United States of America

Flag of United States

The United States of America (abbreviated USA), also called United States (abbreviated US) and America (abbreviated America) for short, is a democratic, federally structured republic in North America and with some islands also in Oceania. It consists of 50 states, the capital Washington, D.C., which is a separate federal district, as well as five larger Union-dependent territories and nine island territories.

The 48 contiguous United States, the so-called Lower 48, together with Alaska, from which they are separated by Canadian territory, form the Continental United States. The state of Hawaii and some smaller outlying areas are located in the Pacific and Caribbean. The country has a very high geographical and climatic diversity with a large variety of animal and plant species.

The United States of America is the third largest state on Earth both in terms of area and in terms of the number of inhabitants. Its extent of 9.83 million square kilometers is surpassed only by Russia and Canada, and its population of more than 334 million inhabitants is surpassed only by India and China. The most populous city in the USA is New York City, major metropolitan areas are Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Philadelphia, Washington, Miami, Atlanta, Boston and San Francisco with over 5 million inhabitants each. The degree of urbanization is 83 percent (as of 2021). A well-known national myth says that the USA is one of the most multicultural countries in the world; however, empirical studies show that the USA only performs on average in a global comparison of ethnic and cultural diversity.

Paleoindians migrated from Asia to the North American mainland of the present-day United States more than 13,000 years ago (Buttermilk Creek Complex), having settled Alaska several millennia earlier. European colonization began around 1600, mainly from England and in a protracted dispute with France. The United States emerged from 13 colonies on the Atlantic coast. Disputes between Great Britain and the American colonies led to the American Revolution.

On July 4, 1776, delegates from the 13 colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence of the United States and thus the founding of the United States. The American War of Independence, which ended with the recognition of independence in the Peace of Paris (1783), was the first successful war of independence against a European colonial power. The current Constitution was adopted on September 17, 1787. 27 additional articles have been added. The first ten additional articles, collectively referred to as the Bill of Rights, were ratified in 1791 and guarantee a large number of inalienable rights.

Driven by the doctrine of Manifest Destiny, the United States expanded its territory from the Atlantic to the Pacific throughout the 19th century. This included the forcible expulsion of indigenous Indian tribes, the acquisition of new territories in the Mexican-American War, among other things, and the founding of new federal states. The American Civil War in 1865 led to the end of slavery in the United States and to the fact that they finally took the path to becoming an industrial state. At the end of the 19th century. By the beginning of the twentieth century, the USA was the most significant power on the American continent, and its economy had become the largest in the world.

In the Spanish-American War and, in the First World War, they rose to become a world power, whose military strength ensured their global influence. The United States emerged from the Second World War, together with the Soviet Union, as one of two superpowers. They were the first country to have nuclear weapons and became one of five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. After the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States was considered the only remaining superpower until the recent rise of the People's Republic of China. They are a founding member of the United Nations, the Organization of American States (OAS) and many other international organizations. Their foreign policy and cultural influence is being used worldwide.

According to the Human Development Index, the United States is one of the countries with very high human development, and its economy is the largest economy in the world with a gross domestic product of $ 23.0 trillion in 2021, which corresponded to 24% of nominal and 16% of global economic output adjusted for purchasing power, respectively. The country had the eighth highest per capita income in 2020 and the third highest per capita wealth in 2021. In terms of total national wealth, the USA is by far the richest country in the world.

The economic performance of the country is favored by the richness of natural resources, well-developed infrastructure and high average productivity. Although the economic structure is generally considered post-industrial, the country is still one of the world's largest producers of goods. The United States was responsible for 36% of global military spending in 2016, ranking first, followed by China with 13% and Russia with 4.1%. The state of emergency declared as a result of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 has been in force since 2001.



The United States stretches from the Atlantic coast in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west. Consequently, the regions are also very different. Here is a simplified overview of the regions, starting on the east coast:

New England
New England is known for its wooden architecture. Here are the roots of the United States, at the same time New England is the most European part of the USA. The individual states are small, so all can be visited within a week.
Connecticut Maine Massachusetts New Hampshire Rhode Island Vermont

Mid-Atlantic States
The mid-Atlantic states range from New York in the north to Washington in the south. The densely populated region is home to some of the largest cities in the USA, while rolling hills alternate with traditional seaside resorts on the coasts of Long Island, Maryland and New Jersey.
Delaware Maryland New Jersey New York Pennsylvania

In the Midwest you will find hilly farmland, vast forests, picturesque towns and many bustling industrial cities. Many of the states border the Great Lakes, the world's largest freshwater system, forming the North Shore of the United States.
Illinois Indiana Iowa Michigan Minnesota Missouri Ohio Wisconsin

Own culture and traditions.
Alabama Arkansas Georgia Kentucky Louisiana Mississippi North Carolina South Carolina Tennessee Virginia West Virginia

Florida is the "Sunshine State".
Florida Panhandle North Central South

The second largest state in the USA.

Great Plains
A journey through mostly flat states. From the forests in the east to the prairies to the high plains.
Kansas · Nebraska · North Dakota · Oklahoma · South Dakota

Rocky Mountains
The spectacular, snow-capped Rockies offer a variety of recreational opportunities such as hiking, rafting and skiing. There are also deserts and some large cities.
Colorado · Idaho · Montana · Wyoming

Heavily influenced by Latin American culture. The arid Southwest has some of the most spectacular natural landmarks in the United States and a thriving arts scene. Although sparsely populated, the deserts are home to some of the largest cities.
Arizona · Nevada · New Mexico · Utah

Pacific Northwest
The pleasantly mild north-west has plenty of hiking opportunities as well as cosmopolitan cities.
Oregon Washington

California occupies most of the west coast. Two big cities that are the centers of the state. Sun, beach and sea. In addition there are mountains, very interesting national parks and the country's most famous coastal road (CA-1 or Big Sur).



One-fifth the size of the rest of the United States. Alaska extends into the polar region and is largely untouched.

Volcanic archipelago in the Pacific Ocean located 2,300 miles from California (the closest state). holiday paradise!



There are over 10,000 cities and towns in the United States. The most visited by international tourists are:
1 New York. America's largest city with world-class cuisine, unique art exhibits, a diverse population unmatched anywhere in the world and many other great highlights. Both a national symbol and highly international in character.
2 Miami. Miami is home to some of the country's largest beaches. Here, sun lovers from the north meet immigrants from Latin America and the Caribbean looking for a new perspective.
3 Los Angeles. Hometown of Hollywood and the film industry, palm-blessed LA offers mountains, beaches, sunshine and just about everything a California visitor dreams of.
4 Orlando. Location of many famous and popular amusement parks.
5 San Francisco. One of the most photogenic cities in the world. Quirky San Francisco offers attractions of all kinds and is a popular starting point for tours along the coast or to Yosemite National Park. Feature: public toilet.
6 Las Vegas. Gambling and party town in the Nevada desert.
7 Honolulu. Capital of Hawaii and the largest air hub in the Pacific.
8 Washington, D.C. Federal capital of the USA with the representative seats of parliament, government and the Supreme Court as well as numerous museums, monuments and parks.
9 Chicago Tel: +1.312.744.5000. The "Windy City" on Lake Michigan; third largest city in the USA and metropolis of the Midwest; this is where the skyscraper was invented, which still characterizes the skyline today.
10 Boston unofficial capital of New England, one of the most historic cities in the USA, known for top universities and sports.
11 San Diego. former Spanish mission on the sunny coast of southern California with a famous zoo and water sports paradise.


Getting here

Requirements before travelling

Attention: Even if you only change from one flight to another at the airport, you must enter the USA and the necessary formalities must be completed (visa or visa requirement). If the final destination of the trip is Canada or Mexico, it may be that German citizens also need a visa to stay at the airport in the USA.

Visa applications can be submitted by appointment at the local consulates General in Frankfurt and Munich or the consular section of the embassy in Berlin. During a personal visit to the US missions, one should not carry bags, backpacks, etc. take it with you, since such "hand luggage" is not allowed to be taken into the embassy.

It should be noted that the information here could no longer be up-to-date due to the constant tightening of anti-terrorism laws, as they have been changed at very short notice several times recently. Since October 2017, there may be additional requests at the place of departure. It is therefore always advisable to contact the US consular office to find out the current entry formalities.


"Visa-free regime" and ESTA

Citizens of the EU and EFTA except Bulgaria, Romania and Cyprus can enter the USA visa-free ("Visa Waiver") for short tourist or business stays (up to 90 days).

When entering by plane or ship, you must register electronically as a tourist (duration of stay less than 90 days) no later than 72 hours before the planned entry. This Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) is valid for two years if you travel with your own passport. Registration is carried out online on the ESTA page of the US Department of Homeland Security. The registration costs 21 dollars and must be paid by credit card as part of the online registration.

Since 2016, entry is only possible with a machine-readable passport (e.g. Bordeaux-colored passport of the EU). This also applies to children! German children's passports and the dark green emergency passport do not have a digital chip. Austrian children's passports, on the other hand, already have a chip and can be used for the ESTA application. However, a visa can be applied for. A paper form (I-94) is normally no longer to be filled in for entry. But for this, a customs declaration. Temporary passports (in green) no longer entitle to ESTA entry, as they do not contain a chip.

When entering the USA, the document read out by machine and not the manually entered data were valid. This can also lead to the fact that one can be refused entry to the USA if the wrong entry is entered unknowingly. It is very important to enter the passport number, which is why it must also be entered twice during the registration process. It sounds simple, but it has a greater meaning, since you have to write off a machine-readable ID card manually and this is the case with a German passport, on which a 0 (digit) cannot be distinguished from an O (letter). Here it is necessary to know that, for example, a passport number never contains an O (letter).

Since 2020, all social media accounts have to be disclosed for the ESTA form. For longer stays or for other nationalities, a visa is required, which must be applied for at the relevant embassy or consulate in good time (months) before entry. A visa is also required for longer stays in Mexico or Canada, for example, when moving to the USA.


Upon entry

When entering the United States, the immigration officer's questions about the purpose and length of the trip are answered, the fingerprints of all fingers are submitted (if not still stored from a previous entry and satisfactory for the official), and a biometric photo is taken (OBIM). It is important to remain friendly here, in addition, the officials are very friendly but humorless and try to process the process quickly. If one does not speak English, fellow travelers are often asked to translate. The instructions of the instructor, who divides the queue of people waiting for the individual officials, must be observed. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) advises air travelers to no longer lock their suitcases in order to allow manual follow-up checks. The TSA has the right to open all luggage, including forcibly locked ones. In any case, a note about the successful inspection will be deposited in the suitcase, in which attention is drawn to the exclusion of liability in case of damage or loss of individual contents." Laptops or other electronic data carriers may be searched by the US border authorities for the prevention of criminal offenses. Luggage items are always screened for explosives. Dogs are often used, which are run over the suitcases on the luggage belt by an official and searched for drugs and / or food (!) look.

In some countries, entry control is already successful at the airport of departure (e.g. in Canada), where the US authorities have their own offices (e.g. in Montreal) or, as in Vancouver, electronic vending machines are set up next to the staffed counters, through which control is quickly handled with the machine-readable passports.

Duty-free quantities
Minimum age 18 years: 200 cigarettes and 100 cigars (by no means Cuban!)
Minimum age 21 years: 1 liter of alcohol (no absinthe)
Gifts with a maximum total value of $100
Cash worth US$ 10,000 (US dollars or foreign currency)

By plane or ship
The airline must provide the address of the first overnight stay, which must pass on this and many other personal data to US authorities. After the baggage claim, customs still have to be crossed. Only then do you enter the publicly accessible airport area.

A journey overland
Important: When entering by land, a fee of US$6 will be charged by all nationalities, except USA, Canada and Mexico.

For entry by land, registration via ESTA has been required since 01.10.2022. There is even more work on paper at the national borders, and it may be that a so-called I-94A form is included in the passport. This form should be returned at the time of departure, so that the departure is registered and there are no problems with another entry. Personal luggage is rarely checked and can therefore usually remain in the vehicle.

According to American law, the use of a ferry, e.g. the ferry from Victoria (British Columbia) to the US state of Washington, is also considered as an entry by land and not as an entry by ship.

Outdoor areas
Specific regulations apply to visits to certain external areas, such as American Samoa.

Special arrangements for Cuba
Direct travel to/from Cuba is only permitted for strictly defined purposes. This applies to citizens of all nations. There are extensive documentation obligations. The documents must be kept for five years after the trip.

Length of stay
"In the case of visa-free entry, the actual permitted length of stay is determined individually by the US border officials. A late extension of the residence permit – if your departure is delayed somewhat due to unforeseeable circumstances - is not possible. If the entry was made with a visa, any office of the entry authority can approve an extension of the stay for US.“

By plane
Many cities in the USA can be reached from Germany by direct flight. For cost reasons, it may be helpful to change trains once on the flight to the desired city. It should be borne in mind that the entry formalities must be carried out at the first place you reach in the USA or Canada. This can take up to 1 1/2 hours. This time should definitely be taken into account during the transfer time. Due to the strict security precautions, you should be at the airport at least two hours before departure for international flights and at least one hour before departure for flights within the United States. Since October 2021, it has also been mandatory for domestic flights to present a photo ID with a photo, which can also be a driver's license.

Deviating from the procedures in other countries, US authorities can already be located within public areas of the airport buildings (gladly at the escalators!) carry out individual checks. These are, for example, drug tests, whereby the fingertips are removed with a test strip.

Flying is generally not as cheap as in Europe, as there are fewer alternatives to flying. There are several "low-cost airlines" in America, such as JetBlue, Southwest, Spirit or SkyBus (with the USA - specifically Southwest - being both the inventor of this category of airlines and the country where the categories are most blurred). In addition, some of the largest airlines in the world are first and foremost the "big three" United, American Airlines and Delta, which are still left after several mergers and are integrated into the three major aviation alliances (United with Lufthansa at Star Alliance, Delta at SkyTeam and American at OneWorld) and offer corresponding codeshare offers. There are also smaller airlines such as Alaskan (despite the name not limited to Alaska) and regional airlines, some of which belong to the big three. The cheapest way to book domestic flights is directly with the respective airline online or with providers such as Travelocity or Expedia. While you can also get luggage included in the cheapest price ranges at Southwest, there has been an increasing tendency in the 21st century for the "big three" (Delta, American, United) to offer a "basic economy" fare, where everything really costs extra. The boundaries between "premium" offers and "normal" wood class are also increasingly blurring in domestic business. The "first class" is often little more than a little more legroom and a few cookies and you don't get into the lounge for free at many airlines even if you have a "first class" ticket. On the other hand, the "Big Front Seat" at Spirit or "Mint" at Jetblue is a considerable increase in legroom for a moderate surcharge. The trend towards more and more blurring boundaries between "cheap" and "premium" has recently reversed again somewhat and especially on the transcontinental long haul (for example LA-New York) you can even get a "real" first class at the "big three" - for a corresponding surcharge. Various American (online) publications deal in detail with the various offers of the airlines as well as tips and tricks on how to get as many miles and bonus points as possible with credit cards or similar.

From Canada and Mexico, entry by car is usually possible without any problems. The same regulations apply as described above for entry. When crossing the border by rental car, it should be noted that the transfer to the USA is allowed in the rental agreement (be sure to read the fine print!).

See also: Amtrak

The quasi-national railway companies of the USA and Canada, Amtrak and VIA Rail operate three routes that cross the border in cooperation. These are on the one hand the "Amtrak Cascades" from Vancouver to Seattle (twice a day) on the west coast and on the east coast the "Maple Leaf" from Toronto (via Niagara Falls) and the "Adirondack" from Montreal (via Albany), each to New York City once a day.

In the latter two trains, the border formalities take place at the border in the standing train, which takes a lot of time. The Amtrak Cascades, on the other hand, handles the border formalities even before departure, so you should be at the station early enough to do passport control and the like.

There is currently no way to cross the border by train from Mexico, but on the American side, the border cities of San Diego (California) and San Antonio (Texas) are served by Amtrak.

By boat
Traveling by ship is a rarely chosen way. The transatlantic journey from Southampton to New York takes a good six days. The only ship that still runs this route 3 to 4 times a year is the Queen Mary 2 of the Cunard Line. Including the arrival, the trip costs from about 1700 up to 30,000 euros, depending on the cabin category.

Queen Mary 2, more information at Cunard

Sports sailors
Entry with your own yacht is only permitted in approved “ports of entry” (list and contact details). In any case, a personal appointment with Customs & Border Protection (CBP) is required upon arrival. For this purpose, there is now also the CBR ROAM app for video chats. A file number (”application number") is issued. On Fridays and weekends, contacting may be difficult due to overwork. There will be no callbacks to non-American telephone numbers. The interpretation of the generally uniform federal regulations varies from region to region, but the responsible officials are usually helpful. A registration of the ship's papers at the USCG Vessel Documentation Center is valid for five years. Details are explained in the Boater's Guide to Federal Regulations for Recreational Vessels. Upon arrival on the mainland, the general quarantine regulations apply, i.e. fresh meat is confiscated.

Upon arrival, the yacht will be issued a Cruising License (CL) valid for up to one year free of charge, provided that there is an agreement with the relevant countries (including D, A and CH). (To get a new one, you must have visited a foreign port and been absent for at least 15 days.) Without CL it is possible to sail between different ports of entry or to apply for a fee-based “permission to move” (2018: US$ 36).
The form ”CBP-1300 Vessel Entrance" must be submitted for a fee within 48 hours of arrival, delays are punishable by law.

Ships without CL that are longer than 30 feet must be equipped with a transponder (CBP Decal), for which a calendar annual fee, US$ 29 in 2019, is due.
Also mandatory are emergency radio beacons (EPIRB, 406 MHz), which must be registered on first entry, about which a proof is issued.

Special arrangements
If you are coming directly from Cuba to an American port, you have to expect difficulties and longer interviews.
Strict pilotage regulations apply to the waters off the state of Washington. Similar rules apply off Alaska for ships longer than 65 feet.

The US Coast Guard has the right to enter and search all incoming ships in the area of the 12-mile zone, which also happens frequently, especially off Florida. The Q flag must be displayed within the zone until all formalities have been completed.

The respective states may require the acquisition of fishing licenses (“fishing license”).

The previously strict restrictions on anchoring off Florida have all been lifted; appropriate permits must be purchased off Georgia (regulation text May 2019).

Many rivers and bays, and on the east coast practically the entire 3-mile zone, are “no discharge zone” (NDZ) for cesspools, and numerous local water protection conditions also apply. Penalties are high.


Travel around the country

In many areas of the USA you can hardly do without a car, because the cities are very extensive. However, contrary to the usual opinion, in many cities there is a developed local transport system, you just need to find it. In general, the trend is that cities in the north and east have better public transport than in the south and west, and cities on the coasts (including large lakes) have better public transport than inland. Since about 1990, a lot has also happened in this regard, so Los Angeles has now more than 150 kilometers of rails that are used in urban passenger transport. The S-Bahn system in San Diego has been extensively expanded and reaches the areas of the surrounding area as well as the border crossing to Mexico near Tijuana. Nevertheless, in many cities you will only have the choice between bus taxi and car and buses have a notoriously bad reputation in the USA and are often slow and user-unfriendly.

By train
With Amtrak you can travel to 46 of the 50 states of the USA as well as to Canada. Most train routes are operated with long diesel trains. So far, there are only express trains called Acela Express on the east coast (they are not quite as fast as in Europe or Asia - they are only allowed to travel 150 miles per hour and only on a short section of the route - the TGV and ICE, on the other hand, travel the equivalent of 200 miles per hour between Strasbourg and Paris). The Acela is particularly popular with business travelers and federal employees and is comparable in price to airplanes rather than European express trains. In most of the rest of the network, there is a general speed limit of 79 miles per hour, which is even slower than German regional traffic, which travels at up to 160 km / h or 100 miles per hour.

Consequently, trains are naturally quite long on the way for the further distances. For example, the journey from New York to Los Angeles takes four days and can cost twice as much as a flight. Amtrak's comfortable sleeper trains can be viewed and booked virtually on the website. In most trains, the luggage has to be checked in, so you should think very carefully in time about which luggage you take into the compartment as hand luggage. The baggage allowance limits are extremely generous - especially compared to those of an airplane - and you should always get everything under control. All trains are non-smoking trains. However, smokers have the opportunity to smoke on the platform at stops if the train is not delayed.

One problem that has plagued Amtrak since it was founded in the early seventies is the fact that most of the network is owned not by the state, but by private (freight) railway companies. This not only leads to the often unacceptable condition of the rails, but also to the fact that passenger trains have to wait again and again on the mostly single-track network until freight trains have passed them. Exceptions to this are found mainly in the Northeast Corridor (Boston-Washington) on which the Acela Express runs, as well as in California, where the state of California spends money to keep the rails in good condition and ensures the priority of Amtrak trains. Since the delays can also add up to several hours, you should always plan for a sufficient buffer between departure and the last train, preferably a whole day. The exception to this is - as mentioned above - the Acela, which is more punctual than flights on this route. There are several websites in the USA that list how many times a train has been significantly late in the last weeks and months, which provides a certain planning security.

With Amtrak's USA Rail Passes, there are also round-trip passes for individual travelers. There is a specialized rail Pass for California.

By bus
Certainly not the most glamorous and not even necessarily the cheapest form of travel on extremely long distances, buses cover (almost) the whole country and are often the only realistic alternative if you don't have your own car. Traditionally, companies such as "Greyhound" offer connections from (near the center) bus stations with more or less well-developed infrastructure. However, since at least the eighties, an "ultra-cheap" competition has grown up in the form of the "china town buses", which travel from roadside to roadside (without really much station infrastructure) originally - as the name suggests - to connect the various neighborhoods of the Chinese minority. Other companies such as Bolt Bus and Megabus have copied this model and no longer only serve Chinatowns. However, it should be borne in mind that the price structure is often not dissimilar to the cheaper airlines and a ticket bought on time can actually cost a dollar, but if you book the same route "last minute" it can easily cost thirty or forty dollars, plus possible fees for things like luggage.

The easiest way to travel around the country is certainly by car.

A rental car is recommended for shorter stays. Although the rates of car rental companies close to the airport are often slightly higher than those of other branches, it is most convenient to rent a rental car directly at the airport. Advance booking is advisable, if only because then you can better compare the prices. Each airport has an area where the car rental companies are located with their counters and car depots. Only at smaller airports this area is located directly at the terminal. At larger airports you can reach the car rental companies with free minibuses (shuttles), which depart directly in front of the terminal. At some airports that connect their terminals with their own train (e.g. San Francisco International), you can also use it to get to the car rental companies.

You cannot rent a car in the USA without presenting a credit card, even if the rental price has already been paid in advance. Debit cards are not accepted.

With the car rental you always buy a basic insurance package, but its coverage – compared to German insurance policies – is very low. In the event of an accident or car theft, you are left at a cost, which can be painfully high in the USA. On the other hand, the conclusion of some voluntary additional insurances, which the car rental company also offers, helps. The ADAC also offers its members appropriate insurance packages.

However, before you buy one of these services, it is worth taking a look at the fine print that you have received with your German credit card. Many card issuers offer their customers comprehensive insurance services if they use the card to rent a car with it.

In addition, one should pay attention to the specified minimum age. Although the driver's license can be obtained in the USA at the age of 18 or earlier, renting a car is still subject to an age restriction in most cases. The limit is 21 to 25 years, depending on the rental company. For younger drivers, therefore, there are usually high additional costs.

Large car rental companies often offer self-check-in machines at international airports. This works without any problems, but it is often asked until when the driver's license is valid. For driving license holders with an unlimited valid driving license, it is sufficient to enter any day in the future (birthday +100 years works).

As a rule, after check-in, you can choose your vehicle from a variety of cars of the booked class. The key is inserted, check the vehicle for damage and condition and drive off. There is a final check at the exit gate, that's it. The return of the vehicle rarely takes more than a minute.

With the increasing digitalization of vehicles, rental car companies are also using the functionalities for vehicle monitoring that are possible as a result. It is not entirely clear how far these surveillance measures go because the data protection regulations in the USA are lower than the European standards. The car rental companies assure that the data will not be used to spy on customers. However, it is known that, for example, Hertz can retrieve the GPS position of a vehicle and some vehicle data, such as the maintenance status and tank level, from a central location (operation statistics). Furthermore, at least with this company it should be possible to lock and unlock the vehicle remotely (remote lock / unlock) and to shut down the vehicle in the event of a possible theft (remote shutoff). It should therefore be borne in mind that, if necessary, in the case of driving profiles that deviate from the terms of use (e.g. unpaved roads, ferries, ...) the relevant proof can be provided by the rental car company and the insurance cover may be at risk.



If you want to customize your trip, have enough time and budget, you can rent a motorhome / recreational vehicle (RV). There are various providers, at different locations and often also the possibility to drop off the RV at a different location than it has been rented. Depending on the landlord, a return fee may apply. The RV's are more generously designed, larger and heavier than usual in Europe. With the driving license class B, an RV with a total weight of up to 11.8 tons can be driven in the USA, which means that a larger family with up to 7 people can be carried along. The RV's are more suitable for paved roads. On slopes or in soft sand, the size and weight quickly become noticeable. It is worth organizing the rent in advance, especially in the high season.

The RV's are usually well equipped with appliances, with kitchen, shower and toilet. Furnishings such as crockery, bedding, camping material, etc. can be rented additionally or must be brought along. There are many RV parks, pitches, national parks or state forests, which offer a good infrastructure for motorhomes. RV parks usually have electricity, water and sewage connection directly on each place, so that the disposal of gray and black water is unproblematic.

If you are surprised despite the good range of accommodation options, you can also stay overnight in the Walmart parking lot for one night (unwritten law).

If you have your own motorhome and would like to travel to the USA / Canada for a longer period of time (> 2 months), you should consider shipping as an alternative.

Road transport
Although there are no huge differences in the road traffic regulations between Europe and the USA, the usual right-to-left rules do not apply to the right-of-way for roads of the same rank (tips on road traffic USA).

Driving in the States is quite leisurely. Let the cruise control lock in place on the highway or interstate and just roll. Please pay attention to the speed always and everywhere. The law enforcement officers are very active in the field of 'speeding' and, contrary to our customs, the testimony of a sheriff is considered evidence in court. So no photos or other things are needed. For this reason, discussions with the regulatory authority are usually quite hopeless.

There are no separate speed limits for trucks in most states. They are also allowed to drive up to 75 miles per hour on the interstate. And, of course, also overtaking. So don't be scared if a giant truck passes by on the left or on the right (in contrast to Germany, you can overtake on the right, even on an interstate!) and some of the trucks are really huge.

Special care should be taken with children. Speed limits often apply near schools if the schoolchildren could be on the road. When school buses stop to allow schoolchildren to get on or off, road traffic stops in all directions. The flashing of the two red lights of the yellow school buses attached above is considered a stop signal, and the violation of this is usually punished worse than running over a red light. It should also be noted that you should never drive closer than 100 feet (30 meters) to an already stopped school bus with the stop signal turned on.

You also have to be careful at construction sites, because there (if there are construction workers on the roadway) the fine doubles for speed violations. This is indicated by a special sign ("Construction Zone - Fines doubled").

At traffic lights, it is also allowed to turn right at red, if traffic allows it. Unlike in Germany, there is no green arrow at the traffic lights. This is prohibited in certain areas, but a special sign indicates this ("No right on red"). In principle, turning right at red is allowed in all 50 states, but there are some cities - for example New York - in which the opposite principle applies: turning right at red is prohibited, where not explicitly allowed by sign. In some states it is also allowed to turn left between two one-way streets at red.

Other stuff
If you drive a car, you have to fill up. And it works a little differently than usual. At most fuel pumps there is a lever, switch or a kind of flap that you have to turn, turn or move so that the gasoline can flow. Almost at all gas stations you have to pay before refueling. If you have paid too much in advance, you will be refunded after refueling. In most cases, you can also pay directly at the petrol pump (petrol station) by credit card. Due to the increasing credit card fraud, the ZIP code (zip code) of the credit card billing address must be indicated at the petrol pump. This is often also possible for Germans, but not in every case. Then it remains with the cash payment, or, as a reasonable alternative, the deposit of the credit card at the checkout from where the petrol pump is then activated. The settlement will then take place after refueling at the cash desk. In some states (New Jersey and Oregon), the service is required by employees and a gas station attendant refuels the car.

Americans usually give driving time in hours instead of distances when traveling by car. Road atlases also often contain this information. Unusual, but quite accurate because of the strict speed limits.

Bottles with alcoholic beverages that have already been opened once may only be transported in the trunk. In minivans and SUVs, which do not have a trunk separated from the passenger compartment, such bottles are stored in luggage with difficult access. At a traffic control, you want to avoid the impression that you are drinking while driving, namely in any case.

Suggested routes
Highlights of the USA: Boston - Cape Cod - New York (State) - Philadelphia - Baltimore - Washington, D.C. - Gettysburg - Pennsylvania - Niagara Falls - Detroit - Chicago - Sioux City - Badlands National Park - Wounded Knee - Rapid City - Mount Rushmore National Monument - Black Hills - Hot Springs - Devil's Tower National Monument - Buffalo - Bighorn Mountains - Cody - Yellowstone National Park - Grand Teton National Park - Jackson - Idaho Falls - Salt Lake City - Bryce Canyon National Park - Grand Canyon National Park - Lake Mead National Recreation Area - Las Vegas - San Diego - Los Angeles - Hollywood - Beverly Hills - Santa Monica - Malibu - Santa Barbara - Edna Valley Vineyard - Monterey - San Francisco
Middle States: Washington, D.C. - Allegheny Mountains - Charleston (West Virginia) - Lexington (Kentucky) - Cincinnati - Louisville - St Louis - Kansas City - Denver - Rocky Mountain National Park - Cheyenne (Wyoming) - Laramie - Medicine Bow Mountains - Rock Springs - Flaming Gorge Dam - Dinosaur National Monument - Uintah - Salt Lake City - Great Basin National Park - Reno - Carson City - Lake Tahoe - Sacramento - Desert Area - San Francisco
Across the South of the USA: Miami - Miami Beach - Florida Keys - Key West - Everglades National Park - Naples - Fort Myers - Sanibel - Sarasota - Bradenton - Sunshine Skyway - St Petersburg - Tampa - Orlando - Pinellas Trail - Tallahassee - Panama City - Gulf Islands National Seashore - Pensacola - Mobile - Biloxi - New Orleans - Baton Rouge - Lafayette - Houston - Galveston - Gulf Coast Region - San Antonio - El Paso - Tucson - Phoenix - Montezuma Castle National Monument - Joshua Tree National Park - Palm Springs - San Bernardino - Los Angeles


Local public transport

Most American cities, including small towns, operate public buses for urban transport. Traveling by bus is financially rewarding, especially if you are traveling alone or at most in pairs, or if you are traveling to a parking hell like Manhattan or San Francisco. (It's always culturally rewarding.)

Routes, timetables and fares can be found on the website of the respective operator. In larger cities, the stops are often recognizable – just like stops in the German–speaking countries - on the canopy and sign forest, but often at best a simple sign indicates this, on which no timetable and possibly not even the number of the bus route is displayed. Eye contact with the driver and hand signals play a slightly larger role when stopping the buses than in Europe.

When boarding, you almost always have cash on hand, typically 1 dollar bills and quarter coins are accepted. So with a roll of quarter coins in your pocket, you are on the safe side. Even if you are traveling with several people, each person keeps their counted money separately. The money is put into a special cash register set up by the driver ("fare box"), which does not issue change. The driver does not have a wallet. This is a safety precaution that efficiently protects American bus drivers from robberies. The box spits out a paper ticket, with which you can usually drive for 2 hours and also change to other bus lines (show the ticket from the 1st bus to the driver when changing to the 2nd bus). Only round trips with the same ticket are usually not allowed.

Where subways are available, if you want to change between bus and subway, a "transfer ticket" is usually required. Details about this can be found on the website of the respective provider. Although the USA has neglected public transport for a long time, a certain renaissance has been observed in recent years; for example, as many people used public transport again in 2014 as last in 1959. More and more small and medium-sized cities now have light rail (comparable to German Stadtbahnen) and even the classic street car (tram, but in contrast to Germany usually not on its own track body) is now part of the cityscape in more and more cities. Unfortunately, public transport in the USA is to a large extent a plaything of political interests, and so one tends to find a well-developed public transport system in "liberal" (in the USA the more left-wing political direction) cities such as Portland (Oregon), San Francisco or New York rather than in comparably large cities in conservative areas such as the southern states.

Despite the renaissance of public transport and the expansion in recent years, many cities are still stuck in the belief that public transport has to serve mainly commuters, and so it can be, especially with systems called commuter rail ("commuter train"), that nothing runs at the weekend and later in the evening. This is particularly frustrating when these systems actually serve tourist-interesting destinations and you have the choice between the crowded rush hour, long transfer and waiting times or swerving to the car. Fortunately, a slow rethinking is also showing up here, but clammy public coffers and stuck mindsets are often an obstacle to large-scale expansions of the service even outside the classic commuting times. Especially at night, there is often no alternative to a car and a taxi, which taxi drivers of course know and often "adjust" the prices accordingly.

In general, public transport is often poorly maintained, especially the subways. In the 2010s, press reports about the state of the metro in New York, which has seen little investment in current operation since the 1990s and still works partly with signals from the 1920s, as well as those from Washington DC, which was mostly built in the 1960s and 1970s and is now facing a major renovation for which, however, no money or preparatory work has ever been planned.

Taxis (or American cabs) are available in all major cities. They are also often found in medium-sized cities. Most often they are yellow, but other shades are also possible. All taxis have illuminated signs on the roof. If this one burns, the taxi is free, if not, it is occupied. If you want to stop a moving taxi, you stand at the side of the road and wave it over.

All taxis have a taximeter, the fare is calculated on the basis of a basic fee, the fee increases for each additional mile driven. It should be noted that the fare increases even when stationary (in a traffic jam). Payment can be made in cash, or often by credit card.

In some large cities (e.g. New York City), the taxis have a separation in the form of a glass pane to the driver for safety reasons.

Taxi Apps
In recent years, mobility services such as Uber or Lyft have become very popular. These are taxi apps that, when you have entered the destination, assign an arbitrary driver who is currently nearby and also has this app. The fares are often cheaper than regular taxis, but more expensive than public transport. There are Uber drivers in all major cities, but also in medium and smaller cities. However, you have to download an app and you need an internet connection (to book a ride).



The main language, of course, is English, and mastering this language makes conversation easier. But even as a tourist with low English language skills, you have no problems, because the Americans are very helpful and patient. However, it will be difficult without any knowledge of English at all. After English, Spanish is the most widely spoken language, but can only really be used in the south of the country, because most Americans torture themselves with their Spanish during school time and forget it afterwards. In tourist centers you can also very often find German information material and also German-speaking guides. In general, it is true that the vast majority of Americans have little problems with being grammatically not so firm or speaking with a German accent, the latter is perceived in the USA today as similarly charming as the French one in Germany. The sound makes the music. Rather than frowning at one's own imperfect English, one has to expect to be served in restaurants or shops by migrants who do not understand one, because they themselves hardly know English yet.



In the USA, a visit to the theater is definitely worth it. It doesn't always have to be the notoriously overpriced Broadway or the equally expensive Strip in Vegas; there are plenty of excellent venues even in small towns. Although tickets can also be purchased at the box office or at the box office, if you want to have good seats, it is advisable to book online in advance via the theater's website. If you choose the will call option, the tickets will be prepared at a special counter where you can pick them up immediately before the performance on presentation of the email notification and a proof of identity (passport or driver's license).

Due to the enormous variety of landscape forms and the proverbial American entrepreneurial spirit, you can do all sorts of interesting things in the USA that are hardly offered in German-speaking countries. An example is rafting, which in English is usually called whitewater rafting: whitewater rafting in an inflatable boat. On many suitable and often very scenic rivers, relevant organizers are established, who have boats, safety equipment and instructors ready, who ride along on the tours and, among other things, make sure that no one gets hurt. Previous knowledge or above-average sportsmanship are not necessary on the part of the participants, but you should already have some courage. By the way, the largest artificially created rafting facility in the USA is located in Charlotte, North Carolina.



Clothing sizes for men are one size larger than in Germany, i.e. a German XL is labeled L in the USA.

Prices are usually net. A sales tax is usually added to it, which can differ from state to state – often also from county to county. Likewise, the sales tax may be dependent on the item purchased. At the checkout you will then pay 6 to 10% more than what is written on the price tag. In cities, the sales tax is often significantly higher than in the surrounding rural counties. Some counties (e.g. all in New York City) have exemptions from the sales tax for "low-quality" clothing to boost shopping tourism. The state of New Hampshire waives the "sales Tax" for all products, so alcohol, electrical appliances and other items are much cheaper than in the neighboring states (Massachusetts or Vermont), so there are huge shopping centers on the borders with the other states.

The USA is the country where the credit card was invented and so you can pay for almost everything with the usual credit cards. The most widely used are the Visa Card and the Master Card. You can also pay with an American Express card almost anywhere. If you have an associated PIN number, you should know it by heart, because it is usually queried (except for small amounts). With the credit card you can pay in the USA not only in department stores, specialty shops, hotels, restaurants and at gas stations, but also supermarkets, museums, zoos and other tourist-relevant places. Fast food chains are also increasingly accepting payment by card.

Also in the USA, cash is preferred for small amounts (less than five US dollars (= USD = $)), whereby banknotes from 50 dollars are only very reluctantly accepted. There are hardly any large bills in circulation anyway. How much cash you need depends, among other things, on how routinely you deal with the credit card and also with cash machines. You can get by with very little cash in the USA today. If it's your first trip to the USA and you don't use the card often at home, you can expect to spend about a third of your expenses with cash.

Without credit card (not debit card!) it is hardly possible to rent a car or a caravan/camper in the USA. At the time of collection, a credit card deduction is made to secure the deposit, usually without directly debiting the card. Therefore, it is not possible to rent a car in the USA without a credit card, even if the rental car has already been paid for in Germany.

The currency of the USA is the well-known US dollar. These are available in the following denominations: 1 cent coin ("penny"), 5 cent coin ("nickel"), 10 cent coin ("Dime"), 25 cent coin ("Quarter"), 50 cent coin ("half dollar" - rather rare), 1 dollar coin (rare, but sometimes found as change at vending machines). Notes are available in the following versions: 1 dollar, 2 dollars (very rare), 5 dollars, 10 dollars, 20 dollars, 50 dollars and 100 dollars. The most common are the 1, 5 and 20 dollar bills. Higher amounts are almost always paid by credit card. Coins should always be kept ready, as they are needed at many vending machines, although many of them also have a credit card compartment. The most common is the 25 cent coin.

If you need cash on site, it is best to get it by credit card at the ATM (ATM). This is cheaper and also more convenient than in the bank, because the banks in the USA have quite short opening hours. It is a fairly common practice of some banks to charge additional fees from customers. However, these are displayed on the display before withdrawing (usually 1-4 USD). If the need for cash is not urgent, it is worth stopping the procedure and just try it at another bank. Also with a debit card (e.g. Maestro or V-Pay) and the secret number you can get cash at many ATMs. This is usually even associated with fewer fees. With these cards you can also pay in many places (e.g. Aldi), you just have to see if there is a sticker on the door.

It is worth asking whether there are cooperations of their own house bank with commercial banks in the USA: for example, Deutsche Bank customers can withdraw money at Bank of America's ATMs without any fees.



As almost everywhere in the world, the following also applies in the USA: the less carefully you choose and the less money you spend, the worse, fatter and more caloric food you get. However, the "typical American" fast food cuisine with hamburgers, French fries and liters of Coca Cola only marks the lower end of what the country has to offer in culinary terms. At the top end is American haute cuisine, which has produced famous varieties such as California Cuisine, which combines American, Mexican, Asian and Pacific influences.

Some regional cuisines, such as the Southern cuisine of the American southern states, are often on a par with this top cuisine. The Southwest, the Midwest, the New England States and some cities such as New York City and Philadelphia have also produced their own cooking style and typical dishes that should not be missed to try.

In addition, the USA is a country of immigration, in which people from all continents have settled at all times. Many migrant families start their new existence by opening a restaurant. As a result, especially in the big American cities, you can find an incredibly wide range of – often very inexpensive – ethnic restaurants, which are among the most interesting that there is in American gastronomy.

If you want to make the American cuisine here yourself, you will find the corresponding recipes.



The mecca for night owls is primarily the desert city of Las Vegas or New York City. The minimum age for visiting nightclubs or bars where alcohol is served is 21 years and is also very strictly controlled (usually already at the entrance). Even if you are significantly older than 21, you have to expect to be asked for the ID. The "normal" German identity card is often not enough, so it is best to carry your passport with you. Discussions, if you have forgotten this, are hopeless, there is no room for discretion due to the strict legal situation. Depending on the state, the opening hours of the bars or nightclubs are different. Usually the locations are already closed at 1.30 am at the latest. This is because the sale of alcohol is prohibited from 2 o'clock. But there are also clubs that have been open longer, but then no longer serve alcohol from 2 o'clock.



Most US tourists stay in hotels and motels. A motel in the classical sense is an inexpensive hotel, where the room doors are external doors, so you can park right in front of the room. In practice, however, the distinction between hotels and motels is fluid. The comfort and cleanliness are generally high, American hotel rooms are basically equipped with a private bathroom and beds for at least two people. Unpleasant surprises can only be experienced in very cheap quarters.

Especially interesting for families with children: the USA is – along with Canada and Iceland – one of the very few travel countries in the world where children do not have to sleep on folding sofas or roll-away beds in the hotel, nor do they have to be moved to a second room. After all, there are almost everywhere hotels with rooms, the bed capacity of which is enough for 4 people.

An interesting and almost everywhere possible alternative is living in a bed & Breakfast. In the USA, this term refers to beautiful Victorian villas that have been converted by the respective owners into a small comfort hotel with usually four to five lovingly and individually furnished rooms. Accommodation in a bed and breakfast is usually more expensive than in a hotel.

The cheapest accommodation can be found in hostels (youth hostels), which often offer four- and two-room rooms. But more often you sleep in the bunk bed in the dormitory. Bed linen and towels must be brought, there are no private bathrooms. There are hostels almost only in larger cities.

A cheap alternative is also Air-Bnb, a rental platform where private people rent out unused rooms in their own house (or apartment). The room prices are often cheaper than in bed & Breakfast accommodations. The advantage is that you can experience everyday life in the USA, and also make nice acquaintances.

Outdoor fans can choose between classic camping in the tent they brought with them or renting a camper van. The latter is relatively expensive and must be booked carefully in advance. There are a lot of campsites everywhere. Many campsite operators also offer accommodation in fixed tents (canvas cabins) or log cabins (cabins).

If you are traveling the USA with children or a larger number of people and want to spend a long time in one place, you can also rent a holiday home (cottage) in many (especially rural) regions. In cities there are usually also apartment hotels.



There is an exchange for German students. You usually travel with exchange organizations (such as AFS, YFU, EF, etc.) to a host family for a whole year after the end of the 10th school year (even shorter times are possible) and take part in high school life and thus get to know the culture and language of the country. The costs range from about € 5,000 to € 10,000, but you can also get scholarships.

There are numerous universities of world renown such as MIT, Harvard or Yale. These colleges have strict entrance exams. But there are also some hurdles to be overcome at the other universities. This also includes the completion of a language test. Tuition fees have reached a record high even by American standards.



Working in the United States is possible only with a visa. Visas are valid for one to two years, depending on the type. Most people who go to the USA to work are either sent by their German employer to their American branch or recruited directly by an American company or university. It is practically impossible to obtain a visa without an employment contract with an employer located in the USA.

The Green Card (actually: Permanent Resident Card), which allows a long-term or unlimited stay in the USA, is only the second step after the visa. The application process for this is very time-consuming, lengthy and costly. Nothing works at all without the support of an American employer who is ready to spend a lot of money on his highly qualified foreign employee. An attempt with the green card lottery (actually: diversity Visa lottery) can be made, but offers only relatively low chances of success.

It should be noted that the American authorities are extremely strict about activities without a work visa. In the past, exchange students have repeatedly been expelled from the USA because they have temporarily taken care of the children of the host family, which is already a "working" according to American law and is therefore not allowed without a work visa.


Festive season

Holidays that fall on a Sunday are placed on the following Monday, even if holidays are not celebrated on the historically correct day as a result. If the holiday falls on a Saturday, the Friday before it is not a regular working day. Banks, post offices and many museums are closed on holidays. Shops and restaurants, on the other hand, close at most on Thanksgiving (last Thursday in November) and on December 25th.

Since Americans have only 10-15 vacation days per year and use the long holiday weekends for additional short breaks, you have to expect significantly increased airfare and hotel room prices on these weekends.



If you follow basic safety rules, you usually don't need to be afraid of thefts, robberies or harassment, especially in rural regions and small towns. Many sparsely populated regions are so safe that many residents do not even close their homes when they leave for shopping.

The situation is different in larger and larger cities, which often have inner cities and residential districts that are not very homely. Every major city has areas that strangers, especially tourists, should avoid. Los Angeles in particular has many of these so-called no-go areas; a preliminary search via the Internet can save unpleasant experiences here. Trust your first impression here and avoid such neighborhoods especially at night. This also applies to many club districts. If you want to go dancing at night, it's best to take a taxi even for short distances.

Outside the inner cities, the rule of thumb has proven to be that you have arrived in the wrong area at the latest and should turn back if more than three car wrecks are standing around in the individual front gardens.

As everywhere in the world, it is often reckless in the USA to carry valuables around with you in an openly visible way. The more tourists frolic in a place, the greater the likelihood that pickpockets and robbers will also be there.

Risks that Europeans do not usually have to deal with also lurk in nature. In Central Europe, forest walkers encounter an otter at most once. In the USA, they should be prepared for far more threatening species even in urban areas. Rattlesnakes do not live here only in the desert, but in literally all parts of the country. The same applies to mountain lions and black bears, which also do not always stay away from human settlements. Hikers are particularly at risk; always make some noise while hiking on low-human trails and keep your eyes and ears open at the same time. Pay attention to the safety instructions, especially in the national parks, because encounters with buffaloes, grizzly bears or rattlesnakes are among the most dangerous things that can happen to you in the USA. Hikers should also learn about poisonous plants.

Losing your cash to a street robber in a dark corner of a big city is certainly not a nice experience. But if you come into skin contact with poison ivy (poison sumac) while hiking, of all things, your vacation is at least as spoiled for you. Poison Sumac plants are easily misjudged because they look more like very young trees than ivy. ivy), but a helpful rule is: "leaves of three, let it be (roughly: if it has three leaves, keep your hands off it)".

As a rule, the solar radiation is also underestimated by US tourists from German-speaking countries. Even in the northern parts of the country, UV radiation is very strong in summer. If you can not avoid going out into the sun, use sunscreen lotion with a high SPF. Americans use lotions with SPF factor 50 for themselves and especially for their children, which, by the way, you can buy in the USA much cheaper than in Europe.

In most states it is forbidden and heavily penalized to leave children unattended. Therefore, never leave children alone in the car! The same applies to hotels where children may not be left alone in the room. To get around this problem, many hotels or motels have a (often tiny) guarded pool, where the kids stay under supervision to comply with the law and to give the parents some free space. Where there is no supervisor, you just have to take the children with you.



In general, the laws in the USA are much stricter than those in the German-speaking countries and even minor “cavallier offenses” can end up in prison under certain circumstances.

A visit to the USA is problematic for minors who are accompanied by their adult partner. Sexual relations between a person of legal age (which, depending on the state, reaches the age of 16, 17 or 18) and an adult person are punishable as statutory rape in all states – a crime that is taken very seriously in the USA and is usually punishable by imprisonment. Even those who escape the eyes of law enforcement officers may face difficulties when trying to rent a hotel room.

The alcohol prohibition of the 1920s continues to have a more or less noticeable effect in all states to the present day. In order not to cause offense, public drinking (and drunkenness) should generally be more restrained compared to Europe. This applies, for example, to picnics and barbecues in public parks, where even beer is usually not allowed to be brought. In most states, anyone who has an open bottle of wine or similar in the passenger compartment of their rental car is also liable to prosecution; it belongs in the trunk. In some Indian reservations (for example, the reservation to which Monument Valley belongs), alcohol may not be carried at all.

In the case of a traffic accident in the USA, you should generally write down facts such as the time and the course of the accident very precisely. Because as a rule, even minor personal injuries in the USA are a lot of money for the insurance companies. For this reason, you should definitely be examined and treated in a hospital even for minor things after an accident.

The use of marijuana is also not without problems. Although an increasing number of states (California, Oregon, Washington or Massachusetts) allow the use of cannabis, this does not mean that it can be consumed everywhere. In some states, consumption and possession are still strictly prohibited (e.g. in Texas, Georgia or Utah) and will be punished accordingly. Therefore, you are not allowed to take purchased marijuana to another state under any circumstances, but you must inform yourself in advance what the legal situation is there. In principle, marijuana will remain prohibited under federal law. For most travelers, this becomes relevant when crossing state borders (even between two states that have both legalized marijuana) or when flying within states such as California or Alaska. Whether and to what extent the principle of "federal law breaks state law" applies to marijuana has been the subject of political debates and has not yet been conclusively answered by courts. Regulations that deviate from the other rules are also often found on Indian reserves, which have extensive legislative powers of their own in this, as in many other areas.



Medical expenses are dramatically high in the USA. Unexpected toothache, for example, can easily cost a fortune during a trip. Since the German statutory health insurances are not effective in the USA and German private health insurances do not partially cover the fantasy rates of American doctors and hospitals, it is absolutely necessary to have a travel health insurance abroad. This usually costs no more than € 20 per person per year or no more than € 40 for a family. Be sure to read the fine print, as not all insurance companies cover the USA with or. only secure a maximum travel duration of four weeks.

In principle, do not expect a doctor or his staff to speak German in the USA; if your English is not very good, it is best to bring a dictionary with you for treatment. The German missions in the USA publish online lists of German-speaking doctors; however, these are far from complete.

In medical emergencies, you can find medical help around the clock in the Emergency Room (ER) of most hospitals. The nearest hospital with ER can be found, for example, if you enter "ER, (name of the place), (state)" in Google Maps. In the city, dark blue rectangular signs with a white H indicate the shortest way to the nearest hospital. An ambulance with paramedics can be called via the general emergency number 911.

In case of serious medical emergencies, 911 and HE are the only correct options. Even in less dramatic cases, such as cystitis or otitis media, one is usually not rejected in the ER. Since the admitted patients are processed in the order of urgency of their complaints, however, in less serious emergencies one must be prepared for waiting times, which can last several hours.

A good and interesting alternative, which hardly has a counterpart in the German-speaking countries, is to visit an urgent care practice (also: walk-in care, walk-in clinic). This is a doctor's office that mainly treats unannounced patients who come with less serious medical emergencies. Many UC practices are owned by local doctors, others are operated by companies operating regionally or nationally under brand names such as Concentra, AFC Doctors Express or MedExpress Urgent Care. Often they can be found on the outskirts of large shopping centers, in the middle between retailers and restaurants. UC practices employ licensed doctors and have X-ray equipment, so they can also treat a simple bone fracture, for example. They are open daily and at generous times, but not around the clock. UC practices can be found online, for example at www.urgentcarelocations.com . Payment is made in the same way as with a registered doctor (see the next paragraph). The costs also correspond to what you would pay for a doctor in private practice.

If there is no UC practice to be found or specialist help is needed, you can also visit a resident doctor as a tourist. In community practices where several doctors work, the prospects for a quick appointment are generally greater than for doctors who work alone. If you do not want to talk on the phone due to poor English skills, but want to go directly and wait for treatment, try it first in the largest possible practice. In any case, you have to pay there immediately, so also have a credit card (usual credit cards are accepted in almost every doctor's office) ready. Ask for an invoice that describes in as much detail as possible what the doctor has done – this will make it easier for you to settle with your German travel health insurance later.

In dental emergencies, if in doubt, you should visit a registered dentist, because you pay less there than at an emergency service and probably also have to travel less far. The greatest chances for quick help are when you ask in a community practice. If you do not call late in the afternoon, you can expect to get an appointment on the same day in most practices. In many cities there are also emergency dental services, which are staffed around the clock. Addresses of such emergency services can be found, for example, here. Always have a credit card or sufficient cash on hand when visiting the dentist or the emergency dental service.

With a prescription you go to any pharmacy. Independently run pharmacies like in Europe are rare in the USA; you are most likely to find a pharmacy in a drugstore or a large supermarket. Prescription medicines are not pre-packaged industrially in the USA, but must be individually packaged by the pharmacist; you therefore always have to wait a good 20 minutes for your medication. For pharmacies, the rule is that the larger the company, the more generous the opening hours are. In the branches of the drugstore chain Walgreens, for example. the pharmacy counter is usually open until 21 o'clock, on weekends until 18 o'clock. In large cities, you can also occasionally find pharmacies that are open around the clock. In emergencies, in some good supermarkets or drugstores, whose pharmacy counter is already closed, the staff is also ready to call the pharmacist especially for you.



Each country and its inhabitants have peculiarities, customs and customs that do not always coincide with the domestic ones. Especially as a first-time visitor, you will then come across more or less big stumbling blocks.

Black Americans are referred to as "African Americans" or "people of color" if you don't want to stand out unpleasantly.
Some words that describe people with dark skin color are understood and used within this group more as fun, including in song lyrics. However, if these words are used by a person with fair skin color, this can be taken as a gross insult.
Derogatory statements about religion are very inappropriate in the USA, where 98% of the population are believers. Also, if you do not want to stand out as opinionated and tactless, you should basically avoid political topics to strangers.
Americans are much more shy than Central Europeans. Already children bring the names even for underwear only giggling over their lips. In changing rooms, on bathing beaches and similar places one should take this sensitivity into account.
The use of impure words is considered a matter of the lowest social strata.
Pushing past snakes is considered extremely rude, even with short questions.
When you greet someone, you always introduce your companion(s).
If a woman is taken to dinner by a man, it is considered extremely naughty if he does not pay then.
Keep your distance. In crowded subways, elevators, escalators, for example, people from Europe are used to putting themselves together very closely. In the US, this is considered very rude, and physical contact should be avoided.


Practical information

The USA is also the country of laundromats and coin-operated washing machines. If you are traveling with small luggage and want to wash clothes on the way, you will find a coin-operated washing machine and a coin-operated dryer in most hotels. Excluded from this rule are more expensive hotels, which offer washing services and do not want to compete with coin devices themselves. Self-service laundromats with cafés, as you sometimes see them in movies, are the exception rather than the rule in the USA. However, classic laundromats (laundromats), in which only a few chairs are set up, can be found in high density even in small towns. If an online search does not help, the locals are happy to give a tip.

Except in the centers of big cities, you can always drive up and park at Laundromats by car (how else should people transport mountains of laundry?). If you want to be absolutely sure, bring enough quarter coins; everyone else relies on the automatic changeover machine in the laundromat. Detergent can be brought or pulled from the vending machine. Most laundromats have at least a dozen machines, and it's not a problem to use several at once. Especially in small towns and quiet suburbs, it is quite common to leave the machines running unattended and drive home or have a coffee or run errands in the adjacent shops in between. However, the cleaning quality of the laundromats can sometimes be very fluctuating.


Post and Telecommunications

There are many Internet cafés in major cities and university towns, where you can usually surf by credit card. Hotels from the middle class upwards usually offer wireless Internet access in the rooms. In some hotels – in expensive ones rather than in inexpensive ones – you have to have access unlocked for a fee. in these expensive hotels, free WiFi or a guest computer is often available in the lobby, the use of which is free of charge. Free hotspots are also located in most local and larger stores, some even without a password, i.e. you can log in without entering the restaurant. Another convenient and free way to get to the Internet is provided by many city libraries, which often have a large number of computer workstations. In addition, more and more cities are offering public Wi-Fi at certain points (parks or squares).

You can only use your own phone if it supports the frequencies used in the USA. Even today, this is not yet standard for mobile phones sold in Europe. Relatively unproblematic in this regard are the well-known Chinese brands (Huawei, Xiaomi, etc.) as well as the iPhone (even older ones), with other phones you should do a thorough research. The availability of mobile networks is limited due to the long distances, but calling is possible in most places. If you want to make calls to Europe from your mobile phone, you should bring a phone card to save yourself the high fees.

Public telephones are becoming increasingly rare in the USA (just like in Germany). There is no point in looking at the post office, because the American Post office has never had anything to do with telecommunications. Apart from very cheap motels, hotel rooms are always equipped with telephones, but the fees charged there are usually drastic. You can save money if you use a prepaid phone card for making calls, which is available from AT&T, for example, at every supermarket, drugstore and gas station counter. To use it, you dial a free AT&T number, enter the card code and then dial the number you want to be connected to. The cards can also be used on public telephones.



Early history

In Alaska, the oldest documented human traces date back 12,000 to 14,000 years. The Clovis culture was long considered the oldest culture, but the finds in the Paisley Caves, which are about a millennium before the Clovis finds, showed that North America had been inhabited before. The oldest human remains are the relics of the 10,500-year-old Buhl woman from Idaho. This early phase was followed by the Archaic Period.

Between 4000 and 1000 BC, the use of ceramics, agriculture and various forms of gradual settlement developed. The hunting techniques were significantly improved by Atlatl and later by bow and arrow. Population densification occurred in North America around the Great Lakes, on the Pacific coast around Vancouver Island (Canada), on the Mississippi River and in many places of the Atlantic coast, as well as in the southwest.

Complex communities were created in the catchment area of the Adena and Mississippi cultures, but they disappeared shortly before the arrival of the first Europeans. They radiated far to the north and west. Clay housing estates with up to 500 rooms were built in the southwest. This Pueblo culture went back to the basketmakers who were already growing corn. Fortified large villages and permanent confederations developed around the Great Lakes. These groups, similar to those in the West, cultivated maize and pumpkins as well as an extensive long-distance trade – for example with copper and certain types of rock that were important for hunting weapons and jewelry –, which can be proven in British Columbia (Canada) from 8000 BC.


Effects of colonization on indigenous people

Imported diseases decimated the population to a degree that was difficult to measure. Many groups disappeared due to imported epidemics, without a European having even seen them. According to the anthropologist Alfred Kroeber, the population north of the Rio Grande was estimated at only one million people. These estimates were readily taken up, as it perpetuated the myth that the whites had conquered a largely deserted continent. The Smithsonian Institute, known as a rather cautious one, has tripled its estimate for North America to three million people. The extent to which the discussion has moved is shown by the thesis that the huge buffalo herds were grazing animals of the Indians, the size of the herds therefore did not represent a natural balance, but was based on over-multiplication after the sharp decline in the human population.

Despite the not to be overestimated effect of the epidemics – already Hernando de Soto brought devastating diseases into the area between Mississippi and Florida, in 1775 a smallpox epidemic devastated the Pacific coast – the effects of the wars should not be underestimated. The most costly wars in the East are likely to be the Tarrantine War (1607-1615), the two Powhatan Wars (1608-1614 and 1644-1646), the Pequot (1637), the King-Philips War (1675-1676), the French and Indian Wars (1689-1697, 1702-1713, 1744-1748, 1754-1763) as well as the three Seminole Wars (1817-1818, 1835-1842 and 1855-1858). In addition, there were the inter-tribal uprisings led by the chiefs Pontiac (1763-1766) and the Tecumseh (about 1810-1813). The French were in the Beaver Wars from about 1640 to 1701, then in four wars with the Natchez (1716-1729), the Dutch in the Wapping War and in the Esopus Wars (1659-1660 and 1663-1664), the Spaniards in 1680 against the Pueblos in the southwest and in numerous other battles. In the western United States, it was mainly the battles under Cochise (1861-1874), the Sioux War (1862) and the Lakota War (1866-1867), or the Apache War under Geronimo (until 1886) that became known. Individual battles, such as the one at the Little Bighorn or the massacre of Wounded Knee (1890), also became well-known.

The fur trade triggered completely different long-distance changes. On the one hand, this trade had an effect on the tribes who acted as hunters and vendors, but also on their close and distant neighbors, whether through the acquisition of weapons and related power shifts, whether through the development of trade monopolies of the tribes encamped near the trading bases (forts), or by triggering extensive migrations of peoples, such as by the Iroquois. Also, the position of the leadership groups became dependent on the fur trade.


From the first phase of colonization to independence

The first European settlement in what is now the United States was founded by the Spanish in St. Augustine, Florida, in 1565. The first permanent English colony was Jamestown in Virginia, which was founded in 1607, shortly after the French had founded a first colony in what would later become Canada. The arrival of the emigrant ship "Mayflower" in Plymouth Colony (later merged with Massachusetts Bay Colony to form Massachusetts) in 1620 is considered an important symbolic date. Swedish colonies on the Delaware and Dutch settlements around New York (Nieuw Amsterdam) were taken over by England.

Apart from the British, only the French and Spanish were able to achieve lasting political significance. For Spain, his colony of Florida had only a secondary function compared to his large possessions in Central and South America. France, on the other hand, limited its settlement to its colonial core area on the St. Lawrence River (New France), while still maintaining a strong economic interest in its remaining territories between the Mississippi and the thirteen colonies of the British. In order to cover the fur trade routes, these territories, which were not otherwise settled by Europeans, were protected by a system of forts and alliances. The British colonies, on the other hand, were under high immigration pressure, which led to a constant shift of the settlement border to the west. This was done partly according to the state plan (by a single colony) and partly in wild colonization against British and Indian resistance.

In the French and Indian War from 1754 to 1763, the opposing interests clashed. The war was a sideshow in the global confrontation between Great Britain and France, the Seven Years' War. Most of the Indians fought on the side of the French.

In the peace treaty of 1763, the entire French territories east of the Mississippi (except New Orleans) as well as the French-populated areas around Québec and Montreal fell to the British side. The Spanish Bourbon dynasty had sided with their French relatives during the course of the war. After the war, it had to cede Florida to the British and received the previously French territory west of the Mississippi as compensation.

The government in London demanded that the colonists should bear a higher share of the costs of the post-war order. At the same time, she tried to prevent the wild settlement to the west in order to avoid conflicts. The colonies opposed taxation, arguing that it violated English law, according to which there should be "no taxation without political representation" ("no taxation without representation"). In this way, the settlers declared that the British Parliament was in fact not entitled to issue instructions (but not the crown). In addition, although the Motherland demanded higher taxation, it blocked the issuance of its own currency, which would have been necessary for the financial strengthening of the colonies. The parliament acted in this way because it did not want to promote the formation of an American state, but created a contradiction with it. Several taxes that were perceived as unfair, such as the Stamp Act (on stamps), the Sugar Act (on sugar) and a tea tax, angered the colonists. There were boycotts and resistance actions, such as the Boston Tea Party, which found a first climax in the Boston massacre. London eventually stationed more soldiers, which further fueled secessionist tendencies in the thirteen colonies.

In 1775, British soldiers sparked the War of Independence when they excavated a colonial armory. A continental congress convened, which transferred the military high command to George Washington. On July 4, 1776, the thirteen colonies proclaimed the Declaration of Independence. France secretly supported the insurgents with weapons.

This contributed to US military successes. In 1783, in the Peace of Paris, the British Empire recognized the state sovereignty of the USA.

The territory of the now independent colonies included the territory of the following 16 of the now 50 states of the United States: New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Maine, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Vermont, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.


From independence to the Civil War

The Articles of Confederation adopted in 1777 and ratified in 1781 had proved insufficient to ensure the survival of the fledgling confederation. Therefore, the second Constitution of the United States was signed in Philadelphia in 1787. It is the second oldest still valid Republican state constitution – only the Constitution of the Republic of San Marino from the year 1600 is older. The first president of the United States in 1789 was George Washington, the general of the War of Independence, who was unanimously elected by a large consensus.

The development of the new state in the first decades was largely determined by two factors: on the one hand, by rapid territorial growth and further land grabbing at the expense of the Indians, on the other hand, by the struggle over slavery, which later determined the struggle for the civil rights of the descendants of the former slaves. At the time of the War of Independence, about two million whites and 500,000 enslaved blacks lived in the thirteen colonies.

During the European Coalition Wars, the Louisiana Territory (not to be confused with the present state of Louisiana) had fallen back to France from Spain. However, Napoléon refrained from re-establishing the French overseas Empire for financial reasons. Instead, in 1803 he sold the entire area between Mississippi and the Rocky Mountains to the USA for 15 million dollars, which doubled their national territory in one fell swoop. In the same year, the first states from the Northwest Territory, located between the Ohio River and the Great Lakes, joined the Union, from 1813 parts of the Louisiana territory followed.

The United States initially pursued a course of neutrality towards France and Great Britain. In 1812, however, the British-American War broke out over what remained British Canada. The conflict ended with a compromise, so from then on the demarcation of the border between the United States and Canada was completed in the east. Early American foreign policy was otherwise shaped by the Monroe Doctrine of President James Monroe, promulgated in 1823. The latter stated that the European powers should stay away from the American continent, while at the same time the United States should not interfere in the affairs of other states.

The Indian policy became more aggressive from 1820: with the Indian Removal Act and the subsequent Path of Tears, a decades-long violent land seizure and settlement began, which led to renewed fighting. The Indians were deported to reservations. One of the few victories for the Indians was the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876, which, however, remained politically meaningless. The Indian Wars ended with the Wounded Knee massacre in 1890. In 1900, less than a quarter of a million Indians lived, to which not only war, but also epidemics had contributed. Only in 1924 the Indians received full civil rights.

The second central issue of American politics until 1865 was the slave question. The importation of more slaves from overseas was prohibited by law in 1808. However, due to the extensive circumvention of this prohibition by the slave traders and natural population growth, the number of slaves had nevertheless increased to about four million by 1860. The slave question is increasingly dividing the southern from the Northern states, as industrialization began in the Northern States and the number of slaves slowly decreased, while the owners of the huge rice and cotton plantations in the Southern States continued to practice slavery on an increasing scale. New states from the acquired territories were accepted only in pairs, so as not to threaten the unstable equilibrium. Slavery was contrary to the Declaration of Independence, according to which "all people are created equal". Therefore, in the North, movements such as abolitionism, which called for the abolition of slavery, gained a strong influx. The war against Mexico (1846-1848) brought the United States another gain in land, which makes up today's southwest. But he also increased domestic political tensions, since the northern states partly saw him as taking over land in favor of the expansion of the slave states.

After Abraham Lincoln was elected US president in 1860 for the newly founded Republican Party, eleven southern states left the Union. This marked the beginning of the Civil War (1861-1865). The first priority was the constitutional question of whether the federal government had the right to decide on elementary substantive issues in the federal states at all. The northern states emerged victorious from the Civil War, and slavery was abolished by law. Blacks were formally granted full civil rights with the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and the 14th Amendment of 1868. The defeat of the predominantly agrarian-structured South, which until then had provided the most presidents, also meant that the USA was increasingly turning into a modern industrial state after the war.


From the Civil War to the Great Depression

in 1890, the Frontier was declared closed. This ended the era of the "Wild West". Immigration did not subside, so that a total of 18 million people were received between 1880 and 1910. Industrialization since the Civil War led to the formation of large trusts, which could influence politics through their economic power. Therefore, the Antitrust Act was passed in 1890, as a result of which, starting in 1911, several large corporations such as Standard Oil and the American Tobacco Company were spun off.

As a result of the Spanish-American War of 1898, the United States expanded its sphere of influence to the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Hawaii and Cuba. An interventionist policy was pursued by President Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909), who claimed a hegemonic position of power over the Latin American states (Big Stick). Thus, in 1903, the United States detached Panama from Colombia in order to allow the newly formed state to cede sovereignty over the Panama Canal to itself.

During the First World War, the United States remained formally neutral until 1917, but supported the Entente mainly by resupply deliveries. On February 1, 1917, as a countermeasure, Germany declared unrestricted submarine war, after which the United States declared war on Germany on April 6 and introduced conscription on June 5. After its victory over Russia, the German Empire sent the liberated troops to the Western Front and organized a last futile offensive in the spring of 1918. The American troops arriving in France finally shifted the balance of forces in favor of the Allies. After the military victory, President Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921) tried to establish a stable post-war order in Europe, making the right of peoples to self-determination and the formation of a League of Nations a maxim on the basis of his 14-point program. This plan failed: on the one hand, the English and the French refused to implement Wilson's plan in favor of a victory peace with the German Reich, on the other hand, the US Senate refused to join the League of Nations, so that the now largest political power in the world was absent from this body and returned to isolationism.

As a result of the costly war and the subsequent reconstruction, the Europeans had become debtors of the United States. The outstanding economic role of the United States was especially evident when the stock market crash in October 1929 (Black Thursday with price losses on the Dow Jones of up to 12.8% in one day) was followed by the Great Depression. This led to a year-long internal crisis (Great Depression) in the United States with about 15 million unemployed and about 125 million inhabitants in 1932. Under President Franklin D. Roosevelt implemented profound economic and social reforms with the New Deal. Among other things, the financial markets were regulated (Glass-Steagall Act) and the Social Security Act of 1935 created the foundations of an American welfare state. In addition, numerous public construction projects such as roads, bridges, airports and dams have been realized.


From the Second World War to the end of the "Cold War"

At the outbreak of the Second World War, the United States initially remained neutral, but initially supported Great Britain under the Loan and Lease Act, and since 1941, after the break of the Hitler-Stalin Pact, also the Soviet Union massively with capital and arms supplies. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor by Japanese forces on December 7, 1941, they declared war on Japan and received declarations of war from Germany and Italy a short time later. As in the First World War, the industrial potential of the United States was decisive for the victory of the Allies. The surrender of the German Reich in May and the surrender of Japan in August 1945 ended the Second World War.

The US had made high profits in the Second World War with low casualties. Their total losses amounted to 300,000 killed and 670,000 wounded, less than 0.5% of the population. The country was the only one to emerge from the war economically strengthened and at the end of the war alone had a nuclear weapon of mass destruction. The United States had become a superpower with a global presence.

The Bretton Woods system, founded back in 1944, established the dollar as an international leading and reserve currency with a gold standard. It corresponded to the American ideas of free world trade and open markets.

The United States was instrumental in the founding of the United Nations on June 26, 1945 in San Francisco, which took place in agreement with the Soviet Union. However, a confrontation with the former war ally Stalin soon became apparent, which led to the Cold War. President Harry S. Truman pursued an anti-communist containment policy, which found its expression in the Truman doctrine. In a departure from the isolationist Monroe doctrine, the latter granted military and economic aid to all countries in order to preserve their independence. The United States supported Greece and Turkey and launched the Marshall Plan, which was designed to economically stabilize Western Europe. The Cold War reached its first peak with the Berlin blockade in 1948/49, to which the United States responded with the Berlin Airlift. In 1949, NATO was established as a military alliance between the United States, Canada and Western Europe.

The nuclear arms race that was now beginning between NATO and the Warsaw Pact, which provided both sides with a multiple "overkill capacity" from the 1960s, and which was at the same time seen as a race of social systems, led to confrontations and proxy wars, such as the Korean War (1950-1953), the Cuban Missile crisis (1962), in which the world barely escaped a Third World War, or the Vietnam War. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the SALT negotiations (1968 and 1969) attempted to defuse the dangerous situation.

The Cold War, which was not openly fought only in the industrialized countries, led to the fact that many Americans considered communism an enemy image. Domestically, this led to a climate of suspicion and control, which is referred to as the "McCarthy era". The Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy distinguished himself in the Senate Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) by suspecting filmmakers, politicians and military men in particular as communists and expecting denunciations. Anyone who refused to testify had to expect a professional ban. The hearings were often televised. When McCarthy finally came to suspect President Eisenhower, he was ousted by the Senate in 1954.

The Vietnam War, which the United States intervened in in 1964 after the Tonkin incident, having previously sent military advisers, turned into a military and moral fiasco, which ended with the withdrawal of US troops in 1973. The credibility as a propagator of democratic values suffered here and also in other areas of conflict with the support of numerous military dictators or the support of military coups, such as those Mobutu in the Congo, then called "Zaire", or the military coups against the democratically elected governments of Guatemala (1954), Brazil (1964) and Chile (1973).

In addition to social and political movements, three assassination attempts shook the nation and with it the world in the 1960s: the assassination of President John F. Kennedy (1963), the assassination of the preacher and civil rights activist Martin Luther King, who was the figurehead of the non–violent struggle for the rights of blacks (1968) - and in the same year the assassination of the Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, a younger brother of the assassinated president.

The Blacks had been formally freed from slavery in 1865, but already in the course of the reconstruction of the war-torn South, the southern states had passed laws restricting their civil rights again (Jim Crow laws). Although they emphasized the same rights, they also provided for racial segregation. Only the Civil Rights Movement was able to eliminate the last formal unequal treatment. A very important step was the abolition of racial segregation in public institutions by the Supreme Court in 1954. However, the schooling of blacks had to be enforced in part with the help of the National Guard, because the governors of the southern states (especially George Wallace from Alabama) insisted on their state rights until the end of the 1960s, which included racial segregation.

In 1964, under President Lyndon B. Johnson, who succeeded Kennedy in office after his assassination in 1963, was himself elected in 1964 and remained in office until 1969, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed, which declared racial segregation illegal in the United States. In 1965, Johnson passed another law, the Voting Rights Act, which prohibited any discrimination against African Americans in elections. Finally, the Civil Rights Act of 1968 was passed by Congress, which prohibited discrimination of any kind by law. Even though President Johnson had experienced a decline in his approval rating as a result of the war in Vietnam, he was able to initiate further important reforms within the framework of his Great Society program, which in particular concerned the fight against poverty, the intensification of the education system and consumer protection. In fact, the number of US citizens living in poverty decreased by about half. In addition, a new immigration law was passed in 1965, which significantly eased the restrictions introduced in 1924 and led to increased immigration from Latin America and Asia, which in the long run initiated a significant demographic change.

In addition to the movement against the Vietnam War, those that were directed against discrimination within society were of great influence. This was first the women's rights movement, then the gay rights movement, which, however, was confronted with the legislations of the respective states. So-called "sodomy laws", which until 1962 had banned the practice of male homosexuality, as well as "deviant sexual practices" of heterosexual couples in many states, were partially repealed. When the Supreme Court upheld these laws in 1987, they still existed in the majority of the states and were not repealed by the Supreme Court until the Lawrence vs. Texas decision of June 26, 2003.

The Watergate affair about a burglary and an eavesdropping attack on Democratic Party offices in the Watergate building complex, which President Richard Nixon probably knew about and in which he tried to obstruct the FBI investigation, developed into the biggest scandal in American post-war history. To avoid the threat of impeachment, Nixon resigned in 1974.

The oil crisis in 1974 and the Iranian hostage crisis in 1979, as well as the consequences of the Vietnam War, caused a lack of orientation in foreign policy. An economic crisis hit especially the heavy industrial area in the states of Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Indiana and Michigan, the so-called Rust Belt. This led to ethnically motivated unrest in the southern states, which favored the electoral success of Republican Ronald Reagan.

Thus, the entry into office of the Reagan administration marked a paradigm shift in American politics, both at home and in foreign policy. Society has become highly polarized economically. His eight years of government until 1989 were characterized by a liberal economic policy (reaganomics), the reduction of state subsidies and social benefits, savings in public administration and tax cuts in the upper income groups. Christian faith and strict anti-communism made him an example for the conservative circles. His opponents saw him as a lobbyist for corporations and defense companies.

The contradictory domestic and foreign policy towards states that did not respect human rights, the lack of understanding for other cultural circles and the resulting misjudgments were evident in foreign policy up to the Iraq War. If people had already supported dictator Saddam Hussein after the outbreak of the First Gulf War between Iran and Iraq (1980-1988) out of fear of the fundamentalist circles in Tehran, mistakes were accumulating, as in the Iran-Contra affair, in which the United States had supplied weapons to Iran in 1986 through the mediation of security adviser Robert McFarlane and Colonel Oliver North in order to support the opponents of the Sandinistas in Nicaragua from these proceeds. The supply of money and weapons to the Mujahideen in Afghanistan also proved to be double-edged: although the Soviet Union had to withdraw its troops after ten years, radical Islamic groups were strengthened at the same time.

Reagan repeatedly referred to the Soviet Union as the "evil empire", using religious terminology. The expenditure on armaments was increased and a so-called "Star Wars program" (SDI project, "Star Wars") was launched. At the Geneva Summit Conference (1985) and in 1986, he met with his Soviet counterpart Mikhail Gorbachev for disarmament negotiations called START (Strategic Arms Reduction Talks). In 1991, the "Cold War" ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union.


After the end of the Cold War

Under Democratic President Bill Clinton (1993-2001), there was a prolonged economic upswing. The end of the Cold War and the "New Economy", which had its starting point in the USA, favored economic consolidation. The neglect of the cities was stopped – crime-ridden neighborhoods in the metropolises such as New York, Miami and Los Angeles recovered.

Nevertheless, in 1996, the receipt of social assistance was reduced to two years in a row and a total of five years, which reduced the number of recipients.

President Clinton's foreign policy was led by Secretary of State Warren Christopher during his first term and Madeleine Albright during his second. She was the first woman in this post.

The unsuccessful engagement in Somalia, begun under George Bush Sr., was aimed at the disempowerment of the "war Lords", especially Mohammed Aidids. After the devastating battle of Mogadishu, the special operations forces withdrew from the country. The invasion of Haiti in 1994 also brought the democratically elected Jean-Bertrand Aristide back to power and the military dictator Raoul Cédras was deposed, but it did not solve the social problems of the state.

After the European states had not succeeded in pacifying the region after the breakup of Yugoslavia, US troops intervened in the Bosnian War and Kosovo War against Serbian units of autocrat Slobodan Milošević in 1995 (Operation Deliberate Force) and 1999 (Operation Allied Force) within the framework of NATO. Attempts to achieve peace between Israel and Palestine in the Middle East suffered a serious setback with the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin.

Clinton responded to provocations by Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein with sporadic airstrikes, as well as in Sudan and Afghanistan after terrorist attacks on the US embassy in Nairobi and a US warship in Yemen. These attacks have already been blamed on Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network.


Since the turn of the millennium

After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, President George W. Bush announced a worldwide war on terrorism, which was initially approved by a large part of the population. Bush, similar to Reagan, identified an "axis of evil" (axis of evil), to which he attributed so-called rogue states (rogue states). These included Iran, Iraq, Cuba and North Korea.

In October 2001, the radical Islamic Taliban regime, which had hosted Osama bin Laden, was overthrown by a campaign in Afghanistan. Also in the name of the war on terrorism, the Third Gulf War against Iraq began in March 2003 with the aim of overthrowing the dictator Saddam Hussein. Under the pretext that he possessed weapons of mass destruction and had contacts with Bin Laden, the United States attacked without a UN mandate.

Despite a quick victory, Iraq could not be pacified. Some states of the "Coalition of the Willing" withdrew their comparatively small quotas back in the spring of 2004. In June 2004, the government was handed over to an Iraqi interim government.

George W. Bush's turn to a strategic concept of preemption was seen as a departure from the previously pursued American foreign and security policy, which was based on deterrence, containment and the influence of "soft power", which means the attractiveness of economic and cultural over military influence.

From 2007 onwards, a financial crisis was looming, mainly based on a credit and real estate bubble, which caused the biggest economic problems that had existed since the Great Depression. Barack Obama, a Democratic senator from Illinois and the first African-American and multiethnic president, was elected during the crisis in November 2008 and ordered measures and reforms to stimulate the economy and mitigate the negative consequences of the crisis. Among other things, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was enacted, which provided for tax cuts as well as investments and expenses for health care, infrastructure or unemployment insurance, among others. The unemployment rate declined again after the peak of the crisis. The Dodd-Frank Act, the largest financial market reform in recent decades, was also passed. A greater focus was also placed on environmental policy during Obama's tenure. Although Obama intended to keep the increase in debt below the level of the previous government, the national debt also increased significantly in the following years.

In 2010, the Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare") was passed to reform the health care system. The number of citizens without health insurance dropped significantly in the following years; the reform remained controversial with regard to effectiveness and affordability.

At the end of 2011, the US troop withdrawal in Iraq was completed and the occupation of Iraq officially ended. On December 31, 2014, the combat mission of the NATO-led ISAF mission in Afghanistan was terminated and the US troops were withdrawn, except for a small unit that remains in the Resolute Support follow-up mission. At the end of 2014, Obama surprisingly announced the restoration of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba. In 2015, the Obama administration participated in a nuclear agreement with Iran.

The right-wing populist Republican Donald Trump, the first president with no previous military or political experience before taking office, was elected in November 2016.

The United States has been the most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide. By the end of May 2020, over 1,000,000 Americans had been infected and more than 100,000 had died, and by February 2021, over 500,000 people had died with the virus. Due to the economic consequences of the measures to reduce the spread of the virus, more than 30 million Americans lost their jobs in the USA during the COVID-19 pandemic. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the opioid crisis in the USA, which had begun at the turn of the millennium, reached its temporary peak. From 1999 to June 2022, about 948,000 people died of a drug overdose in the United States.

The death of African-American George Floyd during a police operation on May 25, 2020 triggered demonstrations against racism and police violence by the Black Lives Matter movement. Riots broke out in numerous cities in the USA – night curfews were imposed in more than 40 cities. In many cities, the National Guard was also used to support the police.

In the 2020 presidential election, Democratic challenger Joe Biden defeated incumbent Donald Trump. However, as the first president in the history of the United States, the latter did not recognize his defeat. He claimed to have become the victim of electoral fraud and enticed violent supporters to an attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2021, in which 5 people died. On January 20, Biden took office as president.



American culture is characterized by the diversity of ethnic influences and traditions brought by numerous immigrant groups. It was not until the 1930s that a unified American popular culture emerged through the mass media. Various cultural scientists have dealt with the typical American mentality, compared self-image and foreign images and formulated so-called cultural standards of behavior from them.

The early cultural production in the United States was mainly characterized by the English "leading culture", which, however, quickly gained independence due to the new, unique circumstances. The African slaves were forbidden to practice their cultural traditions and to produce their own culture, so that they had to orient themselves strongly to European patterns. However, elements of their original cultures could be maintained in secret.

In the 20th century, American artists broke away from the role models of the Old World. The different cultural disciplines were expanded in new directions.

The contemporary art and entertainment scene in the United States included the rejuvenation of music, new developments in modern dance, the use of native American themes in theater, film production in its entire range and the globalization of the visual arts.

In the United States – similar to Germany, but unlike in France – there is no central Ministry of Culture that controls a nationwide cultural policy. This fact reflects the conviction that there are areas in social life in which the government should play only a small or no role at all. The two national endowments for the Arts and Humanities – the "National Endowment for the Arts" (NEA) and the "National Endowment for the Humanities" (NEH) – provide grants to support individual artists and scholars as well as institutions active in the field of the arts and humanities. Since the "Republican Revolution" in 1994, in which the Republicans won the majority in Congress, both foundations as well as the public broadcasters PBS and NPR have been repeatedly threatened by funding cuts, often accompanied by the accusation that they pursued a "left" policy in favor of an "elite". In particular, art that is critically viewed by Christian-fundamentalist or strongly Roman Catholic circles becomes a target point of these threats.

While the NEA's budget, which amounted to 115 million US dollars in 2003, was modest compared to the cultural funding of other countries, private donations have always made up the majority of cultural funding. These private donations were estimated at about 12.1 billion US dollars for the year 2002.


Indigenous culture

The cultural forms of the approximately 350 Indian groups considered tribes, whose members call themselves American Indians or Native Americans and live in the main part of the United States, are not uniform, the 225 recognized Alaska Native tribes living in Alaska also differ significantly, especially the groups in Hawaii. Within the country, between city and country, as well as between ethnic groups, the differences are very large. They developed their own identities and cultural structures that can be assigned to cultural areas, the number of languages was very high, but many of them are threatened with extinction. The largest language with about 150,000 speakers is the Navajo.

On the Pacific coast, the culture was dominated by fishing, or whaling, as with the Makah in northwest Washington. There are huge totem poles there, the largest of which stands in Washington. In the inland, mounted hunting, gathering and river fishing predominated. In the great plains, the plains, the focus was on bison hunting, in others on elk. Due to the arrival of the horse, an equestrian nomadism developed from the 17th century onwards, which set wide-ranging movements of peoples in motion. The East, on the other hand, was largely depopulated from 1830 (Path of Tears), so that the Indian cultural influence was less felt here for a long time.

Similar to literature, the Indian art scene not only pursues traditional elements, but also combines them with European-inspired means of American culture. Other Indian artists produce detached from these traditions in their genres and with their means. Most of the literature focuses on ecological problems, poverty and violence, dehumanized technology or spirituality. The written tradition dates back to the early 19th century. William Apes: The Experience of William Apes, a Native of the Forest (1831), a Pequot, George Copway, an Anishinabe and Elias Johnson, a Tuscarora are early examples. The novella Laughing Boy by Oliver La Farge (1929) was not resumed until the 1960s. The Kiowa N. Scott Momaday received the Pulitzer Prize for House Made of Dawn in 1969, Vine Deloria published Custer Died For Your Sins. An Indian Manifesto. Dee Brown's Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee from 1970 broke the national framework.



A significant contribution of the United States to world culture is the development of jazz, which is considered the first independent form of music in the United States, as well as blues and country, from the merger of which rock and roll emerged in the 1950s. This musical culture is unique due to the confluence of African-American and European folklore and today forms a central basis of the popular culture of the Western world.

Since 1959, the Grammy Awards have been presented annually by the Recording Academy in Los Angeles in currently 78 categories to artists such as singers, composers, musicians as well as production managers and sound engineers. The Grammy is considered the highest international award for artists and recording teams.



Even before the establishment of the first English colony in America in 1607, there were Spanish dramas and Native American tribes performing plays.

Founded in 1809 by the circus of Pepin and Breschard, the Walnut Street Theater is the oldest theater in America that is actively operating to this day.

Although numerous formerly popular forms of theatre such as Minstrel shows and vaudeville acts have gradually disappeared from the American stage landscape over time, theatre remains a popular contemporary art form in the United States.

Some of the most important American playwrights and stage authors of the modern era include Edward Albee, August Wilson, Tony Kushner, David Henry Hwang, John Guare and Wendy Wasserstein.



The literary production did not tie in any way to the traditions of the Indians, but began with travelogues and historiography, in addition there were diaries and theological literature. The first printed book was the Bay Psalm Book of 1640. The most important Puritan poets were Edward Taylor and Anne Bradstreet (The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America, London 1650).

In 1704, Sarah Kemble Knight wrote the report of a trip from Boston to New York (The Journal of Madam Knight), with which the landscape forced an argument for the first time. With the reports of captivity among Indians, intercultural contacts and strangeness also penetrated the literature, such as Mary Rowlandson or John Smith's account of his alleged rescue by Pocahontas. The Magnalia Christi Americana (1702) by Cotton Mather is considered the most important work of Puritan historiography.

Numerous political essays and satires, read in England as well as in the United States, came from the pen of Benjamin Franklin. Patriotism left its mark on the literature of the founding years. Philip Freneau became the "poet of the American Revolution" and drew a benevolent image of the Indians. Webster compiled his An American Dictionary of the English Language from 1806 to 1828. His spelling is responsible for numerous differences between American and British English.

Charles Brockden Brown took up the English tradition of the Gothic novel and is considered a pioneer of the psychological novel. Washington Irving and James Fenimore Cooper were influenced by the historical novels of Sir Walter Scott. Irving is often called the founder of the short story. Cooper captured the frontier experience in the "Leather Stocking" (1823-1841) and presented Indians as "noble savages".

American Romanticism, often referred to as the American Renaissance, reached its peak over 30 years after the European one. It was from Ralph Waldo Emerson that transcendentalism originated. He referred to Immanuel Kant's Transcendental philosophy, but combined it with Far Eastern and Indian philosophy. His The American Scholar of 1837 was called the "cultural Declaration of Independence" of the United States.

Henry David Thoreau lived in a log cabin for two years. In the 1960s, his pursuit of an alternative life plan made his Walden, reporting on these two years, a cult book of the hippie movement. Thoreau's political essay Civil Disobedience (1849) influenced Martin Luther King as well as the environmental movement.

Walt Whitman emphasized physicality in free verse, while Nathaniel Hawthorne was characterized by a deep skepticism. His subjects were guilt, punishment and intolerance, for example in the company of his Puritan ancestors. In the Blithedale Masquerade of 1841 he described the failure of a utopian commune.

Herman Melville's Moby Dick (1851) was a reflection on the questions of existence, about good and evil, the limitations of human cognition. This and his late works, like Bartleby the Scribe, were recognized only long after his death.

Edgar Allan Poe's short stories influenced the development of fantasy and horror literature, with the double murder in the Rue Morgue he invented the detective story. By means of a poetry theory (The philosophy of composition, The poetic principle), Poe succeeded in developing poetry into the field of symbolist and onomatopoeic linguistic art.

The conflict between the Northern and southern states over slavery was also carried out by literary means. In 1789, the autobiography Olaudah Equiano was published, Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852) became a bestseller in the North.

Outstanding are Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha novels (1930s), Stephen Vincent Benét's John Brown's Body (1928) and last but not least Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind (1936). The southerners vacillated between nostalgia and sharp criticism. The poet and musician Sidney Lanier wrote gloomy odes, Kate Chopin about the Creole-influenced society of Louisiana. Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885) or Frank Norris’ local color literature exposed regional idiosyncrasies and dialects.

The mass misery in the cities became an issue. Jack London moved to the Far North (Call of the Wild) during the Klondike Gold Rush. Like London, Frank Norris belonged to the radical literary scene of San Francisco. His novels dealt with the hard life in California, the supposed Promised Land (Greed for Gold, 1899). Upton Sinclair exposed the abuses in Chicago's slaughterhouses in The Swamp (1906).

T. S. Eliot or W. H. Auden, Ezra Pound and Hilda Doolittle (H. D.) are considered representatives of modernity. Many American writers spent some time in Europe; Stein created for them the term ("Lost Generation"). John Dos Passos wrote the most famous big city novel with Manhattan Transfer. When the anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti were executed in 1927, John Dos Passos, Langston Hughes and Edna St. Vincent Millay held a vigil in front of the prison gates. Many writers turned to socialism. "Proletarian literature" reached its peak with works such as Dos Passos' U.S.A. trilogy (1930-1936) and John Steinbeck's Fruits of Wrath (1939).

The twelve authors of the pamphlet I'll Take My Stand and their successors became known as Southern Agrarians; they opposed rationality, industrialization and urbanization. In 1922, Eliot published probably the most famous poem of English-speaking modernism: The Desert Land.

Gertrude Stein's poems are often more committed to sound than to meaning. The concise style of Ernest Hemingway represents one extreme of prose, the rampant sentences of William Faulkner represent the opposite. His work (Nobel Prize for Literature in 1950) was celebrated in France in particular by Jean-Paul Sartre and other existentialists, in Germany by Gottfried Benn. However, he probably had the greatest influence on Latin American literature, especially magical realism. Sherwood Anderson and Thomas Wolfe were Faulkner's role models. F. Scott Fitzgerald's works observed the upscale society of New York or the exiled bohème, and so he became the chronicler of the "wild twenties". In The Great Gatsby (1925), he took up the American success myth.

With the Harlem Renaissance, a heyday of African-American literature began around 1920, strongly influenced by Alain LeRoy Locke's anthology The New Negro (1925). Richard Wright and Ralph Ellison belonged to the generation that followed the Harlem Renaissance and found role models in it, but whose optimism had given way to resignation. Wright's Native Son (1940) and Ellison's The Invisible Man (1951) are considered the central works.

After the Second World War, Norman Mailer's The Naked and the Dead and Gore Vidal's Williwaw, James Jones’ Damned for All Eternity and Herman Wouk's The Caine was their destiny appeared. Mailer processed his involvement in the anti-war movement into Heere aus der Nacht, for which he invented "faction" (a new formation of fact and fiction) as a new genre of literature. Vidal caused a scandal in 1948 with Closed Circle, one of the first gay novels.

Henry Miller maintained a negative attitude: the air-conditioned Nightmare (1945) is one of his titles and at the same time his mock name for the United States. He gained a reputation as an author of scandals with the Tropic of Cancer (1934) and the Tropic of Capricorn (1939). However, his works – as well as the trilogy Nexus, Plexus, Sexus (1948-1960) – are more interesting as a spiritual biography and testimonies of mystical inclinations.

In the late 1940s, a new literary bohème was formed around Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Gregory Corso and William S. Burroughs, which was called the Beat Generation. The cultural influence of the beat poets can be seen in the fact that the nonconformist youth movement around 1960 was named after them as beatniks. Ginsberg's poems stand in the tradition of Whitman in their free form, in radical individualism and visionary urge, but at the same time are ironic-desperate comments on the state of society. Thus, in the 1960s he became a symbolic figure of the hippies.

Jack Kerouac's best-known novel On the Road describes a journey of two young men on the run from constraints and in search of sensual pleasures and spiritual fulfillment as an alternative to materialism and compulsion to conform. A central figure of the hippie movement also became Ken Kesey with A flew over the cuckoo's nest.

In the 1960s and 1970s, in the narrow sense, experimental authors such as Vladimir Nabokov, Thomas Pynchon and John Barth were called "postmodern". Today, the entire literature production from about 1960 onwards is often understood under the term postmodernism, because it is understood as a product of a postmodern society. Ways of collaborative literary creation are being tested by systems such as NaNoWriMo.


Mass media

The United States has always played a pioneering role in the process of media penetration of all areas of daily life that took place in the 20th century. Already in the first half of the 19th century, the emergence of a tabloid press can be observed. Also, the mass distribution of radio, television, computers and the Internet began here earlier than in the rest of the world. In 2000, more than 50% of American households already owned at least one personal computer, and more than 40% used the Internet.


History and understanding of the Constitution

Already in the founding colonies a newspaper business developed rapidly. The first newspaper banned by the British, however, called Publick occurrences, Both Foreign and Domestik, appeared as early as 1690. At the beginning of the 18th century, newspapers were already published regularly, including many German-speaking ones. The first German-language newspaper in the territory of the present-day United States was the Philadelphische Zeitung, founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1732. In the years of the revolution, the joy of publication of immigrants of mainly English and German descent increased sharply. When the Declaration of Independence was adopted in 1776, it first appeared in the German-speaking Pennsylvanian State Messenger. The statement was not published in the English-language press until later.

Freedom of the press was given a prominent place in the First Amendment of the Constitution in 1791. In the United States, there was an early conviction that the general good was best achieved by a "free trade of ideas", as Oliver W. Holmes put it in 1919. This feature of the first amendment was confirmed by the Supreme Court in 1969: "It is the right of the viewers and listeners, not the right of the broadcasters, which is paramount. It is the purpose of the First Amendment to preserve an uninhibited marketplace of ideas in which truth will ultimately prevail, rather than to maintain monopoly of that market“.

Reporters Without Borders considers the situation to be satisfactory for press freedom. Since President Biden took office, the reliability and transparency of government communications has improved. According to the NGO, however, structural weaknesses persist, such as the disappearance of local media and a widespread distrust of so-called "mainstream media".


Media groups

Time Warner is a media company with numerous business areas. Time Warner includes the film and television studio Warner Bros., the pay-TV channel Home Box Office (HBO) and Time Inc. Book and magazine publishers. Viacom is an American media company with interests in MTV Networks and Paramount Pictures. NBC Universal is the third largest media company in the world, after Time Warner and Viacom. NBC Universal includes the US broadcasters National Broadcasting Company (NBC), USA Network and MSNBC, as well as the film company Universal Studios. News Corporation is a media conglomerate owned by Rupert Murdoch. News Corporation has numerous holdings in film and television companies, newspaper and book publishers. The investments include, among others, the companies 20th Century Fox, Fox Broadcasting Company, New York Post and Dow Jones (Wall Street Journal).



Since its beginnings as an independent nation, the United States has promoted science and inventions by facilitating the free exchange of ideas, the dissemination of knowledge and by welcoming creative people from all over the world. The Constitution reflects the desire for scientific activity. It gives the Congress the authority to "[...] promote the progress of science and useful arts by granting authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries for a limited time [...]". This provision is the basis for the patent and trademark system of the United States.

Two of the founding fathers of the United States were themselves well-known scientists. Benjamin Franklin conducted a series of experiments to prove that lightning is a kind of electricity, and invented the lightning rod. Thomas Jefferson studied agriculture and introduced new varieties of rice, olive tree and grass to the New World.

In the 19th century, the leading new ideas in natural science and mathematics came from Great Britain, France and Germany, but in many cases they were not received. Due to the long distance between the United States and the countries of origin of Western science and production, it was often necessary to develop their own approaches. Researchers and inventors from the United States were lagging behind in the development of theories, but they excelled in the applied natural sciences. Against this background, a large number of important inventions occurred. Great American inventors are Robert Fulton (steamship), Samuel F. B. Morse (Telegraph), Eli Whitney (cotton ginning machine), Cyrus McCormick (mower), the Wright brothers (motorized airplane) and Thomas Alva Edison, the most prolific inventor with more than one thousand inventions.

In the second half of the 20th century, American scientists were increasingly recognized for their contributions to science, the formulation of concepts and theories. This change is also evident in the winners of the Nobel Prizes in physics and chemistry. Among the Nobel Prize winners in the first half of the century – from 1901 to 1950 – Americans represented only a small minority in the natural sciences. Since 1950, scientists working in the United States have received about half of the Nobel Prizes awarded in the natural sciences. From the very beginning, the processing of non-Anglo-Saxon research was subject to severe restrictions due to the fact that the only common language was English.

If in the post-war years higher education was considered a public good, and research was considered a national resource, then in the 1980s this changed. Education lost its intrinsic value, it was increasingly subject to capitalist market rules, was considered more as a personal investment and thus a private asset and a means of market success. While until well into the 1970s, an advanced academic degree was equated with social success, the changed mentality generated an oversupply of doctoral candidates, and, in view of the increasing costs, a decreasing willingness to get involved in social sciences and humanities.

The United States has been running an active space program, NASA, since 1958.



Traditional American cuisine uses local ingredients such as turkey, venison, potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, pumpkin and maple syrup, which were used by the Native Americans and the first European settlers. Wheat is the most widely used type of grain.

Soul food, the cuisine of the former African slaves, is especially popular in the southern United States and among African Americans. Syncretic cuisines such as the Creole, cajun and Tex-Mex are also popular. Dishes such as apple pie, fried chicken, hamburgers and hot dogs come from recipes of various immigrants. French fries, Mexican dishes such as burritos and tacos, as well as pizza and pasta dishes, borrowed from Italian cuisine, are common. Americans mostly prefer coffee over tea. Furthermore, orange juice and milk-containing breakfast drinks are consumed.

The fast food industry was the first to introduce drive-in service in the 1930s. During the 1980s and 1990s, Americans' food energy intake increased by 24%. Frequent eating in fast food restaurants is associated with obesity, which is widespread in the United States. Sweetened soft drinks are popular and account for nine percent of Americans' dietary energy intake.



The United States has a distinct sports culture in the de facto national sports of American football, baseball and basketball. Professional leagues that are played at the international level are the NFL (American football), the MLB (baseball), the NBA (basketball) and the NHL (ice hockey). American sport is in the interplay between isolationism and internationalism.

So far, the Olympic Games have been held in the United States eight times. The country ranks first in the eternal medal table of the Olympic Games with a total of 2803 medals (including 1119 gold ones) (as of March 6, 2017).

In 1968, Special Olympics was founded by Eunice Kennedy-Shriver. Special Olympics United States participated in Special Olympics World Games several times. The association has announced its participation in the Special Olympics World Summer Games 2023 in Berlin. The delegation will be supported by Bremen and Bremerhaven before the games as part of the Host Town Program.

A division into competitive and popular sports does not exist as in the German understanding. Rather, a number of certain secondary sports have developed, the importance of which is not measured by the (incidentally rather low) commercialization and processing in the nationwide media, but by the dissemination at schools and by the mass of regional disputes. In addition to football (American English: soccer), these sports include the widespread lacrosse.

Typical for the American sports events is a high emphasis on the entertainment effect as well as the integrative character of the sport. Characteristic of the great demand for the entertainment value of sports is, in addition to the consistently elaborate use of show and choreographic elements (lighting, cheerleaders) in some sports, a mostly harmless staging of action and violence, for example in wrestling.

In addition, the United States is the initiator of a further subjective classification of various sports, which, with the conscious creation of a sense of life, are mainly practiced as a casual leisure activity. In addition to tennis and bodybuilding, this includes various trendy sports.

The great hopes that the society of the United States places in the integrating effect of sports become clear in view of the opportunities for advancement in it. A significant part of the scholarships for universities is awarded to sports talents. The accusation, often voiced at home and abroad, that such scholarship holders would not be able to pass intellectually at a university without their athletic abilities is rarely true, since great importance is attached to academic performance and sports practice is curtailed in case of poor academic performance. In a mode developed over time for the national sports, the so-called drafting system, the first access rights to the best talents of a year are granted to the weakest clubs, interspersed with certain coincidences.

In contrast to lacrosse, the leadership of the sport of football in the United States is trying to connect to the much more widespread sports of American football, baseball, basketball and ice hockey. The top division, Major League Soccer, is trying to bridge differences between the North American and European understanding of sports. In the 1970s, top international players switched to American clubs. For example, New York Cosmos signed Pelé in 1975 and Franz Beckenbauer in 1977. In addition, Los Angeles Galaxy signed David Beckham in 2007, and in 2010 Thierry Henry was signed by the New York Red Bulls. From 2011 to 2016, Jürgen Klinsmann was the head coach of the United States national football team. Women's football in the United States is much more successful internationally than men's football.

Motorsport is also very popular in the United States. The most popular racing series are NASCAR and INDYCAR. Famous are the 500 miles from Indianapolis and the Speedweek in Daytona Beach. Every year, the Formula 1 and the MotoGP Motorcycle World Championships are also hosted in the United States. Dirt track races with the Grand National Championships are also very popular in motorcycle sports. A successful speedway scene has been established in California since the early 1970s and has brought five world champions to the United States with its speedway professionals Bruce Penhall, Shawn Moran, Sam Ermolenko, Billy Hamill and Greg Hancock, who have won six individual Speedway world Championships together. Shawn Moran became the long track world champion in 1983.


Festive season

There is also a different understanding of the holidays in the United States than in Europe. In principle, holidays established by the government apply only to its officials and employees, including employees of the Post office. However, many holidays have also become common in the economy because of their cultural anchoring. The holidays in the United States, with the exception of the Christmas and New Year holidays, are non-religious, that is, primarily patriotic in nature, due to the strict separation of the state and the church.



Boundaries and extension

The United States has a common border with Canada, which is a total of 8,895 kilometers long (with about 2,477 kilometers between Alaska and Canada), and one with Mexico, which is 3,326 kilometers long. The total length of the US land borders is 12,221 kilometers. The coastline on the Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf of Mexico covers a total of 19,924 kilometers.

The state covers a land area of 9,161,924 km2, in addition there are 664,706 km2 of water areas, resulting in a national territory of 9,826,630 km2.

The north-south extension between the Canadian and the Mexican border is about 2,500 kilometers, the extension between the Atlantic and the Pacific is about 4,500 kilometers. The main part of the country lies approximately between the 24th and 49th northern latitude and between the 68th and 125th western longitude and is divided into four time zones (see Time zones in the United States).

The northernmost city in the USA is UtqiaġVik in Alaska, the southernmost place is Hawaiian Ocean View in Hawaii.


Geology and landscape subdivision

The area has a clear division. For example, mountain ranges such as the volcanic cascade range, the fold mountains of the Rocky Mountains and the Appalachians extend from north to south. While extensive forests exist on their weather side, huge dry areas with desert or grasslands (prairies) extend in their slipstream. The river systems of the United States, such as those of the Mississippi and Missouri, made dense settlement possible at an early stage, while the surrounding arid regions are still sparsely populated today.

The highest mountain in the United States is Denali in Alaska at 6190 m, the lowest point is the Badwater depression in Death Valley at 85.5 m below sea level. Denali and Badwater are also the highest and lowest points on the North American continent.



The most important influencing factor for the climate is the polar jet stream (Polarfrontjetstream), which brings extensive low pressure areas from the North Pacific. If the lows combine with those from the Atlantic coast, they bring heavy snowfalls in winter as Nor'easters. Since no mountain range runs west-eastwards, winter storms often bring large amounts of snow far to the south, while in summer the heat reaches far northwards to Canada.

The areas between the mountain ranges have correspondingly high temperature extremes, as well as a more or less severe drought, which is increasing to the south and west. The Pacific coast, on the other hand, is a very rainy, often foggy area in the north. The area around the Gulf of Mexico is already subtropical with high temperatures in summer and often high humidity. In addition, the area is often reached by tropical cyclones.

There is an Arctic climate in Alaska. The mountains there are the highest in the United States (Denali, 6190 meters). Hawaii, whose Mauna Kea is 4205 meters high, on the other hand, has a tropical climate.


Flora and fauna

The areas on the east coast up to the Great Lakes were heavily forested until the 19th century, the west coast in the area of the temperate rainforest of sometimes extremely tall trees with growth heights of over 100 meters. Of these areas, only a few have remained, such as the Redwoods or the Hoh Rainforest. Large areas have been converted to arable land or cultivated, the vast majority are now occupied by industrial forests. The biodiversity of the drier grasslands has also been greatly reduced in the course of agricultural use. However, protected areas and measures led to the fact that many of the more than 17,000 vascular plant species could be saved. Hawaii alone has 1,800 flowering plants (covered), many of which are endemic.

Around 400 mammal, 750 bird and 500 reptile and amphibian species as well as well over 90,000 insect species form part of the fauna, with a separate law protecting endangered species since 1973. 58 National parks in the still large remaining wilderness regions and several hundred other protected areas predominantly have a great biodiversity, which stands in clear contrast to the widespread monocultures. First of all, due to the large number of endemic species, genera and families, the great diversity of species, or rather, the diversity of species. Due to its biodiversity and diverse ecosystems, the USA is one of the megadiversity countries on Earth. Only the Mediterranean hard-leaved vegetation of the flora province of California is internationally listed as a biodiversity hotspot due to the great threat to nature.


Nature and environmental protection

Historically, some important developments in nature conservation stem from the history of the United States: the national park idea and with it the Yellowstone National Park, the world's first large-scale protected area of this kind, originated in the United States. As a national authority, the Senate established the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) to look after all national protected areas. On the one hand, US-American NGOs such as Conservation International are world leaders in nature and resource protection. On the other hand, the United States is one of the few countries that has not signed the most important international agreement, the Biodiversity Convention, to date.



In 2021, 83 percent of the inhabitants of the United States lived in cities. in 2020, 323 localities had more than 100,000 inhabitants and there were 56 metropolitan regions with more than one million inhabitants (with only ten cities). The largest metropolitan areas in 2021 were New York City (19.8 million), Los Angeles (13.0 million), Chicago (9.5 million), Dallas (7.8 million), Houston (7.2 million), Washington, D.C. (6.4 million) and Philadelphia (6.2 million). The main agglomerations are located between New York and the Great Lakes, in California and Arizona, as well as in Texas and, to a lesser extent, in Florida. With 33 inhabitants per square kilometer, the USA is a rather sparsely populated country. The east of the country is much more densely populated than the west.




The population has been growing continuously since 1610. Forecasts predict a further increase by 2050: by 2025, according to a United Nations forecast, the population will grow to 358 million inhabitants, and in 2050, according to this, more than 408 million people will live in the country.

Since 1790, the Constitution has provided for a census to be held every ten years, the so-called United States Census. Immigrants had a significant share of the increase in the population. Thus, since the Immigration and Naturalization Services Act of 1965, the number of people born abroad has increased fivefold, namely from 9.6 million in 1970 to about 49.8 million in 2017. In the 1990s, the number of immigrants increased to one million per year. In 2000, the proportion of people born abroad was 11.1 percent of the total population. By 2017, it increased to 15.3%. At the same time, almost 3 million Americans lived abroad. Most of them in Mexico (900,000), Canada (310,000), the United Kingdom (190,000), Germany (140,000) and Australia (120,000).

In 2020, the number of inhabitants grew by 0.4%, or about 1.3 million. The number of births per woman was statistically 1.6 in 2020. The birth rate of Hispanics and Latinos is higher than that of the rest of the population. As of 2019, the proportion of whites under the age of 15 is below 50%. More than half of the newborns have been non-white since 2020 at the latest.

For every 1000 inhabitants, there were a total of 12.5 births and 8.2 deaths in 2016. The median age of the population in 2020 was 38.3 years. Of the countries of the industrialized world, the USA has one of the youngest and fastest growing populations.


Population structure

The original inhabitants of the country, the Indians ("Native Americans" or "American Indians"), now make up only about one percent of the population. Only in Alaska they reach a double-digit percentage of the population. Other focal points are Oklahoma, California, Arizona, New Mexico and South Dakota. They do not form a unity; culture, language and religion differ from people to people. There are a total of 562 recognized tribes, in addition there are 245 groups that are not currently recognized as a tribe.

The first colonial immigrants on the continent populated by Indians were Europeans, initially primarily of Spanish, French and English origin. With them came slaves from the 17th century, mostly from West Africa. From the middle of the 18th and increasingly towards the middle of the 19th century, Europeans of German-speaking and Irish origin followed. Later, immigrants from other regions of Europe joined, mainly Italians, Scandinavians and Eastern Europeans, including Eastern European Jews. In the second half of the 19th century, there was immigration from East Asia and the Near East. In addition to economic motives, religious or political persecution also played a role for many.

According to a survey by the United States Census Bureau, whites made up 57.8% of the population in 2019. Hispanics and Latinos make up the second largest group with a share of 18.7% of the population. African Americans made up just over 13 percent. They live mainly in the south and in the large industrial cities of the north. Asian Americans, mostly with a migrant background and/or descent from China, Japan, Korea, India and the Philippines, make up around six percent. During the census in 2019, over 43 million people declared a German origin. This makes Americans of German descent the largest population group in the United States.

In 2018, there were almost 90 million immigrants and US-born children of immigrants living in the United States, making up 28% of the US population.

Especially in the southwest of the United States and in Florida there is a high proportion of the population of Latin American origin, who are generally referred to as "Hispanics" or "Latinos" there. Many of them strongly adhere to their culture and language. Their share in the US has grown steadily in recent decades (to 17 percent by 2013), as many Latin Americans flee to the north from economic hardship. They often come as illegal immigrants.

There are big differences in the social structure between white and black population. On average, blacks have a lower income, a shorter life expectancy and a poorer education. They are both more often victims and perpetrators in a homicide and are more often sentenced to death. The causes of this and possible ways of solving the problem are controversial. Not only in the southern states, residential areas and non-public institutions – such as churches or private organizations – are often actually separated by ethnicity, although the formal separation is now illegal and frowned upon.


Languages spoken

The most widely spoken language of the United States is American English. Despite certain advantages of a common language, the United States has not established a single official language. Every year since 1973, a legislative proposal has been submitted to the US Congress to declare English the national language. But this plan was rejected every time. However, all official documents are written in English. English is the official language in thirty-two states; individual states and territories define themselves as bilingual, trilingual or multilingual, such as Hawaii, Alaska, Guam or Puerto Rico. 227 Million inhabitants speak only English, all other languages together make up more than 60 million speakers. Almost 18% of Americans did not speak English at home in 2006.

The proportion of people who speak Spanish is particularly high (10% as their mother tongue), with many immigrants speaking only their native Spanish and some of them living in their own neighborhoods in cities (for example, East Los Angeles or Union City). Spanish is widely spoken, especially in the southwest, as well as in Miami. In California, their share is about 30%, however, many, especially the younger of them, are bilingual. About 30 to 40 million people live in the United States, quite a few of them illegally under foreign law. Documents and signage are increasingly being translated into Spanish, but this phenomenon is usually limited to the region.

In addition to English and Spanish, Chinese, Tagalog, Vietnamese, French, Korean and German are also widely spoken. Especially in cases where the mixing with the rest of the population is low, the brought language is retained in the following generations (for example, by the Amish in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois).

In addition, many other languages are spoken by other immigrants as well as the languages of the Indians or Hawaiians. In total, in 2011, the census noted 382 languages, of which 169 are Native American. However, the latter have only about 400,000 speakers, of which about 150,000 are Navajo. In 2nd and 3rd place, with less than 20,000 speakers each, the language of the Yupik in Alaska and that of the Dakota (from the Sioux language family) follow. According to the 2015 census, more than 350 languages were still in use among the US population, of which 150 were indigenous languages.



The government does not keep a register of the religious status of residents. The United States Census Bureau is not allowed to ask questions about religious affiliation itself, but publishes the results of other surveys. In a survey by the Pew Research Center in 2014, about 25.4% of the population described themselves as Evangelical Protestants, 20.8% as Roman Catholic, 14.7% as mainline Protestants, 6.5% belong to traditional black Protestant churches. Among the smaller Christian churches, 1.6% are Mormons and 0.8% are Jehovah's Witnesses, 0.5% were members of an Orthodox Church. The non-Christian religious communities include 1.9% Jews, 0.9% Muslims and 0.7% Buddhists. 22.8% of the respondents did not state any religious conviction, of which explicitly 3.1% were atheists and 4.0% agnostics.

In summary, around 70.6% of Christians and 5.9% of followers of non-Christian religions lived in the USA in 2014. In a 2008 survey, 82% of Americans described religion as important or very important for their lives (55% very important). 65% of women described religion as very important for their lives compared to 44% of men. According to this survey, 54% of the US population pray at least once a day, a figure that is 10% in France, 19% in Germany, 32% in Poland, 42% in Turkey and 69% in Brazil.

According to a study by the Gallup Institute, about 73% of the population were Christians in 2016 (48.9% Protestants of various currents, 23% Catholics and 1.8% Mormons). Judaism remains the largest non-Christian religion in the United States, accounting for 2.1% of the population. 0.8% of the population are Muslims, 2.5% belong to other religions. 18.2% of the respondents belonged to the non-denominational/atheist/agnostic group.

The regional distribution of the denominations varies; while the majority of Catholics live in New England, the southern states are Evangelical. The center of the Mormons is located in Utah and the surrounding states (Nevada, Idaho); especially in the south of the USA on the border with Mexico and due to Cuban emigration in the Greater Miami area, predominantly Catholic Latinos live. The centers of the Jewish population are such metropolises as New York and its environs, Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco and southeast Florida.


Class structure

According to sociologists such as Dennis Gilbert of Hamilton College, in 1998 society consisted of six social classes with a determinable share of the total population: an upper class (about 1%), consisting of the most prominent, wealthy and powerful citizens; an upper middle class (about 15%), consisting of highly qualified professionals such as doctors, professors, lawyers; a lower middle class (about 32%), consisting of well-educated professionals such as school teachers and craftsmen; a working class (about 32%), which consists of industrial workers and blue-collar workers (blue-collar workers), as well as ordinary employees, and finally a subclass (about 20%), which breaks up into two groups. Their upper group consists of the "working poor", the working poor who work in low-paid jobs without insurance or only part-time. The lower group does not work and is dependent on public welfare, which is very small in the United States (unemployed poor).

It is striking that members of these lower classes usually live in certain neighborhoods of the big cities, while the middle class in the 1960s to 1980s moved to the suburbs, which are beyond the borders of the big cities, but still within the metropolitan regions. The proportion of the poor among blacks and Hispanics is disproportionately high (about 30%).

Between 1977 and 1999, incomes in the richest hundredth of the population increased by 115% after tax deduction. Real wages for 60% of employees have fallen by 20% during this period. The number of Americans living in poverty increased by 1.7 million people in 2002 to a total of 34.6 million. The number of people living in extreme poverty (less than half of the official poverty line) increased from 13.4 million in 2001 to 14.1 million in 2002. The poverty and child poverty rates vary greatly between ethnic groups. In 2009, 7.1 million (18.7 percent) of people over the age of 65 were affected by the NAS poverty definition. in 2013, 47 million people in 23 million households in the U.S., or 20% of U.S. households, used government food stamps. 90% of Americans have an income of $30,000?, this corresponds to the level of 1965. An evaluation of the census data from 2010 also revealed that around 1.5 million households have to live practically without any money. They have an income of less than 2 dollars per person per day, but sometimes receive food vouchers or material allowances and sometimes live in publicly paid apartments. However, a significant proportion is completely cut off from the money economy.

Even households with incomes well above the federal poverty line can often be addressed as working poor due to the high cost of living in their region, if and to the extent that they are unable to build up reserves or savings. At the end of 2014, around 25% of households with middle-class incomes between the ages of 40 and 55 had net assets of less than $ 17,500 (excluding any owner-occupied residential property and pension entitlements).

Overall, it can be stated that the gap between the poorest and the top of society has widened dramatically in recent years: according to an estimate by the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College (USA), the upper class, i.e. the top 1% of the population, owned 37.1% of the total wealth of the United States in 2009, which is an increase of 3.7% compared to 2001. The bottom 80% of the population, on the other hand, owns only 12.3% of the total wealth, which corresponds to a decrease of 3.3% for corresponds to the same period.

In 2017, according to Forbes, there were 585 billionaires in the United States (27% of all billionaires in the world), making the United States the country with the most billionaires in the world. 7 of the 10 richest people in the world in 2018 were Americans. The richest man in America and the world was Jeff Bezos, whose fortune of $ 112 billion was higher than the economic output of Kenya (as of February 2018). In 2005, the richest percent of the American population earned an income of $ 524 billion, which was 37% higher than that of the poorest 20% of the population ($ 383 billion). For example, the average wealth of all US families was $ 692,000; the more meaningful median value of wealth was $ 97,300.



From 1951 to 1960, 2.5 million people immigrated annually, a total of 4.5 million between 1971 and 1980 and a total of over 10 million in the 1990s. In 2003, 463,204 people received US citizenship, and from 1997 to 2003 the average was about 634,000. In 2015, there were 46,627,102 foreign-born residents, accounting for 14.5% of the population, making the United States the largest number of migrants in the world. A large proportion of the foreign-born residents were of Latin American origin, mainly from Mexico and Central America. In recent years, migration from Asian countries such as China, India, Vietnam, South Korea and the Philippines has increased.

As early as 1790, the United States regulated immigration with the Naturalization Act, a law that was supposed to promote immigration from Europe, but excluded blacks and "unfree" and required a "good moral character". In 1882, the Chinese were explicitly excluded with the Chinese Exclusion Act, a regulation that was repeated slightly modified in 1943. In 1891, an immigration commission was created, which annually established country quotas.

in 1921, the Emergency Quota Act for the first time regulated immigration in such a way that Northern and Western Europeans were given preference by freezing their share of the population according to the census - a trend that was consolidated with the Immigration Act of 1924. Immigration policy was particularly restrictive towards Asians at the beginning of the 20th century.

It was not until 1965 that the time of application and the region of the world were taken into account; in addition, there were cases of family reunification. Since 1978, a uniform quota has been applied to immigration to the United States. In 1970, 62% of Americans born abroad were still Europeans, but by 2000 this share had dropped to 15%.

Hispanics are the largest minority in the United States. In 2000, there were 35.2 million Hispanics living in the United States, compared to 54 million in 2013, resulting in a percentage increase of 54 percent. Of the 54 million, 34.5 million were of Mexican origin. Estimates of illegal immigrants vary between 7 and 20 million, most estimate their number at around 12 million. Every year, hundreds of thousands cross the southern border illegally, including tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors. The State Commission for Human Rights in Mexico stated that in 2007 alone, 500 illegals were killed while trying to cross the border – often by dying of thirst. There were 4,700 Mexicans between 1995 and 2007.

In order to combat illegal immigration from Mexico, President Bush signed the Secure Fence Act in October 2006, which provided for the construction of a 1,100-kilometer border fortification. In addition, the support of illegal immigrants became punishable by law.

As early as 1954, the government had tried to deport 1.2 million Hispanics with Operation Wetback – whereby the swear word "wetback" (Engl.; "Wetback") derived from the Mexicans who had swum through the Rio Grande. in 1965, Mexican immigration was restricted, with the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986, illegal immigrants were legalized for the first time.

In 2015, about 627,000 people born in Germany lived in the United States.


Crime and Justice

For comparisons of the propensity to violence over long periods of time and long spatial distances, the rate of homicides is used as an index. The United States had 5.3 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in 2017. A peak was in 1991 with 9.7 cases. The rate of 5.3 is far higher than that of Germany, which is at one. The average in Europe is 3 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, the global average is 6.1. East Asian states average 0.6 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.

According to FBI Uniform Crime Reporting, the crime rate in the United States has been declining since the early 1990s. Violent crime peaked in 1991 with 758 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. In 2000, there were 507, in 2010 there were still 405, and in 2018, 381 cases were recorded.

The United States has the largest prison population in the world, both in absolute terms and relative to the population. In 2008, over 2.4% of the population of the United States were either in prison (2.3 million) or were at large for parole (4.3 million) or for suspension of detention (0.828 million). By 2011, the number of prisoners had risen to over 2.4 million. This puts the United States at the top of the world by far in terms of the ratio of prison inmates to the number of inhabitants. The crime rate, on the other hand, initially remained constant and even decreased later.

During the 1960s, the proportion of prisoners had fallen by about one percent annually and reached its lowest level in 1975 at 380,000. Since about 1980, the number has increased significantly, so that in 1985 there were already 740,000, and at the end of 1998 even two million. Two thirds of the prisoners come from households that had less than half of the income defined as the poverty threshold available.

In 2000, there were 133,610 people under the age of 18 in prisons and juvenile detention centers in the United States. In the United States, criminal liability begins far earlier than in Germany. In many states, 7-year-olds can already be held accountable for violating a criminal law, in most others this is the case from the age of 11. in 2005, 1,403,555 under-18s were arrested. In 2003, it was possible in 33 states to place mentally ill children and adolescents in custody even if they had not violated criminal law.

African Americans make up about 13 percent of the total population, but make up 38 percent of the prison population. Half of all murders in the United States and about a third of all rapes are committed by African Americans. A disproportionate share of blacks and Latinos can be seen in the number of armed attackers. For example, between January and June 2008, a total of 98 percent of all assailants armed with firearms in New York City were either black or Hispanic. In March 2015, 16 percent of the inmates in American prisons were Mexican citizens, and another 7.5 percent of the inmates had other than American or Mexican citizenship.

Unlike almost all other states in the Western world, the death penalty is carried out in numerous states of the United States, which has been controversial for years, including in the United States itself. A total of 23 states have abolished the death penalty, most recently Virginia in March 2021. In the remaining states, the execution of death sentences continues, even for people with intellectual disabilities and those who were minors at the time of the accused act. There are more than 3,200 men and women on death row, and almost 42% are African-American.



The United States is a presidential state with a bicameral system. The form of government is based on a representative democracy.


Powers at the federal level

The United States, according to the Articles of Confederation, has had its second constitution since its inception. It provides for a presidential, federal and republican political system that, horizontally, legislative, executive and judicial, as well as vertically, comparatively strictly separates the federal level from the states.



According to the Constitution, the strongest state body at the federal level is the Congress, which exercises the legislative power. It is composed of elected representatives from all 50 states. The Congress, which consists of two chambers, has budgetary authority and the right to initiate legislation. Among other things, Congress has a significant influence on American politics as a result of the budget law to which it is entitled. Only Congress has the right to enact federal laws and issue declarations of war. Treaties with foreign countries are signed by the president, but require ratification by the second chamber of Congress, the Senate. In the case of important appointments (for example, to cabinet posts or federal judicial posts, especially at the Supreme Court), the Senate, after hearing the candidates, has the right to confirm or reject the president's proposal.

The members of the House of Representatives, the first chamber of the Congress, are elected for two-year terms. Each representative represents one electoral district of his state. The number of electoral districts is determined by a census conducted every ten years. Senators are elected for six-year terms. Their election takes place in stages, that is, one third of the Senate is re-elected every two years. The Constitution provides that the vice-president presides over the Senate. He does not have the right to vote, except in the event of a tie.

Before a bill becomes a federal law, it must have passed through both the House of Representatives and the Senate. The proposal is first presented in one of the two chambers, examined by one or more committees, amended, rejected or accepted in the committee and then discussed in one of the two chambers. As soon as it is accepted in this chamber, it is forwarded to the other chamber. Only after both chambers have adopted the same version of the bill, it will be submitted to the president for approval. After that, the president has the opportunity to postpone the entry into force of the law. After such a veto, Congress can pass a new bill or finally overrule the president with two-thirds approval.


Executive power

The head of state and government in personal union is the president, who is at the head of the executive branch. He is also the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of the United States and, together with the Secretary of Defense, forms the National Command Authority (NCA), which alone is responsible for making the decision on an attack by the United States with nuclear weapons. To do this, both people must independently agree to the nuclear strike. The 46th incumbent since January 20, 2021 has been Democrat Joe Biden, who was elected on November 3, 2020. The President is represented by the Vice-President elected with him. In the event of an early termination of the president's term of office by the end of the term of office, the latter takes his place completely, and he also chairs the Senate. The current vice president is Democrat Kamala Harris.

In the event that the Vice-President is prevented or absent, the Senate shall appoint a "pro-tempore chairman", a temporary chairman. The members of the first chamber, the House of Representatives elect their own chairman, the "Speaker of the House of Representatives (Speaker)". The speaker and the pro-tempore chairman are members of the strongest party in their respective chambers. The speaker has been Democrat Nancy Pelosi since 2019, and Republican Senator Chuck Grassley has held the post of pro-Tempore chairman since 2019.


Judicial power

At the head of the judiciary, which is also federally organized, is the Supreme Court. The Constitution, which came into force in 1787, the provisions of which are enforceable, has a great significance in the political system of the United States. It speaks for the success and stability of this Constitution that it has so far undergone only 27 amendments ("amendments").


Parties and elections

In the United States, a two-party system has been formed, favored by the relative majority voting law. These parties have been the Democrats and the Republicans since the middle of the 19th century. The Democrats are currently the largest party with 72 million registered supporters (42.6%), followed by the Republicans with 55 million supporters (32.5%) and 42 million voters registered without party preference (24.9%). At the same time, both parties, which are not assigned a constitutional role, can at most rudimentarily be subjected to a schematization, since they already represent intra-party coalitions of different currents.

Topic-specific political currents and interest groups are more likely to try to influence the deputies and other leaders of both major parties than to establish independent parties. Examples include the American Civil Liberties Union, the fundamental Christian Moral Majority, and the Tea Party movement.

Smaller parties such as the Greens, the Libertarian Party or the Communist Party of the USA are insignificant, although in presidential elections the votes cast for the Green candidate can sometimes be perceived as a – possibly decisive – disadvantage for the Democratic candidate. A main exponent of the Green Party of the United States for a while in the 1990s was Ralph Nader, who entered the presidential campaign as the party's candidate in 1996 and enjoys great fame at home and abroad as a "consumer advocate".

At the state level, women's suffrage was achieved at different times. In New Jersey, wealthy women had the right to vote since 1776 and voted from 1787. When universal suffrage for men was introduced there, women lost the right to vote. In 1918, Oklahoma, Michigan, South Dakota and Texas (women's suffrage in primaries) came in last. In some states, even after 1920, restrictions such as reading and writing tests and poll taxes were still used to exclude blacks from voting. At the federal level, the Constitution of 13. In September 1788, there were no restrictions on the gender of the two chambers with regard to the right to stand for election. However, it was not until 1920, with the entry into force of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, that all restrictions on the right to vote on the basis of gender were explicitly prohibited in the USA, giving women the full right to vote at all levels. The American presidential election of 1920 was the first in which women's suffrage came into play.


Federal state

The heartland includes 48 of the 50 states as well as the District of Columbia (federal District with the capital Washington D.C.), which are located within a common border (so-called "Lower 48"), while Alaska and Hawaii are outside the heartland (Continental United States).

At the founding of the United States, there were thirteen states, which were gradually joined by other territories in the course of the western expansion up to the Mississippi. After Texas, the connecting wave skipped the sparsely populated mountain ranges and continued especially with California and Oregon after the middle of the 19th century. This development was completed only during the First World War. In 1959, the Pacific island group of Hawaii, as well as Alaska, located to the northwest, bordering Russia via the 100 km wide Bering Strait, became part of the United States as federal states.


Administrative divisions

In 2002, according to the Census and Census Bureau, there were 87,900 local government units in the United States, including localities, counties, settlements, school and other districts. More than three-quarters of the citizens of the United States live in large cities or their suburbs (list of cities in the United States).

A county is a subunit of most states and roughly comparable to a county. In Louisiana, they are called "parish"; in Alaska, these administrative units do not exist, but only statistical subdivisions. In addition, there are cities in Virginia and Missouri that are not assigned to any county. In the case of large cities (for example, Philadelphia), it happens that the boundaries of the city and county are the same; the city of New York even occupies five counties, each of which is called a "borough". It is not uncommon for cities and even villages to cross a county border. The forms of government of the counties and their powers vary greatly from state to state, sometimes even within a state, if the parliament of the corresponding state has specified different forms for selection. Almost all of them take out loans and collect taxes. They have employees, are very often responsible for overseeing elections, and build and maintain roads and bridges (sometimes on behalf of the federal or state government). Social welfare programs are partly run by them, partly also by the townships, which, especially in the Midwest, are not congruent with the municipalities, which with an area of 36 square miles were determined at the land survey from the 18th century.

A special aspect of some smaller cities, which is rare and predominantly found in the New England states, is the "town meeting". Once a year – more often if necessary - all registered voters of a city come to a public meeting and elect officials, discuss local politics and make laws for the functioning of the government. As a group, they decide on road construction and repair, construction of public buildings and facilities, taxes and the city budget. The "town meeting", which has existed for two centuries, is often the purest form of democracy, in which government power is not delegated, but is exercised directly and regularly by all citizens. However, the vast majority of citizens know only representative democracy.


Outdoor areas

In addition to the states and the District of Columbia (area of the capital Washington, D.C.), there are external territories with differently regulated autonomy. The largest outlying areas are Puerto Rico in the Caribbean and Guam in the Pacific.


Domestic policy

An important role in American domestic politics is played mainly by moral and ethical issues, such as the limits of freedom of expression, the right to abortion, the justification of the death penalty, the political recognition of homosexuality, the rights of minorities, or the question of what role religious values should play in public life.


Gun Law

Most states have gun laws that are extremely liberal by international standards. The right to bear arms is traditionally held in high esteem in the United States, as it is protected by the Second Amendment of the Constitution ("[...] right to bear arms [...]"). Private individuals can therefore acquire firearms and ammunition without major difficulties and carry the weapons openly. In total, there are more than 200 million privately owned pistols and rifles in the United States.

The existing legal situation is controversial in the United States. Her critics see this as a cause for the high number of 350,000 armed crimes and 11,000 murder victims every year, as well as in particular the numerous rampages, mainly in schools and universities, as criminals could arm themselves more easily. Proponents of liberal gun laws such as the National Rifle Association (NRA) deny this connection and point to low murder rates in countries such as Switzerland, Canada or New Zealand, where a disproportionate number of weapons are also privately owned. Furthermore, they argue that criminals would mostly get into possession of weapons illegally, which is why private individuals should at least be given the opportunity to defend themselves.


Health policy

The health care system of the United States is – especially in research – partly world–leading, but in other areas - especially in general patient and insurance care – partly in a desolate state. About $ 1.8 trillion is spent on the health care system annually. This is about 17 percent of the total US economic output. Compared to Germany, this is almost twice as high per capita. About 47 million Americans, about 16% of the total population, are not covered by health insurance − but this is not exclusively for income reasons (about a third of the uninsured have a household income of $ 50,000 or more) or because of old age and the associated risk of illness (about 40 percent of the uninsured are between 18 and 35 years old). In addition, there is a high number of unreported illegal immigrants who also do not have health insurance. Many of those who are insured have to pay for all medical services, others who are in a health insurance (HMO) have to endure bureaucratic paperwork and long waiting times with restrictions on the choice of doctors. In 1993, President Clinton failed with the attempt to introduce a uniform statutory compulsory health insurance. In 2010, under President Obama, laws were passed to gradually reform the health care system by 2018. The new President Donald Trump, who was elected at the end of 2016, announced that he would completely or partially abolish and replace the health care reform again.

The high level of obesity has taken on the character of a national health crisis in the 21st century. According to data from the World Health Organization, in 2014, 67.8 percent of Americans of legal age were overweight, and 33.7% of the more than 300 million inhabitants were even severely overweight. This is one of the highest rates in the world and causes an annual cost of hundreds of billions of dollars.

According to The World Factbook, life expectancy in the United States was 80.6 years in 2022, ranking 46th in the world, which is a deterioration of 23 places compared to 1984 and one of the worst values in the developed world. The reasons given are lack of health insurance and obesity. The life expectancy of the black population is 73.3 years. Then there are the risks of poverty. In December 2009, for example, 38.97 million people were dependent on food stamps. In 2013, there were 47 million people in 23 million households, which is 20% of all US households.


Social policy

The United States is a welfare state in which transfers are often jointly financed and organized by the federal government and the states. Legal regulations of the federal states can exert considerable influence on social policy. The public pension insurance Social Security provides basic social protection in old age at the federal level.


Energy and environmental policy

The United States has the second largest CO2 emissions in the world after China. The share of global CO2 emissions is 17.7 percent (year 2011).

In the climate protection index 2020 (as of December 2019), the USA was in 61st place and thus in the last place of all the countries surveyed. They performed very poorly in all rated categories. In particular, the lack of a national climate protection strategy and the withdrawal from the international climate protection agreement carried out under President Trump were criticized.

In the United States, the share of renewable energy is increasing slightly. In 2017, they accounted for 11 percent of energy consumption and 17 percent of energy production.

in 2002, the government published a strategy to reduce the greenhouse gases of the US economy by 18 percent (by 2012). This should lead to a reduction in CO2 emissions of 160 million tonnes. Internationally, the measures are criticized as completely inadequate. Bill Clinton had the Kyoto Protocol signed towards the end of his term of office, which is not binding due to the lack of ratification by Congress. The emerging countries were not obliged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the treaty, and a strong sense of sovereignty, especially in the Senate, plays an important role.

Environmental disasters and actions of environmentalists, among them former presidential candidate Al Gore, have initiated a change in consciousness. Barack Obama initiated a change of course in climate policy. In December 2012, he declared the fight against climate change to be one of the three most important issues for the new term. In his inauguration speech in January 2013, he highlighted the fight against climate change and the expansion of renewable energies as a priority for the coming years and announced a focus on renewable energies in which the US should become a leader, rather than ignoring global development.

In the United States, climate change and the dependence on oil imports are also discussed, above all, from the point of view of international security.

So far, climate protection policy has primarily relied on voluntary measures and research funding. Some states (especially California) enforced stricter rules. The main environmental authority at the federal level is the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which environmentalists criticize for its low activity.


Foreign and Security Policy

The foreign policy of the United States is based on an attitude that has great similarities with political realism. This is contrasted by an unusually strong idealism that has been unbroken since the independence movement, whose origin lies in the anti-European affects of the revolution and which in some schools of foreign policy thought justifies the belief in a historically unique mission of the United States (American exceptionalism, in English "American uniqueness"). Despite frequent tensions between aspiration and practice, this bipolarity of American foreign policy persists because of many similarities. For example, the ideal of the greatest possible freedom of contract in a liberal social and world order converges with the economic dependence of the United States on overseas trade in advocating free trade.

Among the real-political interests that the official foreign policy of the United States advocates, in addition to guaranteeing the global security of its citizens and their relatives, is the protection of the United States from external attacks and the constant availability of resources that are central to the country's economy. The ideological interests that are supposed to guide and justify the long-term actions of the United States consist in advocating for human rights, in the democratic-plebiscitary political formation of sovereign states by their state peoples and a global market-economic system.

In its concrete implementation, foreign policy has increasingly developed from a passive to a formative role. From its foundation until the Second World War, isolationism prevailed, that is, the deliberate neglect of foreign policy in favor of internal development and cultivation. If this attitude was expressed most strongly by the Monroe doctrine in the period of consolidation of the country, then in the era of imperialism, until the First World War, it increasingly relaxed in order to be completely discredited by the attack on Pearl Harbor. At the same time, American-style internationalism suddenly gained in importance as a result of the confrontation with the Soviet Union during the Cold War. This was supported by an institutionalistic practice, i.e. the establishment of transnational bodies for long-term cooperation with states. This was done either in association with states that represented similar interests in order to strengthen them, or to bridge political differences with states that had opposing interests. The United States is therefore the initiator and co-founder of numerous multinational bodies and organizations, such as the United Nations, the World Trade Organization (formerly GATT), the World Bank and NATO or the CSCE. At the same time, the policy of the United States has been guarding against a possible curtailment of its own sovereignty by international agreements since its existence. For example, the United States opposes the signing of international climate protection agreements such as the Kyoto Protocol, the support of the International Criminal Court and the Ottawa Convention against the Proliferation of Anti-Personnel Mines. Therefore, bilateral trade and defense agreements, despite their universal claim, play a much greater role than, for example, with most members of the European Union.

Depending on the global focus on domestic policy, the United States gives priority to individual foreign policy efforts and sums them up into morally reinforced terms. These include the "War on Terrorism" (War on Terrorism), the War on Drugs (War on Drugs) and the fight against poverty (War on Poverty).

Due to the outstanding political, economic and military position of the United States and its increasingly offensive influence on the politics and economy of the entire international community, the country's foreign policy is polarizing like no other. Above all, the numerous military interventions abroad, the worldwide social upheavals caused by globalization, human rights violations in dealing with suspected terrorists and prisoners of war, the worldwide automated mass surveillance and the sometimes illegal influence or operations of the CIA abroad are criticized. The scope of the activities of the US intelligence services far exceeds those of other democratic states.

Allies of the United States can be found, among other things, in NATO. In addition, they maintain close diplomatic and strategic relations with nations outside NATO (see Major non-NATO ally). Some of these are democratically and market-economically oriented countries that see themselves existentially threatened by neighboring political actors, such as Israel, South Korea or Taiwan, some are states that are closely allied through historical events, such as Japan, the Philippines and Australia, and some are, above all, strategically important partners, such as Pakistan, Jordan and Kuwait. The United States has by far the strongest relations with the United Kingdom, the only country with which it cooperates even in such sensitive areas as nuclear technology. According to its own data, the United States operates 766 military bases of various sizes in 40 countries worldwide (of which 293 are in Germany, 111 in Japan and 105 in South Korea; as of 2006).



The armed Forces of the United States are the most expensive and second largest military in the world in terms of numbers after the Chinese People's Liberation Army. They are set up globally; the current army doctrine stipulates that the United States must be able to wage two regional wars victoriously at the same time worldwide. The armed forces are increasingly exposed to asymmetric warfare. This development has occurred in its history, especially since the Vietnam War.

In the United States, the president is the commander-in-chief of the National Armed Forces and appoints its chairman, the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The Ministry of Defense manages the armed Forces, which are divided into Army (Army; about 561,000 soldiers), Air Force (Air Force; about 336,000 soldiers), Navy (Navy; about 330,000 soldiers) and Marine Infantry (Marine Corps; about 202,000 soldiers), a total of about 1,430,000 soldiers as of April 30, 2011.

The Coast Guard (Coast Guard; around 44,000 men) is a civilian institution that is subordinate to the Ministry of Internal Security in peace and can be subordinated to the United States Department of the Navy in the event of war. It has only relatively limited military capabilities. In addition, each state maintains units of the National Guard (National Guard). These are militia units that are usually subordinate to the governor of the respective state, but can be deployed abroad as part of the army on the instructions of the president. Military service is voluntary, although conscription in wartime can take place through the Selective Service System.

Furthermore, the states are authorized to set up their own military units, the so-called state Guards, referred to as the State Guard, State Military, State Defense Force, state militia or State Military Reserve, depending on the state. These differ from the national Guards in that they cannot be placed under the orders of the federation, and the states are not obliged to establish them. Therefore, currently only 22 states and the territory of Puerto Rico maintain such military units.

The United States was the first nuclear power in the world and, with the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, was the only state to have used nuclear weapons in a war to date. American defense companies are world leaders, especially in aviation. With regard to army weapons, the US arms companies are losing importance. The military expenditures of the United States in 2020 amounted to about $ 778 billion. Since the World Bank's records began in 1990, the United States has continuously been the country with the highest annual military spending in the world. The military spending of the United States in 2020 was three times higher than that of China, which ranks second in the world.

Military developments, especially of a technological nature, are groundbreaking, especially for the allies of the United States in NATO. The state-critical tendency, which led to the fact that the military of the United States had a small size in its history until the United States entered World War II, was increasingly superimposed in the Cold War by the fear of communism of many Americans. As a result, the original idea that the military, as the ultimate instrument of state power, poses a danger to citizens is dwindling.

Since the Second World War, the support of friendly nations by larger arms shipments has proven to be a tried and tested means of passive support in times of crisis for the United States. In the Second World War, the law on loans and leases made it possible to supply heavy equipment first to Great Britain and the Commonwealth, and later also to the Soviet Union, which greatly shifted the military balance to the detriment of the Axis powers. After the Second World War, for example, Persia was helped to gain supremacy in the Middle East by supplying modern aircraft, tanks and missiles. When, as a result of the overthrow of the Shah's regime, friendship with the United States turned into enmity, in the 1980s the United States switched to supplying Iraq under Saddam Hussein, who offered himself to the West as an opponent of Iran and waged the First Gulf War against Iran.



With the ratification of various conventions, the United States has assumed certain obligations, which also include the review of the human rights situation in the United States by the UN Human Rights Council. Nevertheless, criticism of the human rights situation in the United States is often voiced, especially by private non-governmental organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch: Human Rights Watch, for example, criticizes in particular the death penalty still practiced today, mistreatment by the police, the judiciary or the military, the overcrowded prisons and, in some cases, inhumane prison conditions. Some of these violate the UN Convention against Torture and other international standards of humane treatment. For example, prisoners often have to spend 23 hours in solitary confinement, the light burns 24 hours a day, and physical exercise is allowed only four hours a week in a small cell.

At this point, aspects of the criticism of racial discrimination as a violation of human rights are also addressed: with a population share of 13 percent, a rate of 43 percent of African Americans among those legally convicted is very high. In some states of the United States, one in ten African Americans is incarcerated. The number of prison inmates in the United States is generally high: in 2001, there were 2.1 million Americans in prison, one in every 146 adults. By 2011, this figure further increased to 2.4 million. In addition, at least 47 people died in police attacks in 2009 due to the use of electric shock weapons (see Amnesty International Report 2010, USA).

Arrests and police or secret service actions in connection with September 11, 2001 have also attracted international attention. After the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, 1200 foreigners were arrested in the United States and held in custody for a long time for various reasons. The Ministry of Justice has not made public information about the identity of those arrested, the place of their detention and whether they received legal assistance. The principle of the presumption of innocence was not applied in these cases. This was made possible by the USA PATRIOT Act of October 25, 2001, which entailed a restriction of American civil rights to a greater extent. The law not only allows the police to wiretap and monitor people without judicial authority, it also allows house searches, deportations and the collection of private data without evidence of a crime. The most far–reaching change, however, is the authority of the CIA foreign intelligence Service to be allowed to operate in Germany from now on - this has been strictly separated until now and was previously only allowed to the Federal police FBI. The Military Commissions Act also makes it possible to declare hostile persons as so-called "illegally hostile combatants", as a result of which these persons can be convicted by military courts (also on the basis of confessions obtained under torture), without giving them the opportunity to invoke the Geneva Conventions applicable to combatants or to sue against their treatment.

The situation of the prisoners in the American prison camp of the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba has also been sharply criticized by many sides. More than 600 people from 42 nations are being held there, mostly illegally, including a number of children under the age of 16. Their status remains unclear, they are neither prisoners of war nor criminals and, according to the United States, are in a legal vacuum, as a result of which the laws in force in the United States are not applicable there. However, this is not recognized internationally and is considered contrary to international law. However, this allowed the military to carry out measures contrary to international law, such as torture or court hearings, without a right to defense. A legal review of the torture practices systematically carried out under the former Bush administration in secret detention centers of the CIA (black Sites), such as simulated drowning ("waterboarding") of people, some of whom were illegally abducted from other countries, has so far been omitted. The conditions of detention in such military prison camps are often inhumane: there are reports of physical abuse, the use of violence and torture (e.g. dislocation of limbs, blows to the testicles, or total deprivation of sleep and food), as well as humiliations of the dignity and religion of the prisoners (e.g. by smearing the person with excrement, or desecration of the Koran).

The UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions expressed concern that between 2003 and May 2009 there were "far more than the officially reported 74 deaths among migrants in the custody of the immigration and customs authorities".

In the course of the Iraq War, American soldiers committed a series of massacres of civilians. Well-known examples are the Haditha massacre, the Maqarr adh-Dhib massacre, the air strikes in Baghdad on July 12, 2007, the Mahmudiyya massacre and the Abu Ghraib torture scandal. Since 2001, there have also been repeated massacres of civilians by members of the US Armed Forces in Afghanistan (including the kill team murders in Afghanistan). In its war on terror, the United States is increasingly relying on the deployment of combat drones in other countries (for example, Yemen, Pakistan), thereby violating international law and the human right to integrity. Between 2004 and 2009, the "Bureau for Investigative Journalism" registered 52 drone attacks. There have been 264 since President Obama took office. According to the research of the "Bureau for Investigative Journalism", there have been between 2440 and 3113 deaths since the attacks began until May 2012. The number of civilians among them is given as from 479 to 821, of which 174 are children. In addition, there are about 1200 injured.



Economic situation

The United States had a gross domestic product (GDP) of $ 21.4 trillion in 2020, making it the largest economy in the world. At $57,324, they have the world's eight-highest GDP per capita. The services sector generated about 77.6% of real GDP in 2012, of which about a third was in the banking, insurance and real estate business. Manufacturing contributed about 20.8%, agriculture - 1.6%. The structure of the economy is strongly oriented towards consumption and services. In 2015, just under a third of global consumer spending was made in the United States, making it by far the country with the largest consumer spending. The consumption burden leads to a low savings rate of public budgets.

The economy grew by 2.3% in 2019, the inflation rate was 1.8%. The unemployment rate was 9.6% in 2010 (the highest since 1982) and fell almost linearly to 3.1% in 2019. The "hidden unemployment rate", which includes employees who have given up looking for a job or are underemployed, was 8.6% in June 2017, at the height of the financial crisis it had been up to 17%.

Since the presidency of Ronald Reagan, the state's interventions in economic processes have been drastically reduced (see Reaganomics). Some sectors of the economy are subject to supervision by a regulatory authority; for example, the states monitor the supply of electricity through a public utility commission.

The control by the Federal Reserve System ("Fed"), which has existed since 1913 and took over the tasks of a state central bank, has increased significantly since the financial crisis from 2007 onwards. Until then, it only intervened in economic events by controlling the money supply or the level of key interest rates; since then, it has also been acting as a guarantor and lender outside the banking system. In 2014, it bought up $55 billion in government bonds per month and holds 32.5% of all ten-year US government bonds. The long-time chairman of the Fed was Alan Greenspan from 1987, followed by Ben Bernanke in 2006, Janet Yellen in 2014 and Jerome Powell on February 5, 2018.

The USA was the world's largest sales market for imported goods in 2016 and the second largest exporting nation on Earth after China. The US trade balance showed a deficit of $ 505 billion in 2014: the volume of exports of goods and services in 2014 was $ 2,345.4 billion, goods and services were imported in the same period in the amount of $ 2,850.5 billion. Both export and import volumes grew compared to the previous year. The main consumer countries for US goods in 2014 were Canada, Mexico, China, Japan, Great Britain and Germany.

The median for the annual gross income of American households was $ 43,389; about 16% of all households had a gross income of over $ 100,000. The top 20 percent of all households earned more than $ 88,030 gross per year, while the bottom fifth earned less than $ 18,500.

Education and ethnicity had a strong influence on income. While the median gross household income for Asian households was $57,518 in 2006, it was $30,134 for blacks. The same median was $ 25,900 for a person with a high school degree, and $ 81,400 for people with an academic degree.

The poverty threshold was set in 2006 at an annual income of 20,614 US dollars (15,860 euros) for a family of four and 10,294 US dollars (7920 euros) for a single person. 36.46 Million (≈ 15% of the population) lived below this limit in 2005. In 2017, about 41 million people were living in poverty. The gap between rich and poor in the USA is wide (see the section "Social structure").

The minimum wage was $ 7.25 per hour until 2014, with numerous variations in the states. President Obama, by decree, as of January 1, 2015, raised the minimum wage from $ 7.25 to $ 10.10 for employees whose employers work for the government on a contract basis.

According to a study by Credit Suisse, total household wealth (property less debt) amounted to $ 93.6 trillion in 2017. American households thus own almost a third of the world's wealth. A total of 6.4% of adult Americans were wealth millionaires. In the first quarter of 2018, household wealth exceeded the $ 100 trillion mark for the first time, and in 2023 it was almost $ 150 trillion.


State budget

The state budget in 2016 included expenditures of $ 3.89 trillion, which was contrasted with revenues of $ 3.36 trillion. This results in a budget deficit of 2.8% of GDP. The deficit was $ 530 billion. The US has thus been able to make significant progress in fiscal consolidation in recent years. An annual deficit of around 2.9 percent of GDP is expected for 2017 to 2019. In 2020, the deficit was $ 3.1 trillion, reaching a new record.

The national debt of the United States at the beginning of January 2015 amounted to $ 18.08 trillion, or 104% of GDP. According to the US Debt Clock in January 2015, local debts amount to 1.87 trillion US dollars, the debts of the 50 states total about 1.19 trillion US dollars. In August 2014, 34.4% of the national debt was allocated to creditors from abroad, 65.6% to domestic creditors. According to the US Treasury Department, China owns $ 1.27 trillion worth of US government bonds at the end of 2013, making it the largest foreign creditor of the United States, followed by Japan with $ 1.18 trillion and Belgium with $ 256 billion.



In the Logistics Performance Index, which is compiled by the World Bank and measures the quality of infrastructure, the United States ranked 14th among 160 countries in 2018. The United States thus has a powerful and state-of-the-art infrastructure. However, there is now a considerable need for investment in some areas.


Energy supply

The electricity consumption of the United States in 2014 was about 3,913 terawatt hours per year, with 12,950 kWh per year, the USA had the tenth highest consumption per capita in the world. In 2015, 36% of energy consumption was generated from petroleum, 16% from coal and 29% from natural gas, 10% from renewable energy sources and 9% from nuclear energy. In 2019, it was 35% from natural gas, 31% from petroleum, 14% from coal, 12% from renewable sources and 8% from nuclear power. The United States has been the world's largest consumer of petroleum for decades and will continue to be by far the largest consumer of petroleum in 2020. In 2015, 91% of the energy demand was covered by our own production.

For many decades, oil, natural gas and coal were the main sources of energy in the United States. in 2008, coal production reached a peak (coal production maximum). Since then, it has decreased again; in 2015 it was at the same level as in 1981. In 2015, natural gas production reached a peak, primarily through the development of new production areas and the use of fracking. Oil production has been steadily declining since 1970. As of 2009, this process was reversed in parallel with natural gas production by opening up new areas, for example in Texas or North Dakota, and applying new production methods. in 2015, the demand for oil was almost back to the same level as in 1972. The USA is the world's largest natural gas producer and, together with Russia and Saudi Arabia, is one of the world's largest oil producers. in 2016, liquefied natural gas (LNG) was exported from the US mainland for the first time with the commissioning of the Sabine Pass terminal in Louisiana. The legal ban on the export of crude oil was lifted at the end of 2015.

Energy production from renewable energies has been increasing significantly in the USA since 2001. The total installed capacity of the photovoltaic systems reached 42.3 GW in the 2nd quarter of 2020, that of the wind turbines 109.6 GW. By the end of 2020, the installed wind power increased to 122.3 GW, 16% of the total power of the world's wind turbines.

The job balance has also shifted strongly towards renewable energies. For example, in 2016, about 53,000 people were employed in the coal industry, while there were about 475,000 jobs in the US solar and wind energy industry.


Water supply

In a global comparison, the USA has a relatively well-developed and safe water and drinking water system. The vast majority of American households get their drinking water from the municipal supply systems. The water supply systems can be in public as well as in private hands. There are about 155,000 independent water suppliers. Although most of the water supply systems receive groundwater, 68% of the population is supplied with surface water, especially in the big cities.

For several years, studies have shown that bottlenecks in the supply of drinking water could increase due to various factors, such as a changing climate and increasing population numbers. At the same time, authorities and institutes of the individual states and the federal government are identifying ways to improve water supply and management. While Israel clears 86 percent of its wastewater and uses it in agriculture, the United States only processes 8 percent of its wastewater.



The United States has a developed and technologically advanced communication system. There were about 122 million private landlines and 328 million mobile lines in 2015. The mobile network is constantly being expanded. The Internet, which originated in the USA, has become an important means of communication. In 2019, 89 percent of residents of the United States used the Internet. However, as of 2021, more than 35 percent of American households living in the countryside have minimal, if any, broadband access, according to government information.


Fire Brigade

There were 370,000 professional and 745,000 volunteer firefighters organized in the fire department in the United States nationwide in 2019. The proportion of women is eight percent. The American fire brigades were alerted to 37,272,000 operations in the same year, while 1,291,500 fires were extinguished. Here, 3,704 dead were recovered by the fire brigades during fires and 16,600 injured were rescued. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) represents the American fire brigade and its fire brigade members in the World Fire Brigade Association CTIF.



The transport network has a polycentric structure: roads, railways and air connections run mainly star-shaped towards the conurbations of New York, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Charlotte, Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles and Seattle. With a total length of 6,586,610 kilometers, the United States has the longest road system in the world (as of 2012).

Freight transport is mainly provided by railways and trucks. With the exception of air traffic, which dominates in long-distance traffic, passenger transport takes place almost exclusively by road (individual transport or intercity buses). The railway now handles only a fraction of the passenger traffic. In 2010, 87.2% (-1.7% compared to 2000) of passenger traffic was handled by motor vehicles, 11.6% (+1.5%) of passenger kilometers were covered by aircraft. Only 0.9% (+0.2%) was provided by regular services and 0.4% (+0.1%) by rail.

Intercity bus transport is of great importance, especially for transport within the federal states, but also for long-distance routes.


Road transport

The United States has a developed road network. For long- and medium-distance traffic, there is a network of domestic and interstate highways. However, as of April 2021, almost 300,000 kilometers of roads and 45,000 bridges are "in miserable condition," according to the White House.

The Interstate Highways are multi-lane highways that lie between the individual states and connect the east and west coasts. The Interstate Highway system, which was built from the 1950s onwards, is over 75,000 km long and handles one fifth of the motorized traffic. The new construction and maintenance is mainly financed by the federal government. The United States Highways and States Highways are federal highways that also lie between the different states. Many U.S. However, highways also pass through cities and towns as local crossings and usually have fewer lanes than the interstates. The United States Highways are financed by the respective state. The state Routes, also called state or provincial highways, are subordinate main and secondary roads. Each state has its own system of street numbering and designation, as well as its own signs. The condition and development of the state routes may vary depending on the state and section of the route. In some states, tolls may apply to certain sections of all types of roads, bridges or tunnels.

There were more fatal accidents in road traffic than in most other developed countries. in 2013, there were a total of 10.6 traffic fatalities per 100,000 inhabitants in the United States. By comparison, there were 4.3 deaths in Germany in the same year. A total of 34,000 people were killed in road traffic as a result. However, the very high motorization rate of the country must be taken into account: in 2017, there were 910 motor vehicles per 1000 inhabitants in the USA. In Germany there were only 562 vehicles. With over 255 million units, the USA has the largest vehicle fleet of all states.



The railway, operated by various private companies, still plays a major role in freight transport over long distances today. With a total length of 293,564 kilometers in 2014, the United States has the longest railway network in the world. The market is dominated by seven major national railway companies. In addition, there are several hundreds of other smaller companies. The importance of rail transport can no longer be compared with the decades since the development of transport by the transcontinental railways up to the middle of the 20th century. Nevertheless, it has been increasing again for several years; between 2000 and 2012, the number of people carried by Amtrak has almost doubled. Large parts of the route network are not electrified and are served by diesel locomotives. Many routes are poorly developed and in a state in need of rehabilitation. Freight transport has a much higher productivity compared to other countries, the main cargo transported by rail is coal (45% of the cargo volume).

In the urban conurbations of the East Coast, California and the Chicago area, passenger transport by rail has retained a certain role, which it has even been able to expand again in some cases, for example with the Acela Express between Washington D.C. and Boston, which reaches an average speed of 140 km / h. The long routes between the urban agglomerations are served according to the schedule, but the main importance here lies more in the tourist area – comparable to rail cruises in Europe, also due to usually very long travel times and low speeds. Overall, rail transport has only a very small share of the total passenger traffic in the United States, far less than in other states. Passenger services are mainly operated by Amtrak.

The US government planned to build a high-speed network on ten corridors between various major metropolitan areas, including on the west coast in California and on the east coast, distributed by 2017. This makes sense in the long term, especially due to the congested road and air traffic. In total, the project should cost 53 billion US dollars (about 39 billion euros), mainly financed by the economic stimulus package of the United States. However, the Obama administration has failed to get the necessary funds in the budget approved by Congress.


Air traffic

Air traffic is an important mode of passenger transport for long, medium and also short distances. The United States has the largest and most developed civil aviation system in the world. There are a total of 19,000 take-off and landing runways of various categories, of which 389 are larger. 88% of all passengers depart from the 62 largest airports in the country. The largest American airlines are American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines. Among the ten largest airlines in the world in terms of passenger numbers, five American ones are represented. In 2017, a total of over 849 million people were transported by airlines registered in the country.

The largest airport in the world by passenger volume is located in Atlanta. Other major hubs are in Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, New York, Denver, San Francisco, Charlotte, Las Vegas and Miami. There are small airports with scheduled operations in almost every small town.


Ocean shipping

Shipping lanes are primarily used for freight and freight transport. Inland, the network of waterways covers 40,000 kilometers, half of which is passable for all larger ships. There are about 230 berths. A total of 41 of the 50 states are connected to each other via the waterway. Important inland waterways include the Mississippi River, which stretches from New Orleans to Minneapolis, and the Ohio River Basin. In 2014, about 600 million tons of goods were transported by inland waterway vessels, which accounted for 5% of commercial freight traffic. On the coasts, the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway and the canals on the Pacific coast are of importance. The largest cargo ports are located in Boston, Chicago (via the St. Lawrence Main Shipping Route), New York, Houston, Los Angeles and Louisiana, among others.

Cruise shipping is of great importance; half of the worldwide passenger volume for cruises comes from the United States, the Caribbean being by far the most important destination.