It is sometimes pointed out how few Americans own passports and suggested that if travel broadens the mind then this indicates a lack of cultural variety. However, even a short trip across America quickly dispels any myth of cultural sameness. One begins to understand why so few Americans regularly leave their borders when so much can change just from state to state. The USA is one of the most ethnically diverse nations in the world, and its sheer size guarantees an extraordinary amount of natural and cultural variety. The differences in landscape, dialect, and character experienced while crossing the States can sometimes make Europe seem almost homogeneous by comparison. Sometimes crude, other times elegant, there is never a shortage of art, architecture or cuisine in the U.S.A.
The 'land of the free' is also a land of contradictions, with the South claiming a distinct identity from the North, and middle America differing greatly from the coastal states of New York and California. For more detailed information on each particular state, please visit their individual pages. Casting the differences aside however, there are certain aspects that seem to appear throughout American culture.
With a literary tradition extending only a couple of hundred years, the earliest American novels addressed the themes of freedom, individualism, exploration and social change that formed the familiar motifs we know today.
The desire for exploration, revolution and personal enlightenment has been explored throughout American literature, from the earliest Great American novels, like Moby Dick and Huckleberry Finn, through to the works of 20th century writers like Ernest Hemingway and Jack Kerouac.
American cinema is so ubiquitous and so all-encompassing that it is probably the most enduring and most prominent aspect of its cultural legacy. During the so-called Golden Age of Hollywood, lasting from the late 1920s to the 1960s, studios turned out prolific numbers of films, with ever-increasing budgets and redefined what was possible with the medium. Casablanca, Gone with the Wind and Citizen Kane are regularly cited as amongst the greatest films of all time and each one has made a recognizable impact on American culture.