14 Personality Traits Americans Are Notorious for, According to Foreigners

The United States is a country like no other, and its citizens possess unique qualities that set them apart. While some American traits may not always be seen as positive, we believe these fourteen characteristics have helped Americans distinguish themselves among their international peers.

1: Individualism

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Americans identify as individuals first and foremost. In the U.S., self-improvement is considered one of the best ways to improve society as a whole. As the Foundation for Economic Education puts it, “Want to improve the world? First improve yourself.”

2: Progress

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America thrives on change and progress. A Pew Research Center study shows that 81% of Americans believe government investments in scientific research are worthwhile investments for society over time. This forward-facing attitude allows for quick-moving innovation, which is easy to observe in areas like the tech industry. 

3: Time Matters

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Time is money, as the saying goes, and many Americans believe that. Americans value punctuality because we often see time as our greatest asset. 

4: Equality

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The idea that all people are created equal is pervasive in American society. Though inequalities exist, Americans tend to disregard status differences when interacting with others. 

5: Capable 

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Americans teach their children that the sky’s the limit. In general, we believe that we are capable of doing anything we’re determined to do, which has led to some incredible innovations, like airplanes and the iPhone. 

6: Competitive Spirit

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From free market enterprise to football games, the competitive spirit among Americans is easy to spot. Americans feel competition brings out the best in people, and some of our biggest achievements, like landing on the moon, were driven by rivalries. 

7: Optimism

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Americans typically look ahead. Regardless of how the past or present appears, the country tends to be optimistic. Optimism leads to better physical and mental health, according to research.

8: Hardworking

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Being known as the country that can “get the job done” is a big positive in American culture. Many Americans work long hours, especially compared to their European counterparts. 

9: Animal Lovers

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Being an American pet often means living the good life. Americans spent over $100 billion on their animal besties in 2021 alone. This trait reveals Americans are capable of deep compassion for living creatures as a whole.  

10: Informality

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Americans tend to embrace informalities, which may or may not be a positive trait, depending on the person. Everything from the way we dress to the way we say hello, often without using titles like sir or mam, is more casual than when people from some other parts of the world interact with each other.

11: Direct

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Americans tend to be direct. While this quality can come off as rudeness, Americans are typically just trying to save time and set clear expectations. Directness, when done with tact, can also be a form of showing respect versus leading a person on.

12: Private 

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Polling shows Americans greatly value privacy in their everyday life. This probably stems from our desire to be independent. 

13: Entrepreneurial

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Many Americans have an entrepreneurial spirit, and more are leaning into it now than ever before. Nearly one in three American millennials have a small business of their own, whether it be a side hustle or their main income. 

14: Generous Tippers 

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Tipping the way we do in America isn’t the norm in most of the world. Americans tend to be generous with their tips, especially if the service is above par. 

How We Got Here

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Many of the best American qualities stem from deep-seated cultural norms. Our independence, optimism, and progressive spirit can all be traced through American history. 

Pioneer Spirit 

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The pioneers may best exemplify the top American qualities. These adventure-loving, hardworking, and optimistic individuals helped expand the country from its thirteen original colonies to the sea-to-sea empire that exists today. 

Centuries of Expansion

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As author and sociologist Claude Fisher wrote, “Centuries of material and social expansion enabled more people to become more characteristically ‘American,’ meaning — among other things — insistently independent but still sociable, striving, and sentimental.” 

The Negatives

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While Americans have many great qualities, no one is perfect; there are negative traits that some Americans share. Often, they stem from the same qualities that we see as positive. The following are areas where some Americans don’t always get it right.


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Thirty-nine percent of Americans are “extremely proud” to be American, according to a Gallup poll. While there’s nothing wrong with this at face value, some Americans who believe the U.S. is the best country in the world may come off as arrogant.


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As Americans, we often spend our hard-earned cash on things we don’t need. This, alongside an abundance of plastic packaging, can create a lot of waste. Americans throw out about 4.9 lbs of trash per person, per day.   

Small World

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Perhaps because some Americans believe their culture is the best, misunderstanding other cultures can happen. Only about 20% of Americans are bilingual, which is low compared to many other developed nations. 

25 Australian Terms That Utterly Confuse Americans

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Whether your Aussie friend is coming to visit, you’re planning a trip to Sydney, or thinking of relocating to the Land Down Under, you might want to keep this list handy. These 25 words and phrases are common with Aussies, but Americans find them baffling. 

What a Cracker! 25 Australian Terms That Confuse Americans

24 Foods Americans and Brits Totally Clash On

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In this culinary clash, we examine 12 distinctly British and 12 entirely American foods that fall short across the pond. How many of these gross British foods have you tried?

24 Foods Americans and Brits Totally Clash On

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