Understanding 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 meanings.” 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 outgoing firm believers in the confidence, idealism & written word & ambition contractual agreements generosity, openness affluence, and predictability consumerism, capitalism 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 them.” -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 Wolfe power it can generate” “This is America. We can do anything -Sir Edward Grey here.” -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 predictability “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 transparent.” -Eric Ambler, Passage of Arms affluence, consumerism, and capitalism “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. Promptness 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… Dating 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 interested, YOU MUST BACK OFF AND LEAVE THEM 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… Religion 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 caller. Inappropriate cell phone use is considered rude behavior. Adjustment to a new culture often occurs in four distinct phases Honeymoon Stage (Euphoria) Hostility Stage (Culture Shock) Humor Stage (Gradual Adjustment) Home Stage (Adaptation) 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 country 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 possible. 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 powerful 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 way.