

Value Image Note(s)
$2.00 very rarely used
$5.00 various similar designs in use
$10.00 various similar designs in use
$20.00 various similar designs in use
$50.00 not commonly used;
various similar designs in use;
some businesses will refuse bills greater than $20
$100.00 various similar designs in use;
some businesses will refuse bills greater than $20


Note that U.S. coins do not have numerals on them to indicate their value – instead citing the value in English text using terms that may not be familiar outside the U.S.  Thus, it may be useful for the foreign visitor to memorize the appearance and relative size of the four common coins (penny, nickel, dime, and quarter).

Value Value Described on Coin as Name(s) of Coin Image Note(s)

"One Cent" (on reverse) penny
(plural: pennies)


"Five Cents" (on reverse)
(very small print)

various similar designs in use
"One Dime" (on reverse) dime

"Quarter Dollar" quarter

various similar designs in use
"Half Dollar" (on reverse) half dollar

not commonly used
$1.00 "One Dollar" (on reverse) dollar
golden dollar
Sacagawea dollar

not commonly used, except by the U.S. Postal Service


Visitors from many parts of the world, especially Europe, are accustomed to a Value Added Tax (VAT), which is included in the stated price, and which applies to services as well as products.  The "sales tax" system in the United States is different in that the tax is not included in the stated price, and in that it only applies to goods (not services).  The sales tax will appear on a separate line of the final bill.  The sales tax rate is different from city to city and from state to state.  Different sales tax rates may apply to specific types of purchases:  food is often lower, hotel rooms are usually higher. 


In the United States, tips and gratuities are not ordinarily part of the bill.  In some environments – especially restaurants – the staff are paid at a lower rate under the assumption that they will receive tips.  (The only common exception is that a tip may be added to a bill in a restaurant where six or more people are dining together; in this circumstance the policy will be noted on the menu and the tip will appear as a separate item on the final bill.)  Following are customary tip amounts for services in the United States:

Service Standard Tip
Restaurant Service 15% of bill (not including sales tax)
20% for excellent service
Bar $1.00–$2.00/drink
Hotel Porter $1.00/bag
Hotel Maid Service $2.00/day with note marked 
Airport Baggage Handling $1.00/bag
Taxi Driver 15% of bill
Concierge Services $5.00-$20.00, depending on request,
not expected for answering questions
Deliveries $3.00


Please note that some hotel phones have alternate instructions for dialing various types of numbers.  All U.S. phone numbers are ten digits long (3-digit area code, 3-digit exchange, and 4-digit number).  Following is general information:


Dial 911 from any phone (always a free call, even from pay phones and cell phones).  This is the appropriate number for all emergency calls (police, fire, ambulance).

Local Calls

Different areas employ different systems.  For a free local call to the fictitious number 555-555-1234, you may have to dial the number in any of the following ways:

  • 555-1234
  • 555-555-1234
  • 1-555-555-1234

Long-Distance Calls

Long-distance calls are made by dialing a 1 before the number:  1-555-555-1234.

International Calls from the U.S.

The US international direct dialing (IDD) code is 011; thus dial 011 followed by the country code and city code.  If the local number begins with a "national direct dialing" (NDD) code (such as the 0 at the start of United Kingdom phone numbers), omit that NDD code when dialing from the U.S.

International Calls to the U.S.

The U.S. country code is 1.  (More accurately and in greater detail:  The United States, Canada, and several Caribbean nations are part of the North American Numbering Plan, and therefore do not have discrete country codes of their own.  The North American Numbering Plan is reached by using 1 in place of a country code.)

Toll-Free Calls

The following area codes represent toll-free numbers (long distance charges do not apply, but cell phone charges, hotel phone charges, etc. will still be levied):

  • 800 (800-xxx-xxxx)
  • 888 (888-xxx-xxxx)
  • 877 (877-xxx-xxxx)
  • 866 (866-xxx-xxxx)

Premium Calls

The following designators are for premium services and carry additional fees that will be billed to the caller (and that are often very expensive).  Use them cautiously:

  • area code 900 (900-xxx-xxxx)
  • exchange 976 (xxx-976-xxxx)

Telecommunications Devices for the Deaf (TDDs)

Businesses using TDDs are becoming less common as e-mail communication proliferates and as relay services have become mandatory in the U.S.  If you use a TDD, or need to contact someone using a TDD, dial 711 to access the relay service; this is the correct number for both voice-to-TDD and TDD-to-voice.

An online TDD service is available at


You will often see letters associated with digits in U.S. phone numbers.  Unfortunately, this system of letters is not universal and can confuse visitors.  These numbers are printed on most telephone keypads in the U.S.  Following is a diagram of the letters associated with each digit.













The letters Q and Z do not appear; sometimes they will be associated respectively with 7 and 9; sometimes they both will be associated with 1.  In situations where they are required (such as spelling the name of a person you are trying to contact), instructions will be given. 

The U.S. at one time used a system of stating phone numbers as words followed by five digits.  This system is several decades out of date and has fallen almost completely into disuse – but on rare occasions you will see numbers of this sort, notably with businesses that have managed to keep the same phone number for over a half-century, or whose business identity is somehow tied to the usage of this old system.  If you encounter such a number, note that the first two letters of the word correspond to the first two digits of the phone number; thus KLondike 5-1234 is 555-1234.

Cell Phones

Please check with your cellular provider and your cell phone manufacturer to make certain your cell phone will work in the U.S., and, more specifically, in the state you are visiting.  U.S. cell phone technology is different from most of the rest of the world:  Four competing technologies exists in the U.S.:  CDMA, TDMA, iDEN, and GSM.  While GSM is the technology used in most of the world, the U.S. uses a GSM 1900 MGz frequency, while 900 MHz and 1800 MHz frequencies are typical elsewhere.  Ordinary phones from Europe and Asia will not work in the U.S., although some "world phones" will work here.

Unlike in many countries, the owner of a cell phone pays the cost of both incoming and outgoing calls.  For this reason, unlike in many parts of the world, there is no way to identify whether a phone number is for a cell phone or a land line just by looking at the number.

Cultural Issues


When dates in the U.S. are written as numbers, they are almost universally written as month/day/year.  Dates written in the day/month/year style of the rest of the world will cause confusion, and may result in reservations being associated with the wrong date; even people familiar with the international system are so accustomed to the U.S. system that they may not notice or inquire about an ambiguous date.  Please note as an example, 3/5/2004 is March 5, not May 3.


Note that in the U.S., there is occasional confusion regarding the way some digits and letters are written, as compared with the rest of the world.  Please note in particular the way the 1 is written with a short (or absent) initial stroke, and that 7 and Z are written without crossbars:

There are some differences in spelling between British-style English and U.S.-style English, but these are not likely to cause confusion.

Numbers and Counting

In the U.S., the comma is used to separate numbers in groupings of three, and the period is used to separate integers from fractions.  Thus one-half is 0.5 (not 0,5) and the number after 999 is 1,000 (not 1.000).  Numbers that are not written in the U.S. style are likely to cause confusion.

For number groupings above one million, the U.S. uses the "short scale," which differs from the "long scale" nomenclature traditionally used in Europe and much of the world.

Number Short Scale (U.S) Long Scale
1,000 thousand thousand
1,000,000 million million
1,000,000,000 billion milliard (or thousand million)
1,000,000,000,000 trillion billion
1,000,000,000,000,000 quadrillion billiard (or thousand billion)


Most people in the U.S. pronounce the final letter of the alphabet as "zee," and many people here will not understand the pronunciation "zed" for this letter.

Please note also that G is pronounced "jee" and J is pronounced "jay."  These are reversed cognates in French, and therefore sometimes cause confusion.

There are many differences in terminology between British-style English and U.S.-style English, but most people in the U.S. are somewhat familiar with these differences and they are not likely to cause confusion.  A few terms that are not generally known in the U.S., however, are:

  • Biro (called a "ball-point pen")
  • Cashpoint (called an "ATM," for "automated teller machine")
  • Pavement (called the "sidewalk"; "pavement" in the U.S. refers to the road surface, generally the part that cars drive on)
  • Chemist (called a "pharmacy"; "chemist" in the U.S. refers exclusively to a chemical scientist)
  • Aubergine (called an "eggplant")
  • Courgette (called a "zucchini" [zoo-KEE-nee])


Except in science, the U.S. generally uses English measurements rather than metric.  While metric terms are recognized, most people in the U.S. do not have a facility with them.

Clothing sizes in the U.S. are different from sizes used in other places.