United States business etiquette and cultural differences

United States business etiquette and cultural differences

The most important cultural pitfalls to avoid in the US

The Unites States of America has a diverse, multi-cultural society with roots tracing back to various European and other countries of origin. As a rule, Americans are friendly and informal. Their culture is a comfortable mix of other European traditions adapted to a more modern mindset.

Time is an important factor in the US as the local people dislike wasting it. But otherwise Americans are open and flexible, their culture made evident through vast media exposure.

However, here are a few tips to help you fit into an American setting and familiarise you with the local negotiation laws, especially if you are visiting the country for the first time.

How do people greet and meet in the US?

  • A handshake, smile and a positive ‘hello’ work well in all American settings.
  • People don’t mind being addressed casually by their first names.
  • It’s important to give everyone equal importance, regardless of seniority or gender.

What role do women play in the American business industry?

  • It’s a modern progressive society in which stereotyping of women is looked down upon.
  • Women play an active and equal role in the office and home.

What is the right gift-giving etiquette in the US?

  • Unless it’s Christmas, an anniversary or a birthday, gift giving is a simple affair in the US;  most organizations have policies against receiving gifts exceeding $25 in value.
  • A decorative card or personal note is an acceptable token of appreciation.
  • If invited over for a meal, chocolates, wine or a potted plant for the hostess are considered to be polite.

What is the correct dining etiquette in the US?

  • Americans are highly social and their meals can be in the form of a barbeque, a dinner at home or in a restaurant.
  • Though the settings and mood are casual, be on time, especially when invited to someone’s home.
  • Wait for the host to direct you to your seat.
  • One can use either a knife and fork (eg: to cut meat ) or just a fork (eg: for spaghetti or pasta) for your meal
  • You may politely refuse certain foods or drinks if you do not wish to consume them. It won’t offend the host.
  • You may be required to take your own servings. This allows you to take as much as you want if you want it.
  • Wait for the hostess to start or signal to eat before you begin with your meal, especially if you are new.
  • To indicate you have finished with your meal, lay your knife and fork parallel along the right side of your plate. In the South, however, they only eat with a fork and keep it crossed mid-plate when the meal is done. But this is a practice limited to the Southern states.

Though the American culture is well exposed, to grasp the nuances of local etiquette it would be preferable to utilise the negotiation skills of professionals, to assist you with your introductory training.

This entry in America was updated on April 1, 2018 by specialist.