Monday, November 07, 2011
A British writer asks non-Americans who have visited the United States for "tiny, weird things you discovered about the United States only when you got here." The many responses are amusing and insightful, especially, I think, if you have not spent a lot of time in Europe and elsewhere to compare.
They were fun to read, but I was reminded again how little of the criticism of Americans is thought through in any way. Some people saw different things as "just different," or fun/better/intriguing. Others immediately concluded that Americans were just obviously wrong, or did not ask themselves reflective questions. This seems especially true of Europeans, but I suppose that group dominates the visitors.
Examples: Yes, you know more about our country than we do yours. But how much do you know about Ecuador, or Kenya, or Thailand yourself, Mr. European?
In America, we don't associate flying our flag with genocidal warfare and you guys do. Huh. Wonder why that is?
OK, I'm being defensive here. Most of the comments there were innocent and many were informative. I would include a gift for spontaneous self-organisation of small groups, even among the young here, which I do not see when I visit Europe. That may be tied to the customer-service piece, though.
Many seem to have been people who traveled to, say, New York and then simply decided that what they saw there was representative of the entire 300,000,000 of us. Others set them straight, fortunately.
I chuckled at the juxtaposition of "Americans think nationalized healthcare is communist, what imbeciles!" with "holy shit, you can just walk into a doctor's office and get competently treated" without any recognition that perhaps those two factors were related...
Dawnfire82 quoting some Euros:
"Americans think nationalized healthcare is communist, what imbeciles!"
Do those Euros realize that one reason many Americans are against nationalized healthcare is because of what they have read about the NHS in the United Kingdom?
Another reason Americans are against nationalized health care is reading about all the Canadians who come to the US for treatment.
Wait a minute. I thought USAans didn't know jack about other countries. I would love to see some Euro come to the US and try to call an American a USAan.. Excuse me: Eurotwit.
The openess towards strangers is one thing that many Europeans have commented on. I once had a French woman inform me that Americans were sick for being so open to strangers. After I heard that, I decided that language and 3000 miles of ocean were not the only things separating Europe and the US.
I live near Disneyland. Very near to Disneyland, so I meet a lot of foreign visitors. I helped a couple of English ladies cross one of our superhighway sized streets once. They remarked about how un-friendly most of the city was to pedestrians. I mentioned something to them that helped put it in perspective. The entire city of Anaheim had about 18,000 inhabitants in 1955. There is only a very small section of the city that was built in the days of the horse and buggy.
On another occasion a British couple was admiring a beautiful building across the street. "It's a shame," they said, "That the owners have allowed it a get so weathered." I laughed and pointed up and down the street and told them that nothing they could see was older than 55 years. "That building," I remarked, "Was made to look old by Hollywood special effects so that it would stand out among the other buildings.
"In America, we don't associate flying our flag with genocidal warfare and you guys do. Huh. Wonder why that is?
OK, I'm being defensive here."
Not defensive at all, a great response to arrogant Europeans. Here's a true story. My brother, a former Marine, was visiting France and was listening to a bunch of the natives slamming the US. Finally he couldn't take it any more and said, "If it weren't for us, you'd be speaking German!"
Living along a border town with Canada, we've developed a number of close friends across the river.
One couple is very unique; he was born in Ontario, raised through high school in California but came back to Ontario for college. His wife is a tried and true Canadian, with maple syrup in her veins. He understands both political systems and pluses and minuses of each country better than anyone else I know.
One night, I remarked to his wife that all Canadians were, were unarmed Americans with a national health card. She stomped out and he busted his gut.
There were a few comments about guns, but I was amazed there were no comments about castle doctrine laws.
Also, I've always been puzzled why any restarant wouldn't have free refills on soda. Not having them dramatically reduces the likelihood a customer will order one.
You know, they can bitch about the fast lane being clogged by self-righteous twits going 55, but by God! in India they know how to clog a fast lane. Put a cart being drawn by a camel in it, and let the lorry trains and transcontinental busses fend for themselves elsewhere.
When I got back to Colorado, I was happy to see real road signs:
Truckers - Are Your Brakes Adjusted and Cool? Steep Downgrade Ahead.
Truckers - Gear Down 7% Downgrade Ahead
Runaway Truck Lane 1.5 miles
NO PARKING Runaway Truck Offramp
Truckers - You Are Not Down Yet
Truckers - Lost Brakes? Do Not Exit at Silverthorne Stay on 70 Upgrade Ahead