How To Do Business With Americans: Servants

If You Live In America, Learn To Get Along Without Servants
by Gene Griessman, Ph.D.

In many parts of the world, particularly in Asia, Latin America, and Africa, servants are a commonplace. Even middle-class families have servants in Pakistan and  India. Patrick French has described Indian society this way: “The omnipresence of dispensable servants…makes a certain kind of existence possible. Servants fetch, carry, polish, iron, sweep, wash, shop, fix…and the expectation is that they will always be there.”

Most Americans do not have servants, certainly not full-time servants. There are maids in America, and housekeepers, drivers, and nannies. But these workers are often part-time.  More and more service jobs  are performed by agencies. For example, my housekeeper is an employee of a “cleaning service,” which recruits, screens, insures, and schedules the housekeeper’s appointments. Ditto for nannies and drivers.

Why is this? The main reason is economic. None but the very rich can afford to pay the salaries, benefits, or provide lodging for full-time servants.

But there are other reasons.  For one thing, Americans do not like to be thought of as servants.  One of the dominant themes of the American national character is equality.  Americans believe they are as good as anybody else.

To be “in service” to someone else, as the British aristocracy put it, is something to be avoided at all costs.  During colonial times, immigrants to America sometimes paid for their passage  by becoming indentured servants, and some parents sometimes did it to their children.  But the practice was abandoned long ago.  An American will do the same task as a servant, but does not want to be known as one.

There is another reason.  Americans even if they are rich will do tasks that the  rich would not deign to do in, say, India.  For Americans there is no shame in fetching, carrying, polishing, ironing, sweeping, washing, shopping, fixing. An American looks at a job that needs to be done, and, if there is no one to do it, will think, “I can do that.” Americans do not love doing menial work any more than individuals in other societies do, but if a task needs to be done, Americans feel no shame in doing it.

–Gene Griessman is an internationally known keynote speaker, actor, and consultant. His video “Lincoln on Communication” is owned by thousands of corporations, libraries, and government organizations. He has spoken at conventions all over the world. To learn more about his services, contact us at 404-256-5927, 404-435-2225, or Learn more about Gene Griessman at and

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