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Stereotypes

Don't believe all of the stereotypes you may have heard about Americans. Even the ones that are true in general may not be true about specific individuals or a large segment of the population. For example, although Americans tend to be louder and more boisterous than people from other cultures (especially at athletic events), many of the people you meet will be quiet and polite. Some people may be intolerant and xenophobic, but most will be pleasant and welcoming. Remember that American films and television exaggerate in order to generate excitement, and so present a rather distorted picture of what life in the United States is really like. Likewise, tourists are not always on their best behavior.

Americans do tend to be more informal than people from other countries. It is common for Americans to wear casual clothing to school and to greet professors by first name. Nevertheless, good manners and politeness are always appropriate. If you are courteous and polite, and dress a little more formally than your American friends, it will only reflect well on you.

However, there are situations and environments in which formality is the norm. Some businesses require their employees to wear a uniform or a suit. It would be inappropriate to wear a T-shirt and blue jeans to a job interview. Some of the more prestigious restaurants require a coat and tie. Americans tend to dress up for cultural events (the opera, theater and ballet) and to dress down for athletic events. Formal wear is required at weddings and funerals, or any other event with religious overtones.

Rid yourself of any preconceived notions of American behavior before you arrive. If you rely on the stereotypes, you will likely put yourself into an awkward and embarrassing situation and offend your American acquaintances. Some of the more common stereotypes of American citizens include:

  • Boastful and arrogant.
  • Disrespectful of authority.
  • Drunkard.
  • Extravagant and wasteful.
  • Generous.
  • Ignorant of other countries and cultures.
  • Informal.
  • Insensitive.
  • Lazy.
  • Loud and obnoxious.
  • Promiscuous.
  • Racist.
  • Rich and wealthy.
  • Rude and immature.
  • Snobbish.
  • Stingy.
  • Think they know everything.
  • Thinks every country should imitate the US.
  • Uninformed about politics.

 

 
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