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HISTORY
As a nation, the United States of America, gained its independence from England, in 1776.  Prior to that, and to the immigration of primarily European settlers escaping religious persecution in their native country, the Native Americans lived in all major areas of the USA.  One of the most significant events to occur in USA history, was the civil war, or also known as the “War of Emancipation” from 1861 through 1865.  This war would forever change the way that most Americans view their fellow countrymen, and became the basis for civil rights, for all Americans, regardless of race.  Often called the melting pot, for its diverse heritage of countrymen, immigration to this country continues to shape its course.   As of 2014, the United States of America was comprised of 50 states, 4 territories and the District of Columbia. 

CULTURE
As a “nation of immigrants” and for its size, both in population and land mass, the USA boasts a population more diversified in culture, race and religion, than any other country on earth.  Due in part to its relatively young age as a nation, there is still a feeling of excitement and opportunity that thrives in this country.   While it is hard to define a specific culture in the USA, most people would associate Americans with things like: outdoor barbecues; basketball, baseball and football; Hollywood and Movie Stars and a relatively high standard of living.  A prominent part of the American psyche is the ability to express your ideas, without fear of reprisal, also known as freedom of speech.  As a people, most Americans are hardworking, open, friendly and giving to others.  Religion plays a prominent role in American society, whether in Christianity, Islam, Hindi, Buddhism or other.

MAJOR EVENTS

Major holidays in the USA include:

  • New Year’s Day
    New Year’s Day is January 1. The celebration of this holiday begins the night before, when Americans gather to wish each other a happy and prosperous coming year. Many Americans make New Year’s resolutions. See the New Year’s resolutions that are popular every year.
  • Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.
    Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is celebrated on the third Monday in January. The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. was an African-American clergyman who is recognized for his tireless efforts to win civil rights for all people through nonviolent means.
  • Washington’s Birthday
    Washington’s Birthday is observed the third Monday of February in honor George Washington, the first President of the United States. This date is commonly called Presidents’ Day and many groups honor the legacy of past presidents on this date.
  • Memorial Day
    Memorial Day is a observed the last Monday of May. It originally honored the people killed in the American Civil War, but has become a day on which the American dead of all wars are remembered.
  • Independence Day
    Independence Day is July 4. This holiday honors the nation’s birthday – the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. It is a day of picnics and patriotic parades, a night of concerts, and fireworks.
  • Labor Day
    Labor Day is the first Monday of September. This holiday honors the nation’s working people, typically with parades. For most Americans it marks the end of the summer vacation season and the start of the school year.
  • Columbus Day
    Columbus Day is a celebrated on the second Monday in October. The day commemorates October 12, 1492, when Italian navigator Christopher Columbus landed in the New World. The holiday was first proclaimed in 1937 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
  • Veterans Day
    Veterans Day is celebrated on November 11. This holiday was originally called Armistice Day and established to honor Americans who had served in World War I. It now honors veterans of all wars in which the U.S. has fought. Veterans’ organizations hold parades, and the president places a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
  • Thanksgiving Day
    Thanksgiving Day is celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November. In the fall of 1621, the Pilgrims held a three-day feast to celebrate a bountiful harvest. Many regard this event as the nation’s first Thanksgiving. The Thanksgiving feast became a national tradition and almost always includes some of the foods served at the first feast: roast turkey, cranberry sauce, potatoes, and pumpkin pie.
  • Christmas Day
    Christmas Day is a celebrated on December 25. Christmas is a Christian holiday marking the birth of the Christ Child. Decorating houses and yards with lights, putting up Christmas trees, giving gifts, and sending greeting cards have become holiday traditions even for many non-Christian Americans.

  

FOOD
Due to its vast cultural diversity, foods from pretty much anywhere can be found in the USA.  Usually in the larger cities, you will find the greatest diversity, but even in smaller towns and cities, it’s not too difficult to find Asian or Latin American food.  Many foods originally from other countries have almost been adopted into the American cuisine, including pizza, burritos and even Chinese American food.  “Traditional” foods do exists, such a barbecue hot dogs and hamburgers.  Most Americans eat a significant portion of beef and fish.  In some areas, such as California, Texas and New Mexico, Mexican food is a primary staple of many families.

TRANSPORTATION
Americans love cars and driving is a traditional past time for most.  Whether it be to the beach, to the mountains or just a weekend evening cruise, the automobile is by far the most popular means of transportation.  This is also due to the fact that the USA is a large country, with cities sometimes spread far apart.  In some of the larger cities, such as Washington DC, New York, or Los Angeles, there is public transportation in the form of subways or metro, and of course, public buses, trains and taxis.

LODGING
As in most countries, particularly those that have large numbers of tourist, there are multiple types of lodging and pretty something for any budget level, everything from economy hotels, to 5 Star hotels.  Couch surfing is a growing way for people visiting the USA to spend some time with a local family, at little to no cost.  Many websites now provide detailed information on this alternative form of lodging, along with referrals and references.

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USEFUL PHRASES

Because of the diversity of culture in the USA, you will often hear multiple languages being spoken.  The secondary language most used in the USA is Spanish.  A few useful idioms in English and some Spanish phrases include:

English Idioms
 

  • Grab a bite
  • Take it easy
  • Go with the flow
  • Twenty-Four Seven
  • Under the weather
  • Don’t sweat it
  • You can say that again
  • Broke
  • Beats me
  • I Don’t Buy It
  • Keep your cool
  • Sort of
  • Good For you
  • Good Luck
  • Shotgun

Spanish Phrases

  • Como Estas?
  • Bien, y tu?
  • Buenos Dias
  • Buenos Noches
  • Adios
  • Tienes hambre?  
  • Tienes ser?
  • Bonita
  • Vamanos
  • Cuanto Cuesta?
  • Muchacho
  • Muchacha
  • Hombre
  • Senor
  • Senora
  • Senorita

 

How are you?
Good, and you?
Good Day
Good Night
Good Bye
Are you hungry?
Are you thirsty
Beautiful
Let’s go
How much is it?
Boy
Girl
Man
Sir
Woman (older)
Woman (younger)