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Comparing Life in Different Locations of the United States

Comparing Life in Different Locations of the United States
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  • 0:01 Life and Culture in…
  • 3:30 Cultural Regions
  • 6:02 City vs Country
  • 7:10 Lesson Summary
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Instructor: David Wood

David has taught Honors Physics, AP Physics, IB Physics and general science courses. He has a Masters in Education, and a Bachelors in Physics.

After watching this video, you will be able to describe in general terms life in the United States and how it varies by region, city versus country, and socioeconomic status. A short quiz will follow.

Life and Culture in the United States

What is life like in the United States? American culture is the most diverse culture on the planet, enriched by beliefs, cultures and values from all over the world. It is practically the definition of a melting pot. Describing an entire 'way of life' is a topic for whole lifetimes of study, and so it's impossible to do it justice in a single video. But there are still certain aspects of life in the United States and certain generalizations that we can discuss.

The United States is a country that has opened its doors to immigrants since its early days. The famous quote on a plaque on the Statue of Liberty is a message of welcome that typifies what the U.S. stood for when it was born. It reads:

'Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:

I lift my lamp beside the golden door.'

But what did the millions who have read those welcoming words find when they arrived? There are many key values that are at the heart of the culture of the United States, but freedom, equality, individualism, materialism, and patriotism are perhaps the most obvious.

Born in rebellion against British rule, freedom and self-determination is at the heart of American life. In fact, freedom is taken so far that the government is reticent to interfere in the lives of its citizens, even to protect them from other citizens and corporations. The help and protection that the United States government provides to its citizens is far less than in other Western countries, largely because of the independent, proud individualistic streak that influences American politics.

Life in the United States is focused around the individual striving for their own personal goals or the goals of their own family: striving for the so-called American Dream. Those goals invariably involve material goods in some way, whether the desire to own a home, or a new car, or a better life for their family. Americans value hard work highly, and this translates into one of the most successful economies in the world. However, that hard work also means that Americans tend to be overworked, and most lack appropriate amounts of sick leave and vacation time (compared to other parts of the world).

One of the most obvious aspects of American life is an extreme sense of optimism: optimism that life will get better if you only work hard enough, a belief that America stands for greater ideals (the fight against tyranny, defenders of the oppressed), faith that the American people can do great things and that God has a plan (America is after all a country of great religious belief, with between 74-92% claiming a belief in God).

But the truth is that American culture varies. It varies by ethnicity: life in the U.S. is influenced by Western, African, Native American, Latin American (especially Mexican), and Asian (especially Korean and Japanese) cultures among others. It varies by socioeconomic status: rich people in the United States have the best standard of living in the world, but the poor can get trapped in cycles of poverty far stronger than other Western countries. And it varies by region and whether you live in a city or in the country.

Cultural Regions

While this part of the video will be awash with generalizations and stereotypes, American culture definitely varies by region.

The New England region (specifically the states of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont) was originally populated by Protestants escaping persecution and has given us town meetings and many other political structures. The difficult farming environment, combined with the cultural influences of Irish, English, and French immigrants, has given the people a certain grit and cynicism, which is distinctive.

The Southern United States, often called 'the Bible Belt' is distinctive for its evangelical Protestantism and conservative politics - church attendance is higher here than elsewhere in the country. This part of the country also prides itself on its hospitality: friendly people, good food, and comfortable environments. The historical differences between the South and other parts of the United States were so pronounced (including social tensions, economic tensions, and slavery in particular), that they led to the American Civil War.

The West Coast of the United States is another distinctive region. This area is often called the 'Left Coast' because of its socially liberal politics and highly tolerant nature. It is also the most secular part of the country. The West Coast is home to Hollywood and produces a lot of creative material. There are also hot-spots for modern technology, including Silicon Valley in Northern California and companies like Boeing and Microsoft who make their home in the Pacific Northwest. Life on the West Coast is generally more laid-back, with a 'live-and-let-live' attitude.

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