How are American values different from values of people from other countries?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

I agree with brettd about the work ethic.  My travels in Western Europe have shown me two drastically different view of work.  I do find it ironic that while they show great disdain for our slavish work ethics and practices, Europeans have a great need for American tourist money--earned, of...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

I agree with brettd about the work ethic.  My travels in Western Europe have shown me two drastically different view of work.  I do find it ironic that while they show great disdain for our slavish work ethics and practices, Europeans have a great need for American tourist money--earned, of course, by working.  Americans are somehow lesser beings because we don't take a month at the coast or siestas for several hours in the afternoons. Europeans are usually considered lazy because they do those things.  It's the same with fashion, I think.  While they usually disdain our "labeled" and "branded" clothing (most prefer to keep their designers' names off the front of their clothes), those are the only things which got stolen from some of my students when their hotel room got broken into.  The local police said it was because they could easily sell branded jeans and shoes and shirts on the street.  It's really kind of a love-hate relationship, actually, as the same is also generally true of the language and music.  I've had plenty of positive experiences, of course, but these are some of my observations from traveling and talking to random people on those journeys.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

A European friend of mine said there was a saying in his country that Europeans worked to live, while Americans lived to work.  This Puritan work ethic, or what it's evolved into, has worked/driven many an American to a stressful, early grave, but it a very common value to work hard.  The opposite is also true, that Americans tend to ridicule those they feel do not work very hard, either in a profession or around their home.  We see this in the public backlash against social programs in the US.

I don't know that I would argue that Americans overall are more religious or less secular than European countries, but I do think those who are religious here tend to be much more fundamentalist, and interpret the Bible and the religion strictly and literally, which I don't see in many other places.

Americans are very materialistic, and they sometimes tend to evaluate a person's success based on what he/she owns.  This is unfortunate, from my view as an American, as we are not a culture that lives within its means.

 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

There are a lot of differences between American values and those of others and the exact nature of those differences varies with the country you are comparing American values to.

For example, Americans are much more religious than the people of any Western European country.  Our politicians have to talk about their religious values where the Europeans do not.  But if you compare Americans to, say, Saudis, we seem less religious.  In that case, we seem very secular because of the way our women dress, the way our government does not enforce religious law, etc.

You can also say that Americans are more individualistic and capitalistic than people in many other countries.  We are more inclined to accept inequalities in our society and less likely to want the government to intervene to fix those inequalities.

I'm sure that there are many, many more differences that you can point to, but these are a few important differences.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The main value that separates the United States from other countries throughout the world is that of American exceptionalism. 

The French political scientist Alexis de Tocqueville wrote in Democracy in America that "the position of Americans is therefore quite exceptional" based on his belief that no other democratic people would ever be placed in a similar position.

Arguably, the United States is unique in how long its modern democracy has persisted. No other country, even those with much longer histories, can lay a similar claim. France, for example, was inspired by the American Revolution to carry out its own. However, its revolutionary phase was followed by chaos, the eventual rise of Napoleon, a series of revolutions, then the Second Empire. It would not see modern democracy until after the Second World War.

American exceptionalism is one area in which both liberals and conservatives seem to agree. It is not unusual to hear members of both political persuasions claim that the United States is the world's greatest nation. Such a laudatory statement is unusual outside of the U.S.

American exceptionalism took on a new form after World War II. At that time, the U.S. took on the belief that it had a mission to ensure a democratic world order. This led to a number of interventions to establish democracy in other countries.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on