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American Flag / © Mike Mozart / Flickr
American Flag / © Mike Mozart / Flickr

7 Traditions Only Americans Can Understand

Picture of Leena Kollar
Updated: 29 May 2017

Every part of the world has its own customs and traditions. Some are rooted in the historic values held by certain cultures, while others are born from social patterns. These are the traditions that have been bred from the American way of life.

Driving Everywhere

Americans live fast paced lives. Big cities like New York and Los Angeles are especially fast moving and therefore require getting around by way of anything but foot. Most Americans own cars and those who don’t usually rely on public transportation. You’ll find a few smaller towns where people walk to and from places, but for the most part, driving everywhere is how Americans get around.

Not Taking Maternity Leave

Among 41 nations, the United Stated is the only country that doesn’t mandate paid leave for new parents. The closest option for working professionals is to take unpaid time off that allows for job security under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Under this law, employees can take up to 12 weeks of leave, as long as they have worked for their employer for at least 12 months and put in a minimum of 1,250 hours of work. President Trump has recently proposed a historic plan that would offer six weeks of paid maternity leave to new mothers.

Eating Fast Food and Large Portions

The American way is often the easy way, due in part to the busy lives that they live. Fast-food chains are as prosperous as ever, and many Americans rely on drive-thru windows to grab a quick meal on the go. In most restaurants, guests are served large portions of food, contributing to the obesity problem that exists in America. When a high-end restaurant does serve smaller portions, people often make up for it by ordering a big dessert.

Celebrating the Fourth of July

To commemorate the United States’ birth and newfound freedom, Americans celebrate on July 4th. On that date in 1776, the Declaration of Independence granted the United States freedom from the British Empire. The 4th of July is often celebrated with parades, cookouts, concerts, and most notably, fireworks. It is a federal holiday where many display American flags and dress in red, white and blue to honor the colors of the flag. Some even incorporate the colors into holiday food, drinks, and decor.

Constantly Striving to Maintain a Youthful Appearance

The United States has an obsession with youthfulness. Women, in particular, are constantly coloring their hair, getting plastic surgery, seeking out the latest age-defying beauty products and eating foods that contribute to graceful aging. Even many American men have jumped on board the anti-aging train, using products that maintain younger-looking hair and skin, and squeezing in time for exercise to stay fit. Wrinkles and gray hair are generally not favored in America, which is why many popular American celebrities fall off the grid after a certain age.

Working Way Too Many Hours

Not only do American workers put in more hours than workers in most other countries, they also retire later and take fewer vacations. According to the ILO, Americans work almost 25 percent more hours than Europeans, 137 more hours per year than Japanese workers, and 499 more hours per year than French workers. More than half of American men and women work more than 40 hours a week. There is no federal law requiring American workers to take paid sick days, and the United States is one of the few industrialised nations with no legally mandated annual leave.

Tipping For Services

In the United States, it is customary to tip for various services. This includes tipping servers at restaurants, hairstylists, taxi drivers, and bartenders. Standard tipping rates range from 15-20 per cent for most services. Most restaurant servers make around $2.13 per hour, relying heavily on tips to pay their bills and support their families. Workers in other industries are paid tips on top of a higher hourly wage.