USA – Cultural Quiz

Extract from the book “Culture shock: USA” by Esther Wanning

Cultural Quiz - USAHere follow a few situations over which some foreign visitors have been known to stumble. What would you do?

Situation 1

You are a man employed by a large company, and many of your co-workers are women. Where you come from, strong barriers separated men and women, and you find you really like the looseness between the sexes here. To show how much you like working with women, you:

A Touch them often, draping an arm around the ladies’ shoulders or taking hold of a hand or arm.
B Compliment the women constantly on their hair, clothes, and pretty smiles.
C Compliment your female colleagues on their good work.

Comments on Situation 1

Although a lot of contact is permissible between men and women in this society, the office is not a dating situation, and women should be treated professionally. Too much of A could get you in hot water; you could ever face charges of sexual harassment. B will simply be found annoying. C will be pleasing to one and all.

Situation 2

You want to have a telephone installed quickly at your new apartment. You should:

A Call the telephone company and accept the first appointment for installation that you are offered.
B Appear in person at the telephone company’s offices and explain how important it is that you get a phone promptly.
C Find someone with connections to the phone company who can see that you go to the top of the list.

Comments on Situation 2

A is all you need to do. Most businesses serve their customers impartially on the basis of first-come, first-served. Your phone is likely to be installed within a week.

Situation 3

A friend has invited you to a dinner at a nice restaurant. You dine well, and the end the waiter brings the check and puts it in the middle of the table. You expect your friend to pick up the check, but he (or she) doesn’t. You wait, and the conversation grows slow, and still he (she) doesn’t. You are getting very tired and are beginning to think that he expects you to pick up the check. What do you do?

A Grit your teeth and wait some more.
B Pick up the check and pay it.
C Pick up the check and say, “Shall we split it?”

Comments on Situation 3

C is the most reasonable course of action. You could also just produce your share of the check, based on what you ate and drank.

You may have been justified in expecting him to pay, particularly if he selected the restaurant. But people often propose meals together without intending to pay for the other person. If your friend happens to be a client of yours, he might be hoping you’ll pay, but if the dinner was his idea he should not expect you to. Unless you’re very sure someone is paying for you, take enough money to cover dinner when you go out.

Situation 4

In the college cafeteria, you meet an American and fall into a long and revealing conversation. You are new in the USA and lonely. Here, you think, is a real friend. You exchange phone numbers, but your new friend doesn’t call. The following week you see her again in the cafeteria, but although she smiles and says “hi” in a friendly way, she passes by your table to sit with other people. You feel very hurt. What has happened?

A She found out more about you and decided not to pursue the friendship.
B Much as she enjoyed the conversation, it wasn’t necessarily meaningful to her. The rapport the two of you quickly achieved does not make her think of you as a special friend, and having an intimate conversation does not commit her to future closeness.
C She has so many intimate conversations that she has forgotten all about this one.

Comments on Situation 4

B is the most probable answer. You’ll have to build up more of a shared history before you become anybody special to her. Why don’t you call her? This may prove to be a real friendship some day; it just isn’t one yet. C is a possibility as well.

Situation 5

A friend is visiting your house when the phone rings. It is someone you don’t hear from often and you are anxious to catch up on news. What should you do?

A Ignore the visiting friend in favour of the telephoning one and have a nice, long chart. Apologize when you hang up.
B Express your happiness at hearing from the caller, then explain that you have company and ask when you can return the call.
C You shouldn’t have answered the phone at all.

Comments on Situation 5

Either B or C. Not answering the phone is easier if you have an answering machine. A live visitor should always take precedence over the one who dropped in by phone. As Americans allocate their time carefully, they will resent their visiting time with you being idled away while you talk to someone else. Even there are the other people around to entertain, guests will not like being treated as second fiddles.

Situation 6

While visiting the USA on business you would like to make contact with Company X. How do you go about it?

A Find out who is in charge of your area of interest and write to him or her well in advance of your visit. Suggest what you might do for Company X. If the response is positive, set up a precise appointment before leaving home.
B Step in at Company X’s office during the course of your visit and ask to see the president.
C Call a day or two in advance and make a date to visit with anyone who’s around.

Comments on Situation 6

A is best. Americans hate to waste time, they’re not apt to see you unless they have good reason to believe it’s worthwhile. You can chance C sometimes, but your odds are poor of seing anyone consequential. B is faily hopeless, although out of politeness some minor functionary may see you. As a person with demonstrated time to spend in waiting, you will be assumed to be of little importance.

Situation 7

You hire a nanny. Although you consider her wages very high, you are glad to have her as she is sensible and reliable. However, it distresses you that she calls you by your first name. You don’t want to hurt her feelings, but you wish she would call you Mrs. Ayashi. Can you ask her to?

A No. She would be too insulted at the suggestion. She hasn’t called anyone by title since her schooldays.
B Yes, but you must ask tactfully.
C Yes, just tell her you think it is very rude of her to call you by first name.

Comments on Situation 7

B. Tact should spare you hurt feelings. You might bring up the subject at a happy moment when you are offering some kind of treat so that she will realize that you bear her no ill will personally.
If she is a mature woman, we assume that you have taken care to call her Mrs. Eliot, rather than Rose. You should explain to her that in your country only people who have known each other for a very long time are on first name terms, and while you hold her in high regard, you cannot get used to the sound of your given name coming from someone you meet so recently. You might add that you know this is not the custom in the USA and you understand that she does not mean to be rude. If she is a great deal younger than you, you may call her by first name while explaining that where you come from younger people always address older ones by title.