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Ryan: Top 5 Things you Need to Know about American Society.
Chihiro: Hey everybody, I'm Chihiro, and in this lesson, we’re going to tell you more about life in the USA!
Ryan: There are so many aspects to American society, it’s hard to know where to begin!
Chihiro: Well since the title of this lesson is “Top 5 Things You Need to Know About American Society!,” I picked 5 topics.
Ryan: Which are?
Chihiro: America’s major cities, family, work culture and the economy, politics, and general trends.
Ryan: Wow. So we’re all set then.
Chihiro: Right. Why don’t we start with city life, shall we? Let’s talk about the San Francisco first.
Ryan: Any particular reason?
Chihiro: Because I love that city! So YES it is a biased option!
Ryan: Thanks for your honesty, okay! Let’s talk about San Francisco!
Chihiro: There are an estimated 776, 733 people living in the city of San Francisco, in which a little under a quarter are from 25~35 years of age.
Ryan: San Francisco, located in northern California and is known for its thick fog, and steep hills. Many of the buildings are Victorian style and modern as well, so you get a little bit of both, like many other cities in the word that have done a good job of preserving the old while the new advance.
Chihiro: We cannot forget to mention the famous golden gate bridge and the cable cars to get around the city.
Ryan: Right, and the city is so diverse in its racial makeup, you’ll find the people there are very open minded and eclectic shall we say? In their views.
Chihiro: New York City is also a great city on the east coast of the country, and like the state of California, New York is also known to be city of entry for many immigrants.
Ryan: You may have heard of famous areas and landmarks in New York, such as Broadway, Wall Street, Rockefeller Plaza, Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty and many others.
Chihiro: The city plays an important influential role in art, culture, finance, entertainment, media and other areas, a diverse range as the city itself.
Ryan: And one more very important city, the capital. Washington D.C. which stands for Washington, the District of Columbia.
Chihiro: This is where the three branches of government are located, as well as around 150 foreign embassies.
Ryan: It’s also famous for the many monuments and museums it has.
Chihiro: It has a population of about 600,000, but during the week, commuters add on to the population, pushing it to over a million.
Ryan: That’s a very good point to mention. Okay, let’s carry onto the second point... which is family!
Ryan: Ahh... another topic that has many aspects to it. Let’s just talk about it very generally so that the listeners get an idea.
Chihiro: Yes, I agree. I would say a very very typical all American traditional family would be a mother and father and perhaps around 2 kids. The father would go to the work, while the mother was a housewife taking care of the children.
Ryan: But of course as we mentioned before, American families are changing and the typical American family may not fit this description so much anymore. Depending on your background, you could come from a very large family with many brothers and sisters, or step brothers and step sisters.
Chihiro: Right, or you could come from a very small family with just one parent, or step parents. It’s really hard to describe a ‘typical’ family. Most of the people I know don’t come from such families either.
Ryan: And many children who come from families of recent immigrants, they speak two languages, English and the language of their parents. This doesn’t apply to everyone, but many.
Chihiro: And typically the woman changes her last name when she gets married, but it is also common to either keep it or hyphenate it as well. And marriage is not a necessity to have children, and also the average age for marriage is getting older.
Ryan: For many families, the child leaves the house when they go to university, and many times, especially if the parents cannot afford it, the teenager is left to pay their way through school and living.
Chihiro: For this reason many universities have students scholarships, loans and grants to help these people.
Ryan: Right, but it doesn’t always work because the student is often left with a lot of debt after they graduate, that it’s hard to pay it all back.
Chihiro: Right, that’s a common complaint I hear as well.
Ryan: Okay, shall we talk about our next point then?
Chihiro: Sure, what is it?
Ryan: Let’s talk about the work culture.
Chihiro: That’s a good one. First of all, American has a GDP of over $14.5 trillion
Ryan: The work culture in the states is that you work hard and earn a living from it. That it’s entirely up to you to make it happen. Working hours are typically from 9~5, but of course vary depending on the kind of job and employer.
Chihiro: Right. The office environment is usually informal, and the hierarchy between the managers and subordinates are not apparent. People are treated with respect and as individuals and are expected to do the same.
Ryan: A typical American office ranges from strict business attire to jeans and running shoes. What were you wearing when you worked in the States?
Chihiro: It was business casual with casual Fridays, which means slacks and a nice top mon~thur, and jeans were allowed on Fridays. Some people wore running shoes to the office on these days as well.
Ryan: So it was pretty relaxed.
Chihiro: Now, the business mentality is to be polite and respectful to other people, but at the same time be able to voice opinions, whether people agree or not. A good decision is based on the quality and the speed of the decision.
Ryan: Work is considered as important, but so is family. If work interferes with family life, it is thought of as bad and generally people don’t like sacrificing their families for work, although this is not always possible.
Chihiro: Also, even if colleagues don’t know one another that well, it is normal to have a casual conversation about light topics with them, just for the sake of communication.
Ryan: Working people have different types of jobs, but we’ll talk about two common types. Full time workers and part time workers. Full time workers are workers whose schedules are set and receive salaries for their work. Part time working is when the person receives an hourly wage.
Chihiro: And the minimum hourly wage differs from state to state. Depending on where the person lives, they commute to work in different ways. Driving to work in traffic is common, along with trains and buses if in the city.
Ryan: Right, and also bicycles are another option!
Chihiro: That’s right, I forgot about that one!
Ryan: Also, Americans are known for their hard-working and perhaps over-worked culture. It’s a high stress culture where people are expected to meet deadlines and produce work at a good speed. Tardiness is usually frowned upon, especially for meetings.
Chihiro: Right. I think that sums up the office environment in the states.
Ryan: Okay, onto the next topic. Let’s talk about politics. Right. Who’s the leader of the country?
Ryan: That would be the president, which presently is Barack Obama.
Chihiro: And what kind of government is it?
Ryan: A federal government. Which means that the individual states are self governing. They can make their own laws within the state.
Chihiro: But if a law is made at a federal level, then that law must be followed.
Ryan: There are two major political parties in the States, the Republicans and the Democrats. There are other parties too and a member from those parties may be elected as well.
Chihiro: Right, these two parties receive support from wealthy individuals or businesses in the form of money. In return, the parties must listen to their wishes, which then doesn’t always turn out for the better of the country.
Ryan: Right, and so even if one party is the major party at the federal level, it doesn’t mean they get everything they want, because opposing parties may exercise their powers through these lobbyists.
Chihiro: Right, that’s why a compromise must often be made, which might cause a loss of support for that party.
Ryan: The president is elected through voting by the people. However, many young people may feel discouraged to vote because they feel a lack of power in their decision due to the system the votes are counted.
Chihiro: Right, but nevertheless, there have been movements here and there to encourage more voting. Voting age is 18.
Ryan: Okay, last but not least, let’s talk about some general trends in US society that we haven’t touched upon.
Chihiro: Good idea. Perhaps we should comment about youth.
Ryan: Yes, the younger generation which is probably true for many countries are growing up with a more liberal mindset than the older generations.
Chihiro: Good point. Older generations may have a particular view on a subject, whereas younger people may be less restricted by traditional morals.
Ryan: This is due to of course their upbringing, but as well as perhaps changing technology.
Chihiro: Which of course is shaping a lot of their views. The youth today have had internet all their lives, so this fast speed of information is actually normal to them.
Ryan: And that goes along with all the other kinds of developments in technology which take part in the lives of many US families.
Chihiro: Also, the racial makeup of the US is changing, which brings along different views adapted from different culture.
Ryan: We can go on and on about trends, but I think we’ve had enough information to give our listeners an overview.
Chihiro: Yes, I agree.
Ryan: So thanks for tuning in, as usual, everybody.
Chihiro: Hope to see you all next time.
Ryan: Bye, everyone!