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American Traditions, Customs and Festivals


Americans value their individualism quite highly. They place great emphasis on their individual differences, on having a great number of choices, and on doing things their own way. Part of being an American is not being, and not wanting to be, typical.

The old tradition of hospitality to strangers is still very strong in the U.S., especially in the smaller cities and towns. The casual friendliness of many Americans should be interpreted neither as superficial nor as artificial, but as the result of a historically developed cultural tradition. Being friendly is a virtue that many Americans value highly and expect from both neighbors and strangers.

Neighborliness - getting along with your neighbors and helping one another in many small ways - has also been traced to the long period of settlement.

As would be expected, this is more the case in small and medium-sized cities and the suburbs than it is among the inner city, apartment-living population. In the big cities there is more anonymity and privacy, or, seen differently, more isolation and alienation.

Americans have always felt more informal in their social and professional lives.

The habit of informality, the ease with which Americans speak to people they’ve only casually met, still surprises foreign visitors. One of the reasons is that the signals in the U.S. for “who is who” are less obvious and, unfortunately, sometimes assumed not to exist.

There are generally established and understood rules which parallel this informality. There are topics - income, religion, and politics, for example, that many Americans feel are best avoided in casual conversation. Those who insist upon formal address or titles - in general, those who take themselves too seriously are often targets for humor.

Most of America has a more or less four-season climate, and the rhythms of life around the house tend to follow the seasons. There is always something that needs to be done around the house, and most American homeowners do it themselves.

Shopping that is the big food shopping, is usually done once a week at the local supermarket. Most Americans, like most people everywhere, are always trying to keep their budgets under control, and always going over. Most stores will pack your groceries for you, and many still take them out to your car. The big brown bags traditionally provided can be reused later for a lot of things, from masks for the children to garbage bags and wrapping paper for packages.

In many American families children are expected to help around the house. The “chores” might include vacuuming the carpet, washing and waxing floors, cleaning windows, mowing the lawn, shoveling snow, keeping the car(s) clean, looking after the pets. Some families give a small amount of money, an allowance, to their children in exchange for these and similar chores. Other families simply expect such work to be shared by everyone in the family.

At the same time, many American middle-class families expect their children to find part-time jobs, especially as they enter their teens. This might be working at the local supermarket or service station, mowing lawns, delivering newspapers, or babysitting.

In general, Americans feel that young people should appreciate the value of work and learn how to stand on their own two feet.

Many American children take (or are made to take) piano or other music lessons, dancing or ballet lessons, horseback riding, swimming, skiing, golf, tennis, and just about anything else that parents think will be good for their children. Many adults and teenagers are involved in volunteer work.

Americans often talk about stress. Life is hectic, the pressure is on at work and school. The competition is intense. And working hard, Americans often have schedules that leave little room to just sit and do nothing. Americans also take shorter and fewer holidays and vacations than most people in other industrialized societies (a notable exception being Japan).

One feature of American life is the frequent display of flags and other national symbols in the US. The “Star-Spangled Banner” and the flags of the states are found in many places and displayed on many occasions. To Americans, patriotism is largely a natural response to the nation’s history and its ideals.


Date: 2016-04-22; view: 1107

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