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September 12, 2012

Working with Americans: Book Review

Working with Americans: Book Review
Sometimes leaving our own culture and working in another one gives us a new perspective. This was an impetus for American Allyson Stewart-Allen (one of the co-authors) to write a book to help U.K. residents, among many other non-Americans to understand the ways of American life and business.

Engrossed in watching her videos online at Videojug, I was immediately inspired to read her book. When I received it in my hands in India, I eagerly opened it and began to read it. This book is a must-read for anyone who wants to initiate and develop effective working relationships with Americans.

Secrets of the Americans
Are you curious about why Americans act the way they do? Throughout the book, secrets of interacting with the U.S. Americans can be found. Some of these secrets are there for us to read and understand, while some can be discovered by reading between the lines. How the authors have weaved these secrets and cultural nuances throughout the book are a marvel of authorship. This forces the reader to interact with the author and to think critically about the information that is presented, for a deeper understanding.

Inconsistencies of the Americans
All cultures have values and high ideals to guide its people. America is no different. Why do Americans claim to be informal, but yet require so many pleasantries in an email? Are Americans more worried about ‘getting down to business’ or building relationships? Many inconsistencies can be observed in a culture and it is impossible to learn a culture through stereotypes. Allyson and her co-author, Lanie Denslow has uncovered these inconsistencies throughout each chapter and section. This helps the readers to understand the depth and complexity of the American culture.

Dos and Don’ts While Interacting with Americans
Understanding proper etiquette in any cross-cultural exchange is important. Time and again, dos and don’ts lists are not the best answer. Again, the list of dos and don’ts based on stereotypes limit our understanding of a culture. They are only helpful up to a point. Allyson and Lanie have brilliantly highlighted these cultural rules in the narratives along with the secrets and inconsistencies, to provide a deeper and holistic picture that extends beyond lists.

Cross-Cultural Communication
The other aspect of this book that cannot be left unmentioned is the way in which it has communicated this information to the readers. Assumed that this book is meant for the U.K. market, many spellings, word choices, and even phrases sprinkled throughout the book are uniquely British and not used amongst Americans. While it is impossible to list all English comparisons, the last chapter does quite well in providing an introduction to American English as a comparative study to British English. These lessons are not only helpful for the British, but also for those from countries with heavy British influence, including India.

Whether working with Americans virtually or in person; studying, traveling, or simply living in the U.S., this book will provide invaluable insight into the mind of a typical American. 

Author Jennifer Kumar is the Owner and Program Director at Authentic Journeys, providing soft skills solutions to Indians working with Americans.

Chris Sufi is a freelance editor who lives in Bangalore, India. Her personal interest in language and communication inspires her to contribute through proofreading and editing.

This book review appeared in Asian Connections, Toronto Canada, August 2011. 

What or Who is a New American?

Authentic Journeys: Bridging Culture on Virtual Teams

We help build effective, culturally competent global teams with focus on the cultures of the USA and India. Jennifer Kumar, Managing Director, an American citizen, has almost 10 years experience living, studying and working (owning a business) in India. Authentic Journeys Consultancy is registered as a Private Limited in India (Kerala) and an LLC in the USA (Salt Lake City, Utah). We provide onsite and live-online instructor-led courses, facilitation and corporate coaching.