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Business culture differences between the EU and the USA

Globalization has been without a doubt one of the most talked about subjects of our generation. In a world that becomes more connected by the day, people get the feeling that geographical and cultural barriers seem less important.

 Photo by Adeolu Eletu on Unsplash

It's obvious that the rise of new technologies, innovations and developments in all domains happen faster than ever before. These aspects have changed the way we live our lives and have transformed the world into what some call a global village.

All the same, yet different

No matter how connected we become, it's impossible to ignore the many elements that still set individuals and communities apart. One can argue endlessly on the subject, trying to come to a conclusion on whether holding on to our individualities is preferred to embracing globalization. The reason is there's no answers to the issue, as this is a complex subject that can't be analyzed in terms of right or wrong.

The business world is one of the areas where cultural differences have a higher impact than some might expect. It's important to understand how these differences influence the working environment for both business owners and employees. Apart from legislation, there are many other differences that can play an important role in an organization.

Linguistic differences

Language represents one of the main differences between the US and the EU. While the United States can be considered a cultural melting pot and there are many differences between regions, communities or ethnicities, English is the language used in all the US territories. In the European Union on the other hand, there are 27 member states and 24 official languages. English is spoken as an official language only in Ireland and only 40% of the population in other countries speak it as a foreign language.

Needless to say, communication in a multinational corporation in the EU can sometimes be hampered due to language barriers. Also, when trying to establish partnership relations, many American organizations expect to deal with their European associates only by using English or hiring translators to communicate in the other country's native language. While this can work to some extent, the ideal solution would be to create local teams that understand the specifics of the local market and can help manage business relations effectively.


Let's take a look at the population differences between EU and USA. In the EU there are several small countries with low population. For example, Latvia has a population of 1.8 million people and Lithuania has 2.7 million citizens. Compare these numbers with the population of New York City of 8.5 million people and you'll get a clear picture of the demographic differences.

You'll probably wonder what it has to do with businesses and why it's relevant for companies to know this. The population size has an important impact on the job market. Because the EU is less populated, individuals tend to wear more than one hat. This means that usually in EU employees have more responsibilities and perform more tasks than those in the USA. Looking across the ocean, since the population in the US is larger, there are more jobs available on the market and people tend to specialize in one specific area of activity.

Life as an employee

It's widely known that Americans tend to be less formal in a business setting than their European counterparts. This is probably applicable at all levels in a business hierarchy. However, it doesn't mean that employees in the USA are living the good life, while employees in Europe are under strict supervision.

There are not many differences regarding the working schedule. Both in the EU and the USA working 40 hours a week is considered the norm, but while in Europe most companies pay for their employees' lunch breaks, in the US, employers usually pay only for the time you spend working

Retiring however is quite a different story. In the EU, if you've spent your younger years working hard, when you retire you won't have much to worry about. In the USA you have to think about saving money for retirement yourself, as employers are not required to offer retirement benefits.

When it comes to recruiting standards, in some cases the USA has stricter regulations. Usually citizens with a criminal history will face more difficulties when looking for a job. For example, if you've committed a crime in Utah and want to know how it will affect your chances of obtaining a job, it's a good idea to find a criminal defense attorney in Salt Lake City to advise you and help you overcome the obstacle. If you're from an EU country on the other hand, employers tend to pay less attention to criminal records checks and your professional life might not be as affected.

Failure and success

USA didn't become famous as the land of all possibilities for nothing. There's a strong startup and small business culture based on taking risks and believing in the American dream. Entrepreneurs in the USA know how to dream big and are less frightened by the possibility of failing. Even when they are faced with failure, they take it as an opportunity to improve and grow. The trial-and-error approach is common in the American business culture, as learning from mistakes is considered one of the best methods towards achieving success.

Europeans don't have the same optimistic view on unsuccessful ventures. Entrepreneurs take more time to prepare projects and they expect things to run smoothly from beginning to end. The fear of failure is strong enough that sometimes it stops companies from taking chances and in the attempt of staying safe they can miss important opportunities.

When working together, American and European companies need to be aware of the things that differentiate them and take into consideration all these aspects. The key to a successful collaboration is understanding individual particularities and how to make them work in your favor, therefore becoming stronger together.

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