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I am an optimist! "Everything is gonna be good" - this is my motto.

At Friends House.
Slava Dolgopyatova

What time am I expected to arrive?
It is true that for any appointment or meeting in the USA you are expected to come on time. If it's an informal meeting, you can be a little late. Any formal meeting will require you to be on time. The exception is "open house" type of party, when guests can come at any time. That means that if the party is from 3pm to 7pm, you can come at 3pm, as well as at 6.30.
What is "potluck"?
"Potluck" is an informal dinner, when everybody brings food to share. You should know that it is a very popular kind of parties and dinners in America. Don't be upset or irritated, when a host asks you to bring a certain dish, e.g. a salad, dessert or fruit. There are potluck picnics (meal outside) and potluck barbecues (when meat is cooked outside on the grill).
Can I bring someone with me?
You certainly may, but it's not common unless you asked the host about it beforehand. It's worth knowing that sometimes Americans organize activities that do not include children, so don't bring them with you. In most cases, the reason for this is drinking age (after 21). Nobody wants to get into trouble. People can be very tough about this. Then, anyone who is underage won't be allowed to drink in the house. If you are really close to the people who invited you, you'd better ask and find everything out. Sounds controversial, but Americans do like to see many new people in their houses.
Am I expected to bring a gift?
No, unless it's not a special occasion, such as birthday or a "baby shower". "Baby shower" is a party to a mother-to-be or to a young mother and her baby. Only then a gift for baby or mother is expected. If you don't know what kind of gift you should bring, ask one of the other people invited. In general, American culture has a different idea about presents - you are not supposed to bring presents, but people will certainly like it if you bring something exotic and inexpensive from your home country. Take advantage of the people around you and don't be ashamed to ask questions about certain traditions that you might not be aware of.
Also, there is a tradition to send a "thank you" card after the dinner or staying overnight at someone's house - just a small pleasant thing for the hosts, and a reminder that you appreciate what they've done for you.
What's left to say? Enjoy your stay with American friends and do not be upset if you do not understand something. It's just the matter of a new culture. They look at things differently and their traditions may differ from what we are used to. It's fun anyways!
I remember being invited to a New Year party. I heard from someone that people make snow angels. I had no idea what a snow angel was and thought that maybe there was something else that I didn't know. I just came up to the host about 2 weeks before the party and started the conversation this way: "Tell me, please, what your party usually looks like". I must say it was the most interesting New Year I have ever had. Where else if not in the US I would lie on the snow - for that's what a snow angel is about!

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