Doing Business in The United States




The U.S. Business Climate

The United States has the world's largest consumer economy, so there are plenty of opportunities for Australians to do business throughout the country. Not only that, but the Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement of 2005 makes it easy for Australians to conduct their businesses with minimal regulatory restrictions or tariffs. This agreement has also played a role in increasing awareness of Australian business in the United States and recognition of Australia as a strategic global business partner.


Cultural Considerations

Doing business in the United States is similar to doing business in Australia in many ways, although there are some slight differences. First off, the business environment tends to be on the formal side, so a suit is the most appropriate business attire for most situations. However, in industries like mobile technology and fashion, the dress code tends to be a bit more casual.

When speaking, try to avoid using Australian slang or jargon, as your meaning may be lost on your American hosts. It is important to note the spelling differences as well: words ending in -our are changed to -or, and those ending in -re to -er. For example, neighbour becomes neighbor, and centre becomes center. Keep this in mind in your correspondence with Americans.

For your business cards, there is no need to include your educational background, as many businesses care more about your skills, industry knowledge, and relevant experience than your formal education. When listing your phone number, be sure to include the country code for international dialling.

When you are hoping for a meeting, always make an appointment first. Do not simply show up at the office unannounced, as you will not likely be seen. Expect to meet at the person's office for the most part, although you may occasionally meet at a venue of their choosing. Always confirm your appointment the day before, and expect to be the one to follow up after the meeting.

In your follow-up communications, start with a brief reminder of who you are and what you discussed. Keep your correspondence brief and to the point. If you are calling, you will often be directed to an answering machine, so be prepared to leave a brief message, including your phone number at the end. Keep in mind that messages are often not returned, so follow up as needed without going overboard into being a nuisance.

Negotiations are common in American business dealings, so be ready to go back and forth a bit to reach a settlement. The first offer stated is just a jumping off point to start the negotiation process. American contracts can be lengthy and complex, so hire an American lawyer to look everything over for you before you sign anything. Make sure that you understand the nuances of the contract to ensure it is in accordance with your understanding.


Visiting the United States

In the United States, normal business hours are from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday to Friday. Retail hours vary widely throughout the country, depending on if you are in a large or small city. Some shops close at 8:00 p.m. while others remain open 24 hours a day. Banks typically follow normal business hours with the addition of a half day on Saturday, closing at 1:00 p.m. Most businesses and banks are closed on public holidays, but many shops stay open, offering frequent holiday sales.

The U.S. spans multiple time zones, and the majority of the country observes Daylight Savings Time, with the exception of Arizona, Hawaii, and parts of Indiana. In summer, Americans turn their clocks forward one hour around the same time Australians turn theirs back.

The U.S. currency is the dollar, which is available in coins for denominations of $1 or less, although $1 coins are uncommon. Bills are used for denominations of $1 or higher. ATMs are prevalent in convenience stores, chemists (called drug stores), and public areas, although most charge fees for use. It is better to take larger amounts of cash out at a time rather than making multiple small withdrawals for that reason.

The United States has a wide range of climate zones throughout the country and depending on the time of year. It is best to search online to get more information about the weather in your destination, as it can vary widely, even across relatively short distances.

U.S. electricity is 110 volts, 60Hz. Plugs typically have two parallel, flat blades, although some include a third round pin for grounding.


Visa Requirements

The U.S. offers a wide variety of visas for different purposes, so check with your local U.S. Consulate in Australia to ensure you get the appropriate one for your needs. Australian citizens are eligible for the visa waiver program, so if your trip will last fewer than 90 days, you can likely obtain a working tourist or working business visa. You can obtain this through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization website.


Travel Guide

The United States has many international airports throughout the country, so search for your destination's airport to find specific travel information for that location. Within the country, hundreds of domestic airports make travel between cities quick and easy. Train transportation is also available but is not commonly used. For long distances, you are better off with domestic flights.

For getting around within cities, your best transportation option varies by city as well. Public transportation is more extensive near the east coast, while western and central cities will likely require you to hire a car or take taxis to get around. Taxis are often the better option in larger cities due to limited parking availability. In smaller cities, you may enjoy having your own car. Keep in mind that Americans drive on the right hand side of the road, with the driver on the left side of the car.

Tipping is expected in service situations. For restaurants, 15 percent of your bill is appropriate for decent service, 20 percent for excellent service. In bars, $1 per drink is customary. For taxis, 10 to 15 percent is appropriate. For hotel services, like valet or luggage assistance, tip about $5, depending on the calibre of the hotel. For the housekeeper, $5 per day of your stay is customary.

Hotels vary widely from budget motels to five-star luxury resorts, so you are sure to find one to meet your needs and budget. The same goes for restaurants. Fast food restaurants are relatively inexpensive options, or you can spend an entire month's rent at some high-end dining spots. Most fall somewhere in between. Do take note, though, that an entree in the U.S. is the main course. Starters are called appetizers and are sometimes meant to be shared with the table, as portion sizes can be large.


Tourist Attractions

Because the U.S. is so large and heavily settled, it is home to a wide variety of tourist attractions, far too many to list here. Search for your destination on websites like TripAdvisor to find things to do in your target area.