United States Culture and Traditions

Customs and traditions

According to Abbreviationfinder, the United States has long been perceived as the very image of a multicultural country, often called a melting pot, where the vast majority of residents have roots in other parts of the world. The regional variations and differences in habits between different social and ethnic groups are also large. At the same time, there is much that is considered to be typically American, both in the United States and abroad.

Many people see the typical American as walking, scary and a little burdus, but often also as informal, outspoken and accommodating – maybe two sides of the same coin. You often address and greet unknowns, for example in the elevator or in a queue, and engage in “small talk” more than an average Swedish. Often it is enough with a simple hi, hello or how are you today? – but it’s not uncommon for people to start talking about anything.

  • Countryaah: Overview of the capital city of United States, including information about its population, economy, geography, history and map.

If you greet someone more properly, a handshake is common. Close friends can be kissed. Otherwise, Americans usually keep a certain physical distance and, above all, men essentially avoid touching each other. However, it is important to smile and look people in the eye. One prefers to use first names and introduce everyone present to one another. Anyone who does not want to appear unpleasant or unpleasant should remember the small word please in all contexts where you order, ask or ask for something.

Gifts are given much like in Sweden, at birthdays, anniversaries and major holidays, like Christmas. If you are not invited to dinner, you may want to bring a chocolate box, a bottle of wine or a flower.

The family is important but often consists mainly of the nuclear family or a not too large family circle. The country is large and people move a lot, which makes it common for family members and relatives to live at great distances from each other.

Patriotism is strong and is expressed, among other things, in great reverence and diligent use of the flag, the “star banner”. In schools, the children swear their allegiance to the flag. Local patriotism is also common, many identify strongly with their local church or the local team in national sports such as baseball and American football.

Informal meals

Americans like to have informal invitations – in the garden or so. It is common for people to gather and eat more or less standing or sitting where there is space – not necessarily around a dining table. According to basic table condition you eat with the fork in your right hand, with the spikes downwards. It can be perceived as unpleasant to eat with the knife in hand – it is used only for cutting or slicing and is then set aside, while the fork is moved back to the right hand. However, many Americans do not care so much about this kind of habits, or are aware that it is different in Europe. When you have eaten clearly you put the knife and fork parallel to the right, as in Sweden.

The United States is the fast food homeland and many people eat a lot of ready-made foods with a high proportion of salt, fat and refined carbohydrates. But health food trends with a strong emphasis on useful and nutritious also have a strong position, especially in the big cities on both coasts. Like many other things, food trends in Sweden often come from the US: everything from past decades pizza and burgers to recent specialty coffee chains and bakeries.

Turkey is something of a national dish, often there is a family recipe for the filling. Potato mash and cranberry jelly are common accessories. Sweet potatoes are also popular. Grilled – barbecue – is usually especially summer time. Chicken and beef are eaten in large quantities and many forms. However, lamb is less common.

Apple pie

You end up with ice cream and maybe a pecan pie or apple pie. Just the apple pie, the Americans themselves perceive as a typical dish, in accordance with the expression as American as apple pie (as American as apple pie).

Americans eat a large breakfast more often than Swedes, with eggs and sausage, ham or bacon, for example; American platoons or poor knights. Schoolchildren often carry their lunch from home and it does not often consist of a moderate sandwich.

Of course, in a country as large as a continent and with such a marked immigrant history, there are also major regional variations in the diet. Mexican-inspired food is particularly common in the southwest, and on the coast toward the Gulf of Mexico in the south is the cajun kitchen, with very spicy touch and the casserolegumbo that can contain meat or seafood and vegetables. In Maine, far north-east, you are proud of your lobster. A common type of mussel soup – often with potatoes, vegetables and sometimes pork – is called clam chowder. Manhattan clam chowder has tomato base while a New England clam chowder is milk- or cream-based.


There are ten federal holidays that are celebrated to varying degrees. It is usually the laws of the state that govern when, for example, schools and government employees are vacant. Many of these are placed on the Monday closest to the “actual” day.

According to Countryaah, Thanksgiving day is, for many, the most important holiday and the holiday that is most clearly associated with large family meals. Here, the turkey – often a pig at many pounds – is usually in the center. Thanksgiving falls on the fourth Thursday in November and is originally a harvest festival on religious grounds. Nowadays, the feast is considered non-religious and celebrated by all.

Another important celebration and national day is July 4, when Americans celebrate the independence of Britain in 1776 (see Older History). It is a celebration day with fireworks, parades and parties.

Other federal holidays include Martin Luther King’s birthday (January), Presidents ‘Day (or Washington’s birthday, February), Memorial day (May), Labor day (September), Columbus day (October), and Veterans’ Day (November, in memory of they fell in the First World War). Columbus Day is still so called at the federal level, but in several states it has been renamed “Indigenous People’s Day” or similar.

New Year’s Day and Christmas Day are also federal holidays.

Memorial Day celebrates the memory of those who fell in the Civil War in the 19th century but often coincides with school closures and is considered above all as the unofficial beginning of summer. Labor day in early September is similarly considered to mark the end of summer.

Halloween that falls on October 31 is not a holiday but is now well known in Sweden as a day of ghost and horror themes as many dress up and children beg candy.

United States Immigration Statistics



Budget deficit agreement

The special congressional committee formed in October with representatives from both Republicans and Democrats announces that it has agreed on a budget proposal of just over a trillion dollars. This will reduce the deficit in the state budget over the next ten-year period. The parties have agreed on a compromise that involves neither tax increases that Republicans oppose, nor any cuts to the social welfare programs, which Democrats equally categorically rejected. On the other hand, about half of the planned savings for 2014, which would have been achieved through tough automatic cuts in defense spending, among other things, can be redirected to other areas and the financing of the state apparatus is saved for the next two years. The draft budget is approved in mid-December by the House of Representatives and on December 19 by the Senate.


Problems with health insurance reform

Technical problems and other hassles with the federal web portal where Americans should be able to sign up for health insurance as part of Obama’s health insurance reform lead to criticism of Obama and his government. Obama is also criticized for breaking a previous promise that Americans who were satisfied with their insurance could keep it, after insurance companies began to terminate old agreements that do not follow Obamacare rules. Only just over 100,000 people, one-fifth of what one expects, have signed up for health insurance on the site, which opened on October 1. In addition, nearly half of the states have indicated that they will be outside the planned Medicaid expansion, which would give many more low-income earners access to the program (see Social Conditions). The problems are leading to concerns among Democrats that the party will lose control of the Senate in next year’s congressional elections.

Rule change in the Senate

The Democrats in the Senate are pushing for a change in the rules that means that the minority party in the House can no longer delay the approval of White House candidates for various positions within the federal government. The decision is made after about 30 nominations for various positions have not received Senate approval because Republicans in the Senate delayed the process. Republicans are strongly critical of the rule change.

The Democrats win New York

Bill de Blasio takes over as mayor of New York after Michael Bloomberg while Terry Mc Auliffe wins over Tea Party-backed Republican Ken Cuccinelli in Virginia. The election in New Jersey results in moderate Republican Chris Christie being left on the governor post.


New Snowden revelations

Continued publication of material, which Edward Snowden leaked to journalist Glenn Greenwald (see also June 2013), in French Le Monde, German Der Spiegel and British The Guardian deepens the surveillance and intelligence scandal. The revelations that French citizens’ data communications were being monitored, that French diplomats were being intercepted, and that German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphone was being intercepted, along with another thirty heads of government and state, led to upset reactions abroad. Merkel calls Obama himself, who claims to be unaware of the interception. There will also be reports that the NSA has succeeded in gaining access to Google’s and other US data companies’ clouds. It turns out that European intelligence agencies have cooperated with the NSA in collecting data communications from non-Europeans in Europe. President Obama has appointed his own investigation into the surveillance business as well as the Senate.

Agreement on central government debt at the last moment

By October 17, the congressional debt ceiling needs to be raised by Congress in order for the United States to fund its payments abroad. Republican right-wingers, with Tea Party supporters at the forefront, want to condone such an approval against cuts to state spending on health care and welfare. The White House wants the budget proposal and the increase of the debt ceiling to be handled individually and not linked to any requirements. At the last moment, the hard-pressed Republicans are agreeing to an agreement that will open the federal administration and extend the state’s ability to borrow until early 2014. At the same time, new negotiations will begin on how to reduce the budget deficit.

Shutdown in Washington

After the House of Representatives failed to agree on a budget for 2014, the government closes parts of federal operations because of lack of funding for government agencies. This means that approximately 800,000 federal employees cannot go to work and receive no pay. Federal operations, including national parks, museums as well as food control and other surveillance, are being closed. Republicans, who are majority in the House of Representatives, have set a condition that the implementation of the president’s health insurance reform be postponed for a year to approve the budget. Both the Senate-dominated Senate and Obama refuse to agree to this.


Mass murder on military base

Twelve people are shot to death and several are injured by an IT technician and former reserve soldier at the Washington DC Headquarters. The man was later killed in gunfire with police. It is the second deadliest bullet hit on a U.S. military base, following that at Fort Hood Base in Texas in November 2009, when 13 people were killed by a major and army psychiatrists who were later sentenced to death.

Obama is acting against Syria

President Obama is seeking congressional support for a military attack on the Syrian regime after chemical weapons are reportedly used against rebel forces and civilians (see Syria: Calendar). The purpose of an attack would be to strike against military targets to mark for the Syrian regime, and other regimes that might consider using banned chemical weapons, that this is not tolerated. Obama is considering an attack even if the action would not be supported by the UN Security Council of Russia and China. However, he is persuaded by Russia to support a Russian proposal in the UN Security Council to allow the Syrian regime to destroy all its chemical weapons (see Syria: Calendar).


Snowden asylum in Russia

After spending more than a month in the transit hall at one of Moscow’s airports, US former security agent Edward Snowden (see June 2013) is granted temporary political asylum in Russia. He moves to a secret and “safe” place. He has been granted the right to stay in Russia for one year. Shortly thereafter, President Obama sets up a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin to be held in early September. The White House states in a statement that insufficient progress has been made in bilateral cooperation for a meeting to take place.


Spy defendant is found guilty

Spy-accused American soldier Bradley Manning is found to have leaked a large number of secret documents to the Wikileaks organization. Manning falls on a wide range of charges, but is released on the most serious charge: deliberately helping the al-Qaeda terrorist network. Manning, who was arrested in Iraq in 2010, announces the day after the verdict has fallen that she feels like a woman and henceforth wants to be called Chelsea instead of Bradley. The sentence announced in August will be 35 years in prison.

Detroit in bankruptcy

Detroit is filing for bankruptcy after decades of financial problems due to the failing car industry. The city owes its creditors a total of around $ 18 billion. Among the creditors are public employees and their pension funds. At the end of the year, a federal court decides that Detroit has the right to protection in accordance with US bankruptcy law and another year later, in December 2014, the city has withdrawn from bankruptcy.


HD rips up voting rights

June 25

The Supreme Court annulled with voting numbers 5-4 a supporting part of the Voting Rights Act Voting Rights Act of 1965. The justification from the majority of judges is that the discrimination against minorities that formed the law is no longer considered to prevail. The law was introduced to force states in the South to repeal laws and regulations that effectively excluded blacks from voting. With the change that is now being made, the door is opened for states to again make it difficult for citizens to vote, through voter suppression. This is done, for example, by requiring ID documents (where, for example, weapons licenses but not student IDs are approved), by making early voting difficult (which affects those working on Election Day) and by reducing the number of polling stations and making them less accessible. All the aggravating circumstances mainly affect minorities, low-paid and young people.

New climate measures

President Obama presents a new, more ambitious climate plan, specifically aimed at reducing carbon dioxide emissions from the country’s many coal and oil-fired power plants. Most of the measures in the climate plan can be requested by the government without the approval of Congress, but some require congressional decisions. Tighter climate change was one of Obama’s promises to voters during the presidential campaign in fall 2012. He now reiterates his promise to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 17 percent below the 2005 level before the end of the decade.

Prosecution against whistleblower Snowden

June 14

Edward Snowden, who disclosed US mass surveillance (see June 5, 2013), is charged with espionage and theft of state property. Snowden, who already moved from the US to Hong Kong in May, is requested to be extradited. But Snowden soon fled on, to Moscow. Snowden’s escape creates strong contradictions between the US and China as well as Russia.

Disclosure about mass surveillance

June 5

The British newspaper The Guardian publishes a first article revealing a comprehensive US surveillance program following a leak from Edward Snowden, a former employee of the CIA intelligence service and the National Security Agency (NSA) intelligence agency. Several articles follow in The Guardian, Washington Post and other newspapers in several countries. The revelations show that US authorities have collected huge amounts of telephone and Internet data from corporate giants such as Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Facebook and Verizon. The whole thing is managed through a special program called Prism, developed in 2007. The information leads to great discrepancies both in the US and abroad. Critics in the United States believe it is in violation of the US Constitution. Obama defends the program by having it approved by Congress on a regular basis.

China-USA Summit

President Obama and China’s President Xi Jinping meet at a California summit. During the meeting, the North Korea problem is addressed as well as economic issues and the environment. President Obama warns of the consequences of continued Chinese cyber crime in the United States.


Rules for the use of drones

President Obama gives a speech on US counterterrorism and the use of drones. It is an attempt to meet the latest wave of criticism against the US use of targeted drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen, among others. The rules for drone use will change, the guidelines for weapons-carrying drones to be deployed against a suspected aggressor and the individual must pose a lasting and serious threat to Americans. The person who is the target of an attack must also be incapable of capture as well as a high ranking leader in a terrorist group. In addition, the CIA’s intelligence service for the drone attacks will be greatly reduced and the Pentagon will take control.

Americans killed in drone attacks

Obama and his administration admit that the US has killed four US citizens in targeted drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan. One of them was Anwar al-Awlaki, a Muslim priest who was committed to al-Qaeda in Yemen. He was killed by a gun-carrying drone in September 2011.


Terrorist action against the Boston Marathon

April 16

Three people die and upwards of 300 are injured when two home-made explosive charges detonate in connection with the annual Boston Marathon. One police officer is killed and another is seriously injured in connection with the police chase that follows. The perpetrators are two Chechen brothers who were inspired by extremist Islam. One dies during the police chase while the other, a 19-year-old, is shot and arrested four days after the act. He is later sentenced to death.

Robot defense in the Pacific

The Pentagon Department of Defense announces that a robotic defense system will be set up on the US island of Guam in the Pacific within a few weeks, in response to threats from North Korea about attacks (see North Korea: Calendar). Guam has American naval and aviation bases.


New budget agreement

The Congress approves a budget deal until September. The savings of $ 85 billion are maintained but greater flexibility is allowed. This means that the closure threat of the state administration has been averted for this time.

The Budget Stup enters into force

Since Republicans and Democrats in Congress failed to agree on the state budget for 2013, the so-called budget hiatus becomes a reality. President Obama signs an order that triggers $ 85 billion in defense, education, healthcare and research savings. More than half of the cuts apply to the military.


New Minister of Defense

The Senate approves President Obama’s nomination of Republican Chuck Hagel as new Secretary of Defense.

Speak to the nation

February 12

In the President’s annual State of the Union speech, Obama addresses the increasingly pressing issue of a reduction in the budget deficit and the automatic cuts that come into force in March. He offers Medicare cuts (see Social Conditions) provided that some taxes are also tightened. In the speech he also announces the news that a free trade agreement between the EU and the US is planned and further attempts to establish a Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement with about ten countries in the Pacific. Obama also highlights the need for tougher gun laws and new immigration laws.


Election of the President

The newly elected congress opens and begins its work of electing Republican John Boehner as Speaker of the House of Representatives. Boehner has been President since January 2011.

Compromise on budget

Only when the deadline at year-end has already passed both congressional chambers will a compromise proposal be made on the budget, which will include tax increases for the wealthiest, a total of $ 620 billion over a ten-year period. The decision temporarily halted the automatic tax hikes for all Americans and reduced government spending that would otherwise have come into effect at the turn of the year, the so-called budget hiatus.

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