The United States is often the top dog in the world: they are the culture producers, the strongest economy, and the most powerful nation. But with this top dog status comes criticism from other nations who feel America is a little too proud of itself.
The top stereotypical characteristics of an American include:
- Being loud
- Rugged individualism
- Being overweight
- Having money
- Being patriotic
- Putting on shows
- Being uncultured
- Acting arrogantly
- Being entrepreneurial
- Being materialistic
Let’s dive into each stereotype to see why they’ve developed and which rings true.
10 Characteristics of an American
1. They’re loud
Americans overseas are known for being loud, especially when it comes to speaking to other Americans in public settings. While there’s no official study on the matter, Americans are used to having more space than most other densely-packed countries and seem to project their voice more in certain group settings.
This isn’t always the case, as many Spanish-speaking cultures are stereotyped as speaking louder than the average American. Even so, you might quickly identify a group of Americans at a European or Asian airport simply by the projected sound of their voices.
2. They’re Individualistic
The United States was founded as a land of liberalism. It was all about being free from the tyranny of the British who were trying to control religious freedoms.
This focus on freedom from government became engrained in the American mythology. America became known as the land of rugged individualism and small government. This was in contrast to the more government-oriented Europe.
Today, we still see this mentality in America versus Europe. While Europe embraces a more social democratic model with universal healthcare, a stronger social safety net, and more restrictions on liberties, the United States has a mentality of letting each person fend for themselves and not letting the government overstay its welcome in our lives.
3. They’re overweight.
Ask a foreigner to picture an American and they’ll likely envision someone who is overweight or obese munching on a hamburger. The stereotype may not be far off, as the U.S. rate for obesity prevalence was over 40% as of 2020, including 1 in 6 children.
These factors greatly impact the U.S., costing the government over $173 billion in 2019 for medical costs related to obesity. Since each U.S. state has an obesity rate of over 20%, the chances of meeting an obese American are quite high.
4. They are rich.
Being American is often associated with being rich, especially those from less developed nations. This may have to do with American film and television, which often depicts families living in large suburban homes with a middle-high to high-class lifestyle.
While the average net worth of the American family is $748,000, a better depiction would be the median net worth of around $121,700. It’s important to note that there is a large financial disparity in the U.S.; the richest 1% of Americans have more money than the bottom 50% combined.
5. They are extremely patriotic.
Maybe it’s the abundance of American flags, the many songs and anthems dedicated to the U.S.A., or the large-scale presence of the American military, but Americans are known as being some of the most patriotic people in the world. Perhaps the groups of young people who chant, “U.S.A, U.S.A!” add to the effect.
Even in times of political divide, Americans tend to get together to wholeheartedly defend their nation if needed. There are many ways to show patriotism, however. Other cultures share a sense of patriotism about their own country, although it may be in a quieter way.
6. They love to put on shows.
From the Super Bowl to the Presidential inauguration hosting celebrity singers, Americans are known for putting on a show. The U.S. has Broadway and Hollywood and generally makes most events a spectacle to remember.
After speaking to some Europeans, they all agreed that the U.S. liked to do things “big”, from fireworks to flag decorations and beyond.
7. They aren’t cultured.
Unfortunately, the average American abroad isn’t seen as cultured as other citizens from developed nations. It may be that other areas, such as Europe, focus more on a global perspective when it comes to the public-school curriculum, or simply that they’re more well-traveled because it’s easier to go from one country to another in Europe than it is in North America.
To add to it all, many videos are circulating the web of interviewers asking random Americans on the street questions about geography or politics. Needless to say, most of the publicized answers are far from accurate, backing up the stereotype that Americans know little about countries that aren’t theirs.
8. They’re arrogant.
Perhaps it’s the patriotism or lack of international knowledge, but Americans have also gotten the stereotype of being arrogant. Others feel that Americans believe their country is the best, they are the best, and that there is no greatness outside of the U.S.A.
While most Americans can identify wonders and accomplishments outside of their own country, they do tend to speak more fondly and proudly of those found on their land. Although, if we are being honest, this would likely happen in many more countries.
9. They’re entrepreneurs.
In a positive light, Americans have also been stereotyped as hard-working entrepreneurs. The country holds some of the most popular and money-moving companies in the world, such as Facebook, Amazon, SpaceX, and Apple.
With many capitalist aspects encouraging business owners and independent contractors, the U.S.A. is arguably a great place to start a company, expand a side hustle, or work a second job.
10. They’re materialistic
With the thought of making money comes spending money. Americans are also known for having the latest and greatest things – usually in the biggest size. “Keeping up with the Joneses” was and remains a truly American event.
It’s normal to hear of Americans getting into debt to get a new and expensive car, phone, or appliance when the old one they had was just fine. More than half of Americans are estimated to live beyond their means, not having enough to cover a $1,000 emergency but spending the same money monthly on wants instead of needs.
The 10 stereotypical characteristics of Americans are just that – stereotypes. While some may ring truer than others, each person is unique and deserves a chance to display their true personality before being judged. While you may relate or agree with some of these characteristics, it’s important to always take them with a grain of salt.
Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education.