Americans, it seems, love their privacy and their space. You can tell by looking at the homes they live in. Most Americans live with their immediate families, and each nuclear family wants to live by itself. Aunts and uncles, grandmas and grandpas, adult brothers and sisters each live in their own homes – not with each other. In American homes, no more than two generations live together – certainly not three or four generations as is common in Việt Nam.
And each of these families like their space. The average family has 3.14 people, and the average size of each house is a bit over 2,000 square feet. (about 710 square meters). Of course that means that for the most part each person living in an American house has 637 square feet (203 square meters). In most homes, children older than 10 have their own bedroom – sooner if they are the only child of either gender.
The variety of homes is astounding, but most Americans like the idea of living in one’s own house sitting on a small plot of land. This home is occupied by one person – a woman whose children are grown and gone. Note there is an attachment to the house (called a garage) designed to park and protect two automobiles. This is not a particularly expensive home – most Americans would describe it as “typical middle class.” (Remember to click on the photos to see a larger version.)
Other Americans live in smaller homes like this, but note that it still sits on its own land. There is space between this house and the next house – houses are not built touching each other as they are in Việt Nam. Though less expensive, and in a neighborhood described as a “typical working class neighborhood”, it still has a garage, though it is not attached to the house. An elderly woman lives alone in this home. She does not want to live with any of her four children as she does not want to be a burden to them. Americans love their independence well into their old age.
What do Americans do with that small plot of land their house sits on? Besides spending a lot of time growing and cutting the grass, families use it for play. This family set up a small pool on a hot summer day. Mother and father laugh and play with their children – and enjoy the side yard of their home.
The American ideal is to own a home in the suburbs – the outlying part of a city or town. Of course, not everyone lives in the suburbs. Many people live in rural areas, and of those many live on the farms they own. The farm houses tend to be huge and isolated. To be with other people, farmers need an automobile to drive to town – they don’t live in the villages as the Vietnamese do.
If families live in a city, they live a style more familiar in Việt Nam. Many families will live in the same building, but each family with its own apartment. The buildings come in two styles. The high rise building contains many smaller units of bedrooms, living rooms, and kitchens for each family. If the units are rented, they are called apartments. If the family owns the unit, it is called a condominium (or condo). In this picture, note that there is a large area for automobiles. High rise buildings in older large cities such as New York and Chicago probably would not have parking lots for automobiles, but most Americans are very dependent on the automobile.
Apartments and condos can also be found that are a blend of the high rise and the typical; suburban home. Remember – Americans really want that little bit of land, so many live in apartment buildings surrounded by green grass. This type of apartment can be found in both the inner city and the suburbs.
Not everyone owns their own home, but 69% of families own the house they live in. Poor people cannot afford to buy their own home, so they rent one. For the very poor, that may mean a run-down house in poor condition. But note two things in this picture: the house sits on its own little piece of land, and there is an automobile parked out front.
Again, I caution my Vietnamese readers not to think these are “typical” American homes. Poor people in Chicago may live in high rise slum buildings, and I have not shown a house belonging to the rich. Nice houses in California look different from homes in Massachusetts. These pictures were taken in Ohio, Florida, Texas, and Colorado. They’re all different.
But, they are American houses – and Americans like lots of their own space.