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Wednesday, 5 November 2014

An Adventure in American Culture & Values

An Adventure in American Culture & Values

An Adventure in American Culture & Values

Studying in the United States of America can be a wonderful 

learning experience. Both in and out of the classroom you 

will learn and practice the English language. You will also 

learn much about American life and its sometimes confusing 


As you prepare to come to the U.S., it may help to know 

something about the values that shape U.S. Americans' 

attitudes and behaviors. As you consider these values it is 

important to remember that:

    1. U.S. society is made up of a diversity of ethnic groups and cultures that have helped shape American values;
    2. Some individuals and groups have a set of respected values that are quite different from those of mainstream America;
    3. People's attitudes and behavior are based on their values.

    Some Major U.S. American Values 


    U.S. Americans are encouraged at an early age to be 

    independent and to develop their own goals in life. They are

     encouraged to not depend (too much) on others including 

    their friends, teachers and parents. They are rewarded when 

    they try harder to reach their goals.


     U.S. Americans like their privacy and enjoy 

    spending time alone. Foreign visitors will find U.S. American 

    homes and offices open, but what is inside the American 

    mind is considered to be private. To ask the question "What 

    is on your mind?" may be considered by some to be intrusive.


    U.S. Americans uphold the ideal that everyone "is created 

    equal" and has the same rights. This includes women as well 

    as men of all ethnic and cultural groups living in the U.S. 

    There are even laws that protect this "right to equality" in its 

    various forms.

    The general lack of deference to people in authority is one 

    example of equality. Titles, such as "sir" and "madam" are 

    seldom used. Managers, directors, presidents and even 

    university instructors are often addressed by their first or 

    given name.


    U.S. Americans take pride in making the best use of their 

    time. In the business world, "time is money". Being "on time" 
    for class, an appointment, or for dinner with your host 


    is important. U.S. Americans apologize if they are late. Some 

    instructors give demerits to students who are late to class, 

    and students at most universities have institutional 

    permission to leave the classroom if their instructor is 10 or 

    15 minutes late.


     The U.S. American lifestyle is generally casual. You will see 

    students going to class in shorts and t-shirts. Male instructors

     seldom wear a tie and some may even wear blue jeans

    . Female instructors often wear slacks along with comfortable

     walking shoes.

    Greetings and farewells are usually short, informal and 

    friendly. Students may greet each other with "hi", "how are 

    you"? and "what's up"? The farewell can be as brief as: "See 

    you", "take it easy", or, "come by some time" (although they 

    generally don't really mean it). Friendships are also casual, as 
    Americans seem to easily develop and end friendships.

    Achievement & Hard Work/Play: 

    The foreign visitor is often impressed at how achievement 

    oriented Americans are and how hard they both work and 

    play. A competitive spirit is often the motivating factor to 

    work harder. Americans often compete with themselves as 

    well as others. They feel good when they "beat their own 

    record" in an athletic event or other types of competition. 

    Americans seem to always be "on the go", because sitting 

    quietly doing nothing seems like a waste of time.

    Direct & Assertive: 

    U.S. Americans try to work out their differences face-to-face 

    and without a mediator. They are encouraged to speak up 

    and give their opinions. Students are often invited to 

    challenge or disagree with certain points in the lecture. This 

    manner of direct speaking is often interpreted by foreign 

    visitors as rude.

    Looking to the Future and to Change: 

    Children are often asked what they want to be "when they

     grow up"; college students are asked what they will do when

     they graduate; and professors plan what they will do when 

    they retire.

    Change is often equated with progress and holding on to 

    traditions seems to imply old and outdated ways. Even 

    though Americans are recycling more than before many 

    purchased products are designed to have a short life and 

    then be thrown away.

    Adjustment & Culture "Shock"

    You may notice that these American values are, in some 

    instances, quite different from your own. When you come to 

    the U.S. the reality of these differences will be more evident.

     You will likely experience culture "shock" as you learn to 

    adjust to the new culture and way of living. This is very 

    normal and requires both time and patience.

    Good Wishes for a New Cultural Experience

    Your decision to study in the United States will provide you 

    with endless opportunities to learn about a new culture and 

    about yourself as well. You will also have a chance to 

    "educate" U.S. Americans about your own country and 

    cultural values.