Back to
Two Dragons welcome the sunrise with an improvised dance atop the Andes. Photo by Ryan Gasper.

Question Response

The main difference between collective and individual cultures is the way success is perceived. In an individualist culture, success is measured mostly on a personal basis that is ultimately earned by that person themselves. In a collective culture success is measured more broadly and this makes and individuals worth to the group more important that their personal success. In both of these cultures, however, both individual and group success is a positive thing. It is mostly the way each is achieved that is different. Both cultures have their advantages and disadvantages. Individual cultures allow a person to be more themselves and express who they truly are on the inside, but that can make people more selfish or less considerate of those around them. In a collective culture, people should generally fit in with the norm, as that helps things run smoother. Obviously this makes it harder for people to be themselves without ridicule.

American culture is very individualist. People make it a point to express themselves in every way possible. Often times people make it other peoples business to accept them even when they do not agree with their personal lives. This has allowed the US to have a wide range of cultures and subcultures within the country that there are too many to count. Also the term “American Dream” specifically refers to the individual and not the collective. As far as where I live specifically, I have seen both cultures present. Chicago is a very segregated city besides the loop area, and each different part of the city is more collective than individualistic. My town for example, at least as far as the kids go, being different is not generally accepted as much as it is in different urban areas around the country. There is also a lot of focus on sports being successful, which represents the town as a whole succeeding rather than the individual. My high school, on the other hand, was a boarding school representing people from all over the world with many different cultures. This allowed people to learn about other cultures and accept people for who they were, whether that made the school better or worse.

Bolivia has several establish classes within their culture and while people can move between them, it is difficult to do so and it really creates a system of knowing your place in society and what your role is to the country from birth. ( This is an example of collective culture because while it may be a shortcoming of the nation due to deep roots in Spanish colonialism, it solidifies the idea that the group identifies your role as a person rather than the individual themselves. Somebody also said on reddit that Bolivian families often have multiple generations living in one household. Often times the kids do not move out until their mid 20’s, and grandparents retire to their children’s houses rather than to a retirement home or something similar.

Natural environment to me most likely has just as much of an affect on the collective as the people themselves do. Both the resources and the geography greatly affect how civilization is formed, and even the specific genetic traits that form in specific groups of humans. Having access to a lot of rivers allows for easier irrigation and less of a focus on improving farming since it is already good. The plants that regularly grow in the area also allow for a specific crop to become very popular due to its simplicity, and this shapes the cuisine and culture of the nation.

Ethnocentrism is the interpretation of other cultures based on the biases of your own. I think that for the most part, it is a negative side affect of isolation between cultures. It is important to remind yourself that everybody has a degree of this, and to not let it manifest unless it manifests itself positively. Different, or weird things shock people into revulsion when it should be used as a teaching tool. But since humans naturally lean on what is comfortable, this is difficult for us to do. For the most part, no culture is better than any other, and each has their benefits to society and values within a country or group. I have to remind myself that everything that happens within the Bolivian and Peruvian culture is there for a reason and to understand that reason helps understand why it may not be so different from my own culture. After all, humans are all pretty similar.