Bias busters: Cultural competence and American culture

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Information about Bias busters: Cultural competence and American culture

Published on January 26, 2014

Author: JoeGrimm



Ten questions and answers about American culture and some American slang are meant to help international students, exchange students and visitors understand U.S. culture. This program, excerpted from the cultural competence guide "100 Questions and Answers About Americans," contains questions about greetings and expressions, American gestures, tipping, race, family chores, and guns. Slides can be used by one person or can be used in a classroom, office or small-group setting to facilitate cross-cultural dialogue among Americans and people from other countries.

The guide was created by journalism students at Michigan State University who interviewed people from Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North American and South America to learn what their questions are. Countries represented in the interviews include China, India, Pakistan South Korea, Canada, Uzbekistan Australia, Nigeria, France, Thailand, Brazil and others.

Only 10 questions from the 100-question guide are in this show. The guide, part of a series in cross-cultural competence, also includes a glossary of American slang expressions.

Bias Busters From “100 Questions and Answers About Americans” Michigan State University School of Journalism | David Crumm Media

How this works Students at the Michigan State University School of Journalism gathered these questions from international guests in the U.S. and researched the answers. You can use this presentation to learn some answers on your own or to have a cross-cultural conversation with others. It’s all up to you.

Here we go: 10 questions Work together or on your own

Question 1 Why do Americans speak English with so many different accents?

Answer 1 Because the United States is so large, there are many different regions. Often, people in one area speak English differently than those in another place. The ethnic composition, lifestyle, culture, and location of a region influence the way English is spoken there. The English language is made up of many words from other languages and countries.

Question 2 Why do Americans smile at people for no reason?

Answer 2 Many Americans smile at people to be friendly. It is the same reason some people say hello to strangers. To Americans, being friendly is not the same as being a friend. An American might give a friendly greeting to someone they do not even know on one day and not remember that person the next day. Friendships are relationships built over time. The smiles and greetings do mean, however, that you are in an environment where friendship is possible.

Question 3 What are appropriate ways to greet people in America?

Answer 3 “Hello” or “How are you?” or “It’s nice to meet you,” often are enough. First-time acquaintances or individuals meeting in professional situations typically shake hands, and many females greet their friends with a hug. There are no widespread U.S. customs about males and females greeting, as there are in some cultures.

Question 4 Why is racism such an issue in America?

Answer 4 The United States has a complicated racial and ethnic history. It includes slavery of Native Americans and Africans; genocide and removal of Native Americans; the annexation of parts of Mexico that now make up several western states; the internment of Japanese Americans after Pearl Harbor and the civil rights struggle of African Americans. Arabs and other people of Middle Eastern descent experienced racism following the 2001 terrorist attacks. America still faces issues with workplace discrimination and stereotyping in popular culture.

Question 5 When should I tip and how much should I leave?

Answer 5 It is customary, but not mandatory, to leave service workers a “tip, which is in addition to the bill. In restaurants where food is brought to the table, tips are the majority of a worker’s pay. The amount is a percentage of the pre-tax bill and is based on the quality of service. Ten percent recognizes adequate service, 15 percent is for good service and 20 percent implies excellent service. Leaving no tip or a very small one can be seen as an insult or a complaint. Some restaurants, especially for large parties, will add a gratuity to the bill. The gratuity is the tip.

Question 6 Pop, soda or Coke?

Answer 6 Carbonated soft drinks go by all these names. The difference is regional. Pop is the dominant term in most northern states. Soda is preferred in New England, California, Nevada, Arizona and around Missouri. Coke, which has its headquarters in Atlanta, is used in the South to refer to any carbonated soft drink. Ask Americans from different places about their preference.

Question 7 Why do children have to do chores?

Answer 7 Parents have children do household chores to help the family and to teach responsibility. Examples of chores could include unloading the dishwasher, making the bed, cleaning the bathroom, clearing the dinner table or taking out the trash. A time-use study at the University of Maryland said U.S. children do chores for fewer than three hours per week.

Question 8 Do Americans drink a lot of coffee?

Answer 8 According to a National Coffee Association study in 2013, 83 percent of American adults drink coffee, the highest proportion in the world. Sixty-three percent of respondents said they drink coffee every day. The daily drinker has an average of three cups. Another group, the International Coffee Organization, said Brazil had the second-most coffee drinkers and Germany was third.

Question 9 Why are there so many guns in the United States?

Answer 9 Gun ownership is protected by the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment. There are frequent debates about whether there should be restrictions on gun ownership and each debate seems to prompt a surge in gun sales. America has about 270 million guns, or about 89 for every 100 people. The second-place country in guns per person is Yemen, with about 55 per 100 people. Many Americans own more than one gun and the proportion of gun owners has been declining. A University of Chicago study showed that gun ownership declined from 54 percent in 1977 to 32 percent in 2010.

Question 10 How can I learn American slang?

Do you know American slang? How’s it going? Tailgating For here, or to go? Hot mess Awesome Rock that This is my jam

Want more? Those questions came from this guide. You can find it on Amazon by following Thank you!

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