Nelson Mandela - on Love and Hate

May his memory live on forever!


American Culture – Strange? Bizarre?

Well it depends on who you ask? Traditions vary widely around the world, and the ways of one society often seem downright wacky to others. Below are 10 traditions Americans take for granted, but that people in other countries often consider strange as written in an online article by Jessika Toothman.

Presidential Turkey Pardons

One pardon has become an annual tradition: the pardoning of the Thanksgiving turkey.  The National Turkey Federation has been gifting turkeys to presidents since 1947 but it was not until 1987 that the turkey was given a “presidential pardon.

Groundhog day is an American tradition to predict whether it’s either six more weeks of winter, or an early spring depending upon whether the groundhog sees his shadow or not. This tradition has been going on since the 1800s.  Who needs weather satellites when we have woodchuck?

Black Friday Shopping Sprees – Most of those shopping on Black Friday are civilized but there have been rare cases, of riots or deadly stampedes over a certain deal or a particular product.

The U.S. is the only industrialized nation that does not use the metric system even though Congress originally authorized the use of the Metric System in 1866 and even passed a Metric Conversion Act of 1975 but American people have continued to use, miles, pounds, ounces, etc.

Then there are Trick or Treating; Punpkin Chunkin; Holding Trials of the Year; Celebrating the American Dream; Watching Superbowl Commercials; and Tailgating.

 “If this bald eagle is pursuing the American Dream, we’d wager he’s pretty close to reaching it.”  Although it is debatable whether the notion of the American Dream exists, this idea is still passed down to each generation as being attainable.

American Culture – Thanksgiving Family Traditions

Happy American Thanksgiving! A few traditions and etiquette reminders
Happy American Thanksgiving! A few traditions and etiquette reminders

Happy Thanksgiving to Americans celebrating it. No doubt, there will be much feasting, spending time with family, and enjoying all sorts of traditions. The first Thanksgiving dates back to 1621 when the Wampanoag Indians and Plymouth Colonists shared a harvest feast together. Although it’s been said that pilgrims used their hands to eat (not forks and knives, oh my!), many of the traditions have remained the same: namely eating copious amounts of delicious food and being thankful.

Michelle Donabedian, originally from Worcester Massachusetts, lives in London – she shares some of the American Thanksgiving traditions:

Family traditions on the day:

The oven ringing and basting the bird in the oven.  We seem to always roast a giant turkey.  I saw somewhere that the average size bird is 15 lbs.  You know Americans…There has to be too much on the table or it’s not enough.  Having the Macy’s Day Parade on television but no one watching.  The football game on television and the men watching.  Women in the kitchen.  Man of the house carving the turkey and when my Pop (grandfather) was alive, him stealing my apple pie a la mode by saying things like, ‘Did you see the bird in the yard?

Still another tradition that varies by cultural background but Turkey is the constant!  Holidays are great for bring friends and family together in a culture that is mostly individualistic.


Boy’s and Girl’s Club CEO goes undercover

Last week, I began to look closer at American Culture to see how other cultures view us.  This article about homelessness described a common cultural experience for many Americans and even though many people would like to ignore it, I think that we need to do more and spread the word as often as we can.  So I wanted to take the time to share this as part of my intercultural communication experience. is another article worth reading.   A running program for homeless people was started by one woman and has now expanded to six cities.  Using her own personal struggles with her father’s drug addictions, she was able to inspire homeless people one at a time, to a healthier body by running and in so doing, eventually regain a healthier life.   Below is an excerpt from the article:

“Running has always made me feel like I can do anything,” she says.

She persuaded the director of the shelter to let her start a running club. She brought the handful of interested residents new shoes and running clothes donated by a local store. She made them sign a contract, promising to attend three mornings a week. They had to come with a positive attitude; they had to respect their teammates.

“I demanded nothing but excellence and no excuses,” she says. “It was a 100 percent commitment. Those were the rules.”

Are You Culturally Competent?

“Personality describes qualities individuals may have, such as being outgoing or shy, internal characteristics, but identity requires some element of choice.”  The Limitations of Inferring Identity from Style. Daily Life through History. Cvitanic, Marilyn. “ABC-CLIO, 2013. Web. 5 Nov. 2013.

            Culture which includes the type of clothing we chose is an example of how we identify with a particular group and it is important that we understand this choice so that we can respect the choice of other ethnic or religious groups.   In order to do this, we must first examine our cultural views and how it relates to one’s identity.  It was humorous to read the research information about American culture in terms of clothing but it also revealed a lot about how we view other cultures.   What was most revealing in my studies of other cultures was that we live in a culture that is so diverse that we sometimes overlook some very basic things such as the various type of food, the religious practices and traditions.   This tends to desensitize us to other cultures as most people become assimilated to our culture over time.  It is different when you attend a cultural event or place such as the Indian Festival or the BuddhistTemple or even the Ethiopian Restaurant and experience first hand what it must be like for many people who have migrated to the U.S.

To me culture defines the world we live in and what we consider normal behavior for a group of people.  Culture influences ones behavior, beliefs, values, and worldview.   Culture influences day to day life from the time we get up and get dress to leave for our day, what we eat or don’t eat for breakfast and how we get to our destination.  Even our destination is dictated by culture, whether you attend school or go to a job or both.  I have been always lived in a diverse cultural environment and being in a class where many of the students are from various cultural backgrounds was a great experience and an example of how diverse our world really is.  Even though we live in the same country, our backgrounds are very different and I am aware of how it may seem when we point out the differences of any particular group.  Most of the time when someone is regarded as different, it is with a negative undertone and it contributes to division among the groups.  I am sure that there are as many people who have experienced living a multi-cultural life whether they are aware of it or not.  How have your cultural experiences contributed to the identity you chose? 

Do Clothing Make The Man?

Whether it is the all American Jeans and T-shirt, the Buddhist Civara (orange yellow robes), Hindu Saris, Ethopian Shemmas, Rastafarian dread hair (representing the Lion of Judah) or clothing in red green and yellow adopted from an Ethiopian Emperor, Muslim Hijab, Pakistani shalwar khamis or the Afghani burqa, Christian Priest, Nuns and pastor robes or the Jewish Kippah (head covering), all cultures have a dress that they identify with. In the U.S. and most western cultures, style or cultural wear is widely varied but with so many different ethnic groups, clothing is still one of the main ways that many use to identify with a certain group. Some of the groups are religious, others related to financial status but many are just personal style. I chose this picture because I believe it represents how we view cultures other than our own and many of us believe that our culture is normal but others also see us as different and sometimes a little strange. Have you seen the “Wrecking Ball” Video? That can easily become a representation of U.S. Culture to people around the world.

Leave a comment on what you consider your cultural style. My research just listed varied styles for U.S. Cultural clothing and the reference to jeans and t-shirt made me smile. I would love to have your input.