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Sunday, January 13, 2013

World Traveler Reviews What Foreigners (and Americans!) Need to Know About America From A To Z

Title: What Foreigners Need To Know About America From A to Z
Subtitle: How to understand crazy American culture, people, government, business, language and more
By Lance Johnson
Author's Web site:
Available Amazon US:
Available on Amazon worldwide

Reviewed by Kristin Johnson
Five of Five Stars


As an American traveler, I have often been asked questions I found difficult to answer. Luckily, there is a resource, for me and for the people I have met in different countries.


This guide, What Foreigners Need to Know About America From A to Z, answers questions such as: what would you do if... were from another culture and had to negotiate a business deal but you found your American counterpart direct and rude (especially if you are from Japan)? were a student at a university baffled by American students who talked back to professors? disliked a particular food or could not eat it but didn't want to offend your American host? were courting and dating an American?


...your friends from your culture living in the US criticized your attempts to dress like an American? were invited to an American's home for dinner in Hawaii* or in the Midwest?


Our world may be global, communication instant, but this only ramps up (increases) cultural misunderstandings among cultures. As a businessperson, actor, author, teacher, and world traveler, Lance Johnson realizes that making sense of our "crazy" American ways can be a challenge for immigrants, tourists, and businesses from other countries doing business with their American counterparts. What he has done in his book America From A to Z is take the equivalent of several university courses' worth of information on America and present his information in an informal, conversational one-on-one manner, as if he were talking to a friend, such as a Vietnamese guide Lance met during an eye-opening *enlightening) trip to Vietnam.


Each of the book's four major sections stands on its own (if you are wondering about the construction of this sentence, check page 477), and depending on what aspects of American culture you want to learn, you can look at the particular section you would like to study. Each section is available as its own separate book, but to get the most out of Lance Johnson's lessons, having the complete book is ideal.


Section I: America's Heritage


Useful for: Understanding US History, US Law, US Government (baffling to all), where the Bible Belt is versus Dixie, the American Dream, contributions of/history of immigrants as well as Americans of foreign descent (such as Governor Piyush "Bobby" Jindal of Louisiana), national parks, religion (baffling) and measurements (an even more baffling subject made simple here).


Section II: America's Culture


Useful for: Understanding American painters, writers, sports, film (easily one of our biggest exports), how to get along in American social situations, greetings, navigating high school and college, dating/marriage guides, formal to fast food dining tips, dressing tips, Americans' views on themselves and other cultures, and foreigners' experience of America.


Section III: America's Business


Useful for: giving you all the information to understand how Americans do business (straightforward), negotiate, hire, fire, do finance, start a business, and so on.


Section IV: America's Language


Useful for: Foreigners AND Americans who want to speak better English by avoiding common errors, learning the alphabet, grammar and vocabulary, learning from famous sayings, understanding slang and abbreviations, recognizing most commonly used words, and getting speaking tips (my favorite: "Do not be afraid to try").



--Lincoln's Gettysburg Address ("Four score and seven years ago our founding fathers...")

--Top 50 Liberal Arts Colleges in America (#1 Williams College)

--Top 50 Universities in America (#1 Harvard University)

--Colleges With Largest Percentages of Foreign Students (New School, NY)

--Sample Income Tax Form

--The Pulitzer Prize for Literature (1937-2011)

--Academy Awards for Best Picture (1927-2011)

--Newspaper Column: "Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus"

--The 50 US States

--US History Government Quiz (Hint: You might ask that your American friends take this, too!)




This book has "a ton of" (many) lists and tables (I counted 278). The lists, tables and charts make the text easily readable. Another equally helpful feature are the numerous hints and tips, as well as "Here's an assignment for you" exercises sprinkled like gems throughout the text.


Some of my favorite hints...


Hint: As another example of our crazy language that we discuss in Section IV on America’s language, coins are minted (made) at the U.S. Mint. Something is in mint condition if it appears to be brand new. We have a green aromatic plant called mint that is used in teas and to flavor foods. And we have candy after-dinner mints made with chocolate and the flavoring from mint plants.


Hint: It is also fine to bring unwrapped gifts with only a small gift card attached, especially for items like flowers, candy, and wine.


Hint: Just as women like men who are confident, most American men like women who are confident. If a woman is shy and unable to express her opinions and wishes, as some foreigners can appear to be, she will not impress most American men. On the other hand, if she is controlling and domineering, she won’t either. Try to strike a good balance.


Hint: You will learn in Chapter Y on using better English grammar that we have three levels of grammar: formal, general, and informal. I suppose you could say we have the same levels for table etiquette based on who you are eating with. I must admit I do not practice all of the good manners, especially when I am with close friends or in a fast food restaurant. Just be aware that the more of our rules you practice the more favorable you will appear. Over time you will note the manners used by your counterpart and will see which ones are most important to him or her.




Surveys on American morals and values reveal our character. Personal stories humanize the American experience, whether from the point of view of a Frenchman, foreign exchange students and Muslim-Americans, an Englishman (the delightful Alistair cooke), or a Vietnamese immigrant as well as a Chinese teacher of English. The message: We all can learn from each other. This is the most enduring message of the book, and Lance Johnson's commitment to his vision shines.


This book should be a staple in: US embassies, foreign embassies in the US, high schools and colleges, corporate libraries, travel agencies...the surface has barely been scratched (meaning there's much more to share).


* In Hawaii, if you are invited to someone's home for a potluck or party it is a huge gesture of respect and inclusion. In Hawaii social activity typically revolves around the family (ohana). Ask the host/hostess what you should bring in terms of food. Take your shoes off before entering someone's home.

 ~Special Offer:
This book and a Valentine booklet are available as free e-books with only a couple clicks. All you do is go to on Jan 13, 14, 15, or 16th and click and then to  and click. Both e-books will come directly to your computer or your Kindle.

~ More About the Reviewer:
As a screenwriter, journalist, author (BUTTERFLY WINGS, CHRISTMAS COOKIES ARE FOR GIVING, co-writer of THE HIGH-TECH GOOSENECK PUTTER), blogger, award-winning poet/short story writer, and traveler, Kristin Johnson has spent time in exotic lands such as Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Japan, Taiwan,and Texas (more than a state--a state of mind.)  She has also spent considerable time in various Canada locations such as Ontario, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, and France. She works on creative projects with people based all over the world. View her profile at*Version*=1&*entries*=0 .


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