Culture & Times

Americans place a very high priority on time and believe that efficiently conserving time is a significant asset. However, many cultures value a decelerated, relaxed lifestyle that places more worth on relationships. An American who tries to force members of another culture to conform to his tempo may offend them and lose their business.

Many of the problems between US and foreign business people relate to their differing concepts of time. There are two time systems operating in the world: monochronic and polychronic. Monochronic time (or M-time) typifies most American managers, who want to get right to the point and the bottom line. Their directness contrast with those cultures typified by polychronic time (or P-time), which is characterized by a much looser notion of time and schedules. Many Latin Americans would, therefore view interruptions and delays as routine, since human activities are not expected to proceed like clockwork. Thus, business people from M-time and P-time cultures must adjust to each in order to achieve successful interactions.

Thought and communication patterns: Americans speech and thought behavior is direct or linear whereas in some other cultures it is more circuitous. In low context cultures such as United States, communication depends mostly on explicit expressions, orally and through reports, contracts and other written messages. In contrast, high context cultures do business more slowly because communication depends more heavily on the context of verbal and nonverbal aspects of the situation. Thus, in Japan it may take considerably longer to transact business because the people need to know more about each other before a business relationship develops.

Personal Space:

Ideas about the distance one should maintain from another in face to face interaction may vary among cultures. Americans typically become uncomfortable when someone invades their space, by engaging in close conversation or by touching them on the arm or shoulder. Conversely Arabs and Africans who are comfortable with closer conversational distances my feel rejected by the large personal space habits of Americans.

Materialism and achievement:

Americans are preoccupied with a more and / or bigger is better mentality which equates success with material wealth. Another culture may place little value or significance or possession and view such flaunting of wealth as vulgar, greedy, and disrespectful. Rather than achievement, another culture may stress quality of family time and relationship as its symbols of success and prestige.

Family Roles:

American families illustrates equality ad shared roles, while in many other societies, family roles are very traditional. In such societies with males holding pre-eminent positions, the husband is the provider and the wife supervisors.


While Americans are a religious people, religion does not dominate our daily lives as it dos among some cultures, such as Arabs, Arab daily routines revolve round prayer times and religious holidays and events. It was Allah’s will is given as the explanation for major disasters. In an environment where religion governs business and social practices, foreign business people must respect their host customs such as those pertaining to prayer and diet. Moreover, any changes threatening religious and cultural patterns will encounter resistance from religious and government leaders.

Competitiveness and Individuality:

Americans encourage and reward individual ambitions as a natural and desired trait. However, many other cultures values modesty, team spirit, collectively and patience. Thus, an aggressively competitive and individualistic demeanor by Americans in their interpersonal verbal communications, advertisements, physical gestures, status symbols, and so forth represents unacceptable behavior in those cultures.

Americans view noisy eating and belching as unacceptable behavior while in some other cultures they are expected as evidence of satisfaction. Conversely, Americans accept as innocuous such as showing the sole of one’s foot using the left hand to deliver an object, or speaking first, may be deemed inappropriate in other cultures.