5 Things about American culture that you must understand

American culture is weird. It’s not really one culture. When you think of America, what do you, as a non American, think of? Well, I asked around to some of my non- American friends, and here were their responses. “I think of hamburgers, New York, and big trucks.” Jane said. Another person said “I think of road trips, McDonald’s, and football”. Are these responses really depictions of American culture? As an American, I can say that American culture is quite random. It really just depends on what area of America you live in, and what cultures in that area influenced on you. After all, America is one big melting pot. It’s the only country in the world that has almost every culture represented somehow. So, what is American culture? Stay tuned to find out!

The Bigger the Better

Most countries like to think practically. A small living space means less to clean and more room for other people to build their homes and live, right? Not for Americans. Most Americans associate their house or car size with their social status. So, you have a small house? You must be poor. This kind of thinking is typical in America because America is known for having big houses, with massive amounts of land, and long driveways.

Now, let’s take a look at American food. For the most part, our portions in America are HUGE! Yeah, some people think “wow, this is great, you pay like $10 and get a whole lot of food that you can take home (leftovers) and eat later too.” Well, some people think differently. Some people think “wow, look at all this food, let me eat it all right now”. It’s crazy to think, but this is part of the problem with Americans and their battle against obesity. The constant thought that “bigger is better” is typical American culture. However, it could be killing us too.
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Sports are Everything

It’s well known that most Americans either love or follow sports. Popular sports, like football, basketball, and baseball, are all somewhat of a staple of American culture. In fact, if you remember right, one of my foreign friends told me that they think of “football” whenever they think of America. You know why? Well, I believe it’s because Americans love some good old competition. Most sports are fun to watch, even more fun to play, but can be kind of confusing to follow along and understand what’s going on.

Nonetheless, the topic of sports, as a whole, is still a hot conversation topic. In fact, I’d say that sports alone has the power to either divide or unite people. “ Oh, you’re an Atlanta Braves fan, me too! Let’s be friends!” or “Oh, you like the Miami dolphins, they suck, you must have poor taste!”…. Do you see how they can either make or break relationships? I’m telling you Americans love their sports and they are super loyal to their teams too!

Speaking up for Yourself

Okay, so I’ve both lived and worked in 3 different counties now, and I can wholeheartedly tell you that Americans speak their mind. No matter the time, place, or occasions, for the most part, if an American has something they want, they make it happen. If we see something unjust, we report it. If we think our boss is being unfair, we call that boss out on it. Typically, we do not hold back anything. Now, we aren’t rude about it. Well, most of us aren’t rude, but we will express ourselves and our opinions. Also, we actually encourage questions and conversation! Where I work now, in Korea, having a question is kind of frowned upon. Some people may think you weren’t paying attention or you’re not comprehending well if you have a question, but in America, we prefer you speak up and have your questions answered! We like that you have questions! Having a question shows others that you care about doing your job correctly.
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To-go orders

This one may be a little odd, but I definitely think it’s worth mentioning. Many Americans are very busy. It seems like we are always on the go, running here, there, and everywhere. We may have work from 8AM-5PM, but before work, we need to take the kids to school, but even before that, we need to go and get them breakfast. Oh, and Lord knows poor mom will need a coffee. So, we go to McDonald’s and order breakfast and coffee for everyone “to-go”, and the kids eat it in the car on the way to school. Now, this is not an everyday occurrence, but trust me, it’s common. Most Americans do not have time for formal, sit down meals, so we resort to take out or “to-go” meals.

So, if you ever find yourself find yourself state-side (in America), don’t be surprised if you see someone eating their hotdog on the sidewalk, or drinking their coffee while walking around the mall. This is normal. Also, due to the hustle and bustle American lifestyle, you will see a lot of drive-thru restaurants! These are extremely convenient, but also, drive-thrus make it very easy for Americans to grab and eat in their car. That’s not really comfortable, but a recent study showed that over 20% of American meals are eaten in the car. So, whenever you are at a restaurant and you hear someone say they would Ike it “to-go”, it just means that they do not have time to eat or enjoy their meal now, so they are taking it on the road with them.

Talk that Small Talk

Having spent a lot of time living in Asia, I realized just how much Americans rely on small talk to break the ice, or reduce the level of awkwardness. It’s awkward being alone in a elevator, for 22 floors, just you and one other person, and you don’t say a word. Right? Well, some cultures do not think so. In fact, here in Korea, making small talk is quite strange. Americans, however, we love our small talk. Small talk is just where you make a small conversation with a stranger or someone who you may not know well, such as a co-worker or acquaintance.

Typically, small talk is about non controversial topics like the weather, movies/tv shows, and sports. Sometimes, small talk consists of just a compliment, such as: “I like you shoes.” Then, the other person replies “thanks, I got them on sale at Macy’s.” Then boom, without even realizing it, you guys are engaged in some small talk. It’s just important to remember that small talk is meant to be harmless, so make sure the stranger doesn’t make you feel uncomfortable in any way.

Well, there you have it. America, as it is still a new country, doesn’t have that deep historical culture like many countries do. However, we still have a very things and ways we do things that are, infact, very, well…. American. Now, I’m not saying that some of these before mentioned things can’t be common in other countries too, they very well may be. I’m well traveled, but there are still many places I haven’t been. However, just know that when you are in America, you can expect to see big portions, people going crazy over a football game score, hear small talk on the elevator, your coworker speaking up to his boss, and the busy mom downstairs ordering her coffee to-go. This is simply just American culture.

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