10 tips for doing business in the United States

22 March 2017
door Regina Coeli

Western Europe and the United States seem to be very similar in terms of culture. However, there are some essential points that could be a deal breaker with an American. Here are ten communication tips for if you are planning to or are already doing business with Americans.

1.          

Results matter in the States. Therefore, if you are doing business or even if you are applying for a new job, remember to sell yourself and your achievements. Modesty won’t get you a new business contact or a job. 
 

 2.  The United States is an individualistic culture, not a group culture. Therefore, heroes are often revered in American culture. Consider the cult status of Steve Jobs at Apple or Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook. Compare this to a more collective culture like Japan. How many of you can name a famous Japanese CEO?
 
 3.  The US is a short-term orientated culture unlike Germany or China. In other words, this year’s results matter more than over 10 years, so short-term strategies tend to weigh more heavily than long-term considerations.
 
 4.  On the whole Americans are more direct than the British, however, more indirect than the Dutch. This partly has to do with the adage “Time is Money”. Ultimately, it’s a results orientated country.
 
 5.  In some consensus-based cultures, like in the Netherlands, employees’ opinions are valued and are expected to be given and heard. In American culture, there is often an open forum for debate, however, ultimately, it’s the boss who makes the decision and is accountable for the decision. So, if you’re in a meeting with an American boss, don’t be surprised if he/she makes the decision without consulting the rest of the team.
 
6.   American culture is not often comfortable with silence, unlike Scandinavian or Japanese culture. Therefore, engage in some chatter or let your American counterpart know that you are considering what he/she is saying. Otherwise, he/she may think you don’t understand or you disagree.
 
7.   American culture tends to value generalists rather than specialists. Hence, don’t be surprised if your financial counterpart has studied Medieval English Literature, but is now heading an IT company. In the USA, results and experience matter, less so your background, age and your connections.
 
8.   American culture is comfortable with uncertainty. For example, the agenda for a meeting is the starting point for discussion and does not need to be stuck to rigidly as in other countries e.g. Germany. This ease with uncertainty means that flexibility and adapting to constant change is valued in the United States.
 
9.   American working hours tend to be longer than in Europe, so a breakfast meeting at 7 can be common as is a business dinner meeting at 8pm in the same day. Americans also tend to take fewer vacation days than Europeans.
 
10.   If an American asks you “How are you?” simply answer “Fine thank you. And you?” even though you may be feeling terrible because your dog has just died. Don’t feel that an American is being dishonest when asking you this; “How are you?” is simply a greeting.

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