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American-Mexican Cultural Dimensions
Every Christmas Eve, my entire family gathers. It’s an annual tradition. Cousins, aunts and uncles, people you sometimes haven’t seen since the last Christmas Eve are there. Around 50 people all shoved in to my Grandma’s house. With most of those people being under the age of 18. Kids running around. Screaming, laughing, crying and everything in between. Everyone is talking as if no time has passed. Picking up where they left off. The food is the best part. Dozens of delicious tamales filled with chili colorado. My favorite part of the whole night. There’s also Spanish rice and lots of cookies. When the eating’s done, each family takes pictures with Grandma. Or, Nana, as we call her. For me, this is the most, “Mexican” thing I usually do all year. Which is why I titled this essay the way I did. I am American first, Mexican, is how I’ve somehow been identified by the world based on the color of my skin or my last name. But to me, I am simply American.
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The number one thing that Mexicans value, is family. To them, family is not an important thing, it’s everything. One article titled, “Mexican Family Culture: Important Values, Traditions, and Beliefs”, states that “The elders of the family try their best to maintain them, and pass them on to the next generations. Every member of the immediate or even extended family is treated with love and respect.” In my family, the only tradition I can think of that has been passed on, is our families Christmas Eve tradition I mentioned. In my own personal family, we resemble more-so, the American value of independence. An article titled, “American Culture”, from internationalstudent.com, states that, “Americans strongly believe in the concept of individualism. They consider themselves to be separate individuals who are in control of their own lives, rather than members of a close-knit, interdependent family, religious group, tribe, nation, or other group” (American Culture). This ideal couldn’t be truer for my own family. One source titled, “Cross-Cultural Differences in Socialization Goals as a Function of Power Distance, Individualism-Collectivism and Education”, describes the difference between collectivistic cultures and individualistic cultures by stating, “Individualism is conceptualized as a preference for a loose social network in which individuals look after themselves and their immediate families, while collectivism is conceptualized as a tight social network in which individuals, in exchange for unquestioned loyalty, can expect that members of their in-group will look after them” (Mone, I. S., Benga, O., & Opre, A). I believe this description of individualistic cultures to be very true among my own family. My husband and I encourage our children to be individuals and step up and to lead others instead of follow. We rely solely on each other and never include any member of our extended family in our lives. We see a few extended family members at birthday parties and some holidays. Mostly importantly Christmas Eve as l mentioned above. But the majority of the year, we are off doing our own thing, living our own lives independent of our families. That is not to say that our entire family would not unite in the instance of a tragedy or something else deemed important. For example, early last year, my cousin lost his 1-year old daughter due to a heart defect. This loss affected our entire family and within hours of the news, our entire family of 50 plus, was gathered together to mourn and to support her father during a time that no parent should ever have to go through. Just like when the nation came together when the Twin Towers were attacked September 11, 2001. Our country united and love and support poured in from all over. People donated their time from all 50 states to aid in clean up and recovery efforts. Or the mass shootings that our country has suffered in the recent years. Every time, the American people united. We as a country and as people are independent, but dependent on each other when it counts.
The first word that comes to mind when I think of what an American is like, is giving. Willing to help other American’s in need and even those outside of its boarders. America as a country, donates billions of dollars annually to more than “100 countries around the world” (Foreign Assistance). Over 3.3 billion to Israel alone. This aid goes to fund government programs that aid its citizens, to help build schools and roads. People of the Mexican culture are also giving. The difference between American’s being giving and Mexicans giving is that, “Instead of just focusing on their own financial development, Mexicans give more emphasis on uplifting the status of their entire clan. Social status does not matter much to them; it’s all about the sustenance of all” (Mexican Family Culture). This does sound like a great ideal and if my extended family did this, I’d be greatly appreciative. However, that isn’t the case. My husband and I along with our children, went through a time when we had very little. Our extended family, our “clan”, were nowhere to be found. We came to realize that our kids wouldn’t have much for that years Christmas because of it. A friend had a relative who would donate Christmas every year to a family in need. This included presents for the kids, a gift for mom and dad, and even supplies to make Christmas dinner. That year, 2011, we were the family she chose to donate Christmas to. We had never been shown that kind of passion and good will before. It was unexpected. After we had come to terms with not having anything that year, we had everything. That family that donated to us, encompassed what it meant to be an American. And that was giving. From then on, our family donates our time to help others. My oldest son is a boy scout and we as family try to contribute our time to every monthly community service project that the troop contributes too. We also try to show our children the value of giving. We donate every year to toys for tots and to Valley Children’s Hospital and try to teach our children the value in it. Teach them that there are people less fortunate them and that giving back, is important. We remind of them when we needed the help that Christmas and how people came through for us. We teach them, it’s not only the right thing to do, but it’s the American thing to do.
There is truly no country no America! There are so many things that make us different than any other country on the globe. For example, President Bill Clinton stated in his 1993 inaugural speech, “There is nothing wrong with America, that cannot be cured with what is right with America.” This statement by the former President, encompasses the American culture 100 percent. And that is its perseverance, resilience and determination. America itself is a “salad bowl” full of people from all different nations, all different walks of life contribute in making American culture truly unique. According to Dinesh D’Souza, “America provides an amazingly good life for the ordinary guy” (D’Souza). I believe this is especially true. Many people in America regardless of their job, are able to have cars and houses. In other countries this isn’t so. D’Souza also states that, “America has gone further than any other society in establishing equality of rights” (D’Souza). This is also something apparent in everyday life. Some countries and cultures in particular, women are still unable to drive cars and people are murdered for their sexuality. While America has laws in place for decades for the betterment of all people and the equality of all people who live within its borders. We are a welcoming people that show great generosity to each other and to others. This fact alone makes the American people unique.
Both American’s and Mexicans have a number of people they are proud to call a member of their society and culture. One person that the Mexican culture honors, is Caesar Chavez. He fought for the rights of Mexican farm laborers to have the same rights as anyone holding any position would have. Another person Mexican culture honors annually, is the Lady of Guadalupe. Her holiday is one of the most important holidays in Mexican culture. She is not only a religious icon for the world, but is also seen as a sign of patriotism. In American culture, the first person that comes to mind, is the first President of the United States, George Washington. He so greatly impacted this country, that it has become American culture to celebrate him annually. One source states that, “Washington defined the role of the American commander in chief not only for congress but also for posterity” (Kwasny, M.V.). Another American that American culture is proud of, is Henry Ford, the man that revolutionized the car industry and “permanently changed the economic and social character of the United States” (Gelderman). More American’s our society is proud of include writer Mark Twain, and Ernest Hemmingway. They produced amazing works of art that are cherished and read all around the world. My family does not celebrate any of the Mexican culture holidays that I’ve mentioned but realistically we don’t celebrate the American ones either. I don’t know anyone that does. We all look to these holidays as just an extra day off. At least Mexicans have a true value in the people that they celebrate.
Every culture falls somewhere on Hofstede’s theory of cultural dimensions. American culture and Mexican culture are no different. All six dimensions are scored on a scale of 1 to 100. The first of the six cultural dimensions, is power distance. Power distance has to do with the distance that separates the people of power, and regular people. A societies inequality if you will. One source, “The Joint Moderating Effects of Activated Negative Moods and Group Voice Climate on the Relationship between Power Distance Orientation and Employee Voice Behavior” describes power distance as, “power distance refers to “the extent to which a society accepts the fact that power in institutions and organizations is distributed unequally” (Hsiung, H., & Tsai, W.) American culture falls fairly low on this scale with a score of 40 meaning that Mexican culture scores an 81. Hofstede’s second cultural dimension is collectivistic versus individualism. This is the scale that measures whether a country and its people lean more toward being individuals and relying on themselves, or more collectivistic and relying on each other. On this scale, America scores at a 91 which is also one of the highest in the world. Meaning that America focuses on itself instead of being focused on the world. America First! Whereas Mexican culture scores at a 30. Which means that Mexicans focus is more outward than on itself. The third cultural dimension and most controversial, is femininity versus masculinity. A low score indicates femininity while a high score indicates a masculine country. Mexico scores at a 69 and America scores a 62 on this scale which puts both cultures almost at the center of women and me being treated equally with equal rights. The fourth cultural dimension is uncertainty avoidance. This refers to a persons’ need to have information before entering an unknown situation. For example, people sometimes try to gather information before going in to a meeting to avoid uncertainty. On uncertainty avoidance, America scores a 46 which is basically right in the center while Mexicans score at an 82. This would mean that culturally, Mexicans lead without having all in the information first. The fifth cultural dimension is, short-term orientation versus long-term orientation. Short-term orientation versus long-term orientation, “describes how every society has to maintain some links with its own past while dealing with the challenges of the present and future” (Country Comparison). Mexicans and Americans score relatively low on this scale with a score of 24 and 26. This low score indicates that both cultures are more a normative society and approach change with suspicion. The last cultural dimension is indulgence. Indulgence has to do with, “the extent people try to control their desires and impulses, based on the way they were raised” (Country Comparison). The Americans scores a 68 while Mexicans score a 97 on the indulgence scale. Which tells us that both lean more toward instant gratification.
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One of the cultural theories I’d like to go further in to detail, is power distance. With regards to Americans and the use of voting and having free speech, the power distance between the government and its people is reduced. The people have a say in what the laws will be, and what changes will be made. Whether or not we will should pay more taxes to fix roads or not. Of course, not everyone is happy with voting outcomes but not only does majority rule, but in the case of a presidential election, every state matters and its representatives elected by us matter and are very influential when it comes to nominating the president. However, Mexican in culture, this power distance is much further apart. Meaning that the government and those in power, make the rules with little or no say from its people. A second theory is masculinity versus femininity. This one is important to me, because as a woman, I’d like to know that I am equal to a man. With America scoring at a 62, it shows that we still lean more toward a masculine nation. But this number has gone down over the decades. And that, to me, is promising. Change doesn’t happen overnight. With the addition of women’s rights laws and women’s rights to vote, our country has lowered its number on this scale significantly. There are also differences in regards to masculine versus feminist when it comes to educating the youth. One essay titled, “The Impact of Cultural Dimensions on Online Learning”, states that, “Countries with a high MAS index encourage competition between students and teachers only reward the excellence. On the other hand, countries with a low MAS index promote a friendly and collaborative learning environment” (Gómez-Rey, P., Barbera, E., & Fernández-Navarro, F.) We need to teach our girls that they too can be anything. That they’re more than just a pretty face, that they too can be President of the United States, or they too can be a doctor or whatever their heart desires. With Mexicans scoring at a 69, it is not much higher than Americas. But the differences are far apart. Women are expected to be homemakers while the men are the sole breadwinners in the household. My own daughter is a strong girl, and bosses around her three brothers daily. In her world, feminism reigns supreme. And lastly, I chose restraint versus indulgence. I chose this one because it really hits home with me personally. One essay titled, “Immediate and Delayed Emotional Consequences of Indulgence: The Moderating Influence of Personality Type on Mixed Emotions”, defines indulgence as, “indulgent behavior is characterized by time-inconsistent preferences, or a tendency to overweigh short-term rewards relative to more distant ones and a tendency in the short term to ignore the costs of one’s actions” (Ramanathan, S. & Williams, P.). I think everyone at one time or another has been guilty of over indulgence. Everyone wants that instant gratification even when we can’t afford it. America scores a 68 on this scale, meaning most of the country would agree with me. As much as I try to teach my kids that hard work pays off if you just give it time, when you’ve worked hard in school since the age of 5, you want something to show for it. Which is why I think we spend money right when we get it. Not only do we want that gratification from our purchase or trip, but we want to feel that we can afford it even though we sometimes can’t. Which explains why most American’s are drowning in credit card debt. The Mexicans score of 97 blows Americas out of the water. It would suggest that money is spent as soon as they get it. When comparing the two it makes Americans seem conservative. One thing I’m remined of when learning of Mexicans score, are the current pictures flooding the internet of “refugees” sitting with their $1000 iPhones awaiting entrance in to the United States. I believe that most Americans have a limit as to whether indulge or not.
The three dimensions I have discussed have reinforced my sense of American culture and pushed away Mexican culture further. I personally fall right in line with most of scores of most Americans. I’d like to see the masculinity score to be closer to 50 but I believe in time it will be. Many American businesses are putting women on their boards and women as their CEO’s more than ever. The one I connect with the most, is individualism. As I mentioned above, my husband and I consider ourselves to be individualistic in our lives and not so much collectivistic like out annual Christmas Eve celebration with family. We don’t follow the classic Hispanic way of collectivistic living or lifestyle. Which is why I’m choosing to talk about my American culture and way of life than a Hispanic one that I don’t align myself to. And lastly, the score for indulgence, I’ve already mentioned I’m guilty of. This is not a score I’m proud of on both the American and Mexican spectrum, but I believe I fall in line with the rest of American’s (Not that that’s a good thing). I do spend when I don’t have it, I also have a limit to my spending. I have credit card debt but I will not go out and get more credit than I can afford to pay each month.
As Americans, we all have the equal opportunity to become whatever we want to become, and that is what makes American culture different than Mexican culture is the belief in that. I am teaching my children this. That it doesn’t matter where you come from, you can do anything. Because America is the land of opportunity, anyone can become someone.
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