I've always been kind of creed out by gyms. Many people doing things and no one talking. I started working at a place with a gym that has lots of machines in a relatively small space. I have no idea what's going on but sometimes when I go there appears to be a class and ladies telling people what to do. Should I not be in the gym at this time? Should I try to figure out which equipment they're going to use and not use it? Once I noticed the bosu ball was placed under the table, did this mean I shouldn't use it? It's hard to ask when the instructors or busy giving instructions and there's music playing. Are there any common rules I should be aware of? Also sometimes the class appears to be women only - is it frowned upon of a male is working out in the gym at the same time (obviously this usually isn't the case but I'm not sure as it appears to be a women only class).
I think everyone who has gone to the gym understands your situation, since we all were beginners at one time. Trying to figure out what a machine does can be kind of humiliating -- what if you're using it wrong? For that reason I recommend talking to a personal trainer just to get a primer on the equipment.
Some basic things I think everyone should know about using the gym, and how to be respectful of the establishment and other patrons:
Basically it all comes down to respect. Respect the space in the way you'd like your own space to be respected by others, and everything will be fine!
In general the attitude in a gym is: Everybody works out for themselves, so everybody keeps to themselves. This might give the idea there is no room for communication, but actually most often the opposite is true.
You'll find most people in a gym cooperative and knowledgeable, but ONLY when you start talking. If you're not talking, then you're assumed to work out for yourself and keep to yourself.