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Thursday, April 3, 2008

American Cultural Assumptions

Below are some interesting questions that illustrate the differences between the American culture and other foreign cultures. These are generalizations but most of them are accurate to the Kaonde mindset.

Any visitor to a foreign country must realize that the American mindset is not always right. Many differences exist and foreigners (the American visitors) need to be sensitive to the culture which they are visiting.

After you read through the questions, make sure to notice and think about the excercise mentioned at the bottom.


American Cultural Assumptions
Values Affecting Interpersonal Relationships
By Steven Rinesmith


A:Assumption or value held by majority of Americans
F:Assumption or value held by majority of persons of a "contrast-American society"; that is, one which is opposed to American society (in contrast to it) in its assumptions and values

How do Americans see themselves?

  1. What is our primary identification?
    A:Within ourselves as individuals.
    F:As part of a family, clan, caste, or tribe.
  2. What do we value in people?
    A:What people can achieve through special skills.
    F:A person's background, family connections, tribal affiliations.
  3. Whom do we rely on for help?
    A:Ourselves as independently resourceful people.
    F:Our friends, family, and others owing us obligations.
  4. How do we learn about life?
    A:From personal experience.
    F:From the wisdom and knowledge of others.
  5. What is the basis of social control in a community?
    A:From feelings of guilt because we are not living up to our personal standard.
    F:From feelings of shame because we are not living up the standards of our community.

How do Americans see their relationships with others?

  1. How do we relate to people of different status or authority?
    A:Minimize the difference; take for granted everyone's the same.
    F:Stress the difference; show respect for authority/position.
  2. How do we relate to new acquaintances?
    A:Stress informality; make people feel at home.
    F:Stress formality; act properly in front of strangers.
  3. How do we idealize work and sex roles?
    A:Little differentiation between male and female roles.
    F:Distinct and rigid differentiation between male and female roles.
  4. How do we idealize sex roles and friendship?
    A:People may have close friends of both sexes.
    F:People may have close friends of same sex only.
  5. How do we idealize sex roles in social relationships?
    A:Sex equality for males and females.
    F:Male superiority.
  6. What are our loyalties to organizational life?
    A:Move easily from one organization to another when our personal goals are not fulfilled.
    F:Remain with our organization from sense of loyalty even when personal goals are not fulfilled.
  7. What are the characteristics of friendship?
    A:A loose concept applied to many people and based on overlapping special interests; limited obligations to one another.
    F:A specific concept applied to a few people; total involvement based upon mutual love and respect; unlimited obligations to one another.
  8. How do we deal with conflict?
    A:Favor eye-to-eye confrontation between the two people disagreeing.
    F:Find it unacceptable and embarrassing.
  9. How do we regard kidding or joking at the expense of others?
    A:As acceptable, interesting, and fun.
    F:As unacceptable and embarrassing.
  10. What are our primary ways of social interaction with friends?
    A:Doing things together.
    F:Being together.
  11. What is the preferred pace of life?
    A:Fast, busy, conducive to getting things done.
    F:Slow, steady, conducive to getting the most from life.

How do Americans see the world?

  1. What is nature like?
    A:Physical; knowable by scientific investigation.
    F:Spiritual and mystical.
  2. How do natural forces in the world operate?
    A:In a rational, controllable manner.
    F:In a predetermined, spiritually controlled manner.
  3. What is the role of fate in life?
    A:It has little influence; we are the masters of our destiny.
    F:It has great influence; there is little we can do to alter it.
  4. What is the relationship between man and nature?
    A:Man should modify nature for his own needs.
    F:Man should accept and integrate with the natural forces around him.
  5. What is our attitude toward things we desire in life?
    A:What is good or desired is unlimited if we work hard.
    F:What is good or desired is limited and must be shared with others.
  6. How do we look at time?
    A:In precise minutes and hours by which we organize our days.
    F:In diffuse days, weeks, or months by which we organize our years.
  7. How do we value time?
    A:As a limited resource not to be wasted.
    F:As an unlimited resource to be used.
  8. How does life unfold?
    A:In a lineal fashion through history.
    F:In a cyclical fashion through recurring seasonal patterns.
  9. How do we measure progress?
    A:In concrete, quantifiable units which indicate amount, size, percent, and the like.
    F:Against abstract social and moral principles of our society.
  10. On what basis do we make decisions?
    A:Will it work?
    F:Is it right?

From Steven Rinesmith, Bring Home the World, pp.43f

A Biblical Exercise:

Go back through the list of assumptions and values above, thinking through anything that God in Scripture says about those assumptions and values. Which of the above have similarities to the cultures seen in the Bible? Which of the above demonstrates God's values as revealed in Biblical ideals/laws/Jesus?

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