Understand the U.S. work culture. Even if you have watched many TV shows and movies about U.S. workplaces, you will still experience some culture shock. The first thing to be aware of is that Americans work a lot; about 350 hours more each year than the average European. The employee takes usually only two weeks of vacation per year, and employers generally offer less maternity/family leave time than in most other countries. About 30% of Americans work during their lunch hour. All of this contributes to a competitive work environment, but one that is more informal than in other cultures. However, interviews tend to be more formal than the general work culture. The communication style is very direct and the general expectation is that you will speak up but not be pushy. Individualism and personal achievement are encouraged.
Common idioms in U.S. business. American English incorporates many idioms. In the business context, you can expect to hear some of these during an interview or during the workday:
Touch base • to be in communication or contact.
Ballpark figure • an approximate number, an estimate.
Game plan • details of the plan.
Home run • an impressive success.
Slam dunk • a sure thing not to worry about.
Rally the troops • to get everyone united to help out with something.
Close the loop • to follow-up, check-in or close the deal.
Trough the roof • to rise to a very high level, usually with sales.
Elevator Speech • a brief description (30 seconds) of your job.
24/7 • all the time, 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.
Casual greetings. "How are you?" is by no means a question that requires an explicit answer regarding your physical and emotional well-being, but a polite greeting form that can simply be answered with "Fine. Thanks". "Let's have a lunch together" may not be a specific invitation but rather a polite way to mean, "Let's keep in touch".
Small talk. Be prepared to participate in small talk at the beginning of a meeting or interview. Small talk is a polite conversation about unimportant or uncontroversial matters, especially during social and work occasions. Suitable topics are typically the weather, sports, travel and food. It's highly recommended to avoid in any way topics related to religion, politics, and personal matters.
Personal Space. Americans tend to value their personal Space. Be mindful of spatial boundaries. Americans may give you a cue by moving further away from you. It is not being rude, and do not take it personally. It's simply being American and living with the cultural norm in America.
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