Welcome to our helpful guide for the USA. Should you be looking to travel, live, relocate or do business in the sovereign nation, we will give you a helpful head start on understanding the country and its cultures.
Facts & statistics
The United States of America is a federal republic composed of 50 states.
The Capital: Washington DC
Main Cities: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston
Population: 320 million
Size: 9.834 million sq km (3.797 million sq miles)
Major Religion: Christianity is by far the largest religion in the United States; more than three-quarters of Americans identify as Christians. A little more than half of these identify as Protestants.
Main Language: US English
Climate: Weather varies widely across the continental USA, as well as in Alaska and Hawaii. In general terms, summers are hot and humid in the plains and southern states, while the southwest is very hot and quite dry.
Life Expectancy: 78 years
Dialling Code: +1
Emergency Numbers: 911
Currency: United States Dollar
ISO 4217 Code: USD
Central Bank: Federal Reserves System
Currency Sub-Units: Cent (¢)
Denominations: $1 $2 $5 $10 $20 $50 $100
Coins: 1(¢) 5(¢) 10(¢) 25(¢) 50(¢) 1
The United States is the third largest country in the word with a population of more than 320 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Due to this, the United States is one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world. Nearly every region of the world has influenced American culture, as it is a country of immigrants, most notably the English who colonized the country beginning in the early 1600s. U.S. culture has also been shaped by the cultures of Native Americans, Latin Americans, Africans and Asians.
Clothing styles vary by social status, region, occupation and climate. Jeans, sneakers (trainers), baseball caps, cowboy hats and boots are typical items of clothing that are closely associated with Americans. Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Michael Kors and Victoria’s Secret are some well-known American fashion brands.
Language in America
There is no official language of the United States, according to the U.S. government. Whilst almost every language in the world is spoken in the United States, Spanish, Chinese, French and German are among the most frequently spoken non-English languages. Ninety percent of the U.S. population speaks and understands at least some English, and most official business is conducted in English.
The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that more than 300 languages are spoken in the United States. The bureau divides those languages into four categories: Spanish; other Indo-European languages, which includes German, Yiddish, Swedish, French, Italian, Russian, Polish, Hindi, Punjabi, Greek and several others; Asian and Pacific Island languages, including Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Thai, Tamil and more; and “all other languages,” which is a category for languages that don’t fit into the first three categories, such as Hungarian, Arabic, Hebrew, languages of Africa and languages of native people of North, Central and South America.
Written US English
Written US English varies very little from written British English. The main differences are: use of “ize” instead of “ise” (e.g. organize, realize, criticize). Words ending in “or” instead of “our” (e.g. color, labor, honor), words ending in “er” where Brits would use “re” (e.g. center, theater, meter) and words ending in “og” instead of “ogue” (e.g. Analog, catalog).
Computer keyboard in the UK & Britain are very similar except for a few keys (mainly symbols) which have been moved around.
Etiquette & customs
When dining out, tipping is standard/expected in America and if the service is good the tip is expected to be at least 15% – 20% of the bill.
Tipping is also common in the service and hospitality industry, from valet parking to housekeepers at your hotel. $2-$3 tips for valet each time you retrieve your car (none when you give it to the valet) are common. $2 per day for the housekeeper at your hotel, left in the room at the end of your stay is common. A note that says “Thank you” along with the money makes it understood to be a tip rather than money left behind by mistake.
The majority of Americans identify themselves as Christians, while close to a quarter claim no religious affiliation. There is a wide range of racial and ethnic diversity among U.S. religious groups and denominations. Seventh-day Adventists, Muslims and Jehovah’s Witnesses are among the most racially and ethnically diverse U.S. religious groups.
Business meeting advice (if doing business in USA)
American greetings are generally quite informal. This is not intended to show lack of respect, but rather a manifestation of the American belief that everyone is equal. It is expected in business situations to shake hands upon introduction, and maintain eye contact at the same time. Americans smile a lot and like to have their smiles reciprocated.
Americans view the business card as a source of information for the future and tend to exchange cards casually. There is no set ritual for exchanging business cards.
In a country that prides itself on its individualism, companies are organised and structured with many different styles depending on the industry, the company’s history and its current leaders. In the United States, business relationships are formed between companies rather than between people. Americans do business where they get the best deal and the best service. It is not important to develop a personal relationship in order to establish a long and successful business relationship.
Americans prefer directness in communication. When Americans say “yes” or “no,” they mean exactly that.
When you are doing business in the United States, it’s important to be on time for meetings. Arriving late is considered rude and disrespectful. Interaction and participation is important during business meetings. If you are quiet and have nothing to say, this can be looked upon as you being unprepared and not having anything to contribute.
Meeting deadlines is taken very seriously and missing agreed deadlines is seen as irresponsible.
Americans are extremely informal and call most people by their first name or nickname. However, it is a good rule of thumb to address them by their title (Mr, Mrs, Ms, Dr, etc in general) and last name (e.g, Mr. Smith) until you are specifically told otherwise. However, as mentioned, Americans may also address you by your first name immediately after being introduced to you; this is not considered rude at all and reflects the more casual style of Americans.
Management advice, when managing American employees
Differences in management culture can have a big impact on employee and company performance and a good understanding of cultural differences is imperative.
In the US, employees are delegated tasks which come with clear responsibilities and instructions from their manager. Employees are held accountable for their performance in relation to the tasks assigned to them.
As mentioned previously, Americans are direct and will always say what they mean, so as a manager you will also need to get used to this style. They do not mean to insult with their directness; they just like to get to the point and do not like to waste time. The business environment is generally fast-paced with the emphasis on “getting the job done” and moving onto the next task. As mentioned previously, business is not about getting to know the individual, it’s about the overall company and getting the best deal.
Achievements and success within the job role are more important than seniority. Going the extra mile above and beyond your everyday role, or using creativity to tackle an issue is something which is very important in American business culture.
You must have the correct visa to enter America. Decide what you want to do (short term or long term stay) and look into your visa options thoroughly.
One of the biggest challenges you will find is securing an appropriate work visa. The current unemployment levels in the USA make obtaining a work visa more difficult and it’s usual to only be able to work in the US if you have already established sponsorship and you have already secured a job to go to.
The government does not have a health service. Ensure you have medical insurance which is suitable for your time in America, as you are likely to be refused treatment without it. If you are planning to stay there, you can register with the local health service.
Apply for a social security number as soon as possible. You will need this in order to open a bank account. To receive an income in America, you need a Tax File Number (TFN).
The cost of living in the USA really does vary greatly depending on where you plan to live, so ensure that you complete thorough research prior to making any decisions as to where you will base yourself.
Language Translation Services for the USA
The main language of the USA is English, but you may encounter regions where Spanish is more frequently spoken. Kwintessential offers a range of language translation services to suit your needs. Contact us for more information or to get a quote today.