It is believed that we learn our culture only through knowledge of other cultures. That is why it is necessary to compare and analyze their basic values and beliefs.
The most important thing to understand about American is probably their devotion to individualism. They have been trained since very early in their lives to consider themselves as separate individuals who are responsible for their own situations in life and their own destinies. They have not been trained to see themselves as members of a close-knit, tightly interdependent family, religious group, tribe, nation, or other collectivity. Conversely Russians find themselves part of some group. They always have some kind of attachment, especially family relations.
Another distinctive difference is in the attitude to change and future. Americans are generally less concerned about history and traditions than are people from older societies. «History doesn’t matter,» many of them will say. «It’s the future that counts.» They look ahead. People from many other cultures, as well as Russian, have a pronounced reverence for the past. In those cultures the future is considered to be in the hands of fate, God, or at least the few powerful people or families dominating society.
Time is also of great importance in the USA. For Americans, time is a resource, like water or coal, which can be used well or poorly. «Time is money.» Thus, Americans admire a well-organized person, one who has a written list of things to do and a schedule for doing them. The ideal person is punctual and considerate of other people’s time. Russians are more likely to conceive of time as something that is simply there around them, not something they can use.
The values and beliefs that we point out as national can be found worldwide. But what is plausible in the USA is not quite valid in Russia. Whereas Americans value one concept, in Russia it is not paid any special attention.