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Cultural characteristics in the USA

Americans are cultureless gun fanatics, they only eat fast food and are basically superficial - some of the common stereotypes about the USA. Those who do a semester abroad or a full course of study in the United States will be taught better.

Just a look at them multiethnic population structure the USA gives an indication of the multitude of cultural influences that shape the country. The U.S. Census Bureau predicts that more than half of all Americans will be ethnic minorities by 2044.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the USA was still called "Melting pot“The speech, the metaphor is now considered obsolete. The idea of ​​the melting pot, in which all cultural influences merge into a unified national structure, leaves no room for cultural differences. Therefore followed with "Salad bowl" and "Quilt“Concepts that are more responsive to the various cultural influences and ethnic groups in the United States.

Origins of American Culture

© San Francisco State University

One of the cultural peculiarities in the USA is the pronounced national pride of many Americans.

US history often begins with the Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus Equated in 1492. However, Native Americans lived on what is now the United States of America thousands of years earlier. The Vikings are also said to have discovered the American continent around 500 years before Columbus.

Regardless of where the origins of American culture lie: Columbus' voyages of discovery marked that Beginning of the conquest of the American continent by the Europeans and marked the start of the age of colonialism.

Colonial America

At the beginning of 16th century put the first big Wave of immigration from Europe to North America. Three large groups in particular settled in what is now the United States:

  • Spaniards in what is now California
  • French in what is now Canada and Louisiana
  • English in Virginia as well as in what is now New England.

The successful tobacco growing in Jamestown led many impoverished farmers from Europe to leave for America. They hoped for a better life in the new world. In order to be able to finance the crossing, many settlers came as "indentured servants“To America and signed up as a worker for a set period of time. In addition, from 1619 for the first time African slaves Brought to Jamestown, marking the beginning of slavery in the United States.

American founding myth

Religious communities were also among those leaving for Jamestown. In the middle of the 16th century a Protestant religious community was formed with the Puritans in England, which was opposed to the Anglican state church. The Puritans considered themselves chosen by God, they valued hard work and sought a “clean” Church. With their ideas they made themselves unpopular with the state Church of England and soon faced religious persecution.

Some of them traveled aboard the "Mayflower“To America to implement her philosophy of life in a godly and self-determined life. While still on the ship, the so-called Pilgrim Fathers put the "Mayflower Compact“Which is considered to be the first document of American self-government. The Pilgrims agreed with the non-Puritan fellow travelers to build a self-governing community in the new colony and agreed on a common set of rules.

By the way: The American tradition of Thanksgiving is said to go back to the Pilgrim Fathers. As the first winter was approaching, they asked Pilgrims the Native Americans after their arrival for help. These brought the pilgrim fathers through the cold winter months and showed them the cultivation of maize and native plants. In thanksgiving and in view of the abundant harvest the following autumn, the pilgrim fathers celebrated, according to myth, a harvest festival on November 21st.

The The USA has had a lasting impact on the puritan way of life and thinking. To this day, US presidents speak of the United States as a God chosen nation in their speeches. Faith is an important part of US cultural identity. It served immigrants from all over the world as a connecting element.

To this day, religion plays an important role in public life - despite the constitutional separation of church and state. The thought that every individual a better life through hard work and economic success can be found not least in the "American Dream" again.

Establishment of the United States of America

© shutterupeire / Shutterstock.com

The Statue of Liberty, a gift from the French to mark the 100th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, is a reminder of the origins of American culture.

Because of the increasing number of colonies Conflicts between the European powers preprogrammed. After the end of the French and Indian War (1754-1763) between England and France and Spain, a large part of the colonies was in English hands. However, the colonies increasingly sought economic independence.

The attempt by the British Crown to allow the settlers to share in the war debts by introducing duties and taxes also caused growing tensions. As a key event that the American War of Independence introduced, the so-called applies Boston Tea Party in December 1773.

The following documents are of fundamental importance for the establishment of the United States of America:

  • Declaration of Independence: Declaration of independence of the 13 colonies of England and thus the birth of the United States of America. In the Declaration of Independence From July 4th, 1776, the principle of equality and the Right toLife, freedom and the pursuit of happiness“Formulated. To this day, July 4th is the American National Day (Independence Day).
  • Constitution: In the American constitution of 1787, the separation of powers is proclaimed as a political program for the first time and the organs of government and their responsibilities are named.
  • Bill of Rights: The 12 amendments to the constitution passed in 1791 gave Americans important freedoms. These include the Freedom of speech, religion, press and assembly as well as that Right to gun ownership and due due process.

In the course of American history other amendments have been passed, such as the abolition of slavery (1865) and the introduction of women's suffrage (1920).

The right to pursue happiness, the gold rush and the prospect of religious and political freedom led to the fact that Millions of people made their way to the United States in the 19th and 20th centuries did. The development of the United States of America is thus inextricably linked with the country's history of immigration and explains why the country has always been considered an immigration nation.


Features of American culture

The typical American and the typical American culture do not exist. Nevertheless, there are some cultural peculiarities in the USA that shape the self-image of many Americans to this day. These characteristics say nothing about the cultural identity of the individual. But they can give an impression of life in the USA and, for example, help international students to adjust to the country and its people.

Idea of ​​equality

The lengthy process of founding a nation and the laboriously gained independence explain why the concept of freedom and equality is so important in the USA to this day. The principle formulated in the declaration of independence, "all men are created equal“, Forms the foundation of values ​​of the United States - even if it initially contradicted the slavery that continued until 1865.

The principle states that all human beings are born with the same rights and have the same starting opportunities. The idea of ​​equality is reflected today, for example, in anti-discrimination measures, such as "Affirmative action“Programs or Diversity-Principles of business.

Freedom and individualism

The United States of America is seen as an individualistic society. The Freedom to self-determination has in "Land of the Freetop priority. In the United States there is a general belief that each individual is the maker of his or her own fortune and is responsible for his or her successes. Although individualism is strong in the United States, they are nonetheless many Americans are socially engaged and volunteer, for example in the neighborhood. Many students also support or contribute to social causes in clubs or student associations in their everyday studies Community Service.

The importance of personal freedom in the USA can be seen in various areas of public life. The idea of ​​freedom is particularly strongly expressed in the US debate about stricter gun laws. Many Americans insist on their constitutional right to carry a gun. You see in one Ban on weapons restricts their freedom and consider a law to be a threat to personal and public safety.

For many Americans, that in particular mediates Car a feeling of freedom and independence. This explains why the automobile is the most popular and widely used mode of transport in the United States. In particular outside of the big cities, local public transport is often only sparsely developed. In order to be mobile, many international students buy a used car while studying in the USA. This gives you the chance to experience the limitless feeling of freedom on the highway.

Enthusiasm for sports

Whether international media spectacles like the Super Bowl, the Playoffs the four major sports leagues NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL or competitions in college sports - sport plays an important role in American society. Many Americans spend a large amount of their free time doing exercise. You are active in sports clubs or attend sporting competitions as a spectator.

Numerous sporting events are in the USA associated with rituals. Before football games, for example, there are often so-called Tailgate parties instead of. Before kick-off, fans meet to eat and drink in the parking lots of the venues. In many cases they are equipped with a grill and camping chairs. The Americans celebrate the Super Bowl, which is now an unofficial holiday, particularly exuberantly. Family and friends watch the spectacle together in front of the television. Super Bowl parties can be found on every corner.

Sports competitions are about values ​​such as fairness and team play. Sport has such a high priority in the USA because it has long served as a connecting element between the many cultural groups. He stops because sport can overcome differences such as ethnic or social affiliations important means of integration represent.

Open and direct: communication behavior in the USA

Americans are seen as extroverted and direct compared to Germans. In a café or retail shop, waitresses or salespeople introduce themselves by name. It is also common at colleges and universities in the United States to Address lecturers and professors by first name.

Phrases like "How are you? "Or"How’re u doinYou come across nen? “In the USA during your studies and leisure time. These questions are not meant literally, they are a sign of courtesy. Hence, nobody expects a serious answer to it.

In the US it is Small talk common - even with strangers. This type of communication is strange to non-Americans and the reason for the persistent stereotype of the superficial American. In fact, small talk aims to get into conversation with other people and to create a pleasant conversation atmosphere. Many Americans find it uncomfortable to keep silent about one another, so they tend to small talk. It is mainly about uncomplicated topics such as the weather, sports or cars, but more personal questions about family or hobbies can also arise.

Many Americans enjoy going out with other people. That is why international students often have the impression that it is easier for them to make new contacts in the USA. However, the interest signaled at the beginning should not be misinterpreted and interpreted directly as a sign of friendship.


Behavioral tips for the US

Americans are generally considered to be easy to get along with. Nevertheless, there are also certain rules of conduct in the USA. So have for example political, religious and social issues no place in small talk. There are also discriminatory statements against minorities taboo. In addition, students should exercise caution when making national comparisons. National pride is more pronounced in the USA than in Germany. A harmless comparison, for example, can lead to one or the other American feeling offended.

In addition, it is advisable to be in the US not to take everything literally. When saying goodbye, for example, sentences like "see you later"Or"Feel free to call me anytime”. What sounds like an alleged invitation is often just as clichéd as the question of how you feel. A rough clue: If the person you are talking to gives an appointment with the date and time, it is actually an invitation.

No matter how thorough the cultural preparation is, culturally-related misunderstandings can sometimes not be avoided. But if you approach mistakes openly and positively, you can't do much wrong in the USA. The method of "Trial and error“Is widespread in the population and there is one in general Can-Do"-Mentality.

Typical USA: the most important dos and don'ts

DOSDon'ts
Make small talkAddress social, political and religious issues in small talk
Listen carefully to interlocutors and show interestDrink alcohol in public
Wait for a table assignment in the restaurantGet out of the car at a police check
Deal positively and openly with mistakesGive no tip or not enough tip
Only express indirect and factual criticismPay bills separately
Introduce your companion(Queue jumping
Have leftover food packed in the restaurant (keyword: "Doggy bag“)Express yourself in a discriminatory manner about minorities
Take to heart the friendly attitude of AmericansNude bathing