Before we get into it, I will acknowledge that my post’s title is somewhat inaccurate. We are from the United States, and often when we call ourselves Americans it annoys everyone that lives in Canada, Mexico, and anything further south. They’re Americans too, they’re quick to remind us. Central and South Americans have a name for us: Estadosunidenses. Unfortunately, the term United Statesians never really took off, so we don’t know what to call ourselves besides Americans. My apologies, but I’m going to keep with the annoying
American United States tradition of calling myself and my people Americans.
Here are things that I personally believe are silly/illogical/frustrating about American culture.
1. Take up lots of room. I like my own personal bubble space, too. I don’t find smelling other people’s armpits pleasant either. But sometimes we request twice as much room as even a European would. Cross walks, doorways, cars, buses, and tables are all places that Americans claim to need lots of extra arm room. We take it very seriously. Bumping into a person in a shopping aisle is an insult that must be remedied with an apology before we move on, whereas most of the rest of the world hardly even notices there was a bump.
2. Accepting fast food crap. While I’m not the most healthy person out there, I do know to avoid McDonald’s. When I’m out of the country, however, I’m much more willing to stop by for a cheap meal. The rest of the world holds some of these companies to some standards, and it’s about time we Americans did so as well. The McDonald’s I visited in Belfast and London were nicely furnished, had leather-covered seats at a clean bar, clean bathrooms, and even a pastry section filled with delicious-looking croissants. It looked more like Starbucks than Macky-D’s. The McDonald’s in Italy are required to use Italian beef by the Ministry of Economic Development (or something similar). This means the burgers are fresher, taste better, and support Italian farmers. We should be treated as well as Europeans and Asians, in my opinion.
3. Read only United States-sourced news. Americans, as a whole, are woefully under-read when it comes to international news. Besides any news stories on another car bomb in Baghdad or a rocket fired near the Tel Aviv airport, very little time and effort is spent on the rest of the world. One contributing factor to this problem is the tendency of Americans to read/watch only American news, such as Fox or MSNBC. Actually, one of the best American-based news sources is The New York Times, because they employ their own foreign correspondents. The news is faster and more accurate than other corporations that wait for the AP wire. But even The New York Times isn’t really enough.
England’s BBC is an excellent source of international coverage, and their website has outstanding organization, including sidebars of timelines, analyses, and cultural notes. Another well-known source is Al Jazeera. This Arab news source is independent of any state government, and provides nuanced, precise, and quick coverage of the Middle East and North Africa. They cover the rest of the world, too, of course, but those areas are their specialty. For anyone that can read Spanish, El Mundo can offer a window into the Latin American world. All of these options are readily available to anyone that wants to be aware. I also recommend The Economist and Foreign Affairs.
4. Be far too loud. When we talk loudly on the metro or guffaw over dinner, everyone else can hear us. Seriously. We are obnoxiously loud compared to our European cousins, and downright deafening to Asians. Although we joke about Greeks and Italians being very loud, they rarely speak louder than Americans in public. I haven’t had the personal experience of comparing the average American to an average person in Africa (though there may be no such thing, as Africa is a diverse and complex continent). The only place, so far, that I’ve been to and haven’t worried about my volume was Nicaragua.
5. Talk about how “America” is the birthplace of freedom and the shining light of liberty to the rest of the (inferior) world. The United States is great. I’m (usually) proud to call myself an American. When I’m not, I just claim to be Canadian. And while we did make history in being one of the first modern republics, we certainly aren’t the only one now. In fact, recently New Zealand was named the most free country in the world by the Canadian Fraser Institute. The U.S. came in at seventh place. While one can argue about the variables used and the methodology, it goes to show that there are, indeed, other modern, civilized societies that “let freedom ring” and are the “land of the free.”
Many countries have serious problems with the way our military acts overseas, as well as the racial tensions that still exist here (Ferguson, anyone?). I personally believe that most of the world loves to hate on the US as being the world police, but they also love dumping the responsibility on us. But it is still true that many countries view some of our leaders as war criminals, like Rumsfeld and Cheney. Technically, if they travel to a country thatacknowledges the power of the International Criminal Court, they should be arrested and brought to The Hague.
Here’s a great rule of thumb: The rest of the world dislikes Americans the same way we dislike Texans. Refrain from talking about how everything is bigger in the US, how food is better, how it’s the only place of freedom, and how sorry we are that everyone can’t be as amazing as us.
What are frustrating or silly things you think we do?