Five Things That Can Take International Visitors to the USA by Surprise


This casual attitude carries over into informal ways of greeting or introducing one another. We tend not use titles such as ‘professor,’ ‘doctor,’ or even “Mr. or Mrs.” You might be surprised when someone insists you can call him by his first name.

Americans are very direct communicators.

Americans tend to “say what they mean and mean what they say,” as the saying goes. This is to say that we believe in telling someone directly how we feel about a situation rather than trying to protect someone feelings by not telling the full truth. This is very counter-intuitive to many of the cultures international students come from and can be shocking. Try not to take it personally. Americans feel we are being “real, truthful, honest, and helpful” when we say what we mean rather than implying something that could be taken the wrong way. It is not an attack on you in any way. And we would really prefer you do the same to us.

Americans run “on time.”

Americans tend to think of the time in concrete terms. That’s why we will often use words such as “killed,” “wasted,” or “spent” when describing time. We like to focus on one thing at a time, stick to the agenda, and meet deadlines. We tend to think that people who show up late are being disrespectful. This is something that will be very important to understand. Coming to class late is not tolerated in the U.S.