The United States is a vast country and is made up of a diverse group of people. Life can vary greatly from region to region. Still, a unique lifestyle in America has developed over time. Expats will likely find Americans in general to be a friendly, optimistic, and generous bunch. However, some Americans can sometimes appear ignorant about the world outside their borders.
Each person’s experience will vary, but here are some common aspects of the American lifestyle.
The nuclear family unit is more common in the United States. Although there are families made up of any combination of relationships. Whereas before marriage prior to having children used to be the norm, unmarried couples and single parents are very common now. American families value individuality, and the stigmas of the past towards different types of families are fast becoming a thing of the past. Still, multiple generations of family members living together are not common.
As children grow older, they become more independent from their families. Americans are considered adults at the age of 18, which coincides with high school graduation. It is normal for young adults to live alone, even if you are in the same city as their parents. America’s focus on personal happiness means that it is common for families to live apart due to work or personal preference.
Americans work hard, clocking in more hours than any other industrialized country. Part of this standard is the idea of the American Dream and that you can achieve anything if you work hard enough. It is probably the most valuable part of life in the US to the point that a job is almost synonymous with a person’s identity. In fact, contrary to many cultures, asking a person what they do for a living is a common question and is not considered rude or intrusive. In American work life, earning money is the ultimate goal and it is not considered bad taste to say so.
An unfortunate result of this lifestyle is that many Americans don’t get a lot of paid vacations (that is, annual vacations), or even when they do, they don’t always use them. Paid time off is an added benefit in the US and companies are not required to grant annual leave to employees. Entry-level jobs generally come with 3-5 vacation days per year, with additional days added based on the number of years of service. Also, if the company opens on a holiday, such as Christmas or New Years’, they can require their employees to work on those days.
American values largely shape the way people live and relate to one another. Because individuality is considered sacred, many ex-pats will have no problem living their lives as they please.
In general, Americans value the right to do what they want over almost anything else. They prefer to do things their own way and see themselves in control of their own destinies. As stated in the Constitution of the United States, Americans believe that happiness is a right.
Americans are very informal in their speech, dress, and demeanor. Addressing by one’s own name, such as introducing people by their first name or addressing older people by their first name. And sitting down without being asked, are considered normal behaviors. This is not considered rude and is more a result of its equal value.
Frank and direct
Americans prefer to get straight to the point. They value eye contact, frankness, and prefer to address issues by arguing about them. Personal opinions are very important. Additionally, questioning of ideas and open discourse on any topic is encouraged, especially in an academic setting.
The American Constitution establishes the belief that everyone should be given the same opportunity. The United States has no monarchy or titles. Any naturally born citizen can run for public office. This belief has shaped Americans’ values of informality and the expectation of upward mobility.
While most would not be proud to acknowledge this, it must be said that Americans are the largest consumers in the world. The “bigger is better” mantra shapes the American way of life, and many ex-pats are surprised by restaurant portions, average household size, and American spending habits. Part of this is the result of the economic cost of the products in the country. Rather than fixing something that is broken, it is often cheaper to just buy a replacement.
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