"In the U.S., we just assume that everyone's a high competitor."
Ain't that the truth? I was lucky, when I worked at my last job in Chicago, to be in a position where I didn't have to be competitive, despite being surrounded by a sales force of extremely competitive people. I was the one they all came to whenever they needed anything. I liked that. I should put that in my resume as my objective when job searching: "My goal is to be the person that everyone else goes to for help." :)
It's one of the things that Americans in Sweden tend to have a hard time adjusting to, if they're working here, especially if they had a "career" in the States. The Swedish workplace operates on the theory that the team is the most important and that everyone contributes equally and decisions are made by consensus. When you're interviewed for a job here, many times it's by the people you'll be working with, and not just your boss-to-be.
You don't get graded here. It's really hard to get used to. I blame it on Jantelagen, which is the "rule" that Scandinavians tend to aspire to, even when they also debate and deny it, that states, among other things, that no one is better than anyone else, and that you should not ever think you are better than anyone else.
Gah. How Un-American! I gave a talk at a Swedish high school the first year after I moved to Sweden for a Swedish teacher friend. I told the kids that the idea of Jantelagen was the most alien thing I had yet encountered, as an American living in Sweden.
I still think so, after 6.5 years.