Living abroad gives us a bit of distance from which to view our own culture while also giving us that odd sensation of reverse culture shock when back "home". One important American cultural value that always hits me as "different" is that overwhelming and ever present optimistic spirit which often leads to amazing self-confidence and self-regard. In other words, we toot our horn without embarrassment. We have been taught to do so, to stand out, win first prize, go for it in the face adversity, be optimistic, set outrageous dreams and then make them come true. This all takes an enormous amount of optimism, self-confidence and regard.
The NPR (National Public Radio) recently reported on a study that documents the particularly American tendency to be over-confident in the area of personal skills and competence that often leads to unrealistic optimism and self-regard -- NPR, Americans Flunk Self-Assessment.
By celebrating and exalting the good that is in us, we easily overlook the "dark side of optimism."
Europeans and Asians (and really the rest of the world) understand this intuitively. On the other side, they can be so engrossed in the dark side of optimism that they forget to celebrate and exalt the wonderful possibilities inside each of us.
Thanks Gillian for this great link!