United States Culture of Business

By | July 24, 2022

Subchapters:

  • Introduction
  • Addressing
  • Business Meeting
  • Communication
  • Recommendations
  • Public holidays

Introduction

The US economy offers great opportunity with relatively high wages and a low cost of living. America’s emphasis on efficiency and meritocracy has pushed innovation to the highest possible level—and feels utterly liberating to those accustomed to hard work. And yet expatriates working in the United States navigate a work culture that seems fraught with contradictions. To be effective in international markets, it is essential to first know your own business culture. Most business people tend to believe that living and working in the American business environment makes them experts. But it’s not true. It is only when they leave their culture and encounter the norms of the business culture of other places that they begin to understand what makes their perspective different. Business partners with whom we meet and negotiate in foreign markets, they may differ in their behavior and actions. It is not just a question of etiquette, but differences occur in the style of dealing, the way of expressing and thinking, preparing for meetings, etc. A “global” manager and an executive are required to be “culturally sensitive”, to anticipate these differences, to try to recognize them and tolerate, but above all understand and adapt to them as much as possible. The Covid-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on business culture. Global restrictions on the free movement of people and travel bans have changed assumptions about the nature of work and corporate interactions. But it mainly affects work performance, when people have gained the experience that they can work from home with the same efficiency, that they can do most things and work tasks remotely. However, it is preferable to conduct business contacts and discussions about them physically, in person, online forms are suitable for the implementation phase of already concluded contracts. However, as the pandemic recovers, many businesses are considering which cultural changes they want to maintain and which they will continue to face. Visit Calculatorinc for more information about United States culture and traditions.

Addressing

Americans typically refrain from greetings that involve hugging and close physical contact. You will make a good impression by appearing confident, open, friendly and straightforward. When meeting a colleague or client, it is polite to stand and offer a short, firm handshake with eye contact and a smile. The use of first names is common even across several levels of the corporate hierarchy, but in contact with foreigners some more experienced American negotiators use a more formal address (Mr., Mrs. with the last name of the partner), knowing the cultural differences in the use of first names in business dealings. European traders can adapt according to the current situation and respond in the same way to being addressed by their partner’s first name.

Business meeting

The global pandemic caused by Covid-19 has had a huge impact on business dealings and has forced marketers to adapt to new forms of communication. Some of these changes have brought greater convenience and greater efficiency, and are therefore likely to endure after the pandemic subsides. However, physical behavior, especially in business relations, still plays a very important role. In addition to the office, negotiations can also take place during a working breakfast or lunch. If the meeting is held during lunch or dinner, the expectation is that business conversation will begin almost immediately, or as soon as everyone has ordered their food. You will embarrass Americans with expensive gifts, above a certain amount, valuable gifts must be reported as income on the tax return and tax deducted from them. Smaller gifts are recommended. In most situations, gifts are usually immediately unwrapped and shown to everyone. Compared to Europeans, Americans have far fewer vacation days, so they try to make the most of public holidays and days off from work. It is therefore very inappropriate to want to meet with Americans during these holidays, because they primarily intend to devote their free time to their own family and loved ones. However, there will be exceptions and it will also depend on specific circumstances or urgency. Meetings usually last 30 to 60 minutes and have a clear agenda. Participants are expected to actively listen and participate. Staying still or using laptops or phones can be interpreted as disinterest. American culture places great emphasis on getting things done as quickly and efficiently as possible. It may come as a surprise to the Czech businessman that his American counterpart spends little time getting to know him before and during the negotiation process. Communication style tends to be very explicit. A slightly shocked Czech businessman told me about a business meeting he had recently completed with an American company. “They were all friendly and joking before the meeting,” he said. Once the business meeting started, they were like sharks. They wanted a better price and a faster delivery time than we anticipated and wanted us to commit right away. We felt like we were being run over.” “As soon as the meeting was over, they started being friendly again and joking around like nothing had happened.” to commit immediately. We felt like we were being run over.” “As soon as the meeting was over, they started being friendly again and joking around like nothing had happened.” to commit immediately. We felt like we were being run over.” “As soon as the meeting was over, they started being friendly again and joking around like nothing had happened.”

In personal interactions, Americans are very polite and decent, sometimes too much so by Central European standards. The combination of “I’m sorry…”, “Excuse me please…” begins many sentences in everyday communication. However, this politeness is not to be confused with weakness. Americans say even unpleasant things very politely in an attempt to avoid direct confrontation and bring the matter to an end. A hallmark of American business culture is the pursuit of simplicity and directness. Risk is part of business and failure in business is not shameful. Failing and starting over is normal. In America, there are many cultural sensitivities regarding minority races and ethnic groups. It is always necessary to take cultural and religious differences into account when dealing with local traders. In negotiations, Americans do not like insincerity and literally hate slowness. On the contrary, a positive attitude and an effort to resolve everything immediately will make a good impression. They do not like people for whom something is impossible and procrastinate in solving the problem. Businesses looking to score should remember to expect the possible immediately, the impossible within three days. The concept of “time is money” is taken seriously in this business culture. In the United States, it is culturally acceptable, even commendable, to show enthusiasm in a business environment, provided it is appropriate for the situation. Americans like colleagues who are welcoming and friendly and tend to smile more than other cultures. But as a “contactless culture,” Americans also prefer a “bubble” of personal space. Don’t stand too close while talking and minimize physical contact. Touching is rarely done outside of a handshake, and gestures such as hugging are generally considered inappropriate. Regional differences in such a large country as the USA, of course, also exist. The region of the Northeastern USA (approximately from the state of Maryland or Pennsylvania to the north) is fast and dynamic. New York, Washington and Boston are the American centers of commerce, politics and learning. In the southeast you will meet warm and hospitable people (Georgia), rather conservative. The pace of life is slower there, Miami is the center of “Latin America in the USA”. The Hispanic community strongly influences life in the southern states of the Union and/or in individual locations throughout the US regardless of their location. The Midwest is considered the place of true America (the heart), people here have a practical approach to things and work hard, very often they are strongly religious and family oriented. The western part of the US can be perceived as generally slower than the eastern part of the country. The cultural phenomenon here is primarily California, which very willingly accepts new stimuli and many cultural and technological innovations (Silicon Valley). When doing business in the western part of the USA, the significant Hispanic influence must be respected, as the Hispanic community strongly influences life in the western part of the USA. Alcohol does not belong in the meeting, but it is normal to have a glass in a nearby bar after the successful conclusion of the meeting. Dress for business meetings is conservative. In America, most states still require formal dress such as a suit and tie – but this is not always the case. Some professions value formality more than others. Those in finance, accounting or sales tend to dress and speak more formally than those in academia, media or technology. The further west, the more likely that in a business meeting you will meet with casual clothing. Business negotiations usually take place in a team, led by the company’s highest-ranking manager. Meetings often take place outside the office, for example during golf, and an invitation to dinner or to a partner’s home is not excluded, but it is an expression of a certain progress or a deeper interest in the topic of the meeting.

Communication

Having an interpreter at a business meeting can prove to be an advantage when you are doing business with international clients and are serious about closing the deal. Interpreters help alleviate any misunderstandings and help make communication more efficient. Choosing a professional interpreter with experience in the field is important. Eye contact with the client is key if you want them to feel like you are speaking directly to them, even if there is someone in the room translating your words into their language. If you plan to give a speech, give the interpreter a copy so they can familiarize themselves with the content and key points. This will help him interpret your words with conviction and understanding. If you are holding a meeting with an interpreter involved, you must expect that you will need twice as much time as usual for the meeting. Try to avoid humor, because it usually doesn’t translate well and can lead to confusion instead of laughter. Remember that you are speaking through an interpreter, so keep your client informed at all times.

The United States is one of the few countries where the fact that you speak with a foreign accent can be turned into an advantage. Americans are a mixed nation, and except for the Indians, all are immigrants, which they also realize. They are very communicative and try to understand and understand what you say, even if they have to concentrate more on understanding your accent. If you slow down and try your best to enunciate, your accent will likely spark a conversation about where you’re coming from, which will break the ice nicely and draw your partner into the conversation. While a foreign accent is fine when speaking in the US, printed materials must be comprehensible, clear and in perfect English.

Until you know the business partner well, avoid discussing religion, politics, or other controversial topics (abortion, racism, sexism, etc.). Discussions of income, age, politics, and religion are generally considered taboo in American workplaces. It is best not to ask colleagues about these topics or express a strong opinion. Instead, choose neutral topics such as hobbies, entertainment, sports, or other leisure activities. Also avoid all racial, gender, ethnic or religious jokes. Don’t ask women if they are married. If the woman volunteers this information, you can ask a few polite questions about her husband or children. Smoking is not as common and is restricted in most public places. Even where smoking is allowed, always ask if those you are with will mind if you smoke.

Written communication is mainly based on e-mails, which should ideally be answered within 24 hours. E-mail and telephone communication should be the basis of maintaining business relations. Americans do not understand long pauses in communication. The 6-9 hour time difference between the east and west coasts of the USA and the Czech Republic causes considerable difficulties. We can only recommend using the option of a telephone connection during American working hours, i.e. until our late evening hours. Americans want to solve things quickly and immediately. The impossibility of immediate connection with business partners can then greatly frustrate them. Moreover, not everyone can immediately realize the time shifts with other parts of the world.

Recommendation

The United States is great, but at the same time it is also an extremely challenging territory because there are no benefits that some entrepreneurs from the EU may be used to. Getting ahead means having healthy self-confidence, patience and a certain business audacity. As consumers, Americans don’t settle for less, so the products that head across the ocean have to be something special. A high-quality local partner can certainly help in penetrating the American market. It does not have to be a seller directly, anyone who is well-versed in the environment is sufficient, for example from the Czech embassy or consulates, CzechTrad or CzechInvest.

Public Holidays

New Year – January 1

Birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. – third Monday in January – Martin Luther King Jr. was a Baptist preacher and one of the greatest fighters for the human rights of African Americans in the world.

Inauguration Day – January 20 every fourth year (the one following a presidential election). As part of Inauguration Day, the newly elected US president takes the oath of office to the United States of America.

George Washington’s Birthday – Third Monday in February. On this national holiday, Americans commemorate the birth of their first ever president, George Washington.

Memorial Day – the last Monday in May – has been celebrated since 1866, when it was also known as Memorial Day.

Independence Day -4. July – Independence Day commemorates July 4, 1776, when the Declaration of Independence of the United States from Great Britain was adopted.

Labor Day – the first Monday in September – Americans also have their labor day called Labor Day.

Columbus Day – the second Monday in October – Columbus Day originated in 1792, when the anniversary of the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus was first celebrated.

Veterans Day – November 11 – Veterans Day – War veterans are considered heroes in America, so it’s no wonder they have their own day of celebration.

Thanksgiving Day – the fourth Thursday in November – Thanksgiving Day is a holiday from a long-standing tradition, which used to give symbolic thanks for the autumn harvest. Dinner is also traditional on this holiday – roast turkey!

The first holiday of Christmas – December 25

United States Culture of Business