America probably worse than you thought ….Maybe better than you imagined

I’ve just returned from a business trip to New York. I lived there for nearly seven years in the 1990’s.

It is a great place to do business if you can provide what they need (in my case top class sales training). But many of the things you may think you know about NY (or the USA in general) are not true) here’s the three top truths.

  • You need money to live or be in USA; lots of it…there are no Social Security type ‘safety nets’ as ,we know them in UK.  Everything [apart from gasoline (petrol), cars and property outside the main cities] tends to be more (a lot more) expensive: electricity (especially in the summer when air conditioning is a must), gas, food, corporation tax, health care, are all very much more expensive in USA. So make sure that if you quote for business over there you put a handsome mark up on your normal UK price….they expect to have to pay a lot for stuff from Europe. (x 10 isn’t out of the question)
  • Watching the 1990’s sitcom ‘Friends’ you might be forgiven for thinking that most ‘20 something’ New Yorkers live in large fashionable apartments each with his or her own bedroom. Alas this is not the case. Most young new Yorkers live in tiny apartments in which they share bedrooms with others not uncommonly in bunk beds. Their job security is tenuous, wages often not high, and they will rarely argue with their boss about anything or propose an alternative way of doing things. Such public displays of ‘disloyalty’ are seen as negative so they knuckle down and do as they’re told. In this way they avoid getting sacked and all that that entails…including loss of any health care insurance…..a major essential benefit. So once you have found and secured a good trading relationship in your own field try to avoid disagreeing with your main contact. They are not used to it and will find your contradictory views quite challenging. Your hard won business relationship is always on a knife edge.
  • Their culture is very very different from ours….despite the almost common language. Most Americans tend to max-out on their credit cards and pay the minimum back each month. They buy most things on credit and have little notion of the word ‘savings’. It is a fact that most Americans would find it difficult to pay an unexpected (£600) $1000 bill in any one month. Only 9% of the 300 million strong American public have Passports so their World view tends to be quite limited. ‘Limited’ that is, compared with anything you’re used to in UK or Europe. Americans are not bad people or stupid people at all…far from it. They have little sense of irony and a very different sense of humour. They believe totally in their own country and are extremely patriotic. It is a fact that just about every American believes that every non American in the World is just waiting to become an American. So be very careful how you express yourself and check and recheck any proposal you write. When speaking remember that (for example) the word ‘fortnight’ doesn’t exist in America. Or casual throw away ‘light’ swear words “That’s bloody good!!” are viewed as totally blasphemous and can bring about a sudden, unexpected attack of ‘no more business’…this is a very very religious country where 80% of the people attend church. Or that the word ‘quite’ (as in “This is quite a good proposal”) means not that it is just OK’ as it would in UK but that it is absolutely brilliant!!  Check your language…check your jokes….and enjoy your business…I always do!


Oh and I nearly forgot….tipping and Yellow cabs. Make sure that you always tip at least 10-15% in restaurants and diners. The waiting staff get very very little in the way of wages from their employers and rely on your tips to build to a living wage. Your failure to ‘tip’ adequately on any occasion will be regarded as an expression of total disgust with both food and service. And Yellow cabs?….This isn’t like ‘over here’ when you hail a Yellow cab. There is no ‘Knowledge’ exam for taxi drivers like there is in London and no requirement even to speak English! So know precisely where it is you’re trying to get to and its location in any town. Just saying the name of the hotel you’re staying in is no good…your driver just won’t know where it is. And PAY the driver BEFORE you get out otherwise he will think you’re aiming to run away without paying. It’s not ‘wrong’…its just totally different from anything you’re used to. Have a nice day!…..I love it!!

Bob Etherington

“Europe’s Best Sales Trainer” :  [Voted by ‘Sales Innovation Expo’ 2015 and 2016, Excel London.]

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