How Do I:??

"Americans really live in the future. The present is just a way station."
-- from "It's About Time" by Syed and Joyce Zafar, intercultural experts, the Compass Diversity Group

American Cultural Attitudes:

Time-oriented: In contrast to many other cultures around the world, the American culture puts great emphasis on man's ability to control outside events, in large part through his mastery of technology. Americans believe in setting strict deadlines and timetables, even for casual social events. Productivity, self-reliance and "getting things done" are prized personal and professional qualities.

It is important to be on time for appointments. Even being 5 minutes late without calling beforehand may doom an interview or important business meeting, while social occasions are slightly more flexible - 10-15 minutes late for a date is acceptable. Learn to estimate the time it will take to complete certain tasks.

! Exception:: If you are invited to a party, unless the hosts specify exact starting and ending times, it is generally understood that you may be up to a half-hour late, or "fashionably late," for the occasion.

Individualistic: Some Americans can be stubbornly so, to the point of appearing self-centered to members of other, more communally-centered cultures. Read Syed Zafar's "Swimming in a Sea of Choices" to get an idea of the sometimes overwhelming array of options available to those living in the U.S., from career choices to salad dressing.

! A good guide to "culture shock" (a sense of being overwhelmed at cultural differences) and learning to overcome it can be found at the Worldwide Classroom website.

Friendly and Direct: Americans generally appear outgoing. When you meet someone for the first time, it is considered normal to smile, shake hands if both parties are men or professional colleagues, and make direct eye contact.

"My friends used to say, 'Why are you so sad? Is everything O.K. back home?'"
-- from "Informality - A Unique American Value"

Hobby-loving: In the large cities and towns there are many opportunities to get involved in social and cultural activities, with a multitude of hobbyist clubs and associations catering to almost every interest: travelling, cooking, writing, dining out, sailing and watersports, etc. If you love to read books or watch films, for example, there are a number of clubs in large cities catering to these interests. If you like nature, you can join hiking clubs or environmental organizations.

Sports-loving - Americans love their sports, especially baseball, football, basketball, soccer, golf, hockey and tennis. "Team spirit" is celebrated - the subsuming of individual needs to the greater good of the team. Being a "good sport," having a good sense of humor, taking insults and slurs lightly, are all signs you are being a "good sport."

Fastidious in Appearance: Americans generally keep themselves very clean. They tend to shower every day and brush and floss their teeth twice a day and often after meals. They look down on those with bad breath, dirty or mishappen teeth, dirty looking hair and body odor. Hair should be washed at least twice a week and not look greasy. Wear anti-perspirant/deodorant every day and change your clothes once a day. Clothes and shoes should look and smell clean and neat. Don't wear the same outfit more than once a week.

! For women: Except in certain subcultures, any hint of body hair is considered highly unattractive: wax or shave hair under the armpits, on the legs and the upper lip and face.

Prejudice: In many small towns, Americans are suspicious of foreigners - racism and cultural prejudice do exist there, especially in remote areas and in the South (the Northeast and California urban areas are considered more accepting towards diverse cultures and lifestyles. although suspicion against Latino immigrants in Southern California prevails.) Some are resentful and fearful that educated immigrants may be taking jobs they feel are rightfully theirs. Getting involved in community and educational activities is one way of getting to know people and overcoming others' fears. If your work takes you to Silicon Valley, on the other hand, you may find the transition eased greatly due to the sheer number of immigrant professionals there. If you are Latino, Miami, San Diego, L.A. or New York may merely seem an extension of home.

Off-Color Humor: Some Americans like to poke fun, but most of the time it is meant to be in good humor. Many Americans do not understand when they are being racist. In fact, more Americans than ever are sensitive to cultural diversity. However, if racist comments are persistent, it would be better to find a new friend.

! If you experience egregious and continuous racism or prejudice at work by your employer or colleagues, this may be considered illegal discrimination under the Civil Rights Act.

! Slang: Learning American colloquial slang can help you "fit in," especially if you are under 35, but try not to sound forced - it may backfire.

Guides to American Speech:

American Words and Expressions:

280 American slang expressions:

Practice your knowledge of American slang:

Humorous site on local slang common to different American cities: http://www.slanguage.com/


Learn about American Culture?

Learn about U.S. Holidays?

Make Friends in the U.S.?


Learn American Expressions and "Slang"?

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