The view upon being typically American differs, without a doubt, from person to person, from country to country. There are many perceptions and many aspects to consider. America is a young country, but, it has been a spoiled country for such a long time. A country which is still establishing its society, with close on 300 million people, the USA is a bit difficult to identify. “The Salad Bowl” is a popular term of the many different ingredients that make up American society. But even though the American “salad bowl” certainly has its own characteristics which Americans and foreigners can recognize as distinctly and typically American.
The American society has been built up basically on the same values and ideas. Not only are they on common ground and mostly speak the same language, but the country is connected because of communication through media, railroads, highways and a common leader. This gives a feeling of togetherness and belonging. Americans grow up on familiar landmarks and are being influenced in the same way across the country. Each state has its own educational system, but certain values tend to be taught in schools across the nation, such as loyalty to the nation, pride in American democratic principles, and respect for individual freedom. It is all about self-esteem and making them feel good about themselves. The USA is all about sports and fitness at the same time many are obese. The number one health risk is in fact obesity. They call it an epidemic, like it is Polio! I can see today’s young Americans talking to their grandchildren about the great obesity epidemic of 2006 in the future.
It seems as if nobody knows why they are getting fatter. I will blame it on their lifestyle. Someone once said that “Americanism is opposite to tradition”. This is because Americanism takes over other countries traditions, but America doesn’t have traditions like other countries. Their lifestyle is a lifestyle of comfort, while keeping busy and being mobile. All sorts of gadgets, from power-tools to micro-wave ovens have been created to make life easier. A great example is all of the “drive-in” places you can find. The fast food industry produces cheap super-sized food, often with a complimentary biggie fries or jumbo-fry. Many Americans will gladly sit and wait behind ten cars to order food, rather than to go inside. This brings me to another problem. America has become a car-society. President Bush recently said: “America is addicted to oil.” Is that why they invaded Iraq a couple of years ago?
Another thing America is addicted to is drugs. There are more prescription drugs than ever and more commercials for them too. Half the time the ads are of beautiful people running through fields or swimming in the ocean under the sun. This shows the American’s belief in something better or “The American Dream”. If you just work hard enough, you will succeed and get your earned wealth. This shows the work ethic in the USA. Hard work is valued highly and many Americans are willing to put in long workdays, working overtime for the chance to get ahead. On the other hand the wages are lower now than they were 40 years ago. There are homeless people everywhere and many people live in suburbs and under poor conditions. What “class” you belong to may be evident from the neighbourhood you live in, where you got your education, what kind of car you drive etc. What counts is common sense and the ability to work one’s way up. Sadly some youngsters tend to drop out of school and end up in tough situations. The common belief has it that “God helps them who help themselves.”
Even though the USA is all about self-reliance, individualism and self-esteem, religion is very important. A great variety of faiths are represented in the United States. Religion in itself is a value that helps keep people together. State and church are separate and religion is not taught in public schools, but Christian values are often mingled into the concept of American values. This can be seen for example in the Pledge of Allegiance and in sayings like “In God We Trust” and “God bless you”. Since Americans move so often, their church becomes a network where they can make new friends and be included in the community. This should not be so hard considering that the three qualities that often are emphasized as typically American are informality, a general friendliness to strangers, and a strong community feeling.