As social networking sites (SNSs) become increasingly global, the issues of cultural differences in participation patterns become acute. However, current research offers only limited insights into the role of culture behind SNS usage. Aiming to fill this gap, this study adopts a ‘privacy calculus’ perspective to study the differences between German and American SNS users. Results of structural equation modeling and multi-group analysis reveal distinct variability in the cognitive patterns of American and German subjects. We contribute to the theory by rejecting the universal nature of privacy-calculus processes. From a practical standpoint, our results signal that SNS providers cannot rely on the “proven” means in ensuring user participation when crossing geographic boundaries. When financial means are limited, SNS providers should direct their investments into enhancing platform enjoyment and granting users with more control and, paradoxically, lobbying for more legalistic safeguards of user privacy.