US Cultural Values and Cultural Adjustment Katie McClintic Applied English Center, University of Kansas July 8th, 2013
Values Ideas about: • Right and wrong • Desirable and undesirable • Normal and abnormal • Proper and improper
Cultural Generalizations • A first step to understanding someplace different… • …but how much generalization about a culture is acceptable?
Continuum of Human Behavior Americans: 20% speak a language other than English at home (Language Use & Ability 2007) Americans: English monolinguals Speak a language Americans eat fast food food “weekday” vegetarian
Culture: What we see & what we don’t Culture: What we see and what we don’t Obsessed with schedules Blue jeans Fast food First names Smiling a lot Behaviors Senses Cultural artifacts Opinions Viewpoints Attitudes Philosophies Values Convictions Notions of time Communication style Motivations in daily life How people fit into society Modified from Cultural Intelligence – Brooks Peterson (Intercultural Press, 2004, pp. 19-22)
American Culture: Key Values • Individualism • Privacy • Equality • Time is precious & focus on future • Achievement and work
Individualism • Independence and personal responsibility • Grown children typically don’t live with parents • Self-reliant • Individual freedom
Privacy • Assumption that most people need time alone • A person’s possessions belong to him/her • A person’s thoughts belong to him/her (confidentiality) • Many unspoken boundaries
Equality • Men and women are equal • Every person is valuable and deserves respect • Every person’s opinion is valuable • Inequalities exist but are signaled subtly (indirectly) • Everyone has the possibility to achieve high standing
Achievement and Work • High value on “getting things done” • Ideal person is a hard worker, works efficiently • Belief that one should be “doing something” most of the time • Many define themselves by their job • Achievement is good • Competitiveness is a way to advance
Attitude towards Time • Linear (complete one task at a time) • Task oriented • Highly value punctuality • Keep to schedules, agendas, timetables • Meet deadlines • Focus on future, change, progress
Communication • Need for explicit statements • Low reliance on context or assumptions • “Tennis” style of communicating • Importance placed on written vs. spoken agreements • Lack of emotionality valued
Cultural Adjustment: 3 Stages • Honeymoon stage • Excitement, curiosity • Culture Shock • Disorientation, longing for the familiar, frustration, depression, hostility • Cultural Adjustment • Competency in new culture, comfort, acceptance, feelings of accomplishment
Some Helpful Ideas • D-I-E • Describe, Interpret, Evaluate • Quick, judgmental reactions = misunderstandings • Ask questions • Talk with experienced expatriates or those who have spent time abroad • Keep a journal • View yourself as a teacher
Resources Althen, Gary. 2011. American Ways – A Cultural Guide to the United States 3rd edition. Yarmouth, ME: Intercultural Press.