This handout explains four strong cultural attitudes in the US and suggests culturally appropriate strategies for students.
One of the founding values of the United States is that each person controls his or her own destiny, that each person has the freedom to make choices for him or herself, and that success or failure depends very much on an individual’s effort. Individuals are recognized for their effort and achievement, and it is considered dishonest to take credit for work you haven’t done yourself.
Americans are not expected to memorize information they are studying or to believe that all people in authority are correct. They are taught to ask questions, to analyze strengths and weaknesses, to look at things from many perspectives, to challenge previous understandings, to find flaws, and to be creative in their interpretations. In class:
Americans communicate very directly, believing it is the speaker’s responsibility to be perfectly clear. They value honesty and openness, even when the information is unpleasant. They can be confused by the indirect communication style of other cultures. They generally see indirectness as a sign of dishonesty.
Americans are very conscious of time! They believe that time should be monitored carefully, managed effectively, and used efficiently. They can become impatient when things do not run according to schedule.
Most people take their own culture for granted—we don’t really think about it until something strange happens. If you encounter anything confusing, it’s okay to say “I don’t really understand what just happened.” The other person may be just as confused as you are, and you’ll both learn something from the conversation.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License.
You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout (just click print) and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
If you enjoy using our handouts, we appreciate contributions of acknowledgement.