This is part one of a two part post for my friends outside the U.S. soon to visit. Next one will cover specifics about my home country itself. This “list” isn’t close to comprehensive and includes the things I personally feel are important to know. The list will likely be largely different depending on who you ask and the opinions of each will largely be different. If they disagree with me they ARE WRONG!!!! lol
1. Americans love America
OHHHHH YEAH we do. And proud of it. Here’s the thing……..we are pretty much great at everything. muhahahahahaha. Yeah that sounds arrogant. Let me rephrase that. Historically speaking, America has achieved quite a bit globally. Regardless of how you spin it, the U.S.A is the only superpower left in the world. With the ability to project power and influence globally, the U.S. has maintained this position since the end of the cold war. Let’s call this the Jock syndrome. The idea we can do anything we want through intimidation.
The largest entertainment exports in the world come from the U.S. From Baywatch and Avatar to Michael Jackson and Jordan. Everyone around the world consumes our media and fast food. Globalization at it’s worse/best. Fact is, people across the globe like to have fun with us. Let’s call this the Dumb Blond Syndrome. The idea we’re fun to play with but not very bright.
These two syndromes alone can breed a sense of superiority and entitlement, as is evident with the literal Jock and Dumb Blond. The stereotypes are constantly reinforced by media representation and to a certain extent the countries that tuck tail and bend to American will. Now I’m not trying to excuse the arrogance. But trying to explain it. When someone constantly tells you you’re beautiful, shows you’re beautiful, and treats you like you’re beautiful that’s what you’ll come to believe. You have to remember, the U.S. is the most desired place in the world to immigrate to (165 million according to Gallup Poll with Canada second at 45 million). The U.S. has done some great things globally (and some pretty shit things) contrary to popular belief. I don’t need to list those things but we surely aren’t in a position to be down on ourselves too much. With that said, we need to tone down the superiority rhetoric.
Times are changing and the world is becoming more interconnected. Many Americans are starting to see that. I don’t believe in this superiority complex some American’s have. We have our flaws like everyone else. But I would warn that we definitely aren’t the only country with this issue. We just so happen to be the dominate country on the planet so it’s magnified. Used to be the same argument against the Brits. When visiting the U.S. its best to avoid this “conversation” all together with people you don’t know. Furthermore, it’s just bad form to criticize a country while you’re a guest (and yes, you’re a guest. you have no “right” to visit other countries.). This goes for you American’s abroad mainly.
2. Prudish towards sex
Sexuality has been repressed and stigmatized in the U.S. since its founding. Although this has been the case in many other religious based countries (Chile and Egypt come to mind) the U.S. has carved out a niche as the most prudish country in the world for me. It still boggles my mind that the home of the world’s largest and most profitable porn industry also has some of the most ridiculous sex education practices. It’s the side effects of this ridiculously narrow view that annoy me and visitors will notice.
• Gay rights- The reason gay marriage hasn’t been legalized in the U.S. is because of ignorant religious nuts that force their own sexual perception on others. What two people do in the privacy of their bedroom is their business. Many Americans feel it’s their “right” to dictate what happens in that bedroom (or relationship in general regarding marriage). this has led to the marginalization of an entire community of outstanding people that fully contribute to society not being treated fairly by the U.S. government. It’s a shame and stain on the American identity on par with racism. If you come to the U.S. and are openly gay don’t worry about being attacked or blatantly discriminated against. You may get strange looks in some parts of the country but you’re largely fine.
• Teen pregnancy- the U.S. has many states with abstinence only programs. Basically they teach that you shouldn’t have sex until you’re married……righttttttt………. Unfortunately this has led to generation after generation of confused teens exploring their sexuality in the backseat of cars and any other marginally private place they could find. The U.S. has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the world. We aren’t teaching our children how to be safe. With these pregnancies comes teen dropout increases, welfare recipient inflation, and various other social services being overwhelmed. You know, the things these right wing conservative nuts complain about without realizing the cause.
• Women’s equality- Now I’m no feminist (in the traditional extreme connotation). Like extreme right wingers, extreme feminist annoy me to no end. BUT I do firmly believe in equality and women have been systemically oppressed in the U.S. both legally and socially. Legally, it’s vastly changing but socially not so much. The lack of sexual education has led to men turning to alternative sources for guidance on how to treat women. Media, porn, and my best friends brother help to fill that void for many young men. Not the best sources to say the least. Battle of the Sexes has been a long standing “debate” with women being perceived as the weaker sex. Men (and women for that matter) not understanding the basic physiological make up of women. And vast waves of male politicians deciding what’s best for female populations. As a visitor to the U.S. these things may not affect you but they do affect women globally as the U.S. exports these “ideals” with our media and globalization tactics. The U.S. isn’t the most openly misogynistic country in the world (that distinction can go to a few South American countries) but you’ll get the cat calls I assure you.
A persons sexuality is to be understood and embraced. Not marginalized and feared. Many countries such as Switzerland, Germany, Brazil, and Spain have far more liberal stances on sexuality and have superior records on the issues above. As a visitor to the U.S. you may feel that we aren’t as open and affectionate as South America and Europe. This is true. But that doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy sex. Quite the contrary. Ask most of our “upstanding” politicians.
3. Sensitive to criticism
American’s are largely sensitive people. From criticism about looks to education. We tend to bitch and moan about mostly everything. Someone is always offended. Although I hate this aspect of our national psyche, let me explain why.
The U.S. has a history of racism, sexism, and marginalization of minority groups. From women to the handicap, the U.S. has always been a nation of the voiceless. Things are changing. Slowly but they are changing. With this change comes some growing pains and oversensitivity is one of them. People are more conscious and aware. The civil rights movement was barely forty five years ago (officially) with legislation regarding equality still being debated today. Offense is largely perceptive based in the U.S. Personally I like blunt honesty. Many people don’t so be aware.
It drives me up the wall when people complain about being offended by a comedians joke or a certain commercial……..well so? This has led to something I like to call American Offense Entitlement. Where people believe their opinion/them being offended should change the behavior of others. Please don’t feed this disease but be aware of it. If you’re an open and honest person continue to be that way. Many American’s don’t hear blunt honesty but need to. This isn’t unique to Americans but if you come from Europe or South America you’ll notice this very quickly.
This bleeds into the extreme positivity we have in the U.S. We like to pretend everything is happy and good even when it’s not. Smile and push forward. I’m not sure if this is a good or a bad thing yet. Still trying to decide.
TIP: I’m sure you’re smart enough to know that 315 million people likely won’t agree on everything. Asking one American what he thinks about abortion, gun control, Obama, or a slew of other things doesn’t even come close to national consensus. Because someone doesn’t like Obama doesn’t mean they are a racist. Because they don’t like Bush doesn’t mean they are a tree hugging hippie. Take all opinions (including mine) with a grain of salt.
4. Largely unaware of world outside U.S.
We are willfully ignorant (because the information is there if you look) and sheltered from the world. The level of censorship in the U.S. is deplorable and education is worse. Our media system has created a nice cozy bubble where people are force fed scenes of American superiority. The only “negative” we see about ourselves are when it’s about the opposing political party. The negatives about the rest of the world include rape, famine, beheadings, and political corruption. The media is quick to run a story about rape in India but not a story about Indian scientist discovering the youngest Supernova remnant.
Only 31% of us have passports and the only exposure many have is media OR the immigrants that have come to the U.S. This has led us to embrace many stereotypes as truth. Stereotypes of other cultures in the U.S. aren’t meant to be malicious. They are simply a result of isolation. Unlike Europe, Asia, and South America, we have very limited access to other cultures geographically. Canada ( annoying Americans in the north) and Mexico. Pretty much it. The only truly “different” culture we have in the states is Mexican and even they have assimilated into our culture which is why our second language is Spanish.
Please correct these on the spot if you hear them or are asked. The person engaging you likely means no hard and is simply unaware of their ignorance. This is a chance to bond and educate. People are really curious to know about you and where you’re from. If someone asks you if your Chinese and your Korean tell them. And tell them the differences because we largely don’t know.
FRIENDLY and POSITIVE: Americans are positive people in general. Simply because we don’t have anything to truly worry about here. No war on our soil, no true poverty, clean water, delicious food. We are happily placated. Anything we want we can have. Why wouldn’t we be happy all the time? That’s why many Americans are smiling. Because we are truly happy (or believe we are).
Also, smiling means you are approachable. I’ve heard this criticism of Americans by non-Americans, “Americans always smile and it’s fake”. This is brought up regarding retail and food service.
I have no idea if you’ve ever gone to a bar or restaurant in NYC, Miami, or San Francisco but I assure you, everyone isn’t smiling. Why? Because in the U.S. a smile means I’m approachable and non threatening. Why in the world would you want to be around people looking angry and unapproachable all day. It’s depressing as hell i.e. London.
LOUD and ENERGETIC: Get ready for this. We are loud and love a good party. Everything is over the top (both good and bad).Especially with alcohol involved. If you’re Italian, Australian, Chilean, Brazilian, Mexican, Colombian, or Spanish you’ll feel right at home. High energy is the name of the game. Sometimes we can get out of control and go way overboard but that’s what you came to see right? lol
BONUS FROM Fans and Friends
6. Americans appreciate speed and efficiency (Janet)
I can’t describe how ANNOYING it is when I’m visiting another country and my friends are constantly late. Not 5 or 10 minutes. 45 minutes to an hour and they think it’s fine. In America it’s considered largely rude and disrespectful. Especially if you don’t call/email/text to inform the party you’re going to be late. it’s says your time isn’t valuable. Many of my friends have attributed this to American’s always hurrying. I can’t entirely disagree with that. I find that it largely says the importance of said relationship. If you’re late for work you’ll get fired. Why not be on time for something you decided to do? Moral of the story, in the U.S., be on time.
This is also in regards to restaurant service. Many friends have complained about constantly being “bothered” by wait staff. If American’s aren’t constantly waited on we tend to raise hell. In France food takes FOREVER to arrive for example. We spent hours in restaurants. I hated it. Let’s go, eat, and leave. Also keep in mind the U.S. has a ridiculous “tipping” system. Combine that with many employees not receiving the minimum wage salaries (which they are entitled to by law) and you have a recipe for overzealous service in the eyes of those not used to it. I can see the benefit of the much slower dining experience though. Just not really an American trait. We are the pioneers of fast food after all.
Americans are largely great but flawed people. In such a large and diverse nation it’s unfair to paint everyone with a broad brush. You may not experience anything I’ve written here which is part of the beauty. Coast to coast Americans love, hate, and live with each other. Largely harmoniously. You would be hard pressed to find a more welcoming people in the world. However, it’s important to be aware of cultural and social norms when visiting. This will not only allow you to experience the U.S. in its fullest but prevent situations that may reflect negatively on both your culture and ours.