While much of the western world may have similar customs when it comes to dating, U.S. dating customs may be completely foreign to people from other parts of the world. If you’re new to the United States or considering going there for an extended period of time as a single person, it’s important that you understand common accepted dating customs to avoid offending your potential dates or even breaking the law.

Asking

While in some countries, it may be considered improper for a woman to ask a man on a date, that is not the case in the United State. It’s completely acceptable for either the man or woman to do the asking. The person who does the asking should pay for the date, unless the person asked insists on paying for herself while on the date.

Activities

Making a “date” commits you to doing something, such as going to a movie, going dancing or having dinner. In a college setting, you may be used to just “hanging out” with others. While sitting and talking is perfectly normal among platonic friends, on a date, you should plan on actually engaging in some enjoyable activity.

Sex

Most people do not expect sex during the first few dates, notes the University of Arizona’s Center for English as a Second Language. Additionally, going on a date or even going to home with your date does not mean that you must have sex. “Regardless of what you have seen in U.S. movies or on television, that is not how dating works in the U.S.,” instructs the site. Sex on a date should happen only if both people their express consent. Forced sex is considered rape and could land you in jail.

Follow-Up

Having gone on a date does not obligate you to go on another date with that person or pursue a relationship. If you do not want to go on a second date, simply turn him down politely. If you did the asking the first time around, simply do not ask the person for a second date.