CULTURAL INFORMATION FROM PREVIOUS FLTAS
•An an FLTA in the US, you might have more status or less
status than you have at home. Either way, it can be uncomfortable to
adjust at first. You might be used to being high status and independent,
but here you will have a supervisor who is actively involved in your
work. You might be “simply a teacher” at home, but here you will be
asked to lead a workshop. Don’t be afraid to ask your coordinators or
other American students to help you understand behavior or social rules
that you seem strange to you. Patience and communication are the keys to
overcome most of these difficulties.
• Culture shock is real and happens to everyone. Check out the tips to recognize and handle it at this site.
• Americans expect that everyone will be on time for all work or all meetings. This means that if the class starts at 10:00 am, the instructor will be ready to teach exactly at 10:00 am, which usually means arriving early to prepare. If you are going to be late, it is expected you will email, call, or text to let people know. Americans understand occasional exceptions to this, but in general they believe that frequently being late implies a lack of respect for others.
• These days, most people you interact with at the university (professors, co-workers, students, bosses, etc.) expect that you will read your email at the very least one time daily (or 5 or 6 times) and answer emails promptly (within a day).
• University classes, especially at the higher levels, are often based on active participation. For the new FLTA, this can be intimidating, but push yourself a little and you should soon become quite comfortable sharing your thoughts and comments in class.
• Smoking has become quite unpopular in the States. MSU campus is now totally tobacco-free. That means you cannot smoke, or use other forms of tobacco on MSU property. There are many resources available to help you quit if you wish.
• Littering of all kinds is considered inappropriate.
• Americans can get very annoyed with strong smells–this includes the obvious body odor as well as perfume or cologne applied too strongly. Wear deodorant daily throughout the whole year. Apply cologne/perfume sparingly.
• If you wear the same clothes today as you wore yesterday, many college students will assume that you didn’t go home last night.
• Americans are taught to form lines from the first day of school. Therefore, Americans will automatically form lines in all types of situations such as at a party buffet table or waiting for the bus.
• Dating in any culture can be very emotionally complicated. Add a cross-cultural component and these complications multiply. Be careful and talk to previous FLTAs to get their personal advice.
• In the US, dating students (or an employee) is usually against the rules or law. Talk to your supervisor and the Fulbright coordinators of the orientation for more information on this.
• Typical American culture assumes everyone is and wants to be independent. This means that for example, if you need help with some software on your computer, an American might not show you how to use it–he/she might just tell you where to find the directions online. The American assumes that you would want to learn on your own.
• Americans are often seen as less formal than many other cultures, so it is sometimes difficult to know how to address someone. A good rule of thumb is to use the title first (Dr. Smith). In many cases Dr. Smith will say “Call me John/Joan” in which case you should do so.
• In most of the US, we have sales tax in addition to the listed price of items. This means if the price tag says $10.00 that means it is $10.00 PLUS tax. The sales tax varies state by state. In Michigan the sales tax is 6% on everything EXCEPT for food in a grocery store or medicines.
• Tipping is another area that can be confusing, even for Americans. Check out this Tipping Guide for some suggested rules.
• In US culture, Americans expect replies to their questions or invitations. It is MUCH better for us to get a “no” for an answer right away than to get no answer at all! (We typically find it very rude if you don’t answer.)
• Some Americans can be uncomfortable about sharing food from a common plate. Ask before you reach over to someone’s plate to try their food, and don’t be offended if you offer some of yours and it is declined.
• Americans use am and pm to tell time. So we will say 8:00 am or 8:00 pm to indicate if we mean morning or evening. If you use 08:00 and 20:00, Americans call that ‘military time’ because usually only the military uses it.
• Americans write the date this way: Month/Day/Year. That means 10/1/11 is October 1st, 2011 NOT January 10th, 2011.
• Americans write their names in two ways. 1. the basic normal way is: First name Last name. (example: Danielle Steider) This is used when you introduce yourself, when signing papers, etc. There is no comma with this method. 2. On forms, applications, etc. when your name or documents need to be filed, we write our names: Last name, (comma) First name. (example: Steider, Danielle). Here you must use a comma to distinguish that the normal name order is reversed.
• Americans typically find it more polite to simply blow your nose than continually sniffle.
• It will be hard to get used to the food.