American culture is the amalgamation of the traditions, practices, and customs of the United States. In the words of an anthropologist Cristina De Rossi, “ culture encompasses religion, food, what we wear, how we wear it, our language, marriage and music” (Zimmerman, 2015, para. 1). Many societies have contributed their distinct flavors to the “melting pot” of American culture. Almost every world region has influenced the country. However, Europe’s biggest impact on the literature, art, architectural and fashion traditions was made. London, Paris, and Rome and other cultural centers of the Old World dictated the trends, followed by Americans. From the pre-colonial times to the post-independence era, the United States of America bears a rich heritage of Europe. However, it is worth noting that just as the Old World was changing the New, American culture was affecting Europe. Nevertheless, without European influence, America would be an entirely different continent.
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The American scholars draw much of their inspiration and prowess from Athens. Artistic designs and objects, philosophy, and great learning in America have their roots in Europe (Pells, 2011). The fathers of philosophy, social sciences, and historical scientists originated from Europe. The American people have used their knowledge to advance various theories about life.
Most of the American states were under the British colony. By the time the British people arrived in America, it was not a united nation today. Native Indians and other communities were living separately with different community settings. But the colonizers started organizing the people into groups of manageable units. Other countries that colonized America include Spain, Holland, France, Germany, Sweden, and Italy. The colonizers also influenced the way of life in terms of the construction of buildings. After independence, the American people had learned the European political system and the constitutional requirements to manage a country (Wood, 2011). And hence the United States of America borrowed a lot from the European system of governance. They copied the Roman prowess in political organization and administration. They also used this ancient kingdom’s literature and law to design and transform the legal structure in America. The western settlers and workers also intermarried with local communities.
The greatest contribution to the success of America is workforce. Most of the skilled workers, innovators, and leaders have their origins from Europe. One example of the men who built America is Andrew Carnegie, Scottish-born, who was one of the greatest industrialists and philanthropists in America. He helped to establish the steel industry in the nation. Currently, there are also people of European descent working for the American government and other institutions in America.
Europeans settled most of the British North American colonies that became a foundation for the United States of America. They came to the New World to escape the oppression or religious beliefs by the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England (Religion and the Founding, n.d.). Both European Catholics and Protestants were convinced that religious uniformity is key to the functioning of the state. They believed that only one true religion exists, and the authorities must impose the uniformity of faith. It meant that all dissenters had to be punished and exiled to save souls of citizens loyal to the idea of one religion (Religion and the Founding, n.d.). Even though the religious prosecution was denounced as illegal in 1689, the opposition was mercilessly suppressed, and nonconformists were executed. This drove countless settlers to the shores of America (Religion and the Founding, n.d.).
The European evangelists went to America to preach the gospel and spread Christianity. They established new colonies, built churches, started schools, and training centers. The most prominent among them were New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. They were designed to become “plantations of religion” in the New England state (Religion and the Founding, n.d.). Those New England colonies vehemently supported the idea of building ” a city on a hill” that would prove that promotion of faith in the American wilderness is possible and that a God plans to conduct this “holy experiment” (Religion and the Founding, n.d., para. 2). Other colonies established solely for commercial purposes were governed by “militant Protestants” who exerted tremendous efforts for the establishment of the church (Religion and the Founding, n.d., para. 2).
There are churches in different denominations in America. The European evangelists went to America to preach the gospel and spread Christianity. One of the largest Christian institutions is the Catholic Church. It has its roots from Rome (Pells, 2011). The way of worship, construction of churches, and traditional Catholic practices originate from the Roman culture.
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The discovery of the New World by Europeans was a major milestone in the history of food. As the Europeans settled in America, they brought with them their dietary foods. They moved together with their animals and plants and influenced a complete change in the food sector. That is why, even today, one would find names such as Spanish omelet in America.
The European settlers brought with them not only culture and tradition, but they also introduced to the continent new animals such as pigs, sheep, and cattle along with new recipes (Food in America, 2016). Foods discovered in America were new to Europeans. The variety of beans, potatoes, corn, and manioc became a part of American cuisine. The tomato-based sauce for Italian spaghetti was the product of this eastward migration of foods (Food in America, 2016). The commercial growth of coffee and chocolate became the basis for entirely new food industries that originated at that time in the New World.
Up to the end of the 19th century, American cuisine was dominated by English food traditions (Food in America, 2016). However, as the number of immigrant influences began to rise, the cuisine became more diverse. Moreover, the presence of new ingredients encouraged English, Scottish, and later Irish settlers to change their old recipes and led to experimentation with new cooking methods. Interestingly, the rapid change in the food as a part of national identity happened only after two centuries of colonization (Food in America, 2016).
The European influence on American culture can be seen in some of its major food traditions—a New England tradition associated with cooking with religious cleanliness. The food was prepared without copious amounts of seasoning, which was seen as a form of indulgence. It was either boiled or baked; the particular stress in cuisine was made on austerity (Food in America, 2016). A Southern Tradition, on the other hand, adopted reach seasoning and emphasized on frying. It was a collection of English, Spanish, and French recopies influenced by Indian and African cuisine. A Quaker tradition puts a particular emphasis on plain and boiled foods (Food in America, 2016).
The discovery of America by Christopher Columbus led to the opening up of the continent. It brought about significant inflows of immigrants from all walks of life (Wood, 2011). They brought in the Africans in millions as slave workers. However, most of the immigrants were destitute people who were looking for freedom from political torments. After establishing their new life free of religious and economic oppression, they called for friends and families from their home countries (Thompson & Hickey, 2005). New waves of immigrants from China, Greece, Italy, and other places created the patchwork of urban settlements (Thompson & Hickey, 2005). Each immigrant brought a piece of their culture with them, thus contributing to the rich diversity of the American lifestyle. Up to today, America has continued to welcome immigrants from other nations with skills and unique talents who have continued to make the country great.
American culture is the amalgamation of the traditions, practices, and customs adopted from different places and areas of the world. Numerous societies have contributed their distinct flavors to the “melting pot” of American culture. However, Europe’s biggest impact on the literature, art, architectural, and fashion traditions was made. It is imperative to say that America is the way it is because of Europe. The languages, religious practices, and cultural attributes came with European settlement. The culinary traditions have been greatly shaped by the wave of new immigrants from the Old World. America bears a colorful heritage of pre-colonial times to this day. Due to the diversity of the cultures and the people, the nation has continued advancing in every sphere of life. Today, it has shaped the lives of people in almost every region in the world.
Food in America. (2016). Web.
Pells, R. (2011). Modernist America. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press.
Religion and the Founding of the American Republic. (n.d.). Web.
Thompson, W., & Hickey, J. (2005). Society in Focus. Boston, MA: Pearson.
Wood, G. (2011). The idea of America. New York, NY: Penguin Press.
Zimmerman, A. (2015). American Culture: Traditions and Customs of the United States. Web.