Americans are a mobile nation. The average owner stays in a house only five years, before moving somewhere else. Due to low interest rates, the majority of families in the USA own their own homes. Usually these are separate houses with yards. Houses in US are still very inexpensive compared to Europe.
There is a dark side to families moving so much, and such distances. Family ties are not nearly so strong in the US as in other countries. Some parents and grown children living on opposite coasts may only visit each other twice a year.
LIVING IN THE CITY
Groups of owned apartments in one building (called “condominiums“ or “condos“) are not so popular as in the rest of the world. Usually they only are common in downtown areas. They are popular with people who want to buy their own home but don’t want to maintain a yard or a garden. Condominiums often have a lot of communal amenities, such as laundry room, swimming pools and fitness rooms. Young people, especially when they are single, normally can’t afford to buy a house or a condo right away. They usually live in rented apartments. There are apartments in older buildings, especially in big cities, but there are also a lot of modern apartment complexes. These apartments are almost always furnished, usually very nicely.
Houses vary greatly, but the dominant style of the last 30 years has been the ranch-style house. Houses are usually made of wood and built by carpenters. In the southern states, where wood is scarcer, brick and stucco houses are much more common than in the northern states. Modern stucco houses are often built in a Mexican style. Victorian houses are painted in bright colors, specially blue.
NEW WAYS OF LIVING
Many retired people move into mobile homes, which are usually permanently located in mobile home parks. They offer inexpensive housing that is easy to take care of, especially since they have little or no yard space. Americans are always willing to try something new, especially if it has to do with living alongside nature. Some people are going back to the housing of the earliest settlers and building log houses. Today they usually use a kit, which means that the logs are pre-cut. Since someone discovered that the shape of the geodesic dome is extremly energy efficient, many people have built their homes like this.
IN AN AMERICAN HOME
GADGETS – Americans like gadgets to make a job easier or quicker to do. There is an incredible variety of gadgets in the American home. In the kitchen you can find a garbage compactor that squeezes garbage into small cubes and neatly packs it into bags; a refrigerater that dispenses iced water and ice cubes without having to open the door; and a sink with a three faucets – a normal one, a water hose with a spray nozzle for washing dishes, and one with its own small heater that gives boiling water. Some houses have a small computer system that controls all the different electronic gadgets. It will turn the heating on, switch the light and the radio on, and make the coffee.
THE LIVING ROOM – is usually used for more formal occasions such as entertaining guests.
THE KITCHEN – this room with all its appliances and gatgets, also has an informal eating area where the family usually takes its meals.
THE LAUNDRY ROOM – this is where the washer and dryer are kept and used.
THE DINING ROOM – is also used for formal occasions when there is company for dinner. The best china and silver are used in this room.
THE FAMILY ROOM – is a large room for the whole family where they watch television, play games, listen to music, do crafts and exercise. It is the most important room in an American house. It is the hub of activity.
THE BEDROOM – It is not uncommon for each member of the family to have their own bedroom. People like to have their own space. Many bedrooms have a television and a telephone as well as exercise equipment and a study area with a desk. Americans like to have things neat and tidy, or at least out of sight.
THE BATHROOM – Newer homes have two and a half bathrooms. The main bathroom is for everyone’s use. The second bathroom is usually off the master bedroom and is reserved for the adults using this room. Half a bedroom is a toilet and a sink, usually used by guests. Showers and tubes are becoming quite sophisticated. Americans do like showers – with lots of water pressure – because they are quick. Showers often have jacuzzi heads which give a massage while washing.
A family with an average income can usually afford to live in a nice house with all the necessary amenities that are expected in any civilized nation. The utility bills, such as electricity, telephone and gas are very affordable and do not cause a significant financial burden to the home owner.
The US government built huge apartment buildings for the poor in the 1950s and 1960s, mostly in the inner cities. These proved a failure. The poor frequently destroyed their apartments, so the maintenance cost was very high. Crime in such “housing projects“ , as they are called, became famous, with gangs shooting at each other to control illegal drug trade. Most of these buildings were demolished. US government now pays homeowners to house the poor, if they will do it. The same problems are still there, and few of them will agree to do that.
In urban areas the division between “the upscale neighborhoods“ and the“slums“or “ghettos“, as they are called, can be only a couple of blocks and is extremely drastic. Part of crime in America is committed by minorities, espacially by African-American or Latino minorities.