The Values Americans Live by: A Summary
University of San Diego
MSGL 510: Cohort 54
The Values Americans Live by: A summary
It doesn’t matter if you are a foreigner coming to America to live or an American moving abroad, culture shock is an important issue. To be successful in another culture, one has to understand their values. In looking at the United States, Kohls (1988) determined that there are 13 values that Americans live by and he discussed those in an article.
Commentary on the List of Basic American Values
1. Personal Control over the Environment/Responsibility
Americans believe they have control over nature and that this is part of their natural ...view middle of the document...
Kohls (1988) stresses that foreigners see Americans as more similar than Americans believe they are. He uses as an example that normally Americans vote for President from one of two political parties (Kohls, 1988). The ultimate result of this emphasis on individualism is privacy. According to Kohls (1988) this concept is hard for foreigners to understand because the word privacy doesn’t even exist in many languages. Individualism as it exists in the U.S. leads to a greater variety of opinions (Kohls, 1988).
The self-made person is venerated because Americans believe that the individual is defined by what he or she accomplishes. It is very important to an American to be able to say that you have helped or improved yourself without relying on anyone else. Kohls (1988) indicates there are more than 100 words in the English dictionary which have the prefix of self. The concept of self is very important to Americans (Kohls, 1988).
Americans love competition and believe it brings out the best in any individual (Kohls, 1988). U.S. Peace Corp volunteers thought competitiveness was a universal human characteristic and were distressed by a lack of competitiveness in Third World countries where they were teaching (Kohls, 1988). The competitive instinct is also evidenced by the free market or free enterprise system (Kohls, 1988). Americans believe that with competitiveness in the marketplace, the best products and services will eventually emerge successful.
8. Future Orientation
Much of what Americans spend their time doing is really trying to make a better future for themselves. They believe in goals and that they can control their destiny, so they are constantly planning on how to improve their future because they believe that will bring them further happiness (Kohls, 1988). They spend little time honoring the past or even living in the present. Kohls (1988) notes that in some cultures, planning for the future is not only futile; it is considered sinful.
9. Action/Work Orientation
People from other countries see Americans as workaholics defined by their jobs. Kohls (1988) warns foreigners that often the first thing Americans will ask you about is what you do for a living. . Another interesting insight that Kohls (1988) shares is that Americans also believe in the dignity of work and one will sometimes see executives engaging in physical labor.
Americans are considered very informal in manner and dress and this can lead to some discomfort for foreign visitors. In fact, in some countries, this informality is seen as disrespect. The American value of equality also emphasizes treating everyone the same, which is often with more informality than in another country (Kohls, 1988).
Americans have always preferred the most direct approach possible as they get to the point quickly without much...