The Values Americans Live By

The Values Americans Live By - THE VALUES AMERICANS LIVE BY...

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THE VALUES AMERICANS LIVE BY By L. Robert Kohls, Ph.D. INTRODUCTION Most Americans would have a difficult time telling you, specifically, what the values are which Americans live by. They have never given the matter any thought. Even if Americans had considered this question, they would probably, in the end, decide not to answer in terms of a definitive list of values. The reason for this decision is itself one very American value – their belief that every individual is so unique that the same list of values could never be applied to all, or even most, of their fellow citizens. Although Americans may think of themselves as being more varied and unpredictable than they actually are, it is significant that they think they are. Americans tend to think they have been only slightly influenced by family, church or schools. In the end, each believes, “ I personally chose which values I want to live my own life by.” Despite this self-evaluation, a foreign anthropologist could observe Americans. The list of typically American values would stand in sharp contrast to the values commonly held by the people of many other countries. Over the years, I have introduced thousands of international visitors to life in the United States. This has caused me to try to look at Americans through the eyes of foreign visitors. I am confident that the values listed in this booklet describe most (but not all) Americans, and that understanding these values can help you, the international visitor, understand Americans. It is my belief that if foreign visitors really understand how deeply ingrained these 13 values are in Americans, they will then be able to understand 95% of American actions -- actions which might otherwise appear “strange,” “confusing,” or “unbelievable” when evaluated from the perspective of foreigner’s own society and its values. The different behaviors of a people or a culture make sense only when seen through the basic beliefs, assumptions and values of that particular group. When you encounter an action, or hear a statement in the United States which surprises you, try to see it as an expression
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L.R. Kohls: “The Values Americans Live By - 2 - of one or more of the values listed in this booklet. For example, when you ask Americans for directions to get to a particular address in their own city, they may explain, in great detail, how you can get there on your own , but may never even consider walking a hundred meters with you to lead you to that place. Some foreign visitors have interpreted this sort of action as showing Americans’ “unfriendliness.” I would suggest, instead, that the self-help concept (value number 6 on our list) is so strong in Americans that they firmly believe that no adult would ever want, even temporarily, to be dependent on another. Also, their future orientation (value 8) makes Americans think it is better to prepare you to find other addresses on your own in the future. Before proceeding to the list itself, let me also point out that
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The Values Americans Live By - THE VALUES AMERICANS LIVE BY...

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