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This chapter is all about the US. It starts with a bit of general information, followed by a part about eating habits. The general part includes for example information about demographics, history, religion and culture and the second part contains information about mealtimes, business timing, local flavours and general customs in the US.
The territory of the United States as we know it now was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493. He and other settlers from Europe started the colonial history of the US and with them came lots of European immigrants and slaves from the West Indies.
By the 1750s, the colonies had achieved a high standard of living: most free men could vote and owned their own farms but since the colonies belonged to Great Britain, taxes had to be paid to London. 13 of the northern colonies joined together to break free of the British government which led to the American Revolution. In July 1776 the British were defeated and the country called the United States of America was declared independent by the Congress.
In 1803 the US bought Louisiana, expanding more and more westward. In 1861, some southern states wanted to form their own country because they wanted to maintain their policy concerning slavery. This eventually led to the Civil War, which lasted 4 years and was the deadliest war in American history. Abraham Lincoln reunited the nation and the slaves were freed.
After this the economy grew very fast and thanks to the millions of immigrants, the US became the world's foremost industrial power.
The United States is a country with great diversity; they have multiple different religions and nationalities living together. The larger part of the country, almost 80%, is white and their main language is English. Another great influence in the American culture are the Hispanics, they make up for over 10% of the population and with their rich culture they bring amongst several other ethnicities that exist within the borders of the United States. Therefore the United States form a very multi cultural society.
Although many different languages are spoken within the country, the main language is English. The majority of schools teach in this language and this makes it the most important language in the U.S. The importance of the language is also shown when looking at the greater media sector of the country. All major broadcasting channels communicate in English and many shows, movies, series and documentaries are in English and are broadcasted worldwide spreading the rich culture and language world wide.
American culture is changing it is adapting to all the differences and cultural swings today's society is facing. For example the treatment of black people, who still are a minority in the country, but are nowadays treated equally. This important part of the American population grew trust over the years and the election of Barack Obama as the new president shows how well different cultures can work together to reach a positive outcome for all parties involved. Another great change the country is struggling with is gay marriage, legal in some states but still a very soar spot for others.
The United States is a country build on developing, and rewarding. If someone brings something of value to a process, a company or to the country he gets rewarded and he move up on the ladder of society or to a better position within a company. Income, job, achievements and cultural background create how someone is valued in life and how he is treated; it sets his reputation.
When looking at all the different cultures in the United States it is only normal to see all the different types of food. Every culture brings its own personal flavours to the country and all these different flavours and cultures make up the different eating styles and habits. The different food styles also vary per state in relation to their position, for example Massachusetts is famous for its seafood dishes, whereas Texas is famous for barbecue and grill dishes. But in general people can try any kind of food in any state because of all the large chain restaurants. And on the streets finger food is offered, these are products like Mexican churros in California or Pretzels in New York City. One can taste a bite of local flavours without having to go to a restaurant.
Most popular food in the United States is junk food or fast food, over 110 billion dollars are spend each year on unhealthy food, this is more than 40% of all money spend on food. The phenomenon of eating out changed from being a once in a time thing to a day-to-day activity. Nowadays people in the United States eat out 3 to 4 nights out of the week. Whereas the number of people eating healthy is rapidly decreasing according to the food guide pyramid. Only 2 percent of children in elementary and middle school eat healthy according to the pyramid.
The reason for eating fast food is because people in the United States are always in a hurry, either on their way to work, home, sports or just waiting to go to their next meeting. But when it comes to a business dinner it is a whole different story. When a business dinner is planned extra care is taken into consideration. It is important to give the right impression, and convince the prospect client or your boss of your abilities. Therefore it is important to pick a restaurant that is elegant, and helps you get the client or makes you at least look professional. And during these dinners you usually do not order a hamburger and fries, but you look for something more sophisticated like a salad, pasta, fish or chicken something that represents the overall message of the dinner.
When people want to impress someone they want to offer them something that is exquisite, something special that they will remember or cannot get at home. Because the United States is so large there are many different local products available. The product a specific region offers depends on the sources and the different cultures that are present in the specific region. For example Salt Water Taffy in Ocean City, New Jersey, the product has a history and originated in Ocean City therefore it is a nice gesture to a prospective client, or an overseas client something to remember your meeting by and something they cannot get at home. Another way of giving a personal touch to the dinner with local flavours is for example setting the business dinner at one of the local restaurants that offer the delicacies of that particular area, for example the Maine Lobster. Seafood is considered to be safe food, therefore you could serve this during a business dinner when trying to leave a good impression.
Another way of proposing a new idea to a client is by inviting them for a drink, for example going to a nice wine tasting, or cocktail place that offers great local drinks such as Mexican oriented drinks close to the Mexican border, or a wine tasting place up in the hills that offers wine from that region. These places offer an elegant atmosphere and give an extra personal, local touch to the meeting.
When arriving on a business meeting the traditional form of greeting is a firm handshake with eye contact. People who demonstrate modest or no eye contact, are viewed as insecure and lacking in confidence. Most of the times a meeting starts with a formality such as Mr. or Ms. but people quickly move to using first names, especially when they're engaged in social activities with the person outside work. Professional titles are not used much when addressing people.
American business clothes tend to be casual or less formal: for men, trousers and sport coats, dress shirts, or sweaters. For women, trouser suits and a blouse or a dress. Many companies have a 'dress-down Friday' policy. Companies on the west coast tend to be less formal than on the more conservative east coast, but in the entire country most of the high level managers, continue to dress formally. Certain businesses such as accounting, banking, legal, and financial consulting are more formal than for example the IT- sector, where you'll sometimes encounter the chief executive in jeans and a T-shirt.
As said in the Business Timing part, Americans strongly believe that time is money and therefore they will not waste any time in getting to know their business partners or building up a personal relationship with them. So also during business lunches or dinners, they get down to business relatively soon. During these meetings there is an informal atmosphere because people do not want to emphasize on status differences.
When dining in a restaurant, who pays depends on the situation. If you invite someone, you should pay. If the lunch is a working session for mutual benefit, rather than one party trying to sell something to the other, it is sometimes appropriate to split the bill, although this can be a little awkward. If you invite somebody out socially, it's polite to make it clear at the outset who is paying, i.e. saying something