US Culture -

In some countries it can be said that there is a "culture" that typifies the country and distinguishes it from others, characteristics, for example, such as art, manners, religious outlook, and the knowledge and values of the population. This characterization is not in general possible for the United States. In part this is because the population's culture originates from numerous roots in other countries, and in part it is because of the initial dichotomy between the agricultural south and the industrial north and the related distinction between urban and rural lifestyles that is common the world over. If one visits New York City; Peoria, Illinois; Macon, Georgia; and Dallas, Texas; one should be prepared to see very distinct cultures indeed. In addition, the level of local population that is first-generation immigrant (both citizens and non-citizens) varies greatly depending on specific location within the United States. Generally speaking, the 2003 US Census found that 11.7 percent of the total inhabitants of the United States were foreign born. That same census stated that 6 out of 10 foreign born residents live in the West and Northwest. A minority of Americans consider these new residents to be alien cultures existing inside a general American cultural framework, whereas others consider the inclusion of immigrant communities to be an integral part of the American experience.

Yet there is a culture that is said to be American, in a way a stereotype of what America wishes itself to be, a culture that people over the globe have seen in Hollywood film, and that has energized immigrants from all over the world. Like all stereotypes there is a certain truth to it; likewise, there is a certain falsity. For example, it has been said that America is a "classless" society, this is true in the sense that the term class might have had in, say, aristocratic Europe, or perhaps in India, societies in which the class one is born into largely determines one's station in life. In America class in this sense does not exist in a powerful or meaningful way. This is not to say that there are not economic inequalities, rather that class as a socioeconomic institution is far more economic than social, and that great class mobility across and within generations is possible. In some sense this is a residue of the country's post-Jacksonian revolution's boundless feeling and the self sufficiency that "pioneers" required. It is also probably true that Americans are more materialistic and individualistic than other cultures, though that may be true of any very wealthy society. The wealth on display almost casually in large shopping malls all over the country might seem shocking to someone from a developing country. Yet it is also true that America is more religious than any other industrialized countries. So it is a mixed bag, and this should make it an interesting place to visit.

Politically, the country has recently been almost evenly divided, with the people on the east and west coasts resembling closely the center-left populations of Europe, while the people in the middle and in the south tend towards right of center. In a similar way, urban areas tend toward the left while rural areas tend toward the right. But politics in America are very fluid and in a historical sense have varied widely. Many current trends in industrialized and developing countries began in the United States, and almost every modern invention, including telephones, cars, airplanes, radio, television, computers, the Internet, and many others, were either invented or first mass-produced in the United States. The dependence on cars and the national interstate system to get around has long been an American icon, and to this day the United States has one of the highest per-capita car ownerships in the world. Other traditional elements of United States culture include Hollywood films, country music, rap, rock, pop music, and fast food.

Adapted from WikiTravel under the Wiki License


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