US-American cultural characteristics

The main thing is the belief in success – and in the American dream. In addition, equality and equal opportunities as well as creativity, helpfulness and friendliness are important.

Believing in success

In many areas American culture has been shaped by Protestant working moral which distinguishes itself by personal responsibility, self-monitoring, endurance, the value of hard work, advance planning and honesty. If you try hard enough you will be successful. What counts is the result. Hard work alone is not acknowledged. The expression “nice try” should therefore never be understood as a compliment in the USA.

Thousands have proved that it is possible to have great success. There are many stories in the USA of rags to riches, from the workshop in the garage to the stock exchange, from bodybuilder to Governor or from peanut farmer to President. To name just a few of the big names: Bill Gates and Microsoft, Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook, Jerry Yang and Yahoo and Steve Jobs and Apple.

Anyone who is not successful first time round gets a second or third chance in the USA. Henry Ford, for example, went bankrupt three times before he established his world-wide concern. The American bankruptcy laws allow a person or a company to get back on their feet.

Equality and equal opportunities

In the American Way of Life equality and equal opportunities are of great importance. In 1961 the system of Affirmative Action, positive discrimination, was introduced, in order to create equal opportunities. The law states that a person’s opportunities may not be impaired by his race, the color of his skin, religion, beliefs, nationality, ancestry, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, age or disability. Minorities therefore receive a head start because performance requirements are lowered, for example when applying for a place at university or when applying for a job in the public sector.


The Americans are often labelled as having no culture but what about their creativity? The arts, creative expression which is generated in freedom, is a great cultural value. If we look at the creativity produced in the film industry, in music or in art there, or the new developments in the IT sector – if that is not creative culture what is?

Helpfulness and friendliness

The Americans are extremely helpful. In pioneering days mutual support was essential for the settlers to survive. Even now, it goes without saying that you are neighborly, i.e. a good neighbor. It is perfectly normal to ask next door for a few eggs or some sugar.

Certain things may sound particularly friendly to us but this is normal conversational tone in the USA. Many pleasant remarks are basically flowers of speech which are expected.

“How are you?”

“How’s life at home?”

“How was your trip?”

“You’ve got to come around the house some time.”

“Let’s get together for a drink some time.”

You should give only positive answers to questions like these. And do not believe invitations until they are accompanied by a precise suggestion for a date.

Johanna Marius

+49 (0)711 722 468 44
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