Just like any country, the United States is composed of many different types of people with a diversity of value systems. Listed here are four cultural traits that are prevalent in the US, along with some tips on how to interact with them.

Values

Individualism
Autonomy is very important to Americans, who like to think that success and failure are mostly dependent on the actions of the individual. Decisions are often made through voting, not through community consensus. People are often recognized and honored for their individual achievements.

What you can do:
Take initiative in your daily life; do not wait for others to take initiative for you. Willingness to volunteer and participate are seen as positive. Express your own opinion, and if you don’t understand something, don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Directness
Americans assume it is the speaker’s responsibility to be clear, and they value openness. While this may seem rude, directness is often interpreted as a sign of respect. Indirectness can be interpreted as dishonesty.

What you can do:
Be straightforward and explain points linearly, logically and sequentially. Use objective facts to establish credibility. If you use broad generalizations, people assume you are not knowledgeable about your topic.

Time Sensitivity
Most Americans are very conscious of time and are schedule-oriented. They believe time should be monitored carefully, managed effectively and used efficiently. They can become impatient if they’re unable to keep to their schedules, and they believe it is possible to “waste time”.

What you can do:
Be on time. If you have an appointment, try to arrive a few minutes early. If you must be late, try to communicate that to the person you are going to meet. The one exception to this is if you are attending a social gathering at someone’s home. They may not be prepared if you arrive early.

(Superficial) Friendliness
Most Americans are friendly. In North Carolina, people are known for their “Southern Hospitality”. They say ‘hello’ to strangers, hold the door open for other people nearby, say ‘thank you’ and smile a lot. While these actions are sincere, they don’t necessarily indicate a desire for deep or ongoing friendship and should not be interpreted as such.

What you can do:
Do these things, too. They make people happy. However, developing deeper friendships takes time. A good way to make new friends is to find people that have the same interests as you by joining a club or a sports team, for example.

 


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