Tuesday, May 27, 2008

American Values - Independent Spirit

Recently, we were interviewed by a Mexican student who is studying to be a translator. Her class is doing a project about Americans in order to understand more of our culture as they work in the field. One interesting thing they had to look at were our core values. We had to comment on them as she videotaped us to show her class.

The one I want to comment on today is the one of self-reliance and independence. We as Americans are taught to be ruggedly independent. I see it when teams come here, they don't want to be a burden to anyone. They don't like to need a translator, a guide, or a protector while they are here. The problem is, they DO. Sometimes they can get themselves into trouble because of their independence! It's great to be self-reliant when on your own soil, but it just doesn't work when you go somewhere else!

Last year, as the director of the language school, I had to ask my students to notify me whenever they left town to go to the grocery store or wherever in Monterrey. My reasoning wasn't to control them, it was to know where they were going in case they came up missing. They failed to report to me so many times! I know it was because of their independence, and probably because they didn't want to bother me, but it can be dangerous.

So, if any of you are planning on visiting a foreign land in the next little while, please remember that your independence can get you into a lot of trouble very quickly. You don't understand the cultural cues, the warning signs, the language... you need to RELY on people. It's not a bad thing. We are here to help, and it's not an imposition.

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