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How to be an American
Despite all our different origins, there is a style that marks North Americans. We have shy people and bold, talkative and quiet, and yet you cannot mistake the quality of ‘Americanness’.
Nearly everyone agrees that we are friendly. It shows that we think everyone is equal and has rights. (1) . True friends are as difficult to make here as everywhere else.
Americans do not think it necessary to hide their emotions. Sometimes we seem to exaggerate them. (2) . Unlike many Asians, Americans smile only around good news or happy feelings. An American smiles often but not when embarrassed or confused. Bad news does not come with a smile.
Because we don’t touch each other very much, Latin Americans find us cold. (3) . We stand at least an arm’s length apart, and are made uncomfortable by people who stand closer.
Because it is important to be assertive, Americans speak fairly loudly.
Visitors usually find Americans very polite, because we use please and thank you very often and because of the way we are friendly to strangers. We are polite to waiters and garage attendants as well as doctors and senators.
(5) . The forms of our language do not change when we talk to a superior, as they do in many languages. People dress casually and use first names most of the time. But it is still easy for a foreigner to make mistakes and be too informal in the wrong circumstances.
A We have a strong sense of private space.
BWe show happiness with big smile, gestures and exaggerated
CWe are very informal.
DBut being friendly is different from being friends.
EForeigners sometimes mistake the loudness for anger, especially
because it is more acceptable to show anger than in other cultures.
4 What is the article about?
5 Write down five adjectives that describe the characteristics of Americans according to this article. Do you agree with the writer?
6 How similar are your national characteristics to those of North Americans? Think of a few adjectives describing your national characteristics.
7 Discuss in class. Do you think people from other countries would describe your national character in the same way?
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