Understand American values and learn about what is important to Americans. Read why Americans value independence, equality, and being on time. You will see why Americans are direct and informal and why competition, work ethic, and buying things are all important in the USA.
What are American values?
在您的国家，您可能拥有自己珍视的强大传统和文化。 在美国，也有重要的美国价值观。 以下是美国人认为最重要的。
In your country, you probably had strong traditions and culture that you valued. In the United States, there are also important American values. These are the things that are most important to Americans.
美国的主要价值观之一是独立。 独立有时被称为个人主义。 美国人为自力更生或能够照顾自己而自豪，他们倾向于认为其他人也应该自力更生。 当有人达到目标时，通常认为这是他或她自己的努力的结果。 这与许多其他更集体的文化不同。 集体文化倾向于将成就视为整个家庭或社区的功劳。
One of the main values in the United States is independence. Independence is sometimes referred to as individualism. Americans are very proud of being self-reliant, or being able to take care of themselves, and they tend to think others should be self-reliant as well. When someone reaches a goal, that is typically seen as the result of his or her own hard work. This is different than in many other cultures which are more collective. Collective cultures tend to see accomplishments as a reflection of an entire family or community.
Here is an example of how Americans value independence:
- 美国儿童往往比其他文化更早离开家。 例如，高中毕业后，许多孩子搬出去上大学或开始工作。 如果他们继续住在家里，他们可能会被要求支付租金或为房子出力。
- American children tend to leave the home earlier than in other cultures. For example, after graduating high school, many children move out to go to college or start working. If they continued to live at home, they might be asked to pay rent or contribute to the house.
- Americans expect anyone who is able to work to do so in order to support themselves.
Americans value privacy and their own space. While in some cultures wanting privacy may be seen as a bad thing, many Americans like to have alone time and may be private about certain topics.
Here are a few situations related to the American value of privacy:
- 在谈话中，许多美国人对某些事情都是私人的，并且不想谈论它们，例如他们的年龄，他们赚了多少钱，或者他们的政治，性和宗教观点。 有些人不喜欢在公共场合谈论这些话题，因为他们担心会引起人们争论。 但是，如果您对这些主题有疑问，可以询问我们。 大多数美国人都乐于教你美国人如何看待世界。
- 相比较其他文化，美国人经常在公共场合给予彼此更多的空间。 他们往往留一些空间，通常是伸出的手臂的距离。
- 许多美国人在他们的房子周围装有围栏，以保护隐私。 如果您的孩子往邻居的围栏丢球或其他玩具，跳过围栏并取回玩具通常是个坏主意。 相反，应去前门敲门铃。 如果没有人开门，请在门上留下一张纸条，询问是否允许在上午8点到晚上8点之间取回玩具。 这是有礼貌的并安全的，因为有些人有护卫犬或可能非常保护他们的隐私。 特别是长者通常需要更多的安宁和平静，可能不想被打扰。 如果你打开一个门，你必须之后关门。 但是，如果你来到一个敞开的大门，请保持其打开。
- 卧室通常被视为私人空间。 邻居和朋友可以在厨房，餐厅或起居室玩耍。 父母和孩子往往有自己的卧室，而且每个美国孩子都有自己的卧室。
- In conversations, many Americans are private about certain things and do not want to talk about them, such as their age, how much money they make, or their political, sexual and religious views. Some people do not like talking about these subjects in public because they are worried it will cause people to argue. However, if you have questions about these topics, you can ask us. Most Americans will be happy to teach you about how Americans view the world.
- Americans often give each other more space in public situations than people in other cultures. They tend to stand with a bit of space between them, typically the distance of an outstretched arm.
- Many Americans have fences around their houses to ensure they have privacy. If your children lose a ball or other toy over a neighbor’s fence, it is generally a bad idea to jump over the fence and retrieve the toy. Instead, go to the front door and knock or ring the bell. If there is no answer leave a note on the door, asking permission to retrieve the toy between 8am and 8pm. This is both respectful and safe, as some people have guard dogs or may be very protective of their privacy. Elders in particular typically need more peace and quiet and may not want to be disturbed. If you open a gate you must close it. However, if you come to an open gate, leave it open.
- Bedrooms are usually considered private spaces. Neighbors and friends are entertained in the kitchen, dining room or living room. Parents and children tend to have their own bedrooms, and often, American children each have their own bedrooms.
Those are just some examples of privacy that may be different in your culture.
美国人往往非常直接。 这意味着他们经常告诉你他们的想法，他们会对自己想要的东西表现出自信。 在美国，自信被认为是一件好事。
Americans are often very direct. This means they often tell you what they think and they will be assertive about what they want. Being assertive is generally seen as a good thing in America.
Here are some examples of American-style directness:
- 在某些文化中，拒绝邀请是不礼貌的 – 例如，如果有人要求您共进午餐，您可能会说是，但之后不去吃午饭。 在美国，
- 在谈话中，如果美国人不同意你的意见，他们可能会告诉你。 这并不意味着他们不喜欢你，只是他们可能有不同的想法。
- 在美国，对“丢面子”的想法不同。 “丢面子”的翻译将是“尴尬”，这不太严重。 例如，如果被批评或犯了错误，美国人可能会感到尴尬。 因此，美国人可能会指出错误或批评你，只是想纠正你或着认为这些信息对你有用
- 在课堂上，美国人可能会挑战老师的想法。 在某些文化中，不同意你的老师是不礼貌的。
- 寻求帮助绝不是无礼的。 如果朋友或邻居问您是否需要任何东西，他们真的想帮忙。 随意说，“如果你要去商店，
你走过橘子，请给我一个袋子，我会付钱给你。”或者，如果你需要冬天的衣服，你呢？ 不知道在哪里买，可以问，“你有什么建议我可以为我的孩子买便宜的外套和靴子吗？ ”大多数美国人喜欢帮助，一点点鼓励就能成为好朋友和邻居。
- In some cultures, it is rude to decline an invitation – for example, if someone asks you for lunch, you may say yes, but then not go to lunch. In America, it is almost always better to say, “No, but thank you” or, “Thank you, but I have another commitment.” If you say yes to an invitation but do not go to the event, the person might get upset.
- In conversation, if an American disagrees with your opinion, they might tell you. This does not mean they do not like you, just that they may have a different idea.
- The idea of “losing face” is not the same in America. The translation for “losing face” would be “embarrassed,” which is less serious. Americans may be embarrassed if they are criticized or make a mistake, for example. So Americans may point out mistakes or criticize you, simply intending it as a correction or useful information.
- In classes, Americans may challenge their teachers’ ideas. In some cultures, it is impolite to disagree with your teacher.
- It is never is rude to ask for help. If a friend or neighbor asks you if you need anything, they truly want to help. Feel free to say, “If you are going to the store and you walk by the oranges, please pick me up a bag, and I’ll pay you for them.” Or, if you need winter clothes for example, and you’re not sure where to buy them, it is OK to ask, “Do you have any suggestions for where I can buy inexpensive coats and boots for my children?” Most Americans love to help, and need very little encouragement to become good friends and neighbors.
总的来说，请记得看似粗鲁的东西事实并不是那样的。 美国人并不想变得粗鲁 – 他们只是直接的。
In general, it is good to remember that what may appear rude is not intended that way. Americans are not trying to be rude – they are just being direct.
美国独立宣言宣称，“所有人都是平等的。”实际上，美国的一些人并不总是平等地对待所有公民，但许多美国人对平等的观念非常强烈。 在美国历史上有许多例子，所有人都没有得到平等对待，例如非洲裔美国人（黑人）的奴役。 然而，美国人喜欢相信所有人都应该拥有平等机会。 这个想法是所谓的“美国梦”的一部分。许多早期移民移居美国，追随美国梦。 他们相信如果你努力工作，你就可以上升社会地位。
The US Declaration of Independence declares, “All Men Are Created Equal.” In reality, some people in the United States do not always treat all citizens equally, but many Americans feel very strongly about the idea of equality. There are many examples in American history where all people were not treated equally such as slavery of African American (black) citizens. However, Americans like to believe the idea that all people should have equal opportunities. This idea is a part of what is called the “American Dream.” Many early immigrants moved to America to follow the American Dream. They believed that if you worked hard, you could move up in society.
今天越来越多的人意识到美国梦不是真的。 很多努力工作的人没有赚很多钱。 来自特权背景的人往往更容易在全世界攀升。 不过，平等观念是美国文化的重要组成部分。
Today more and more people realize the American Dream is not true. Many people who work very hard do not have very much money. Often people who come from privileged backgrounds have an easier time moving up in the world. Still, the idea of equality is an important part of US culture.
Here are some examples of equality in American culture:
• In legal situations, all Americans should be treated equally and all Americans have a right to representation by a lawyer.
• In a classroom, all students should be treated equally by their teachers. No student should be favored.
• 男人和女人应该被平等对待，男人并不比女人好。事实上，在美国社会，许多女性仍然没有和男性一样的地位 特别是在她们能挣多少钱方面。
• Men and women should be treated equally, and men are not viewed as better than women. In reality, many women still do not have the same status as men in American society, especially in terms of how much money they can make.
• In America, there is not a strongly embedded social hierarchy or caste system. Sometimes people who you might expect to treat you with respect may treat you as an equal. For example, children may call an older adult by their first name. If this happens to you, try to remember they are not being rude, but they have a different cultural value.
• Sometimes Americans will tell you how they prefer to be addressed when they introduce themselves. If a teacher or a doctor introduces herself as “Lucy” or “Doctor Lucy”, that is how you should address her. If she introduces herself as Dr. Wilson, that is what she prefers to be called.
It is useful to know that there may still be invisible hierarchies among people. These tend to be based more on individual success: for example, someone’s job, wealth, or education.
American society is often informal and relaxed.
Here are some examples of how the United States is an informal culture:
• Americans may dress casually, such as wearing jeans or shorts even at work, school, or church. When you first start a job, it is a good idea to dress more formally and then to choose your attire based on what the people around you are wearing.
• When greeting someone, Americans tend to say, “Hi” or, “Hello.” You use the same greeting no matter who you are talking to: your son or your son’s teacher. The langauge does not have formal and informal forms of greeting.
• Americans tend to call each other by their first names. In some situations, however, it is better to be more formal and to use last names until you are asked to use a first name – for example, in a business situation or at school.
While the informality of US culture may surprise you, it is not meant to be rude. In fact, if someone greets you informally and calls you by your first name, it probably means they think of you in a friendly way.
Americans can be competitive and often work hard to achieve their goals. Competition often leads Americans to be very busy. Many Americans view competition is a good thing.
Here are some examples of the American value of competition:
• Competition in business is due in large part to the capitalist economy. America’s business model is to compete for customers and for the best prices.
• Americans will schedule lots of activities. Even young children participate in lots of activities outside of school, such as sports, music lessons, and volunteering. Sometimes you may feel like Americans are “rushing around” with little time for relaxing. But many Americans they feel good when they get a lot done.
• Competition can be seen in school, in the workplace, and in sports. For example, students may work hard to achieve the best grades. Sometimes competition involves groups, such as a soccer team or a school study group.
• Americans may also “compete” with themselves. Many Americans work hard to keep improving at what they do. For example, they may want to run a race faster than they did last time or they may want to sell more items at their job than they did the year before.
Overall, the value placed on competition may cause you to feel some culture shock, especially if you came from a culture that is more collaborative than competitive.
Time and efficiency
Americans place a lot of value on their time. Americans may feel frustrated if they think someone or something has wasted their time. Some Americans plan out their time carefully, using daily calendars for both their personal lives and their work lives. There is a saying in America: time is money. This means many Americans like to use their time “efficiently” – they want to get the most done in the shortest amount of time.
This may be different from what you are used to. When making a business deal, you may spend time getting to know the other person, maybe while drinking tea or coffee. In the United States, this is often not the case.
Here are some situations in which you might want to be aware of time:
- Meetings, especially for work: You should try to be on time – probably even 5 minutes early.
- Appointments: If you have a doctor’s appointment or some other kind of appointment, you need to arrive on time. You may still have to wait for the appointment. However, it is important you are on time or you may have to reschedule the appointment.
- Activities with friends: If you are invited to someone’s house for dinner, try to be on time – you can be 5 or 10 minutes late, but if you are much later than that, you should probably call and let them know.
- Parties: For a small party, arrive within 15 minutes of the time given. For a large party with many people, you can be 30 to 40 minutes late.
A good rule is that anytime you are going to be late, you should call and let the person you are meeting know you will be late. If you can’t call, you should tell the person you are sorry for being late when you arrive.
Sometimes, you may feel like someone is leaving very quickly or is in a hurry to leave. This may be because they want to be “on time” for their next appointment. It does not mean they do not like you.
Being on time and being aware of time is a cultural difference you will probably need to adapt to because if you are late, you could lose your job, miss your appointments, or hurt someone’s feelings. If you have a hard time adjusting to the American sense of time, you may want to get a watch or phone that has an alarm to remind you of the time, especially for getting to work.
Americans can be very focused on their work. Sometimes people from other cultures think Americans “live-to-work” or are “workaholics.” This means they think Americans work too much. Part of the reason Americans are work-oriented is because being busy and active is often seen as a good thing. People also tend to identify strongly with their jobs. For example, when you first meet someone, one of the first questions they might ask you is “What do you do?” They mean, “What kind of work do you do?”
美国人可以非常专注于他们的工作。有时来自其他文化的人认为美国人“为了工作而活”或“工作狂”，这意味着他们认为美国人工作太多。美国人以工作为导向，这部分原因是因为忙碌和活跃常常被视为一件好事。人们也倾向于强烈认同自己的工作。例如，当你第一次遇到某人时，他们可能会问你的第一个问题是“What do you do? ”他们的意思是，“你做什么工作？ ”
Men or women who work at home taking care of the family often call themselves “home-makers” and deserve respect for this occupation as much as any other. When filling out an application of any kind, it is OK to write “home-maker” as the occupation for someone who does not have a paying job outside the home.
As a newcomer to the United States, you may sometimes think Americans seem materialistic – focused on owning and buying things. Part of the reason for this is that many Americans value competition and work. Because Americans value competition, they want to “keep up” with those around them. This means, for example, if your neighbor got a new car, you might want a new car also. Americans call this “Keeping up with the Joneses.”
作为美国的初来乍到者，你可能有时会认为美国人似乎是唯物主义者——专注于拥有和购买东西。部分原因是许多美国人重视竞争和工作。因为美国人重视竞争，他们想“跟上”周围的人。这意味着，例如，如果你的邻居有一辆新车，你也可能想要一辆新车。美国人称之为“Keeping up with the Joneses”。
Many Americans value work and have a strong work ethic. Many Americans view material items such as TVs or shoes as a way to show they are successful at work. Americans may think of material items as rewards for their hard work and efforts.
Another reason Americans may be object-oriented is because many Americans value newness and innovation. So even if they have a phone that works, they may want a new phone because it has new and exciting features. You do not have to feel you must have lots of possessions to be respected. You should feel comfortable living simply or any way you prefer, maybe saving more money for emergencies, education and retirement rather than spending on objects to impress others.
All of the above statements are generalizations of American values. Generalizations are not always true, but things that are often true. The goal of USAHello is to provide generalizations to help you better understand why an American may be acting in a way you do not understand. Remember, neither way is better than the other way – just different.