Dreaming about a trip to the U.S.? Whether you plan to climb to the top of the Statue of Liberty or surf in some California waves, one thing is certain: You’ll need to eat. 🍔

Visiting a restaurant in the U.S. might feel a bit confusing at first, so use this guide to learn the most important restaurant vocabulary!

First things first: what to drink?

When you sit down at your table, the first thing you have to decide is what to drink. Sometimes your server will bring tap water, or water from the sink, but if they don’t, just ask. Tap water is free at U.S. restaurants, and in fact, some places won't have bottled water on the menu.

Also, you may notice that your water is a bit… well, cold! It’s common in the U.S. to serve water with ice. But if you prefer your water not so chilly, your server will usually be happy to bring you some water without ice.

If you want to drink something other than water, most restaurants offer soda (called pop or soda pop in some parts of the U.S.), tea, coffee and possibly juice. Often, restaurants will offer free refills on soda, so check the menu or ask the server if you're unsure.

Many restaurants also serve beer, wine, and other alcoholic beverages. If you want to order an alcoholic drink, you must be at least 21 years old with an ID (like your passport), so be sure to come prepared!

Next up: the food!

Once you have your drinks, many people in the U.S. will start with an appetizer, or a small dish eaten at the beginning of the meal. After the appetizer, you’ll have a main course, which is a larger dish. Sometimes instead of main course, you’ll see the word entree on the menu. Don’t be tricked! In the U.S., entree is another word for main course, not appetizer like in some languages.

Unsure about tipping?

Tipping can be one of the most confusing parts of a meal in the U.S.! In general, people leave 20% of the check as a tip for the server. It may seem like a lot, but restaurant workers in the U.S. often receive a very low wage, so tips are important to them. Tipping is expected at restaurants where a server takes your order at a table. For more informal restaurants where you order at the counter, there will often be an optional tip jar. If you pay by credit card, you'll typically have the option of leaving a tip after you swipe your card—even at the informal places where tipping is optional!

Some restaurants may automatically add the tip to the check, especially if your group is large. So be sure to look carefully at your check—sometimes the tip is listed as gratuity—and ask your server if you’re not sure!

Finally: doggy bags!

Servings are often very large at restaurants in the U.S., so don’t be shy about asking for a doggy bag to bring your extra food home. It’s called a doggy bag because in the past, people would bring food home to feed their pets (though today your doggy bag is probably tomorrow’s lunch for a human!). In addition to asking for a doggy bag, you can also ask for your food to go or wrapped up, or you can simply request a box. Just know that alcoholic drinks usually cannot be taken home with you.

Enjoy your meal!

Now you can walk into a restaurant in the U.S. with confidence. So enjoy your Texas barbecue, New York pizza, and Kentucky fried chicken! 🍽️