American Culture

Communication

Verbal

  • Direct Communication: Americans are very direct communicators. They tend to convey their entire message verbally, paying less attention to body language. People are expected to ‘get to the point’. This does not mean courtesy is disregarded in communication, but it does mean that Americans may sometimes miss nuances (such as understatement) in conversation or some types of humour (for example, subtle sarcasm or ironic statements).
  • Language Styles: Americans are generally quite enthusiastic, assertive and persuasive in their speech.
  • Modesty: Americans are not very modest (by an Australian standard) as boasting is not cut down by tall poppy syndrome in their culture. People are expected to speak on their own behalf instead of waiting for someone to tell of their achievements or success for them.
  • Raised Voices: Americans may speak at higher volumes in public spaces, however they generally do not appreciate loud or emotional outbursts.
  • Silence: Americans sometimes grow uncomfortable when social chat is punctuated with long periods of pause or silence and often try to fill the gap in conversation.


Non-Verbal

  • Eye Contact: Eye contact should be maintained directly. It demonstrates warmth, openness, honesty and approachability. If you make eye contact with a stranger in passing (on the street, at a shop, in a hallway, etc.) give a small smile or nod to acknowledge them. Continuing on your way without doing so means your were simply staring or unfriendly, and is considered slightly rude.
  • Physical Contact: Generally, Americans are not very tactile outside of their families and close relationships. However, cities that are more internationally exposed may adopt more physical contact in their mannerisms. Touching someone of another gender – especially in the workplace – can be misinterpreted as sexual harassment.
  • Personal Space: Americans like to be given a fair amount of personal space, so try not to encroach on it during a conversation. If an American feels you are ‘in their face’ too much, they will probably not mention it and simply step back.
  • Gestures: It is best to nod or show some kind of sign that you are listening throughout a conversation.
  • Smiling: Many Americans smile when passing strangers on the street as a simple gesture of goodwill.
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