Do As the Americans Do
Be confident.“Confidence” is probably one of the most noticeable traits in the Americans. They show confidence in the way they talk, the way they smile, the way they dress and the way they walk. Living and competing with all these confident American students, I find it extremely important to be confident as an international student and instructor. As a student, being confident means you should never hesitate to raise your hand whenever a question or a point comes to your mind. Don’t mind if it sounds simple or silly. Otherwise you will never get a chance to speak in class at all. What’s worse, the professors may think you are not prepared for the discussion or you do not have your own opinion on the issue–this is the last comment any graduate would like to receive. Being confident for me as a foreign instructor means calmly asking the student to repeat what he or she has said if I did not get it. Pretending to understand what you actually did not may just bring yourself embarrassment or even disgrace. But the time I most need to be confident is when my students come to my office and bargain about the grades I have given for their speeches. (The course I’m teaching here is Public Speaking). Modesty is a trait highly valued in China, but it won’t be of much help here if you want to survive and succeed in a good American graduate program.
Be polite. Coming from a country known for good manners and etiquette, I certainly was not prepared for the embarrassment I experienced during my first shopping. The cashier said,“Hello, ma’am, did you have a nice day?” I looked around and behind before I realized that he was actually talking to me. Fortunately, I quickly figured out how to be polite in the American way. Being polite means keeping saying “Hello, how are you doing?” to anyone you run into anywhere–in the hallway, in the restroom or on the street. Never bother about how he or she is really doing. Neither should you bother others with your troubles even if you are not doing very well. People are just too busy to really care. Just remember to give your greeting even if you have no time to listen to the response. Being polite also means smiling to strangers you meet in the elevator, on the street, in the supermarket or mall. The safest way is to smile and say “hi” to anyone who has eye contact with you.(The Americans never use nodding as a way of greeting.) Of course, being polite also means expressing your appreciation verbally or via email or note whenever anybody does a favor for you. Never take any favor from anybody for granted.
要有礼貌。来自一个以礼仪著称的国度的我，对第一次去购物出现的尴尬局面毫无准备。收银员说：“你好，太太，你今天过得好吗？”我环顾前后左右才意识到他是在与我打招呼。幸运的是，我很快明白了美国人的礼貌之道。这意味着随时随地－－不管是在楼道里，还是在洗手间，还是在路上，不断对人说 ：“你好，怎么样呀？”。不用理会他或她到底怎么样。也不要拿你的事去烦别人，即便你真有不顺心的事。大家都太忙了，无暇顾及他人。只是记住一定要问候别人，哪怕你都没时间听完对方的回答。有礼貌还表现在你在电梯里、街上、超市或商场里向遇到的陌生人微笑。最保险的方法是对任何与你有眼神交流的人微笑并说声“嗨！”。（美国人从来不用点头来作为一种打招呼的方式。）当然, 有礼貌还表现在，不管什么时候什么人帮了你的忙，都要口头或通过电子邮件或便条表示你的感激之情。决不要把人家给你帮的忙看成是理所当然的事。
Be generous with your compliments. I wonder whether the Americans’ confidence has anything to do with all those compliments they give to each other all the time. Compliments are exchanged between parents and children, between husband and wife, between friends or acquaintances, on every achievement or advance, major or minor. On a daily basis, they tend to give compliments on others’ appearance. So be sure to be quick at finding out if anybody is wearing anything new or impressive and remember to say,“You look awfully smart in this new shirt!” or “I really like your jacket!” or “That bag looks real cool”. If you can’t find anything new, then you can simply say,“Hey, you look great today!” As a teacher, I have learned to give generous compliments to my students whenever they put a question to me. I would say, “That’s a really good question”or“That’s an interesting point” before I proceed to explain or give an answer, although the question may be ridiculous or foolish sometimes. There are certainly a lot of other things I’ve learned and adjusted to here, but there are also things that I know I will never be able to learn: shouting as a way of talking to your friends in the bar on Friday night, or driving at breakneck speed, winding down the windows of your car and playing rock’n’roll at full volume so as to deafen every passenger on the road.