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I'm a 21-year-old journalism student. I spent last semester living in Florence, Italy. These are my adventures.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Diversity Diary #3

Today in class we talked about the American values. Fabio gave us all a list of societal values and a few minutes to rank which 10 we felt encompassed the American culture. It was a lot more difficult than I expected. We traded papers for anonymity, and everyone wrote the top five values from each list on the whiteboard. The following appeared the most:
(there are roughly 11 or 12 students in the class)

Democracy – 7
Education – 6
(Nation’s) Status – 6
Money/wealth – 5

Fabio said those were exactly the values he most often associates with America, except for one: Patriotism. It didn’t appear on the board at all, and only one person could find it lower on the list. Interesting. Fabio was really surprised.
He said the above four values “are a part of the materialistic nature of America” and emphasized that it wasn’t meant to be offensive, just honest.
We started talking about another value that appeared in various forms: competition/success/accomplishment. Americans tend to judge people based on incomes, whether we realize it or not. One of the first questions we ask each other when meeting is “what do you do for a living? Where do you work?” This immediately gives us a sense of that individual’s income. Or for college students, the question is “where do you go to school?” The price of that school and how elite it is also gives a good sense of their wealth.
Fabio explained that this is unique to Americans. A career is not part of how Italians and most other cultures introduce themselves. Loyalty to careers, jobs and the professional world is a particular characteristic of the American Culture. I hadn't thought of it like that, but it's so true. 

We also listed three values that don't embody the American culture and listed them on the board. It made us sound like a pretty wretched crew. Here's the list for your perusal:

What America is not, according to my intercultural communication class:

Regulation and control
Equal opportunity
Chastity (2)
World unity (2)
All for one, one for all
Family values
Respect for elders
Global view
Calm, quiet (2)
Romance of life
Helpfulness/being friendly

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