LouiseLouise Vignau, our Us office manager, takes the floor for a column dedicated to IT ecosystem in Silicon Valley in the aim to give you a lightning about new trends in this market in constant mutation.

Hi everyone,
One of the things I learnt here is that being aware of business habits and etiquettes makes business life and exchanges much easier. That’s why I decided to write this article, please read it if you ever do business in the US (punctually or in a long term perspective), it will prevent you from experiencing some funny misunderstandings and situations sometimes.
Just one little precision: this article’s aim isn’t to stereotype all Americans; it is just some useful statements and very simple pieces of advice you might want to know before coming here.


1) The precious value of time


Americans consider time as an actual asset they can lose, gain, invest, save, etc. What does it imply?
• It is very important to be on time (not > 5mn) and to meet deadlines: if not, you could be seen as a rude and/or undependable person.
• Be clear and straightforward: When you talk (in general), try to be the most straightforward and logical as you can. Trust me, this is a real challenge for us, French. In general, before getting to our point, we would talk about the context, give some recalls and details, use some very long procedural polite expressions. In the US, you will not be seen as a rude person if you just say directly and honestly what you want to say, so do not be afraid, YOU CAN DO IT! And, do not be insulted by their directness, this is absolutely not offensive. Besides, they will really show interest in what you say and so, they will not hesitate to express their opinions, disagreements or to ask you questions.
• Efficiency: Business is conducted rapidly so be prepared to begin business immediately, with little or no prior small talk. A meeting is considered successful if something concrete is decided or accomplished (it is even common to reach an oral agreement at the first meeting!)


2) Americans: informal and friendly…


• People do not wait to be introduced and will begin to speak with strangers as they stand in a queue or sit next to each other at an event. This makes networking much easier than in Europe.
• Greetings are casual: a handshake (no kisses guys!), a smile, and a ‘hello’ are all that is needed. Smile and maintain eye contact during the greeting, business and social conversations, it shows interest, sincerity and confidence. Use first names, and – very important – be sure to introduce everyone to each other.
• Table manners are more relaxed in the U.S. than in many other countries.
• In the Californian tech sector, the dressing code is also rather casual.


3) But business is business!


Americans are relaxed and very friendly but do not get wrong, this does not mean they do not take business seriously, on the contrary:
• Experience the ‘American Dream’: ‘every individual can succeed and prosper financially by working hard’. This idea contributes to a strong work ethic and a system that is merit based [believing that hard work deserves compensation]. Americans work long hours, take, on average, two weeks of vacation, and spend a lot of time doing work-related travel. It might be a bit stressful sometimes but, from my perspective, working in the US really worth it and is so stimulating and exciting: you are always pushed to do things better, to reach your limits and at the end, you usually get rewarded for that!
• Business relationships are formed between companies rather than between people. In order to establish a long and successful business relationship, it is not important to develop a personal relationship with whom you do business.


4) Others pieces of advice or useful comments:

• Use statistics to back up your claims, since Americans are impressed by hard data and evidence
• Ask permission to smoke before lighting a cigarette or cigar. Due to health concerns, you may or may not be given permission (even in the streets!)
• Americans are often uncomfortable with silence. Silence is avoided in social or business meetings.
• Business conversation may take place during meals.

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