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To: EMBA Office

American Culture And Its Impact On
Business
Course report for Cultural Communication

Version: 2009/02/15
Page: 21

EMBA student group:

Henry Guo
Eric Xiong
Meng Jian
Grace Zhang
Tian Guang

To: Dr. Yahia H. Zoubir
2009-2-17 8:13 Page 2 of 17 Version 20090205

American Culture and its Impact on Business

Version: 2009/02/05

Table of Contents
1.0 Preamble 3
2.0 A glance at American Culture and Society 4
3.0 American Mainstream Values and Their Impact on
6
Business
3.1 Equality/fairness 6
3.2 Personal Control over the Environment/Responsibility 7
3.3 Change Seen as Natural and Positive 8
3.4 Time and its Control 8
3.5 Individualism/independence 9
3.6 Self-help/Initiative 11
3.7 Competition 11
3.8 Future Orientation 12
3.9 Action/work Orientation 13
3.10 Informality 14
3.11 Practicality/efficiency 15
3.12 Materialism/Acquisitiveness 16
3.13 Directness/Openness/Honesty 17
4.0 Wrap-up: Culture is a Complex Puzzle 19
5.0 Acknowledgement to Team Members 20
6.0 References 21

Author: Henry Guo: henryguoasy@gmail.com
Eric Xiong: ericxiong88@hotmail.com
Meng Jian: zcglc@chengxi.com.cn
Grace Zhang: g-zhangtt@hotmail.com
Tian Guang: tg9@263.net.cn

Culture assignment of Professor Yahia H. Zoubir
2009-2-17 8:13 Page 3 of 17 Version 20090205

1.0
Preamble
Culture is the way groups of people understand, frame and solve problems. It
affects what we notice, how we interpret it, and what we decide to do about it
and how we execute our ideas.

Different countries have different cultures. Cultural differences between
countries will have inevitable impact on how different countries manage
business and sometimes may cause confusion or even shock when doing
business cross-border without being aware of these differences.

Here is an example of how ignorance of cultural differences and their impact on
business can result in failure in a significant market for companies. Company I, a
world leader in the semiconductor industry, decided in 2005 to bring in two
foreign two-in-one-box GMs to the China market and promote their native
Chinese GM, Mr. Ian Yang, to head the Asia-Pacific region instead. The two new
GMs were both excellent leaders and had outstanding performances at their
previous posts but within less than a year the company proved the decision a
failure. As per data from IDC, they lost 10% market share to competition during
the period. As a remedy, Ian Yang came back to his post as head for China and
within a quarter they started to win their market share back. There were other
reasons behind this case but the main reason for Ian’s return was his rooted
knowledge of Chinese culture and the Chinese market which enabled him to
succeed in the battle. The failure of the other two was, to much extent, due to
their ignorance and breakage of ‘guanxi’ with one of the company’s major
customers by simply not publicly showing up at any of that customer’s
marketing campaigns whereas Ian’s first step back was to attend a press
conference side by side with president of that customer, smiling to media.

The case aforesaid provided a perfect illustration of how important it is to study
how culture can affect the patterns of doing business in this global economy
environment. This essay will focus on one specific culture, the American culture,
and discuss about its mainstream values and their impact on business.

2.0 A
Glance at American culture and society
The United States of America:
Location:

Author: Henry Guo: henryguoasy@gmail.com
Eric Xiong: ericxiong88@hotmail.com
Meng Jian: zcglc@chengxi.com.cn
Grace Zhang: g-zhangtt@hotmail.com
Tian Guang: tg9@263.net.cn

Culture assignment of Professor Yahia H. Zoubir
2009-2-17 8:13 Page 4 of 17 Version 20090205

- In North America, bordering both the Atlantic Ocean and the North Pacific Ocean,
between Canada and Mexico. Area of 5.9 million sq. miles.
Climate:
- Mostly temperate.
- Semiarid in the great plain.
- Arid in the Great Basin of the southwest
- Tropical in Hawaii and Florida and arctic in
Terrain:
- Vast central plain, mountains in west, hills and low mountains in east
- Rugged mountains and broad river valleys in Alaska
- Volcanic topography in Hawaii
Population (by Jan. 2008):
- 303,150 thousand
- Ethnic groups: White – 75%, Latin American – 12.5%, Black – 12.3%, Asian – 3.6%
Language:
- English is the language spoken in the U.S.
- Spanish is the second most spoken language in the U.S.
Religions:
- Christianity 76.5%
- Judaism 1.3%
- Islam 0.5%
- Buddhism 0.5%
- Hinduism 0.4%
- Other 10%
- None 10.8%
Politics:
- Official Name: United States of America
- Capital: Washington, D. C.
- Chief of State: President
- Legal System: Based on English common law; democracy under the U.S.
Constitution and the Bill of Rights
- Political Parties: Republican Party and Democratic Party
- State Government: Governor, State Laws and State Taxes
- Local Government: Mayor, City Council/Supervisors, City Laws
Economy (2004):
- 71% Services
- 23% Industry
- 4% Construction
- 2% Agriculture
Mainstream Values:
- Relationships: Individual identity; Self-reliance, independence and freedom; Action
or work as a source of identity; Equality and informality in relationships;
Participatory democracy; Respect group rules; Competition is good; Fairness is
important.

- Information: Low context (explicit, direct, factual, analytical, detailed); Pragmatic,
practical, concise; Directness is usually interpreted as honesty; Change is seen as
natural and positive

Author: Henry Guo: henryguoasy@gmail.com
Eric Xiong: ericxiong88@hotmail.com
Meng Jian: zcglc@chengxi.com.cn
Grace Zhang: g-zhangtt@hotmail.com
Tian Guang: tg9@263.net.cn

Culture assignment of Professor Yahia H. Zoubir
2009-2-17 8:13 Page 5 of 17 Version 20090205

- Time: Time is tangible, valued and limited commodity; Oriented to short term
future (little focus on past); Efficiency; Control over time and the environment.

- Environment: Privacy respected; Materialism, consumerism; Mobility and
opportunity are unlimited.

3.0 American mainstream values and their impact on business
We know that American culture has its own characteristics compared to other
cultures. In terms of communication style, for example, Americans are direct
and low context and in terms of attitude towards power they are more on the
‘equality’ end, etc. However to further understand those cultural characteristics,
we can go a step further to look at the common values that Americans share
underlying such behaviours and styles.

3.1 Equality/fairness

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,
that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,
that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness…………
Author: Henry Guo: henryguoasy@gmail.com
Eric Xiong: ericxiong88@hotmail.com
Meng Jian: zcglc@chengxi.com.cn
Grace Zhang: g-zhangtt@hotmail.com
Tian Guang: tg9@263.net.cn

Culture assignment of Professor Yahia H. Zoubir
2009-2-17 8:13 Page 6 of 17 Version 20090205

………The Declaration of Independence.

Equality is, for Americans, one of their most cherished values. This
concept is so important for Americans that they have even given it a
religious basis. They say all people have been ‘created equal’. Most
Americans believe that God views all humans alike without regard to
intelligence, physical condition, economic status or rank. In secular terms
this belief is translated into the assertion that all people have an equal
opportunity to succeed in life. Americans differ in opinion about how to
make this ideal into a reality. Yet, virtually all agree that equality is an
important civic and social goal.

The equality concept often makes Americans seem strange to foreign
visitors since seven-eights of the world feels quite differently. To most of
the rest of the world rank and status and, authority are seen as much
more desirable considerations – even if they personally happen to find
themselves near the bottom of the social order. Class and authority seem
to give people in those other societies a sense of security and certainty.
People outside the United States consider it reassuring to know from
birth who they are and where they fit into the complex system called
‘society’. Many foreign visitors would find it surprising that for example
Americans will mock at their senior officials and their president on TV
programs but Americans seem enjoying making fun out of it.
This value toward equality is reflected in the business world in many
ways. American companies normally have very flat organization structure
and they believe in empowering employees to make decisions where
they hold duty. People address their managers, directors, and even
presidents by their first names, not in their titles. Those managers,
directors etc in turn will feel strange in many cases when being officially
addressed in titles unless it is in very formal occasions.

3.2 Personal control over the environment/responsibility

Americans no longer believe in the power of Fate, and they have come to
look at people who do as being backward, primitive, or hopelessly naive.
To be called ‘fatalistic’ is one of the worst criticisms one can receive in
the American context; to an American, it means one is superstitious and
lazy, unwilling to take any initiative in bringing about improvements.

In the United States, people consider it normal and right that Man should
control Nature, rather than the other way around. More specifically,
people believe every single individual should have control over whatever
in the environment might potentially affect him or her. The problems of
one’s life are not seen as having resulted from bad luck as much as
having come from one’s laziness and unwillingness to take responsibility
in pursuing a better life. Furthermore, it is considered normal that anyone
should look out for his or her own self-interests, first and foremost.

Most Americans find it impossible to accept that there are some things
which lie beyond the power of humans to achieve or control. Americans
have literally gone to the moon, because they refused to accept earthly
Author: Henry Guo: henryguoasy@gmail.com
Eric Xiong: ericxiong88@hotmail.com
Meng Jian: zcglc@chengxi.com.cn
Grace Zhang: g-zhangtt@hotmail.com
Tian Guang: tg9@263.net.cn

Culture assignment of Professor Yahia H. Zoubir
2009-2-17 8:13 Page 7 of 17 Version 20090205

limitations. Americans seem to be challenged, even compelled, to do, by
one means or another, what seven-eighths of the world is certain cannot
be done.

In a business environment, Americans promote ‘can do’ attitude and
don’t like to hear words like ‘can’t’, ‘hard’, or ‘difficult’. Instead, they
prefer to take risks and many believe that risk-taking attitude really has
brought the Americans the prosperity they’ve been enjoying.

3.3 Change Seen as Natural and Positive

In the American mind, change is seen as an indisputably good
condition. Change is strongly linked to development, improvement,
progress, and growth. Americans recognize the importance of
innovation because they believe change brings value. That also
explains why the Americans witnessed so many inventions from the
early days till very recently they geared up the ‘new economy’ engined
by telecommunications and IT innovations. More recently, the
Americans created though too much innovations in the financial
market that are beyond their own control but good or bad they love
changes as seen as well in their daily lives. For example, Americans
move homes 8 times in average but you can hardly find similar data
for the Chinese as most of them don’t move at all for their whole lives.

Many older, more traditional cultures consider change as a disruptive
force, to be avoided if at all possible. Instead of change, such societies
value stability, continuity, tradition, and a rich and ancient heritage –
none of which are considered very important in the United States.

These two values – the belief that we can do anything and the belief
that any change is good – together with an American belief in the
virtue of hard work and the belief that each individual has a
responsibility to do the best he or she can do have helped Americans
achieve some great accomplishments. So, whether these beliefs are
‘true’ is really irrelevant; and what is important is that Americans have
considered them to be true and have acted as if they were, thus, in
effect, causing them to happen.

3.4 Time and its Control

Time is, for the average Americans, of utmost importance. To the
foreign visitor, Americans seem to be more concerned with getting
things accomplished on time (according to a predetermined schedule)
than they are with developing deep interpersonal relationships.
Schedules, for the American, are meant to be planned and then
followed in the smallest detail.
It may seem to you that most Americans are completely controlled by
the little machines they wear on their wrists, cutting their discussions
off abruptly to make it to their next appointment on time.
Author: Henry Guo: henryguoasy@gmail.com
Eric Xiong: ericxiong88@hotmail.com
Meng Jian: zcglc@chengxi.com.cn
Grace Zhang: g-zhangtt@hotmail.com
Tian Guang: tg9@263.net.cn

Culture assignment of Professor Yahia H. Zoubir
2009-2-17 8:13 Page 8 of 17 Version 20090205

Americans’ language is filled with references to time, giving a clear
indication of how much it is valued. Time is something to be ‘on’ to be
‘kept’, ‘saved’, ‘used’, ‘spent,’ ‘wasted,’ ‘lost,’, ‘gained’, ‘given’, ‘made
the most of’, even ‘killed’.

The international visitor soon learns that it is considered very rude to
be late—even by 5 or 10 minutes—for an appointment in the United
States. Whenever it is absolutely impossible to be on time, you should
phone ahead and tell the person you have been unavoidably detained
and will be a half hour – or whatever –late.

Time is so valued in America, because by considering time to be
important, one can clearly accomplish more than one ‘wastes’ time
and does not keep busy every minute. This philosophy has proven its
worth. It has enabled Americans to be extremely productive, and
productivity itself is highly valued in the United States. Many American
proverbs stress the value in guarding our time, using it wisely, setting
and working toward specific goals, and even expending our time and
energy today so that the fruits of our labor may be enjoyed at a later
time.

Many know that Americans won’t waste time in building relationships
at meetings. At any meeting, they will only spend 10-15 minutes to
exchange name cards and talk about whether or transportation before
they go directly into the subject. In negotiations, this valuing of time
and the eagerness to sign a contract may sometimes back Americans
off from asking for too much at the start fearing the negotiation won’t
end fast enough to deal.

3.5 Individualism/Independence

The individualism that has been developed in the Western world from
the Renaissance onward, beginning in the late 15th century, has taken
its most exaggerated form in the 20th century United States. Here,
each individual is seen as completely and marvelously unique, that is,
totally different from all other individuals and, therefore, particularly
precious and wonderful.

Americans think they are more individualistic in their thoughts and
actions than, in fact, they really are. They resist being thought of as
representatives of a homogeneous group, whatever the group. They
may, and do, join groups – in fact many groups – but somehow believe
they are just a little different, just a little unique, just a little special,
from other members of the same group. Furthermore, they tend to
leave groups as readily as they enter them.

Privacy, the ultimate result of individualism, is perhaps even more
difficult for the foreigner to comprehend. The word ‘privacy’ does not
even exist in many non-Western languages. If it does, it is likely to
have a strongly negative connotation, suggesting loneliness or forced
Author: Henry Guo: henryguoasy@gmail.com
Eric Xiong: ericxiong88@hotmail.com
Meng Jian: zcglc@chengxi.com.cn
Grace Zhang: g-zhangtt@hotmail.com
Tian Guang: tg9@263.net.cn

Culture assignment of Professor Yahia H. Zoubir
2009-2-17 8:13 Page 9 of 17 Version 20090205

isolation from the group. In the United States, privacy is not only seen
as a very positive condition, but is also viewed as a requirement which
all humans would find equally necessary, desirable and satisfying. It is
not uncommon for Americans to say – and to believe – ‘if I don’t have
at least half an hour a day all to myself, I would go start raving mad!’

Individualism, as it exists in the United States, does mean that you will
find a much greater variety of opinions (along with the absolute
freedom to express those opinions anywhere and anytime) in this
country. Yet, in spite of this wide range of personal opinions, almost all
Americans will ultimately vote for one of the two major political parties
in the next election. That is what is meant by the earliest statement
that Americans take pride in claiming more individualism than, in fact,
they actually have.

Most Chinese working in American companies will find their American
peers too hard to work with because of this value of individualism.
Americans seem to stress too much about his or her
achievements/accomplishments by emphasizing what ‘I’ did for the
project for example while Chinese will almost always emphasize a
team by using the word ‘we’ more often in reporting accomplishments.

3.6 Self-Help/Initiative

In the United States, a person can take credit, only for what he or she
has accomplished by himself or herself without any outside assistance.
Americans get no credit whatsoever for having been born into a rich
family. (In the United States, that would be considered ‘an accident of
birth.). Americans pride themselves in having been poor and, through
their own sacrifice and hard work, having climbed the difficult ladder of
success to whatever level they have achieved – all by themselves. The
American social system has, of course, made it possible for Americans
to move, relatively easily, up the social ladder, whereas this is
impossible to do so in many countries.

Take a look in an English-language dictionary at the composite words
that have the word ‘self’ as a prefix. In the average desk dictionary,
there will be more than 100 such words, words like self-aware, self-
confident, self-conscious, self-contented, self-control, self-criticism,
self-deception, self-defeating, self-denial, self-discipline, self-esteem,
self-expressions, self-importance, self-improvement, self-interest, self-
reliance, self-respect, self-restraint, self-sacrifice—the list goes on and
on. The equivalent of these words cannot be found in most other
languages. This is perhaps the best indication of how seriously
Americans take doing things for one’s self.

The Hollywood movie ‘Forrest Gump’ may best illustrate the self-help
American value showing how one who was born less intelligent could
still become very successful in many endeavors he tried and became
Author: Henry Guo: henryguoasy@gmail.com
Eric Xiong: ericxiong88@hotmail.com
Meng Jian: zcglc@chengxi.com.cn
Grace Zhang: g-zhangtt@hotmail.com
Tian Guang: tg9@263.net.cn

Culture assignment of Professor Yahia H. Zoubir
2009-2-17 8:13 Page 10 of 17 Version 20090205

an American hero. The ‘self-made man or woman’ is still very much the
ideal in 21th century America.

3.7 Competition

Americans believe that competition brings out the best in any
individual. They assert that it challenges or forces each person to
produce the very best possible. Consequently, the foreign visitor will
see competition being fostered in the American home and in the
American classroom, even on the youngest age levels. Very young
children, for instance, are encouraged to answer questions for which
their classmates do not know the answers.

You may find the competitive value disagreeable, especially if you
come from a society, which promotes cooperation rather than
competition among individuals. But many U.S. Peace Corps volunteers
teaching in Third World countries found the lack of competitiveness in
a classroom situation equally distressing. They soon learned that what
they had thought to be one of the universal human characteristics
represented only a peculiarly American value.

Americans, valuing competition, have devised an economic system to
go with it – free enterprise. Americans feel very strongly that a high
competitive economy will bring out the best in its people and
ultimately, that the society which fosters competition will progress
most rapidly. If you look for it, you will see evidence in all areas – in
fields as diverse as medicine, the arts, education, and sports – that
free enterprise is the approach most often preferred in America. An
example of Americans’ valuing competition could be seen back in 1984
when AT&T was forced to decomposition because it was monopolizing
the telecommunications market at the time and was considered to be
stifling competition.

3.8 Future Orientation

Valuing the future, and the improvements Americans are sure the
future will inevitably bring, means that they devalue the past and are,
to a large extent, unconscious of the present. Even a happy present
goes largely unnoticed because, happy as it may be, Americans have
traditionally been hopeful that the future would bring even greater
happiness. Almost all energy is directed toward realizing that better
future. At best, the present condition is seen as preparatory to a later
and greater event, which will eventually culminate in something even
more worthwhile.

Since Americans have been taught to believe that Man, and not Fate,
can and should be the one who controls the environment, this has
made them very good at planning and executing short-term projects.
This ability, in turn, has caused Americans to be invited to all corners
of the earth to plan and achieve the miracles that their goal-setting
can produce.
Author: Henry Guo: henryguoasy@gmail.com
Eric Xiong: ericxiong88@hotmail.com
Meng Jian: zcglc@chengxi.com.cn
Grace Zhang: g-zhangtt@hotmail.com
Tian Guang: tg9@263.net.cn

Culture assignment of Professor Yahia H. Zoubir
2009-2-17 8:13 Page 11 of 17 Version 20090205

If you come from a culture where talking about or actively planning the
future is felt to be a futile, perhaps even sinful, activity you will have
not only philosophical problems with this very American characteristic
but religious objections as well. Yet it is something you will have to
learn to live with while you are here, for all around you Americans will
be looking toward the future and what it will bring.

The orientation towards future partly explains why Americans forgive
mistakes comparatively more easily than Chinese for example.
American companies normally have complicated planning processes
differentiating immediate, short term, and long term goals. American
companies bigger or smaller must have their mission, vision, strategic
objectives, and personal objectives. They plan ahead but continually
modify their plans for future needs.

3.9 Action/Work Orientation

‘Don’t just stand there’, goes a typical bit of American advice, ‘do
something!’ This expression is normally used in a crisis situation, yet,
in a sense, it describes most Americans’ entire waking life, where
action – any action – is seen to e superior to inaction.

Americans routinely plan and schedule an extremely active day. Any
relaxation must be limited in time, pre-planned, and aimed at
‘recreating’ (as in the word reaction) their ability to work harder and
more productively once the recreation is over. Americans believe
leisure activities should assume a relatively small portion of one’s
time, ‘to sit around doing nothing or just to ‘daydream’.

Such a ‘no nonsense’ attitude toward life has created many people
who have come to be known as ‘workaholics’ or people who are
addicted to their work, who think constantly about their jobs and who
are frustrated if they are kept away from them, even during their
evening hours and weekends. When such a person finally takes time
away from work to go on vacation, even the vacation will be carefully
planned, very busy and active.

The workaholic syndrome, in turn, causes Americans to identify
themselves wholly with their professions. The first question an
American will generally ask another American when meeting them for
the first time is related to his or her work: ‘What do you do?’ ‘Where do
you work?’ or ‘What company are you with?’

America may be one of the few countries in the world where it seems
reasonable to speak about the ‘dignity of human labor’, meaning by
that, hard, physical labor. In America, even presidents of corporations
will engage in physical labor from time to time and in doing so, gain,
rather than lose, respect from others for such action.

Americans commonly start with ‘problem statement’ in presentations
Author: Henry Guo: henryguoasy@gmail.com
Eric Xiong: ericxiong88@hotmail.com
Meng Jian: zcglc@chengxi.com.cn
Grace Zhang: g-zhangtt@hotmail.com
Tian Guang: tg9@263.net.cn

Culture assignment of Professor Yahia H. Zoubir
2009-2-17 8:13 Page 12 of 17 Version 20090205

followed by ‘action plans’ to talk about how they address the problem.
American companies are among best in executions and there is a
proverb best describes this value of America i.e. ‘put you money where
you mouth is’.

3.10 Informality

If you come from a more formal society, you will likely find Americans
to be extremely informal and you will probably feel, they are even
disrespectful of those in authority. Americans are one of the most
informal and casual people in the world, even when compared to their
close relative – the Western European.

As one example of this informality, American bosses often urge their
employees to call them by their first names and even feel
uncomfortable if they are called by the title ‘Mr.’ or ‘Mrs.’.

Dress is another area where American informality will be most
noticeable, perhaps even shocking. One can go to a symphony
performance, for example, in any large American city nowadays and
find some people in the audience dressed in blue jeans and short-
sleeved shirts.

Informality is also apparent in Americans’ greetings. The more formal
‘how are you?’ has largely been replaced with an informal ‘hi’. This is
as likely to be used to one’s superior as to one’s best friend.

If you are a highly placed official in your own country, you will
probably, at first, find such informality to be very unsettling, even
disrespectful. Americans, on the other hand, would consider such
informality as a compliment! Certainly it is not intended as a personal
insult, and you should not take it as such.

3.11 Practicality/Efficiency

Americans have a reputation for being an extremely realistic, practical
and efficient people. The practical consideration is likely to be given
highest priority in making any important decision in the United States.
Americans pride themselves in not being very philosophically or
theoretically oriented. If Americans would even admit to having a
philosophy, it would probably be that of pragmatism.

Will it make any money? Will it ‘pay its own way’? What can I gain from
this activity? There are the kinds of questions that Americans are likely
to ask in their practical pursuit, and not such questions as: Is it
aesthetically pleasing? Will it be enjoyable? Or Will it advance there
cause of the knowledge?

This practical, pragmatic orientation has caused Americans to
contribute more inventions to the world than any other country in
human history. The love of ‘practicality’ has also caused Americans to
Author: Henry Guo: henryguoasy@gmail.com
Eric Xiong: ericxiong88@hotmail.com
Meng Jian: zcglc@chengxi.com.cn
Grace Zhang: g-zhangtt@hotmail.com
Tian Guang: tg9@263.net.cn

Culture assignment of Professor Yahia H. Zoubir
2009-2-17 8:13 Page 13 of 17 Version 20090205

view some professions more favorably than others. Management and
economics, for example, are much more popular in the Untied States
than philosophy or anthropology, and law and medicine are valued
more than the arts.

Another way in which this favoring of practicality occurs is a belittling
of ‘emotional’ and ‘subjective’ evaluations in favor of ‘rational’ and
‘objective’ assessments. Amerians try to avoid being ‘too sentimental’
in making their decisions. They judge every situation ‘on its own
merits’. The popular American ‘trial-and-error’ approach to problem
solving also reflects the practical approach. This problem-solving
approach, actually invented in the Untied States, suggests listing
several possible solutions to any given problem, then trying them out,
one-by-one to see which would be most effective.

3.12 Materialism/Acquisitiveness

One of the study group team members still remember the first time
when he was invited to an American friend’s home for a party. It was
quite a shocking experience to him at that time. His friend lived with
her husband in a three-storey standalone house with walls and
swimming pool and with everything that a typical Chinese could only
ever dreaming of owning. He thought then that they were wealthy but
later on as he made more visits to American homes he realized that
they should not be considered wealthy families at all but ordinary
middle class Americans. Americans are less likely to consider
themselves as materialistic as foreigners would consider them.
Americans would like to think that their material objects are just the
‘natural benefits’ which always result from hard work and serious
intent – a reward, they think, which all people could enjoy were they as
industrious and hardworking as Americans.

But, by any standard, Americans are materialistic. This means that
they value and collect more material objects than most of the world’s
people would ever dream possible to own. It also means they give a
higher priority to obtaining, maintaining and protecting their material
objects than they do in developing and enjoying interpersonal
relationships with people.

The modern American typically owns:
One or more color television sets
A tape(Or digital today) recorder and a record player
A video cassette recorder(Today might be a video camera or a DVD)
An electronic calculator
An expensive camera
A clothes-washer and dryer
A vacuum cleaner
A powered lawn mower
A refrigerator, a stove
Author: Henry Guo: henryguoasy@gmail.com
Eric Xiong: ericxiong88@hotmail.com
Meng Jian: zcglc@chengxi.com.cn
Grace Zhang: g-zhangtt@hotmail.com
Tian Guang: tg9@263.net.cn

Culture assignment of Professor Yahia H. Zoubir
2009-2-17 8:13 Page 14 of 17 Version 20090205

One or more automobiles
And a telephone.
Many also own a personal computer and electric dish-washer.

Since Americans value newness and innovation, they sell and throw
away their possessions frequently and replace them with newer ones.
A car may be kept for only two or three years, a house for five or six
before trading it in for another one.

3.13 Directness/Openness/Honesty

Many other countries have developed subtle, sometimes highly
ritualistic, ways of informing other people of unpleasant information.
Americans, however, have always preferred the most direct approach
possible. They are likely to be completely honest in delivering their
negative evaluations, and to do so publicly. If you come from a society
that usese the indirect manner of conveying bad news or
uncomplimentary evaluations, you will be shocked at American
bluntness.

If you come from a country where saving face is important, be assured
that Americans are not trying to make you lose face with their
directness. It is important to realize that an American would not, in
such cases, lose face. The burden of adjustment, in all such cases
while you are in this country, will be on you. There is no way to soften
the blow of such directness and openness if you are not used to it,
except to inform you that the rules have changed while you are here.
Indeed, Americans are trying to urge their fellow countrymen to
become even more open and direct. The large number of
‘assertiveness’ training courses that first appeared in the United States
in the late 1970’s reflects such a commitment.

Americans consider anything other than the most direct and open
approach to be ‘dishonest’ and ‘insincere’ and will quickly lose
confidence in and distrust anyone who hints at what is intended rather
than saying it outright. Anyone who, in the United States, chooses to
use an intermediary to deliver the message will also be considered
‘manipulative’ and ‘untrustworthy’.

Many American companies emphasize and promote direct
communications in their branches worldwide. Many Chinese working
for Intel for example are very much impressed that the No. 1 company
value shown on their badges is ‘open and direct’.

In summary - Americans may have many other shared values but
these thirteen are commonly believed to be the mainstream values
that exert the most influences in the American social and business
environment. By studying these common values and their impact on
business, we’re not judging the Americans and their values but to
increase awareness of the American culture and understand Americans
Author: Henry Guo: henryguoasy@gmail.com
Eric Xiong: ericxiong88@hotmail.com
Meng Jian: zcglc@chengxi.com.cn
Grace Zhang: g-zhangtt@hotmail.com
Tian Guang: tg9@263.net.cn

Culture assignment of Professor Yahia H. Zoubir
2009-2-17 8:13 Page 15 of 17 Version 20090205

from their own value system. It will definitely help to work more easily
and successfully with the Americans.

4.0
Wrap-up: Culture is a complex puzzle
When we talk cultures we are talking about tendencies and norms, not hard and
fast rules. We must be aware that culture is complex as many factors will exert
influences on what people notice, how they interpret it and how they behave.
Besides national culture, there are different other subcultures to which people
belong e.g. regional, religious, professional, organizational, age, and gender etc.

National culture is relative to other national cultures so when we say American
culture is more direct and open we relate it to another culture that is less direct
and open like Japanese culture. Culture is also dynamic which means it changes.
Author: Henry Guo: henryguoasy@gmail.com
Eric Xiong: ericxiong88@hotmail.com
Meng Jian: zcglc@chengxi.com.cn
Grace Zhang: g-zhangtt@hotmail.com
Tian Guang: tg9@263.net.cn

Culture assignment of Professor Yahia H. Zoubir
2009-2-17 8:13 Page 16 of 17 Version 20090205

Chinese in general are becoming more open-minded than ever before as a result
of the 30 years of open door and reform policies for example. When people are
younger they tend to like pop music but as they grow older they may change to
like more classic music. That is another example illustrating the dynamic nature
of culture.

Understanding and accepting the complexity of culture is one of the first steps
to developing and enhancing cross-culture efficiencies and effectiveness. Where
there are norms there are exceptions. By studying a particular culture, we want
to increase our awareness but we must also avoid stereotyping and
ethnocentricity. Through such study, we should develop the ability to view and
tackle a situation without judgment, the ability to understand the values that
underlie behavior and the ability to hold two perspectives simultaneously when
working with the Americans or another culture.

5.0
Acknowledgement to team members
The writing of this assignment requires a lot of joint efforts from every team
member from brainstorming for ideas, blueprinting the outlines, choosing of
examples and cases to be adopted or abandoned, to fine-tuning the final
structure, checking the wording and grammar, and deciding on the final version
as it is today. We, the team members of brainstorming, drafting, consolidating
and fine-tuning, all deeply appreciate the efforts from each other. We learned
together, had FUN, and would like to recognize all the members here again.
They are…

Meng Jian: who contributed a lot of smile and warm ideas,
without you, the final version would have had much less
human touches. Yes, we will come to Jiangyin for your cooking,
one day.
Henry Guo: who provided a lot of thoughts and ideas, proof-
read the paper and helped outline the structure. Your

Author: Henry Guo: henryguoasy@gmail.com
Eric Xiong: ericxiong88@hotmail.com
Meng Jian: zcglc@chengxi.com.cn
Grace Zhang: g-zhangtt@hotmail.com
Tian Guang: tg9@263.net.cn

Culture assignment of Professor Yahia H. Zoubir
2009-2-17 8:13 Page 17 of 17 Version 20090205

knowledge in especially history and culture did give the paper
some much further depth. And you are such a format freak!
Tian Guan: who, as a perfect graphic expert, helped a lot in
the layout and fine tuning of the graphic part of this paper.
You proved yourself to be an excellent team player and
contributor.

Grace Zhang: who provided a lot of her experiences and real
life cases working with Americans. Your enthusiasm during the
brainstorming and preparation did also trigger a lot of good
ideas from other members.
Eric Xiong: who contributed some theories from his previous
learning and experiences and did much of the data
consolidation and…typing .

6.0 References

The Values Americans Live By…… Dr. L. Robert Kohls

Author: Henry Guo: henryguoasy@gmail.com
Eric Xiong: ericxiong88@hotmail.com
Meng Jian: zcglc@chengxi.com.cn
Grace Zhang: g-zhangtt@hotmail.com
Tian Guang: tg9@263.net.cn

Culture assignment of Professor Yahia H. Zoubir