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The Values Americans Live By: A Summary

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The Values Americans Live by: A Summary

University of San Diego

MSGL 510: Cohort 54

The Values Americans Live by: A summary

It doesn’t matter if you are a foreigner coming to America to live or an American moving abroad, culture shock is an important issue. To be successful in another culture, one has to understand their values. In looking at the United States, Kohls (1988) determined that there are 13 values that Americans live by and he discussed those in an article.

Commentary on the List of Basic American Values

1. Personal Control over the Environment/Responsibility

Americans believe they have control over nature and that this is part of their natural destiny and that there are few things man cannot achieve. Americans believe that everyone should look out for their own self-interests and not depend on others (Kohls, 1988).

2. Change Seen as Natural and Positive

Kohls (1988) talks about the fact that many cultures view change as not always something positive. These cultures value stability, continuity, tradition, and a rich and ancient heritage (Kohls, 1988).

3. Time and Its Control

Time is critically important to Americans. Time is the given and people are the variable. To people from other countries Americans may be a little obsessed about being on time, scheduling their time, and making the best use of their time (Kohls, 1988).

4. Equality/Fairness

The general premise is that people should be treated as equals on most dimensions, although, in fact, equality is actually better described as an equal opportunity. This equality for everyone equal can be seen as rude to high ranking foreigners who are used to being treated deferentially. Foreigners should be aware of this and not be offended by what can be perceived as undue familiarity (Kohls, 1988).

5. Individualism/Independence

Americans see themselves as unique and special. Kohls (1988) stresses that foreigners see Americans as more similar than Americans believe they are. He uses as an example that normally Americans vote for President from one of two political parties (Kohls, 1988). The ultimate result of this emphasis on individualism is privacy. According to Kohls (1988) this concept is hard for foreigners to understand because the word privacy doesn’t even exist in many languages. Individualism as it exists in the U.S. leads to a greater variety of opinions (Kohls, 1988).

6. Self-Help/Initiative

The self-made person is venerated because


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