I’m referring to the USA, and often Canada as well since it is so close geographically and culturally to its southern neighbor.
They have practices which are totally unknown anywhere else, but seem to be completely oblivious of the fact that the rest of the world knows nothing about things they take for granted. Perhaps this is true of all cultures, but then the rest of the world, by and large, don’t export their culture abroad so much as Americans.
Many of the practices and strange expressions center around their schools and universities. Thus we have songs about ‘class rings’ which apparently are exchanged by pupils of the opposite sex (maybe the same sex too nowadays) who ‘date’. Dating is also unknown in most schools outside the United States, as are Proms where students apparently dress up to the nines and ‘date’ each other. At my college the nearest we got to this were end of term dances where the girls all danced with the teachers to records, the boys all sat round the school hall bored to tears. None of the boys in my class ‘dated’.
As to ‘class rings’ I imagined this must refer to a ring of drug-pushers in the American schools, but apparently it’s some piece of cheap jewelry (or bling in modern British parlance) students get on graduation. In British high schools we never graduated either, so there was no graduation day.
Then there are Frats or Fraternities in American universities, with dubious ‘hazing’ practices, often with heavy enforced gay initiation rites, also unknown outside North America. Not to mention strange words like ‘sophomore’ to describe first year students I believe.
But Americans are a strange bunch altogether. They celebrate Labor Day in September, when everyone else in the world celebrates it on May 1st. Americans celebrate Mothers’ Day in May when it is actually, of course, Mothering Sunday a few weeks before Easter. They even celebrate Christmas in November, or at least something very similar with turkey, etc. – they call it Thanksgiving.
Latest thing I discovered on the Internet about USA are adult video arcades. I’ve visited that country many times, but never had occasion to visit these places apparently attached to sex shops over there. Adult video arcades are also uniquely North American showing mainly straight porn, apparently, but frequented by gays, bisexuals and heterosexuals who often participate in sexual activities in these places. If you want to know more look it up on Wikipedia (adult video arcade), it’s quite fascinating and seems to take the place of what was known as ‘cottaging’ in Britain, a practice which has largely died out along with the prevalence of many public conveniences.
The 1950s culture coming out of America epitomized their strange teenage culture of exchanging class rings, driving automobiles, dating and attending drive-in movies. All activities virtually unknown to British teenagers at the time. Very few teenagers drove cars, and indeed a family would be quite well-off to own a car.
Most strange of all, perhaps, is the amount of food Americans consume. Go to any American restaurant or self-service establishment and you’ll be amazed at what they serve up. I have vivid recollections of a coach tour in 1979 when we stopped at a restaurant in New England, ordered roast beef and a joint turned up on each of our plates big enough to feed a family of four for several days. When we pointed this out to the waitress her attitude was that we poor Brits must be starving! On a trip to Memphis in the 1990s when I ordered steak no less than seven turned up on the plate. As for sandwiches, well ask in a New York Deli for a beef sandwich and after going thru a list of about 50 different types of bread to choose from, an enormous sandwich will turn up with half a joint of beef sliced up inside it.
Not content with guzzling about 10 times their share of food, hence the enormous size of some Americans, they are fast depleting the world’s oil supplies by totally relying on motor vehicles in most places outside the big cities like Chicago and New York. I’m sorry to say this practice has been adopted in Britain as well, with many families having several cars. The ‘school run’ has become one thing deemed essential to have a car for, when we had to walk to school and it did us no harm.
There are many things I like about America, but there is no doubt it is a unique culture, and one which is exported thru films, TV programs, etc. thruout the world.
Oh, and if you’re wondering why I use what is considered American spelling there’s a blog on this – just search under ‘Spelling’ if you’re interested. I actually choose how to spell from the many variations listed in the Scrabble and other dictionaries. I use British spellings for some words.