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I am going to the US for an internship at a major tech company in January. Since I have been to the US only for tourism, I don't have slightest idea about the work culture in general.

A supervisor was assigned to me for the duration of the internship, and I have not been told what I will be working on. I would like to know in advance what the project I have been assigned to is, as well as ask for book recommendations/resources so that I can get acquainted with the topics involved beforehand and get productive ASAP when I arrive. Would it be considered intrusive or impolite if I were to send her an email on this?.

Also, are any important things I should know about how to handle relations?. I am thinking along the lines of cultural differences that might hinder my relationship with co-workers. For example, in my country it is common to salute people with a kiss in the cheek, even in formal settings; would it be considered awkward, offensive or unprofessional if I did this in the US?.

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    I'm not going to offer anything useful for you other than your last question: yes – CGCampbell Nov 14 '15 at 17:10
  • Surely there are books about US culture for foreigners – paparazzo Nov 14 '15 at 17:51
  • Which country are you from to establish a baseline for cultural comparison? From your name, are you Hispanic? – Anthony Nov 14 '15 at 19:06
  • Hello, I'm from Argentina. @Frisbee, for some reason, I didn't actually think about books!, thanks. – Misguided Nov 14 '15 at 22:25
  • @JoeStrazzere, I'm attending a university indeed; however, there is no such group. – Misguided Nov 14 '15 at 22:25
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Some tips that might be helpful:

  1. Be on time. Although Latin American countries consider it ok to be late, it's NOT ok to be late in the US for any meetings or calls. If you are late, make sure to let them know with enough time.
  2. Don't be afraid to ask if you don't understand something. It's better to ask someone to repeat themselves than not to. It's not considered rude if you need clarification.
  3. Handshakes are the appropriate way to greet someone. If you are unsure what to do, just wait for a second and see what the other person does to greet you.
  4. Don't be surprised if things start earlier than you expect, i.e lunch might be around noon, dinner around 7 pm.

Good luck!

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    It's considered early for latin american culture where lunch can be at 2pm and dinner usually starts at 9 pm. – Ana Drucker Nov 17 '15 at 23:03
  • 7 is early for dinner? Dinner is 5, 6 at a push in the U.K. – Ross Drew Nov 18 '15 at 13:40
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    @JoeStrazzere, the early point in a different wording is "Don't be surprised if things (in the US) start earlier than you (a person from Latin America) expect". Ana is correct here. I do not see any point about the coasts (it was probably editted out) but I do feel the different coasts of the US have different enough cultures that points differentiating them can be relevant. – puzzlepiece87 Nov 18 '15 at 15:15
  • @AnaDrucker Great answer, I think those points are really helpful and specific to the OP's context. – puzzlepiece87 Nov 18 '15 at 15:15
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    Really good answer. I would add that most Americans don't travel abroad much and will be generally fascinated by anyone from a foreign country. Don't expect to be treated normal but that is a good thing. – blankip Nov 18 '15 at 16:59
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It's entirely reasonable to ask if there's anything that would be helpful to read before starting, and shows both initiative and enthusiasm. By all means, send that note... the worst that can happen is that you get an answer saying "thanks for asking, but I don't think that's necessary."

Americans generally shake hands/clasp hands (the actual shake is optional and seems to be becoming less common) in situations where you might use the kiss. Very close friends may hug, though that's extremely uncommon in a business setting. I don't think the kiss would be considered unprofessional, per se, since we'd recognize the gesture ... but it would be unexpected, perhaps a bit intrusive, and thus awkward. Good question!

It's hard to know what else to tell you without knowing what culture you're coming from ...

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I think asking about the project in advance is fine, and shows you care enough about the position to prepare for it in advance, which is always a plus.

I will say this though... I think a kiss definitely would be considered unprofessional by some Americans. I'd like to say all Americans are understanding of cultural differences, but I've worked for and with enough people who not only don't make an effort to understand cultural differences, but actually get turned off by them. I think these people are silly, but they definitely exist, often in large numbers, and learning to navigate them can be part of working in America as a "foreigner". If you want to go the safe route handshakes are pretty much always ok.

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