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We measure temperature using Farenheit. We’re not about the metric system. We tip.
We tend to do things a bit differently in the States.
So, what sets US apart from the rest of the world when it comes to work culture?
Business Insider spoke with four people with experience working in both the US and abroad – namely, Japan, England, Luxembourg, and Sweden.
Here’s what they had to say about working in the US:
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Americans are always on their phones, but rarely make calls
“In Europe, people prefer to talk over the phone to resolve issues, negotiate or coordinate,” says Thanos Dimadis, director of public policy at business community service Ivy. He was born in Athens and raised in Brussels. “When I was working as an editor-in-chief for one of the biggest TV networks in Athens and I was managing a team of journalists, most of my team preferred to give me a call instead of sending an email to keep me posted.”
Moving to New York to work at Second Nexus, he says that he found most Americans prefer to connect via text or email at work.
“I actually prefer this, because I think it is a much more efficient way to communicate, but I could see how other foreigners might be surprised by this more impersonal communication style,” Dimadis says.
Katie Davies, VP of international solutions development at Radius, a firm that assists US companies looking to expand to new global markets, agrees. She’s from the UK, and now lives in the US with her family.
“People could be slightly offended if you’re not paying attention in a meeting because you’re distracted by your phone,” she says.
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Americans live to work, while Europeans work to live
Davies says that, generally speaking, one of the main differences between work environments in the US and Europe is the perception of the relationship between organizations and employees.
“I think people in Europe tend to have a culture of working to live, as opposed to the American culture of living to work,” she says.
Citing the concept of at-will employment in the US and Finland’s basic income experiment, she says that there tends to be more of a protectionist attitude toward workers in Europe.
“It’s embedded in the culture that you just have a more socialistic approach to your employees,” she says. “If people are happy at work, then they’re going to be productive and they’re going to want to come to work.”
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Americans are always at the office
“Perks [in the US] often encourage people to stay at the office,” Bjorn Jeffery, CEO of the Stockholm-based game development studio Toca Boca, previously told Business Insider. “Like, we’ll give you breakfast if you come in early, or we’ll give you dinner if you stay late. As long as you stay in the office, we will reward you.”
Meanwhile in Sweden, employees to tend to take off weeks for summer vacations. There’s generally little social pressure discouraging workers from taking off some time to unwind.
Davies says that she’s noticed that, in the US, paid time off tends to include sick days.
“In Europe, you get vacation time to vacation, and sick time for when you’re sick,” she says.
However, Davies notes that this attitude toward taking time off on has taken hold in some urban centers and industries outside of the US.
“I used to work in central London,” she says. “Frankly, I never took a lunch break. I always used to eat my sandwich at the desk. If you’re in Singapore or London, it’s going to be much more akin to somewhere like New York.”
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Americans use first names at work
A major difference between work culture in the US and Japan is the level of formality in the office, says Noriyuki Matsuda, founder of SOURCENEXT, a consumer-facing software publisher. Five years ago, he moved from Japan to the US with his family.
“Depending on where you’re traveling from, you’ll likely experience a much more casual environment in the US, where hierarchies you’re accustomed to are a non-factor,” he says. “Don’t expect formalities such as being addressed by your last name or according to your age.”
Matsuda says Japanese businesspeople might be surprised that first names are used at every level of companies in the US. “This would be considered rude in Japan,” he says. “Also, businesspeople from other countries would also be very surprised to see a CEO actually cooking burgers, manning the playlist, or playing bartender at a company event! In Japan, CEOs are catered to and you would not find them being the BBQ master at the company event. The US is more results oriented, rather than process oriented, so you better hit your numbers and get used to less formality.”
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Americans don’t keep their private lives private
Dimadis says that the work environment in Europe also tends to be more formal, as are the relationships between bosses and employees.
“European employees tend to hide from their employers what’s happening in their personal life,” he says. “They don’t like to expose so much of their private life to their boss or the person who manages them as part of a team,” Dimadis says.
“It’s also common for someone who works for a European company to lie to his boss about the real reasons why he feels upset or can’t show up to the office. I would say that the American culture is much more open and honest. It’s preferable for your employer to know the truth about how you feel or why you are not in the mood to work that day rather than lying or trying to sneak out of the office.”