Link icon
CIA World Factbook
An annual publication with almanac-style information about the countries of the world
Link icon
Peace Corps Culture Matters
A cross-cultural training workbook to help Peace Corps volunteers acquire knowledge and skills to work successfully in other cultures
Link icon
Peace Corps World Wise Schools
Website to teach Americans about the world by providing educational resources to promote global competence
Document icon
American Values
This PDF provides a more thorough explanation of 11 core American values, from independence through efficient use of time.
Document icon
Dimensions of Culture
This PDF provides descriptions, actions, and locations tied to a select number of the dimensions of culture.
Document icon
The Cultural Adaptation Curve
This PDF addresses the stages of cultural adaptation, with explanations of the three phases of culture shock and how immersion affects people over time.
Link icon
Improve How You Communicate Across Cultures
A blog post that provides three simple things that you can do to improve how you communicate across cultures.
Document icon
Low- and High-context
This PDF describes some of the differences between low-context and high-context communication and how these differences affect other dimensions of culture.
Document icon
Personal Space
This PDF describes the norms around personal space in the United States as well as the norms in a number of other locations.
Link icon
Seven Habits for Highly Effective Intercultural Communicators
A blog post that highlights the importance of cross cultural communication through the habits that effective communicators practice.
Document icon
Plan for Engagement
This PDF describes actions you can take, and some suggestions for general guidance, for when you go out into a different culture and engage in conversation.
Document icon
Style Switching
This PDF describes some examples of small things to do to switch your communication style while in another culture.
Document icon
Engaging and Disengaging
This PDF describes things you can do when actively trying to engage with someone in conversation, as well as tips and techniques for disengaging when you want to avoid a question or topic.
The information provided is FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY and in no way constitutes an endorsement, expressed or implied, by the Department of State. Links to websites outside the U.S. federal government or the use of trade, firm, or corporation names are for the convenience of the user and do not constitute an official endorsement or approval of any private sector website, product, service, or privacy policy.
Department of State seal

About this Resource

Representing the United States—and Americans—while living and working abroad is an honor and privilege. At the same time, it can be overwhelming and intimidating to answer questions on behalf of a nation and its people, especially considering the diversity of the American experience. Every American living or working abroad needs the skills and confidence to answer difficult questions politely and substantively, while at the same time respecting the many cultural realities of all interpersonal encounters.

This interactive resource, So You’re an American? A Guide to Answering Difficult Questions Abroad, is designed to build skills and confidence in responding to difficult questions about culture and nationality. Specifically, this resource focuses on handling everyday inquiries from curious folks around the globe. Have you ever jumped in a taxi and been confronted with “Why do Americans love their guns so much?” or some such question mired in history, culture, and values? Or, have you been at a local market trying to purchase a gift and been surprised that what should have been a 10 minute encounter has turned into a 45 minute ritual of tea, presentation of goods, and detailed explanations of the craftsman’s process?

So You’re an American? A Guide to Answering Difficult Questions Abroad is an online resource created by the Department of State’s Foreign Service Institute for all Americans living and working abroad who are eager to prepare for the many informal and unofficial questions they will receive while overseas. Throughout this resource, you will explore cross-cultural communication techniques as well as various aspects of culture through self-paced activities, videos, and simulations. Participants will develop confidence in their ability to navigate difficult questions and conversations, including knowing how to disengage appropriately. This resource limits its scope to non-foreign policy questions, as those demand answers from official sources.