17 Stereotypes People Believe About America That Just Aren’t True

There are many stereotypes surrounding America and its diverse inhabitants. While some may have a historical basis, they’re generally overblown and based on Hollywood depictions of American life. The U.S. is a large country with various cultures. Here are 17 stereotypes people worldwide believe about America that just aren’t true.

Everyone Owns a Gun

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America is known for its love of guns. The right to bear arms is guaranteed in the Constitution, and the U.S. has the highest civilian gun ownership in the world. But not everyone in the country is a gun enthusiast. The Pew Research Center reported in 2023 that “about four-in-ten U.S. adults say they live in a household with a gun, including 32% who say they personally own one.” Their research showed that Republicans own more guns than Democrats, more men own guns than women, and ownership is more common in rural areas than in the suburbs or urban areas.

Americans Are Well-Traveled

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Americans are believed to travel abroad less than their European counterparts. A YouGov survey from 2023 found that 43 percent of Americans hold passports—up from 27 percent in 2007—52 percent do not, and the rest were unsure or preferred not to say. More Americans travel abroad as international travel gets cheaper, but limited vacation time often stops Americans from taking extended trips abroad.

The US is Dominated by Skyscrapers and Big Cities

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Big American cities like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia are known for their skylines, which are dominated by skyscrapers. But most Americans live in suburbs, and the country has vast natural landscapes, national parks, and rural areas. Every state has small towns with diverse cultures and urban green spaces.

Americans Are Always Busy and Stressed

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Americans are known for working long hours and getting little vacation time. But according to Clockify, the average American works “36.4 hours per week, which is slightly more than other OECD countries.” There is a growing importance placed on work-life balance by many companies, and employees increasingly value leisure time.

Everyone Lives in Either New York or Los Angeles

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New York and Los Angeles are the two most populated cities in the U.S. But their combined population of over 10 million is a tiny fraction of the total population of America. Other cities like Chicago, Houston, and Phoenix have huge populations, and every region of the country has significant cultural and economic centers.

Americans Are Overly Patriotic

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Americans have a reputation for their displays of patriotism, including singing the national anthem before sporting events, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools, and having U.S. flags prominently displayed across the country. But a recent Axios poll points to a declining number of those “extremely proud” to be American, and that pride in the country has decreased since 2005.

American Food Lacks Variety

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Contrary to stereotypes that Americans only eat fast food and meatloaf, American cuisine is influenced by its melting pot culture, with a rich tapestry of food options. Unique regional dishes like American chop suey, biscuits and gravy, frito pie, and laulau reflect diverse local history and culture.

Americans Only Eat Fast Food

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The U.S. is famous for its fast food chains like Burger King and McDonald’s, which dominate the global fast food market. While Americans are known for loving fast food, the vast multicultural population has almost endless cuisines and a growing trend of farm-to-table restaurants and local farmers’ markets. Data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows that farmers’ markets have grown rapidly since 1994.

Americans Are Materialistic

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Americans are often stereotyped as being materialistic, believing that material possessions will improve their well-being. However, there is a strong culture of giving to charity and philanthropy in the country, and there is a growing interest in minimalism and sustainable living.

The American Dream Is Alive for Everyone

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The American Dream is the idea that anyone can succeed in the U.S., regardless of where they were born or their social class. But that dream is fading for millions of Americans who believe they will not be as successful as their parents were. The New York Times reports, “For most Americans, progress has slowed to a crawl in recent decades. Income and wealth inequality have both soared. Working-class Americans often struggle to afford the best health care and homes in good school districts.”

America Is Unsafe

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America has higher levels of gun crime than Canada and its European allies, but it is a generally safe country. NBC News noted that despite the widespread belief that crime is rising in the country, violent crime fell 8 percent in 2023, and property crime dropped 6.3 percent.

Americans Lack Culture

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The U.S. has contributed to global culture with Hollywood, literature, music, and the arts. The U.S. is home to over 35,000 museums, historic theaters, music halls, and diverse festivals nationwide. The country’s cultural richness comes with the melting pot population that makes up the U.S.

Everyone in America Is Rich

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While America may have 735 billionaires and millions of people whose assets exceed $1 million, not everyone in the U.S. is rich. The country has widespread economic disparity, with relative poverty and middle-income families. Public assistance programs like Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and General Assistance (GA) help those on lower incomes.

The US Is Only English Speaking

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While English is the national language in the U.S., the country has a vast multilingual population, with millions of bilingual households. The country is often described as a melting pot of different cultures, with people from all over the world. In 2020, Babbel reported that there were 43,200,000 native speakers of Spanish, almost 3 million native Chinese speakers, 1.6 million Tagalog speakers, and over a million French and Vietnamese speakers.

Americans Lack a Sense of Geography

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Europeans have long ridiculed Americans for their poor knowledge of geography. Geography is not a required course for graduation in many states. However, recent studies have suggested that Americans aren’t significantly worse at locating countries than their European counterparts.

Americans Are Not Interested in World Affairs

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Americans are often viewed as insular and uninterested in global affairs. But, as Pew Research points out, Americans are familiar with some global leaders and institutions. Knowledge of world affairs generally depends on how much individual Americans follow international news.

Fast-Paced American Lifestyle

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The pace of life in the U.S. greatly varies between urban and rural areas and different regions. Not all Americans live a hectic lifestyle, which is often depicted in Hollywood movies set in big cities like New York and L.A.

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