American Culture

Business Culture

Meetings

  • Arrive on time or slightly early to show your professionalism. Lateness can reflect poorly. It is even more important to begin punctually if you’re chairing or hosting the meeting.
  • Meetings can be quite casual, depending on the seriousness of the business being discussed. 
  • Americans often like to cultivate a friendly atmosphere that facilitates openness. For example, people may introduce humour to the conversation.
  • If a meeting is conducted over a luncheon or dinner, expect conversation about business to begin almost immediately, or as soon as everyone has ordered their food. 
  • It can be good to emphasize your accomplishments and experience. Americans generally trust business partners on the basis of their credentials and success.
  • Americans often start negotiations by stating their position from the very beginning. It is often expected that others are just as transparent about their stance.
  • Individuals may think aloud during meetings, imagine ideas on the spot and verbalise them without intending to seriously propose them.
  • Anyone present at a meeting may be welcome to give their opinion regardless of age or business hierarchies, depending on the size and culture of the business.
  • Many Americans are culturally uncomfortable with silence in meetings and may seek to fill it with conversation.
  • Try not to be offended if disagreement is shown bluntly. When ideas are negated, it does not necessarily reflect poorly on the person who proposed them. 
  • Americans can be powerful, open and persuasive communicators. Bargaining is usually done by negotiating a give-and-take scenario. People may “cut to the chase” very quickly and be hasty to reach decisions.
  • Expect them to seek a verbal agreement sealed with a handshake at the end of the meeting, such as, “Have we got a deal?”. However, keep in mind that nothing is finalised until it is on paper. This is simply their way of checking for confirmation of the meeting’s final agreements.
  • Don’t be rushed by their desire to quickly come to an agreement. Meet questions such as “Have we got a deal?” with “Maybe” if you need more time or persuasion.
  • Business cards are usually only exchanged if there is a need for contact information following a discussion or meeting.


Relationships

Americans can come across as very friendly and personable people in business. They often cultivate a casual business environment that makes partners feel comfortable enough to trust them and share their position. However, while they are often very warm and welcoming, Americans do necessarily seek to build personal relationships with business partners. Depending on the industry, business is seen as strictly professional with little association to one’s personal life. Therefore, be aware of how much you open up in this informal atmosphere and how it can expose you.


Apart from initial pleasantries, not much time may be allowed for familiarisation with new business partners. Therefore, it’s best that you aim to establish your reputation or brand with them first and foremost. They will be more interested in your experience, credentials and the longevity of your company. 


Considerations

  • American business culture is largely individualistic, with employees generally being highly motivated by their careers. There is not a strong cultural commitment or obligation to age or business hierarchies. People are likely to overlook factors like company loyalty for technical competence and excellence in employees. For example, American companies are fond of hiring ‘wizz-kids’ that have a specialised knowledge but less workplace experience.
  • Americans tend to work longer and harder than other Westerners, though not always by choice. Executives often closely monitor absenteeism and productivity of employees. In some workplaces, there can be a social pressure not to take leave unless absolutely necessary.
  • Americans can be opportunistic in business. For example, they may be more inclined to take a risk if it has big payoffs.
  • Address disputes with someone directly and privately. Talk about the problem only in the specific context that it has occurred to avoid making it seem like a criticism of their character.
  • The optimistic outlook of Americans can sometimes make it seem as though they are ignoring genuine problems or setting goals too ambitiously. Avoid making this assumption as it is rarely the case. 
  • Be aware that business negotiations and deals are usually underpinned by tight legal control. Risk management is heavy and litigious, and contracts are often laden with clauses that can pin liability on the other party. Always read the fine print and understand any documents front to back. American companies commonly rely on lawsuits to settle disputes.
  • It can be hard for foreign companies to penetrate the American market for multiple reasons. For example, the scale needed to tackle such a large country can be difficult to attain. Products and procedures also tend to be judged by American standards and domestic reference points.
  • On the Corruption Perception Index (2019), the United States ranks 23rd out of 180 countries, receiving a score of 69 (on a scale from 0 to 100). This perception suggests that the country’s public sector is somewhat clean from corruption.
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