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

Shooting the buzz bang

Today’s terms: hit / slam / bang / rock / hit me up / give a ring, buzz / shoot a message

No, I’m trying to get you to meet my buddy. He’s a producer.

Jonah was trying enthusiastically to calm Charles down on their way to the music studio.

—Come on, man. You know I don’t like to be around these kinds of people. I get nervous.

Jonah reassured him; —Yeah, Mike is a real scary kind of guy. A real gangster off the streets! Come on, bro. There’s nothing to worry about. I’ll hold your hand.

Charles tapped Jonah’s hand away as he reached for it.

—Nobody likes sarcasm, bro, Charles protested.

—Everybody does!

Eventually, they drove up to the studio parking lot. There were a group of teenagers smoking in the front, maybe add the smell of spilled liquor on the floor. Everyone looked calm but suspicious. Although, when they saw it is Jonah, they all smiled and signaled “hello” to him.

—What’s up everybody! Are y’all rocking today?

Everyone nodded, made mumble sounds, and they turned back to their joints. Charles gave them a shy nod. Then the two friends strolled inside.

Once inside the studio, there were strong musical beats coming from all over the place. Smooth instrumentals blended with fast rhythms. The noise was chaotic but artful, all the same. Jonah saw one of his colleagues coming towards them.

Yo, my brotha! What’s happening with ya? Y’all just got all the beats banging today.

—Well, you know how I rock, Jonah. Who’s your friend?

Charles felt a quick pain in his belly.

—Oh, my name’s Charles. What’s up?

The man reached out his hand and gave Charles a mixed handshake and hug in a friendly manner.

—Classic Mike. Gotta show them love. This is my buddy, Charles. He comes from another country, but he knows a lot of English.

—He seems like he can handle his business, isn’t that right, Charles!

They all laughed for a few seconds. Charles then spoke up.

—Yeah, I get by pretty well out here. I just didn’t understand when you said “banging” and “rock.” I didn’t really get it.

—No prob, man. Banging is what I say when something is really good, especially when it comes to music. I can say, “This song bangs.” It’s the same with Hit or Slam for something that’s really good, like a piece of music, some good food, or even a cute girl, for example. All my music slams and hits.

Charles was reminded.

—Oh, right. You are the producer!

Correct-o! But that’s different from banging, like to be a part of a gang. I don’t bang. But, those kids outside, I don’t know. All of them look like they bang. Now, Rock is basically the same thing. If something rocks, that means it’s really good, amazing. And what’s cool is you can rock something, like a song, a test, or a sport. It all means that you do really good in it.

—Yeah, my buddy Mike here rocks as a producer, by the way, Jonah added in.

As they talked, a young lady appeared from one of the recording booths and made her way towards the exit.

—Sheila?

She turned around. Yep, it was the same Sheila that Charles had been out with.

—Charles! Woah, I didn’t know you were into music.

Charles puffed up his chest.

—Oh, yeah. I’m really into music. Recording, he coughs, Really into recording. What do you do here?

—I’m a singer, remember? I thought I told you when we were texting a few days back.

Charles scratched his head.

—Anyway, I gotta go. Nice seeing you here! Exciting, am I right? Hit me up tonight, okay?

In a hurry, Sheila left from the studio and into her busy life. Charles looked confused.

—Why did she want me to hit her up? Is that, like, sexual?

Jonah and Mike stormed with laughter.

—You wish!

Jonah then explained.

Hit me up, man! It means the same as “send me a message,” or “give me a call.” It’s not sexual at all. Well, I guess not.

Mike added, —Yeah, it’s the same as saying give me a ring, shoot me a message, or give me a buzz. It all means “call me” or “message me.”

—Oh, I guess that makes sense.

—Charlie’s got a girlfriend!

All three of them laughed and pushed each other around playfully. Oh, guys.

—So, are you gonna hit her up tonight? Jonah asked Charles.

—You know I will!

Despite his outward confidence, Charles still felt pretty nervous. Not to mention guilty, having forgotten so quickly that Sheila was a singer. He dug for a little more information.

—So, Mike. Sheila records her songs here?

—Yeah. Just a few samples for SoundCloud. Why?

—Is she any good?

—For sure, bro! Sheila slams in the recording booth!

Saying that something slams, hits, or bangs is saying it’s really good to the senses (That food looks slamming! That rhythm hits hard! This song is banging!) These are more colloquial slang, so not all communities across the country use them. Otherwise, “hit me up,” “give me a buzz/ring,” and “shoot me a message” are all pretty common nationwide to tell someone to send you a message or to call, though these terms are very informal. Using “bang” to talk about being in a gang can be a problematic word, so I underlined it. It’s best not to use it unless you really know what you’re saying, and most people don’t even have to use it. Do you know why the other terms are underlined? Can you use today’s terms in your own sentences? Share with me down below!

*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. Did you recognize the mistakes in this story?

“Lazaretto” [Jack White]

Watch video below–>

Oh, my veins are blue and connected

  • Having “blue blood” means to be privileged, an aristocrat, or well-off. There also might be a connection to Blues music.

And every single bone in my brain is electric

  • This reminds me of the phrase “hard-headed” or “having a hard head.” This means that the person doesn’t listen or follow directions, and they like to do things their own way. Having “bones in my brain” might be a reference to having a hard head.

But I dig ditches like the best of ’em

  • Adding “like the best of them” to an action means that you can do it as well as the best. “He’s a great guitarist. He can play it like the best of them.”

Yo trabajo duro

  • For those that don’t speak Spanish/Castilian: “I work hard”

Como en madera y yeso

  • “Like in wood and plaster.” Like he’s a construction worker, basically.

Como en madera y yeso

And even God Herself has fewer plans than me

  • Referring to God as a “Her” in English is not common, but it’s a rebellious way to break the idea that God is a male figure. A biblical reference, but he’s saying he has even more plans than God has. Very busy.

But she never helps me out with my scams for free, though

  • A “scam” is some plan that is discreet, undercover, or malicious, usually trying to trick someone or to do something you’re not supposed to. Again, referring to God as a female.

She grabs a stick and then she points it at me

  • This is like people who are outcasts or have severe diseases. People are too afraid to touch them with their hands, so they only touch them from far away with a stick. It’s like being disgusted or frightened by those who are different than us. It also reminds me of the story of Moses parting the Red Sea with his staff, for some reason.

When I say nothing, I say everything

Yeah, when I say nothing, I say everything

Transmission of Leprosy in the US via Armadillos - The Plainspoken  Scientist - AGU Blogosphere
some of the symptoms of leprosy, from here

They threw me down in a lazaretto

  • “Lazaretto” was a special kind of quarantine for people with a disease called leprosy. Historically, people with leprosy were secluded from the rest of society. This relates to him feeling like people threw him away into isolation, maybe because of his style or ideas.
Long before coronavirus, Philly ran a quarantine center for another deadly  contagion
An example of an old lazaretto, found here

Born rottin’, bored rotten

  • To “rot” is to go bad, like when a fruit or piece of meat is left out of the fridge for too long. If he was “born rotting,” this means he was born into this state of quarantine, or he’s never fit in with others since he was a kid. To be “bored rotten” is to be extremely bored. Similarly, a kid that is “rotten” is spoiled, or gets whatever they want even if they act bad. There are a lot of mixed meanings in this small lyric.

Makin’ models of people I used to know

Out of coffee and cotton

And all my illegitimate kids have begotten

  • An “illegitimate child” is one born out of a relationship that is not approved of or outside of marriage, for example. To be “begotten” is to be forgotten and left alone. It’s not such a common word in English nowadays and has more of an archaic or biblical feel to it.

Thrown down to the wolves, made feral for nothin’

  • “Thrown to the wolves” is a popular phrase for when someone is thrown into a situation that they obviously have no chance to win. A similar phrase is “thrown to the lions.” “Feral” means wild or like a wild beast. Also, he pronounces “nothing” like “nuttin,” which is common in certain regions and accents.

Quarantined on the Isle of Man

MICHELIN Isle of Man map - ViaMichelin
Isle of Man between Great Britain & Ireland, from here
  • The Isle of Man is a small island off the coast of Great Britain.

And I’m trying to escape any way that I can, oh

7 Reasons you should visit the Isle of Man
Isle of Man is actually quite pretty, here

Any way that I can, oh

Damn, I have no time left, time is lost

No time at all, throw it in a garbage can

And I shake God’s hand

I jump up and let Her know when I can

This is how I’m gonna do it

They wanna burn down the prison

They’re lighting fires with the cash of the masses

  • With the public’s money.

And like the dough, I don’t fall down

  • “Dough” is a slang term for money. Real dough (used to make bread) rises in an oven. “Bread” is also slang for money.

I’m so Detroit, I make it rise from the ashes

  • “I’m so…” is a way to compare yourself to something else. “I’m so Los Angeles, always hot and sunny!” Detroit is known for suffering a huge economic crash but has been steadily rising in importance again. This image of “rising from the ashes” comes from the myth of the Phoenix, a bird that burns and rises again from its ashes. Figuratively, it means to reinvent yourself, grow, learn new things, and come back better after failing.

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This song centers around the idea of a societal outcast, like someone with a terrible disease like leprosy. His quarantine, as if on a lonely island, doesn’t come from a physical illness, but from his ambitions and personal style. The fact that he feels isolated turns out to be positive, since all this makes him unique. There are lots of references from the Bible or that could relate to religion, since leprosy is a disease that was prominent in the Bible. There’s this idea that he was born with some privilege, but he acknowledges this, accepts it, and it doesn’t stop him from working hard or getting his hands dirty. Him saying he works hard like a construction worker in Spanish is kind of a reference to many hard laborers in the U.S. having Mexican heritage, or Latin American heritage in general. What are your thoughts on this song? Do you understand why he would compare himself to a lazaretto? Share your thoughts!

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Also, watch the video. It’s really cool!

Weren’t the British the colonizers of the U.S.A.?

This is a great question! After all, Americans mostly speak English. We’ve all heard about the original 13 colonies and how the British came to set up shop in the new continent. But the story goes a little deeper than that. Let’s look at some of the powers that had their hands in the American pie.

To start, there were a bunch of failed colonies along the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts by the English, Spanish, and French early on (include Scandinavian Vikings if we really want to go back). The Portuguese and the Basques were also frequent visitors along the Atlantic in the 1500s and before, though they didn’t stop to settle.

The English/British

Flag of the United Kingdom.svg
Flag of England.svg
  • the first to establish permanent colonies in the U.S. (not the continent, though)
  • had two main original settlements that grew and expanded out of New England and Chesapeake Bay
  • at first, were mostly groups like the Puritans seeking more religious freedom, or poor servants and farmers mostly from England
  • some colonies got lots of Irish-Scots settlers and expanded west into Native American territory, others got many more diverse settlers
  • we all know about the Atlantic slave trade

The main thing to think about with the British is that their culture, language, and society were the most influential early on in American history which is why the states maintained the English language and other cultural influences from the British after so long.

The Spanish

Flag of Spain (1785–1873, 1875–1931).svg
Flag of Cross of Burgundy.svg
  • established some of the first settlements still inhabited in the U.S., including the oldest at St. Augustine, FL
  • owned huge expanses of land in North America, including a portion of the Deep South and the whole western half of the current United States (mostly Luisiana or Alta California), even some areas of Canada, not to mention some territories like Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands
  • they either lost or gave up a lot of this land to England or the U.S. over the centuries
  • states Oregon, Montana, Nevada, California, New Mexico, Colorado, and Florida names all come from Spanish words, literature, or colonies

Spain had a pretty big cultural impact on the Gulf Coast and the American Southwest. Many place names (Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Antonio, Santa Fe, etc.), lots of architecture, and cultural events come from Spanish and Mexican traditions.

The French

Flag of France (1794–1815, 1830–1958).svg
Pavillon royal de la France.svg
  • had lots of colonies spread out through the central U.S. and east Canada
  • had lots of fights against England and confusing conflicts and alliances with Native Americans, they later gave up most their land to the English or Americans

France also had a big impact on place names (New Orleans, Des Moines, St. Louis, Eau Claire, Vermont) and cultural events, such as Mardi Gras and Cajun culture in Louisiana and the Gulf Coast.

The Dutch

Statenvlag.svg
Flag of Netherlands
  • set up colonies mostly in present-day New York and New Jersey
  • the British took over their main city, New Amsterdam, and changed it to New York, but Dutch culture stuck around in those rural areas for centuries after

The Dutch paved the initial way for America’s biggest and most iconic city. Some of its boroughs and surrounding towns are even named in honor of the Dutch (Brooklyn or Breuckelen, Staten Island or Staaten Eylandt, Harlem or Haarlem).

The Swedes

Flag of Sweden
  • made a small colony that only lasted 17 years before being sucked into New Netherland
  • the Bronx (after Bronck’s River) is named after a Swedish captain

Sweden’s colony was short-lived, but they introduced the first log cabins and some of the oldest churches to the future nation.

Also, let’s not forget Russia who colonized Alaska. The U.S. later purchased it, though, and most of the Russians left.

As you can see, there were a lot more European powers that settled the U.S. other than the English. Despite the obvious impact of the British here in the States, we also had a few other countries reaching in for a chance to colonize the future U.S.A.

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P.S. I know that the Native Americans were already on the continent, and the colonial powers took these lands away from them. This includes First Nations in Alaska and Polynesians in Hawaii, among others. This answer is just to focus on the aspect of European colonial and cultural influence in the U.S., not to focus on the destructive aspect of their settlement in the region.

Kenai Peninsula's Historic Russian Churches - Northwest Travel Magazine
Russian Church in Alaska: from here
Old Swedes Church - First State National Historical Park (U.S. National  Park Service)
Old Swedes Church, Delaware: from here
A Stroll Along State Street in Albany, New York —
Dutch architecture, New York: from here
Home Architecture 101: French Colonial
French colonial architecture, Louisiana: from here
Historic Architecture in California
Spanish architecture in California: from here
New England Architecture | Guide to House Styles in New England
English colonial architecture, New England: from here

Check out these resources and other articles here on CultSurf!

Colonial History of the United States: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colonial_history_of_the_United_States#Russian_colonies

First Arrivals of Europeans to Settle the U.S.: http://nationalhumanitiescenter.org/pds/amerbegin/settlement/text1/text1read.htm

Origins of New York City Borough Names: https://www.amny.com/news/nyc-boroughs-names-1-32096222/

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/

“So Ambitious” [Jay-Z, feat. Pharrell]

United States Flag

Video down below –>

Yeah _ 3 in the morning on the Westside highway, top down baby

  • Top down” refers to being in a convertible top car.

F*** y’all _ The motivation for me was them telling me what I could not be _ Oh well

  • “Oh well” is a common response to an ironic situation, or to a situation that is out of your or another person’s control. It’s meant show that something was not a big deal. “No! I dropped my ice cream. Oh well, I’ll just buy another one.”

This a special dedication _ I wanna thank you for the fuel

  • *This is a special dedication. “Fuel” here refers to something that drives Jay-Z to be successful, much like fuel in a car.

No really, thank you

  • “No really” is said to confirm that you were serious about what you said. “Joe, I like your artwork. No really, I do.”

I felt so inspired by what my teacher said _ Said I’d either be dead or be a reefer head

  • “Reefer” is another word for cannabis, or weed. We often add the word “head” to say that someone is an addict, such as with Crackhead, Cokehead. It’s a terrible thing to say to a student though. Poor Jay.

Not sure if that’s how adults should speak to kids

  • *I’m not sure…

Especially when the only thing I did was speak in class _ I teach his a**

  • *I’ll teach his… A note, when people use the “a” word like this, they don’t literally mean “I’ll teach his behind.” Unless it’s a clear reference to a person’s butt, the “a” word is meant just to emphasize the statement. “I’ll teach him.” /correct/ “I’ll teach his a**.” /more emphasis/

Even better’s what my uncle did _ I pop my demo tape in and start to beat my head

  • “Pop something in” here means to put it in, so he put the demo tape into the tape player. “Beat” here means to move his head to the rhythm of the music.

Peeked out my eye, see if he was beating his _ He might as well have said beat it kid, he’s on the list

  • “Peek” is to look secretly or subtly at something. Here he changes the meaning of beat. “Beat it” sometimes is used to tell someone to go away, get lost. It seems that his uncle didn’t approve of his music, so he’s on “the list” of people who didn’t approve of him in the past. Similar to a “black list.”

It’s like I’m searching for kicks like a sneaker head

  • He uses two meanings of “kicks” here. “Searching for kicks” refers to him looking for excitement or adrenaline. But “kicks” can also mean tennis shoes. Again, “head” is used here to compare him to a shoe addict. He plays on the two meanings of kicks in the same line.

He gon’ keep pushing me until I reach the ledge _ And when I reach the ledge I’ll tell ’em all to eat a d***

  • *He’s going to keep… “The ledge” is the final point of what someone can handle under pressure, much like the edge of a cliff. That last part is just an insult that people say sometimes.

Take a leap of faith and let my eagle wings spread _ Spread spread

  • “A leap of faith” is to put yourself into a situation in faith that it will all be okay. Eagle wings remind me of the song “Fly Like an Eagle” by the Steve Miller Band. He won’t fall, but he’ll fly like an eagle. Figuratively, of course.

The motivation for me was them telling me what I could not be _ Oh well _ I’m so ambitious _ I might hit two sisters

  • “Hit” can be used sensually to say that you will sleep with someone. “Sisters” and “brothers” is usually an affectionate way for the African American community to refer to each other, or to black people in general.

Hey, I’m on a mission _ No matter what the conditions _ Forget the personal issues _ When you know what I been through

  • *What I’ve been through

Hey if you believe it _ Then you could conceive it

  • You have to believe in something to make it happen.

I had to lace up my boots even harder _ Father is too far away to father

  • “Lacing up bootstraps” is a common idiom that means you have to be strong and endure through something that is difficult. He’s saying his dad was not around to be a good father.

Further-more of the kids either smoke reefer _ Or either move white, there’s few writers in my cipher

  • He separates the word “furthermore” so that it makes sense in the lyric. *More of the kids… He uses a different pronunciation of “either” here to rhyme with cipher later on. Both pronunciations of “either” and “neither” are acceptable in English, by the way. To “move white” is to sell crack or cocaine, not that you’ll need to know that. *There are few writers… A “cipher” is a set of raps that a rapper does, or a situation where rappers come together to practice rapping with each other.

So they made lighter

  • They made it lighter, so good rappers started to fall away while he had more success. The bad artists were dropped like bad weight.

My type of dreams seem dumb _ They said wise up, how many guys’a you see making it from here?

  • To “wise up” is to become wise. *How many guys do you see… To “make it” is to have success in general, with the idea of making it out of the ghetto (poor/bad neighborhoods) in this case.

The world don’t like us, is that not clear?

  • *The world doesn’t like us. “Us” most likely refers to black people or poor/underprivileged people. It can also refer to people who make rap music, since rap was much less accepted when Jay-Z was younger than it is now.

Alright, but I’m different _ I can’t base what I’m gonna be off a what everybody isn’t

  • *Off of what everybody… This is a great message. Be unique!

They don’t listen, just whispering behind my back _ No vision, lack of ambition _ So wack!

  • “Vision” here refers to having dreams, wanting to do something big in the world. “Wack” means that something is not good, not cool, or has bad quality. He’s referring to people who don’t have ambition, or didn’t take the time to listen to his dreams.

Motivation for me was them telling me what I could not be _ Oh well _ I’m so ambitious _ I might hit two sisters _ Hey I’m on a mission _ No matter what the conditions _ Forget the personal issues _ When you know what I been through _ Hey if you believe it _ Then you could conceive it _ Had a couple of meetings no offers yet _ Maybe I ain’t good enough for these offices

  • *Maybe I’m not good enough…

Back to the drawing board, ducking officers

  • “Back to the drawing board” is a common phrase meaning to get back to work on a plan that failed. “Duck” here means to avoid or dodge something. Like when someone throws a rock at your head, a friend might yell, “Duck!” so that you can avoid getting hit. Basically, he’s going back to illegal activity since he’s trying to avoid police officers.

It’s all good ’cause the streets is A&R’ing this

  • “A&R” (Artists and Repertoire) is a division of a record company that is responsible for scouting and searching for new talent. He means that the streets (the common people from his community) are going to support him, since he doesn’t get support from big music companies. “It’s all good” is a great way to say that things are fine, especially after a setback. “How do you feel?” “I feel a little sick, but it’s all good. I’ll feel better tomorrow.”

So with or without any of your involvement _ We coming for all of this, respect my conglomerate _ I went from pauper to the President

  • “Pauper” is a very poor person. It’s not used very much anymore, but was made popular by old books and stories that tell of poor people turning into kings and nobles, especially from Britain. *We’re coming…

‘Cause every deal I ever made set precedent

  • To “set a precedent” is to set a standard for how things should be done. It means that he made big changes in the industry.

N***** thought I’d fall without old buddy _ Oh buddy, what I do is make more money

  • “Old buddy” is a common way for people in some communities to refer to a person indirectly when they don’t want to say the name. Same with “old girl,” and “old dude.” “Oh buddy” is a way to show excitement or to emphasize something. It’s usually used as a joke or to be funny. “Oh buddy, we’re gonna have a good time!”

Dear Teacher, your probably somewhere near a speaker _ I’m balling outta control, can you hear my sneakers?

  • To “ball” is to have lots of success and make lots of money. In sports, it means to play extremely well, which is why he asks about his sneakers (sports shoes). He’s not really playing sports, but it’s a reference to the two meanings of balling. *Balling out of control. “Dear [Person]” is the way we usually start a formal letter in English. It’s as if Jay is sending his message directly to his teacher by song.

F*** y’all _ (Word up, Fly, High)

  • “Word up” is a way to say that what you’re saying is true, or to call attention to what someone said. “Hey, word up. I’m about to make some real money.” To be “fly” is to be successful, stylish, have nice clothes, and have a winning attitude all in one.

The motivation for me was them telling me what I could not be _ Oh well _ I’m so ambitious _ I might hit two sisters _ Hey I’m on a mission _ No matter what the conditions _ Forget the personal issues _ When you know what I been through _ Hey if you believe it _ (Then be) _ Then you could conceive it (You see?)

  • “Do you see?” is a popular way to ask if someone understands.

The motivation for me was them telling me what I could not be

Listen to the song here:

Bright light pop show

Terms: popping / show out / turn out / turn up / lit / light up

*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.

Squeaky wheels filled the high walls of the theater with the sound of rubber rolling on the hardwood. The stage lights sprayed all across the room leaving little shadows over the shoulders of the chairs. In front of it all was Charles, front and center on the big stage.

Well, he wasn’t performing, you can bet; he was putting up props, vacuuming the giant curtains, mopping and polishing the smooth stage.

If I mop this up quickly, he thought, I can lay out the carpets for the set design.

In the back of the theater hall were two other young employees watching Charles’s every move.

Look at him go! one said.

I wonder why he likes stage design so much. Doesn’t it seem weird to like stage design so much? asked the other.

It pays the bills. I mean, if I were from another country like he is, I’d be happy to set up stages for some extra bucks.

Hey you guys! What do you think?

Charles yelled out across the hall to the two nosey workers on break. They put up two big thumbs of approval, nodding their heads to say it was good.

Good job! The stage is popping, man. You sure like to show out on your designs.

Charles waved at them to say “Thanks.” He sat down on the edge of the stage and wiped his forehead of dusty sweat.

—But what do you mean by show out? I’m not showing anything. Or popping anything.

The guy who had made the confusing comment sat down in the closest chair to him in the back row. He then explained;

I know you didn’t break anything. I was saying your stage designs are popping. If anything is popping, it means it’s “really cool, exciting, fun,” and whatnot. Kinda like when you show out, which means “to do really well at something,” almost like show off. They’re pretty much the same.

Charles tilted his head and said, —So, if I’m popping or showing out, I’m doing really good at something. So, basically, you gave me a compliment?

Yeah, bro! I’m always impressed by your designs and how much work you put into all this stage stuff. You always turn out when it comes to the theater. And before you ask, turn out can mean the same as “show out.” Or you can say turn out to tell “how something finished.” Your designs always turn out nicely. Then he laughed. Viki here admires your hard work too, don’t’cha?

He turned around and nodded at his co-worker, Viki, so that she would say something nice. She sighed as if she were annoyed by the conversation, then she went to sit next to the other employee.

Oh, yeah. I love the theater. It’s great to clean gum off of the bottom of people’s seats twice a week.

Quit it with the sarcasm, Viks! Look on the bright side. We have that concert we’re going to tonight.

Viki responded, —Whoop! Chris … I’m so glad you said it. We about to turn up out there. The whole block is gonna be lit, for real.

What is she talking about? Charles yelled out again from across the theater.

Nothing, Charles! Just this lit party we ’bout to go to tonight.

Oh, I like parties when they turn up a bunch of lights! It’s so fun.

Viki and Chris laughed while hitting each other.

Chris turned to her and said, —It’s your turn to explain, bro.

Then Viki said, —I mean, turn up just means we’re gonna “have lots of fun.” In fact, we’re gonna show out with how much fun we’re gonna have. And lit has nothing to do with light. It means that the concert is gonna “be really fun, like a big party.” You know, the usual partying vocab.

Chris added, —Yeah, but to light something up can also be “to hit it a bunch of times.” Like in a fight, someone can get lit up by punches. Hopefully no one gets lit up tonight at this concert.

You said that right, Viki replied, and then, —You wanna come with us? It’s just a hip hop concert.

Chris gasped in shock.

What? Did you just invite someone to a concert? Victoria, that is so unlike you!

Shut up, fool. We gotta get going now ’cause the venue is gonna fill up quick. What do you say, Charles? You coming?

Charles hesitated, then jolted out a quick, —Yeah! Let’s go turn up!

They all laughed, and Chris said, —That’s a boy! Man, it’s about to be the most popping night you’ve had all year.

Charles then remembered something.

I’m just gonna finish cleaning the stage real quick. You guys go ahead.

They nodded at him and left out of the theater for the night. Charles opened up the paint buckets and started to experiment with some brushes.

Just a few strokes before I go.