US Culure: Melting pot or Salad Bowl

(VOVworld) – American history began with waves of immigrants, bringing their own cultures and traditions to a vast new country.  With such a diverse population, some people compared the US culture to a melting pot while others said it was a salad bowl. What do those metaphors mean and which comparison is more accurate? Today we’ll talk once again with Charles Jensen, an English teacher, to learn more about the cultural diversity of the US.

Q: Hello, Charles. Thanks for being with us again! Today, I want to talk to you about the diversity of American culture, which is one of the most significant features of your country. Some people have called the American culture a melting pot; some have called it a salad bowl. Can you help me understand this?

A: It’s a little strange to a lot of people I meet in Vietnam, including my students. They have this misconception that everyone in America is white. But, America actually has a lot of races and they are simulating melting together. There are different views on this. For example, some people say the American culture is like a melting pot. It implies that everyone come to America and slowly become American. They kind of melt together. But other people say our culture is a salad bowl, like you mentioned before, because those who come to America may adopt some aspects of American culture but at the same time, they keep something that are uniquely their cultures. For example, Vietnamese people come to the US and participate in American political process, join American schools, and celebrate some American holidays like Thanksgiving. But at the same time, they retain what means to be Vietnamese.

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Is American culture a melting pot or a salad bowl? (Photo:

Q: How do you feel living with so many people coming from so many different cultures and backgrounds?

A: A lot of people see things on TV and think that now people in America don’t get along. The news show that people are in conflict. But I would disagree. I think most people are getting along very well and that has impacted my life greatly. My best man in my wedding was black. The other two groomsmen were white and Asian. My wife is Vietnamese and among her two bridesmaids, one was black and one was Mexican. So, my wedding was a whole mix of people. And I had never thought about until I showed the pictures to my students here in Vietnam. They ask me: where did those people come from and how I could get African people to my wedding. A lot of American heroes, not just in sports and entertainments, are of different races. I don’t think the US can be half of it is today without people of different races.

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Many American people are proud of their cultural diversity. (Photo: University of Maryland)

Q: But racism has remained a pending problem in the US, evidenced by large protests over the past few years. Could you tell us why?

A: I think maybe because some American people live in areas that are all white or all black, so mixing-up is scary to them perhaps. It’s also because the world’s economy is shifting and America becomes a post-industrial society, which means a lot of manufacturing jobs are going to Vietnam and other countries. That’s frightening to the middle-class white to see their jobs going overseas. America also negotiates a lot of deals allowing businesses to move their factories to Mexico for example. I think many American people are upset about it and that creates racism.

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According to Charles, the cultural diversity in the US has impacted his life greatly. (Photo:

Q: Then, in your opinion, what’s the advantage of living in such cultural diversity in the US?

A: Yeah, a lot of people here asked me if I have ever experienced Tet in the US before. Well, in the US, there are about 1-2 million overseas Vietnamese who mostly live in California and Texas. And I grew up in California and have been having Pho my whole life. But again, Chinese people celebrate Chinese New Year, Irish people celebrate St Patrick’s Day. Everybody has different holidays. Many holidays, which are not necessarily purely American but come from other countries, are being celebrated in the US.

Thank you, Charles, for sharing with us your thoughts about the US culture. And, guys, thanks for joining us for this week’s Culture Rendezvous. I’m Dieu Ha. Good-bye!


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