What Are Americans Like?

The United States is always compared with a ‘melting pot’ as people of different nations have immigrated to the USA. In 2000, white Americans were about 75% of the population, blacks or African Americans – about 12% of the population, Asians and Pacific Islanders – nearly 4 %, and American Indians and Alaska Natives – about 1%. About 8% were of mixed race and other races. Between 1492 and 1880 many immigrants came from Britain, Ireland, and Northern Europe. In the 19th and early 20th century European immigration to the USA increased massively, and another era of heavy immigration is occurring right now. The USA still accepts more immigrants each year than any other country in the world. People come to the USA as they all see this country as a land of hope and opportunity. The term ‘melting pot’ implies that all immigrants have become alike and have adapted to their new homeland.

In the USA the aim of upbringing is to raise a responsible, self-reliant individual. At the age of 18 young people usually move out of their parents’ house and live independently. A grown-up person who is still living with his or her parents may be considered ‘immature’, or ‘tied to the mother’s apron strings’.

Americans believe that all men are created equal. It means that one tends to treat other people as peers, and that everyone expects to have equal opportunities to achieve his or her goals of life. As a result Americans are quite informal in their general behavior and in their relationships with other people. People of high standing can be seen in public wearing jeans, sandals, or other informal clothes. Americans call each other by their first names irrespective of a person’s social position or age. When people talk, they usually smile a lot and use a lot of jargon and slang. Americans always feel uncomfortable with silence. They prefer to talk in order to fill the pause.

Working hard is greatly valued in the United States. Americans respect doers, problem solvers and achievers. Great importance is attached to such qualities as efficiency, punctuality and practicality. Self-improvement is very important to any American. Idleness is considered to be shameful. Americans can’t afford to waste time, to daydream, or to do nothing. There are many workaholics and people who are addicted to their work in the USA. Such people think constantly about their job and feel frustrated if they are kept from it, even during weekends and holidays. Americans see as heroes those people who have overcome a great number of obstacles in order to succeeded in life.

In the USA the words ‘This is a self-made man’ are the best praise. People are placed in the stratification structure based on their individual merits or achievements. Americans are individualists. They consider themselves as separate individuals who are responsible for their own lives. Americans value privacy and personal space.

Americans seem to be constantly in a hurry. They are extremely punctual and well-organized and hate to be late for meetings. Americans often say that ‘time is money’. They become quite irritated if they have to wait more than 15 minutes beyond the scheduled time for appointments.

Americans like to be open and honest. They ask direct questions and expect ‘straight’ answers. But at the same time, they are reluctant to discuss financial and health matters or to talk about their private life. Americans hate to argue or to refuse point-blank. Instead of saying ‘no’ directly, an American will say something like ‘it is not convenient now’.

Many Americans know very little about other cultures and the world beyond the borders of the USA. They are sure that their country is superior, probably the ‘greatest’ country in the world. Americans don’t like foreigners and they tend to think that people born in other countries are not so lucky as they are. Most Americans are proud of their political system and they believe that it has advantages which other political systems lack. Democracy has become a synonym for the American way of life.

1. Read the following sentences and circle TRUE or FALSE: 1) In 2000, white Americans were about 45% of the population. T|F|
2) In the 19th and early 20th century European immigration to the USA increased massively. T|F|
3) At the age of 21 young people usually move out of their parents’ house and live independently. T|F|
4) Americans believe that all men are created equal. T|F|
5) Americans are very formal in their general behavior and in their relationships with other people. T|F|
6) Self-improvement is considered to be shameful in the United States. T|F|
7) Americans see as heroes those people who lead a modest life. T|F|
8) Americans ask direct questions and expect ‘straight’ answers. T|F|
9) Americans usually say ‘no’ directly. T|F|
10) Americans are sure that their country is superior, probably the ‘greatest’ country in the world. T|F|
2. Complete each sentence (A-J) with one of the endings (1-10):
1. Between 1492 and 1880
2. The USA still accepts
3. The term ‘melting pot’ implies that
4. A grown-up person who is still living with his or her parents may be considered
5. Americans call each other by their first names irrespective of
6. When people talk, they usually
7. Great importance is attached to such qualities as
8. Americans can’t afford to
9. People are placed in the stratification structure based on their
10. Americans are reluctant to discuss
A. individual merits or achievements.
B. ‘immature’, or ‘tied to the mother’s apron strings’.
C. efficiency, punctuality and practicality.
D. more immigrants each year than any other country in the world.
E. financial and health matters.
F. all immigrants have become alike and have adapted to their new homeland.
G. waste time, to daydream, or to do nothing.
H. a person’s social position or age.
I. many immigrants came from Britain, Ireland, and Northern Europe.
J. smile a lot and use a lot of jargon and slang.
3. Answer the questions 1) Why is the United States compared with a ‘melting pot’?
2) Why do many immigrants come to the USA?
3) What is the main aim of upbringing in the USA?
4) What do Americans think of people’s equality?
5) What do you know about Americans’ behaviour in public?
6) What kind of person is respected by Americans? Why?
7) How can you describe a typical American workaholic?
8) What is the best praise in the USA? Why?
9) What do Americans think about other countries?
10) What are Americans especially proud of? Why?
4. Summarize all the information you have learnt and make up a short description of a typical American (10-12 sentences)

5. Read what other people think about Americans and comment on their opinions. Are there any statements you can’t agree with? Americans are so dedicated to their jobs.’ (Jamelia)
‘Too many of us look upon Americans as dollar chasers. This is a cruel libel, even if it is reiterated thoughtlessly by the Americans themselves.’ (Albert Einstein)
‘Americans are very friendly and very suspicious, that is what Americans are and that is what always upsets the foreigner, who deals with them, they are so friendly how can they be so suspicious they are so suspicious how can they be so friendly but they just are.’ (Gertrude Stein)
Americans love to fight. All real Americans love the sting of battle.’ (George S. Patton)
Americans are so enamored of equality that they would rather be equal in slavery than unequal in freedom.’ (Alexis de Tocqueville)
‘As one digs deeper into the national character of the Americans, one sees that they have sought the value of everything in this world only in the answer to this single question: how much money will it bring in?’ (Alexis de Tocqueville)
‘I think the American Dream says that anything can happen if you work hard enough at it and are persistent, and have some ability. The sky is the limit to what you can build, and what can happen to you and your family.’ (Sanford I. Weill)

Read the information about some famous Americans and say who they are. Choose any well-known person from the list and prepare a report about him. (1930-) A former American astronaut, test pilot, university professor, and United States Naval Aviator. He was the first person to set foot on the Moon in 1969. As he did so, he said, That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.’
(1917-1963) The 35th President of the United States, serving from 1961 until his assassination in 1963. He was assassinated on November 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas. He was an extremely popular president as he was young, attractive, and good at speaking in public. He was known to have had affairs with several women, including Marilyn Monroe.
(1862-1910). A US writer of short stories, whose real name was William Sydney Porter. His stories are known for treating the everyday life of working people. They are full of humour, wordplay, warm characterization and clever twist endings.
(1915-1998) An American singer and actor. He became successful in the 1940-s, and is known especially for the song My Way. He was a member of the Rat Pack and fraternized with celebrities and presidents. He was also a dramatic actor and performed in From Here to Eternity and The Man with the Golden Arm. He also starred in such musicals as High Society, Pal Joey, Guys and Dolls and On the Town.
(1954-) An American actor, dancer, singer, producer and writer, best known for his leading roles in films such as Saturday Night Fever (1977), Grease (1978), Pulp Fiction (1994) and Primary Colors (1997).
(1879-1955) A US physicist and mathematician who was born in Germany. He is best known for his theory of relativity and specifically mass-energy equivalence, expressed by the equation E = mc2. He received the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics for his services to Theoretical Physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect.
(1899-1961) An American writer and journalist. His novels include A Farewell to Arms, For Whom the Bell Tolls and others. He received the Pulitzer Prize in 1953 for The Old Man and the Sea, and the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954. Many of his works are now considered classics of American literature.
(1963-) A retired American professional basketball player and active businessman. He was considered to be the best player of the 1980s and 1990s, helping his Chicago Bulls team win five NBA Championships. In 1997 he appeared in the film Space Jam.
A. What is a typical American like? Describe him using some adjectives from the table if you find them suitable. responsible, self-reliant, independent, hard-working, ambitious, informal, punctual, friendly, efficient, practical, persistent, well-organized, open, honest, patriotic, diligent, active, pushy, realistic, egocentric, self-confident

B. Read the text ‘What Are Americans Like?’ What is the main difference between Americans and other nations?


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