On American Individualism


校园英语·下旬 2016年9期

Li Guyu

【Abstract】Among those American symbols like multiculturalism, hi-tech and its powerful status in the world, an important representative one is its individualism. This paper will briefly discuss it based on daily matters.

【Key words】American; individualism

When talking about America, many things come into our mind, like multiculturalism, Hollywood movies, fast food, hi-tech and its powerful status in the world. Among those symbols, an important representative one is its individuals value or individualism. Here the individualism does not mean selfishness but self-esteem, self-control and self-improvement. Just as Tocqueville once said: “They own nothing to any man, they expect nothing from any man; they acquire the habit of always considering themselves as standing alone.”

1. Personal Privacy

American children begin to sleep in separate rooms at a very young age though live under the same roof with their parents. In American daily life, room doors are often closed for they value their own privacy and space a lot and if parents want to enter their childrens rooms, they should first knock at the door to ask for permission. Grandparents rarely live in the same house with their married sons and daughters and uncles and ants almost never do.

Their valuing of privacy and space can also be proved by my foreign writing teacher Mark who is a Korean-American. Every time I talked with him, he would keep a certain space between us. At first I didnt notice that, but whenever I moved forward towards him, he would step back a little. Probably it not only indicates their self-esteem but its also a way to respect others.

2. Self-reliance

My first foreign teacher is Elizabeth in NanKai University who was then 23 years old from America. She told us the money cost on her transportation and traveling to other countries was all paid by herself. Though it was not rare in America, we were surprised at that time for we were all in our early twenties.

One summer holiday, I took part in a summer camp ran by an institution in Beijing. There were many foreign teachers who were at the age of 19 or 20. Most of them were younger than us and were students doing part-time job in China during their summer break. Although they were very young, they turned out to be much more mature than us students there. They sometimes were very surprised to hear things about our life especially when they knew that after we grew up, our parents would buy us houses. Most Americans become adults in societys eyes after 16 or 18, and they will learn to depend on themselves.

3. General Culture

On one of our foreign classes, we talked about American dream. When one of our classmates mentioned harmony, Elizabeth shook her head. American people prefer personal ideas and they do not accept others opinions easily unless their own ones are proved to be wrong. They wont choose to hide their feelings for harmony. For example, in classes many students like to raise questions and debate with each other; they like to describe their own thoughts instead of remaining silent. Sure it does not mean Americans hate harmony, but they just do not want to let this word stop their self-improvement or make them always agree with others blindly.

The culture of dinning is also a sign of their individualism. They often have meals with their immediate family or even by themselves. An expert in China once said because of their separated meals there was no doubt that Americans tended to be separated from their families. And when they have western food, they often order their own and use knife and fork to cut things apart which seems to have some implications. The way they have their meals is very different from us Chinese; we often sit at a big round table to enjoy our meal as well as the atmosphere with as many family members as possible and we usually enjoy this kind of reunion.

All above are the representations of individualism, but as I have mentioned at first, individualism is not selfishness. Actually we can tell that cultural diversity in America gets along well with the dominant value of individualism. America is a country full of colorful culture, and when we begin to get some knowledge from one corner of it, well find that it leads us to a broader world which is waiting for us to explore and discover.



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