Are Americans Stupid or Honest?

Last year when two of my Russian friends came to visit, I was curious to hear their impressions of the United States.  I was also surprised by some of the things they noticed.  One of them was the fact that we tend to leave our possessions outside our homes unattended.  Of course this isn’t true in big cities but in small, rural areas, it isn’t uncommon.  My friend was shocked by this and asked whether or not these things would be stolen.  I assured her that people wouldn’t steal from their neighbors and she was surprised by this.

It got me thinking about our culture and how our society functions in regard to trusting people and being honest.  Of course sometimes things are stolen but, more often than not, we’re happy to leave things alone.  But why?  Even if I see something that I want, I don’t steal it.  Even if I couldn’t afford it, I would accept this reality and move on.  Is it because most of these items are superficial or regarded as junk?  Perhaps if there were extreme circumstances, things would be different.

But I can now see why people might perceive Americans as stupid.  After all, we leave things lying around in plain sight where anyone could steal them.  But is this really the case?  I think that many would consider it a breakdown of our society if we began distrusting one another to such a degree.  To be honest, I’m proud that people do seem to respect others’ property and don’t trespass or steal.  I know the same can’t be said everywhere in the world and I feel safe in my neighborhood.  Maybe it also goes back to our cultural values and how much we value individuality and privacy.  So, are we stupid or just honest?

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