Minimizing the Effects of Culture Shock - Part 3

#8. They always insist on treating everyone alike

Americans do this because of our cultural roots as a free nation (e.g., “All men are created equal”). Americans have a deep cultural instinct toward social equality and not having a class system. This is a reaction to the European class system as well as the feudal system that existed in Europe. In cultures where inequality between social classes is more accepted, American insistence on egalitarianism, or social equality, may be annoying. For example, in egalitarian societies like the US, Australia, Israel, and the Netherlands, business managers are viewed as coaches who provide resources and motivation to realize individual potential. Managers empower employees to make decisions, and employees are expected to take the initiative.

#9. They always have to say something

Americans believe that being direct is the most efficient way to communicate. It’s important to “tell it like it is” and “speak your mind”—to say what you mean and mean what you say. Being direct is often valued over “beating around the bush.” Americans value assertiveness and being open and direct about one’s thoughts and feelings. Not all cultures have this same value. In some cultures, the normal way to disagree or to say no is to say nothing or be very indirect.

#10. Americans always want to change things

Americans think things can always be better, and that progress is inevitable. The United States is a little more than 200 years old, and American culture tends to be an optimistic one. Older cultures are more skeptical because they have been around longer, have experienced more, and have been in situations in which progress was not always made. In American businesses, being open to change is a strong value, because things really do change quickly, and it is necessary to adapt. Many Americans believe it is “good” to initiate change and “bad” to resist it. The most serious errors made by Americans when dealing with other cultures is assuming they share a love for risk-taking. “When an American manager introduces himself to a new team, he says, ‘I’m here to learn. Tell me what we do well, what we don’t do well, and how to fix It.’ because it is empowering and makes us feel valuable.

#11. They don’t seem respectful of elders

Americans believe people must earn by their actions whatever regard or respect they are given. Merely attaining a certain age or holding a certain position does not in itself signify achievement. In hierarchical cultures like India, Japan, and Saudi Arabia, social ranking is somewhat fixed by birth, and family status plays a role in how much one can accomplish in the future. Hierarchical organizations have distinct layers and everyone expects to see visible trappings of power and authority. Written and verbal communication is more formal. “If an American professor taught in a hierarchical country like Mexico and said, “What do you think?” students lose confidence because he asked what they thought, while the students were thinking “If I knew the answers, I’d be the professor. You’re not supposed to ask me!”

#12. They’re so optimistic

America, because of its resources and successes, has always had a culture of optimism. Americans believe that they are in control of their own destinies, rather than being victims of fate. Many Americans tend to believe that “the American dream” can be achieved by anyone who is willing to work hard enough. Many Americans believe that the only obstacle to things getting better is “not trying hard enough.” Americans also believe that a personal lack of determination or effort can be fixed. Other cultures may believe more in fate (“what will be will be”). When something bad happens, some members of these cultures believe it was fated to happen, must be accepted, and cannot be changed.

Minimizing the Effects of Culture Shock - Part 4
Minimizing the Effects of Culture Shock - Part 2