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.
- Happy 4th of July Weekend From England (tacanderson.com)
- 5 Things Americans Don’t Know About Life In London (tacanderson.com)
- 5 Things American’s Don’t Know About Scotland (tacanderson.com)
- An American’s Experience with English Horse Racing and the Ship of Fools (tacanderson.com)
- London Update: Week 1 – The Book Lives Strong in London. (tacanderson.com)