The timing of business meals in the USA can often come as a surprise to first time visitors.
Firstly, it is not uncommon to be invited to a breakfast meeting which might start as early as 7:00am and secondly, if invited for dinner, this may be scheduled for as early as 5:30 – 6:00pm. You can also, of course, be invited for lunch and this is probably the favoured time for business entertaining.
US business people have few qualms about discussing concrete commercial issues over a meal. The idea that the mealtime is set apart from business and that it is unmannerly to raise the subject of commerce over food is an alien concept in the States. Therefore, it is acceptable to view a business meal as an extension of the business meeting. (This does not mean that other, non-business issues cannot be discussed at these events.)
North Americans tend to only use the knife to cut food items. After the food has been cut, the knife is usually laid down and only the fork is then used. Some foods may be eaten by hand, with both the knife and fork laid to rest. Most restaurant staff rely heavily on tips to supplement their basic salary and tipping is therefore virtually mandatory. It is not uncommon for tips of between 10% – 20% to be left for good service provision — and the service is usually very good.
Written and Produced by Keith Warburton
One of the paradoxes about the States is that we all know it from the media, films and music and we all form an internal image of the country and the way things are done there. The problem is that when you start to do business in the USA, you find that your internal image is a far cry from the reality you encounter on the ground. We go to the states with a million preconceptions, only to find them all challenged during the cut and thrust of normal business activities.
People often arrive in the States with the notion that it is the land of free-wheeling capitalism, where everything goes and red tape has been eradicated. Nothing could be further from the truth. Doing business in the States is as complex and challenging as in any other new international market. You need to do the same amount of initial research and strategising when entering the USA market as you do anywhere else in the world.
Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security – many have and suffered the consequences.
At Global Business Culture, we are often amazed that clients feel they need to gain a better understanding of Chinese or Brazilian business culture but that the USA will somehow be easy or in some way ‘business culture free.’ Like all countries, the USA has a distinct and formidable business culture which drives most strategy and day-to-day interactions. Of course, there are some distinct regional differences but there are also States-wide attitudes that are well worth understanding and which will make your business dealings in the States more successful.
This country profile provides an overview of some of the key aspects of business culture in the USA in a concise, easy to follow-format. The document includes information on: