In the second part of this American Identity series, I would like to discuss the first three values as listed by Robert Kohls: Personal Control, Change, and Time.
As much as interculturalists like to avoid stereotyping, making some generalizations (leaving room for exceptions) can be helpful when trying to understand someone who holds different values. By all means, if I say something you disagree with, please share your opinion below!
Personal Control Over the Environment/Responsibility:
Americans don’t believe in destiny. We believe that we make our own destiny. Further more, people who do believe in fate, confuse us. Don’t they know they have to work for what they want?
We mold our environment to suit our needs rather than adjusting to the natural environment.
“Americans seem to be challenged, even compelled, to do, by one means or another (and often at great cost) what seven-eighths of the world is certain cannot be done.” (Kohls, 1988)
Change Seen as Natural and Positive:
We elected a President under the promise of “change.” We hear people all the time say, “I need a change in my life, something new and exciting!” We value the unknown as we generally feel it will be better than what we have. Many people might not realize that this is a far cry from valuing tradition and the comfort of stability, even when mundane.
Think about how much American culture has changed since this article was written, before the internet, before smart phones, Facebook and Twitter. We change so fast, it’s hard to keep up.
Time and its Control:
The differences in how time is valued is a common topic amongst people who interact with people from around the world. You’ll quickly realize how important it is to know how people prioritize their time when trying to arrange meetings. Would you say you follow “Event Time” or “Clock Time”? With the first, it would be perfectly normal to be 10-15 minutes late for a meeting if you had an unexpected visitor, for the latter, this would be very rude and unprofessional.
Americans (especially us on the East coast) are always in a hurry, our time is valued and precious down to the minute.
“Americans’ language is filled with references to time, giving a clear indication of how much it is valued. Time is something to be ‘on,’ to be ‘kept,’ ‘filled,’ ‘saved,’ ‘used,’ ‘spent,’ ‘wasted,’ ‘lost,’ ‘gained,’ ‘planned,’ ‘given,’ ‘made the most of,’ even ‘killed.'” (Kohls, 1988)
I would like to invite a discussion on these values; please leave a comment or email me directly at Michelle@abroad101.com, or comment on twitter @EdAbroadGirl
This post is part of a series: