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American mentality from the inside: what should you understand if you do not want to work on our


Source: DOU

Now you can often hear the expression cultural fit (compliance with corporate culture). It is especially popular with recruiters as a universal explanation of refusal to post, for example. It looks like mathematical infinity - everyone heard about it, but no one saw it, and everyone presents it in its own way. Nevertheless, it is a cultural fit, as there is a culture in every company, not to mention the peculiarities of the culture of entire countries.

Photo: Nownew yo

I decided to write about what distinguishes American business culture and what you should pay attention to when working in the USA, Boris Vengerovsky writes on DOU. A little bit about yourself. I have been living in America for almost 7 years. During this time, I had the opportunity to work in various positions, both in IT and outside of it, to unlearn at “brick-and-mortar” (that is, not online) business school, attend a number of trainings and even conduct several trainings myself. In other words, I had the opportunity to communicate with Americans in different teams and form my opinion on the peculiarities of their work and interaction.

I want to immediately discuss a few points:

This article does not purport to provide a comprehensive overview of the US business culture. It’s just what I’ve noticed and noted as important and interesting. Pure IMHO, so to speak.

I do not pretend to the ultimate truth, and if you do not agree with something, I will be glad to see it in the comments.

I hope my observations will help both those who plan to live and work in the United States, as well as those who are faced with Americans for work or business.

Attitude is everything

Probably the biggest feature of Americans, distinguishing them from Ukrainians and from other nations in general, is their attitude to life. Americans are extremely positive and overly emotional. If something is good, then it is not just good, it is “great”, “fantastic”, “awesome” and similar adjectives. It is customary to smile, praise, radiate optimism and can-do attitude. Americans rarely show a bad mood or complain about life. It is simply not accepted here, especially among colleagues at work. The external image of a typical American worker is such a hearty, ready to conquer new professional peaks. And if you want to succeed in the States, you should play this role a little too. Sour, always dissatisfied faces are not very popular. Especially remember this during the interviews. Look at it and pay attention.

The same rule is true in solving work tasks. In Ukraine, often when setting a task, a discussion begins on why it cannot be done, or why it cannot be completed within the specified time frame, or why it will not work at all, or even what kind of fool has invented it all ... We show great creativity and critical thinking in this. In the States, this is very rare. It is not accepted to dwell on the negative here, and discussions, as a rule, lead around how this can be done. This does not mean that it is impossible to raise critical questions and to question anything. Just you will be expected not just criticism, but constructive solutions.

Фото: Depositphotos

Listening skills

The most unusual thing in communicating in America at first is that they listen to you attentively. This is a very strange feeling after Ukraine - that no one interrupts you. Despite the non-native English and accent. I remember at one corporate training there was an Indian who spoke with such an accent that it was impossible to understand anything. Moreover, he loved to talk on any topic at length and at length. I kept waiting for him to be gagged, but it never happened. Everyone listened attentively, even if they did not understand anything, and even the shadow of a smile did not run over the faces of the audience. Americans know how to listen, and the biggest challenge for our people is learning to listen and not interrupt. Some, even having lived in America for many years, never master this skill.

Strong ethics

In the States, corporate ethics is strong. I don’t know where they are taught this, maybe at school, because I don’t remember any trainings on this topic. What is it manifested at work? Largely. Americans rarely gossip and discuss behind the back of their colleagues or even the boss. Never blame others or try to find a scapegoat if something went wrong. They will never show that you do not know something or do not know how, and even more so they will not make fun of it. It is not customary to publicly reprimand, and in general reprimand, "build" subordinates, threaten dismissal. The new chef will never say: “Forget everything you did before. Now I will teach you to work for real. "

They even manage not to curse competitors. And in television advertising this is allowed, and they troll competitors to the fullest, but I have not heard that a representative of any company talked about competitors badly. For it is unethical. For the same reason, there are no such interesting corporate events and group celebrations as in Ukraine. In general, in the ability to relax, we left the Americans far behind. They rarely come off to their fullest, and in the morning after the American corporate party, no one is ashamed of anyone for anything 🙂

Freebies are not held in high esteem

Americans do not really like freebies. For example, in the last work we had a bar in the office and there was a cola and other drinks, but during lunch everyone bought drinks for their money. Another example. We once volunteered with the office at Food Bank and helped pack food for the poor in boxes. Around the mountain of food, cans and bottles with different water, juices and other garbage. Naturally, we were tired and thirsty, but no one even took a bottle of water, even though it was still distributed free of charge. This does not mean that they do not like it when the company orders lunch or when the boss leads the team to a restaurant. But there are cases when a manager pays for it from his own pocket or when everyone pays for himself.

Фото: Depositphotos

Work-life balance

With all the legendary performance of Americans, they do not live in work and try to separate work and personal life. The chef will not call you late at night to discuss an important project. Most likely, he does not even know your phone, in the extreme case he will write in the messenger. Sometimes it may even seem that your work is not needed by anyone, since they show interest in it only during daily (or less often) standup meetings. And even then, if in Ukraine there is often a lively discussion of the work done, in America at such rallies they rarely ask clarifying questions and conduct debriefing. Everyone reported and went to work.

Regular processing is also not taken here, or they are paid. Although, if a person has a position in which they pay really big money, it is implied (or even stipulated in the contract) that he can work irregular working hours. Programmers, of course, are a special caste, which is evaluated by the result, not by the process, so their schedule and place of work can be very flexible. For programming is a creative work and, as Ostap Bender said, the artist should be treated carefully 🙂

No intrigue

What I personally like is that there is much less politics at work. All these intrigues, gossip, groupings, confrontations of novices and grandfathers, locals and visitors, syroedov and salespeople or some other options. There are almost no assholes that fuck your brain. If there are, it is very rare and small caliber. All nice with each other, came, worked, left and forgot about work until 9 in the morning. Americans learned how to get high from work and did the right thing, because work is a place where we spend about a third of our lives.


“Here you aren’t particularly tested, here in everything you, as a friend, are trusted ...”, - Willy Tokarev sang in his song about America. And indeed it is. In the States it is customary to trust people. And even more, the expression of distrust is considered offensive in itself, and the Americans are very scrupulous about other people's feelings and emotions. That is why I do not remember that in the supermarket or any other store they checked bags or demanded to leave them at the entrance, as is customary in Ukraine. When my wife did not have a car, I took her away after shopping, and she, while she was waiting for me, could go to the next Target with a full cart from a supermarket and, as they say, no questions asked. In America, they trust you until you prove otherwise.

The same is true in the work environment. No one will look over your shoulder, demand constant reporting or express doubt in your hard work. Does this mean that no one appreciates you and your work? Of course not. The situation is approximately the same as in the American queue, in which no one breathes in your neck and, at first glance, does not even follow it at all. But it is worthwhile for someone to try to climb out of turn, as he is quickly and politely returned to the place. And, most likely, the seller himself will do it, whose duties, in fact, are included. Therefore, despite the lack of tight control, I do not advise abusing the confidence of Americans. If the Americans do not speak about something, it does not mean at all that they do not see it, and banging in certain situations is not considered shameful here. They themselves are open and expect it from others.

My manager once refused to interview the girl a web designer, by the way Russian-speaking. The situation was as follows. He called her and offered to participate in the selection for the vacancy. She said she was not interested in this position. Some time later, she called herself and said that she wanted to pass the interview. The manager asked why she changed her mind, and she replied that she wanted to initially, but he did not understand her so well. In general, a simple question, and if she simply said it is, she could take part in the selection. No big deal. But because of this little bullshit, the manager decided not to invite her to an interview, referring to the same cultural fit. In general, honesty is the best policy.


What to talk about

Conversations at work here are more like small talk. The excessive political correctness negates a lot of topics: politics is impossible, religion is undesirable, women are taboo in general, bosses are unethical to discuss ... In general, sadness, longing. During the last presidential election, despite the fact that for many Americans it was the most dramatic election in history, which, in their opinion, almost decided the fate of the entire American democracy, there was no talk of politics at all in the office. That is, absolutely. I do not understand how they do it? True, if you are with someone in friendly friendship relationships, then you can talk on all these topics, but only when you are alone. What then do Americans talk about at work? Here are some popular topics:

  • About food. Americans love to eat and talk about who ate, cooked, tried. By the way, many men here love to cook.
  • About sport. True, here you initially have little chance, since the most popular sports are baseball and American football (in America, it’s just football, and our football is soccer), in which we don’t understand anything.
  • A huge topic is TV shows and TV shows. There are a lot of them, and they are very popular.
  • They say about the family, if the interlocutor himself initiates a conversation about it, since it is also not accepted to climb into private life. Suddenly you are blue and do not want to talk about it.
  • Well, the work, of course, the safest topic at work.

Handshake and greeting

The myth of a strong American handshake is only half true. In the sense that it takes place only at the initial meeting and parting. After that, shaking hands is not accepted. And our tradition to bypass everyone in the room and shake hands with everyone will, most likely, be perceived as some interesting overseas ritual. As I have noticed, Americans in general do not like unnecessary touches, they have some kind of hygienic point about this. At the same time, they eat without problems in eateries with dirty tables and drink Starbucks' coffee through the lid, which the barista with them closed with all his five 🙂

A couple of words about the greeting. Here it is customary to greet someone who meets you in the corridor, but they do not always greet everyone who they see for the first time a day. For example, if you enter a room and your colleagues are talking to each other, it is unlikely that someone will interrupt the conversation to tell you: “Hi! How are you? Or even if people work in open space, often coming to work, they just sit down in silence for their place. To me, these little things were initially very unusual after Ukraine, where people usually greet everyone almost by the hand. But local people are not soared about these formalities, so you do not worry.

Фото: Depositphotos


Much has been written about gender relations in the American business environment, and I will not repeat what has long been known. In general, the safest strategy here is to imagine that everything around is asexual. That is, there are neither men nor women, but everything is of the same sex. Forget about flirting, compliments of appearance, sexual overtones. It's easier and, more importantly, safer. Especially if you are married. A friend at IBM told a very telling story. Their team moved to a new office, and they transferred their stuff. One colleague, pointing to a girl from their team, asked: “Why doesn’t she wear it with everyone?” Another joked: "Because she's having a shit." For which he was successfully fired.

The problem is that, as I wrote above, Americans are very positive and smiling with everyone, and this is easy to take for expressing sympathy for you personally or even flirting. But it is an illusion. How is Makarevich: “She smiles at everyone, not only you. But somehow not really and very far away. " In America, they try not to mix work and personal life, therefore, as a rule, they are looking for partners in other places, mainly on the Internet.

Individualism and initiative

Individualism is part of the American way of life, and an American is taught from childhood that he himself *** ets (insert the necessary letters) of his happiness. How is this manifested at work? The fact that here no one fiddles with anyone. For example, if the company provides an introductory training, you will be given it (more and more often this is done online), and if not, then you will simply be given a computer and you will start working. Mentoring or on-the-job training is a huge challenge here. I don't know why, but Americans do not like to pass on experience or explain something for a long time. If you ask, they will answer, but usually nothing more.

I myself worked for a long time in training in Ukraine and saw many people who enjoyed the work of a coach, from the development of subordinates. In the States, I have not met such, maybe I just had no luck. Everything you need to ask, learn, read and teach yourself. In the same business school, a professor will never encourage you to study or be very worried about your grades. If you did not pass the exam, you will take this subject again, which means you will pay again and pass the exam in the next semester. He doesn't care whether you study 2 of the year or 10 of years, the system is flexible and allows for various options.

I do not remember that one of the teachers stayed after class, helping someone to master the subject. They are not paid for it, so if you do not understand something, there is a library. It is the same in a career: if you want to move forward, you must declare and take the initiative yourself. The question “why?” Is not popular here: like “why do you work 10 for years in one position?” Or “why were you late?” Or “why did you go to the red light?”.

It is believed that if an adult person does something, he has his own reasons for it and this is his own business. Therefore, if they didn’t give you something, didn’t explain, didn’t include it in an interesting project, we should talk about it and not hope that we offer it. May not be offered. Excessive modesty is not held in high esteem. Americans know how to "sell" themselves and feel free to talk about their strengths. This is an important skill in the American career, as well as healthy perseverance. America is a country where you have to be able to sell and promote. And first of all myself.

Here is a small review. I would be glad if the above described will prove useful to someone in the first weeks of work in the American team.

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