Resilient Communities 2017-12-16T13:44:04-08:00

American Culture

Most Americans value self-reliance and hard work. Newcomers are expected to get jobs as soon as possible and take care of themselves and their families. Newcomers are expected to learn English as soon as possible. Americans respect people who ask questions, they believe that asking questions shows that you are trying to learn and to understand. When you do not know how to do something do not be afraid to ask. Since Terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001 tensions over ethnicity and nationalism have escalated, some Americans have become distrustful and antagonists of those who wear non-western clothing or seem foreign in certain ways, a few people may even express anger and suspicion. However, most Americans will welcome you and want to learn about your culture. If you do encounter hostility tell a staff member at your resettlement agency or a refugee social service agency as they will know what to do.

  • Individualism

    • belief that each person is unique, special and a “basic unit of nature”
    • emphasis on individual initiative
    • stress need for independence
    • focus on individual expression
    • value privacy
  • Equality

    • open society that ideally treats everyone equally
    • little hierarchy
    • informal
    • directness in relations with others
  • Materialism

    • a “right” to be well off and physically comfortable
    • judge people by their possessions
  • Science and Technology

    • values scientific approaches
    • rational facts valued
    • primary source of good
  • Progress and Change

    • belief in changing self and country
    • optimism — nothing is impossible
  • Work and Leisure

    • strong work ethic
    • work is the basis of recognition, power.
    • idleness seen as a threat to society
    • leisure is a reward for hard work
  • Competition

    • aggressive and competitive nature encouraged
    • Be First (#1) mentality
  • Mobility

    • Americans like to be on the move and active
    • vertical (social / economic) as well as physical mobility
  • Informality

    • Americans usually use first names in social settings
    • In Business settings first and last names are used upon introduction and than transition to first names.
    • Professional titles such as doctor is usually only used in formal setting
  • Privacy and personal space

    • Americans put a high value on personal privacy.
    • Money, politics, sexuality and religion are considered personal and private
    • Do not stand too close behind someone in line.
    • Showing up unannounced is understood as impolite, Americans like to plan ahead
  • Etiquette for Visits with American Friends

    • One should not call or visit a home before 9 am and after 8 pm
    • Showing up unannounced is understood as impolite, Americans like to plan ahead
    • It is considered polite to clean up after yourself when you attend a public or community function or when you visit a friend.
    • In America hospitality is not expressed through sharing a meal, it is  through If invited to an American friends
    • Giving thank you notes is a great way to show appreciation.
  • Time and efficiency:

    • American’s value their time and count it. Some Americans plan out their time carefully, using daily calendars and will become upset if taken for granted or wasted by others.  Here are are few expectations most Americans have about time:
    • Be at meetings and important appointments on time or 5 minutes early.
    • For medical visits or appoints with a lawyer you may still have to wait even if you are on time and may lose your appointment if you are late.
      • If you are invited to someone’s house for dinner, try to be on time – you can be 5 or 10 minutes late, but if you are much later than that, you should probably call and let them know.
      • Parties: For a small party, you should try to be on time. For a large party with a many people, you can be 20-30 minutes late
      • If you are running late to anything it is customary to call or text to let the host know when to expect you.
      • If you are in a meeting and the other person seems rushed to finish, it is most likely that they do not want to be late to their next meeting even if they are interested in you and want to help.
      • Being on time and being aware of time is a cultural difference you will probably need to adapt to in the US because if you are late, you could lose your job, miss your appointments, or hurt someone’s feelings. If you have a hard time adjusting to the American value of time, you may want to get a watch or phone that has an alarm to remind you of the time – especially for getting to work.

Alcohol and Smoking

Although alcohol is consumed in the United States, there are many laws governing it’s using sale. The decision whether to drink alcohol is considered a personal choice, and it is never impolite to refuse a drink in the United States. Many Americans do not smoke, and they expect others to refrain from smoking in their homes.


It is customary to give a tip a 15% or 20% of the bill to a waiter in a restaurant or a taxi driver you should not give money or tips to a police officer or any government official as thanks for assistance

Personal Safety and Identification

Although crime and violence exists in the United States, the amount of crime differs in different parts of the country no matter where you live, you should take basic precautions such as luck in your home and car, never caring large amounts of cash with you, and knowing which neighborhoods to avoid at night.