American culture used to be defined by the image of hotdogs at a baseball game, tiny flags, freedom, democracy, McDonalds, fireworks, etc. However, now American culture is rapidly viewed around the world as Kim Kardashian, reality TV shows like Jersey Shore, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, and others. American culture has been usurped by pop culture, and the decaying aspects of democracy. What exactly is culture? Culture can be defined as information transferred between individuals and groups, however American culture is transferred throughout the world. American culture is overall more than what is portrayed in the media. American culture encompasses the traditions, languages, arts (including pop culture), and custom from different mixtures of races that help to make up the United States. Within this paper it will define what American culture is, the controversies, and how it pertains to defining American culture today.
American culture can be generally seen as a “melting pot” for the different races, cultures, religions, traditions, customs, etc. American culture is narrowed down to the United States, as more than 300 million people populate the country, it is considered the most culturally diverse country in the world. More geographically American culture can be broken down in five regions; the Northeast, South, Midwest, the Southeast, and Western region as they each have their own cultural differences. The Northeast states that were originally were the settlers colonized has become more liberal, the south and Midwest is generally more conservative and religious, while the West is more secular. American culture can be traced back to its formation. When the pilgrims settled they borrowed from the European influences to help form democracy, develop customs, and establish the English language, and religious influences. The heavy borrowing of European influences was particularly felt in the formation of different sects of religion in the colonial American. It wasn’t until the Great Awakening, after American gained its independence, which radicalize the views of the settlers, that has helped formed the American attitudes that is known today. (Crunden, 1996) Within the formation of the America cultural influence came from Africans that were enslaved, German and Irish settlers, and more notably Native Americans. These cultural influences translated over the incorporation of different religions, art, holidays, sports, and other customs and traditions. The differences in the class, economic, and race cultures developed during the formation of the early American society would have profound implications throughout American history. Throughout American history between the 18th and 20th centuries, many notable inventions, literary, educational, and political figures helped to defined American culture. From the invention of electricity, telephone, assembly line, cable television, personal computer, cordless and mobile phone, and other notable inventions, have helped to define American culture in the perspectives of foreigners. (Smithsonian Institution, n.d)
The main characteristics that make up American culture can be categorized from the language, religion, style, food, arts, sports, and tradition. American culture has been transformed throughout scientific breakthroughs, essential discoveries, and inventive fixtures such as the food from hot dogs, corndogs, cheeseburger, and soft serve ice cream among some, American culture is bedded in its unique food concoctions. The introduction to American arts, has helped to propel some of pop culture’s greatest icons such as Michael Jackson, Elvis, Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, Madonna, and others from American cinema. (Osborne, 2006) What makes American culture unique is there was never an official language as the first settlers brought English from the British, and it has always been the “un-official” official language where 90 percent of the population speaks and conducts business in English. (Zimmerman, 2013) Other languages spoken include Chinese, Spanish, Japanese, French, German, and other non-English languages. Not to mention that each region has a unique style and pronunciations of the English vernacular. Religion is also diverse within America as people have the right to religious freedom. A majority of the population practices some form of Christianity, they also practice Judaism, Mormonism, Hinduism, and other or no religious affiliations. American style is also unique, throughout the centuries American style has transformed, and with each region it has become unique. From cowboy attire, to more notable brands such as Ralph Lauren, Victoria Secret, Gloria Vanderbilt, and others American style has great influence throughout the world. American tradition is formalized in its national holidays, the most famous being Fourth of July, to sports such as baseball, football, volleyball, and other favorite American pastimes. The characteristics that make up American culture have carried over to other countries around the world with influences from every region.
The conflicts within American history include some of the more dark periods in history that has often done with not the knowledge of how it would affect future generations. When settlers came they stole and destroyed the lands of Native Americans, killing and affecting millions in the process. Slaves began to replace laborers of the colonies as more African were shipped across from Africa to work as servants and slaves. (Kulikoff, 1991) From these conflicts, their culture helped to influence parts of American culture. It wasn’t until hundreds of years later were the wrongs of these actions corrected, and wasn’t until almost three centuries later with the passage of laws and formal apologies from the government.
In conclusion, American culture is diverse from almost any other country within the world. American culture has penetrated all aspects of American daily lives, and creates a form of patriotism that is unique from any other culture. American culture is about freedom, liberty, and respecting other people’s individuality. The definition of culture differs from person to person as it is unique in identifying what it means to a diverse and multi-cultured society that thinks and behaves differently. American culture is free to practice any religion, language, arts, sports, or traditions that helped to make the United States an attractive destination. The skills and knowledge obtained throughout the course is essential in furthering respective careers, and dealing with diverse sets of people in order to be successful. Every culture is different, but it is the cultural differences that make people unique.
Crunden, Robert Morse. (1996). A Brief History of American Culture. New York, NY. M.E. Sharpe.
Kulikoff, Allan. (1991). “Colonial Culture.” History. Retrieved from. http://www.history.com/topics/colonial-culture
Osborn, Rebecca. (2006). “Reference the Influence of American Popular Culture in the Global Media.” Webster University. Retrieved from http://www2.webster.edu/~garyford/class_materials/MEDC%206000%20-%20Rebecca%20Osborn%20Thesis-SP2-06.pdf
Smithsonian Institution. (n.d). “American History.” Encyclopedia. Retrieved from http://www.si.edu/encyclopedia_Si/nmah/
TAMU. (n.d). “Culture Definition.” Chordhury. Retrieved from. http://www.tamu.edu/faculty/choudhury/culture.html
Zimmerman, Ann (2013).. “American Culture: Traditions and Customs of the United States.” LiveScience. Retrieved from http://www.livescience.com/28945-american-culture.html