The United States of America (U.S.A.) also
referred to as the United States (U.S.), America,
or the States, is a federal republic in North America and the
The USA comprises fifty States and two Territories. A common term used is the
"the continental US"; which is forty-eight of these states. Alaska and
Hawaii make up the additional two states. Puerto Rico, in the Gulf of Mexico,
and the Island of Guam, in the South Pacific Ocean, are the two territories.
Each state and territory has its own Capital; with government organizations
patterned much like the Federal Government in DC; a Governor, State Senate,
State House of Representatives, a Supreme Court and many other agencies.
It is home to several of the world's
most exciting cities, some truly mind-blowing landscapes, a strong sense of
regionalism, a trenchant mythology, more history than the country gives itself
credit for and, arguably, some of the most approachable natives in the world.
The country was founded under a tradition of having the rule come from the
people under the representative democracy model. This model of government
(presidential-congressional) has since been adopted by many other countries,
mostly in Central America and South America.
It extends from the
Atlantic coast in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west. It shares land
borders with Canada in the north and Mexico in the south, shares a marine border
with Russia in the west, and has a collection of districts, territories, and
possessions around the world including Puerto Rico, Midway Atoll, and Guam. The
country has fifty states, which have a level of local autonomy according to the
system of federalism. A United States citizen is usually identified as an American.
So much of the country has been filmed, photographed, painted and written
about that you need to peel back layers of representation to stop it from
looking like a stage setting. This can make the country seem strangely familiar
when you first encounter novelties like 24-hour shopping, bottomless cups of
coffee, 'Have a nice day', drive-thru banks, TV evangelists, cheap gasoline and
newspapers tossed onto lawns. But you'd be foolish to read too much into this
surface familiarity, since you only have to watch Oprah for half an hour to
realize that the rituals and currents of American life are as complex, seductive
and bewildering as the most alien of cultures.
The USA covers multiple time zones; has weather that can be freezing in one
location, raining in another, yet very hot and dry in another, all on the same
day. The Blue Ridge mountain range is on the western side. Major rivers such as
the Mississippi and Colorado extend almost completely from North to South.
The climate varies along with the landscape, from sub-tropical in Florida to
tundra in Alaska. Large parts of the country have a continental climate, with
warm summers and cold winters. Some parts of the United States, particularly
parts of California, have a Mediterranean climate.
As the world's third largest nation (total area), the United States landscape
varies greatly: temperate forestland on the East coast, mangrove forests in
Florida, the Great Plains in the center of the country, the Mississippi-Missouri
river system, the Rocky Mountains west of the plains, deserts and temperate
coastal zones west of the Rocky Mountains and temperate rainforests in the