Individualistic culture is when the culture focuses on the individual's needs and looks for happiness on an individual level before looking to the group. An example of an individualistic culture would be the United States.
Individualism asks that people are self-reliant and can be independent. These societies want people to be able to take care of themselves and to take pride in being self-sufficient, which in turn will benefit the whole society and group. People are not required to be a member of a group in order to have an identity.
Collectivism is the opposite of individualism. Collectivism occurs when people put the good of the group before themselves and focus on their role within the group rather than their own happiness. The group can be the family or the team at work. An example of a collectivist society would be found in Japan. The importance in this environment is on the harmony and the connectedness of the group.
All of the cultures around the world do not necessarily fall into the individualism or collectivism group, however, they do fall somewhere on the spectrum and most countries do tend to favor one viewpoint over the other. When visiting other countries, knowing the value system in terms of individualism or collectivism can help a newcomer to fit in.