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Du er her: Skole > The American Dream

The American Dream

Oppgave om den amerikanske stereotype. Hvorfor oppfatter vi amerikanere slik vi gjør?

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What is an American like to the world, and why? We have tried to find an answer to this by asking random people from different nationalities and looking up sources at the internet. We have then discussed and compared what we found at the internet and the interviews. We found several sites about the American stereotype at the internet. For example a site that describe the Americans as very patriotic, open-minded, loud and social. This was, believe it or not, an American site. On the other hand a Danish site said that the Americans are rude, pushy, self-centered and fat. A Dutch at the Sciphol Airport said that he disliked       Americans. He found them annoying, stupid, and full of themselves. He didn't agree with the


Pablo from Brazil.
American politics and George W. Bush. We also met Pablo from Brazil. He had just arrived from the U.S and told us that he didn't have a good experience with the Americans. At the hotel in Austin, Texas, people acted superior towards him and also called him names. He felt discriminated and a lot of prejudice in the air. But we also met people who had a good impression of the Americans. One of them was Maria from Italy. She said that she had relatives in the U.S and she often visits them. There she is greeted with smiles and nice gestures from caring people. At the plane to Singapore we sat next to a very nice couple from Burundi. Wang and Chin Thuy told us that they liked Americans. At the airport in Amsterdam, an American boy helped them carry their luggage. They have never been to the U.S, but would really like to visit some day.

As you can see, people have different opinions about the Americans. But it is common known that at least the Europeans have a negative image of the American people. Why is it like this?

As Pablo said, many people find the Americans superior, and it seems like they think they are world champions. This may connect to the fact that Americans think that “time is money”. The U.S is one of the greatest consumers of fast-food. Cellular phones, microwaves and computers are time saving gadgets that the Americans are very fond of. This results in people from other countries see the Americas as impatient, aloof, and pushy.

The fact that people think of Americans as self-centered may have something to do with the American value of individualism. Geert Hofstede, who is a Dutch sociologist, has discovered that the American culture is the most individualistic culture in the world. The Americans think that it is important to stand on their own two feet, and therefore many people may find it difficult to cooporate with them. We see the same tendency in the American working life. Americans like to focus on their job instead of socializing while at work. It is very important for the Americans to be productive.  The American culture is imbued with Taylorism, and not human-

relations theory which is more valued in European countries. A good example of Taylorism is the American cartoon Dilbert (a little exaggerated) where the workers sit in individual cubicles and the only sociolazing they do is in meetings. Another example is an article in USA Today (1997) where “a Czech businessperson is quoted saying that he has seen co-workers driven to tears by the rugged management style of some U.S companies.” (Quotation is found in: Intercultural Services: A Worldwide Buyer’s Guide and Sourcebook.)

Another American value that can easily be misunderstood is the saying “God helps those who help themselves”.



Self-reliance is important to Americans. Both old and young are expected to take care, more or less, of themselves. For an example, they do not have the same sickness benefit system as we do in most of Europe. Therefor people may think that Americans are cold and does not care for others.

The Americans are direct in verbal and written communication. When they speak they say literally what they mean, they never beat around the bush. Those who are indirect have a great possibility of beeing marked as insecure, and the Americans are not very fond of that. However the Americans can be seen as rude and unsophisticated to others.

For some European countries respect for authorities is fundamental, especially at work and in schools. In America equality is important, and it is common to call the boss or teacher by first name. Many people may be offended by this and think that the Americans are unwilling to show respect to authorities. In this case, Norway is more alike the U.S than for example England who put's authorities highly and has more class distinction than us.

Another element of irritation for the rest of the world is the Americans materalistic attitude. They have great natural resources which gives them the opportunity to consume as much as they like. But the world doesn’t agree with them, they worry about the consequences this may have for our planet. As the American standard of living requires 18 metric tons of natural resources per person per year, which is many times the world average. Americans also refuses to sign agreements that consider reduce of dangerous gas. When Americans have this negative attitude towards the environment, it’s not surprising that others can find them lazy and narrow-minded.

Host Country Value:                  USA Value:

Japan: Group orientation            Individualism

Guatemala: Flexible time sense      Punctuality

Saudi Arabia: Realtionship focus    Task/goal orientation

Switzerland: Formality               Informality

India: Stratified class structure   Egalitarianism

China: Long-term view                Short-term view

Germany: Structured orderliness     Flexible pragmatism

France: Deductive thinking          Inductive thinking

Sweden: Individual cooperation      Individual competition

Malaysia: Modesty                     Self-promotion

This list shows the huge cultural differences between the U.S and other countries. It can lead to cultural clashes and misunderstandings. But it is important to remember that this is based on a large number of people and that most people are individualistic and that we must be careful with creating stereotypes.


Many people dislike the Americans for their country’s politics. They feel that the republicans run selfish, short-termed view, and aggressive politics. The invasion of Iraq is an example of this. But a lot of people forget that only half of the population voted for the republicans. And even not all of the people that voted for Bush agreed with his decision to meddle with the conflict.


Every country in the world has its own values, also the U.S. It’s very important to remember this, and try to keep a culture relativistic attitude towards other cultures. Today it is a great deal of ethnocentrism in the world. Most opninions about other nations are based on groups and are often exaggerated by the media. People must keep this in mind while visiting other cultures to avoid cultural clashes, especially when meating with people from different cultures in every day life in your own country. The Americans have been marked negatively by the rest of the world because of their mentality; “survival of the fittest”. This is maybe a bit unfair, because the Americans only try to look out for themself and this is their way to do it. But the Americans should also consider why people have this attitude against them, and try to do something about it when they come in contact with other cultures. And this is something that the Americans do badly. We also need to be better at remembering the positve American sides, they are friendly, optimistic and enthusiastic. Even though we have this some what negative picture of the Americans as a nation, most of us have a good impression of the Americans we have met. So this shows that stereotypes are very difficult to define, and that people almost allways are themself.





Internet: (Picture of Dilbert)



The Ugly American by William J. Lederer (1958)

Intercultural Services: A Worldwide Buyer’s Guide and Sourcebook by Gary M. Wederspahn (2000)

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