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americans and their " culture"

(218 Posts)
Cod Wed 16-Mar-05 07:20:51

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SeaShells Wed 16-Mar-05 07:26:40

Might be something to do with the fact that there isn't really such a thing as a true American, the majority of Americans decended from other nationalities who went there to live. IYSWIM.

Cod Wed 16-Mar-05 07:27:46

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SeaShells Wed 16-Mar-05 07:32:36

I don't try to understand the Americans, they are a funny bunch, well my great grandfather was Italian and my DP grandfather was Polish, my children are British, not polish/italian whatever!

Catbert Wed 16-Mar-05 07:33:40

I agree with SS - Everyone born and bred in an "old" country knows that if they looked far enough back across the generations, something really interesting was happening. So much so, they don't even have to bother looking! They just know it...

Probably draws attention away from the ethnic cleansing and destruction of the original "american" culture which happened when those same great grandaddies arrived on the continent only a couple of hundred years ago...

Oops - did I say that out loud?

NotQuiteCockney Wed 16-Mar-05 07:35:29

Canadians are even more like this, in my experience (as one). I think it's all about not having enough history and culture in your real country, so you have to lay claim to the history of whatever country your grandparents come from.

America does have a concept of being a big "melting pot", where everyone becomes American, but it doesn't seem to be a very strong culture. (Canada is meant to be a "vertical mosaic" or something, meaning we all keep our cultures. Canadian cities often have designated Italian, Portuguese, etc areas.)

NotQuiteCockney Wed 16-Mar-05 07:37:11

Catbert, you're right, part of it is about ignoring the whole Native thing. Which everyone likes to do as much as possible. I remember someone in school saying "my family came over in 16-whatever, blah blah blah". The response "oh, you're recent immigrants then? Some of my family came over twenty-five thousand years ago" really boggled him. (I'm not significantly Native, but I am a bit.)

skerriesmum Wed 16-Mar-05 08:02:00

Cod I think it's pretty silly myself. I'm Canadian and I would never say I'm Scottish/English/Irish-Canadian. One of my best friends is a Cassidy and she describes herself as Irish which makes me laugh as she's never been here (I live in Dublin!) The last census reported the highest ever percentage of people describing themselves as just Canadian and not any other ethnic group, so this is changing, despite the fact that Canada encourages multiculturalism; (you don't have to renounce your own culture to become Canadian.)

mamadadawahwah Wed 16-Mar-05 08:51:08

The biggest "culture" in america today has to be "hillbilly" culture! How else did they vote in George Bush?

Cod Wed 16-Mar-05 09:19:03

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NotQuiteCockney Wed 16-Mar-05 09:21:08

Oh, Cod, everyone does that. Isn't Greg Rusedski English now? Officially?

flashingnose Wed 16-Mar-05 09:40:55

The most patriotic British and Irish people I've ever met are long term expats.

Cod Wed 16-Mar-05 09:42:17

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flashingnose Wed 16-Mar-05 09:44:51

Exactly .

Caligula Wed 16-Mar-05 09:48:06

I think it's also to do with how others perceive you. For a long time, the fact that you were an Irish Catholic/ Italian/ Jew/ African/ Hispanic defined you as far as your fellow citizens were concerned; so it's not surprising that you then defined yourself according to that label.

Janh Wed 16-Mar-05 09:59:08

Plus the new immigrants tended to stick together when they arrived and live in the same part of town and support each other...as British expats still do in many places!...and because there were so many countries of origin it will have been important for them to be able to be with people who had the same cultural background and understood the jokes . And it gets handed down. Cultural heritage is a very different matter for an immigrant society than one like ours where the vast majority have lived on the same small island for generations.

It's not just in cities either. We once stopped at a cafe in a remote small town in Wisconsin called Lindstrom, where everybody was speaking Swedish and they had Swedish posters on the wall!

Frizbe Wed 16-Mar-05 10:03:50

Hmm interesting topic COD! I have a book you might like 'The United States in the Twentieth Century' Culture! It's part of an OU course I did a few years back on this exact subject.

I seem to remember the 'Melting Pot' theory along with 'Exceptionalism' Americas ideology that they are different from the rest of the world, which pre dated the locating and forming of America!! as being one of their particular issues....ie they're interlinked with a past, which on occassion they choose to forget or remember as they see fit....its long and complicated, but the books a good read if you fancy it?

Cod Wed 16-Mar-05 10:26:11

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bundle Wed 16-Mar-05 10:32:31

interesting cod. i'm reading The Plot Against America by Philip Roth (a what-if book, written as if Charles Lindbergh became president instead of Roosevelt) and there's a lot of Jewish-American (and other) culture stuff going on.

Cod Wed 16-Mar-05 10:43:47

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bundle Wed 16-Mar-05 11:13:26

hadn't seen that. where did you read it?

Cod Wed 16-Mar-05 11:16:26

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Juls Wed 16-Mar-05 11:59:15

Cod, I think your confusing National identity with Cultural identity.

All Americans are 100% Americans no matter how long or they've been there, or freshly arrived they are. As an American, when I lived there, I assumed everyone was American, no matter what accent, language they spoke, color of there skin was, etc - unless they said otherwise. That's the National identity.

All Americans have a Cultural identity too. When they say they are Italian American, they are not referring to the passport their ancestor carried around, they are referring to the traditions, the language, the food, the family attitudes, etc.

Because of this, it quite easy for Americans to be whatever / whatever Americans. This is far more ambiguous in Europe as nationality and culture are blurred together ... if someone says they are are British, you'd assume that's the passport they are holding, but if they said that with a French accent, they'd probably get a funny look.

Regarding when people become naturalized Americans, they are giving up their previous National Identity, not their Cultural one.

Hope that clears it up!

Cod Wed 16-Mar-05 14:50:23

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bundle Wed 16-Mar-05 14:53:49

gosh cod, there's a whole lindbergh hoax industry !

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