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U.S. Culture

As you likely already know, the U.S. is a large and incredibly diverse country. It is hard, if not impossible, to talk about one U.S. culture because the people and places that make up this country embody such a wide range of histories, values, beliefs, and behaviors. If you have just started exploring U.S. culture –welcome! There is a lot to learn and we are so happy you are here.

Generalizations vs. stereotypes Heading link

When talking about the culture of a particular group is it critical to address and understand the difference between a cultural generalization and a stereotype. Generalizations should be used to promote understanding and foster equitable relationships. Stereotypes serve to limit understanding and often help maintain the power of one group over another.

We ask you to hold generalizations lightly and challenge the stereotypes you may have heard about your own or another group’s culture.

A group of people in silhouette in red, teal, and navy blue.


  • Emphasize similarities of a group
  • Flexible
  • Allow for difference
  • Used to promote understanding of others
Group of people in silhouette, all red and in two lines inside a black box.


  • Applied to everyone in the group
  • Inflexible
  • Do not allow for difference
  • Used to limit understanding
  • Often carry negative connotations

Common generalizations of U.S. culture Heading link

Use the generalizations below to begin your exploration of U.S. culture but remember to keep an open mind and avoid stereotyping. You may meet a U.S. American who is not at all like the descriptions below, and that is normal, exciting, and to be expected!

Small talk and making friends Heading link

Three UIC students jump in the air on-campus during on a sunny day.

Some people from outside the U.S. have said that it is hard making friends with U.S. Americans despite them seeming so friendly. Why do they say, “Hi! How are you doing?” if they do not want to wait for an answer?!

“How are you doing?” or “How’s it going?” are common greetings and examples of small talk – friendly chatter without the expectation for a continued conversation or relationship.

Instead, a lot of U.S. Americans will build friendships around activities such as playing or watching a sport, eating at a restaurant, visiting a museum, creating something, or participating in an organization. If you want to build a relationship with a U.S. American, don’t ask them about the weather, ask them to do something fun!

Exploring culture with UIC Heading link

If you want to continue your explorations culture, there are many opportunities to do so at UIC. Check out the links below and the Campus Life information for each of UIC’s campuses.