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American life: living in the USA, basic features of the American, interesting parties of the American character


I. Theoretical part

Living in the USA

Social customs


Sports and recreation


2. The basic features of the American

а) American national character in popular culture

б) Character of the peasants

3. The interesting parties of the American character

а) American Sexual Character

II. Practical part



1. Living in the USA

a) Social custom

Forms of address. In U.S. culture, there are three titles which can be used for women -miss, mrs. and ms, and one for men - mr. The title "dr." is used in academic settings. Some professors will prefer to be addressed by their first name. In the U.S., people tend to be informal.

Personal space and handshaking. Americans tend to guard their personal space. Generally peostand 61 cm apart. People in the u.s. shake hands when they are first introduced. Touching the elbow or kissing the hand are considered too intimate.

Hello and goodbye. Americans are friendly. Strangers may smile to you and say "hello" or "how are you?"- it is a U.S. version of politeness. In U.S. culture one "hello" per day is sometimes not enough. There may be many hellos in a day but the good-byes are too few. One will often leave the room without saying "excuse me" or "goodbye". Students in a rush to get to the next class, may not say "good-bye" or "thank you". It is customary to say "good-bye" at the end of the working day.

The U.S. Public Face. Besides greetings from complete strangers in public places visitors can ex- loud laughter, singing, whistling, yelling, running and skipping. Children may play ball or skateon sidewalks. When people converse, they often use sweeping hand gestures, use direct eye contact, and tend to smile a lot.

Speech. People in the U.S. also tend to be informal. They use a lot of slang. There are also differ-ences in American and British English.

In the U.S. classroom. Europeans are surprised by the teachers' informal atmosphere of U.S. classrooms. Thy may eat, drink or chew gum in the classroom. Teachers have a right, however, to ask their students not to do these things in their classroom. Students also dress rather informally. Students often wear jeans and tennis shoes to class. Jeans are often purposely ripped for a "stylish" effect. Some students wear revealing clothing -short skirts, tank tops, and sheer clothing. Students also sk rather informally, sometimes on their own legs or cross-legged. Students often rush to and from classes without saying hello or good-bye to teachers. Sometimes students Come into classrooms after the class period has begun, or leave before it has ended. They say nothing to the teacher, since they may consider that interrupting would be rude.

Dress. People in the U.S. wear different types of clothing in different situations. Students often wear informal clothing. Professors dress in more formal, yet comfortable clothing. It is appropriate to alclothing daily. People often wear different combinations of three or four outfits. They mix and match a few shirts with 3 or 4 pairs of pants or shirts.

Smoking is prohibited in elevators and some bathrooms, on buses, subways, on all domestic air-line flights and most public buildings /museums, markets, classrooms and offices/. Violators are subject to fines. It is polite to ask your companions if they mind if you smoke.

Consumption of Alcoholic Beverages. The purchase of alcoholic beverages by or for people unthe age of 21 is unlawful in the U.S. It is also prohibited on many university campuses. No beer or albeverages may be consumed in public areas, including streets and parks.


Individuality and independence. People in the U.S. consider themselves individuals. They value independence and self-reliance. Children are encouraged to think and do things on their own. The educasystem seeks to cultivate an adult who can manage his/her life independently.

Frankness and Curiosity. Directness is a desirable trait in the U.S. people often respond to quesin a frank manner. People are quick to get to the point. In the classroom frankly disagree with a pro-fessor and express their own opinion. People in the U.S. are eager to learn. Their curiosity may lead them to ask many questions.

Privacy. People in the U.S. feel comfortable answering most personal questions. However, some people may take offence to certain questions regarding personal finances, house or car costs, family details and health.

Achievement. People in the U.S. tend to value personal achievements. This lends to the competinature of U.S. society. Honor codes are taken very seriously.

Materialism. Some people in the U.S. take great pride in their possessions as measures of their success. How ever, there are many people who do not agree with this definition of success.

Time Orientation. People in the U.S. value time. They are often rushing around. This creates a very rapid pace of life. They keep very busy even during their leisure time. People punctuality is respected. There is a great emphasis on meeting deadlines. U.S. society is focused on the present and not the past.

International Naivete. Some people in the U.S. are relatively unaware of other nations and culThey may ask questions which are very uninformed and may even seem rude.


"Jet Lag" is the first of many adjustments which you will have to make during your stay in the U.S. After the long flight, it may take some days to rid yourself of sleepiness.

Cross-cultural adjustment comes next. Cultural shock happens to everyone. There is a general cycle of emotional phases that a person experiences.

Phase 1 -"The honeymoon period". This is a time in which everything will seem new and interestYou will be happy to explore.

Phase 2 - "Culture fatigue». You will realize that you will have to work to adjust to a new culture. You may feel stressed, isolated, irritated, homesick or unmotivated. You may begin to eat or sleep too much and even believe that you are ill.

Phase 3 - " Rejection of the host culture". At this point you may feel hostile toward the U.S. as the cause of your discomfort. You may wonder how Americans live as they do. You may not want to speak English and may withdraw from others.

Phase 4- "The new culture makes sense". You will become more self-confident and outgoing.

Phase 5 - "Adaptation to the new culture". You will feel comfortable and effective.

All these feelings are normal.

b) Food

Meal Times. In the U.S. meals are usually served at the following times: breakfast: 6:30-10:00 a.m., lunch: 11:30-2:00 p.m., dinner: 5:00 p.m.-8:00. Breakfast meals can vary from cereal and milk to eggs and pancakes or French toast /slices of bread dipped in an egg and milk batter and fried/. Lunch tends to be a lighter meal - a sandwich, yogurt or a light entree. Din includes a main course of meat, poultry or fish, accompanied by side dishes such as soup, salad and; vegetables. Brunch, a common Sunday meal served between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., is really a combinaof breakfast and lunch.

Common dishes. There are a wide variety of foods, depending upon which type of restaurant you go to. Some American-style restaurants have a typical menu.

Appetizers are nachos /a tortilla chip topped with melted cheese/, chili /a thick sauce of meat and pepper/, shrimp cocktail, raw vegetables and dip, finger sandwiches, cheese and crackers. Soups are French onion, chicken, vegetable, and soup of the day. Salads are regular, Greek, chef, Caesar or spinach. Main Courses are steak, fried chicken, fish, hamburgers, pasta and pizza. Hot and Cold Sandwiches are combina-tions of ham, turkey, roast beef, chicken, tuna or egg salads etc., served between two slices of bread. Bev are coffee, tea, soft drinks, mineral water and iced tea. Deserts are cakes, ice cream, frozen yogurt, fruit, etc. Breakfast dishes are cold cereal and milk, warm cereal, toast, yogurt, eggs, pancakes, French toast, waffles, etc.

Pot luck supper. Sometimes when the family gets together with other families they have what's called potluck supper. This is an informal occasion, so people dress casually but nicely. Invitations can be written or made by phone, and each person is asked to bring a dish of food: starter, main course, salad or vegetable, or dessert. The hostess knows how many of each kind of dishes but not exactly what the guests will bring. That's why it is called "pot luck". It is a lovely surprise, holding a dinner party what you are going to feed your guests.

As the guests arrive, they put their "pot" on the table and the meal is served buffet-style. Drinks are provided, although some guests might bring a bottle of wine as a present. It is a fun, and a relaxed way of getting together with friends.

Restaurants. Americans eat out often. Fast food restaurants have wide popularity. There are two types of restaurants in the U.S.: fast food and full-service restaurants. The style of fast food restaurants is much like that of cafeteria. Patrons go up to a counter to order their meal: hamburgers, hot chicken sand-wiches, and pizza. It is then placed on a plastic tray which patron brings to a table. A typical dinner costs from $3.00 to $6.00. It is expected that patrons will finish within 30-45 minutes. In full-service restaurants a waiter comes to take the patrons' order. Dinner can vary from $10.00 to $50.00. It is expected that pa-trons will finish eating and leave restaurant within an hour. To express satisfaction with service patrons will give a tip of 20% of the bill. Small tips are given to coat check attendants /up to $1.00/, rest room and car park attendants /50 cents/.

Water and ice. Most people in the U.S. drink tap water. Any cold beverage you order will be served to you with ice unless you request otherwise.

Historically, there was the Grand Exchange. Kernels of New World corn became a yellow cur-rency more valuable to the well-being of the world than nuggets of gold. Potatoes kept famine from Eurovillages. Sweet potatoes eased China's dependence on rice. Wheat from the Middle East made North America's Great Plains the "breadbasket of the world". Five centuries after it started, the Grand Exchange goes on.

c) Sports and recreation

In the U.S. of today football is the most popular spectator sport. Baseball is now in second place. Football in the U.S. differs from European rugby and soccer. It is the most "scientific" of all outdoor team sports. There are hundreds of specific rules. Because of this football has been called "an open air chess game".

Basketball and volleyball are American in origin. The first basketball game was played in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1891. It was invented as a game that would fill the empty period between the football season /autumn/ and the baseball season /spring and summer/. Michael Jordan /b.1954/, the leading scorer in American basketball has become a legend, respected by milof fans all over the world. Volleyball was first played in 1895. During the WWI and WWII, American soldiers took volleyball with them oversees and helped to make it popular. Professional basketball games in the U.S. attract large numbers of fans. Most of the games are televised live.

Hockey, baseball, football and basketball are the "four major sports". There are many other sports in America: golf, swimming, tennis, marathons, track and field, bowling, archery, skiskating, squash and badminton, rowing and sailing, weight-lifting, boxing, and wrestling. 44% of all Americans take part in some athletic activities once a day. Swimming, bicycling, fishjogging, calisthenics or gymnastics, and bowling are American's favorite participatory sports.

Americans like competition, by teams or as individuals. American schools follow the tra-dition of all English-speaking societies in using sports as teaching 'social values". Among these are teamwork, sportsmanship /when Americans win they say, "well, we were just lucky", and per-sistence /not quitting/. Being intelligent and being good in sport is an ideal. There are colleges which have excellent academic reputations and are also good in sports. Stanford, UCLA, Michi-gan, Pennsylvania, Harvard, and Yale are among them. Recently, a new rule has been adopted which states that all college athletes must meet set academic standards. If they do not, they are not allowed to take part in sports. Among all professional football players in the FNL, more than a third have earned university degrees.

Rules prevent any college athlete from accepting money. Most Americans think that government should be kept separate from sports. The citizens of Denver, Colorado, did not want the 1976 Winter Olympics there. They voted "no" and the Olympics had to be held elsewhere. The residents of Los Angeles voted for Summer Olympics in 1984. But they declared that not one dollar of city funds could be spent on them. L.A. Olympics made a profit of $100 million.

Leisure sports. There are many sporting activities which are a part of daily American life. Most Americans who grow up in the North, grow up with outdoor winter sports. Skating, sledding and tobogganing are very popular. Fishing and hunting are extremely popular in all parts of the country. There are 17 million hunters in the U.S. Hunting is strictly controlled. There are many more fishermen /42 million/, and many more lakes than bears. Only Minnesota is the land of "10,000 lakes". There is 1 boat for every 25 people in the U.S. today. In Minnesota, one out of seven people owns a boat. All water sports and activities are very popular. They include swimskin diving, sailing, white-water canoeing, water skiing and boat racing. The beaches are not crowded; so long walks along the beaches are quite relaxing.

There are several unusual sports in the U.S. Americans will race just about anything that has wheels: "Funny cars" with jet engines, pick-up trucks with gigantic tires, etc. The first "people-powered" aircraft to cross the English Channel was pedaled by an American. And the first hot-air balloon to make it across the Atlantic had a crew from New Mexico. Skate-boarding, wind-surfing, hang-gliding and triathlon /swimming, bicycle racing /180 km/ and 42 km run / became very popular in the U.S.

d) Economy

The U.S. economy is based on free enterprise system. The government places regulations on economic practices. The nation's gross domestic product /GDP/ is about $6 trillion. Labor force is 50% /female - 46%/. Unemployment rate is 5,5%. Federal budget per capita is $5,740 with public debt $18,956 and personal income per capita $22,000.

Petroleum provides 40 %of energy. Natural gas generates 25%. Coal is the source of 25%. Hydroelectricity and nuclear power generate 5% in America's energy.

The U.S. has highly developed transport system. The country has 6,200, 000 km of streets and roads. The U.S. has 75 automobiles for every 100 people. Trucks carry 25% of the freight. The U.S. has 240.000 km of railroad lines. They handle 35% of the freight. Airlines have 18% of all passenger traffic and 1% of the freight. Chicago's O'Hare International airport is the world's busiest. 15% of the freight traffic travels on waterway.

U.S. exports include aircraft, computers, plastic materials, metals and paper, corn and wheat. The leading imports are automobiles, clothing, shoes, toys, petroleum, iron, steel, paper, and medicines. Canand Japan are the country's chief trading partners. In 1993, Mexico, Canada and the U.S. signed the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The U.S. economy has faced problems from time to time. The problems include recession, depresand inflation.

The American economy had to be built from the ground up. What was achieved is amazing. By 1900, the U.S. has become the greatest industrial nation, and its citizens enjoyed the highest standard of living in the world. By the post- war era, the US was producing 50% of the "gross world product".

Today, the American economy no longer dominates the world as it did then. But with 5 % of the world's population and 6% of its land area, the US still produces 25% of the world's industrial products, agricultural goods, and services. America has not dropped behind other nations: its gross national product /GNP/ has tripled since the end of the WWII.

America remains the world leader in a great many. Among these are biochemical and genetic enaerospace research, computer and information services. America's private industries are doing quite well. American firms which sell passenger aircraft or computers retain the largest share of the world market. The best selling car in the world is a Ford /the Escort/.

Foreign investments in the U.S. amounted to $164 billion, with the UK /$38 billion/ and Japan /$16 billion/.

The US is also the world's leading agricultural nation. It grows 20% of all the world's wheat, corn, oats and sorghum with 3% of population involved in agriculture. America not only feeds her own people but a great many other people in the world as well. Agriculture accounts for 2% of the U.S. GDP and em3% of the nation's workers. Yet the U.S. is a world leader in agricultural production. About a third of the world's food exports come from U.S. farms. Beef cattle ranks as the most valuable product. There are 2.100,000 farms in the U.S.

Many reasons have been offered to explain why the U.S. has been able to go from a small econto the leading industrial nation. One reason is the size and the natural resources. The spirit of enter and initiative has certainly played an important role. The American system of government, too, has encouraged citizens to pursue their own economic interest. Typically American constant willingness to experiment and social and geographical mobility have also played a part. Many Americans prefer to be their own bosses. 10 million Americans own their own business, and 42.million own a part of business through stock.

The "very rich" in America give away much of their money before they died. Carnegie gave away 5370 million of his $400 million for the "benefit of community".

2. The basic features of the American culture

а) American national character in popular culture

"The culture of the United States is a Western culture, and has been developing since long before the United States became a country. Its chief early influence was British culture, due to colonial ties with the British that spread the English language, legal system and other cultural inheritances. Other important influences came from other parts of Europe, especially countries from which large numbers immigrated such as Ireland, Germany, Poland, and Italy; the Native American peoples; Africa, especially the western part, from which came the ancestors of most African Americans; and young groups of immigrants. American culture also has shared influence on the cultures of its neighbors in the New World.

The United States has traditionally been known as a melting pot, but recent academic opinion is tending towards cultural diversity, pluralism and the image of a salad bowl rather than a melting pot.

Due to the extent of American culture there are many integrated but unique subcultures within the United States. The culutral affliations an individual in the United States may have commonly depend on social class, political orientation and a multitude of demogrpahic charateristics such as race, ethnicity, sex and sexual orientation. The strongest influences on American culture came from northern European cultures, most prominently from Germany, Ireland and England. [2] It is, however, paramount to remember that there are great differences within American culutre which should therefore under no circumstance be seen as one large homogenous subject.

The American state of California (especially the Hollywood region) is home to a thriving motion picture industry, with prominent film studios such as Warner Brothers, Paramount, and MGM creating dozens of multi-million dollar films every year that are enjoyed around the world. American actors are often among the world's most popular and easily identified celebrities. It's worth noting that Hollywood also tends to attract many immigrant actors and directors from around the world, many of whom, such as actor Russell Crowe or director Ang Lee become just as famous and successful as American-born stars.

The United States was a leading pioneer of T.V. as an entertainment medium, and the tradition remains strong to this day. Many American television sitcoms dramas game shows and reality shows remain very popular both in the US and abroad. Animation is a popular US entertainment medium as well, both on the large and small screen. The characters created by Walt Disney and Warner Brothers animation studios remain very popular. In music, the United States has pioneered many distinct genres, such as country and western, jazz, rock music, hip hop and gospel. African-American cultural influences play a particularly prominent role in many of these traditions.

b) Character of the peasants

American farmers of today lead vastly different lives from those of their grandparents. Machines have elimimuch backbreaking farm work. Farmers use ma-chines to help them plow, plant seeds, harvest crops, and deliver their products to market. Many farms have conveyor systems so that the farmer no longer has to shovel feed to farm animals. Milking machines make morning and evening chores easier. In the home, farm families may have all the comforts and conveniences of city people. In the 1900’s, the automobile, telephone, radio, and television have brought U.S. farm families into close contact with the rest of the world.

The steady decline in the percentage of the country's rural population has slowed since 1970. Although many people continued to move away from rural areas, others chose to move into rural towns and farm communities. Many of the newcomers wanted to escape the overpollution, crime, and other problems that are part of life in urban areas and to take advantage of beneof country living. Rural areas have lower crime rates and less pollution than urban areas. They are also far less noisy and crowded.

Because of their small populations, rural communities collect less tax revenues than urban communities do, and they generally cannot provide the variety of services that urban areas can. For example, rural communities have cultural and recreational facilities that are more limited than those available in urban areas. For many rural Americans, social life centers around family gathchurch and school activities, special interest clubs, and such events as state and county fairs.

Rural areas generally have less diversified economies than urban areas. Because there are fewer and a smaller variety of jobs to choose from, rural communities may experience more widespread economic hardships than urban communities. A single economic downturn—a drop in farm prices, for example, or the closing of a mine—can cause economic hardship for an entire rural area.

The nation's rural areas, like its urban areas, have wealthy, middle class, and poor people. For the most part, however, the gaps between economic classes are not as large in rural areas as in urban areas. Most rural Americans live in single-family houses. The majority of the houses are comfortable and in good condition. But some people, including many who live in parts of Appalachia—in the eastern United States—and other pockets of rural poverty, have run-down houses and enjoy few luxuries.

3. The interesting parties of the American character

а) American Sexual Character

In 1948 and 1953, the United States was rocked by events that observers compared to the explosion of the atomic bomb: the publication of Sexual Behavior in the Human Male and Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, respectively, popularly known as the Kinsey Reports. These two massive sex surveys, compiled by the Indiana University zoologist Alfred Kinsey and a team of researchers, graphically presented the results of interviews with thousands of American men and women, including information on their age at first intercourse, number of partners, history of premarital and extramarital sex, incidence of homosexuality and lesbianism, and virtually every other imaginable sexual statistic. The studies’ findings shocked experts and the public alike, as Kinsey demonstrated that much of Americans’ sexual activity took place outside of marriage, and that the majority of the nation’s citizens had violated accepted moral standards as well as state and federal laws in their pursuit of sexual pleasure.

Sexual Behavior in the Human Male and Sexual Behavior in the Human Female struck a nerve within the American public. Despite their complex graphs and charts and abstruse scientific language, the volumes became best-sellers and spurred unprecedented public discussion of national sexual practices and ideologies. Praised by some experts for their breadth, precision, and dispassionate approach to human sexuality, the books were also the targets of virulent criticism

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