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Living the dream: Top tips for smooth negotiations with the American market


Old worldAmerica offers business the world's largest commercial market. Cathy Wellings has some advice for those who wish to dip their toe in the economy across the pond.

Photo of Cathy Wellings"Compared to the Brits, Americans have a more direct and open communication style and attitudes which impact on the way they do business."

It has been said that Britain and the USA are two countries separated by the same language. Many assume that the Brits and Americans are similar due to their colonial ties and 'special relationship' but actually they are often more than just an ocean apart. Since independence in 1776, the United States has developed its own identity and ways of doing things. Compared to the Brits, Americans have a more direct and open communication style and attitudes which impact on the way they do business.

Americans tend to be very easy to deal with due to their open nature. They have a very strong work ethic and are not afraid of taking risks to improve the success of their business. Success is often measured in terms of profit, so when conducting business, they will tend to prioritise tasks over relationships. Just as former US president Calvin Coolidge once stated: "the business of America is business".

As the world's largest economy, America's influence on business culture is unmistakable and there are boundless opportunities for others to achieve their very own 'American dream'. In order to do so, one must first have an understanding of this young, diverse culture as well as knowledge of American business etiquette.

The following tips will help ensure that you maximise your opportunities for doing business in the United States:

  • Be punctual. Arriving late to appointments is considered disrespectful
  • Meet deadlines. In the United States, 'time is money' and Americans place great emphasis on getting the best results in the quickest time

  • Be polite. Politeness is highly valued in the USA and Americans will expect you to match their level of politeness
  • Participate in small talk. Americans like to create a comfortable environment before conducting business by chatting for a few minutes
  • Always remember to shake hands. It is customary to begin and end business meetings with a brief but firm handshake

  • Remember to minimise physical contact. Americans respect other people's space and privacy and are very protective of their own 'personal bubble'
  • Address colleagues with their appropriate title at first, but don't be surprised if you are invited to call someone by their first name soon after meeting
  • Don't be offended if your American colleague seems frank. Americans like to get down to business and don't like to 'beat about the bush' when it comes to negotiating. They are often blunt which can be perceived as rudeness by certain cultures

  • Cathy Wellings is the culture and communication manager
    at Communicaid. She oversees the design and delivery of more than 500 programmes in over 30 countries every year. She has lived and worked in France and Spain as well as the UK, training professionals in culture and communication skills.

    For more information on Communicaid you can visit the company's website at

    Read last months feature The world's your oyster

    We are planning on running a country by country business etiquette guide, with China and India next on the list. If there is a country that you would like us to look at, please let me know: email [email protected]


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