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Doing business in the USA

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‘Pocari Sweat’ is a Japanese energy drink usually taken after sport. But the producers got into trouble when they decided to export it to the States. While the Japanese believe that sweat represents a healthy and hard working body, the negative connotations associated with sweat in the States proved to be a major problem. The manufacturer was forced to drop its attempts to market the drink in the US.

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Communication and behaviour

* Americans usually refrain from greetings that involve hugging and close physical contact.
* The standard space between you and your counterpart should be about two feet. Most executives will be uncomfortable standing at a closer distance.
* When giving an item to another person, it’s common to toss it or hand it over with only one hand.
* English will still be used almost 100% in business conversations.
* However, Spanish is getting increasingly important due to the country’s proximity to Mexico and Central America and the large population of Spanish-speaking citizens in the country.
* Americans tend to adopt sports terms in their business speech (“Touch base”, “Call the shots”, “Ballpark figures” and “Game plan” are a few examples).
* Generally, Americans like to laugh and enjoy talking with people with a sense of humour. Jokes are usually welcome.
* Golf is a very popular sport, especially among business executives. Golf is normally a venue for business deals.
* So be prepared to play golf and talk about business at the same time.
* In the United States, little business is conducted on Sundays. This is the usual day of worship for many religions.
* It is not considered vulgar to eat while walking down the street.
* If you are invited for a business meal, the host will usually pay.
* But if he doesn’t, you should be prepared to pay for your own meal.
* It is common to invite a business counterpart to one’s home. This is considered a gesture to show goodwill between business partners.
* Unlike other cultures, it’s perfectly acceptable to refuse food or drink. In most cases, the host won’t urge you to eat.
* Presenting a gift is a nice gesture, but it is not expected.
* Business gifts are usually presented after the deal is closed. In most situations, gifts are usually unwrapped immediately and shown to all.
* When you visit a home, you don’t need to bring a gift, although it is always appreciated. Flowers, a potted plant, or a bottle of wine are good choices.
* Gifts for women like perfumes or clothing are usually inadequate. They are considered too personal.
* Usually, the working week is Monday to Friday, 8:30 /9:00 am to 5:00/6:00 pm. Long hours are common.
* Punctuality is very important for business occasions.
* For the first meeting, you won’t go wrong if you dress conservatively. Afterwards, you may follow the example of your American counterparts.
* Your business card will not be refused, but you may not always receive one in return.
* The recipient of your card will probably place it into a wallet or in the back pocket of the trousers.
* Business cards are not usually exchanged unless you want to contact the person later.
* The North American culture stresses the individual initiative and achievements.
* The concept “time is money” is taken seriously in this business culture.
* Business executives are used to making up their minds quickly and decisively. They value straightforward and to-the-point information.
* In the States, money is a key priority and an issue that will be used to win most arguments.
* American executives are opportunistic and willing to take chances.
* Risk taking often results in Americans going for the biggest slice of the business, 100% if possible.
* Americans usually dislike periods of silence during negotiations. They may continue to speak simply to avoid silence.
* Executives are direct and will not hesitate to disagree with you.
* Persistence is another characteristic found in American businesspeople.
* Moreover, they will try to explore all options when negotiations are in a deadlock.
* Americans tend to be future oriented. Innovation will prevail over tradition.
* Usually, business is conducted at a very fast pace.
* Regardless of the negotiator, company policy is always followed.

Did you find this article useful? If so, you might also enjoy our guide to business etiquette in Australia.

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