Is there a National Character of the United States?
American culture is traditionally held to hold some attributes to be uniquely American and these help to define their identities. It should be noted that not everyone in the United States thinks this way and there are some distinct regional identities, but the following list mentions some general thoughts about American culture:
- America is a Melting Pot. This common metaphor refers to the history of immigration that the United States has upheld for the entire duration of its existence. Imagine a crucible in which a number of different metals (representing different nationalities or cultures) are melted resulting in an alloy. This alloy becomes stronger than its individual ingredients. America is seen as a place where many different peoples can come together and make a great society.
- Liberty or Freedom. Since the inception of the United States, the cry of the patriots has been for freedom. Every major conflict fought in the United States has been fought for the freedom of one peoples or another. Many Americans consider the US to be the freest country on Earth and retain a great deal of pride about that.
- Independence. Both from a personal and national standpoint, the people of the United States are an independent people, free from a dictating force that they did not select. This works well with their sense of democracy as well. Not being able to contribute to one's own government is an offensive idea because they fought so hard to be free from the Great Britain in the 18th century.
The music that has come out of American culture over the past 150 years has made an absolutely gigantic impact on the music of the world. All of the below musical styles came from the United States:
- Ragtime. A type of saloon music from the very early 1900s with the unique quality of meshing different musical meters at the same time.
- Free-Form Jazz. Improvised jazz music that uses many different instruments and sometimes unusual arrangements.
- Blues. Traditionally guitar based music which was a later influence for many Rock and Roll guitarists.
- Rock and Roll. A type of quick music, most typically in 4/4 time, which has remained popular since the 1950s and has undergone many permutations in style.
- Country Western. Another very versatile American music which has maintained popularity consistently for the latter half of the 20th century and into the 21st century.
- Rap and Hip-Hop. Derived from clubs in the early 1980s in the larger cities of the United States. Rap and Hip-Hop are extremely popular musical forms in the 21st century.
Many of the dishes which are considered to be quintessentially American have elements from a variety of other cultures. However, there is still the idea of "American food" and many restaurants advertise this as their genre of cooking.
Some of the most popular and well known American foods are fried chicken, apple pie, hamburgers, French fries, donuts, meatloaf, and pizza.
Another important aspect of American cuisine is also where people choose to eat instead of what. Traditionally, the places that most people went out to eat were cafes or diners where one could order practically anything off of an extensive menu, sit about drinking coffee and discussing matters of the community and news in the area.
American filmmaking has been very influential since the beginning of the medium and the suburb of Los Angeles, California, Hollywood, has become a term to describe the mainstream cinema in the United States in general. Even other countries refer to the film industry as Hollywood sometimes.
Films made in the United States are also very successful and popular drawing hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue for each new release. Famous American filmmakers include George Lucas, Stanley Kubrick, Steven Spielberg, Quentin Tarantino, John Carpenter, John Hughs, J.J. Abrams among uncountable others.
The United States is also known for its very popular sports which developed within the country in the 1800s.
- Baseball, often nicknamed "the American Pastime", is a quintessentially American sport and has been played professionally, recreationally, and informally since the 1800s. Its heyday could be considered to be the mid-20th century, but its popularity has not waned much.
- American Football is a sport much different from the game of Football played worldwide and enjoys a very vibrant community of fans in the United States and even internationally to some degree. The ultimate yearly competition in this sport, the Super Bowl, consistently draws over 100 million viewers for one night and reaps unbelievably large amounts of commercial revenue.
- The invention of basketball is an interesting one. The inventor of the sport, James Naismith, was a Canadian immigrant and developed the sport in Massachusetts in the late 1800s as an exercise regimen. Today it has grown to be an international sport with legions of fans, its cultural base remaining in the United States. The sport, played at both college and professional, is extremely popular in the springtime in America.
Depending on what part of the country you may be in, the people there may speak with very different accents. These accents are, more often than not, reflective of the immigrant populations in the area.
Residents of the Northern parts of the Plains States have a slightly German inflection because of the large number of German immigrants to the area over one hundred years ago.
People from the Northeastern United States have a distinct non-rhotic accent (they drop the "r" sounds at the end of words) which renders the phrase is unusual in other parts of the country.
Southern Accents, often cited as the most pleasant of American accents by foreign visitors, is influenced by French and African immigrants to the area either through colonization or the now defunct practice of slavery.
The vocabulary of American regions can vary significantly as well. So much so some regions can't even decide on what the proper terms for things are! (See linguistics study below.)
American Culture Links
Great American Filmmakers
Linguistics Study of the United States