Getting to Know Americans

Who are these “Americans”? What makes them act the way they do? How can you tell whether or not puzzling American behavior is because of cultural conflict or individual differences?

There are no simple answers to these questions. So many factors can account for individual diversity — ethnic background, regional differences, religious or political orientation, socioeconomic class and more. It is possible, however, to examine mainstream American values and culture in order to begin to understand some Americans, some of the time. This brief exploration of some of the most influential values from mainstream U.S. culture should help you in your quest to get to know Americans and the American way of life.

A bit of advice though: As with all generalizations - apply this information carefully. Sometimes it will apply and sometimes it won’t. And above all, as you read through it, do so with an open mind. A discussion of cultural values is not about right or wrong. It’s about different ways of doing things. Remember, different can just be different.


americansU.S. Culture
& Values


academicsSexual Harassment


shockWomen’s Roles


mindsetAdjusting Your Mindset
(Adjusting to U.S. Life)


shockGay & Lesbian Life


buildingBehaving Responsibly

Suggested Reading


Living in the United States by Ani Hawkinson and Raymond C. Clark, ISBN-10: 0866472231, ISBN-13: 978-0866472234

In the Know in the USA: The Indispensable Guide to Working and Living in the United States by Jennifer Phillips, ISBN-10: 0609611135, ISBN-13: 978-0609611135

101 American Customs. H. Collis, Passport Books, 2000. Delightful collection of American customs, wonderfully illustrated with quirky cartoons.

American Ways. Amanda R. Doran, and Susan J. Szmania, Intercultural Press, 2002. A basic, easy-to-read review of American attitudes by an international student advisor.

Culture Shock! USA. Esther Mannin. Graphic Arts Publishers.  Excellent in-depth guide to the culture of the United States, including logistical information.

Living in the U.S.A., Sixth Edition, Alison Raymond Lanier and Jef C. Davis, Intercultural Press, 2004

Speak American: A Survival Guide to the Language and Culture of the USA. D.B. Johnston, Random House, 2000.  Friendly, pocket guide to all the essentials of surviving your encounters with Americans.

The Yin and Yang of American Culture. Eun Y. Kim. Intercultural Press, 2001.


International Student Experience