5 Things American Culture Gets Wrong

A few years after getting married, my wife and I took a trip to Costa Rica. My wife’s parents are from Costa Rica, and her dad still had a lot of family living there. It was my first time outside the U.S. and I was excited to experience a new country.

I’ll always remember walking around, eating where the locals eat, and watching the monkeys run across our balcony. Beyond the lasting memories, I still think about how different some of the cultural aspects were compared to America. As I continue to learn about other cultures, I’ve realized there are a few cons of American culture. Here are 5 things American culture gets wrong.

1. Individualism

Just like in an old western movie, there’s something heroic about galloping in on a lone stallion to save the town. We look to pave our own way and think we need to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and be self-made men. Don’t get me wrong—hard work and making something out of nothing deserve respect, but we shouldn’t aim to do life all by ourselves. Ecclesiastes tells us that “two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.”

2. Becoming Materialistic

Social media has escalated this to a whole new level. It’s not just maintaining a lifestyle like those that live in proximity to you but now all the people you follow on social media. I think Dave Ramsey summarized it best saying, “We spend money we don’t have, to buy things we don’t need, to impress people we don’t like.” The access to wealth is incredible in this country, but the temptation to turn and spend it all on material things is one of the cons of American culture.

3. Putting Our Careers First

Every man must figure out his priorities, and they will change in different seasons. Being a provider is an important role of the father but there is a balance needed to rank our priorities properly. There’s a compelling question in Luke 9:25 that says, “What do you benefit if you gain the whole world but are yourself lost or destroyed?” In other words, what do you benefit from getting a promotion, a raise, or that special recognition if you lose your relationship with your spouse or kids in the process? I’ve never heard someone in a hospital bed say, “I wish I would have spent more time at the office.” If anything, they’re reflecting on the moments they wish they put their family and friends first.

4. Fatherlessness

According to a 2019 study done by the National Fatherhood Initiative, “18.4 million children live without a biological, step or adoptive father at home.” That puts America at the highest rate of single-parent households in the world at 23%. That’s 3.3 times higher than the world average. This impact on children in father-absent homes is significant. Some staggering statistics say that fatherless kids have a four times greater risk of poverty, are seven times more likely to become pregnant as a teen, are twice as likely to drop out of school, and are more likely to commit a crime, abuse drugs and alcohol, have behavioral problems, and go to prison.

5. Quality time with our kids.

According to the article “The Best Countries to Raise a Family in 2020,” Americans spend 23% of their annual household income on childcare. As more families have both parents working, it’s easy to see the financial obligation here. What’s harder to see is the time commitment we need to be intentional outside of the childcare and work hours. A 2015 study done by Nikita Coulombe found that the average school-age boy only spends about 30 minutes per week in one-on-one conversation with his father. That same child spends an average of 44 hours per week watching television, playing video games, and surfing the internet. While childcare and screen time continue to be a big part of our kids’ lives, prioritizing quality time together becomes even more important.

Sound off: What are some other cons of American culture? How can we create a better culture within out homes?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What are your favorite things to do when we spend time together?”