THE VALUES AMERICANS LIVE BY
By L. Robert Kohls, Ph.D.
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
they are. Americans tend to think they have been only slightly
influenced by family, church or schools. In the end, each believes, “ I
which values I want to live my own life
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
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,
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