The culture of the United States includes traditions, regional customs,
institutions, art and so much more. The culture can largely be referred to as
‘Western’ culture, as much of it is shared with the Western world, but there are
still influences that come from Asia, Africa and Latin America. What’s more,
there are many parts of American culture that are not replicated elsewhere in
the Western world, giving it some areas that are totally unique. Many immigrants
who come to the United States enter into what historians call the melting pot of
culture, abandoning old cultural traditions and adopting new ones.
We have listed the top 15 elements of American culture that set the country
aside from, not only the rest of the Western world, but make it stand out from
the rest of the world.
Across Europe, tipping is often practiced but it’s not always expected. In
France, often tipping is included at the end of menus as a standard. In
the United States, things are very different. Tipping is not mandatory, but most
restaurants, bars and other sit-down services will generally expect a tip.
Tipping is often seen as part of dining out.
Often, visitors to the United States will be reluctant to tip, and will
generally feel pressured into doing so. Many will feel that it is unfair to tip
somebody for services that they already get paid for. However, in the United
States most people who work in the service industry expect tipping as part of
their wages. These workers are paid much less in hourly wages and have become
accustomed to receiving tips as a means of compensating them for their poor
In many places, the tip will be placed on the bill, but oftentimes you will
be expected to add what you feel is appropriate when you are paying your bill.
The general consensus in the United States is that 10% of the overall bill in a
restaurant or other similar venue is appropriate. However, if you feel that the
service was generally good, 15% will be a welcome tip. If you are feeling
particularly generous and are very pleased with the service and the food, 20%
will show your gratitude.
Other instances where you may be expected to tip include being helped by
doormen or bellhops. Should you find yourself in these situations, a tip of
between one and two dollars is acceptable. If you find yourself being assisted
by a concierge, between five and ten dollars is usually expected.
14) Regional Cultures
Regional culture is a huge part of the culture in the United States. There
are six major regions that tend to have the wildest differences with regards to
local custom and culture. These include the West, Southwest, Midwest, South, New
England (northwest) and the Mid-Atlantic.
New England includes Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, Connecticut
and Massachusetts. These states are grouped because of their colonial history,
which included town meeting governances and a general feeling of community
spirit. Some of the best universities and schools in the world exist here such
as Harvard, Yale, and many other Ivy League colleges.
The South is known again for its history, but also for its warm weather, its
agriculture and its dedication to religion. Here is where you will find the most
obvious differences in English dialect as well as customs. Then there’s the Midwest, which is
known largely for its agricultural industries, and being home to the third
largest city in the United States, Chicago.
The Mid-Atlantic is notorious for being home to New York City, the largest
city in the States, as well as its service sector, businesses, history and
general government. New York is the epicenter for finance as well. The Southwest states once belonged to Mexico, and
experienced a huge population growth during the 2000s, and the West is known
largely for its technological industries and efforts to maintain and preserve
the natural environment around it. Largest challenges facing these states stem
from immigration policy.
When it comes to traditional art, people will generally think back to the
days of the Roman Empire, and to the Renaissance period in Europe. America,
however, is in fact home to some spectacular traditional art. In general,
American art refers to painting and visual arts that started to emerge in the
An example of traditional American art
During this period, most artists focused primarily on realism, painting
landscapes and portraits of important individuals. In the 18th Century, when the
Declaration of Independence was signed, a new national identity appeared and
artists began imagining their new nation through painting and other arts. Most
of the young artists of this time copied the styles of the first artists in the
nation, which meant that for a great period of time, most art was focused on
history and portraits of people.
The 19th Century, however, brought a whole new form of painting to the
country. A new movement, called the Hudson River School, emerged in 1820. The
new movement started focusing on simplicity in their art, but most of their
focus was on the Hudson River. Paintings depicted the surrounding area of the
valley, and later began including mountains. While this was not a significant
change, a number of new painting styles appeared that rejected some of the
strictly realistic painting styles of the past.
Autumn On the Hudson River Art
Then, the 20th Century brought a wider range of paintings with entirely new
subjects. One of the most famous paintings of the early 20th Century is the
American Gothic painting, by Grant Wood. It was this period that saw artists
turning their back on tradition and using brighter colors, new paints and new
American Gothic painting, by Grant Wood
12) Science and NASA
Science is a huge part of American culture and for good reason. As far as space
exploration goes, The United States is the most successful country on earth. The
U.S. stands as the first country to land a man on the moon, and the
country responsible for most of the fact finding missions on Mars with their
Buzz Aldrin salutes the U.S flag on the Moon (1969)
Efforts in space from the United States are a result of the work performed by
NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. This is an agency run
by the U.S. government and it is responsible for most aerospace research and the
US civilian space program. Although there have been many cutbacks over the
years, NASA still stands as the most active space program on earth.
NASA has been a symbol of national unity since the Cold War, and during the
time where a fear of mutually assured destruction laid the ground work for a
competitive space rivalry between the Soviet Union and the U.S. Missile programs
for both sides led to the development of the first space programs. Today,
NASA has begun cooperating with space agencies from all over the world, and is
heavily involved with the International Space Station.
NASA rocket launch take off for space travel
Due to budget cuts that possibly could stem from a desire to move away from a
government monopoly on space travel, have led to many attempts at providing
privatized consumer space travel. Virgin Galactic is a space agency
run by Virgin and Richard Branson, and a project called Space X, run by Elon
Musk, is designing manned missions to Mars. This level of innovation and drive
to experience new things is one of the most defining things about American
11) National Holidays
The United States do not technically have national holidays, as a result of
their constitution. Under the Tenth Amendment, the government can only create
holidays for itself and it cannot regulate businesses, however, holidays have
since been established using local governments instead. What’s more, most
business owners shut their businesses on these days anyway, as they wish to
spend them with their family. Those who keep businesses open will usually pay
their staff more.
Federal holidays in the United States include New Year’s Day, Martin Luther
King, Jr. Day, Inauguration Day, Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day,
Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving Day and
While there are many religious holidays that are recognized by schools and
businesses, the likes of Easter are not recognized as government holidays. Good
Friday is recognized as an official holiday by North Carolina, Texas, Tennessee,
North Dakota, New Jersey, Louisiana, Kentucky, Indiana, Florida, Hawaii,
Delaware and Connecticut. Again this variety shows the diversity of the United
10) Gun Culture
The United States is generally said to have a gun culture, due to the fact
that citizens have the right to bear arms. The gun culture in the country is
shaped by the debate over guns in the political sphere. There are large groups
in the United States that believe gun control is necessary to reduce the amount
of violent gun crime, while on the other side, political groups campaign to
avoid any form of gun control. Gun and Gun control policy have been one of the
most controversial issues in American. School shootings and other horrible
atrocities have led to many asking for a repeal of the Second Amendment in an
attempt to abolish gun possession all together.
Groups in favor of the right to bear arms believe that guns are necessary
for self-defense and sport, while opponents would explain that the police and
other options are available to defend oneself.
The origin of gun culture is considered to be a result of the use of guns at
the very founding of the American nation. Guns were used to fight the British
before America was established as an independent nation, and the Second
Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees all citizens the right to bear arms.
Today, gun culture can be described as the battle between the two sides of gun
The United States of America is one of the biggest players in the global
fashion scene, along with the Italians and the French. The United States has a
rich history in fashion that spans much further than just the very top lines,
like Dior and Chanel. In fact, the United States of America is home to some of
the most famous brands of clothes, like Levi’s and Converse.
Throughout American and Western history, people have enjoyed different
fleeting styles and fashions, and the United States has always been on top when
it comes to designing these latest trends. Levi’s Jeans are among the most
famous denim jeans in the world, and this is all thanks to the capitalist
economy that allows for the creation of fashion lines. If there was no one to
purchase couture than there would be no need to produce it.
8) Modern Art
Modern art is an art form that includes the works and designs that have been
created since the 1860s. The term, however, is usually associated with
experimental, contemporary art. This kind of art includes expressionist pieces,
abstract paintings and sculptures that do not fit any kind of classical style.
Example of Modern Art
Modern art first became known and most popularly practiced in the United States in
1913, when the Armory Show was held. The Armory Show was the first exhibition of
modern art in the United States and it is introduced the American people to
English, Swiss, French and Irish paintings and drawings. The gallery even
included work by famous modern artist, Marcel Duchamp. This event marked a
radical change in the art scene in the United States, opening the world up to a
whole new way of thinking.
Some of the most daring modern artists appeared in the United States during
the 1960s in particular, which Dada movements and groups like Fluxus, which
aimed to change the way in which people perceived art. Notable figures from the
1960s include Yoko Ono, John Cage and Andy Warhol.
The United States, unlike many nations on earth, does not have an official
religion, and so, religion in the United States is defined by a diverse range of
beliefs. Recent statistics have shown that nearly 80% of American people
identify as Christians, but not necessarily Christians that are actively
involved with a local church. 2008 statistics show that 25% of American adults
class themselves as Catholics, and 51% of the same group class themselves as a
Christian from one of more than 30 different denominations. Religion has always
stood as a controversial issue in American and has since the Revolutionary War.
Despite this, a wide range of religions are practiced in the Untied States,
including Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism and
Despite there being no official religion, America has still been influenced
by religion. This has been the case since the very early days of the nation,
when German and English settlers began living on the land. Religion played a
huge part in politics, life and general culture, and a number of the first
colonies were actually established by people who wanted to practice a religion
within their own community. At this time, there were colonized established by
Catholics, Anglicans, Quakers and Puritans who all wanted their own communities
where people could freely practice these religions.
The United States later became the first country in the world to have no
official religion. The founding fathers and influential people behind the
Constitution rejected any form of official religion and designed the First
Amendment to ensure that the government could not force any particular religion
on anybody living under its rule.
6) Social Classes
Social class in the United States is a huge part of national culture. The
social class of an individual depends on their education, income, social status
and general lifestyle. Social class is a controversial issue, but nonetheless,
class does exist and there are thought to be around three main academic classes.
These academic classes include upper, middle and working class. However, other
classes outside of academia can explain people who work on farms or in other
industries that do not require regular academia. Social class in the U.S.
depends on what you make of yourself, whereas in the U.K. class is mostly
determined by which class you were born into; either the ruling class or the
The middle class in the United States is easily the most vaguely defined
class, but it’s also considered to be the class in which most people fit into.
The middle class is always growing in the United States, and while many people
who are middle class do not have degrees, higher education is usually a sign of
whether somebody is working or middle class.
There is a term called ‘lower middle class’, which refers to those that are
indeed part of middle class society, but do not have a large amount of
disposable income. The amount of disposable income someone has really dictates
where they fall in the class spectrum.
Class mobility is another important term in the states, and it refers to the
increased living standards of one generation compared to their previous
generation. Class mobility plays a central role in the idea of the ‘American
dream’, which is a huge part of American culture. This is the idea that as long
as you are willing to work hard, the United States can give you what you need to
live a positive and fulfilling life.
Class mobility is made possible through the hard work of one generation,
ensuring that a child gets access to quality schooling and grows up in a good
environment. Mobility is also possible through improved technology and equality,
meaning that it is possible to break through barriers that would have been
difficult for the previous generation to get through.
5) Attitude to Alcohol
In general, the attitude towards alcohol in the United States is laid back but
it largely depends if you are in a dry country or not.
There was a time during the 1930s, known as the Prohibition, when alcohol was
banned from sale. This resulted in underground bars and homebrewed alcohol that
was dangerous and incredibly strong. Soon after, the laws were changed and since
then, alcohol has been a central part of American life. Unfortunately over the
years, many other drugs have been made illegal and the only drug that has
survived is alcohol. Alcohol is one of the most hazardous and dangerous drugs on
the planet. Due to involvement from the DEA, it is the only drug that is
strangely still legal in the U.S.
In July, 1988, every single state in America had a minimum purchase age of
21. Alcohol can be purchased in restaurants, bars and general stores. The
minimum purchase age of 21, however, does not stop young people from drinking.
Studies have shown that most young people simply have people they know over the
age of 21 purchase alcohol for them. A look at college culture shows this better
than any other example in U.S. culture. Friends give each other old IDs, older
brothers and sisters get alcohol for minors, and even sometimes parents get
alcohol for their children and friends - provided they surrender their keys and
stay the night. For these
reasons, an organization known as Choose Responsibility started campaigning
against the minimum purchase age in 2007, and suggested that children should be
educated about alcohol from an early age.
The United States does not have the largest military in the world, but it has
one of the most powerful and influential. The United States Armed Forces have
been involved in a great deal of international wars and conflicts, beginning as
early as 1676, before the United States became an independent nation. As a
dominant member of the UN security council, the U.S. is at the forefront of just
about every single international conflict.
The earliest record of the United States Armed Forces going to war is King
Philip’s War, where the New England Colonies were battling the Wampanoag and
Nipmuch Indians. Throughout the following decades, the U.S. Armed Forces were
involved with wars and conflicts with the French and French Colonies, as well as
the Cherokee Indians.
After the First World War, the United States Army became involved in ever
more conflicts. The
First and Second World Wars were largely focused around Europe, as well as
Japan. It was the Korean War that saw the United States go eve further, however.
Starting in 1950 and ending in 1953, the Korean War saw the United States aiding
South Korea against the communists in North Korea and China. Later, the United
States went to war with Vietnam, Cuba, Panama and Iraq. From 1995, the United
States and allies have been involved in the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq.
Now the U.S. seems to become involved in almost any country's conflict,
especially if there are economical interests or security interests at stake.
America does have its own national culture that involves its institutions,
its freedoms and its moderate approach to social life. The nation, however, has
become significantly more multiculturalism in recent years. Today,
multiculturalism and the idea of a ‘melting pot’ is one of the most significant
parts of American culture.
Multiculturalism is the idea that communities can incorporate a number of
different cultures. In the United States, multiculturalism is not clearly
established as a policy from the government, but it is certainly observable in
The reason why multiculturalism appeared is without question because of mass
immigration into the United States that began in the 19th Century and didn’t
stop for hundreds of years. With a constant stream of new people moving to the
United States to find a new life and enjoy the freedoms that its constitution
provided, the country soon became a melting pot in terms of ethnicity, religion
The cinema of the United States is incredibly popular across the world. In
fact, the cinema produced in the United States is the most exported cinema in
the world. Hollywood is not just a city in the U.S., but a term that refers to the
people and the companies that work to create the movies that are exported to the
rest of the Western world. Hollywood really sets the pace for the rest of
Hollywood has had a huge effect on cinema across the world ever since the
early 20th Century, and the history of its success is often split up into four
parts. Hollywood’s history spans through silent films and classical Hollywood to
New Hollywood and contemporary film.
US cinema has existed since the early 1900s, but it was between the 1920s and
the 1960s that Hollywood really took off. This period was known as the Golden
Age of Hollywood, and the very beginning of this age is considered to be the
movie ‘The Jazz Singer’. This was the first movie with sound, and was released
in 1927, marking the end of the silent movie era and introducing the world to
the concept of a feature film.
Then came the rise of 20th Century Fox, which is still one of the biggest
movie companies in the world. From here, Hollywood grew, and most of the movies
we know and love can be credited to actors, actresses, producers and film
companies found in Hollywood and the United States. Today, the main distributors
of Hollywood film are Paramount, Sony and Warner Brothers. The U.S. still holds
the lion's share of all profits, but other countries have stepped up over the
Sport is one of the most unifying and significant parts of the culture of the
United States, but the sports favored by the Americans are generally quite
different to what is preferred in Western Europe. Some of the most popular
individual sports include motor sports and tennis, while the most popular team
sports in the country include American football, baseball and basketball.
Baseball can be seen in the United States as early as the 18th Century, and
was initially played by amateurs who created their own rules and played with a
makeshift ball. Baseball was also very popular during the Civil War and
continues to be America's national sport.
The culture of the United States is particularly interesting when you
consider the founding and the very nature of the U.S. as a nation. The country
does not have as extensive a history as other nations in the world, but despite
this, it has grown to be one of the largest and most powerful nations in the
The country’s culture has been developed over just a few hundred years, and
influence came from all over the world. As more people from different parts of
the world moved to the country, the culture changed again, and what we find
today is a mixture of European, Asian and South American cultures, unevenly
distributed over America’s large landmass. Today's immigrants can see a country
that has been molded by the cultures and traditions of everyone that has
attempted to make it happen in America. Many traditions have been modified and
changed to better fit the status quo, but there are still many who have retained
almost all of their heritage over the years.