Individualism in USA

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Individualism in USA

Post by ira_kart » Mon Apr 09, 2018 6:52 am

I am trying to understand or gain a better insight on this. I understand this question may not survive the moderation by the Admins :) and eventually I may get banned, but if both of us survive, all I am trying to gain is an insight into the culture and nothing else.

I am an expat who lived in US for quite some time and moved on. This is just my perspective and not to hurt anyone, some will surely feel very different about my own home country's (India) social fabric and that is perfectly natural and to be accepted by me. May be I missed or not aware of the wonderful relationships that US offers in a family setting, by not being related to anyone in the US. So with all these declared before hand, the crux of the matter is,

For someone brought up in India where everything is almost always community driven, I felt US gave more preference to individualism. In this "developed" country, people did not know what their neighbour is upto and never cross well defined boundaries in interactions. I felt the social interactions and the interactions at work were always hollow and so much shallow in US than where I came from.

Not to mention, Indian urban population in aping this same culture, but the rural India still retains the way it has been for centuries. Indian villagers always have a close knit relationship and know each other in and out. I believe this applies to most (if not all) of the rural settlements across the globe since they are small in numbers in a relatively remote location (read villages) at Nature's will and have to be united for good. One of my well travelled managers, born and raised in US who at one point, became a very close friend outside of work, revealed she wanted to move to Europe to feel more connected to society and neighbours. At that point, I felt oh, so it is just not me and it is felt by others who were brought up in a very different environment than mine. May be the experience I had was with the urban population and may be totally misguided to stereotype the whole culture. I just do not know. I am so sorry to be blunt, the social fabric of the people I have interacted is always warm, but still objective and to the point. In one of the "What will you do" series episodes, I heard someone said, American Indians need to talk "more" in a social setting and make more interactions. So, may be I did not make more social interactions?

In my limited travels road tripping the length and the breadth of this huge country couple of times, I felt the American South/South East is lot closer to what I wanted in terms of bonding/ relationship, but I never had a chance to work and live there, only visit for experiencing the hospitality of the Southerners. May be the hospitality I experienced is limited to rural towns/villages of Tennesse (am I correct to say TN is south east?), but they made an indelible ink in my heart. I felt right at home (sans the different accent of English) with some of the rural folks in Tennesse. I would love to move there anyday for the warm heartedness of people there, oh my goodness, my heart melts and my eyes tear up due to overwhelming emotion typing these lines just thinking about my experiences and the people I met there.

Someone on this forum experienced either the reverse or felt like the manager in the above statements when visiting other countries? I like to have a constructive conversation about the above thoughts than getting to nasty side. A great characteristic of the American culture which I truly cherised is accepting someone as they are and what they think, so hopefully my above thoughts will be accepted and drive an open conversation.

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Re: Individualism in USA

Post by luxagraf » Mon Apr 09, 2018 9:14 am

I've traveled a bit in India, but grew up in the US. So reverse perpsective maybe.

To your point about the US, it all depends who you meet of cource (and two dozen other things), but, that said, your experience closely mirrors my own. In fact I moved to the southeast (Georgia) for precisely that reason (people are, in my experience, friendlier, kinder and generally more social than elsewhere). I've actually written about this quite a few times on my own site, but for me it comes down to social interaction between strangers and how it's handled. These days I travel around in an RV full time and so spend a good bit of time interacting with total strangers and I can now pretty much tell you where someone is from in the US in about 10 seconds of interaction. Occassionally I'm wrong of course, but by and large if a person isn't from the south their version of social interaction with a stranger consists mostly of trying to avoid it.

As for why this is... I have no idea.

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Re: Individualism in USA

Post by jacob » Mon Apr 09, 2018 9:39 am

@ira_kart - See https://cms-internationsgmbh.netdna-ssl ... Survey.pdf and go to page 73. You'll see that the US as a whole falls in the middle between rational&distant vs emotional&welcoming; whereas India is halfway over towards the welcoming side. Much of northern Europe leans more towards distant than the US. This has also been my experience.

Also see page 78. Americans rank in the upper 1/4 of the world in terms of being passionate and outgoing (actually higher than India). Sweden occupies the bottom (reserved&calm).

@luxagraf - It probably depends on the culture that a given US area drew its original settlers. For example, New England would draw from the UK (protestants) which is another individualistic country/culture. And so on. For intra-US differences, see ... 0143122029

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Re: Individualism in USA

Post by Riggerjack » Mon Apr 09, 2018 10:56 am

OP, I have never been to TN, but made many friends from TN and KY while in the army. Actually, the army was a good place to get a feel for this kind of thing, as every soldier is young and been through the same training, so regional variance tends to stand out more, as the rest is more similar.

Now I am pretty extreme in the introverted, distant end of whatever spectrum you choose, so factor that in.

But my observation is that Americans, in general, have had a lot of room to roam. If you couldn't get along with the people you are with, move somewhere else and try it again. Culturally, this means we tolerate more irritating or antisocial behavior than one could find in more close-knit, villages or small towns. This is even more clear when comparing rural vs urban people from the same area. Rural Arkansas vs Little Rock, comes to mind....

We all have to get along with the locals, wherever we may be. In urban environments, this is commonly done by being selective in choosing friends, and because there are so many choices, we tend to choose for being very similar to ourselves. Similar age, interests, and often politics. Then the group ages and introduces variation. But this is variation from a common stock within an environment of similar clusters. Those similar clusters make the minor differences ridiculously important.

Small towns and villages aren't as insular. This is mainly in that the core clusters we make while young, aren't as specialized. And the inclusion/exclusion factors are not as strong, without the population pressures of similar but critically different groups on the fringes. Thus the "friendly small town feel" is a result of less competition and selection and greater tolerance for variability.

So I think Americans, in general are less able to even recognize community, as we move to cities, form tight knit groups of even more similar people, then with the help of social media, isolate ourselves from any perspective that may cause us to question ourselves or grow as people.

This theme is very clear when looking at the last election, and the trauma some groups went through to reconcile the results and the rejection with their group identity; in a way that could acknowledge the reality of rejection without the condemnation of their defining characteristics. Ie, it was because "they" are horrible people, not because we were unappealing. This wouldn't be necessary in a group that could be one of many. In a society that learned to get along with people unlike ourselves. These aren't pleasant lessons to learn, so we are simply not learning them. It's just easier that way, until it very suddenly isn't.

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Re: Individualism in USA

Post by George the original one » Mon Apr 09, 2018 5:16 pm

Anybody being friendly is usually trying to sell something... genuine friendliness excepted.

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Re: Individualism in USA

Post by Jason » Tue Apr 10, 2018 5:48 am

ira_kart wrote:
Mon Apr 09, 2018 6:52 am

I felt US gave more preference to individualism.
I think it's safe to say that the most enduring and iconic image of America is the 19th century cowboy (Marlboro Man in advertising) confronting the enemy in all its forms (natural terrain, wildlife, human) by himself. It's been recapitulated in politics during times of crisis in Herbert Hoover's rugged individualism, cinema in Easy Rider, music in the lonesome bluesman, literature in Hemingway. Some would argue it began as the country moved from the shared, doctrinal basis of Calvinism to the individual conversion experience of Methodism and Baptism (mirrored in the move from Republicanism to Democracy). Plus, being that the national religion is quasi political that ties numerous immigrant groups together exacerbated by an emphasis on individual property rights, we don't possess a basic, shared culture that other nations may have. We can't assume anything with regard to what common ground we may or may not share with our neighbors.

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Re: Individualism in USA

Post by ffj » Tue Apr 10, 2018 8:18 pm


I think your question is safe. ;)

In general people in the South are much more outgoing and hospitable. In my neck of the woods everybody waves at one another while driving and you would never not say hello to someone you knew in public if your paths crossed. If someone comes to your home you would always offer them something to drink and a place to sit. Of course I'm generalizing as I've been treated very well in other parts of the country but Southerners kind of pride themselves on hospitality.

But I think you are right about a lack of overall closeness that other countries share. And I think it comes down to not wanting to become inconvenienced as well as having many other entertainment and escapement choices. And the room and privacy to do it. Even the poorest among us has access to television and smartphones and the internet. Most of us have enough money to move away from difficult family or neighborhoods. We can choose not to have to interact with others and we do. I'm guessing that a lot of familial closeness in other countries are a result of forced living conditions as it is best not to disrupt the peace if it means a worse standard of living. Here in the States we have the luxury of not having to deal with a lot of these issues for better or for worse.

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Re: Individualism in USA

Post by Lemur » Wed Apr 11, 2018 2:38 pm ... t_cultures

I have studied this topic a lot in my multinational finance & management courses. OP, I think you're correct in your assessment. We do have an individualistic culture here. My spouse is from a collectivist culture and I can definitely feel the difference between ours and hers (Philippines). They feel a lot more connected...even when I met my spouse there years ago I felt like I was treated like family rather than a stranger. I still feel that way now. Even in my personal family unit, us siblings do not really keep in great contact with one another. Sort of just split off whereas my wife keeps in touch with all 9 of hers!

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Re: Individualism in USA

Post by James_0011 » Fri Apr 13, 2018 6:53 am

Isn’t this indivualism the reason why it’s so easy to ere here?

When I travel to Europe for work, everyone in the office eats together at the same time and pretty much has the same food from the cafe. I hate it. I’m glad I don’t live in such a conformist culture...

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Re: Individualism in USA

Post by ira_kart » Fri Apr 13, 2018 11:31 am

@James_0011 - Just giving a different dimension to your thought from my side. Should n't ERE be easy in developed aka rich economies since people will have the mind to think about these concepts unlike the developing nations where its all work, work and work.

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Re: Individualism in USA

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Fri Apr 13, 2018 1:46 pm

The problem with collectivist cultures is that every time you want to do something like run to the drug store to pick up some toilet paper, you have to go around in a circle to everybody else in the house or neighborhood and tell them you are going to the drug store, ask them if they want to come with you, and inquire whether there is anything they might need. By the time you are done with this process, you might as well have grown a tree and processed it into toilet paper with the use of nothing but a rough ax and a rusty old screen.

The problem with individualistic cultures is that the older men I encounter while I am hiking on a trail trying to identify various species of invasive shrubbery, are too busy checking their heart rate and market reports on their watches to even smile or say "Hi" to me as they run past engaged in personal best quest for immortality.

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