In adjusting to any new culture, it is helpful to have some knowledge of that culture. Even though the U.S. population is made up of many different ethnic groups, and that fact is one of the defining characteristics of the United States, it is still possible to talk about some shared "mainstream" values. The following explanation of these values may help you to know who Americans are. It may help you to tell whether puzzling American behavior is due to cultural conflict or individual differences. A discussion of cultural values is not about being right or wrong; it is about different ways of doing things. Remember that these are generalizations; sometimes they will be relevant, sometimes they will not.
This section is an adaptation of Appendix 5 of NAFSA's International Student Handbook: A Guide to University Study in the U.S.A. Published by AT&T; and also of the Yale University OISS Handbook for International Students and Scholars.