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Old 02-06-2009, 08:33 PM
 
Location: Chicagoland area
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America is easily one of the most diverse nations in the world. From Germans to Nigerians, we seem to have a little bit of everything. Immigrants from around the world have retained their culture, while contributing to ours.

I believe this question comes from my lack of traveling abroad (yet), but what exactly is American culture? For example, how can one tell when someone is from the US? What qualities, mannerisms, etc let one know that a person is from America? What makes us different from people in Canada or the U.K.?
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Old 02-06-2009, 09:12 PM
 
Location: Teaneck, NJ
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It's hard to say... Being American almost doesn't exist. Because barely a percent of the country is TECHNICALLY american, meaning Native American.

We're just of a country of people full of mixes from the rest of the world.

The only way to find out is asking the person where they were born.
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Old 02-06-2009, 09:21 PM
 
Location: RVA
2,418 posts, read 4,203,947 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Newarkbomb View Post
It's hard to say... Being American almost doesn't exist. Because barely a percent of the country is TECHNICALLY american, meaning Native American.

We're just of a country of people full of mixes from the rest of the world.

The only way to find out is asking the person where they were born.

Native Americans are anybody born in this country.


p.s. guess what? the oh-so-noble "Native Americans" came over here via the land bridge from Asia and displaced the people who were already here, ie the true natives. See how ridiculous it gets to stay stuck centuries in the past?
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Old 02-06-2009, 09:30 PM
 
3,368 posts, read 10,525,221 times
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This is an interesting topic, and given that I have lived both abroad (Spain) and here in the United States (for the great majority my life), I am glad to share my observations about Americans.

Americans are independent. Americans don't like to be told what to do. This is a "free country," after all. It seems that at the age of 18, most young people move out of their parents' home to live on their own. Old, retired people seem to usually maintain their own residences instead of moving in with younger family members. A high percentage of Americans have libertarian tendencies and want the government out of their personal matters.

Americans demand (and are given) excellent customer service. In Europe and (to a lesser extent) Latin America, you will rarely hear a waitress walk up to the table with a huge smile saying "Hi!!! I'm Karen, your server for today!! Please don't hesitate to call me if you need anything!! I'll be glad to give you four, five, or even ten refills!" Shopkeepers tend to engage customers in conversation even if it is small-talk and has nothing to do with the product/service that shopkeeper offers. In Europe and (to a lesser extent) Latin America, a shopkeeper or customer service person will rarely approach you to ask if you need any help, and if they do say something to you, it will be something direct and to the point. To Americans, service abroad is no frills, largely because working for commission is not as common in other places in the world. Working for commission and tips in the US tends to produce faster, more efficient service.

Americans think their country is the greatest in the world. This is a good and a bad thing. Good, because it creates a sense of national pride. Bad, because it leads many Americans to be closed-minded to the ideas of how things are done in other countries. After all, "the American way" has to be the best way, right?

Americans love "large". Americans love big savings, big breasts, and big portions. They love big houses, big cars, and vast amounts of wide, open space. I could go on a tangent about how this idea has drastically transformed the American built landscape - from walkable, sustainable cities to sprawling, auto-dominated suburbs - but I will save that for another time.

Americans have several puritan ideas. In this country, it's fine for an eighteen year old to be tried as an adult in court and to die fighting for this country, but God forbid he drink a beer. Sales of alcohol and tobacco are heavily regulated, to the point that restaurants and bars in many cities have to stop serving alcohol at a certain hour. Sex sells in this country, but a woman's naked breast is cause for great scandal. Women going topless at some beaches is illegal, yet Americans have a high per-capita consumption rate of hardcore pornography. Many American high schools preach abstinence and frown upon the distribution of contraceptives when it is well-known that over 50% of 17 year olds have had sexual intercourse.

Americans dream big. We are told at a very young age that this is "the land of opportunity," and that anyone can do anything here. We are told that even the poorest of the poor can rise to be a self-made millionaire. The idea has survived over the years because people - and even myself - have seen countless examples of rapid, upward social mobility.

Americans believe that they are part of the "middle class". Americans love the idea that everyone is equal, and somehow this has caused the great majority of Americans to identify themselves as part of the "middle class" regardless of how low or high their yearly income or net worth is. This is the most obvious in wealthy areas of large metropolitan areas, where families earning $200,000-$500,000 per year will describe themselves as "regular, middle class people." I have heard this countless times and love to point out that barely 5% of American families earn $150,000+ per year. Affluent Americans seem to largely label themselves as "middle class" despite their high consumption of luxury goods/services and residence in wealthy neighborhoods. It's almost as if people wish to live like they are rich yet wish to be labeled "middle class."

Last edited by Marlin331; 02-06-2009 at 10:02 PM..
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Old 02-06-2009, 09:41 PM
 
Location: Teaneck, NJ
1,576 posts, read 5,147,348 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by creepsinc View Post
Native Americans are anybody born in this country.


p.s. guess what? the oh-so-noble "Native Americans" came over here via the land bridge from Asia and displaced the people who were already here, ie the true natives. See how ridiculous it gets to stay stuck centuries in the past?
Well who's the idiots to name them the Native americans.. because what you said is new to me, thanks.

But it's not easy to describe American Culture since there is no true American ethnicity.
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Old 02-06-2009, 09:54 PM
 
3,368 posts, read 10,525,221 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CHICAGOLAND92 View Post
What makes us different from people in Canada or the U.K.?
Picture the US, Canada, and Australia as the three children of mother Britain:

Canada is the child that fought very little with her mother and lived at home throughout college. When Canada studied abroad, she brought home a French boyfriend to mother Britain. Mother Britain generally didn't like the French, but she could tolerate this young man. It has been years since Canada has married this young man, and there have been many disagreements - Canada, however, stays close with mother Britain, who just has to laugh about Canada's situation and say, "I told you so."

The United Stated (USA) ran away from home at the age of 16. Though at first it was hard being away from mother Britain and her large, comfortable home, USA made himself a millionaire by age 30, and now boasts that his house is much larger than that of mother Britain. To spite his mother, USA has never married and loves to date girls from everywhere in the world except from the UK.

Australia caused a lot of trouble as a teenager. He stole cigarettes from the store, got into lots of fights, and constantly angered his mother... so much that she sent him to military school far, far away. After military school, Australia maintained communication with mother Britain, but refused to return home. Australia lives happily on his ranch with his Irish girlfriend, three dogs, and an emu.
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Old 02-06-2009, 10:04 PM
 
Location: CA
3,469 posts, read 7,168,744 times
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Originally Posted by crisp444 View Post
Americans believe that they are part of the "middle class". Americans love the idea that everyone is equal, and somehow this has caused the great majority of Americans to identify themselves as part of the "middle class" regardless of how low or high their yearly income or net worth is. This is the most obvious in wealthy areas of large metropolitan areas, where families earning $200,000-$500,000 per year will describe themselves as "regular, middle class people." I have heard this countless times and love to point out that barely 5% of American families earn $150,000+ per year. Affluent Americans seem to largely label themselves as "middle class" despite their high consumption of luxury goods/services and residence in wealthy neighborhoods. It's almost as if people wish to live like their are rich yet wish to be labeled "middle class."

haha this is sooo true
I find that wealthy people are in denial about where they stand on the economic ladder. What's bad about this is they are seriously out of touch with the real middle class, and they make these oblivious statements about things because they can't fathom there are people who work hard to get by and don't have their lifestyle.
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Old 02-06-2009, 10:09 PM
 
11,921 posts, read 33,020,642 times
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Originally Posted by Newarkbomb View Post
But it's not easy to describe American Culture since there is no true American ethnicity.
Culture is linked with ethnicity? Not really.

I've lived in several countries overseas, in Asia and Europe, and it actually is pretty easy to spot an American. And no, it has nothing to do with their ethnicity since an American can be of a host of different ethnic backgrounds and can look like people from all over the planet.

Some of the things I discuss with my students about our American culture (keeping in mind that these are generalizations and not everyone in the US behaves the same way):
  • Americans are very friendly on the surface
  • We make friends easily
  • We drop friends easily
  • We're pretty conservative socially and politically
  • We're pretty religious (we even tend to expect our political leaders to have certain religious values)
  • We admire the rugged individualist, but we're also quick to come to the aid of those in need
  • We don't like to ask for help
  • We like to offer help, but we usually expect to be turned down
  • We're very trusting: most of our homes are not surrounded by walls, and many Americans don't close their curtains at night
  • We value private property, but we don't mind if someone needs to use our driveway to turn around or if neighborhood kids sometimes use our yard as a short cut to school
  • Our public schools are not used to educate the masses so much as they are to foster social engineering and to build self esteem; our public schools are a lot of fun compared to those in other countries
  • We really don't like to argue and would prefer to surround ourselves with people who agree with us and share our values
  • Our national heroes tend to be people who make a lot of money
  • We eat to fill our stomachs, not necessarily to improve our health
  • Television plays a huge role in our everyday lives. Even the poorest Americans have cable TV with 50+ channels.
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Old 02-06-2009, 10:17 PM
 
Location: CA
3,469 posts, read 7,168,744 times
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Originally Posted by JMT View Post
Our public schools are not used to educate the masses so much as they are to foster social engineering and to build self esteem
They fail on this account also
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Old 02-06-2009, 10:18 PM
 
3,368 posts, read 10,525,221 times
Reputation: 1679
Quote:
Originally Posted by JMT View Post
Culture is linked with ethnicity? Not really.

I've lived in several countries overseas, in Asia and Europe, and it actually is pretty easy to spot an American. And no, it has nothing to do with their ethnicity since an American can be of a host of different ethnic backgrounds and can look like people from all over the planet.

Some of the things I discuss with my students about our American culture (keeping in mind that these are generalizations and not everyone in the US behaves the same way):
  • Americans are very friendly on the surface
  • We make friends easily
  • We drop friends easily
  • We're pretty conservative socially and politically
  • We're pretty religious (we even tend to expect our political leaders to have certain religious values)
  • We admire the rugged individualist, but we're also quick to come to the aid of those in need
  • We don't like to ask for help
  • We like to offer help, but we usually expect to be turned down
  • We're very trusting: most of our homes are not surrounded by walls, and many Americans don't close their curtains at night
  • We value private property, but we don't mind if someone needs to use our driveway to turn around or if neighborhood kids sometimes use our yard as a short cut to school
  • Our public schools are not used to educate the masses so much as they are to foster social engineering and to build self esteem; our public schools are a lot of fun compared to those in other countries
  • We really don't like to argue and would prefer to surround ourselves with people who agree with us and share our values
  • Our national heroes tend to be people who make a lot of money
  • We eat to fill our stomachs, not necessarily to improve our health
  • Television plays a huge role in our everyday lives. Even the poorest Americans have cable TV with 50+ channels.
This is an excellent post. Great observations! I especially love your comments about concepts of private property. It always amazes me to see pictures of the Midwest, where one green lawn is indistinguishable from the next and there are no walls, gates, or fences separating the yards! I grew up in an area with lots of Latin Americans and people of Southern European (Spanish, Italian) heritage, so although I lived in a very safe neighborhood that was not itself gated, nearly everyone had fences and walls around their properties to delineate what was private and what was public. Over a year ago in another thread I discussed this Latin/Mediterranean vs. Anglo/American delineation of private property - very interesting, I think.
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