Wednesday, May 17, 2017

American Culture

I have always been an independent person. When I was little I wanted to dress myself, put my own shoes on (even when I couldn't tie them) and zip up my own coat. As I got older that independence grew even stronger, and now I try to do everything I can on my own. While this may in some ways be part of my personality, independence and other values that I possess have been shaped and reinforced by American culture. As Kohl wrote in the article, "The Values Americans Live By", our culture has a set of expectations and norms that influence how we interact with one another. Some specific American values include independence, time and its control, and action/work. I am a very punctual person; if I am not at least ten minutes early to an event then I am late. People in Brazil, on the other hand, view time as more of a suggestion. I could not even imagine walking to an interview or a meeting twenty minutes late as if it was no big deal. And this is due to the culture that has shaped me. In America, everyone has similar feelings on time. When a meeting is scheduled, you are expected to be there on time. Though restricting, it is important that people within a culture have similar values so they interact appropriately. If one person had views on time like most Americans, while another had a more Brazilian view, it would be difficult for them to meet and not get frustrated with one another at the timing.

Another value Americans live by is that of action/work. People must be doing something at all times, and if not they are deemed "lazy". I have been described by my family as a "workaholic", I work whenever I can even if I should maybe take a break. Values in the American culture are not always beneficial. When people are working all the time they get stressed, spend less time relaxing, and see their families less. As with many of these values, there needs to be balance.

In the book Thrive, Buettner discusses how Americans can change their actions to make themselves happier. One of the things he suggested that I found fascinating is the idea of a "giving account". The idea is to set aside a certain amoun of money at the beginning of the year to give to charity, but if you experience any unfair, unforeseen costs during that year you can use the account to help pay. Whatever money remains at the end goes to charity. I love this idea because it promotes giving back to others, but does so in a very realistic way that everyone could do. Even if you only put one hundred dollars into the account, you would still be helping others and, as a result, make yourself happier. Other suggestions in the book include meditation, owning a pet, and doing other small things to maximize your happiness. While it is ok to be independent, be on time, and be at work, we must critically examine these values that we have and how they affect our daily lives. As long as we live our lives in moderation, we should be happier individuals.

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