Mt. Vernon Township High School
Mt. Vernon, Illinois
Note: This is a multimedia entry that also includes an audio essay and a collage.
"An American is anyone who lives in the United States of America. Whether it is an immigrant or a natural born citizen, they are an American." My second grade teacher used to say this to us when we were in our Social Science class. When I heard these words, I felt an unusual joy. But this joy was not for me, it was for my parents. As I am a natural born citizen, my parents are immigrants. At a young age, I could not quite make out if I was an American or an Asian Indian. My life would always go two ways. When I was at school, I felt like an American. I spoke, dressed, and acted like my classmates. But at home, it was a different story. We spoke a different language and my grandparents always wore different clothes.
At school, I always got along with the other students and as far as I can remember, they liked me. I was treated just like everyone else and everyone, including my teachers, was nice to me. Sometimes I am put in the 'spotlight' when someone asks about my culture and traditions. It is no big deal because it does not bother me. If I am from a different nationality, I will get questions asked about my culture. Sometimes I like it when others ask me about my culture. It shows individuality in me. I do not think there is anything wrong with being different or individual. I am glad that school is not a problem for me because education is important to my family and me.
I often ask my father many times why he came to America. He always says the same thing for better education and more opportunities. Whatever he has done till today and will ever do is for my siblings and me. Because of that, I do not ask him anything else. This way I do not feel guilty of reminding him of his homeland, India. After a hard life in India, my father came here so he can give his children a good education and not give them hardship. I know there is no way I can pay him back for all he does. That is why I want to fulfill his dreams. He wishes to see all his children happy and well settled after we start our careers. And, I know I can make him happy in many other ways, but I want to make him very happy by becoming a doctor. After he knows we are successful, he will be relived and I will be too.
Education is just one area in which America has opened its doors. America is full of different kinds of people and nationalities. I feel as if I am not the only one from a different culture. Along with me, there are millions of other people who live in two worlds. That is the good thing about America. This country gives chances to people to find their spot in this world. I am just one out of a million. In America people can practice their traditions as individuals, rather than just one nationality practicing the same tradition.
In my family, we have many traditions that are not like the traditions of other people. A common tradition is taking off our shoes when entering our homes. When I go to my friends' homes, I sometimes forget they leave their shoes on, and so I start to take off my shoes. Then I remember, so I just follow them into their homes, like everything's okay, nothing went wrong. But when they come to my home, they always take their shoes off, because it is our tradition. And, for that, I respect them. Also, every night we sit together at the dinner table where homemade Indian food is served. We are vegetarians, so there is no meat in the house. Every night, after dinner, we sit in front of God and pray to him for safety, happiness, and for him to always be with us.
Then there are those special days, the holidays. Unfortunately, our holidays do not consist of Thanksgiving or Christmas, but consist of the holidays celebrated in India. Such holidays include Navrati, where we dress up in our cultural costumes and dance a cultural dance all night long at a community gathering. A holiday that follows Navrati is Diwali. This is a five-day celebration for the New Year. Then there are colorful holidays, like Holi. This is when everyone dresses in white and throws around forty different colored powders or colored water at each other to show the absence of darkness.
Here in America, we celebrate Navrati only on weekends. We call up friends and relatives on Diwali to wish them a prosperous New Year. On Holi, if we get lucky, we get to go to a temple close by to celebrate for an hour or two. This is because we do not have off for such holidays here. It is usually on weekdays, some people have to go to work, and others have to go to school. When I was young, I did not know why we got off for holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas, but not for holidays like Navrati and Diwali. As I grew older, I came to realize the differences and learned to adjust to the circumstances.
Although there are so many differences in my two cultures, I never let myself mix them up. I leave my American culture outside my home and I leave my Indian culture inside my home. Sometimes I find it hard when I am stuck in the doorway. I remember what my father said once at the dinner table. He said, "Yes, I grew up in India, and all my childhood memories are there. If something happens in India, it will upset me. But I am also living in America. America has also given me a home, so now I must worry about America more than India, as I live here." So, just as my father has accepted America, I must accept my American way of life, but I will never forget my Indian customs.
Return to America, My Home Essay Contest winners
All essays on American culture generally explore the customs and traditions of the USA, a country with distinct cultural background encompassing food preferences, language, religious affiliation and much more. American culture would be of great interest to everyone who is fond of learning new things about the world around. Current American culture essay will discuss the most peculiar aspects of the US customs and traditions. The following essay on American culture will deal with such elements of the US culture as language, religion, American style and food, music, sports and some others. The paper will start from providing general background to make it clear to the readers that American culture encompasses various aspects that will be briefly analyzed in the following essay about American culture. Let us discuss the key aspects distinguishing the culture of one of the world’s most developed countries – the United States of America.
- First, it is important to provide a few general facts about the USA. The United States is known as the third largest state in the world. Since the very beginning, the USA has been home to people with diverse cultural backgrounds. It is known that almost every region in the world has somehow contributed to the American culture, as this country has long been a country of immigrants, since the times when it was colonized by the British. Therefore, US culture has been changed and shaped by such nations as Native Americans, Africans, Asians and Latin Americans. It needs to be noted that America is widely considered a “melting pot” where diverse cultures have been interacting with one another and bringing something new to the local culture. Just like the nations across the world have greatly influenced the American culture, nowadays, the US nation influences the cultures of other countries all over the globe. Some immigrants coming to the USA keep some of their traditions and language, but integrate into the American lifestyle in a number of ways. At the same time, lots of immigrants bring something new to the American culture so that it continues to change and evolve.
- The next issue to be discussed is the language of the USA. According to the American government, the United States has no official language. This is because nearly every language of the world is widely used in the USA, including Spanish, French, German and Chinese. These are some of the most frequently used non-English languages that are widely spread across the USA. 90% of the whole population, however, understands and uses English language, and most of the official businesses are managed in English as well. It is estimated that over 300 languages are commonly used in the USA. These languages are divided into several groups according to their prevalence across the territory of the country.
- Another cultural aspect to be discussed is religion. The USA is known to practice almost every world religion, which is explained by the rights of US citizens to choose whatever religion they like. This phenomenon is known as religious freedom. Around 80% of the population identify themselves with Christian religion, while more than 10% of US citizens claim that they do not adhere to any religion at all. It was also found that the second most commonly identified religion in the USA is Judaism with nearly 2% of the population affiliating with it. At the same time, Islamic religion is not that common, with less than 1% of the population identifying themselves as Muslims.
- As for the American style of clothing, it varies according to the social status of a person, the region he/she lives in, his/her occupation and climatic conditions. Jeans, baseball caps, boots, sneakers and often cowboy headwear are among the pieces of clothing that are most commonly associated with the American style. Such American brands as Calvin Klein, Victoria Secret and Ralph Lauren have long become known all over the world being especially popular in their country of origin. American fashion is largely influenced by the style chosen by celebrities as well as the one reflected in mass media. The fashion sales in America reach nearly $200 billion a year.
- Another aspect to be analyzed is American food. This aspect raises concern among Europeans and other nations, because American food is known mostly for its unhealthy qualities and the use of genetic modification. Such American foods as hamburgers, potato chips, hot dogs and meat loaf are among the most widely known examples of traditional American meals. Apple pie is also very popular with Americans being an authentic part of the US cuisine. The types of foods vary depending on the region. Southern manner of cooking is commonly known as “American comfort food”. It includes such meals as fried chicken, corn bread and greens. The cuisine of Texas has been influenced by the Mexican and Spanish styles of cooking. It ranges from burritos to shredded cheese and chili. It is also common for Americans to eat various snacks such as dried meats and many more.
- As for such cultural aspect as sports, the United States is widely known as a sports-conscious state. Every region of the USA has thousands of fans who are fond of baseball, football, basketball and many other kinds of sports. It is common to consider that baseball is an inherently American kind of sports. It has been developed during the period of British colonization and has ever since become one of the most favorite pastimes for the American nation. It seems that the popularity of baseball in America will hardly ever wear out. In the USA, baseball is as popular as football in most European countries.
- Finally, there is a need to discuss the diversity of arts in the United States. The arts culture of the US extends far beyond television shows and movies. This can be proved by the fact that New York is known for being home to Broadway, and the whole American nation has a very distinct theatrical history. The folk art of Americans is revealed in the popularity of hand-made items. As for American music, it encompasses many styles and genres, including jazz, western and country music as well as rock ‘n’ roll and blues.
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