American Culture

How do you define American culture?

Are the images below consistent with your notion of American culture?

Home made apple pie

"As American as apple pie"

A cowboy on the American frontier.

Many have considered America as a land of unlimited resources and possibilities. There is a characteristic "rugged individualism" and a belief that you can do anything you put your mind to it.

The Statue of Liberty

Symbolizing freedom, democracy, International friendship, & opportunity,

"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free."

The scales of justice

All men and women are created and should be treated equal. There is rule of law, and a system of checks and balances


There is an obsession with the rich and famous. Actors and athletes are idolized by many. And many have a constant desire to have more.



An "all American" game symbolizing fun, competition, and a carefree attitude,


Wikipedia breaks "culture of the United States" up into various categories including literature, television, dance, visual arts, theater, cuisine, fashion and popular culture. What does the term American culture mean to you? When you Google "American culture" some interesting links come up, if you would like to see how some other people define it, click on the following links:

Common Beliefs and Sayings

The table below lists some specific aspects of culture and typical American beliefs or sayings for each. You may not personally agree with these beliefs, but they portray the image that people in other cultures have of Americans. The last column provides a comment on each

As you read through this section think about any similarities or differences between the typical American view of these things and the possible views of people in other cultures.



Beliefs and Sayings



It's good to be young. ·

Out with the old in   with the new.


Fate and Destiny

Where there's a will   there's a way.

You can be whatever  you want.


Human Nature

You're innocent until proven guilty.

Give the benefit of the doubt.



New is better. ·

Just because we've always done it that way doesn't make it right.


Risk Taking

You can always start over.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained.


Suffering and Misfortune

If you're unhappy, take a pill or see a psychiatrist ·

Don't worry; be happy.


Self-esteem and Self-worth

Material possessions are a measure of success.

"Nice to meet you, What do you do?"



Everyone deserves to be treated equally.

Putting on airs is frowned upon.



Bad things happen for a reason.

It can't get any worse.


Getting Things Done

Be practical.

Actions speak louder than words.


 The essence of cross-cultural understanding is knowing how your own culture is both similar to and different from other cultures. For this reason, those who pursue cross-cultural knowledge must sooner or later turn their gaze on themselves. People from other cultures, after all, aren't different by definition, but only different in relation to a particular standard they're being measured against. To even see those differences, therefore, you have to examine that standard. You might wonder why people from the United States would need to have their culture revealed to them. Isn't American culture obvious? However, the fact is that people from a given culture are in many ways the least able to see it. They embody the culture, of course, but they have to get out of that body if they wanted to see what it looks like.

No one American is quite like any other American, but a handful of core values and beliefs do underlie and permeate the national culture. These values and beliefs don't apply across the board in every situation, and we may, on occasion, even act in ways that directly contradict or flaunt them, but they are still at the heart of our cultural ethos.