How to avoid typical mistakes of Russian-speaking immigrants in the USA
The USA is a country of opportunities where, it would seem, everyone can become anyone. Nevertheless, often Russian-speaking immigrants complain that ignorance of the “unwritten code” of the local culture of communication often not only interferes with adaptation, but can also significantly complicate life in a new country. Let's try to list some common mistakes made by people from post-Soviet countries that should be avoided in the United States.
- Soulness in official relations
Many Russian-speaking immigrants complain about the absence in the USA of the usual Russian “sincerity”: informal warmth and sincerity in communication, habits to open one’s soul and easy to establish informal relationships. In fact, this is not entirely true. Americans can be much friendlier than most of our compatriots, and this is not just about on-duty smiles. With you, they can unexpectedly have an informal conversation in transport, express sincere admiration for your dog for a walk in the park, and the taxi driver will begin with inexplicable curiosity (and sometimes too intrusively) to ask how long you arrived in the country and share his life hardships.
If you are not comfortable with the superficiality of such communication (and in most cases it is really superficial), you can leave the busy ocean coasts somewhere in a small provincial town, and be surprised how quickly such relationships can develop, if not into a deep friendship, then at least least completely sincere mutual assistance.
However, meeting such relationships at work in the USA is really very difficult, while in the culture of post-Soviet countries, on the contrary, it is believed that it is friendship with colleagues and superiors that is the key to career success. Once in the American team, many of our immigrants are trying hard to "build connections", seeing this as a reliable safety net against possible "pitfalls". However, for an American, any attempt to open the soul to a colleague may look suspicious. He may decide that you are trying to hide some kind of blunder, get something at his expense, find some kind of “corrupt” way to level your lack of professionalism, weave intrigues and so on.
At the same time, you can be a really good specialist, and the problem is only in your habit of friendship in the team. However, proving this to someone will be very difficult. Competition in American business relations is often present even in one team, where, it would seem, people are doing a common thing, and they have nothing to compete for. To mitigate the consequences of this feature, in companies most often there is a certain procedure for resolving working issues, and it is better to adhere to it. This does not mean that you can never make good or even friendships at work. However, it is better to do this gradually, taking a closer look at your colleagues to adequately assess whether such an initiative is coming from them.
On the subject: 4 Unforgivable Mistakes That Migrants Admit to the USA
And even more so, you should not enter into the image of a “shirt-guy” in communication with civil servants. When meeting with the bureaucracy, it is best to behave kindly, but with restraint, and answer the questions posed in essence, without adding unnecessary details and emotions, and even more so, without going into lengthy explanations that you are not asked about. Attempts to be too verbose, sincere and helpful can have the exact opposite effect. Your “informal” behavior can cause unnecessary suspicions, unnecessary questions and lengthy checks. And yes, American officials do not always understand jokes.
- Belief in moral obligations
Most Americans are polite, but straightforward. They believe that they do not owe you anything, and they will be very surprised if you think otherwise. They often do not understand the hints. It is common for post-Soviet culture to believe that our good deeds should generate response. However, most Americans are confident that your good is only your free desire, the manifestation of your personality and the realization of your sacred right, and therefore, by accepting this good, they only help you realize this right.
This does not mean that they will not thank you in words. An American can sincerely scatter gratitude, but at the same time he will not consider that he has an unspoken obligation of a reciprocal service. If you are counting on a symmetrical answer, you better honestly discuss it "on the beach." The same goes for salary increases. The fact of your good work here is not enough. It is unlikely that anyone will worry about raising your salary until you yourself ask about it.
- Take on more than you should
Similarly, it does not hurt to remember that you live in a free country, and in the same way do not owe anything to anyone. For example, some of my friends complained about the “obsession” that went beyond all conceivable boundaries of their American partners. Any attempts to explain to potential counterparties why they were not satisfied with the proposed conditions, and why they did not want to cooperate with these people, were not able to influence them. On the contrary, the interlocutors offered their services even more persistently and were not at all ready to hear the word "no."
In fact, the reason for such a strange behavior from our point of view lies in the fact that too broad explanations of your decision may make the American think that you are simply bargaining with him. Here the same effect arises as in the case of officials: the more actively you try to prove something, the more the American thinks of some kind of “double bottom” in your behavior. In this case, he may consider the fact that you respond in detail to the desire to continue bidding, and will begin to offer you unnecessary things or services with the obsession of street vendors.
That is why it is important to remember that you are absolutely not obliged to explain to outsiders the reasons for your decisions and actions. Your sense of duty, requiring "to clarify everything as clearly as possible," may be misunderstood. It is considered normal in American business etiquette to simply not respond to a letter if you have already given an exhaustive refusal.
An excessive sense of duty in the United States can give rise to more serious consequences than communicating with an unpleasant counterparty. Excessive interference in other people's affairs can lead to unexpected problems with the law, like this happened, for example, in the case of a Ukrainian Jacob Kalyuta, who showed concern for the girls at the next table and was suspected of trying to seduce minors. If it seemed to the American that someone was in danger, he would rather report it to the police than he would intervene directly.
In a word, in the United States it is customary to respect personal borders - ours and others. If you learn to follow this simple rule, the period of adaptation in the United States will be much easier.
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