Every country has a culture. When we think of “culture” we think of the exotic dress and rituals of ancient China or Japan. Or we might think of England or Scotland with their quirky approach to food, dress and customs. Or we might think of the music of Africa or the Caribbean or the alluring appeal of South America. As Americans we are endlessly fascinated with the cultures of the world.
But something we don’t always realize is that the American culture itself is the envy of the world for it’s excitement, it’s fun and the diversity that makes living in America such a pleasure. Yes, America does indeed have a culture and it is a culture that is unlike anything else in the world. But it is a culture we see having a huge influence on other cultures around the world. Because in the countries of Asia, South America, Australia and even the Middle East you see people, especially young people, emulating how Americans look, talk, eat and view the world. To be sure, culture may be America’s greatest export.
Perhaps the one area where we see the greatest copying of our culture is in the area of sports. Americans love of sports reflects our admiration of people who are competitive and people who are winners. Because if anything, Americans think of themselves as winners. And the world sees that and says, “That is how I want to be too.”
Music too has become a part of our culture that is so vibrant, so dynamic and so exciting that each musical movement that starts here sweeps the world. When Rock and Roll began to dominate American culture, we could not contain it’s influence within our borders. Instead it spread like a virus all around the globe. Before long it wasn’t just Americans that were singing “I wish they all could be California girls”. That wonderful and very American song was being sung in every culture from Berlin to Baghdad and from Paris, France to Pretoria, South Africa.
There are so many interesting and fun parts of American culture that have caught on worldwide that it’s sometimes impossible to separate popular culture of the world from the American origins that set those trends in motion. The internet has only accelerated that process. Even in closed or restrictive societies like Iran and China, because young people can get access to videos, news feeds, popular television, movies and music from America over the internet, they too become addicted to want to be part of “all things American”.
Besides the various genres of culture such as clothes, music, movies and sports, there is a certain “attitude” that speaks to the world. It is an attitude that is distinctively American. There is a cockiness, a self assured bravado, an almost obnoxious assurance that we are universally liked and that we will always be universally successful that appeals to those outside our culture that find themselves wanting to be like us.
And why shouldn’t we carry a certain amount of attitude with us wherever we go? Americans are outgoing and friendly because that is the nature of our country. Will Roger’s trait that he “never met a man he didn’t like” is very much a down home American trait. That attitude is a natural outgrowth of the spirit of cooperation and good will that is how America ticks.
While in some of our more urban cities, that spirit becomes sophisticated and street wise, it comes out especially in times of crisis. They say in some of the biggest emergencies of recent history including 911 and Katrina, in the heart of the horror, the people did not panic but quietly went about helping each other. If anything screams out “American”, it is that kind of attitude.
We can be proud of our culture because it is so uniquely us. And we can be proud that others envy us and want to adopt our music, our styles and even our attitudes. In the right kind of way, it is how we really do go about “exporting America” as the whole world looks on and begins to be infected by this wonderful culture and this infectious “attitude” that is what it means to be “an American”.