AEE 422: Are You Giving People TMI?

privacy value in American culture

Are you giving people TMI (Too Much Information)?

Today you’ll find out why privacy is a huge value in American culture and how to avoid making cultural mistakes when you visit the US.

We have lived in many different parts of the world such as Japan, Argentina, Guatemala, and Paris.

During our travels we have noticed that Americans seem to value privacy more than other cultures in the world.

Why?

What does this mean for you if you visit the US?

Find out more today.

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What is TMI?

TMI means Too Much Information.

It’s a common acronym in the US that we use when someone has shared a bit too much.

For example, Michelle had a student once who told her that she had diarrhea.

This could also be called the “overshare.”

 

Greetings:

When someone asks us, “how are you?” we don’t say much. We just say “good, how about you?”

This is another example of the American cultural value of privacy.

We don’t want to share too much.

Maybe we don’t want to be vulnerable.

 

Asking about Someone’s Job:

When the economy was bad in the US, a lot of people avoided asking, “What do you do?” because many people were unemployed and we don’t want to embarrass people.

There can be a lot of shame if someone is unemployed.

We don’t want to put people “on the spot.”

 

Extended Families:

Sometimes we don’t share much with extended family members.

In Lindsay’s case, her extended family is not close at all.

She lives very far away from her extended family.

Compared with other cultures, it seems to us that our families are much more distant than extended families from other cultures.

 

Pregnant?

In the US we don’t share with our families that we’re pregnant until after the first three months.

The reason is that miscarriages are common during the first three months. We may only share this information with our partner and the doctor, often not even our parents or siblings.

 

What topics/questions should you avoid?

  • “How much money do you make?”
  • “How much money do you have?”
  • “Are you married?” “Do you have kids?” “How many kids do you have?”
  • “How old are you?” – don’t ask anyone this question if they are older than 19 or 20
  • “How much do you weigh?”
  • “Who did you vote for?”

 

What surprised you in today’s episode?

How is your culture similar or not?

Let us know in the comments below.

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