What variations in business culture exist within the United States?

The United States is a heterogeneous country of diverse cultures, languages, and traditions. It is not surprising, therefore, that there are variations in business culture among regions. Although generalizations can be as misleading as they are informative, here are a few broad stroke insights about these variations.

  • The Northeast. The northeastern US runs from Maryland to Maine and includes such states as New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania. Business culture is generally perceived as more formal and competitive, with traditional business attire and traditional business hierarchies. London may be the best UK analogue.
  • The Southeast. The southeastern US runs from Virginia to Arkansas and Oklahoma and includes such states as North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. Business culture in the south places a premium on hospitality, politeness, and relationship building and business deals are often consummated more informally (perhaps with a handshake). Scotland (outside of Edinburgh) may be the closest UK analogue.
  • The Midwest. The midwestern US runs from Ohio in the east to North and South Dakota in the west and includes such states as Indiana, Illinois, and Minnesota. Business culture in the Midwest emphasizes straightforward communication and a strong work ethic. Wales may be the best UK analogue.
  • The West. The western US includes states like Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Idaho, and Montana. Similar to the Midwest, the region is known for its independent, self-reliant ethos. Outside of large cities like Denver and Salt Lake City, agriculture, ranching, and small businesses are prevalent, and there is a strong sense of self-reliance, with individualism and self-sufficiency strongly valued. Wales, again, may be the best UK analogue.
  • The Southwest. The southwestern US runs from Texas to Nevada. Many of these states have substantial Latin American immigrant populations, resulting in a blend of Latino and non-Latino business cultures. This results in a business culture emphasizing personal relationships, infused with a strong entrepreneurial spirit. Again, parts of Scotland may be the best UK analogue.
  • The West Coast. The west coast includes the states of California, Oregon, and Washington. The region is the home of tech hubs like Silicon Valley and Seattle. West coast-based companies like Google and Microsoft exemplify the region’s focus on innovation, flexibility, informality, and risk-taking. The west coast seems to mirror the innovation of Edinburgh and Northern Ireland.
  • It should be noted that there is some debate over where the regional lines should be drawn. Some, for example, classify Texas in the Southeast (rather than the Southwest) and Maryland in the Southeast (rather than the Northeast).

    In addition, as elsewhere, the US is an increasingly mobile society. This increased mobility, when combined with dramatic increases in communications and the influence of the internet, social media, and television, has resulted in greater cultural heterogeneity within each region, along with the blurring of regional distinctions. However, when doing business in US, it is important to know that regional variations do exist that may affect how you deal with customers, suppliers, and employees.