Introduction: Understanding the Culture of the United States

Culture hides much more than it reveals, and strangely enough what it hides, it hides most effectively from its own participants. Years of study have convinced me that the real job is not to understand foreign culture but to understand our own.

Preview Vocabulary

A. Every chapter of American Ways contains many words from the Academic

Word List (AWL).* Notice the AWL words in italics as you work with a

partner to discuss the following questions.

1. If a country has great ethnic diversity, would you expect to find many people who speak different languages and have different customs?

2. Could planning a visit to another country motivate someone to learn a foreign language?

3. Should immigrants be required to learn the language of their new country before they become citizens?

4. How could you learn about the customs and traditions for a holiday in another country?

‘See page 285 for an explanation of the AWL and how to use it. Some of these words are key to understanding the chapter reading.

5. If there are more people in the United States who speak English than Spanish, which is the dominant language in the United States?

6. Is the climate of a country a significant factor in the daily lives of the people? Why?

B. There are five AWL words in the quotation by Edward T. Hall at the

beginning of the chapter. Read the quotation and find the words with the following meanings. Write each word next to its meaning.

________________ 1._ made someone think that something is true

________________ 2._ shows something that was hidden

________________ 3._ ideas, beliefs, and customs

________________ 4._ work

________________ 5. people who are taking part in an activity

Preview Content

A. Before you read the chapter, think about what you know about the "culture" of a country. Work with a partner and answer the questions.

1. What is the culture of a country? If someone asked you to describe your country’s culture, which of these would you mention?















Anything else?___________________________________________________

2. Do you agree with the quotation by Edward T. Hall? Do people really not understand their own culture? What aspects of a country’s culture are the hardest to understand?

B. Look at the pictures, charts, and graphs in this chapter, and read the headings. Then predict three topics you think this chapter will discuss.




Life in the United States

1 I people are naturally curious about each other, and when we meet people from JL different countries, we want to know many things:

• What is life like in their country?

• What kind of houses do they live in?

• What kind of food do they eat?

• What are their customs?

2 If we visit another country, we can observe the people and how they live, and we can answer some of these questions. But the most interesting questions are often the hardest to answer:

• What do the people believe in?

• What do they value most?

• What motivates them?

• Why do they behave the way they do?

image004In trying to answer these questions about Americans, we must remember two things: (1) the immense size of the United States, and (2) its great ethnic diversity. It is difficult to comprehend the size of the country until you have tried to travel from one city to another. If you got in a car in New York and drove to Los Angeles, stopping only to get gas, eat, and sleep, it would take you four or five days. It takes two full days to drive from New York to Florida. On a typical winter day, it might be raining in Washington, D. C., and snowing in New York and Chicago, while it is warm enough to swim in Los Angeles and Miami. It is not difficult to imagine how different daily life might be in such different climates, or how lifestyles could vary in cities and towns so far apart.

The other significant factor influencing American life— ethnic diversity—is probably even more important. Aside from the Native Americans who were living on the North American continent when the first European settlers arrived, all Americans came from foreign

Countries ОГ their ancestors ROB ROGERS reprinted by permission of United Features Syndicate, Inc.

did. (Incidentally,[2] some Native

Americans are still members of separate and distinct Indian nations, each with its own language, culture, traditions, and even government.) In the 1500s, Spain established settlements in Florida, California, and the Southwest, and France claimed large territories in the center of the North American continent. But from the 1600s to the birth of the United States in 1776, most immigrants were from northern

Europe, and the majority were from England. It was these people who shaped the values and traditions that became the dominant, traditional culture of the United States.

Updated: 18th July 2015 — 3:16 pm