Valentine’s Day the American Way

February 14, 2020
Posted by Jay Livingston

Foreigners often comment that while Americans are generally very friendly and open, friendships are often superficial, especially compared with friendships in their home countries. In class, I would use the example of the elementary school version of Valentine’s Day. (The picture below turned up in my Twitter feed today. I have edited out the personal information.)

In the US, universalism rules. A Valentine’s card denotes affection and friendship, but American kids  have to treat all their classmates alike — no special preferences lest any kid feel left out. You have to extend this token of friendship to every kid in the class.

I’ve never been near a French primary school on February 14th, but I doubt that they follow this custom. I would imagine that if French kids give Valentine cards, they do so on the basis of particularism. It matters very much who the other person is, and for each kid, the number of those special friendships is small.

Happy Valentine’s Day to all readers of the SocioBlog.

(A follow-up about Russian and US schools and friendships is here.)

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