American Manners : Informal, Not Absent

Mike Tigas/The Maneater Officers and members of the Missouri International Student Council eat together at the Council's inaugural dinner, Saturday night.  New officers were announced and founding officers were recognized at the event.

image via Mike Tigas

Some of the biggest educational moments for our interns do not happen in class or during work. They happen in cultural exchanges during lunch, after work, outside the classroom, or between work assignments. In other words, in daily life.

We’ve already covered some of these educational differences – like the shock of the two-week summer vacation, or the difference between vacations, a holiday, and “the holidays.” But there are many cultural things that do not appear or get fully explained in guide or text books. And they are worth pointing out to newcomers, because they truly make a huge difference in how our interns enjoy their stay in the US. Two of them are about the perceived informality in the US. [Read more…]

Work-Life Balance

Tough choices

Does it have to be an either/or? (via Mat)

Marketplace aired a really interesting segment last week about the effects of the Chinese New Year on American businesses. The festivities for Chinese New Year last a couple of weeks on the mainland. But the fallout for American businesses, who outsource a lot of production and manufacturing to China, can last months. Supply pipelines get backed up for up to two months and employee turnover is high, with some employees simply never coming back. The segment – which we highly encourage you to listen to – ends with Marketplace’s Lizzie O’Leary and American CEO Scott Ellyson of East West Manufacturing wondering if the situation will:

  • remain unchanged, with American companies working with Chinese tradition even though it makes a significant financial dent in bottom lines
  • going the American way where we may go slow or work through the holidays but certainly never shut down completely
  • or some combination in between.

Happy medium? (via Dan4th Nicholas)

Ellyson seems to think the answer is a combination in between. And we support that. Here’s why. [Read more…]

Holidays, Vacations, and Rolling Vacations

kid on a beach on vacation

“Vacation’s all I ever wanted …. ” (Image by Boudewijn Berends)

Ah summer….when everyone takes a vacation! Right? Wrong.

Newcomers to the US are routinely surprised that the country doesn’t shut down in the summer. We certainly have some of the same wicked temperatures they do, often in old towns where air-conditioning isn’t a given. And yet, Americans suit up and go to work June through August. That isn’t because we don’t believe in vacation. Rather, it’s because the US does what’s called a “rolling vacation.” Yes, the summer is traditionally when people take a vacation. But not everyone at the same time. It’s a very very rare company or business where everyone has vacation at the same time and business is suspended. There is always a skeleton staff, during regular business hours. Even when business is slow. (Unsurprisingly, this catches Americans by surprise – routinely – when we go abroad. “Why is it so empty? What do you mean the store’s closed until Monday?” And of course, the answer is usually “vacation.” Or if you’re in the UK, “holiday.”) [Read more…]

What’s For Lunch?

Lunch. One word. Fairly universal. But how the American workplace treats the mid-day meal is always eye-opening to Advanse’s students. Here are some of the things our students notice and struggle with right away:

When Is Lunch?!

Lunch break + Calligrapomorphic

A lot of people in the US eat at their desks – either because of work load or because it’s quicker! (Image by Mo Riza)

Ah yes, the American predilection to simply barrel through the day, not stop, and just work work work because time is money. Americans are some of the hardest working people on the planet, and many will argue that the direct result is one of the largest, most robust economies in the world – despite the current economic riptides. We don’t disagree. But we’ll be the first to say that although efficiency is a good thing, we are not robots. [Read more…]

Judge Not: Bill Gates’ South Korean Faux Pas

Did you hear about the one where Bill Gates didn’t get the memo and came off as a goober?

First, let’s define the word goober….it can mean an assortment of things, including a peanut. But when you call someone a goober, you’re essentially using an American southernism to call that person an unsophisticated person, a yokel, a rube. And in fact, the first time I’d heard the word used hilariously and disparagingly was to describe—wait for it—Bill Gates! His offense? He was on Jon Stewart’s “Daily Show” and once again, didn’t get the memo. Guests on any show usually wait for the host to go to commercial before they exit the stage. Gates? Not so much. When the conversation was over, Gates just got up and left. This being a comedy show, the result was even more hilarity, with Stewart milking it for laughs.


The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Bill Gates Crashes
Daily Show Full Episodes Indecision Political Humor The Daily Show on Facebook

But the next morning, as we laughed about it at work, my boss said, “Once a goober, always a goober.” [Read more…]

How Much To Tip?

funny sign that says "tipping is not a city in china"

An old restaurant joke! image by mayhem

Do you tip where you’re from? Do you leave a little extra cash on the table for your waiter before you leave a restaurant? A bit for the cleaning staff at your hotel room when you check out? An extra fiver or tenner for your hairdresser or manicurist on the way out the door?

If you don’t, you are not alone. Because tipping is not a universally uniform practice. And in fact, there are many places where it doesn’t happen at all. But tipping is the norm in the US. And many an international student or visitor will find him or herself marked as the outsider, unpleasantly so, upon leaving no tip. [Read more…]

Tax Day – Your “International Visitor” FAQ

More than the Ides of March, Americans dread the Ides of April, aka Tax Day, April 15. For that is when we all render unto Caesar and pay our taxes. And although Advanse’s students are not affected, this is still a useful post to read and file away. If nothing else, you’ll know what not to say, particularly to fellow international students who might be affected. Because more than one international student will find themselves unpleasantly surprised this week, especially since FICA’s been nibbling away at their small F1-Visa allowable 19.5-hours-per-week-maximum paycheck all year long.

Image of tax prep - papers, glasses, pen, coffee

What you need to do your taxes – your paychecks, a calculator, patience, and coffee. Coffee always helps.

“What do you mean I still have to pay taxes?!” [Read more…]

American Netiquette

Hey that’s rude, can’t it wait until after the meeting? (Image, courtesy of One Social Media)

It might seem like some of the subjects we cover are much too basic. Perhaps. But some issues – social media profiles, proof reading your resume, respecting deadlines, when to multi-task – are worth emphasizing. Even overemphasizing if words like deadlines or Facebook convey different things in different cultures. Netiquette – or Internet etiquette – is one of those classic examples. As the new AMERIGO students found out on day 1:  [Read more…]

To Respect Is To Listen, With An Open Mind And In Good Faith

This is the second in a series of short posts from former Advanse intern, Maura Brennan:

Professionalism in the United States revolves around one core concept: respect. Everything Americans do in meetings or during the workday revolves around respect. From being on time, to not interrupting the person speaking, to giving your full attention, respect is at the core of everything Americans do whether the fact is acknowledged or not. [Read more…]

Happy Holidays And Happy New Year!

“Happy holidays!” You hear that greeting a lot this time of year in the US. For a lot of people in the US, including non-Christians, it’s an odd phrase, controversial even. But for many others – particularly in the DC area, which attracts people from every corner of the world and every faith possible – it is an inclusive greeting, one that acknowledges Christmas, and extends the season’s warmth to everyone. Whether they are Christian, or even religious.

Indeed that is the shock to a lot of non-Americans. [Read more…]