Foreign workers in the U.S.

The US tends to be a bit more formal and structured when it comes to workplace culture. While this may not be difficult to adjust to, it will help that Americans tend to be mostly welcoming toward workers from abroad.  The American workforce has historically been quite diverse, so acceptance into the workforce among colleagues won’t be a problem.

American lifestyle and culture

If you’ve lived in a western country, especially in the UK, the US will not give you much culture shock at all.  One thing many will be surprised with is the somewhat lack of leisure time compared to other western countries, and vastly different from European countries.  While many do work a full 40 hours a week, the tendency is for people to get in early and stay late, if you want to impress your boss or further your career. Schedules tend to be jam-packed, and pace of living is typically rushed.  Arriving promptly (10 minutes before the scheduled time) to business meetings is expected, and professional attire is usually a step or two more formal than in other western countries.  The number of days allowed for vacation is fewer than in the UK as well.

Although many view American culture as chock full of McDonalds burgers, Coca-colas, materialistic possessions, and pop culture entertainment, Americans have more to offer. They are a diverse people who change constantly with the flow of immigration, especially with African American and Latin American influences. Americans also love sports (becoming a baseball and American football fan is a must—just beware of strong rivalries), theatre, films, and music.  Drinking culture is slightly different such that there are no “pubs,” there are bars. Bars also tend to be open later than pubs do, and it is typical to go out to a bar Friday night with colleagues or friends and spend the weekend relaxing and running errands.

Spending your free time

When Americans get their hands on free time, they use it.  They will take trips into or out of the city, spend time with friends, family and neighbors, play sports, and do activities typical of other western countries.  Americans, especially in cities, tend to be accepting, so do whatever you feel like doing.  Many of the states and cities have vibrant and unique cultures—explore them and get acquainted to the buzz of Broadway in New York, the cool jazz of Chicago, and the hum of Hollywood in L.A.

Laws and customs

If you follow the law in the states, you’ll be fine. Otherwise, the laws are similar to other western countries. What may be hard to keep track of is each of the 50 states has slight variations of the same issues. For instance, drunk driving is illegal in the US, but there may be different levels of punishment in each state. Also, cocaine, heroin, ecstasy and similar hard drugs are illegal, but in some states, a low amount of marijuana is ok to posses. Same-sex marriage is legal in Massachusetts and Connecticut, but the federal government does not recognize same-sex marriage under the Defense of Marriage Act. Essentially, while the federal government has complete power in the states under the Constitution, it is usually the state governments that play a more visible role in Americans’ daily lives.

Christianity is the majority when it comes to religion, and is especially prominent in the southern states. Those with same-sex partners may be wary in living in southern areas, as Catholicism is prominent there. Abortion is legal under the Roe v. Wade court decision, but may be restricted by the states in certain situations.

Politically, America is historically split up geographically in terms of party preferences. You’ll find the conservatives (Republicans) in the Midwestern and southern states, while the more liberal (Democrats) populate major cities and the coastal states. Americans tend to be opinionated when it comes to politics and religion, so be wary if you don’t want to end up in a heated debate. Sometimes Americans get a bad wrap for being ignorant when it comes to current and international affairs, but this is a stereotype more than anything. National newspapers do tend to focus more on domestic affairs compared to other countries’ news organizations, though.