It is believed that we learn our culture only through
knowledge of other cultures. That is why it is necessary to compare and analyze
their basic values and beliefs.
The most important thing to understand about American
is probably their devotion to individualism. They have been trained since very
early in their lives to consider themselves as separate individuals who are
responsible for their own situations in life and their own destinies. They have
not been trained to see themselves as members of a close-knit, tightly
interdependent family, religious group, tribe, nation, or other collectivity.
Conversely Russians find themselves part of some group. They always have some
kind of attachment, especially family relations.
Another distinctive difference is in the attitude to
change and future. Americans are generally less concerned about history and
traditions than are people from older societies. "History doesn't
matter," many of them will say. "It's the future that
counts." They look ahead. People
from many other cultures, as well as Russian, have a pronounced reverence for
the past. In those cultures the future is considered to be in the hands of
fate, God, or at least the few powerful people or families dominating society.
Time is also of great importance in the USA. For
Americans, time is a resource, like water or coal, which can be used well or
poorly. "Time is money." Thus, Americans admire a well-organized
person, one who has a written list of things to do and a schedule for doing
them. The ideal person is punctual and considerate of other people's time.
Russians are more likely to conceive of time as something that is simply there
around them, not something they can use.
The values and beliefs that we point out as national
can be found worldwide. But what is plausible in the USA is not quite valid in
Russia. Whereas Americans value one concept, in Russia it is not paid any
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