Aren’t all the U.S. states and cities basically the same?

Anyone who’s traveled inside the U.S.A. knows the answer to this already. For now though, I want to tackle this from a cultural perspective. I’m thinking of opening a new category later on that focuses on geographical differences. This here is about the American people. I’ll break this post up quickly into the following categories:

  • religion
  • gun control
  • ethnic background
  • political stance
  • language & immigration
  • the weather factor
  • identity

I also won’t talk about every state and city, but I’ll try to break it down enough to give you a good idea. Starting off!

Religion

I want to begin with one of the most easily distinguishable differences between different states in general. As you might remember from my post about religion (if not, please check it here), the U.S. is mostly a Protestant nation. However, you’ll remember that some places are less Protestant than others. While about 70% of Americans are Christians, there is a higher concentration of them in this general region called the South. That’s why this region is generally known as the “Bible Belt,” and it’s where you normally find the most religious and traditional communities. Otherwise, the Mormon communities are identified as the “most religious” group in America, which I guess means they’re super devout. Other hardline religious and cultural groups are the Amish and Mennonites around Pennsylvania and Ohio mostly.

Peek at map showing the dominant religion in each U.S. county
Credit Robby Berman from here

This map explains pretty much all I want to say about religion. Among Christians, the Evangelists and Black Protestants are super prevalent in the Bible Belt. Mainline Protestants are more common in the North, while Hispanic Catholics are really prevalent close to the Mexican border and around Miami. Otherwise, Catholics fill up the Northeast, and there are even a few enclaves in Florida, Louisiana, and Texas around where the Spanish and French used to have more influence. Mormons are really popular in the West, especially around Utah, and Native American Catholics have little enclaves throughout the West. Cool.

On the other hand, New England (Northeast) altogether tends to be the least-religious part of the country. But you can see, even within most of the states, religious affiliations change based on the region. Southern Florida, Texas and Louisiana are mostly Catholic while the northern parts are Protestant. The opposite is true in Illinois. And that should be a good enough intro for you.

Gun Control

Credit Kathy Morris from here

That’s right! American states differ greatly on whether they support gun control or not. Unlike religion, this concept has less of a pattern. There really doesn’t seem to be a rhyme or reason to which states support more gun control over others when we talk about permits. States that require permits vs those that don’t are pretty scattered all over the place. However, when we look at states that are gun-friendly, or are more accepting of having guns in general, the trends become more clear. These places usually coincide with states that are more rural or where people most like to go hunting.

The South and some parts of the West are pretty evenly supportive of guns. There are some lone anomalies, like Nevada in the West, Iowa in the Midwest, or New Hampshire in New England. Overall, it’s easy to see the trend. Southern states support guns. A couple of random states in the Midwest support guns. Some random western states and most of the Northeast don’t support guns. Apparently, Delaware, New Jersey, and Hawaii really hate guns. I feel like the big game hunting isn’t so good in those states, though.

Ethnic Background

The U.S. is definitely a diverse nation where nearly all ethnicities and nationalities (not to mention cuisines) can be found. What is Laotian food, anyway?

However, this too depends on the state or city in question. For example, most big cities have more diverse populations than the rural areas. There are several cities with more “minorities” than there are white people (check my other article here for more on this). Looking across the board, cities are usually where you’ll find a large chunk of diversity at.

Read it on Reddit

Still, there are some other factors to look at. As you can see, people of English ancestry are found especially in the South and the West. German ancestry is all over that central-north area of the country, while Scandinavian ancestry sits way in the North. The Irish filled up around New England, while Italians were mostly around the Tri-State area (Metro New York). Native Americans are dotted about the West, while you even see many Inuit at the top of Alaska. French ancestry is strong in the Northeast and around southern Louisiana. Something to remember about the German area is that, even though it takes up the most space, most of that region has a small and scattered population.

Political Stance

Now, I don’t like to get political, trust me. I will say that every state pretty much has either strong support for Democrats or Republicans. Some things to look for are that the West Coast, some western states, and the Northeast tend to swing more left, while most the other states swing right. Still, you’ll find that across the country, most large urban areas will be more liberal-minded than not, and most rural or small urban areas will lean conservative. There are a few small exceptions to this, but it is almost the rule when looking at political stance.

Something else that’s interesting is the so-called “Swing States.” These are states that are caught in the middle and may stand on one side or the other depending on who’s running for office. Florida, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Pennsylvania are classic examples of Swing States. In the most recent election (2020) some states like Georgia or Arizona proved to be new examples of Swing States. Even Texas showed to be a little more liberal than usual, despite its long history of being overwhelmingly conservative. No matter what you thought of the election, there’s no denying that some places in America feel a little more blue than red. All we need is a white party to complete the American flag. Maybe it could balance the other two?

Language & Immigration

We already looked at ancestral ties between Americans in different states, but what about the newcomers? You might know that Spanish is the second-most spoken language in the U.S., but who speaks it depends on where you are. The Southwest has the most Spanish speakers, but most of them are from Mexico, with a big group of Central Americans and small groups of others. Meanwhile, Florida and the East Coast have tons more Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Dominicans and South Americans. Oh, and a lot of Mexicans too. Geography plays a role in this, since the East is closer to the Caribbean, while the West literally touches on Mexico.

You also get lots of Asians with their respective languages in major cities, but especially on the West Coast and New York. Some of the biggest and most authentic Asian communities are in places like Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, and so on. Of course, the West and East coasts are closest to Asia, so that’s where a bunch of the Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Indian, and even Middle Eastern immigrants have gone along with their various languages. For more on languages, check this post.

Something else to look at is historic minorities in the U.S. African Americans are especially prevalent in both the South, since that’s where most the African slaves were taken, and big cities since that’s where they moved to find work and security after being freed. Native Americans are most prevalent in parts of the West because that’s where the most open and inhospitable parts of the country are. Many nations and tribes were driven from their homelands further east and forced to relocate out West, trading lush forests and rivers for, you know, deserts, tornadoes, and rattlesnakes. They were also forced to live with the people that already occupied these regions which was a problem because they spoke completely different languages, had different cultures, and were already there. Well, that’s another post.

Weather Factor

Speaking of tornadoes, a big part of the identity of someone from any given state or city is their weather. It might sound trivial at first, but I’ll show you. Think of Southern California and what comes to mind? Sunshine, beaches, and palm trees — I hope. Please, try not to think of anything bad! But this is the association someone from SoCal has, and so it goes for any other state or region. Seattle is famous for being rainy and cloudy, Arizona is known for extreme desert climates, Colorado is known for its mountains and skiing, and Florida is known for being sunny and tropical, with the occasional tropical storm. Chicago is famous for being windy and cold in the winter, while Hawaii is a paradise where it’s always a nice beach day. The weather ends up determining a lot of how we perceive each state and city.

Identity

So, you put all these factors together and you get a good idea of what the identity of someone from a certain state or region might be like. There are many other factors, by the way, and no two people are the same, but this can give you an idea. For example, someone from New York City is more likely to be a Catholic with Italian ancestry who doesn’t really approve of guns, probably a Democrat who speaks English but if they speak Spanish they’re family is likely from the Caribbean or maybe they immigrated from China, they definitely like Chinese and Caribbean food but they’re used to hot summers and freezing cold winters. Anyway, they might be none of those things, but you get the point. Every state and major city is a little (or a lot) different.

Alright! Tell me what you think of this post. Does your country have lots of diversity like the U.S.? Can you name some other differences between the states? Do you want to guess my profile based on this list? (hint, hint) I’m from Los Angeles.

Also, contact me or send me a question if you want to know more, talk, or give some suggestions for future posts. Right here: tietewaller@gmail.com

Thanks and be safe!

Here are some more resources:

Religion in the U.S.: https://www.pewforum.org/religious-landscape-study/

Map of religions by county: https://bigthink.com/robby-berman/dominant-religions-in-the-us-county-by-county

Least religious places in U.S.: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._states_and_territories_by_religiosity#:~:text=According to a 2011 Gallup,%)%20were%20near%20the%20median.

Gun-friendly states: https://www.zippia.com/advice/least-gun-friendly-states/

Ethnic Ancestry in the U.S.: https://www.reddit.com/r/MapPorn/comments/bfpbzu/largest_ancestry_groups_in_the_united_states_by/

Isn’t America all cold and snowy?

Oh, my friends from down south. Friends from around the equator, the tropics, the desert, and elsewhere … Chances are the U.S. is bigger than your country. And if it’s not, then you should know the answer. Here we go:

So this one’s less about Americans and more about geography. Still, this is a doubt (as stated in my brilliant intro) that I get from people who live in or around the tropics. The U.S. is up north, right? Just like Europe, Canada and Russia. These are places generally perceived to be cold and covered in snow. One thing that some people forget is that the U.S. is a gigantic country with 50 states. Not only that, but the States also cover just about every biome or ecological zone you can think of. I’d like to mention that even Americans fall into this, many from more southern states seeing the North as always being cold. Anyway, to show you what I’m talking about, here’s a nice map that shows the biomes in color.

28. Being Grounded – Beyond the Pail
from here

Now, that map includes Canada and Mexico, but you can get an idea for how big and ecologically diverse this country really is. The contiguous U.S. are the 48 states all connected to one another on the mainland. They alone have:

Temperate Forests (hot in the summer, cold in the winter):

  • think the whole eastern part of the country, from Maine down into Florida and over to Midwest

Plains & Prairies:

  • pretty much the whole middle part of the country, from Minnesota down to Texas

Alpine Forests:

  • all the Western mountain parts, including the Rockies

Desert:

  • that’s right, think of the Southwest, from Arizona up to Idaho

Mediterranean (dry but not a desert):

  • basically the California coast

And the southern tip of Florida is the only part of the Lower 48 states considered tropical.

The U.S. also has two other states. Alaska is huge, almost as tall and as long as the 48 states when you count all its little islands! Alaska is famous for being cold and icy, and it is home to the only tundra and taiga (tundra with some trees) climates of all the States. But even Alaska has lush forests and mountains.

And let’s not forget Hawaii, a place that almost never gets cold (except for at the tops of its many volcanoes) and is the only state truly in the tropics. Hawaii and Alaska, by the way, are full U.S. states just like California, Kentucky, Illinois, or any other. It’s a lot like how French Guiana (Guiane) is fully part of France even though it’s not in Europe. Physically, anyway.

513 fotos de stock e banco de imagens de Temecula Valley - Getty Images
Mediterranean climate in California (that’s right, Getty Image)

There is one interesting fact to follow all of this; even though there are several states with warmer climates, such as Hawaii, Florida, Mississippi, Texas, etc., pretty much all the states still get snow or really cold temperatures anyway.

As I said before, Hawaii has those tall volcanoes, and all the desert states also have tall mountains that get snow. Even the South gets snow in some areas due to mountains like the Ozarks and Appalachians. So if you measure it by states and now individual regions, then every state does technically get snow, even though it depends on the altitude in those lower states.

It turns out that the places as a whole that don’t get so much as a single snowflake are Guam and the Virgin Islands of the U.S. variety, which are both territories, not states, and are both groups of tropical islands. They are also low-altitude, which explains why Hawaii gets a bit of snow but they don’t.

For the most part, the answer to if the U.S. is cold and snowy is Yes, all of the states do get snow. But in many of the Southern states, snow is a lot more rare than in the North or Mountains. Even within many of the lower states, there are large regions that do not see snow like, say, Houston, San Diego, New Orleans, and so on. Also, don’t forget that large parts of the U.S. are either Semi-Arid (kinda dry) or Humid, so during the summer much of the country is blasted in heat. Much of that cold weather doesn’t come until those winter months.

Unless you’re in Alaska, of course.

For more information, please check the resources here below, as well as linked to the images.

Do you think the U.S. is cold? Have you ever been somewhere tropical or hot in the U.S.? Would you want to visit Alaska?! Please comment below or send me your thoughts directly! tietewaller@gmail.com 😉

U.S. biomes: http://www.glencoe.com/sec/science/glencoescience/unitprojects/climatemap.html

Where in the U.S. has it never snowed?: https://www.farmersalmanac.com/places-where-it-has-never-snowed-30142

Aren’t Americans socially cold and emotionally guarded?

So, this one is going to be more about my own opinions and experiences, though I did do a little bit of research just in case.

As far as the above question goes, the doubt about whether Americans are emotionally cold with others and guarded with their feelings usually comes from countries that have really (really!) open and social societies — places like South America or the Caribbean — or places that are super family oriented — the same places including most of Asia and Africa — at least to generalize. In my experience, I’ve found that many Europeans and Asians tend to see Americans as emotional, expressive of their feelings, and sometimes — in the best of cases — very giving and sweet. This doubt then, I would assume, comes from people in these very “open” societies that see the U.S. on the same pedestal as Europe or East Asia. I’m flattered, really! But yes, there is a difference.

America, much like Canada and other parts of the American continent in general, was constructed by very different types of people from diverse countries and even continents, that had to find ways to trust each other and work together. Given this culture of mixing and melding, many areas of America had to learn to be open and trusting of one another.

But, there’s always a contradiction;

Now, there are lots of Americans that are emotionally guarded, even seem kind of mean, but that’s also a cultural thing. Like I said, we’re mixed, and so we have a heritage of people that are very suspicious of strangers or that don’t share emotions as much. For men in general, it has been traditionally looked down upon to share your feelings, express emotions, and so on. This norm has been steadily changing though, and many of the younger people, especially, are becoming more comfortable with self-expression (just listen to Emo music or Emo rap). You all know who colonized us, and the English are famous for being sort of evasive emotionally. Again, to generalize.

Some factors that historically contributed to this were:

  • wars against foreign powers
  • wars within our borders
  • racial discrimination
  • racial violence
  • riots
  • creepy child abductors
  • mass shootings
  • sometimes our media/government/next-door neighbor has intentionally scared us more than need be

But we get by like any other people.

Another factor in this difference in emotional expression is a matter of East vs West. Eastern cultures tend to connect emotion more to family and community, while Western cultures link emotion to the inner state, meaning it’s more of an individual thing. Even though Americans in general value independence, individualism, and self responsibility, we humans are made to live in communities. We rely on each other for emotional well-being, and a society that’s famous for individualism is vulnerable to certain emotional setbacks. There are scarily high rates of mental illnesses like depression and anxiety, as well as hospitalized, suicidal, or self-harming individuals, not to mention the high amount of suicides. I’ll leave the stats out this time since this post isn’t about mental illness, but you can bet there’s a lot of it to go around.

Not to fear! In the end, Americans come in all shapes, sizes, and temperaments.

You could easily visit the U.S. and meet the rudest, most guarded person ever on the same day that you meet the most expressive and kind person ever. I’ve met people who wouldn’t let their own momma stay a night in their home, and people that would shelter a whole block-full of strangers if they could.

We’ve got it all. Some might say it’s regional, since the South and Midwest are known for being more open, relaxed, laid-back; after all, they call it “Southern hospitality” for a reason. In my experience, kind and expressive people can be found all over the country, though whether you’re in a big, stressful city or a calm, small town also makes a difference in the quantity.

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What were your experiences with Americans like? Were they nice and expressive? Were they really guarded and mean? Let me know what you think! And don’t forget to check out some other articles to learn more!

Here are some resources for further reading!

Emotional Tendencies in America: https://www.the-american-interest.com/2018/01/08/an-emotional-america/

Emotional Complexity in Different Countries: https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2016/01/emotional-complexity-study/426672/

“It Was a Good Day” [Ice Cube]

Navassa Island Flag

Videos down below–>

Break ’em

  • In slang, to “break someone off” can mean to make them like something. It’s like Cube is saying to his DJ, “Let’s make my audience love this one.” “Break” can also have a violent meaning in another context.

Yeah

Just wakin’ up in the morning, gotta thank God

  • *I have to thank God

I don’t know, but today seems kinda odd

No barking from the dog, no smog

  • “Smog” is the collective pollution from vehicles, fumes, and other waste in the air. Los Angeles is famous for having lots of smog.

And Momma cooked a breakfast with no hog

  • “Hog” is another word for pig. This has to do with Islam for Cube, since Muslims usually don’t eat pork.

I got my grub on, but didn’t pig out

  • To “get your grub on” is to eat well, since “grub” is another word for food. To “pig out” is to eat too much, more than you need to. This is a play on the “hog” line before.

Finally got a call from a girl I wanna dig out

  • “Dig out” can mean find out more about something or someone. Here, his meaning is probably more sexual.

Hooked it up for later as I hit the door

  • To “hook something up” is to plan for it to happen or to make it. “I hooked up some eggs for you this morning.” “We need to hook up a date, you and me this weekend?” Also, he is not literally hitting the door. This just means to leave. A similar phrase is “hit the road.”

Thinkin’, “Will I live another twenty-four?”

  • As in twenty-four hours.

I gotta go ’cause I got me a drop-top

  • *I have to go because I have… “Drop-top” is a convertible car. “I got me” is a way to say you have something. Similar ways of phrasing: “I need me a new bed. They need them a whole new house.” It just adds emphasis to the subject of the sentence. It’s not correct grammar though 😉

And if I hit the switch, I can make the a** drop

  • He’s talking about making the back of his car go down, as in low riders.

Had to stop at a red light

Lookin’ in my mirror and not a jacker in sight

  • A “jacker” is someone who takes things from others, like a thief. To “jack” is to steal.

And everything is alright

I got a beep from Kim, and she can f*** all night

  • A “beep” refers back before cellphones when people used pagers (or beepers) to contact each other. Sometimes, people still say “Give me a beep” when talking about a cellphone.

Called up the homies and I’m askin’ y’all

  • “Homies” are your best friends, basically.

“Which park are y’all playin’ basketball?”

  • *At which park are you all playing basketball?

Get me on the court and I’m trouble

Last week, f***** around and got a triple double

  • A “triple-double” is an achievement in a basketball game when a player makes a double-digit total in three statistical categories. For example, 12 rebounds, 20 assists, 43 points. Basketball terminology. To “F around” or “mess around” here means to do something while not even trying or not expecting it. “I messed around and ate a whole pizza without even trying.”

Freakin’ n***** every way, like MJ

  • This is a reference to Michael Jordan making other players look bad on the basketball court because he’s so good.

I can’t believe today was a good day

Drove to the pad and hit the showers

  • “Pad” is another word for your house. To “hit the showers” just means to take a shower or clean yourself up.

Didn’t even get no static from the cowards

  • *I didn’t even get any static… Double negatives! “Static” normally is that fuzzy electric sound your phone makes when there is a bad signal. Here, static can mean an irritating noise. He’s not hearing any annoying talk from other people.

‘Cause just yesterday them fools tried to blast me

  • *Because just yesterday those fools tried… To “blast” here means to shoot.

Saw the police and they rolled right past me

No flexin’, didn’t even look in a n****’s direction

  • To “flex” is to make yourself look better or show off. “No flexing” means he is not trying to show off, but is telling the truth. A similar phrase is “No lie.”

As I ran the intersection

  • To “run” an intersection is to drive through it when you’re not supposed to, such as on a red light. The same concept is to “run a red light.”

Went to Short Dog‘s house, they was watchin’ Yo! MTV Raps

  • *They were watching… Short Dog is another rapper.

What’s the haps on the craps?

  • “What’s the haps?” is a fun way to ask “What’s happening? What’s going on?” A similar phrase is “What’s the deal?” “Craps” is a popular dice game. Learn more by clicking here

Shake ’em up, shake ’em up, shake ’em up, shake ’em

  • As in shaking dice before you throw them.

Roll ’em in a circle of n*****

  • And rolling dice, too. People often play dice on the floor where they throw them in the middle of a circle of other players. Also, playing this way is stereotypically associated with black Americans. In casinos, people play at a special table.

And watch me break ’em with the 7, 7-11, 7-11

  • So here, “break” means to do damage to the other players. Rolling a 7 or 11 is really good. He’s winning the game.

7, even back door Little Joe

  • Again, references to the game of craps. He’s doing very well.

I picked up the cash flow

  • He won a lot of money.

Then we played bones, and I’m yellin’: “Domino!

  • “Bones” is a game you play with dominos. It can be another word for the game of dominos. “Domino!” is what you say when you win the game.

Plus nobody I know got killed in South Central LA

Today was a good day

Left my n****’s house paid

  • *I left…

Picked up a girl been tryna f*** since the 12th grade

  • *I picked up a girl I have been trying to…

It’s ironic, I had the brew, she had the chronic

  • The “brew” here means liquor. “Chronic” means marijuana.

The Lakers beat the Supersonics

  • The Supersonic were a basketball team from Seattle, and were rivals of the LA Lakers.

I felt on the big fat fanny

  • “Fanny” in the U.S. means butt, and it’s not particularly offensive. In the UK, it has a much more derogatory meaning, I hear. Americans usually say it to be funny.

Pulled out the jammy and killed the p*****

  • “Jammy” here means condom. Much like “jimmy.” To “kill” means to have a lot of success or perform really well in something. Obviously, he is talking about something pretty intimate. That P-word is a reference to a woman’s private parts. It’s not the usual American English way to say this, but it’s a word that we borrowed from Indian slang by way of Jamaica.

And my d*** runs deep, so deep

So deep put her a** to sleep

  • Usually, the “A-word” means butt. However, people often use it just to refer to a person. “James’s a** was so rude yesterday.” Not his butt, but James himself was rude.

Woke her up around one

She didn’t hesitate to call Ice Cube the top gun

  • A reference to the movie Top Gun. She says Cube was the best.

Drove her to the pad and I’m coastin

  • “Coasting” is driving smoothly and happily. It can be used for any vehicle, really, but especially those with wheels, like cars, skateboards, bikes, etc.

Took another sip of the potion, hit the three-wheel motion

  • The “potion” means his drink. In normal situations, “potion” is a magic liquid that has some special properties. Sometimes people use it to mean liquor. “Three-wheel motion” refers to his low-rider. He can make his car stand on three wheels.

I was glad everything had worked out

  • Here, “work out” means that things went well, everything was good.

Dropped her a** off and then chirped out

  • Here, “chirp out” means to make noise with your car’s tires as you leave. More simply, it means to drive away. Similar to “roll out.” These days, instead of “chirp,” most young people say “skert.”

Today was like one of those fly dreams

  • In slang, “fly” means really cool. You can have fly clothes, or meet a fly person, for example. “Those shoes are fly!”

Didn’t even see a berry flashin’ those high beams

  • “Berry” references the colorful lights on a police car. High beam lights.

No helicopter lookin’ for a murder

Two in the morning, got the Fatburger

  • Fatburger is a popular fast-food burger restaurant. They have some famous locations in Southern California, especially.

Even saw the lights of the Goodyear Blimp

  • A “blimp” is a big air vehicle that looks like a balloon. In Los Angeles, the Goodyear Blimp is famous for flying around and showing messages or advertisements in the sky.

And it read “Ice Cube’s a Pimp”

Drunk as hell, but no throwin’ up

  • To “throw up” is to vomit.

Halfway home and my pager still blowin’ up

  • *My pager is still… To “blow up” here is to get a lot of attention or action. “My phone is blowing up.”

Today I didn’t even have to use my AK

  • An “Ak-47” is a type of gun. I think you knew that. It’s also the state initials of Alaska, fun fact.

I gotta say, it was a good day

  • Similar to “I must say,” or “I have to say.” It’s like saying “To be honest,” or “To tell the truth.” “I gotta say, you can make a good German chocolate cake!”

Hey, wait, wait a minute!

Pooh, stop this s***!

  • Pooh is the DJ on this song.

What the f*** am I thinkin’ about?

.

  • This is a very dear song to me; it’s old-school West Coast rap and it speaks on a lot of the problems of Los Angeles in a unique way. Instead of complaining about the problems, he raps about how perfect a day would be without those problems. There would be no violence, no police, good food, plenty of sleep and lots of love from a girl he’s always wanted to be with. There wouldn’t even be any smog in the LA skies! The song is kind of dreamy and hopeful for the future in a way, all the while criticizing how hard a normal day in South Central LA really is. Does this sound like a perfect day for you too? Let me know what you think!

Listen to the song:

Also, watch the music video:

Cash apology

Terms: sorry / for money (cash, bricks, bands, bag, dough, etc.)

I sure like counting all this money.

Charles had his hands full of dollars of the U.S. variety. Not because he was rich, no! Are you crazy?

—It must be fun to work in the financial department. You get to take that money home and count it? Touch all on it. Dang, sounds like heaven to me!

Jonah was watching him with a hunger.

—Can I just touch one … well, a couple of them?

—No, Sir-ee! This is not my money, bro. If it was I wouldn’t let you touch it, either, but my life is on the line if I get fired. Sorry, can’t do it.

—Well! I don’t know why you work at that sorry theater on the side. If I was you, I’d be happy to sit here and count money all day.

Charles looked around at the blank white walls, felt the absence of an air conditioner, heard the BLUGUG of a bubble descend from their giant jug of nasty water.

—I would die if I worked here all the time. The theater is a good distraction. Plus, I like drama.

—Heck, there’s plenty of drama right here on campus.

They both laughed at that fact.

—Hey, what did you mean by “sorry?” I didn’t get why you would apologize for me working with plays.

Jonah scratched his chin.

—No, bro. Sorry, as an adjective. It just means that something sucks, basically. It’s low quality, not good. Like if you buy a car that’s old and raggedy and is halfway falling apart. That’s a “sorry” car. Look at me, sounding all smart!

—Uh-huh. Thanks for the clarification, said Charles.

Fasho. Yeah, man. I was you, I would stay here and count stacks all day. Maybe slip a wad into my pocket.

Charles’s fingers stopped moving. His eyes tilted up. What did that guy just say?

—Guy, what did you just say? Stack? Wad? What in the world?

Jonah jumped up eagerly.

—Oh man, I’m about to learn you! I mean, teach you, of course. Look, Charlie; stacks and wad are both money. You ever seen a stack of something? Pancakes, maybe? Well, replace the pancakes with bills and that’s how you get “stacks.” As for wad, you just need to picture a handful of cash. Wad can be a small bundle of anything, though. Cash, you probably know, is money too. Hehe.

—Yeah, Charles said, —I knew cash. That’s the only one I knew, actually. What other words do you all have for money?

His fingers went to counting the dollars again. Jonah continued to rant excitedly about his favorite topic.

—Oh, that’s easy! I said stacks, so you got racks and bricks if you’re really making money. “Racks” are like shelves, so I guess if you made racks, you could just stack them on a big shelf. “Bricks” are like those red things you use to build a house, but they’re thick like a stack of money. What else? You got bands, figures, green. “Green” is obvious, ‘cus of the color. “Figures” mean digits. If you make 5 figures, that’s making a five-digit salary. Anywhere between 10,000 and 99,999. Same for 6 figures, 10 figures, and so on. A band is a thousand bucks, and bucks are money. You have to hold a thousand together with a rubber band, which is probably why they call it that. Same with a grand, or a G for short. That means a thousand bucks too. You probably have a few “G’s” in your hands right now!

Charles bulged his eyes.

—Wow, that is a lot. Any more?

Jonah continued, —Let’s see. You got loot, dough… “Loot” used to be treasure for pirates in the old days. “Dough” is what you make bread out of. Oh, and bread is another one. Hmm, guap and cheese are money, and bank is if you make a bunch of money. Like, “I made bank today.” “Cheese” like cheese slices at the grocery store. Some people say cheddar to be more specific. “Guap,” I don’t know. It sounds like guapo, or “handsome” in Spanish. Maybe like a handsome sum of money? Who knows. And don’t forget the bag. If you get “the bag,” you’re making good money. And … that’s all I got.*

Charles’s face fell stunned.

—Wow, you are an expert in something. I just can’t believe there are so many words for… and he waved a fistful of cash.

Jonah paused.

Never thought about it. I blame rap music. So, how many bands you got?

Charles checked.

—Let me see… There are about 5 G’s right here. I only got through this one stack.

—Well, you better start counting!

Charles laughed.

—I would if someone didn’t keep distracting me! And you’re right; all this money does make my other job look sorry.

Jonah chuckled and put his baseball cap on.

—That’s okay. I hear actors and playwrights get bank too.

.

  • With so many ways to talk about money, it can be hard to choose which word to use! Some words like cash are more common overall. Other words are used in more specific situations. For example, bag or bank are more common when talking about making money, while G’s and bands are for talking about quantities of money. When in doubt, use the words you hear being used most around you. I sure don’t use all of these on a daily basis! What is your favorite money slang?

*The language used in this dialogue is meant to reflect how different Americans might express themselves. Significant incorrect grammar or sensitive words will be underlined for reference.

Aren’t Americans really tall and fat?

There are many stereotypes about the American people. As one of them, I’ve learned to identify a few less favorable ones in my time. However, the biggest stereotype of all we could arguably identify as:

Fat.

And I didn’t even have to research that one. Just ask anyone — anyone — not from the U.S. and they’ll tell you how chunky we all are. Heck, scratch them out the picture; we’ll tell you how fat we are, and then go and tell ourselves how fat each other is.

As the cliché goes, there’s good reason for everyone to believe this. Americans aren’t the fattest population in the world by percentage. A bunch of nations in the Pacific (and Kuwait for some reason) have proportionally more obese people, with little Nauru topping out at 61%. But, to be fair, Nauru is the smallest state in the world besides Monaco and Vatican City, and it only has about 12,000 people. Match that with the U.S. that has over 300 million, and you get over a third of the people being obese (118M) and another 105M that are generally overweight. That’s almost two-thirds of the nation being overweight. What’s more, sadly 1 in 6 American children is obese.

So this one is pretty true.

Some trends about this, though, are:

  • childhood obesity is on the decline
  • almost half of the African-American community is overweight
  • there’s more obesity as a whole in the South than elsewhere in the country
  • fun-fact, Colorado is the least overweight state
  • not-so-fun-fact, obesity is on the rise across the globe

Pretty much the entire Western World (the Americas, Europe) plus Australia and Oceania see more deaths from being overweight than being underweight. The U.S. is a big part of this problem too since fast-food and processed food items have been made easy, famous, and accessible to much of the rest of the world. Now, we’re not the only players in this, but America definitely plays a huge role in the enduring presence of overweight-ness.

All that said, of course all Americans aren’t fat. I’m pretty underweight, and there are about a whole third of Americans that aren’t overweight. That has to count for something.

But, on to a quality a little less shameful than obesity: height! This is an interesting one because, apparently, Americans used to be the tallest people in the world for a while. Studies seem to show a correlation between the wealth of a country and the height of its citizens.

Despite the U.S. having the highest income on average now, Americans even out at around 175 cm tall.

Let’s face it, if your reading this, you probably don’t use inches and feet.

They still fall short behind the UK, Canada, Australia, Germany, and the tallest of all: the Dutch. It looks like Paul Bunyan turned ex-pat in the Netherlands (or to Canada, where he belongs). As it goes, Americans still rank as some of the tallest people in the world, so we’re not far off the mark.

*A quick note about this is that Asians and “Hispanics” tend to be shorter than non-Hispanic white or black people.*

In summary, and without digging too deep, Americans are pretty fat and tall. They’re one of the tallest nations overall in the world, home to the most overweight people under one starry flag. But don’t get me wrong, there are many a short and/or thin American person to be found. A bunch of them are related to me.

Make sure to check these resources folks. There are some really helpful articles for understanding America’s weight and height situation with lots of interesting facts. Comment and let me know what you think!

The height situation in the U.S.: https://www.wsj.com/articles/whos-the-tallest-of-them-all-its-no-longer-the-americans-11553254201#:~:text=Based on white and black,U.S. compares to Western Europeans.

Comparing countries’ average heights: https://www.healthline.com/health/average-height-for-men#world–record-heights

Interesting facts about weight/obesity in America: https://www.healthline.com/health/obesity-facts#13.-Colorado-has-the-lowest-obesity-rates.

Other quick facts about obesity in America: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/obesity-overweight.htm

Defining overweight and obesity: https://www.who.int/health-topics/obesity#tab=tab_1

Who’s Paul Bunyan?: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Bunyan

Os americanos são religiosos? Os religiosos são todos protestantes?

Entre algumas comunidades brasileiras, tenho ouvido algumas dúvidas sobre se os americanos realmente pregam a religião ou não. Sinto que essa idéia vem da percepção de que os países desenvolvidos (aqueles países “bem-sucedidos”) não colocam muita importância na religião embora, em vez disso, se focam na força das suas nações sobre as outras. Às vezes parece que esse louvor se torna ao favor do consumismo. Pode até ser que como uma sociedade, os americanos tendem a focar muito no sucesso, ganhando dinheiro, ou os demais valores capitalistas.

Porém, os americanos em geral tendem a ser religiosos de alguma forma. Entre mais que 320 milhoes de pessoas, mais que 200 milhões reclamam ser cristãos. E para tocar na sua segunda questão, sim, quase a metade do país segue algum tipo de denominação protestante ou evangélico, como são comunmente referidas. Mas, entre elas;

  • 162 milhões de protestantes
  • 76 milhões são católicos
  • 23 milhões de religiosos não-cristãos

Bom, existe um robusto grupo de não-afiliados, cerca de 20% do país, para dar uma idéia. Nesse leque, pode achar tudo desde agnósticos a ateus e até gente que “não sabe” ou que simplesmente não tem preferência alguma. Alguns desses simplesmente não responderam a essa parte do censo.

Uso os números para lhes dar alguma vista sobre o tamanho e de quantos indivíduos habitam esse país tão gigante. Mesmo entre os religiosos, existem aqueles que não praticam regularmente ou que não declaram uma religião por causa de propósitos pessoais. Alguns, como eu, são espirituais e têm uma visão mais geral e naturalista sobre religião que não é ligada a qualquer igreja em particular. Ao final do dia, os Estados Unidos ainda é um dos países mais religiosos do mundo, ainda que protestante na sua maioria. Tem na verdade a maior quantidade de pessoas que consideram religião importante entre os “países desenvolvidos,” nao contando os países do sul da Europa (pensa em Portugal, Itália, etc.). Também tem muita diversidade entre as religiões praticadas, desde o siquismo, budismo, judaismo, até todos os tipos de islã e cristianismo que pode imaginar.

Mas 76 milhões de católicos ainda conta como muita gente, não conta?

Recursos:

Demografia dos Estados Unidos: https://worldpopulationreview.com/countries/united-states-population

A construção religiosa dos EUA: https://www.pewforum.org/religious-landscape-study/

A importância da religião em cada país: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Importance_of_religion_by_country

Aren’t Americans racist, segregated, or otherwise xenophobic?

Well, which ones? At the home level or the political level? It depends on who you’re asking, but here are some things to keep in mind:

Black Lives Matter. This recent movement has ignited a whole swath of emotions from both supporters and opponents of its ideals.

“Don’t all lives matter?”

–one might ask. And on a philosophical, principle-based ideology, yes, they do all matter. But looking at several parameters comparing black Americans to other “races” it’s easy to spot a disparity, especially between whites and blacks.

Here are just a few charts I found particularly alarming:

Fatal police shootings per million by race
Shayanne Gal/Business Insider
marijuana usage vs possession arrests by race
Shayanne Gal/Business Insider
household wealth of black and white americans
Madison Hoff/Business Insider

In these three charts, you can start to get a taste for how disproportionately society treats one group of people over another. Now, there are some important things to note here:

  1. About half of the deaths caused by police violence are suffered by whites. However, more blacks are killed in proportion to any other racial group, alarming since they make up a much smaller part of the population
  2. Even though marijuana usage is becoming more legalized across the country in recent decades, and about the same amount of whites and blacks admit to using it, a much higher percentage of blacks are arrested for marijuana possession
  3. White households overall are more likely to be high income, while black households overall are more likely to be poor

These are just what numbers show us; do with them what you wish.

There are plenty of white people killed by police or put in jail, and plenty of black people are wealthy. But at the heart, the U.S.’s system slows down the progress of certain groups.

And it’s not just a current phenomenon. Many opportunities exist for all races today, which is great, although, historically these minorities didn’t have a chance. Institutional slavery was one part of this. Theories of some races being better than others was another yet related one. Why else would a bunch of people come to one continent thinking they were “destined” to teach and conquer another?

I also want to point out that this problem isn’t uniquely European. Slavery, colonization, and segregation have existed on all populated continents throughout most of human history. People are just cool like that.

America has a dirty history of xenophobia, which is fearing or looking down upon people of foreign nations, cultures, religions, etc. Back in the early days, we were worried about Germans and Scandinavians taking our jobs and land. Later it was the Irish, then Eastern Europeans, Italians, and Asians. More recently it’s been Latin Americans and Muslims, but the history is long-standing. All these groups suffered violence and retaliation when migrating to America, the only difference being that those groups seen as having a “lesser” skin color, “lesser” religion, or from “needier” countries have suffered a lot more. This discrimination persists especially strongly in communities that have been divided for generations.

The U.S. is an incredibly complex country. The perception of it being a nation of immigrants has influenced many to arrive and continue with their old customs, estranging them from the general American culture. Fear of immigrants and frequent hostility towards them has left many feeling unwelcome to the point of willfully leaving to other countries or going back home. Who wants someone yelling,

Go back to where you came from!

or receiving despising looks all the time just because of their appearance or religious beliefs? I’m sure that I’d feel terrible about myself if I were put down for stuff I couldn’t even control. The government definitely creates policies that encourage this fear of foreigners. Think of:

  • Japanese-Americans put in Internment Camps
  • Irish migrants advertised as being subhuman invaders
  • Mexicans and Central Americans being mass deported
  • travel bans imposed on Muslim-majority countries

That last one’s pretty recent, eh?

To bring some sunshine to this story, Americans, in general, seem to be really well-meaning folks. We don’t like to see others suffering, and we want to be a peaceful and happy society that works together. Many are truly interested in other cultures, languages, and religions. We get a bad rep, but many of us are trying to break those closed-minded, bigoted stereotypes that we’ve put on ourselves.

Anyway, check out these pages below to see more charts about the perception of racial issues in America, and let me know what you think! There’s everything from income comparisons to opinions on how a person’s race affects social class mobility. There’s even an interesting little graph showing how Americans view the “N” word. There are a whole 7% of whites that think it’s okay “Sometimes” or “Always” for white people to say the “N” word, which is just silly. It’s a very small percent, but I’m trying to imagine who these people are. Are they really racist or are they just dotty white dudes that hang out around black people a lot and get away with it? Probably both, but that word deserves a whole article to itself.

So, the answer to the original question is: Yes, we’re a little racist, segregationist, and xenophobic, but it’s a long-time bad habit. We’ve been trained this way. We’ve been taught this way. Our nation started this way. But don’t forget, it’s not just an American problem. And, we’re trying! Many are fighting to fix this. Thinking about those positive-minded citizens helps me sleep better at night.

Resources:

Charts showing how racial differences appear in society: https://www.businessinsider.com/us-systemic-racism-in-charts-graphs-data-2020-6

For the history of xenophobia in the U.S.: https://now.tufts.edu/articles/long-history-xenophobia-america

For Americans’ perception of racial issues: https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2019/04/09/race-in-america-2019/

Why are they called “Americans?”: An alternate history

Let me tell you about the history of a great nation called Estados Unidos de América.

A long time ago there was a German cartographist called Martin who liked to make big world maps. He noticed there was a huge stretch of land to the west that everyone was calling the “New World,” but it didn’t have a true name yet.

“I can’t leave this continent alone when there are great names like Africa and Asia.”

In deciding what to call this New World, he landed on the name “America” because of a Florentine explorer he’d heard of, Amerigo, who had correctly identified the land as a new continent, unlike the previous explorers. Amerigo himself was likely not aware of this honor while he was alive.

Fast forward some 200 years; Martin’s maps become famous and the name America has stuck. Several European powers have scouted out new lands in the “unclaimed” continent and set up colonies all around. Spain is no exception.

The colonies do well for some time, when suddenly, a few things change. After several conflicts earlier in the century against the English, Dutch, and Austrians, Spain decides to impose a bunch of ridiculous taxes one after another on their American colonies. This upsets many of the settlements all over the continent, as expected. After a little public taunting, Spanish soldiers open gunfire on a group of locals in the city of Veracruz. Again, not a good decision.

As a result of high taxes and tariffs, not to mention the attacks on their Mexican brothers, Cuban rebels go and dump sugar and silver exports that were on their way to Spain into the port of Havana. This event triggers similar actions in Santo Domingo. As a response to the Caribbean rebellion, the ports of Puerto Rico, Cuba, and others along the coast of New Spain are completely shut down. To add flame to the fire, Spain requires the criollos (the white American colonists) in all of its territories to provide housing for royal troops inside of their homes.

Radical colonists, now tired of Spain’s patronizing, shoot and kill several Spanish troops while they attempt to stop liberation rebellions in Mexico and Peru. Knowing of this, Spain goes and burns the ports at San Juan, Lima, and Veracruz to intimidate the criollos even more. Now there is a sense of urgency and togetherness for all the Capitancies General and Viceroys that, until then, didn’t feel a strong sense of unity. Those in Mexico and Peru worry about high tariffs on exports. Those in the Caribbean region and New Granada worry about their slave trade. Chile and Río de la Plata stay out of it for fear that Spain will invoke grave consequences. Plus, they weren’t the ones attacked in the first place.

New Spain, New Granada, Peru, Venezuela and the Caribbean join forces and defeat Spain. They gain full independence at about the same time. They function on the continent as independent states but have a hard time governing people, managing their economies, and organizing an effective military. After some years of trouble, colonial leaders create a convention to decide on the future of their former Spanish lands. They gather together the states’ brightest thinkers, most successful warriors, and best strategists and politicians; the Delegates.

Weeks go by of heated debates, unsatisfactory compromises, and time away from their homes and families. In the end, the delegates agree to unite their states as a single nation, but can’t agree on a name for their country. Just weeks ago, they were all independent states with their own names and special histories.

“We should be called Mexico since we were the first ones settled.”

“No. New Granada is the most centrally located, so we should take the name.”

“Peru is best since we are the richest.”

“Look at us, Venezuela! We have the strongest ports and access to the Amazon.”

The Caribbean delegates decided to just stay quiet at this part of the debate. One thing they all could agree on was not naming their new nation after Spain. In haste, they sign their constitution with “la Declaración unánime de los siete Estados Unidos de América” in Castillian — the seven United States of America — with the intention of changing it later on. After all, there are no other independent states on the entire continent to care about it, and the name came from an Italian guy 200 years earlier who had no ancestral ties to the land anyway.

More years go by, and the Estados Unidos expand their territory from the tundras of North America’s arctic to the Andes in the south. As more Spanish lands are liberated, they choose to join (or are bought by) the growing Estados Unidos. The British, French, Portuguese, and Dutch colonies all gain independence over the course of centuries. Even the Río de la Plata and Chile eventually become independent from their Spanish rulers, although peacefully, unlike their bigger neighbor.

After centuries of conflicts, from civil wars and civil rights movements, slave revolts and resistance from slave owners, Napoleonic wars, two world wars, and industrialization, the old Estados Unidos de América never does end up changing their name. By chance or luck, they didn’t divide and have become the most powerful nation in the western world, one of the most powerful on Earth. Their culture has won the world over from countless innovations in music, science, film, literature, sports, and many other fields. Though, they have a nasty habit of getting involved in other countries’ affairs.

The non-Spanish countries of the Americas assume that Estados Unidos de América must be arrogant; they do call their country América for short, and themselves Americanos. Why not Unitedstatesians, since that would be more appropriate? But, come on, estadounidense doesn’t sound right in Spanish. To make things worse, the other American countries learn that North and South America are one continent since they’re connected. But Estados Unidos learns they are distinct continents since, like Africa and Eurasia, the two are only connected at a very small point.

Not knowing this, the Americanos see no harm in their name and unknowingly offend tons of people outside their borders. Besides, it’s practical for them. They’ve been calling themselves Americanos since they were born and for almost 500 years. The poor other countries of America wish they would just change their name already. Why did that land of ignorant fools, who can’t even tell the difference between Jamaica and Guyana, ever get to “own” the name of the continent that belongs to all of them? Not like the names of their precious countries. The names that were given by people who were not natives of the land and that gave names of people and saints who they themselves never knew.

The other countries continue to question this for eternity. The Americanos, especially those that don’t travel or study, remain oblivious to the fact that their name causes any controversy at all.

The End.

Aren’t Americans rich or have an easy way to make money?

Rich? Of course not! Let’s look at why…

A common misconception from the average foreigner that sees an American on vacation is, “Well, he or she must have money. Let’s charge them a teeny bit more.” And there’s good reason to think this way. Just look at the value of the dollar compared to any kind of peso, real, yen, rupee, or ruble. The values are outstandingly disproportionate. So, Americans on vacation can be charged a little more. Don’t feel sorry!

The thing is, you have to look at how many Americans travel abroad. The fact is only about 11% of us traveled abroad last year when you don’t count Mexico or Canada, which was even less than the year before it. I don’t even want to imagine how few traveled this year (2020, Covid-19, etc.).

The poverty threshold in the U.S. is set at $25,700 a year for a family of four, which accounts for some 38 million Americans.

Those that are more likely to be poor are:

  • single-parent families rather than couples
  • women, in general, rather than men
  • children rather than elder people

And there are nearly 4 million disabled persons living in poverty

Native Americans and blacks are also most likely to be poor, while whites and Asians are equally the least likely. But that’s a common trend pretty much everywhere.

So, that’s just talking about “regular poor.” What about those living in real, intense poverty? Well, counting Americans that make less than half of what’s considered the poverty threshold, there are still over 17 million that live in this zone called “extreme poverty.” That means they go hungry, that they don’t have a place to live, or live in dreadful conditions, if not on the street. That’s not to mention the over 93 million that are almost in poverty; that means if one tiny string gets cut, they’re qualified. To add to all that, there are even higher rates of Americans that face unstable access to sufficient food than those facing poverty. Surprising, isn’t it?

Now, don’t feel too bad; the vast majority of Americans work and are able to make a solid living, even live well. Due to the relatively developed infrastructure and welfare system, most poor people in the U.S. don’t have to live on the streets or in shantytowns like in so many other countries. The poverty rates calculated by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation & Development) show that the U.S. has higher poverty rates than countries like Chile, Mexico, Turkey, and Russia, and falls at almost the bottom of all income metrics when compared to other “developed” nations.

To explain better, this doesn’t mean that the poor people in the U.S. are in worse states than the poor in Mexico, for example; it just means that there are more people in poverty in proportion to the overall population. After all, America has over 2.5 times more people than Mexico. Mind you, the way each country defines poverty is slightly different, so there very well may be more Chileans living in extreme poverty than Americans, even though there are more Americans living in poverty overall.

With all that said, Americans, in general, are better off than those in many countries, and our nation does have lots of programs that make life a little easier than it would be in a “developing” nation. Still, despite high rates of employment, poverty and hunger are still common issues across the country in both the biggest of cities (look at the homeless in Los Angeles) and rural areas (look at some of the unincorporated towns of California). California is a whole other special case, but you get the point. 

Poverty is a global problem that of course affects some places more than others. The U.S. in all its capitalist glory is, yes, still one of those places. Check the resources to learn more!

Resources:

Americans that travel abroad: https://www.statista.com/statistics/214774/number-of-outbound-tourists-from-the-us/#:~:text=In 2019%2C there were approximately,of 41.77 million overseas travelers.&text=Excluding visitors to Canada and,in 2018 at 41.77 million.

Poverty and hunger demographics in the U.S.: https://www.povertyusa.org/facts

Poverty rates in OECD nations: https://www.statista.com/statistics/233910/poverty-rates-in-oecd-countries/

A more in-depth look at poverty statistics in the U.S.: https://www.epi.org/publication/ib339-us-poverty-higher-safety-net-weaker/

Low-income places in the U.S.: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_lowest-income_places_in_the_United_States