This post by freelance journalist Daniel Harrison, couched as a guide for Europeans to avoid committing social gaffes in the United States, may very well be the best piece I’ve ever read explicating the differences between Americans and Europeans.
Here’s a great one:
5. [Don’t] Hold back on sharing fairly intimate/personal stories on a first meeting. This will make you seem as if you have something to hide and will not endear you to people quickly. It is perfectly acceptable to talk about your qualities and faults with loquacious and detailed stories as if you had known the person for years. In Europe, this is somewhat inappropriate behavior, and in certain parts of Europe especially, it is guaranteed to send people running away quicker than you can order the next round of drinks. In America, however, it shows you are confident and happy with the person that you are, you have nothing to hide, and that you are genuinely interested in getting to know your colleagues.
And here’s another one:
12. [Don’t] Be afraid to ask for a pay rise. Bargaining and negotiating is at the heart of American culture, and is a major factor in what has driven this highly commercial and competitive country to number one economic status. In some cases, if you don’t, you will just get left behind. In fact, as an example of this, an American friend of mine told me the other day that she “figured I should stay in the job a month before negotiating for more money.” To most Europeans, you would be lucky after a year if you were able to negotiate a pay increase. Not so in the U.S.A. It’s a deal-driven environment, and you should similarly have fun rainmaking and driving deals, wherever you are on the economic plateau.
Well worth a complete read.
As a side note, I really love articles that explain familiar things from an outsider’s perspective. We often forget just how much of our lives are completely unintuitive and crazy. After all, does a fish realize that it’s surrounded by water?