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Global Mapping International

American Cultural Baggage

How to Recognize and Deal with It

by Stan Nussbaum (GMI Staff Missiologist)

"It is fun to read and very insightful, if a little troubling, for those of us who are monocultural Americans." - David Mays


Price: $14.95

160 pp., Paperback, Orbis Books, 2005

If you are an American headed for cross-cultural service (even for a week or two), don't leave home without a copy of this little book. It can save you a lot of headaches in your new situation because it enables you to see what you cannot see at home--your own cultural baggage. Once you look into this mirror and see the pattern of American culture, you begin to realize why it can cause trouble in other cultural settings and how you can nip that trouble in the bud.

The American cultural pattern is sketched through 235 common sayings, clustered around cultural values and issues such as success, self-esteem, initiative, family and hope. As you read or skim through the book, watch for the recurring icon showing some lit sticks of dynamite. It marks the short sections that pinpoint the dangers each particular American trait may get you into.

For example, "Just do it"? A really bad idea in a lot of cultures where respect for elders and authorities is crucial. "Time is money"? Guess again, and guess better next time. We are used to these sayings as rules of thumb but the day we set foot in another culture we discover that these rules are made to be broken.


The book neither favors nor attacks American culture. It just tells it like it is. Seeing it for the first time as it really is, many Americans cringe a bit, but do yourself a favor. Spend an hour or two with this book before you leave or on the plane. If it helps you shed some cultural baggage, you get to spend more time enjoying the people you meet and less time trying to figure out why they are upset with you. Have a nice trip.

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View the Table of Contents.

Read the Preface.

Read "The 'Ten Commandments' of American Culture".

Order a copy of American Cultural Baggage.