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Even if you’re fluent in English, you still might not be ready for the implicit commonalities in the United States’ business culture. Every country has its own unique culture, and the U.S. is no different. Jumping into a new culture can be intimidating, especially in a business situation, but here are a few nuances to look out for in U.S. business culture.
- Punctuality: In countries like Brazil, arriving at a meeting 15 minutes late is common, expected and not offensive. If you’re invited to a 10 a.m. meeting in the U.S., you would be considered late if you arrive promptly at 10 a.m. Business professionals in the U.S. arrive at meetings a few minutes early to set up and engage in small talk.
- Communication. Americans frequently engage in polite conversations known as small talk. Topics in small talk include the weather, local happenings and neutral newsworthy headlines. Small talk is usually appropriate to set the tone before a meeting, exchange pleasantries in everyday conversation and to develop professional relationships with colleagues. Also, since English is such a widespread language, be mindful that some words may vary in different regions. For example, in British business settings the word “timetable” refers to what most American companies consider to be a "schedule."
- Diversity. Many refer to the United States as a melting pot of cultures, which means the country’s population is assimilated of myriad cultures, religions and races. That being said, you might have to engage in business with people of international cultures you have not interacted with before. Complications with this might result from a misunderstanding of foreign accents and misinterpreting signs of respect – i.e., some cultures bow instead of shaking hands. In the United States, shaking hands is the most common greeting exchanged in a business setting.
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