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The Four Basic Styles of Communication .................................................................................... 2

American Values and Assumptions .............................................................................................. 6
American Culture and Etiquette .................................................................................................... 8
The Communicative Style of Americans .................................................................................... 12
British Society, People and Culture ............................................................................................ 16
British Etiquette and Customs ..................................................................................................... 17
British Business Etiquette and Protocol ...................................................................................... 18
American vs British style of Communication ............................................................................. 21
References.................................................................................................................................... 24

The Four Basic Styles of Communication
1. PASSIVE COMMUNICATION :is a style in which individuals have developed a pattern of
avoiding expressing their opinions or feelings, protecting their rights, and identifying and meeting their
needs. As a result, passive individuals do not respond overtly to hurtful or anger-inducing situations.
Instead, they allow grievances and annoyances to mount, usually unaware of the build up. But once they
have reached their high tolerance threshold for unacceptable behavior, they are prone to explosive
outbursts, which are usually out of proportion to the triggering incident. After the outburst, however,
they may feel shame, guilt, and confusion, so they return to being passive.

Passive communicators will often:

fail to assert for themselves

allow others to deliberately or inadvertently infringe on their rights
fail to express their feelings, needs, or opinions
tend to speak softly or apologetically
exhibit poor eye contact and slumped body posture

The impact of a pattern of passive communication is that these individuals:

often feel anxious because life seems out of their control

often feel depressed because they feel stuck and hopeless
often feel resentful (but are unaware of it) because their needs are not being met
often feel confused because they ignore their own feelings
are unable to mature because real issues are never addressed

A passive communicator will say, believe, or behave like:

"Im unable to stand up for my rights.

I dont know what my rights are.
I get stepped on by everyone."
Im weak and unable to take care of myself.
People never consider my feelings.

2. AGGRESSIVE COMMUNICATION is a style in which individuals express their feelings and

opinions and advocate for their needs in a way that violates the rights of others. Thus, aggressive
communicators are verbally and/or physically abusive.

Aggressive communicators will often:

try to dominate others

use humiliation to control others
criticize, blame, or attack others
be very impulsive
have low frustration tolerance
speak in a loud, demanding, and overbearing voice
act threateningly and rudely
not listen well
interrupt frequently
use you statements
have an overbearing or intimidating posture

The impact of a pattern of aggressive communication is that these individuals:

become alienated from others

alienate others
generate fear and hatred in others
always blame others instead of owning their issues, and thus are unable to mature

The aggressive communicator will say, believe, or behave like:

Im superior and right and youre inferior and wrong.

Im loud, bossy and pushy.
I can dominate and intimidate you.
I can violate your rights.
Ill get my way no matter what.
Youre not worth anything.
Its all your fault.
I react instantly.
Im entitled.
You owe me.
I own you.

3. PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE COMMUNICATION: is a style in which individuals appear

passive on the surface but are really acting out anger in a subtle, indirect, or behind-the-scenes way.

People who develop a pattern of passive-aggressive communication usually feel powerless, stuck, and
resentful in other words, they feel incapable of dealing directly with the object of their resentments.
Instead, they express their anger by subtly undermining the object (real or imagined) of their

Passive-Aggressive communicators will often:

mutter to themselves rather than confront the person or issue

have difficulty acknowledging their anger
use facial expressions that don't match how they feel - i.e., smiling when angry
use sarcasm
deny there is a problem
appear cooperative while purposely doing things to annoy and disrupt
use subtle sabotage to get even

The impact of a pattern of passive-aggressive communication is that these individuals:

become alienated from those around them

remain stuck in a position of powerlessness (like POWs)
discharge resentment while real issues are never addressed so they can't mature
The passive-aggressive communicator will say, believe, or behave like: Im weak and resentful, so I
sabotage, frustrate, and disrupt.
Im powerless to deal with you head on so I must use guerilla warfare."
I will appear cooperative but Im not.

4. ASSERTIVE COMMUNICATION: is a style in which individuals clearly state their opinions

and feelings, and firmly advocate for their rights and needs without violating the rights of others. These
individuals value themselves, their time, and their emotional, spiritual, and physical needs and are
strong advocates for themselves while being very respectful of the rights of others.

Assertive communicators will:

state needs and wants clearly, appropriately, and respectfull

express feelings clearly, appropriately, and respectfully
use I statements
communicate respect for others
listen well without interrupting
feel in control of self

have good eye contact
speak in a calm and clear tone of voice
have a relaxed body posture
feel connected to others
feel competent and in control
not allow others to abuse or manipulate them
stand up for their rights

The impact of a pattern of assertive communication is that these individuals:

feel connected to others

feel in control of their lives
are able to mature because they address issues and problems as they arise
create a respectful environment for others to grow and mature

The assertive communicator will say, believe, or behave in a way that says:

We are equally entitled to express ourselves respectfully to one another.

I am confident about who I am.
I realize I have choices in my life and I consider my options.
I speak clearly, honestly, and to the point.
I cant control others but I can control myself.
I place a high priority on having my rights respected.
I am responsible for getting my needs met in a respectful manner.
I respect the rights of others.
Nobody owes me anything unless theyve agreed to give it to me."
Im 100% responsible for my own happiness.

American Values and Assumptions

Americans generally believe that the ideal person is an autonomous, self-reliant individual. Most Americans see
themselves as separate individuals, not as representatives of a family, community, or other group. They dislike
being dependent on other people, or having others dependent on them.


The individual that Americans idealize prefers an atmosphere of freedom, where neither the government nor
any other external force or agency dictates what the individual does. For Americans, the idea of individual
freedom has strong, positive connotations.


Competitiveness pervades the society. It is obvious in the attention given to athletic events and to star athletes,
who are praised for being real competitors. It is also obvious in schools and extracurricular activities for
children, where games and contests are assumed to be desirable and beneficial. Competitiveness is less obvious
when it is in the minds of people who are persistently comparing themselves with others.


Closely associated with the value Americans place on individualism is the importance of privacy. Americans
assume that most people need some time to themselves or some time alone to think about things or recover
their spent psychological energy. Americans also assume that people have their private thoughts that might
never be shared with anyone.


Americans are distinctive in the degree to which they believe in the ideal, as stated in the Declaration of
Independence, that all men are created equal. Although they sometimes violate the ideal in their daily lives,
Americans have a deep faith that in some fundamental way all people are of equal value, that no one is born
superior to anyone else.


Americans treat each other in very informal ways, for example, even in the presence of great differences in age
or social standing. From the point of view some people from other cultures, this kind of behavior reflects lack
of respect. From point of view of others, it reflects a healthy lack of concern for social ritual.

The Future, Change, and Progress

Americans are generally less concerned about history and traditions; they look ahead. They have the idea that
what happens in the future is within their control, or at least subject to their influence. The mature, sensible
person, they think, sets goals for the future and works systematically toward them. Desirable changes in the
future can be produced by the progress of working towards these goals.

Goodness of Humanity

The future cannot be better if people in general are not fundamentally good and improvable. Americans assume
that human nature is basically good.


Americans place considerable value on punctuality. They tend to organize their activities by means of
schedules. As a result they may sometimes seem harried, always running from one thing to the next, and not
able to relax and enjoy themselves. Foreign observers sometimes see this as being ruled by the clock. Other
times they see it as a helpful way of assuring that things get done.

Achievement, Action, Work, and Materialism

Expression like hes a hard worker, or you have done a great job convey the admiration for taking action
and achievement. Hard workers and achievements are admired not just on the job, but in other aspects of life as

Regardless of income, Americans tend to spend money rather freely on material goods. Americans are often
criticized for being so materialistic, so concerned with acquiring possessions. For Americans, though, this
materialistic bent is natural and proper.

Directness and Assertiveness

Americans usually assume that conflicts or disagreements are best settled by means of forthright discussions
among the people involved. The word assertiveness is the adjective Americans commonly use to describe the
person who plainly and directly expresses feelings and requests.

American Culture and Etiquette
How we look upon and judge the lifestyle and workplace of other cultures depends on how we view the world
from our own cultural background.

American Society

The Federal Government of the United States of America is located in Washington D.C. Each state has a local
government. There are Federal laws and state laws, which may vary greatly between the states.
The USA is a vast country with six time zones, four between the east and the west coast and one for Alaska and
one for Hawaii.

In order to know in which state a particular city is located abbreviations of each state are used behind the names
of the city such as, Houston TX (Texas), New York NY (New York State), Seattle WA (Washington).
Washington state is situated on the west coast. The city of Washington, is situated in the District of Columbia
(D.C.) which is not a state but an administrative unit on the east coast.

The USA with her 300 million inhabitants, is a multicultural and multi ethnic melting pot. Therefore it is
difficult to describe what the typical American looks like. For five centuries people from all over the world
flocked to the United States, many of them seeking a better life. Today there are many mixed marriages with
children having the features of both races. The elite however is still WASP. (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant).
Barack Obama changes this.

The American language

English is an Indo-European language. US-English varies in many ways from

UK-English as well as the English spoken in Canada, South Africa, Australia and other English speaking

US English: first floor UK English: ground floor

US English: to table an idea means to keep an idea on the agenda-UK English: to table an idea means to
introduce an idea during e.g. the meeting

Some 300 languages are spoken in the USA. In the Southwest of the USA 80% of the population have Spanish
as their mother tongue. In order to obtain American Citizenship one must speak English but many immigrant
families continue to speak their native language at home. They balance daily between two cultures.

The family name of an American usually represents his cultural background.

Sanchez, Wong, Krawic, Al Harbi, Arikian, Roosevelt, Levy etc.

The business culture of the United States of America

The United States of America is a large country with a huge internal market. The US has a 24-7 (24 hours a day
7 days a week) as well as a global economy. American companies are to be found worldwide and outsourcing
to distant countries is daily practice.

Only a small percentage of Americans travel across the oceans separating the USA from the rest of the
world. Therefore Americans who work virtually across borders but who live in the United States are not
always aware of the huge differences in the way other countries do business.

Status and Formality

Americans address each other very informally and are on a first name basis. This can make it challenging to
find out if you speak to the CEO or to the receptionist when at a social event.

No academic or job titles are used unless one is formally introduced in a business setting.
After the formal introduction first names are used.

Working across levels internationally

The job title, even if not mentioned, but clearly on the business card, gives a person status. American job titles
do not always match with those used in the rest of the world. Americans find it difficult to work across
hierarchical levels, especially with some one who holds a lower rank in title. This often causes irritation
internationally. You may discover that job descriptions may be similar but the American holds a much higher
job title.

American job titles do not match with those in other countries.

Make sure tasks, responsibilities and your position within the organization are clear, when you start
collaborating across borders.

Status in American society is more closely related to possessions and money than to family standing. Each
American fights his way up the ladder, individually. Moving up the social and business ladder is usually done
through a change of jobs. Americans easily move across the country for a higher position with a better salary.

The first impression

First impressions are important. Americans know how to sell themselves and expect others to do the same. Be
very present and express your will to work hard. Appearance should be healthy and energetic. Dress and good
manners are less important than the above-mentioned qualities.

The dress code is usually rather informal. A business-casual jacket for men and a business suit for
A tie for men is not always that you will invest time and effort to reach your goal.

Rules and regulations

The Unites States citizens are law abiding and used to many rules and regulations.
People hardly question public authority. This reflects on organizations. Each organization has a strong
organizational culture with strict rules to live by.

Making decisions and leadership

Decisions are made at the top, usually after the interested parties have been consulted. Subordinates rarely
disobey or openly question decisions or instructions from higher level management. It is hard for international
subsidiary to oppose decisions made at Head Office in the USA. Policies often have a one size fits all
The informal way of doing business in US corporations is confusing to many cultures. There is however a clear
chain of command when it comes down to hierarchy and power. US corporate structures may be less tall than in
most countries but much taller than in Northwest European countries.
In the US corporate world there are many charismatic leaders. As a leader one does not only need knowledge,
strategic skills, the ability to be an innovator, one also needs an open personality and have excellent speaking

Competition or motivation

Competition is seen as positive. In the educational system competition is promoted. Good grades are awarded
by the system. Organizations promote competition by selecting the employee of the year, or by giving big
bonuses for selling products and services. The work ethos is very high and individuals work hard to reach their
target and obtain their individual bonuses.

Excellent client service

The Americans are champions in customer service and customer friendliness. The customer is considered King
and everything is done to please the customer. Americans do not understand the laid-back attitude many
cultures have towards clients.

Job satisfaction : In many countries job satisfaction is the most important motivator for professionals. In the
US, the paycheck at the end of the month, is the employees biggest reason to do a good job.

Communication style

Energetic and positive Americans usually speak in the present or imperative tense with lots of action oriented
words. Lets do this. Make it work Instant solution. This energizes people. Many powerful words and
expressions are used such as; greatest, excellent, brilliant, thrilling, ultimate, a roller coaster ride.

Americans are well known for their positive thinking. A positive approach and attitude is key in business.
Negative thinking or complaints are not received very well.

Do not complain.
Use the word challenge instead of problem.

Most Americans are friendly, open and direct in their communication. In emails they communicate in bullet
points, convinced that if you do not understand you will ask.
The bullet point email causes much irritation, in many cultures. Depending on the culture bullet point emails
are seen as; communicating orders, lack of respect, a lack of time, or lack of knowledge on the topic. In reality
it is just a different style of communicating.


Meetings are usual informal. People shake hands or just say hello when entering the meeting room. People
are time conscious. One usually sticks to the agenda. Meetings are held to discuss matters in brought outlines,
to obtain information and various opinions as well as communicating decisions taken at the top. Seldom
decisions are made during meetings.

Stick to general ideas and broad outlines. Avoid getting into details
Schedule time for questions

Presentations during meetings

When you present for an American audience break the ice by cracking a joke (check beforehand with an
American colleague if the joke is o.k.)

Speak with a loud voice.

Have a bullet point presentation with usually some images.

Your international virtual team

Are you French, Japanese, Dutch, Indian, Chinese or Mexican or any other nationality your American team
leader expects from you:

Good work ethics. Extra hours should not cause problems.
A positive, constructive and energetic attitude.
Openness, transparency, assertiveness and pro-activeness.
Sharing of information within the team.
To copy the team leader in your emails to others.
To be comfortable with receiving instructions of the team leader.
To understand that your team leader will try to energize you through his up-beat communication style.

Business etiquette


Hello how are you does not call for an elaborate answer. It is more of a greeting ritual and replying
with fine, how are you is expected.
Most Americans value personal space. Physical contact such as kissing or hugging as a greeting is not
always appreciated.A firm handshake will do.

Having lunch or dinner.

It is an American etiquette to eat with the fork in the right hand. The knife rests on the edge of the plate
with the blade towards the center of the plate. Only when you need to cut food you hold your fork in
your left hand and cut food with the knife in your right hand. When you are done cutting, place the
knife on the plate and switch the fork to your right hand. The left hand may rest in your lab as it is not
needed above the table.
In America people drink a lot with their meals. This may vary from large glasses of water with ice
cubes to soft drinks or wine.
The USA has wonderful wines, which can be served during dinner. Hold your glass at the stem not to
heat the white wine with your hands. When drinking red wine your hand may cup the glass.
The waiter may ask you if like to have ice cubes in your white wine.

The Communicative Style of Americans

When people with differing communicative styles interact, they frequently feel uncomfortable, and they often
misjudge or misunderstand each other. To help understand why that happens, and to try to reduce the
communications problems that arise when it does happen, it is helpful if foreigners (anywhere, not just in the
U.S.) know something about the communicative style of the local people and how it compares with their own
communicative style. With that knowledge, the foreigners will be better able to understand what is happening
when they are dealing with the local people, and will know some of the ways in which the local people are
likely to misunderstand or misjudge them.

Preferred Topics

In casual conversation (called small talk), Americans prefer to talk about the weather, sports (males discuss
sports more than females do), jobs, people they both know, or past experiences, especially ones they have in
common. As they grow up, most Americans are warned not to discuss politics or religion, at least not with
people they do not know rather well, because politics and religion are considered controversial topics. Sex,
bodily functions, and perceived personal inadequacies are considered very personal topics, and are likely to be
discussed only between people who know each other very well (younger people generally discuss sex more
freely than older people do).

Favorite Form of Verbal Interaction

In the typical conversation between Americans, no one talks for very long at a time. Participants in
conversation take turns frequently, usually after the speaker has spoken only a few sentences. Americans
prefer to avoid arguments. If argument is unavoidable, they prefer it to be restrained, carried on in a normal
conversational tone and volume. Americans are generally rather impatient with ritual conversational
exchanges. Only a very few of them are common: How are you? Good, thank you. How are you? Good.
It was very nice to meet you. I hope to see you again.

Depth of Involvement Preferred

Americans do not generally expect very much personal involvement from conversational partners. Small talk
without long silences, which provoke discomfort is enough to keep matters going smoothly. It is only with
very close friends (or with complete strangers whom they do not expect to see again) that Americans generally
expect to discuss personal topics.

Some people from other countries prefer even less personal involvement than Americans do, and rely more on
ritual interchanges. Others come from countries where much more personal involvement is sought, where one
wants to learn as much as possible about another person and keep open the possibility of developing a
relationship of mutual interdependence. For Americans, getting to know another person is generally a process
of learning more about the other persons feelings and experiences in life.

Channels Preferred

The ideal among Americans is to be somewhat verbally adept, speaking in moderate tones, using relatively few
and restrained gestures of the arms and hands. They do not touch each other very often.By contrast, others
might prefer even quieter conversation, less talking, and even more restrained gestures. Or they might be
accustomed to louder voices, many people talking at once, vigorous use of hands and arms to convey meanings
or add emphasis, and/or more touching between conversation partners.

Level of Meaning Emphasized

Americans are generally taught to believe in the scientific method of understanding the world around them,
so they tend to look for specific facts and physical or quantifiable evidence to support viewpoints. Underlying
this search for facts is the assumption that there are truths about people and nature that can be discovered by
means of objective inquiry that is carried out by trained people using scientific means measurement of

Compared to Americans, people from some other countries might pay more attention to the emotional content
or the human feelings aspects of a message, and be less concerned with what Americans would call facts.
They may not assume the existence of an objective truth, but may suppose that facts are relative, depending
on who is observing them.

Many misjudgments and misunderstandings can arise from interactions between people who have different
communicative styles. Here are some examples:

International visitors in the U.S. might hear little but small talk among Americans, and derive the
erroneous conclusion that Americans are not intellectually capable of anything more than simple talk
about such subjects as the weather, sports, teachers, or their own social lives. The conclusion that
Americans are intellectually inferior is also reached by many people who regard argument as a favorite
form of interaction, and who find that Americans are often not very good at arguing.
Responding to people who customarily speak little and who rely heavily on ritual conversation,
Americans might use the labels shy, too formal, or too polite.
Vigorous arguing (with raised voices and much use of hands and arms, and perhaps more than one
person talking at a time) of the kind that is natural to some people may alarm Americans, who expect
violence, or at least long-lasting anger, to follow from loud disagreements.
What Americans might regard favorably as keeping cool that is, not being drawn into an argument,
not raising the voice, looking always for the facts might be seen by others as coldness and a sort of
lack of humanness. Conversely, Americans are likely to see those who do not keep cool as being too

Embarrassment or unease almost always results when someone raises a discussion topic that the other
person thinks is inappropriate for the particular setting or relationship.
Americans are likely to view a very articulate person with some suspicion.

These are but a few of the many misjudgments that arise between Americans and people in the U.S. from other
countries. It can be very helpful to be aware of the differences in communicative style that produce them.
Please keep in mind that not every American has the same communicative style. Americans from different part
of the U.S., different ethnic groups, and different age groups all have their distinguished communication styles.
Within groups there might be differences as well. Talking about differences in communicative style, when such
a difference seems to be causing problems, is usually a good way to reduce the negative effects of the

Characteristics: There are several typical American communication characteristics:

1. Information Exchange People's lives overlap in the workplace. The workplace is an environment or
"context" of shared knowledge and experience. For Americans, communication typically prioritizes
the quick and efficient exchange of information. There are limited "ritual interactions" or pleasantries,
and therefore it's considered a "low context" environment. Interaction in "high context" societies tends
to be less focused on the exchange of information and more focused on relationship building.
2. Straightforward Being straightforward in the American culture means asking direct questions and
making direct requests. The efficient exchange of information requires coming straight to the point
whether in public or private and therefore avoiding simply implying or hinting something.
3. Literal Communicating literally in the American culture involves taking someone's word at face
value. In other words, people say exactly what they mean without expecting others to read between the
4. Problem-Orientated The American preference toward rational thinking means they tend to focus on
finding solutions to problems. They may try to organize information in a direct and efficient manner in
order to provide recommendations to rectify the situation. For example, if an American is listening to a
colleague explain a problem with a work task, the American is like to assume the person is asking for
5. Personal Given that Americans tend to be literal and straightforward, there's usually more of a
reliance on logic than emotions in conversation. However, Americans can also be very personal. They
may seek similarities to sympathize with you, but they reserve empathy for situations where there is a
shared emotional experience.
6. Informal Americans tend to have informal situations for communicating with each other. This enables
them to converse freely with people from a range of backgrounds about activities and experiences.

British Society, People and Culture
The United Kingdom

The United Kingdom is comprised of four countries: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. It is
important not only to be aware of these geographical distinctions, but also the strong sense of identity and
nationalism felt by the populations of these four nations.

The terms 'English' and 'British' do not mean the same thing. 'British' denotes someone who is from England,
Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. 'English' refers to people from England. People from Scotland are 'Scots',
from Wales Welsh and from Northern Ireland Irish. Be sure not to call someone Welsh, Scots, or Northern
Irish English.

The Class System

Although in the past few decades, people from varied backgrounds have had greater access to higher education,
wealth distribution is changing and more upward/downward mobility is occurring, the British class system is
still very much intact although in a more subconscious way. The playing field is levelling but the British still
seem to pigeon-hole people according to class.

Class is no longer simply about wealth or where one lives; the British are able to suss out someones class
through a number of complex variables including demeanour, accent, manners and comportment.

A Multicultural Society

Formerly a very homogenous society, since World War II, Britain has become increasingly diverse as it has
accommodated large immigrant populations, particularly from its former colonies such as India, Pakistan and
the West Indies. The mixture of ethnic groups and cultures make it difficult to define Britishness nowadays
and a debate rages within the nation as to what now really constitutes being a Briton.

The Stiff Upper Lip

The British have been historically known for their stiff upper lip and blitz spirit as demonstrated during the
German bombings of World War II. This grin and bear attitude in the face of adversity or embarrassment lives
on today.

As a nation, the Brits tend not to use superlatives and may not appear terribly animated when they speak. This
does not mean that they do not have strong emotions; merely that they do not choose to put them on public
display. They are generally not very openly demonstrative, and, unless you know someone well, may not
appreciate it if you put your arm around their shoulder. Kissing is most often reserved for family members in
the privacy of home, rather than in public. You'll see that the British prefer to maintain a few feet of distance
between themselves and the person to whom they are speaking. If you have insulted someone, their facial
expression may not change.

The British are very reserved and private people. Privacy is extremely important. The British will not
necessarily give you a tour of their home and, in fact, may keep most doors closed. They expect others to
respect their privacy. This extends to not asking personal questions. The question, Where are you from? may
be viewed as an attempt to place the person on the social or class scale. Even close friends do not ask
pointedly personal questions, particularly pertaining to ones financial situation or relationships.

There is a proper way to act in most situations and the British are sticklers for adherence to protocol. The
British are a bit more contained in their body language and hand gestures while speaking. They are generally
more distant and reserved than North and South Americans and Southern Europeans, and may not initially
appear to be as open or friendly. Friendships take longer to build; however, once established they tend to be
deep and may last over time and distance.

British Etiquette and Customs

Meeting and Greeting

The handshake is the common form of greeting.

The British might seem a little stiff and formal at first.
Avoid prolonged eye contact as it makes people feel uncomfortable.
here is still some protocol to follow when introducing people in a business or more formal social
situation. This is often a class distinction, with the 'upper class' holding on to the long-standing
Introduce a younger person to an older person.
Introduce a person of lower status to a person of higher status.
When two people are of similar age and rank, introduce the one you know better to the other person.

Gift Giving Etiquette

The British exchange gifts between family members and close friends for birthdays and Christmas.
The gift need not be expensive, but it should usually demonstrate an attempt to find something that
related to the recipients interests.

If invited to someone's home, it is normal to take along a box of good chocolates, a good bottle of wine
or flowers.
Gifts are opened when received.

Dining Etiquette

Unlike many European cultures, the British enjoy entertaining people in their homes.
Although the British value punctuality, you may arrive 10-15 minutes later than invited to dinner.
However, if going to a restaurant be on time.
Table manners are Continental, i.e. the fork is held in the left hand and the knife in the right while
The fork is held tines down so food is scooped on to the back of the fork. This is a skill that takes time
to master.
Remain standing until invited to sit down. You may be shown to a particular seat.
Do not rest your elbows on the table.
If you have not finished eating, cross your knife and fork on your plate with the fork over the knife.
Indicate you have finished eating by laying your knife and fork parallel across the right side of your
Toasts are given at formal meals.
When in a pub, it is common practice to pay for a round of drinks for everyone in your group.
If invited to a meal at a restaurant, the person extending the invitation usually pays. Do not argue about
the check; simply reciprocate at a later time.

British Business Etiquette and Protocol


A firm handshake is the norm; there are no issues over gender in the UK.
People shake upon meeting and leaving.
Maintain eye contact during the greeting but avoid anything prolonged.
Most people use the courtesy titles or Mr, Mrs or Miss and their surname.
Wait until invited before moving to a first-name basis. People under the age of 35 may make this move
more rapidly than older British.
Business cards are exchanged at the initial introduction without formal ritual.
The business card may be put away with only a cursory glance so dont be offended if not much
attention is paid to it.
The British Communication Style

The British have an interesting mix of communication styles encompassing both understatement and direct
communication. Many older businesspeople or those from the 'upper class' rely heavily upon formal use of
established protocol. Most British are masters of understatement and do not use effusive language. If anything,
they have a marked tendency to use qualifiers such as 'perhaps', possibly or 'it could be'.

When communicating with people they see as equal to themselves in rank or class, the British are direct, but
modest. If communicating with someone they know well, their style may be more informal, although they will
still be reserved.

Written communication follows strict rules of protocol. How a letter is closed varies depending upon how well
the writer knows the recipient. Written communication is always addressed using the person's title and their
surname. First names are not generally used in written communication, unless you know the person well.

E-mail is now much more widespread, however the communication style remains more formal, at least initially,
than in many other countries. Most British will not use slang or abbreviations and will think negatively if your
communication appears overly familiar.

Building Relationships

The British can be quite formal and sometimes prefer to work with people and companies they know or who are
known to their associates. The younger generation however is very different; they do not need long-standing
personal relationships before they do business with people and do not require an intermediary to make business
introductions. Nonetheless, networking and relationship building are often key to long-term business success.

Most British look for long-term relationships with people they do business with and will be cautious if you
appear to be going after a quick deal.

Business Meetings

If you plan to use an agenda, be sure to forward it to your British colleagues in sufficient time for them to
review it and recommend any changes.
Punctuality is important in business situations. In most cases, the people you are meeting will be on time. Scots
are extremely punctual. Call if you will be even 5 minutes later than agreed. Having said that, punctuality is
often a matter of personal style and emergencies do arise. If you are kept waiting a few minutes, do not make an
issue of it. Likewise, if you know that you will be late it is a good idea to telephone and offer your apologies.

How meetings are conducted is often determined by the composition of people attending:

If everyone is at the same level, there is generally a free flow of ideas and opinions.

If there is a senior ranking person in the room, that person will do most of the speaking.

In general, meetings will be rather formal:

Meetings always have a clearly defined purpose, which may include an agenda.
There will be a brief amount of small talk before getting down to the business at hand.
If you make a presentation, avoid making exaggerated claims.
Make certain your presentation and any materials provided appear professional and well thought out.
Be prepared to back up your claims with facts and figures. The British rely on facts, rather than
emotions, to make decisions.
Maintain eye contact and a few feet of personal space.
After a meeting, send a letter summarizing what was decided and the next steps to be taken.

American vs British style of Communication
It is widely known that there are differences between American and British English, but it is also important to
remember that there are differences between American English and, well, American English. Accents vary
greatly between regions of the US even within states or cities. For example, in the south a toboggan is a winter
hat, but in the north it is a sled.

Below is a list of some common American terms and phrases that might be encountered and their British


American British

French Fries Chips

Potato Chips Crisps

Eggplant Aubergine

Zucchini Courgette

Pickle Gherkin

Sausage Bangers

Silverware Cutlery

Take Out or To Go* Take Away

Dessert Pudding

Or-ay-gah-no Oregano


American British

Pants Trousers

Sweater, Sweatshirt Jumper

Overalls Dungarees

Sneakers Trainers

Underwear Pants

Costume Party Fancy Dress

Around the House

American British

Apartment Flat

Bathroom/Restroom Toilet*, WC, Loo

Trash, Garbage Rubbish, Litter

Elevator Lift

First Floor (etc.) Ground Floor (etc.)

Al-oo-min-um Aluminium

*Toilet carries a crude connotation and is not commonly used in the US.


American British

January 2, 2016 2 January 2016

1/2/2016 2/1/2016

Soccer Football

Football American football

Bucks Quid

Sick (adj.) Ill

Flashlight Torch

Gas Petrol

Thanks Cheers

Hot Fit, attractive

Eraser Rubber

Zip Code Postal Code

Sidewalk Pavement


One of the common greetings in the UK is to say to someone, Hey, you alright? or Hey, you ok? These
terms are not socially used in America and can be perceived as asking whether there is something wrong with
their health or suggesting that there is an obvious reason why they may not be ok. Instead try Whats going
on? or a simple How are you?

Conversation Style

Americans have the tendency to exaggerate much more than the British, using numerous superlatives and vivid
descriptions even in an average situation. Many Americans also tend to be highly positive and downplay
negative things. This may be confusing because, in an effort to be polite, an American may not tell you directly
their opinions.

Body Language

Beyond vocabulary differences are differences in body language. Body language contributes to conversation
and interaction as much as verbal communication. Generally speaking, Americans prefer a greater amount of
personal space during conversation; one arms length is a good estimate. They tend to shake hands (firmly) with
people they meet. That said, some Americans can be more touchy-feely than Brits and may be inclined to hug
you as a greeting (maybe before you feel close enough to them to merit hugging!)

It is common for Americans to maintain direct eye contact with the speaker and to smile during the
conversation, as this is indicative of attentiveness and an interest in the conversation. Many also speak with
their hands, expressing themselves through a wide range of gestures.


1. Language Differences | US-UK Fulbright Commission. (n.d.). Retrieved from
2. American Communication Style | direcTutor. (n.d.). Retrieved from
3. American culture and etiquette - Publications detail. (n.d.). Retrieved from
4. American Values and Assumptions | International Programs. (n.d.). Retrieved from
5. The communicative style of Americans | International Programs. (n.d.). Retrieved from
6. UK - Language, Culture, Customs and Etiquette | global-etiquette | resources. (n.d.).
Retrieved from
8. Thomas, J., Murphy, H., & Hildebrandt, H. (n.d.). Effective Business Communication
7th Edition .
9. Krizan, A. %., Merrier, P., & Logan, J. P. (2008). Effective Business Communication 7th
Edition .
10.Vandome, N., & McVey, J. S. (2012). Effective Communications in Easy Steps.