If you visited U.S.A. for the first
time, you will experience a lot of cultural differences. America is very diverse society. So, it can be a really
interesting experience to live in the United States. Below
are two articles about American Culture for international
Students from " The International Student Guide to the
United States of America".
American Culture and 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 culture.
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.
MAJOR U.S. AMERICAN VALUES
Individuality: 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.
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
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 family
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
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
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
& 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.
Working in teams
is also an integral part of the MBA learning environment. For
students unused to asserting their opinions in a group, teamwork
may be another challenging aspect of MBA life; however, over
time you will gain confidence and new skills. The keys to
success in the interactive MBA learning environment are openness
to new ideas, willingness to work hard, and increasing facility
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.
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.
& 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.
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. I welcome you to the United States
and wish you well as you enter into a new adventure in your
personal and professional life.
FOR LIVING IN THE USA
These suggestions may help make your first days in the U.S. a
little easier. They may also help to speed up the “cultural
English as much as possible. Find an American roommate or
study mate, and participate in the university’s host
to speak more slowly and write down what they say.
problems in your studies with your professors.
If you feel
lonely or homesick talk to someone (a counselor, teacher, or
friend) and then do something nice for yourself that day.
advantage of opportunities to tell others about your country
and family. U.S. Americans are sometimes shy and won’t
Keep a smile
handy to help you feel better and others too.
Grouling, PhD of Drake University
you asked Americans what the cultural values in the U.S. are you might get
different answers or some core beliefs. In a society as highly diverse as the
United States, there is likely to be a multitude of answers.
culture has been enriched by the values and belief systems of almost all parts
of the world. Consequently, it is impossible to be comprehensive. Despite that,
I will try by discussing a few selected values which I believe are at the core
of the American value system.
The one value that nearly every American would agree upon is individual freedom.
Whether you call it individual freedom, individualism, or independence, it is
the cornerstone of American values. It involves every aspect of our society.
concept of an individual’s having control over his/her own destiny influenced
the type of government that was established here, and individual rights are
guaranteed in the United States Constitution .
rights are so protected in our judicial system that, even though Americans may
complain that criminals sometimes “get away with murder,” most people
believe it is better to keep these rights than to imprison one person who is
economic may be dominated by large corporations, but the majority of
American businesses are small, or mid-sized, and many are owned by an individual
or a family. It is part of the “American dream” to “be your own boss,”
and being an entrepreneur is one of the most appealing ways to improve one’s
is often regarded as the key to opportunity, including financial security.
Americans take a active approach to learning, outside the classroom through
internships, extracurricular activities, and the like is often considered as
important as what is learned in the classroom. Lifelong learning is valued which
results in many adult and continuing education programs.
have many choices. In school they decide their major field of study, perhaps
with or without their parents’ influence, and students even get to select some
of their courses.
believe that a person should “be all that he/she can be” originates from our
Protestant heritage. Since the majority of the early settlers were Protestant,
they believed that they had a responsibility to improve themselves, to be the
best they could be, to develop their talents, and to help their neighbors. These
convictions have not only influenced our educational system, but are often
reflected in U.S. foreign policy. What some might consider meddling in other
people’s affairs, others believe is fulfilling a moral obligation.
aspect of American society is the family. The family structure (parents
and children) is so foreign to most cultures in the world that it is often
misunderstood. The main purpose of the American family is to bring about the
happiness of each individual family member. The traditional family values do
include love and respect for parents, as well as all members of the family.
the emphasis on the individual and his/her right to happiness can be confusing.
It allows children to disagree, even argue with their parents. While in most
other cultures such action would be a sign of disrespect and a lack of love,
that is not the case in the United States. It is simply a part of developing
foreign students are welcomed by host families, who invite them into their homes
for dinner or to join in family activities. Frequently the students are told to
“make themselves at home” and, at times, may appear to be “left alone.”
certainly is nice to be treated as an honored guest in someone’s home, but one
of the highest compliments that an American can give a foreign guest is to treat
them like a member of the family, which means to give them the “freedom of the
house” to do what they want, to “raid the refrigerator” on their own, or
to have some quiet time alone.
is also important to Americans. The notion of individual privacy may make it
difficult to make friends. Because Americans respect one’s privacy, they may
not go much beyond a friendly “hello.” Ironically, it is usually the
foreigner who must be more assertive if a friendship is to develop.
settlers had to be self-sufficient which forced them to be inventive. Their
success gave them an optimism about the future, a belief that problems could be
solved. This positive spirit enables Americans to take risks in areas where
others might only dream, resulting in tremendous advances in technology, health
American frontier created our heroes: the self-reliant, strong-willed, confident
individual who preferred action to words and always tried to treat others
fairly. Many of these characteristics are represented by the myth of the
American cowboy. We can even look to “future” centuries and admire similar
qualities in the heroes of the Star Trek and Star Wars movie series.
addition to such basic American values as individual freedom, self-reliance,
equality of opportunity, hard work, material wealth, and competition, we see a
trend toward conservation with an emphasis on recycling and preserving the
environment. Also there is a greater sensitivity to cooperation on a more global
matter what changes the next century brings or whether you agree with American
values, the opportunity to study in the United States and to observe Americans
first-hand is an experience well worth the effort.
careful not to be ethnocentric, but to evaluate a culture by its own standards.
Be aware that you’ll help shape American attitudes, just as they will
influence you. I wish you success in this grand adventure.