How to Dispel Myths about American Businesspeople
People who don’t get to meet many U.S. citizens sometimes have a distorted view of Americans. By becoming aware of how people from other countries and cultures may perceive you, you have a better chance of breaking through those misconceptions to develop stronger and more meaningful relationships with your business contacts:
Americans are ethnocentric. It's true — U.S. citizens, for the most part, tend to be a bit ethnocentric. Patriotism is certainly understandable and even admirable, but cultural elitism is counterproductive in building relationships. Strive to be open-minded and genuinely curious about the rest of the world.
Americans are clueless about other countries and cultures. To dispel this myth, demonstrate a genuine interest in your business contact's country, language, and beliefs.
Americans are too casual. Baby boomers ushered in a more casual lifestyle; this is true. But what constitutes too casual is a cultural preference, and many people outside the U.S. believe Americans have crossed the line. Let your business contact take the lead in formality.
Americans are loud and boisterous. Compared to Asians and people from more demure cultures, Americans tend to be way over the top. The key to appealing to people from other cultures is to err on the side of being more reserved — at least until you have a chance to observe the level of exuberance your customers or business contacts exhibit.
Americans focus only on short-term gains. In countries that have been in existence for thousands of years, people often develop business and personal relationships that last for generations. These same folks often think that Americans tend to be rather shortsighted, looking to score a quick transaction and move on to the next deal.
When working with clients from other cultures, look at time spent socializing as time well spent. Although the initial process may take longer than you’re used to, keep in mind that this could save time and boost sales in the long run — when your clients and the people they refer begin the next transaction by trusting you.
Americans are somewhat brusque in business dealings. Outside the United States, salespeople and clients usually engage in a lot more small talk and relationship building before they get down to business. So, to work well in other countries, take this advice — chill out.
Americans are overly materialistic. The U.S. media do an outstanding job of stereotyping Americans as celebrity-hungry material girls (and guys). To make it clear this stereotype doesn't apply to you, ask fewer questions about people’s job, the cars they drive, and the houses they live in and more questions about the people's families, interests, and activities.
All Americans are rich. Thanks to television shows and movies shown around the world, many people have the mistaken impression that all Americans live in ten-bedroom mansions with solid gold water bowls for their dogs. The only way to dispel this common myth is to answer questions about what's important to you honestly.
Americans are extravagant and wasteful. Consider establishing green policies for your business. Starting a recycling program, reducing your paper use, and cutting fuel consumption demonstrates your commitment to being a responsible citizen of the world.