The Ten Commandments of the American Culture
The Ten Commandments of American Culture
From The ABCs of American Culture
1. You can't argue with success.
2. Live and let live. (Be tolerant.)
3. Time flies when you're having fun. (Have lots of fun.)
4. Shop till you drop. (Enjoy the fruit of your Success.)
5. Just do it. (Action is the key to success.)
6. No pain no gain. (Get tough.)
7. Enough is enough.
(Stand up for your right.)
8. Time is money.
(Don't waste time.)
9. Rules are made to be broken.
(Think for your self.)
10. God helps those who help themselves.
These "commandments" have no religious or moral authority like the "Ten commandments" of the bible, of course.
However, if you break any of this "cultural commandments," most Americans will think you do not fit in very well. We may not understand you and may even criticize you or insult you.
The situation will be very similar to what you have probably seen Americans do in your country.
We come. We do not bother to learn the basic "cultural commandments" in your country.
Soon we break them. The local people are offended and we Americans cannot understand why. In this article, you may learn some ways to avoid that problem while you are working with Americans.
Commandment 1. You can't argue with success.
(Be a success.)
Success is probably the most praised thing in American life. It relates to so many other characteristics of American life--individualism, freedom, goal setting, progress, experimenting, social mobility, making money, pragmatism (doing what works), and optimism (expecting good things to happen).
Americans want "to make a success of themselves." This is the American dream "which has attracted millions of immigrant and been tough to generations of American children.
Every one wants to be a success of something if you do not think that way, you are considered a failure.
It is almost impossible to criticize success.
For example, if an employee does something without properly consulting his supervisor and as a result to the company gets a big contract with a new costumer, the employee will get much more praise than blame.
The success of getting new contract is more important than the failure to consult a superior.
Sometimes people will even say cheating is justified if it brings success.
Other people, however, may argue with success of that kind.
Commandment 2. Live and let live. (Be tolerant.)
Americans love freedom and privacy.
In away that means we love to be left alone.
We don't want any one interfering in our affairs, giving us advice, or trying to run our lives.
We want people to "stay of our backs," "stay out of our way," and "mind their own business."
Perhaps Live and let live should be listed as the first commandment of American culture, even more important than success.
It means that no one should object to anyone else's way of living.
If you like opera and I like country music that is fine. If you want to get married and I want to live with someone without legalizing it that is fine, too. Neither of us should try to influence or object to the way the other lives.
If we are not tolerant of other people, we may damage their self-esteem their own view of their value as human beings).
To attack someone's self-esteem is to break one of the most basic rules of American life.
Commandment 3. Time flies when you're having fun. (Have lots of fun.)
American try to have as much fun as possible.
Much of our fun comes trough various kinds of entertainment, especially TV. But we also try to turn other activities in to fun. Shopping is fun. Eating is fun, and incase it is not enough fun, we will put a play ground inside the past food restaurant so the kids can have fun playing wile the grown-ups have fun sitting and eating.
Learning to read can be turn into fun, as the Sesame Street TV. programs shows.
People try to get a job which is fun (though not many succeed).
Having fun is the major preoccupation of youth, retired people, and many those in between.
In most situations Americans are very time conscious.
We know how long it will be till our next appointment, how long till this work day is over, and how long it will take to drive home. However, we forgot to watch the clock when we are having fun. That is why "time flies," that is, time to go by very quickly.
Commandment 4. Shop till you drop. (Enjoy the fruits of your success.)
Many Americans shop as form of recreation.
Even if we are not shopping for any thing in particular, we simply enjoy looking at all the options.
We love the whole process of choosing what to buy and were to buy it. It is the major topic of social conversation if you want to impress an American friend, convince him or her that you are a "smart shopper."
The saying, shop till you drop, is never use seriously as a command yet it holds a serious meaning.
We are perhaps the ultimate consumer society (and what better way to show of the fruits of our success); this saying describes us so well that it could be our national motto.
Commandment 5. Just do it.
We are people of action.
We do not like too much planning.
That seems indecisive and perhaps a waste of time. We do not like rules and regulations that prevent action.
We strongly dislike authority structures where people are expected to inform several other people before they do any thing.
We get an idea and we want to just do it.
Action is seen as the key to success.
Action is more valuable than planning, checking regulations, or informing people.
Commandment 6. No pain no gain. (Get tough.
Americans are always seeking to gain something or improve something, We expect to have to work to achieve our goals.
Success usually involves pain and sacrifice.
It will not happen by itself
If someone often complains about how hard something is, we call that person a "wimp." We look down on such people.
The ones we admire are the ones who know what they want and do not mind the pain it takes to get it. They fallow the Sixth Commandment, "Get tough"
Human rights and dignity are so basic to American thinking that we assume every one else must think the same way. This Proverb implies the command, "Stand up for your rights." In the American Revolution, America said to Britain, Enough is enough, that is, "You have ruled as for long enough.
You will not rule as any more."
As we saw in commandment 2, Live and let live Americans do not want people interfering in their lives.
When wesense interference, we push it away.
Commandment 8. time is money.
(Don't waste time.)
We Americans are very time-conscious and very money conscious.
Many of us get paid by the hour for the work we do. We give the employer our time in order to get money.
The idea that time is money has gotten in to our minds so deeply that it affects our whole lives.
Wasting time is as bad as wasting money, so we schedule every thing and we hurry everywhere.
By email, fax or phone Americans expects a quick response.
Know that your US costumer or counterpart doesn't intend to be rude when they don't chat; they are simply busy people, juggling family, work, study, and fun. We often signal the end of a phone conversation or a meeting saying, "Well, I don't want to take any more of your time."
If you really want to annoy an American, sit down and talk as if you have nothing else to do for the rest of the day. You will be breaking eighth Commandments of American culture, "don't waste time."
Commandment 9. Rules are made to be broken.
(Think for yourself.)
We obey rules most of the time, but we see rules are some one else's idea of how we should do things.
We think the rule might have been appropriate in some other situation But it might not been appropriate for our situation now. Therefore we break it and do what we think is better idea. This proverb implies the commandment, "Think for yourself in every situation.
Do not just obey rules."
Though Americans, say rules are made to be broken, we never say, "Lows are made to be broken." Laws are official legal" rules" and we proudly claim that in America, "No one is above the law."
Commandment 10. God helps those who help themselves.
In a list of "Ten commandments," one might expect that God would be mentioned in the first commandment rather than the last one. But in American culture, god actually does come at the end of the list. For most Americans, God is much less a concern than success, money and time (There are many Americans who put God at the top of their personal list of priorities, but they are minority within American culture.)
God help those who help themselves could mean that. God blesses people who work hard or it could mean, "God doesn't really help any one. Your success depends on you, not God" or either way, the proverbs point the same commandments, "Whether you believe in god or not work as hard as you can." It is better to be independent than to depend on others.