Americans have their own customs and methods of doing things. This can be confusing for newcomers. Information about American society and culture helps you understand American culture.
Learn about Americans’ views on race, religion, holidays, money, women and girls, and more.
The United States was once a British colony. It became a free country in 1776 after the American Revolution. Another major conflict occurred during the Civil War in the 1960s. Americans fought for rights in the civil war, including the ownership of slaves brought from Africa. Slaves were freed, laws changed, but cultural differences persisted.
Another important thing to know about American history and cultural differences is that Americans have different backgrounds. Only Native Americans (also called Indians) have American ancestors. Other Americans have ancestors from other continents. Many of them came as refugees.
Racial issues are important in American culture because of this background. By law, all people are equal. But one of the major cultural differences in the United States is that Americans differentiate themselves by race. African Americans do not always have the same opportunities as whites. Many non-white Americans are poorer than whites.
Americans are very proud of their country. American culture and society are based on freedom, equal rights, and democracy. Americans value the concept of freedom of expression. In other words, they are allowed to say whatever they want about the president. They protest when the government does things they do not like.
By law, the government should not follow any religion, and people are entitled to their religious and cultural differences. But most Americans celebrate the Christian holiday. About 80 percent of Americans say they are Christians, but less than 40 percent go to church. Christianity, like Islam, obeys one God. He asks his followers to be kind to their neighbors and to treat others with respect.
Holidays and celebrations
People celebrate the holidays by gathering around their family and eating great meals. Christmas (December 25) and Independence Day (January 4) are the biggest holidays. Independence Day is celebrated with fireworks and barbecue. New Year’s Eve (December 31) is another big celebration. People wake up late and count the moments until midnight. Halloween (October 31) is celebrated as a day to wear funny costumes and have fun.
Birthdays are very important. Americans celebrate with gifts, cakes and parties. Families with young children often attend parties and invite neighbors, classmates, and friends to a birthday party.
Capitalist economics means that people (not the government) own jobs and services. Health care is a huge business. Agriculture is also important. Many farms are large and belong to businesses.
Business owners are not required to contribute to the community, but many do donate to local or national charities. Americans donate a lot of money to charity. Many churches and community organizations provide food, housing, and basic necessities to low-income families.
But American culture is more individual. One of the cultural differences you may notice is that people do not usually share their money with their relatives. They may donate or help their relatives or friends of their choice, but this is not to be expected.
Most Americans have three names: first name, middle name, and last name (called a last name). Many women get their husbands surname when they get married, but some either keep their surnames or use both. If your last name is different from your child’s, you may be required to provide proof of your child’s stability.
Adults do not enjoy the same level of respect as in other countries. People have more respect for university professors, business leaders and the rich. Adapting to this situation may be difficult for older newcomers.
Time is a precise concept, and this is one of the cultural differences that newcomers struggle with. People set time for most daily events. They leave a ceremony early to make sure they get to their next appointment on time. Time is of the essence in the workplace and at school
Men and women usually shake hands. But women can not accept shaking hands with a man or touching him. Men often do not touch each other except when they shake hands or hug each other very quickly. Touching other men is okay. Women are more likely to touch each other when they see each other or when they say goodbye. Family members often touch and hug each other.
People may greet or smile in the morning, but do not spend much time greeting other family members in the morning. When you get to work, you can say hello to your co-workers. People smile a lot and say “thank you”.
Important and formal written communication is done. If you sign a piece of paper, people will take it very seriously. Legal contracts are signed written documents that are enforceable by the court.
People eat more with silverware (forks, knives and spoons) except when eating a sandwich, hamburger or fast food. Instead of sharing a bowl or plate, they use their own bowl and plate at each meal. If you have a guest at home, you can serve his food on a separate plate. If you do not know if the food is shared or just for one person, you can ask.
All children must attend school between the ages of 5 and 18. Most teachers are women, but many men also teach children. Schools expect parents to be involved in educating their children. This means attending school meetings or ceremonies. This means giving students time and help with homework. American parents also volunteer at the school.
Your children will learn teamwork. They must pass exams to attend college. Children in American schools learn critical thinking. Critical thinking means that students are expected to question ideas. As a result, students may question their parents as well. This is not a sign of disrespect. Rather, it shows that they have learned an important skill for success in school and work.
Many people see a doctor not only when they are sick but also for their annual checkup. Doctors are highly respected.
If a healthcare professional does not want to talk to you about a family member’s health care, do not take this into account. By law, they are not allowed to talk to other people about the patient’s health unless the patient signs a permit form.
Most people live only with close family members – their parents and children and sometimes their grandparents. Only a small percentage of families live with relatives. This is one of the most striking cultural differences for newcomers from more traditional societies.
Men and women are important in every family. Most men help with household chores such as cooking, cleaning and childcare. The men who do these things are still in charge of their own homes.
Most families have two children. Many people pay to send their children to kindergarten. It is against the law to leave children alone unattended at home. In addition, beatings or corporal punishment of children are against the law.
In the United States, men and women live, work, and go to school together. This is one of the biggest cultural differences and adaptations for some newcomers. Men and women are also mixed in social events. But you can request that your doctor be of your own gender.
Girls continue their education just like boys. American girls and boys both help with household chores. American girls are not expected to be housewives until adulthood or marriage.