Cultural Values


The United States was founded by people who valued independence. An independent spirit is still evident in this culture. Many people from the U.S. believe that they are responsible for their own destinies. Being self-reliant is considered more important than relying on family and friends. Many people from the United States believe that individuals reach maturity at age 18 and should be ready to make independent decisions. Privacy is valued for many of the same reasons. Even among members of a family, issues such as money, marriage, and career decisions may not be discussed out of respect for a person's privacy.

Work Ethic

People from the United States tend to value being busy, and often make lists of what we hope to accomplish in a day! You may notice that people in the U.S. walk quickly, talk quickly and pay little attention to manners and politeness. We want to "get down to business" rather than make polite conversation. We do not mean to be rude! We just have a lot to do (or think we do).

Race, Ethnicity, and Gender

Many people in the United States like to think that all people are equal - race, color, religion, ethnicity, class, gender, and sexual orientation are unimportant to our value as human beings. Words like "tolerance" and
"appreciation" are words that we may use to describe our relationship with people different from ourselves. For this reason, racist and sexist jokes and comments are not tolerated in many social and business settings. In fact, people who make such comments could lose their jobs.

However, despite these principles, many inequalities still exist in the United States. You may hear people make negative comments about other groups. You may even experience discrimination because you are an international student. If this happens to you and you wish to talk about it, talk to an advisor at International Student Services (ISS) or a counselor from the Counseling Center. An advisor or counselor who is familiar with these issues will try to understand the situation and make some suggestions for dealing with it. Some international students are surprised to hear men and women say they are gay, lesbian, or bisexual. There is a growing community of Americans who identify themselves as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender and do not believe that it is necessary to keep this a secret. This community has become more visible and accepted, and people who are part of this population form a respected part of U.S. society. You will most likely have a professor, classmate, roommate, or friend who is gay. Remember to treat the people you meet with the same respect and openness that you would want to be treated with.

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