really live in the future. The present is just a way station."
"It's About Time" by
Syed and Joyce Zafar, intercultural experts, the Compass
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
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.
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.
good guide to "culture shock" (a sense of being overwhelmed
at cultural differences) and learning to overcome it can be found at
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
friends used to say, 'Why are you so sad? Is everything O.K. back home?'"
"Informality - A Unique American Value"
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.
- 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Learning American colloquial slang can help you "fit in,"
especially if you are under 35, but try not to sound forced - it may
to American Speech:
Words and Expressions:
your knowledge of American slang:
site on local slang common to different American cities: http://www.slanguage.com/