American work culture..how did you get used to it?

New Opel
Jul 21, 2018 25 Comments

Probably not relevant for those whose career started in the States. More relevant for those who had extended work experience in another culture (Asia) before coming here. How did you cope with the almost diametrically opposite office work culture here?

Am specifically referring to the absence of small talk during office hours. It's almost like an examination hall silence sometimes, and there have been times (days) that the only person I had any real exchange with (though work related), was my manager (who sits next to me).

I'm finding this very hard to get used to and it's affecting my productivity (& sanity). It doesn't help that I joined recently & have no real personal friends in office. We have an open floor seating, and ours is an American subsidiary of a non-American Tech company. The parent has a somewhat different (more relaxed) work culture.

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TOP 25 Comments
  • Amazon 123raj
    Bro! Cant believe you're saying this after having worked in asia. You should be thankful . I'm doing the reverse and it's a shitshow. There is no concept of personal space or office hours and the politics is just unbelievable.
    Jul 21, 2018 5
    • New Opel
      OP
      Every place has it's pros and cons. One reality doesn't mean the other doesn't exist. In general, I AM grateful for the absence of the things you pointed out & I'm aware of that. Now, if only there could just be a little more joie de vivre & camaraderie around, I'd be a happy employee. (Well, that, and maybe better lunch) : ) I understand we've got to make the best of what we have, and hence reached out to know if anyone has been in the same boat, and if so, how they 'acclimatized'.

      P.S. - Am not a bro
      P.P.S. - Why did you move back?
      Jul 21, 2018
    • Amazon 123raj
      Well u have to make an effort for that.
      I kinda didnt feel like seeing myself there say 20-30 years down the line and staying was only gonna make me more confused .So i thought of taking the plunge.
      Jul 21, 2018
    • New Opel
      OP
      Agree, but it'll take some time, I think.

      Regarding your move back, I guess it was the right decision after all, if visa & proximity to family were your main reasons.
      Jul 21, 2018
    • Amazon 123raj
      Nope nothing to do with visa. Just family and thinking of where to get married and all. Sometimes i feel going to US is both blessing and a curse
      Jul 21, 2018
    • New Opel
      OP
      Agree.
      Jul 21, 2018
  • Facebook NXob33
    Known fact. Americans are shallow.
    Jul 21, 2018 1
    • New Opel
      OP
      May or may not be related to my observation. Personally I think it has got at least a little to do with their 'individualistic' vs. the Asian 'collectivist' culture, but I could be wrong.
      Jul 21, 2018
  • Google / Eng 6DOV
    Why do you think this is American? Where do you work?

    This is a tech thing. Same here, but most around me are Indian and Chinese.
    Jul 21, 2018 9
    • New Opel
      OP
      Lunch breaks are ~30 min. hurried affairs here. There is certainly conversation, but not extended ones. There is not much time to bond.
      Jul 21, 2018
    • Amazon / Other
      Cru

      Amazon Other

      PRE
      Earth Index, Heavenly Couture
      BIO
      Doomed. Need a career reboot. Uber rescinded my offer. Previously wasted a lot of time and effort at Alexa voice shopping.
      Crumore
      Sometimes you need to be the instrument of positive change w.r.t. building a positive vibrant work atmosphere. Start with adding a short game at lunchtime with a colleague or two. Then maybe happy hour on Friday at close of business. See how that goes.
      Jul 21, 2018
    • New Opel
      OP
      Thanks for your suggestion, will keep it in mind. If not immediately possible (for different reasons), for some time soon
      Jul 21, 2018
    • Amazon smuH54
      Ya this is tech. It’s a result of ‘heads down focus’ mentality. Either find nearby folks not on your team who are a little more loose you can bond with during breaks or get out of the comfort zone and ‘interrupt’ your peeps during breaks to foster some small talk. Be mindful of the ones who don’t open up after a handful of attempts - best to leave them alone. Some teammates would likely welcome the banter. Just grinding all day is a recipe for low quality output
      Jul 21, 2018
    • New Opel
      OP
      Thank you, smu. I'm trying to do this & shall continue. I've till now only spoken to ~ a handful of people (mostly work-related), but shall keep it up. (Need to, for my own sanity : ) )
      Jul 21, 2018
  • Amazon FooBear
    Examination hall silence would be great! Nothing you describe matches my experience.
    Jul 21, 2018 1
    • New Opel
      OP
      How does one even stare at a computer screen for, like, 2 hrs? It's not even advisable (from a health/ medical perspective).

      What I've described above is my experience. I already acknowledged in my original post that my experience was different in the parent company's office, so your experience could perfectly be possible (and that's nice to know) but don't think it invalidates mine (if that's what you meant). I too like a peaceful environment during work, but this just seemed a bit too much. Maybe it's just me & because I'm relatively new (to this culture & office), but I'll concede not many would've experienced the cultural difference in working styles at the stage of their career as I did.
      Jul 21, 2018
  • Cloudera / Eng
    megatronic

    Cloudera Eng

    PRE
    Google
    megatronicmore
    Look busy, do nothing, and talk loud .
    Jul 21, 2018 1
    • New Opel
      OP
      Ha..is that how you guys work at Cloudera?! OK, just joking.. : ]
      Jul 21, 2018
  • Dropbox Ousvjry
    Small talk in the work areas is why (imo) open space sucks.

    All up for informal communication, but in appropriate time/place (watercooler, lunch etc).
    Jul 22, 2018 0
  • Microsoft skeletox
    How old are the guys around you? I’m lucky. And not from USA and my mother language is not English, and I have a good friendship with the folks on my team. There are jokes along the day, but most al of the time the office is in silence.
    Jul 21, 2018 1
    • New Opel
      OP
      You have a point, there are a mix of people, some engineers & non-tech folk, but also several senior people ranging from Director to SVP level around. (The latter) doesn't help for sure. I so wish the environment was how you described. My team is also comparatively new so are finding a foothold themselves, in this place
      Jul 21, 2018