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Top Five Stereotypes About Americans And Why They Might Not Be True

Updated on January 24, 2012
I swear we aren't all like this
I swear we aren't all like this

Why Americans are stereotyped

There are many stereotypes about American people, and we've earned a lot of them. But some of these things can be debunked as nothing more than propaganda from evil terrorists trying to make us look bad. Okay, that might be an exaggeration, but the truth is there often isn't a lot of truth to the jokes that Americans are often made the butt of (although the one about about our poor grammar and the way we sometimes end a sentence in a preposition is true, although not harmful).

Here are the top five American stereotypes and why they either aren't true or are misleading:

5. Americans are conservative rednecks

Alright, it's true that in parts of the so-called "Bible belt" there are huge swaths of Americans who don't support progressive issues. That doesn't just mean they don't support abortion and gay marriage, it means they don't support things like interracial marriage (in South Carolina, over 1/3 of poll-takers responded that they did not support interracial dating or marriage, and 1/5 said they would support a law criminalizing such activity).

The conservative parts of America are generally the less-populated areas. Liberal progressives dominate the cities and most areas where tourists would visit, including New York City, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

4. Americans think everyone should speak English

Well, this one is sort of true. Americans do expect English to be spoken everywhere, and they get angry when it isn't. The reason behind this is two-fold:

1.) American culture is dominated by the English language, and all threats posed by other languages (particularly Spanish) are immediately suppressed by conservative politicians in an attempt to appease their voting base.

2.) Our education system isn't very good compared to those found in Europe, and foreign language education is on the back burner. Children often don't start learning a foreign language until 7th or 8th grade.

Lucky for most Americans, English is the international language and an understanding of the language is required to work in many industries around the world. I realize this doesn't make it right for an American to be rude to a customer service employee in Milan who doesn't understand what "where's the dang bathroom?" means, but our comfortability with our native language being understood abroad sometimes makes us forget it's not the native tongue around the world.

3. American are very litigiuos

There is a perception that we tend to sue other people and businesses for the most minor things. This tends to be overblown by the media, who exaggerate every civil court case that can be reduced down to a 7-word headline. "Woman Sues McDonald's Over Spilled Hot Coffee" grabs people's attention and makes them angry that a woman could be so stupid and greedy, but it doesn't tell the whole story. It doesn't tell you that the woman was elderly and she almost died from her burns. It doesn't tell you that McDonald's was making coffee that was exceptionally hotter than the coffee you make in your Mr. Coffee machine at home.

The fact is, American society was far more litigious in the 19th century than in the 20th, and it's looking to be even less litigious in the 21st. Corporations actively lobby politicians to limit the ways they can be sued and to limit the rights of those they might harm. They disguise this practices by giving the issue the boring name "tort reform". Tort reform just means that politicians are trying to limit the rights of the average person to seek fair damages from those who have harmed them.

American courts are not being overwhelmed by frivolous lawsuits. On the contrary, in a more just society there would actually be more people seeking damages in court.

2. Americans don't know anything about other cultures

Like the stereotype about Americans and the English language, this one has a grain a truth to it. It's true that there are huge sections of the country where jingoism prevails and nobody even bothers to travel anywhere other than Disneyworld, but there are also a lot of Americans who travel far more than the average person in the world. Study abroad participation is among the highest in the world, and anyone who has ever gone on an "alternative vacation" like an eco-vacation knows that their fellow travelers are more likely to be from America than anywhere else.

Unlike continental Europeans, it actually takes a considerable effort for most Americans to leave the country. We can't just ride our bikes to Switzerland for lunch. Although a disappointing number of Americans don't have passports, those that do often have them filled with stamps from around the world.

1. Americans are all fat

Compared to the rest of the world, Americans are overweight. There are a few reasons for this. First, we tend to live a sedentary lifestyle. Second, we tend to eat large portions of food. Third, food is very cheap in the United States relative to the rest of the world, and mass-produced food is the cheapest and often the least nutritious.

Although all those factors help make us fat, they shouldn't necessarily reflect poorly on this nation. Sedentary lifestyles are the product of a robust economy compared to other parts of the world, and the availability of an abundance of food (most of which is grown in the United States) shows that we can produce for ourselves. Sure, we might have to buy an extra plane ticket to fit our extra buttocks, but there are people who are much worse-off.

What are your favorite American stereotypes?

Submit a Comment

  • denkmuskel profile image

    Michael Schmitz 

    6 years ago from Berlin

    I liked the part about having to buy two plane tickets. Just discussed about that in class these days, if fatties should have to pay more for their health insurance. There is a very nice "Bullshit"-episode about that. Interesting and funny article as I am involved in some kind of rel.ship with an american right now.

  • jponiato profile image


    6 years ago from Mid-Michigan

    I definitely found truth and humor in this hub. I think the general impression people around the world have regarding Americans is based more on these stereotypes than on actuality, but the truth is there are enough of us perpetuating the stereotypes that we won't soon overcome them.

    I do believe that anyone living in the US should at least attempt to speak and understand English if they want to work here, but in no way do I think it is fair to expect it of anyone else.

  • I am DB Cooper profile imageAUTHOR

    I am DB Cooper 

    6 years ago from Whereabouts unknown at this time

    The snow anxiety is definitely present in the south and parts of the midwest. Actually, pretty much anywhere south of Pennsylvania. Cars slow down to a crawl with just a dusting of snow, which gets annoying for any northerners sharing the road with them. Up north, people wonder whether a foot of snow will be enough to close schools.

  • That Grrl profile image

    Laura Brown 

    6 years ago from Barrie, Ontario, Canada

    Nice Hub post and well defended for the US. I lived in the US a few years, married a US American. I found people there (in that area) to be kind of ignorant and proud of it. I was also surprised by the racism. However, the biggest surprise, which still makes me laugh is how panicked they became over the possibility of snow. In the area I was living we rarely had snow over your ankle. But the panic my Mother-in-law went into if it 'might' snow that day was unbelievable.

  • adjkp25 profile image


    6 years ago from Northern California

    So true on these stereotype's. I'm sure there are tons more but I am drawing a blank right now.

  • INFJay profile image

    Jay Manriquez 

    6 years ago from Santa Rosa, California

    Every stereotype has a grain (or sack) of truth in its foundation. Having lived in both Texas and California, I've observed everyone of the above stereotypes and have made it one of my top priorities to break as many stereotypes as possible. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your Hub!


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