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American Culture

   International Center
    Pfeiffer University
     Understanding American Culture
 This presentation has been created to help you make
  a successful transition to the United States and to
                  Pfeiffer University.

“Culture, as a body of learned behaviors common to a
 given human society, acts rather like a template (i.e.
 it has predictable form and content), shaping behavior
 and consciousness within a human society from
 generation to generation.”

“Culture is ordinary: that is the first fact. Every human
society has its own shape, its own purposes, its own
         Cultural Generalizations
   Each culture has         By understanding a
    some                      new culture’s
    generalizations           values and
    that you can use to       characteristics you
    better understand         can better navigate
    its values and            the challenges of
    characteristics.          day-to-day life and
                              become more
                              comfortable in your
                              new surroundings.
    American Characteristics & Values
   individualism & self-       tolerance and
    reliance                     multiculturalism

   friendly, informal,          passionate about truth,
                                 justice, & equality
                                 firm believers in the
   confidence, idealism &       written word &
    ambition                     contractual agreements

   generosity, openness        affluence,
    and predictability           consumerism,
   respect for laws
 friendly, outgoing, informal
“Bold Talent shook his head. How like
children the Americans were, with their
pranks and easy warmth. Men who offered
their hands for strangers to shake, ladies
who sat and chatted at dinner with
gentlemen they had never seen before,
children who threw snowballs at adults no
matter what their station. He would miss
-Betty Bao Lord, Spring Moon
confidence, idealism, ambition, and
        “a can-do attitude”

“It is a fabulous         “The United States is
  country…it is the one
  place where miracles    like a gigantic boiler.
  not only happen, but    Once the fire is
  where they happen all   lighted under it there
  the time.”-Thomas       is no limit to the
                          power it can
“This is America. We
  can do anything         -Sir Edward Grey
  -Ted Turner
   tolerance, multiculturalism
“For me there was only    "America is not like a
one place to go if I      blanket -- one piece
couldn’t live in my own   of unbroken cloth, the
country: America. It is   same color, the same
a country of              texture, the same
immigrants. There is
such tolerance for the    size. America is more
foreign and unfamiliar.   like a quilt -- many
Americans continue to     patches, many pieces,
amaze me.”                many colors, many
                          sizes, all woven and
-Milos Foreman, Time      held together by a
                          common thread.“
                          -Henry M. Jackson
       respect for the law

“Once we were out in a rural area in the
middle of nowhere, and we saw an American
come to a stop sign. Though he could see in
both directions for miles and no traffic was
coming, he still stopped!”

       -Turkish exchange student in
         “There is a Difference”
    generosity, openness and
“Khoo Ah Au liked Americans. He found them on
the whole, generous, easygoing and completely
predictable. Above all he found their personal
relationships easy to read…

His own people were always very careful not to
give themselves away, to expose crude feelings
about one another. Americans seemed not to
care how much was understood by strangers. It
was almost as if they enjoyed being

-Eric Ambler, Passage of Arms
affluence, consumerism, and
“But as always happens,       “America is really a
no matter how often one       salesman’s society…they
visits America, the really    are always selling
overwhelming thing was        something. They are
the affluence…We should       selling their product, their
always remember that          company, their services,
when Americans talk about     and last but not least, they
being in a slump, they        are selling themselves-and
mean a slump by their         doing quite well at it too.”
standards. For the visitor,
the sheer wealth of the
country must remain the       -Visitor from the
abiding impression.”          Netherlands.

-Clive James, Flying Visits
    American attitudes toward…
Directness                Friendliness
 Americans are            Americans are
  generally direct in       generally friendly and
  their communication       outgoing when
  style (factual,           meeting new people.
  concise, using words
  efficiently, open)         This sometimes leads
                              international students
   Students may              to think they have
    (sometimes) need to       found a new best
    modify their              friend and then to be
    communication style       disappointed if this is
    to be understood by       not the case.
    faculty and staff.
        American attitudes toward…

Informality                 Concept: “Time is Money”
 Americans tend to be        Why? Americans want to
  informal in terms of        spend their time
  titles. If you are          productively. If you are
  unsure, ask them how        late meeting with them,
  they prefer to be           they have lost time to do
  addressed.                  other important things.

 Be on time or 5 minutes
  early (no earlier)
 Do NOT be late
        American attitudes toward…

                  Personal Hygiene

   Many Americans bathe or shower at least once a
    day, more often if they're involved in sports or
    fitness activities. The American bath or shower
    involves immersing the body in water and
    covering it completely with soap lather, often
    from a deodorant soap. Many Americans use
    talcum powder after their bath or shower, but
    virtually all well-groomed Americans use an
    underarm deodorant before they get dressed.
    Nearly $2 billion in deodorant is sold every year.
    Many Americans also wear newly cleaned
    clothes every day, including underwear, shirts
    and tops.
           American Attitudes Toward…

   Both men and women initiate dates (men more often)
   It is expected by many Americans that the man will at least
    offer to pay, but the host (asker) usually pays, or the bill is
    split (this is called “dutch treat”)
   Is it a date? If you’re not sure, it’s okay to ask.
   “I think of you as a friend” is often a polite way of saying “I
    don’t want to date you.”
   Despite what you may have seen from American television or
    movies, most Americans do not “sleep around.”
   If someone says “No” or “Stop” or indicates they are not
    ALONE. Not understanding that can lead to a serious
    offense like sexual harassment or assault.
        American attitudes toward…
                      Public Behavior

   Being “Orderly”
    • First come first served; first in line goes first
    • Get in line, wait your turn
    • Walk/Drive on the right side, pass on the left
   Respecting Others
    • Don’t block traffic
    • Don’t block view
    • No smoking in most public buildings
          Ask before you light up
   American attitudes toward…

America is a highly religious country,
and has been since its earliest days.
Nearly every religion in the world has
organized institutions in the United
States. American religious institutions
are large, powerful and influential in
social and political life.
           American attitudes toward…
                 Cell Phone Etiquette
   Do not allow cell phones to ring in class or when
    you are meeting with faculty or staff at Pfeiffer.
   Also, do not let them ring while at movies, theatres
    and other performances.
   If the phone rings, turn it off. Do not talk to the
   Inappropriate cell phone use is considered rude
     Adjustment to a new culture often occurs
             in four distinct phases
   Honeymoon Stage

   Hostility Stage
    (Culture Shock)

   Humor Stage
    (Gradual Adjustment)

   Home Stage

    For more information on these phases look in the International Student
    Handbook’s discussion of “Adjusting to Life and Customs in the U.S.”
          Symptoms of Hostility Phase:
   homesickness

   withdrawal: spending time only with people from home

   need for excessive amounts of sleep

   compulsive eating or drinking

   irritability

   stereotyping or hostility toward locals

   physical ailments (psychosomatic illnesses)

   loss of concentration
    Suggestions to help you to adapt to
            your new culture
    Accept as normal, a certain      Try to get more rest and eat
    amount of confusion.               well.
    Don’t expect too much of
    yourself.                         Ask questions. If you are not
                                       sure what someone means, do
    Talk with an American             not hesitate to ask them.
    classmate or ask a faculty
    member to explain certain
    aspects of American culture.       Speak English as often as
     More Suggestions for Adapting…

• Keep a journal about your experiences and emotions
• Set aside time each day to do something special and DO IT.
• Stay physically active (Intramural teams, running, biking)
• Speak with a trained counselor in Pfeiffer’s Counseling Center
   (ext. 3422).
• Speak with someone in Health Services (ext. 3425) if you
   develop physical symptoms.
• Speak with an advisor in the International Center (ext. 3368).
       Slang Terms & Phrases Defined

   all that - superior to others
   around the bend or corner – nearby
   awesome - great; neat
   bad - good
   baloney - not true
   beat it – go away
   bite the bullet – do what is necessary no matter how difficult
   blow your top – to become excited or angry
   bogus - useless; incorrect
   bookworm - someone who reads a lot
   blow your stack - to become very angry
               Slang Terms (continued)
   brown noser – someone who tries to find find favor with someone
   bull – to discuss at length; false
   carried away - over-react
   chick - female (often regarded as offensive)
   chick flick – a movie that females might enjoy
   chill/chill out - to relax
   choked up – too upset to speak
   cool - awesome; neat
   cramp my style – to interfere with what one is doing
   crash - to rest or sleep
   dog – to spurn or treat someone badly; a friend
   diss - put down/ gossip
               Slang Terms (continued)
   don't go there/don't start - stop talking about that
   down the road - some distance away
   driving me crazy - aggravated/annoyed
   dude - a person (usually male)
   duh - of course
   fine – cute
   fixing to – about to do something
   freak out – become hysterical
   funky – not good
   get off my back - leave me alone
   getting on my nerves – becoming aggravated or frustrated
   get right on it - start immediately
   grub - food
   hit the road - leave
              Slang Terms (continued)
   hold down the fort – take charge
   hold it - stop; wait
   hold up – to delay; wait; to rob
   hop skip and a jump – not far away
   hottie - an attractive person
   homey – a good friend or someone from your home town
   just picking - just kidding
   ill – upset
   in one ear and out the other – not listening or taking advice
   keep in touch – write, call, visit
   kick up your heels – to celebrate
   kill two birds with one stone - accomplish two things at once
   killing time - idly passing time away
   kiss off – dismiss
               Slang Terms (continued)
   knock out – attractive person; punch
   like - no real meaning; just a filler
   my bad - my fault or mistake
   neck of the woods - general location
   nip it in the bud - take care of a situation before it gets out of control
   not over my dead body - refuse; disagree
   off the top of my head - without much thought
   out like a light – most often used when referring to someone sleeping
   over my head – do not understand
   over the hill - older adult
   over the moon – excited, enthusiastic
   pick your brain- get as much information from you as possible
   pill - a disagreeable person
   pissed off – angry
   pulling my leg or chain - kidding or joking
                    Slang Terms (continued)
   rag – to tease or disparage
   royal shaft – poor treatment
   see you around - farewell remark
   shoot the breeze - have a conversation
   started to – was going to do something but did not
   sweet - great
   sucks - bad; terrible
   talk my ear off – the person you are talking to has a lot to say
   tight - have a close relationship with
   tough – difficult; too bad; food that’s difficult to chew
   trip/trip out/trippin - a strange thing; to overreact; to act surprised
   unglued – hysterical
   uptight – serious; conservative
   What’s up? - greeting; hi
    Thank you for your kind attention
   Good luck to you
    getting settled and
    enjoy your classes
    this semester.

   Please visit us in
    the International
    Center if we can
    assist you in any