Re: Talking about Money - A taboo?

karl h schwerin (schwerin@UNM.EDU)
Wed, 6 Dec 1995 14:32:51 -0700

On Fri, 1 Dec 1995, Nils Zurawski wrote:

> In a class on indutsrial-sociology (I hope thats the right word) we were
> talking about the different attitudes towards money that workers and other
> emploees have.
> I Germany workers are open in theta respect that they show their paycheck
> to others and tell you frankly how muc they got.
> Employees , i.e. people in offices are not doing this - i is a taboo that
> you will find throughout German society: We don't talk about money.
> The proffessor thought to remember that in the US this is differet, i.e. to
> talk anbout money isn't a taboo among empoyees. He remembered to have heard
> that at a time (60s, 70s) the salary was written next to the name on the
> office door. he didn't know if this was true at all and asked me to check.
> I woulkd be intered4sted in all aspects you can think about concerning this
> issue, as this touches cultural anthropology as well
> Thank you very much for your heklp.
> Regards
> Nils

In the U.S. there is a general taboo about discussing one's personal
income. People do not show each other their paychecks. Even close
friends don't reveal to one another how much they make. In more
traditional families, husbands often don't (or didn't) even tell their wives
exactly how much they were earning.

Salaries in our department are always kept confidential (except at the time of first
hire). Salaries for the university are "public" but it requires one to
go to the general library, ask for the printout and look up individual
salaries. To my knowledge, few people go to the trouble.

Karl Schwerin SnailMail: Dept. of Anthropology
Univ. of New Mexico Albuquerque, NM 87131

Much charitable endeavor is motivated by an unconscious
desire to peer into lives that one is glad to be unable
to share. . . . . Edward Sapir