American Culture


The United States of America has experienced immigration throughout its short history making it an ethnically and racially diverse country. In the past, America was often referred to as a “melting pot” to describe the mixing and melding of the immigrant population to form the American citizen population and American culture. However, the idea of a “salad bowl” to indicate distinct and separate parts of a whole has taken hold. Immigrants come to the United States with their own sets of values and cultural identities, which remain, but what binds them into the fabric of the American culture is the American Dream, or the concept of risk-taking in pursuit of a better life.

The concept of the American Dream and the rights afforded to the citizens put forth in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are what bring people of various ethnic backgrounds together and form the basis of the American culture. The American Dream is centered round the idea that through hard work one can achieve prosperity or upward mobility. America is viewed as a land where a person’s children can receive a good education and have job opportunities without barriers based on their race, religion, class, caste or ethnicity. This barrier-free society is spelled out and protected in the Constitution. In addition, freedom and independence are highly valued and are protected by U.S. laws.

The shear size of the United States also divides cultural aspects depending on region. New England is the oldest region in the U.S. and this contributes to New England’s distinct accents, food, and culture. New Englanders are known to negotiate, traditionalize, and resist change. The Mid-Atlantic States have a more varied society leading to it being described as “easy, tolerant, contented”. Midwestern values are often seen as being neighborly, friendly, honest and laid-back and these values seem to correlate with a low population density and diversity. The west coast including California, Washington, and Oregon is often referred to as the “Left Coast” because of the liberal political orientation of this area. The southern states are informally called the “Bible Belt” due to the more socially conservative and Christian values that are prevalent.

Although “American culture” is hard to define, some generalities do exist. For example, Americans value punctuality in any situation and a person should call ahead if they are running late. In addition, they are extremely informal and call each other by their first names. They also like to have ample personal space and are uncomfortable being crowded. However, hugging, as a form of greeting an acquaintance, is common, and personal displays of affection (holding hands, hugging, and kissing) between romantic couples are commonplace. Additionally, hygiene is important to Americans. They are concerned with body odor and most wear deodorant and often go to the dentist to have clean white teeth.

In sum, Americans are a diverse group amongst which commonality has been achieved mainly through the rights and privilege afforded to them through the laws governing their society.

April 1, 2017