I've come across several sources claiming that the US is more tolerant of trial-and-error than other cultures:

  • (The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb) "American culture encourages the process of failure, unlike the cultures of Europe and Asia where failure is met with stigma and embarrassment."

  • (a BBC article) "The US has a culture tolerant of failure, driven by individual passion." (Implied contrast with the situation in China.)

  • (a book review of The Upside of Down by Megan McArdle) "America succeeds because Americans fail and forgive." "The U.S. has the most accessible bankruptcy laws in the world."

I found a single academic article on this topic (from the University of Cambridge), which has a more nuanced view, distinguishing between "failure tolerance" and "second chancing". Are there any other credible sources that discuss the attitude towards failure in different cultures?

  • Some anecdotal evidence: nytimes.com/2014/11/09/business/…
    – Steve P
    Commented Nov 10, 2014 at 13:50
  • As there is no proper answer after long time, I can provide some anecdotal evidence: yes, at least in Eastern Europe this is true (I live there). The thinking is that if you fail, you are likely to fail again, not that you have learned a lesson and are less likely to fail again.
    – user31389
    Commented Mar 17, 2015 at 22:47

1 Answer 1


Per OECD (2013), “Culture: Attitude toward failure”, in Entrepreneurship at a Glance 2013, OECD Publishing, United States has an adult belief ratio exceeding 80% for failed entrepreneurs to be given a second chance. In most countries, a large majority of adults believe that entrepreneurs who fail should be given a “second chance”. The ratio is around or above 90% in Brazil, China, Greece, Ireland, Korea, Spain and Sweden, and exceeds 80% in several other countries including the Russian Federation and the United States. Comparing answers in 2012 with those provided in 2009 suggests that in many countries the positive attitudes relating to a ’second chance’ might have been reinforced by the recent financial crisis, i.e. people have become more sympathetic towards difficulties faced by entrepreneurs.

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