Every American Should Have to Live Overseas and Everyone Should Visit America

The most important thing I’ve learned living and traveling across Europe and Africa over the last five months is that we are all more the same than we are different and that we all think we’re more different than we really are.

With the exception of a few brainwashed portions of the World, the rest of the World does not hate America. The French don’t even hate America. Universally everyone hates rude American behavior, but the same is true of rude French behavior or pompous British behavior or any other country that acts superior to any other country. America doesn’t hold a monopoly of acting arrogant, but admittedly we’re often the least aware that we’re acting that way. Most Europeans know they’re being arrogant, American’s have a unique ability to be arrogantly unaware.

The biggest misconception I see about America, from people who have never been there, is that American’s are this large homogeneous society that looks and acts mostly like you see on TV. I argue that America is just as diverse as all of Europe (this makes some people, even Americans, think I’m crazy). But let me explain. America is made up of 50 states, that’s not even counting territories like Puerto Rico, Guam, Samoa and others Islands. and each of those 50 states is very unique. You can’t compare Florida, to Texas, to Wisconsin.  And when you visit America, don’t just visit New York or California or some big coastal city. You have to visit more than one state and go inland and refuse to eat at chain restaurants or shop at Wal-Mart.

Aside from the unique differences between the 50 states you have representations of every World population in America. Because of the large amounts of immigration (even if it is getting harder) you have some of the World’s 5th largest populations of Basques in Boise, Idaho; a huge population of Muslims in Michigan, just to name a few, and that’s not counting the fact that there are more Irish people in America than there is in Ireland.

The reason American culture seems so homogenized is because it has to speak across all those different cultures and find the common ground; the lowest common denominator for entertainment. I also think this is why you find American TV on almost every TV set in the World. Friends tested well with Japanese Americans and it turns out it does pretty well in Japan too.

But most Europeans do have a better global perspective. They’ve traveled abroad at the least. They’ve had to be somewhere where they don’t speak the language. Most Americans haven’t traveled much, and I’m not talking about a weekend trip to Canada or Tijuana. It’s too easy to have an us, vs them mentality when you’ve never had to look “them” in the eye. It’s easy to think your superior when your frame of reference is one where you can’t see all the good in other countries. It’s hard to hate a country when you have friends that live there.

I’d be willing to bet that a lot of our problems in the World would go away if we all went and spent some time in other countries. If we all got to know each other and not just what you read about on Wikipedia or saw on TV.

If you don’t follow my personal site you can see some posts below about my travels. 

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About Tac Anderson

Social media anthropologist. Communications strategist. Business model junkie. Chief blogger here at New Comm Biz.
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  • http://about.me/jkiss James Kiss

     Totally agree! People benefit from being forced to look at things in a different way. For me, your point rings true even when thinking about other things like working at a restaurant. Thinking about my days working as a busboy really made me believe that everyone should work in the hospitality industry at least once in their life.

  • http://www.newcommbiz.com/ tacanderson

    This is true. Having also been a busboy, you do see the world differently when you have to live off tips. You also treat people differently when you’ve worked in the service industry. You can always tell the people that haven’t. 

  • http://jeffhora.wordpress.com Jeff Hora

    I was extremely fortunate, during my U.S. Navy Band days, to travel a lot outside the confines of the continental US.  I’ve had the chance in the past several years to visit parts of Europe and REALLY want to return, and it’s looking like I will have the chance to do more travelling in Asia over the next few years…..it’s all good. I have found the mutuality you mention. Once we take each other at face value and build upon a basic foundation of respect for each other, we have most things in common and things we don’t have in common are really pretty cool and worth finding out more about.

    And most people could find out some interesting things about America by visiting Iowa……even most Americans.

  • http://www.newcommbiz.com/ tacanderson

    That was something that I didn’t mention but is true. If American’s even stepped out of their own backyard and really went and visited some of their neighboring states, they’d be amazed at what they saw. It’s not all inner-city crime, hippies and rednecks. Having visited about half of the 50 states and have lived in 10 of them, I can tell you there’s a lot of amazing people and not a single state is actually painted red or blue. 

  • http://twitter.com/prpeep Vanessa Williams

    I absolutely agree. I was just saying the other day how ignorant we Americans can be, and the person I spoke too (an American) took offense to this. But, having traveled to more than a dozen countries, and lived in England for four months in college, there’s no doubt that most other countries know more about us than we know about them. Any time abroad anywhere would help this. But as you pointed out there’s the other side of the coin as well. I can’t tell you how many people ask when I said I was from Pennsylvania if I was close to New York City. (I just happen to be, but Pennsylvania is a big state!) 

    And my Canadian friend (who by the way schooled me on our own Civil War history) had that homogenized view of the States as well. Well no, we don’t all agree with our President all the time, or the talking heads on TV. But, alas, television is what they primarily have to go on. Same thing happens here. I make a point to watch BBC news just so I can get a beat on world news – otherwise it gets lost in what the Kardashians are doing. Sigh.

    We aren’t the only ones that don’t travel though. I was shocked when my English classmates who were only perhaps 4-5 hours away from France, Belgium and the rest of the continent hadn’t been. Most hadn’t even been to portions of the UK! I found that shocking, especially since it was so easy to get around via train there. Cultural differences I suppose. “Far away” is all relative.

  • http://www.newcommbiz.com/ tacanderson

    American TV programming has been the single greatest cultural colonization tool ever created. We’ve culturally colonized more countries than England, Rome, Napoleon, Hitler or anyone ever has. And I don’t think it’s a good thing. 

    Does Canada even count? Just kidding. They know way more about our country than we do about theirs. They study our history as well as theirs. We leave off at “french trappers went to Canada.” 
    America has one of the lowest percentages of the people with passports. Most people in other countries, even if they don’t use them, still have them so they could travel if they need to. In the US most people couldn’t leave the country if they wanted to. That’s kind of scary. And yes, coming from Idaho, I can’t tell you how many times people confuse us with Iowa or Ohio and we’re no where close together. At least get a map! 

  • http://stedavies.com/ stedavies

    I think Americans are some of the most polite people in the world (that I’ve come across anyway) and certainly more polite and courteous than a lot of European nationalities.

    Also agree that, for a nation built by people who had the balls to travel, a lot of you can be very inward looking (although that’s changing). We’ve all heard the stats about how many Americans don’t own a passport but in my travels abroad I’ve never met the stereotypical rude American.

    Also in Europe (particularly Britain) sometimes we have no other choice but to travel to another country to experience another (usually warmer) climate. The US is like a continent itself and caters to all weather seeking types.

    I disagree with your point about having more Irish than Ireland though. They aren’t Irish, they’re American with Irish ancestry. Being Irish isn’t a race it’s a nationality and how many of those have actually set foot in Ireland let alone own an Irish passport? If that’s the case I’m Germanic, Norman, Roman, Saxon and Viking. :)

    The biggest ancestral group in the US is actually English (look it up) but most Americans don’t class themselves as English or American-English but simply as American, which is what they are.

    Right, must rest. I have a 12 hour flight to Rio tomorrow for my ten week vacation in Brazil and Argentina. :)

  • http://www.online-business-virtual-assistant.com/ Virtual Business Assistant

    I always have a feeling that US is a great place to visit and a great place to do business and also great place to see some good honest people…

  • http://enthral.fr Guillaume

    “The French don’t even hate America.” This made me smile :)
    It is true not all French hate America but it is also true that we don’t know each other as much as we should. As you say in your opening statement, “we are all more the same than we are different”. I think this sentence alone could change the world if people had it a bit more in their heads sometimes… 

  • http://www.newcommbiz.com/ tacanderson

    Thanks Stephen. And I agree with your point about the Irish, but I’m not going to be the ones to tell them different :) Enjoy your trip to Brazil. 

  • http://twitter.com/ExpatriateTaxes Diane Siriani

    Mostly all Americans want to leave and a lot of other people want to come here. 

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