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“America is not just a country, but a way of life.” — Anonymous.

Most of today’s business is conducted across international borders. While the majority share English as a common language, the manners of business communication might differ significantly from culture to culture, resulting in unfair judgments, misunderstandings, and breakdowns in communication.

Learning about cultural behavior will give you the cultural keys to success in your personal, social, and professional life. 

Below is a list of what not to say and do when dealing with people from American culture.

 

1- Speak loudly 

When speaking in a group or in a public place, try not to speak in a very loud voice. Keep your volume relative to other people’s volume.

Also, Americans require lots of space between two speakers and make up for the lack of intimacy with louder conversations —but never yelling or trying to talk over someone.

 

2- Personal questions

Try to avoid asking personal questions to people you just met o people you are not familiar with.

Americans usually don’t ask people that they don’t know questions like: “How much do you earn?”, “How much did you pay for your shoes or your car?”, How old are you? “Are you married?”, “Do you have kids?”. In American culture, these questions are not polite. 

If somebody decides to share that with you, that’s fine, but you try to avoid asking it. 

 

3- Controversial subjects

Americans try to avoid these subjects, such as religion or politics, because if you get into a discussion with someone on these subjects, it can become a little bit aggressive, become a little bit angry, and perhaps ruin the atmosphere of the meeting or party.

Of course, with your friends or people you know well, you do share your views on these subjects is perfectly okay.

 

4- Interrupt people

Never interrupt while other people are speaking. Try to wait until your interlocutor finishes speaking and then say what you want to say. If you mistakenly interrupt someone, apologize and give them the floor.

Interruptions, however, are common. Do not be surprised if someone finishes your sentence if you hesitate when you are speaking.

If you need to say something, say, “excuse me,” during a pause and wait to be recognized. 

 

5- Talking about yourself

In American culture, When you talk too much about yourself, people feel you’re boasting. Of course, that doesn’t mean giving information about yourself. The ideal is to tell a bit of yourself and then turn the conversation and the focus onto the other person; ask them about themselves. 

 

6- Dinner party

Don’t be late for a dinner party. Never arrive before the time you were invited. Arrive within 5 to 15 minutes after the time on the invitation. If you are going to be more than 15 minutes late, phone your hosts and apologize. If an invitation reads “6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.,” leave it very close to the stated ending.

Never begin eating until everyone is served. Offer food or drink to others before helping yourself. If offered a second helping of food, feel free to take what you like. Americans like people to eat.

Don’t be afraid of hurting someone’s feelings by responding “no” to an invitation. Americans will be offended if you say you will attend and then do not come.

When going to dinner or lunch, the person who invites pays, whether a man or a woman.

 

7- Smoking 

Smoking is very unpopular in the United States. 

Never smoke anywhere without asking permission from everyone present. Some people do not allow smoking in their homes and will ask you to go outside if you want to have a cigarette. Restaurants have separate smoking and nonsmoking sections, and public and private buildings may ban smoking except in designated areas. 

 

8- Greeting

Americans greet each other by shaking hands mainly when they meet someone for the first time.

Never hug clients, colleagues, managers, bosses, students, etc.

In a friendly and family environment, kiss greetings between two women and between a man and a woman are accepted. A kiss between two men is not common; it may even be frowned upon.

Americans usually don’t hug people when they greet each other for the first time. Hugging and kissing, even of people you know very well, is best left for social occasions.

 

9- Burps and flatulence

Spitting in the street is considered to be very bad-mannered.

Don’t burp or fart in public. If you can not stop a burp from bursting out, then cover your mouth with your hand and say ”excuse me” afterward. If you accidentally pass wind, say, “I’m so sorry.”

 

WEEKLY VOCABULARY 🗣

Bad-mannered: rude and unpleasant.

Loudly: in a way that produces much noise.

With no ties: without friends; not engaged or married.

Judgment: the ability to make considered decisions or come to sensible conclusions.

Etiquette: the customary code of polite behavior in society or among members of a particular profession or group.

 

PHRASAL VERBS

Talk over: discuss something thoroughly.

Talk over problems, don’t bottle them up inside.”

Frowned upon: disapprove of someone or something, especially someone’s behavior.

“Even though divorce is legal, it is still frowned upon.”

 

IDIOMS 📒

Mind your manners: to behave politely and properly.

You never miss the water till the well runs dry: it is only when someone or something is gone that we truly appreciate them or it.

 

Related Articles:

American Workplace Culture – Part 1: https://www.englishpriority.com/general-english-vs-business-english/

American Workplace Culture – Part 2: https://www.englishpriority.com/american-workplace-culture-part-2/

English Challenges for Latinas: https://www.englishpriority.com/english-challenges-for-latinas/

 

 

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