Are Americans less collegial and open?

Apologies for the provocative title. I grew up in a number of different locations (Singapore, HK) and am the classic "international" kid. My parents grew up in South America. I've also lived in South America, Asia and went to school / work in the US today. I had always heard the stereotype that America is welcoming and extremely open.

This is based entirely on my anecdotal observations across the three places I've lived, but it fundamentally seems like Americans in college and at work are much more closed off in terms of peer groups, topics of conversation, and seem somewhat judgmental if you're not from here after some initial curiosity. I'm sure all of you noticed that the foreign students hung out separately in school, be they europeans, south americans or whoever, although these two groups tended to mix quite a bit. I notice the same thing at work, where the Italians, Colombians and everyone hangs out together.

A number of my close friends worked in NY but didn't enjoy this cultural aspect of the US, and I can't imagine how much more closed off it is in smaller cities like Boston, and moved to London. They all say that London is much more welcoming and open to people both in and out of work, despite NY having on paper the more diverse city, and Europe being supposedly more classist. This isn't a race thing as most of these people I'm referencing are European or white south american. Like it doesn't make any sense to me that my Colombian friends who went to Penn undergrad like London more than NY socially or that the random Swiss guy at work is friendlier than the midwestern guy? By the way, I think there should be a distinction between American policy being welcoming of low-wage immigrants at least historically vs. American culture at elite institutions being somewhat closed off to the "international class."

What are your thoughts? I imagine my perspective is a bit colored by the fact that I am a foreigner here and so is most of my social circle, so we're not a random sample. But still, the fact that people of many walks have felt more at home in London says something about my point.

Any Europeans and south americans working in the US care to opine as well?

Region: 
United States - Northeast
United Kingdom
All Asia Pacific
United States - Northeast
United States - Midwest
United Kingdom
All Asia Pacific

Comments (31)

  • Analyst 1 in S&T - Other
May 19, 2020

I'm American, but work at a firm with lots of Europeans and South Americans. I've actually noticed that wealthy South Americans tend to be very similar to Europeans culturally, and there was a natural tendency for them to hang out together and be closer. I think it's also possible that people in a foreign country tend to stick together, if you were in China with American coworkers you'd probably hang with them more than the people in their home country

May 19, 2020

Interesting. I heard from many that moved to London from the US for work that London social groups are tight knit. People are only interested in meeting others from a similar background, even inquiring into one's high school..

I'll say that it depends on the state. Many Californians and New Yorkers are kind of fake. We know what to say, when to say it. We'll pretend to be your best friend, smile, act as if we will be there for you when you need it, "yeah hit me up man let's chill". But when you actually need them, or hit them up, "can't man let's hangout some other time", or some other excuse. I've personally found many Californian's that I've met to be guilty of the above.

I've noticed most Europeans take some time to open up to you.. But when they do, they truly care for you and are there to help you. Their word is their bond.

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  • Analyst 2 in PE - Other
May 20, 2020

I live in SoCal and moved here from the east coast (NYC area). I 100% agree with this sentiment on people from California. Most people seem to have their group, from either college or HS, and aren't very welcoming of other people. Sure, drinks here and there or whatever, but personally I always feel like "the odd one out" when hanging with a bunch of guys or gals from CA. People are full of that "yeah let's chill" or "oh we gotta hang out" but either 1) never follow through or 2) never reach out. (maybe it's just me...?)

When people say that people in CA are "fake", I always thought it was more of a Hollywood/LA thing for actors or whatever. But really I find that "fake" just means people don't really care about you unless you can do something for them. Sucks, but true of a lot of people (not exclusive to CA, obviously).

Personally I find NYC area to be better - planning to move back.

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May 20, 2020

CA and NY are two of 50 states that have fake people.

Every state has their fake people, and if we're being honest, the Midwest has the most. Pretending to be welcoming and nice to everyone, when in reality, everyone is a passive-aggressive asshole who will never tell you to your face, but will right when you leave the room.

    • 1
May 20, 2020

haha try growing up in three different continents then going to high school in Orange County... mentall fuck of the highest proportion

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May 19, 2020

I've always thought NY was more open than most places. Yes, people are brasher/ruder and the pace of life is faster, but it's also a city that a lot of people move to after college, which forces intermingling since you have to set up a new social circle. It also feels like a city where people constantly move in/out so there's some contributory effect from that too.

Contrast with Chicago, where things feel much more static. Everyone went to a big ten school and grew up in the suburbs. It can be hard to break into new social circles simply because everyone already has one. Just my impressions anyway.

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May 19, 2020

The expat/international community tends to be tight knit in every country, whether that's Asians in America or Americans in Asia, etc. I did find Londoners to be very friendly. Not sure about NY, in general they are outwardly aggressive but not necessarily unfriendly, whereas where I'm from in CA is outwardly passive but can be hiding unfriendliness. The combination can be awkward as hell, because the Californians perceive the aggressiveness at face value and the New Yorkers perceive deception in Californian friendliness.

Unethical Life Pro Tip for any Americans traveling abroad: always say you are from Canada. Everybody loves Canada, across the world.

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  • Intern in IB - Gen
May 19, 2020

Yeah let's just say that I found some people who were not a fan of American intervention in the Israel-Palestine conflict. By the way, they were white Europeans if anyone assumes they were Muslim.

May 20, 2020

If they are white and pro-Palestine, they likely were pro that German thing in the 1930-40's

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May 20, 2020

Yep. I've living been in Canada for a year now for a work assignment and on my last two international trips I just said "I live in Toronto..." which people reacted to MUCH better than my past international trips when I've said I'm from the US.

Most Helpful
May 19, 2020

U.S culture is the best for making money but the worst for being happy and social. I went to school in the US and coming from South America I found that US culture in general is very depressing. Everyone is closed off and relationships tend to be very superficial.

My Brother. My Captain. My King.

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May 20, 2020

I'm a European who worked in New York for a couple of years and attended a US college, now in the ME. Also have moved around a lot throughout my life and for work (living in Europe outside of my country of origin). I love both US and European "cultures" - maybe different flavours, but I felt at home in both places and was made to feel at home by people who became my friends. I would definitely disagree, respectfully - I have been very impressed with how open and collegial Americans are. It was easier for me to make friends in the US, but the quality of friendships are the same in both US and Europe. Maybe that's just my experience - there are 1-2 bad apples, of course - but I think it's a function of finding the right people - there are superficial people everywhere you go. There are incredibly genuine people too. I like to think of my friend group as a concentric set of circles - the center being life long friends, the outside being acquaintances from bar parties or pre-games.

As an aside thought, I think it's a difficult time right now because the zeitgeist is becoming increasingly charged around national vs. international (which can change your thinking, in subtle ways that you might not pick up on), but I'd like to think that should have no bearing on personal friendships.

^Appreciate the (tounge-in-cheek?) comment a few posts up about saying you are Canadian, but life is too short to be ashamed of your country and care what others think. Wear it with pride! The US is a great country. Make as many friends from as many places as you can. Your life will be much richer for it in ways you wouldn't anticipate lol. I run with US and EU squads on Warzone (EU team is better / more competitive, but I have WAY more fun playing with my US boys).

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May 20, 2020

I'm a proud 'Murican on Warzone *** and in life in general, but I have to admit I've masqueraded a couple of times as Canadian sometimes when traveling in MENA.

*** EU: You can't be proud of being American!
USA: hahaha A-10 goes BRRRRRRRRT

    • 1
May 20, 2020

In America it really depends on where you are. NY is different from Cali which is different then Texas which is different than Illinois.

  • Intern in IB-M&A
May 20, 2020

i think the most open and (genuinely) nice are the dutch

US people tend to be more superficial in my experience, and don't care much for socialising at work (or after work hours with work people)

singaporeans (i'm from singapore) tend to be the most closed off and professional

May 20, 2020

Honestly, its because Americans aren't very welcoming of people that don't EMBRACE their culture. Having trouble fitting in with all the broey fratty guys in college and the office? Well, try and actually start doing and talking about the things they do and like. Most american men played contact sports when they were young(not just soccer or something that euros and south americans play). American college men also like to lift weights more (euros and asians are more into cardio and bodyweight stuff). American men like to talk about football and whether Lebron is better than MJ or Kobe, or if Tom Brady or Belichik is more instrumental to the Patriots success. These are all stereotypes and not every guy is like that in the USA, but its undeniable there are some huge cultural differences between guys that grow up here vs europe asia and latam.

Lots of internationals come here and don't pick these things up. They continue to wear euro style clothing that american men think is borderline feminine or tryhard (for better or worse). They remain aloof during discussions on the SEC vs the Pac 12. They don't learn American style humor and sarcasm. They speak dismissively of rural and suburban life (which is uniquely American), and cluster in cities full of other internationals perpetuating the cycle. If anything, I have always felt like they take the lazy way out and just make friends with other internationals because its easy. The ones that truly LEARN american male culture generally do ok and are accepted.

Had a coworker that was French with a huge accent but he went full American while working here. Bought a smoker, cooked brisket in his backyard, would go to football games even though he barely knew the rules, even asked me about what was the best assault rifle to buy since he felt he needed one to complete his transformation. Had a great 4th of july party at his house. Couldn't have been prouder.

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May 20, 2020

I have a feeling you will love & be triggered by this video of liberal men's first time shooting guns: https://youtu.be/-t6HDWZIz5A

May 20, 2020

I think this is a decent post and fair. I would fully agree that it's the easy way out to just be friends with other international people and you need to really make an effort. I would just push back on the view that euro/latin people don't mesh with the broey/fratty culture which boils down to basically do you like to party and drink and hit on girls. I mean Latin and especially southern european men are famous for being into exactly these things. I actually think Americans kind of get it out of their system in college and mellow out at least at our bank and looking at friends from undergrad. Agreed on all the rest of it though re sports etc.

I think one observation maybe is since London and other international cities have such a diverse (by country of origin) high-skilled work environment (whereas the US is more diverse in its lower-skilled demographics), it kind of forces you to engage in broader topics. So it's not really anyone's fault, more the nature of the cultural environment.

May 20, 2020

Man I played high school football, love steaks and guns, but the environment you describe sounds mind numbing to me tbh

May 21, 2020

"Had a coworker that was French with a huge accent but he went full American while working here."

Last year, a Franco-Italian couple (probably academics) moved into ye olde neighborhood. Like your co-worker, this pair seems determined to get the most out of their American experience, despite the fact that they can speak very little English. For transpo, they went full-on muscle car, getting themselves a Dodge Challenger V-8, and they seem to spend more time hitting the beach than any non-teen native Californians that I know.

They are very friendly in our [mostly non-verbal] interactions, and--as far as I can tell--they are having a great time enjoying their spell as "Americans."

May 20, 2020

I agree with all your sentiments. I find it to even be the case that children of immigrants get way closer at work and hang around each other. Americans whose families are originally from the states form cliques, and first-generation individuals have to sort of find their way into these cliques over time.

May 20, 2020

I find if you smile at people and are polite, people are generally quite open. The above may seem a bit stupid, but actually different cultures react in different ways to various ice breakers and approaches. But a big smile is universal.

May 20, 2020
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May 20, 2020
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