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Excerpted from the United States Career Guide

Daily Life

Introduction

US residents typically idealize and follow a national ethos known as ‘The American Dream,’ a belief that anyone who works hard enough will prosper financially and socially. Indeed, it is a common belief among American citizens that hard work and ingenuity are more significant factors in determining personal success than the possession of a prestigious family name or a renowned university degree.

Cuisine

The cuisine of the United States reflects the country’s many regions and the diverse origins of its inhabitants. This wide variety of traditions and experiences is well-illustrated through the variety of sandwiches available across the US, with regional variations such as the East Coast submarine or 'sub' (a long roll of bread sliced lengthwise and filled with Italian deli meats and vegetables), the New Orleans ‘po' boy’ or 'poor boy' (baguettes typically containing seafood or ‘leftovers’ from previous meals), the Florida Cuban sandwich (Cuban bread stuffed with pork, ham or salami and cheese and then grilled until the cheese melts), the ‘Philly’ or Philadelphia cheese steak (steak, melted cheese and onions on a white roll) and many others.

Recreation

Americans are very fond of sports, which facilitate social cohesion and integration. Because of the country's size and geographic diversity, sports teams serve as regional representatives for their schools, cities and states of origin.

Time Management

Time is considered a valuable commodity in the United States, and it is important to be punctual or a few minutes early to appointments and meetings. Although arriving a few minutes late to an appointment is typically not a problem, it is best to telephone the other participants to alert them about any delays and offer a new estimated time of arrival.

Communication

Communication Styles

American culture is considered to be a 'low-context' culture, meaning communication is direct, explicit and mostly verbalized. In the US, it is acceptable to deal with conflict openly and directly.

Language Skills

While the United States Constitution does not designate an official language, English is the de facto official language of the United States. Business is conducted almost exclusively in English, and all official documents and signs are printed in English.

If You Want to Act Like a Local...

  • Shake hands firmly and briefly upon first meeting a new acquaintance; Americans may interpret light handshakes as a sign of weakness or disinterest.

  • It is acceptable to take the initiative and introduce oneself to an American.

  • Americans appreciate directness; do not be afraid to share opinions or to ‘get to the point.’

  • Say “Please” and “Thank you” in response to assistance, even for small or seemingly insignificant actions.
  • Say “Bless you” or “Gesundheit” if someone, even a stranger, sneezes.

Office Protocol

Because individualism is such a central concept in the United States, independence and self-reliance are highly valued in the workplace. Workers are expected to perform tasks with little supervision, and career advancement is based upon performance and personal achievements in the workplace. American office workers attempt to create an equal environment by frequently declining to use professional titles at the office and preferring to address colleagues by their first names.

Management Styles

Companies and managers in the United States rely heavily on teams of employees to complete tasks and projects and to achieve company objectives. Team members for a project may be drawn from various departments, and each member of the team possesses important skills that contribute to the group’s success. A team typically includes a combination of experienced senior and junior staff. When the task or project is completed, the members may move on to form different teams (and often work under the supervision of different managers).

Business Practices

All individuals attending a meeting are expected to understand the issues under discussion and to participate, regardless of their rank or status. Ideas and opinions are expressed openly, even if they differ from opinions of the other participants. In fact, those who always agree with the speaker will soon be regarded as ‘yes men’ who contribute little value. Many Americans value honesty above saving face, and believe an open and direct debate is an effective way to quickly determine the best solution to a problem. While debate in a meeting may cause short-term friction among participants, such interactions generally are not considered personal affronts. Remaining quiet in a group debate and not contributing valuable ideas is often more detrimental to a person’s position in a work group than engaging in the discussion would be. Americans are not fond of prolonged silences and often will speak simply to fill the void. Concepts such as ‘saving face’ or maintaining honor are less important to Americans than they are to individuals from many other countries. Tact and diplomacy, however, are valued skills that can ease group tensions and help disputing parties reach an agreement.

This is just a short sample of what you’ll find in over 100 pages of information in the complete United States Guide.



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