So…you’re moving to the U.S. and wondering what to expect?
There are many aspects of American culture that visitors to the U.S. often are not aware of, but which are of critical importance to understanding how to interact with Americans. Each of these aspects of American culture merits an article on its own, so, in this article, we will address two of the most important considerations for newcomers to the U.S. who might not fully grasp or be aware of their entrenchment in our culture. This article will cover a particular aspect of United States culture: convenience & work hours.
Let's begin with the emphasis on and demand for convenience. There are a number of businesses that are open late or even 24-hours a day, including gas stations and convenience stores, grocery stores, some department stores (Target and Wal-Mart are typically open until 10 pm or later), and some fast-food restaurants. Americans are used to being able to shop seven days a week, even though on Saturdays and Sundays business hours are typically reduced. All of this convenience generates certain expectations about access to services around the clock, and it often spills over into the work world.
2) Work Hours
Workers in the U.S. are increasingly expected to be available after work hours are over. It is not uncommon for someone to go back to work in the evening or on weekends and be required to check emails and answer calls even when on vacation. Of course, this is due in part to the increased spread of mobile devices that allow people to stay connected.
If you are coming to the U.S. for work, you may find that you will be expected to work more and longer hours than you are used to, which can be a real culture shock for some. The “typical” work week is 40 hours for full-time employment; however, it is no longer the average amount of hours worked each week by salaried employees. Some employers view a willingness to work overtime as a positive trait, which may create an expectation for employees to put in more hours. You may hear Americans talking about “work ethic” as an important key to success.
So, while convenience is often viewed as a positive, it may seem at first that this comes from a lack of planning leading to an artificial need for greater access to goods and services, but it is a more complicated issue. With longer working hours, many have to shop later in the evenings or on the weekends. Also, culturally speaking, identity is bound up with one's work or profession in the U.S., which is why many people are willing to work a lot of hours and make many sacrifices for their careers. So, if you find yourself struggling to balance work and personal life while living here, you are in good company.
What do you think? Have you had any similar experiences to this or were they different? Please let us know in the comments below.