Europeans and other Foreign Nationals who Trash America

Discussion in 'Politics' started by WillNever, Nov 18, 2009.

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  1. quadraphonics Bloodthirsty Barbarian Valued Senior Member

    It's my experience that this is more of a British phenomenon than a pan-European one. Perhaps it's just that they speak English more, and so we hear it more from them, but I've almost never heard that trope from any other Europeans (one curmudgeonly Swiss marijuana retailer being the exception, but that was something of a special case). Perhaps it's simply that other European cultures do not display the confrontational rudeness that typifies Britain, and so have the decency to keep that sort of chauvinism hidden.

    This all started to make sense to me when I realized that British tourists are considered a drunken, rude, unruly and unwelcome intrusion in most of Europe (and elsewhere), soccer-hooligans that they are. So, in typical fashion, they try to compensate by recasting this as cultural superiority to those insular, stupid Americans. This is largely accomplished via binge-drinking circle-jerks in pubs, where they invent ridiculous statistics about American passport ownership and travel habits and congratulate themselves on their enlightenment for spending a week getting shitfaced on club drugs in Ibiza or Ko Samui.

    Seriously though, American international travel habits come down to distance and time. We recently hired a guy from Europe at my job, and within a month he was complaining that the amount of time off we are allotted, combined with the travel time to/from Europe and the level of jet-lag, pretty much precludes travelling to other continents with any regularity. You have to save up all your days off for an entire year, just for a single trip. And we get more time off than your average American worker (and are paid better to boot), so you can imagine how the rest of the country fares.

    Differences in average family size also matter. Your average European has fewer children, later in life, and so has more years wherein big intercontinental trips are feasible. Not that I'm convinced that Europeans travel to other continents more frequently than Americans; the greater level of international travel that is claimed seems to be largely a function of travel between European countries.
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  3. Dywyddyr Penguinaciously duckalicious. Valued Senior Member

    Try France if you want to see a similar attitude. Really. They could teach us Brits a thing or two about superior attitudes. Especially Parisians who even manage to look down on the rest the French.

    Yep, we Brits are perceived that way on the continent, but our attitude certainly doesn't stem from trying to compensate. It's more probably a legacy of empire. And generally isn't held by the sort who get "shitfaced on club drugs in Ibiza or Ko Samui" since they're largely incoherent idiots.
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  5. John99 Banned Banned

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  7. quadraphonics Bloodthirsty Barbarian Valued Senior Member

    I've spent a lot more time in France than Britain, as it happens, and have found these steretypes to be totally baseless. In my experience the French are uniformly friendly and unassuming towards Americans, even the vaunted Parisians. Maybe it's just that I'm thoughtful enough to toss out a "bon jour" before asking if people speak English, and am able to converse at sub-Texan volumes...

    The British, on the other hand... I've gotten unsolicited political/cultural snobbery from them in pretty much every country I've ever visited, often from complete strangers. They will literally butt into your conversations in bars and restaurants and start talking shit about your nationality. Most recently I spent an entire lunch here in the US smiling and nodding politely at the barrage of unsolicited cultural derision from a British co-worker in town on business. This is apparently considered a polite way for guests to behave.

    Many can't seem to help themselves; some level of brashness seems inculcated from birth. I have British friends that reside here who will do it without thinking, and then come to a sudden halt when they notice that everyone has ceased talking or smiling and is staring at them uncomfortably, the way you would at someone who'd just shat in their own pants.
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2009
  8. Dywyddyr Penguinaciously duckalicious. Valued Senior Member

    Maybe it's the fact that I'm thoughtful enough to speak in French all the time when in France that I found that attitude to be somewhat more than a stereotype.
    When you speak the language you hear what they're saying when they're NOT directly interacting and being polite.
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2009
  9. quadraphonics Bloodthirsty Barbarian Valued Senior Member

    I get the idea that they're a bit like the Japanese that way. Politeness to visitors is highly valued, but the moment you try to act like you're "one of them" (by speaking the language, say), you're entering a vicious hierarchy of cultural one-upsmanship.
  10. Dywyddyr Penguinaciously duckalicious. Valued Senior Member

    No, see my edit: by speaking the language you hear what's said when they're not being polite.
    And besides I'm a Brit so they'd be one-upping the UK not the States if that were the case.
  11. mike47 Banned Banned

    America was and still is the envy of the world . Millions of folks all around the world dream of living and settling in the US if they can . The problem with America is their foreign policy, crimes rate,not being interested about knowing the rest of the world among other things .
  12. quadraphonics Bloodthirsty Barbarian Valued Senior Member

    Of course. But I understand enough French to tell when I'm being derided, and haven't had a problem. There was one grumpy hostel worker who got pissed when I didn't understand French once, but I chalk that up to the early hour.

    Right, the French have a certain special disdain for the UK, so I expect that you'll get it a lot worse from them than just about any other nationality.
  13. Dywyddyr Penguinaciously duckalicious. Valued Senior Member

    Point missed. I'm not talking about individuals so much as the attitude toward America as a whole.

    But we don't.
    Again you missed my point. Living with a French family, socialising with them and on my own I found the overall attitude toward the US is far more disdainful.
  14. quadraphonics Bloodthirsty Barbarian Valued Senior Member

    Which is a ensemble of individual attitudes, no?

    Perhaps they aren't telling you their true feelings, out of respect for your nationality.

    On the other hand, perhaps the ones who have told me they like Americans fine but can't stand the Brits were doing the same thing. Could be we're both being played here...
  15. Dywyddyr Penguinaciously duckalicious. Valued Senior Member

    Plus a national, governmental attitude.
    I meant "not an attitude toward an individual" rather than from an individual. Anyone can be polite (or otherwise) toward someone there at the time, for however long it takes for them to go away.

    I LIVED there.
    TV, newspapers, passers-by, crowd conversations...

    Re-read my post.
    I listened to what was said generally.
    Even the stuff that was spoken by people who didn't know I was English.
  16. draqon Banned Banned

    trashing America = non-CNN/FOX propaganda

    truth hurts, doesn't it?
  17. quadraphonics Bloodthirsty Barbarian Valued Senior Member

    Good for you. But I still find your credentials as a spokesman for France inferior to those of my French friends and coworkers. So I'm going to defer to them when it comes to finding out what French people think. And they're pretty consistent on the point of despising the UK. Even the one who lived in the UK for a decade agrees.
  18. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

    I think, aside from the English, there are probably very few people who will tell Americans what they think about their country. Most Indians would not, for instance. In mixed company, be it Korean, Chinese, Arab or European the consesus of opinion I am familiar with is that Americans have no clue.
  19. Dywyddyr Penguinaciously duckalicious. Valued Senior Member

    I know.
  20. Gustav Banned Banned



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  21. Doreen Valued Senior Member

    Oh, people tell me all the time, from all over the place. They often begin with little probing questions....the probe is not inserted far at first, but they are checking to see how far the next probe can go and when they can lecture. I actually have experienced the English to be far less political than other nationalities - but this could be chance. Hell, even the Scandavians, with their genetic reticence, get across their opinions of my homeland even in a single meeting.

    These opinions are both positive and negative. I mean Eastern Europeans tend to be rather positive, for example. Which often puts me in the uncomfortable position of having to be more negative. When pressed. And Iraquis were often rather vocally pro Bush/US shortly after the second invasion. This changed, but it led to a number of awkward discussions which I hope, I really hope they remembered later, because the looks I got - for opinions most of them probably had a year later, were really unpleasant to receive.
  22. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

    Not everything is always exactly the same as everything else on any given day

    A general rant ... based on—

    Well-written video games are gifts that keep on giving. Or, to be more precise, I'm reminded by the above quote of callers to James Pedeaston's Wild Traveler radio show in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.

    "Yeah. Hi, my name's Geraldine, calling from Casa City. This is such a great country! Why would you go anywhere else? It's unpatriotic to travel. I mean, I got war, famine, depression, and pollution right here on my doorstep. And parents—don't let your kids Eurorail after college. They'll come back with ludicrous misconceptions about health care, charity, and civilization. Europe is not the real world. This is!"

    (Wild Traveler #1)

    • • •​

    "Hey, I've been listening to you go on and on about travel, and do you know how expensive it is to fly to Asia? Russia saw the light; they're all coming here to set up crime families and run numbers. South America? Everyone went extinct there. They have less culture there than the contents of my toilet bowl. Rainforest, schmainforest! And Mexico—if I wanted to be that close to my ancient ancestors, I'd be banging my mother-in-law instead of my wife's best friend."


    • • •​

    Caller #1: I can't believe you actually recommended we go to Barbados on our honeymoon! It was revolting! There were poor people! I live in Vinewood to be away from poor people!

    Pedeaston: Barbados is lovely.

    Caller #1: Look, I wanna be very clear: I'm not racist, just careful.

    Pedeaston: Okay.

    Caller #1: I like all-inclusive resorts, where you can drink as much as you want, be around other people from San Andreas, and the only interaction you have with the locals is if you need a cocktail, or some spice in the bedroom with your husband.

    Pedeaston: Well, that sounds lovely. With people like you, it's no wonder we don't bother curing cancer. Next caller, you're on The Wild Traveler—roar!

    Caller #2: Yeah, it's funny; you go on and on about other countries, but you live here! America rules, you Commie! Eat me!

    Pedeaston: Well, we've been trying. Tom, you're on the line.

    Tom: I'm so sick of England! "Oh, let's go to the pub." They're all alcoholics. At least we drink a twenty-four pack in private instead of hangin' out in some social setting making a fool of ourselves. People say, "It's so civilized in Europe; they got thousands of years of history." Well, I saw a movie about Europe once, and I was disgusted! I mean, people still defecate in their living rooms and cover it up with dirt like a cat! You can't find a decent turlet anywhere! Or good chicken wings! And the strippers? Heh. Overcharge.

    Pedeaston: Good Lord, you philistine. You should stay out of England. I hear there is a casino in Venturas that is just like the rest of the world, only with better toilets and full of morons like you. Do you want culture or do you want safety? It's your choice. Personally, I want irrigation, of the colonic variety. But that's a whole different story, and it is early.

    (Wild Traveler #2)

    The thing is that these sketches are entirely about Americans and travel. Pedeaston is a neurotic, self-obsessed pedophile. The joke, of course, is that only pedophiles and other effete idiots go to places like Thailand or India for recreation; thus, Pedeaston's travel stories always involve trying to have sex with little boys. The callers are "regular Americans" insofar as angry, ignorant people like Sarah Palin and the "Middle America" movement are regular Americans.

    There are some members here who are too young to remember the Cold War; while the sketches for The Wild Traveler are, to be certain, exaggerated, they aren't false. The whole of the radio programming for the video game is written to lampoon various American subcultures: Sage (Radio X) mocks alt-pop shoegazers; Tommy Smith (W. Axl Rose; KDST) plays the classic glam-rocker; Marshal Peters & Johnny (Sly and Robbie; KJAH) are an irie stereotype; Peyton and Mary Phillips (WCTR) are a combination of James Carville and Mary Matalin, to the one, and Frasier and Lilith Crane to the other. There's an Art Bell parody in there, too. And a black midget named "The Love Giant". George Clinton is hilarious as The Funktipus, and DJ Forthright MC (Chuck D; Playback FM) just nails pop-culture gangsta geekstas. Dieter on acid, a hick parade, the oversexed gay gardener ....

    And James Pedeaston? He's just this creepy guy who can afford to run around the world doing drugs and little boys. But the script revolves around the idea of pathetic Americans sounding off through talk radio, and among my social circle, what makes these jokes stand out as genuinely funny is that we all remember hearing that sort of talk on a fairly regular basis.

    People over about the age of twenty-five ought to be able to remember some of this. I'm not sure what fantasy land people have been living in for the last eighteen years, but it's not so much that we've gotten smarter, nicer, or more enlightened that has reduced such talk. Rather, we've diverted into other things.

    Think of it this way; a friend and I were talking a couple weeks ago and something came up that caused me to ask what foreign language she had studied in school. Japanese. I said, "Oh, that's right. You went to a good school." Which is sort of a joke, but still. However, around here the schools generally taught French, German, and Spanish. And here's the thing: Spanish is a good language to know if you're in the United States. So is Japanese; I ain't knocking it. Russian? Sure. Chinese? Yes. But at my school, in a slowly gentrifying former exurb, we had French, German, and Spanish. There were generally four schools of thought about this. The least important, for our consideration, was people who took a language that was somehow familiar to them. You know, maybe your mother is French, or something, so you take the class because you already know some of the language. Set those aside. I've known plenty of people (mostly female) who took French because it was a romance language. And I knew plenty of people who studied Spanish because their parents wanted them to as an economic tool—it would help in the job market to be able to speak Spanish. But there was a group of students who took French, and especially German, because of their parents, who said, in essence, "No kid of mine is gonna talk like them."

    And aside from those friends of mine whose careers took them on international journeys, nobody I know remembers how to speak the languages they learned in school except for the classicist I know who is fluent in two dead languages.

    American "cultural ignorance", however it is manifested or accused, would not be of any real importance except for two factors:

    • We're #1.
    • We are aware of this fact.​

    To the one, our primacy in the world makes us very sensitive about our shortcomings. To the other, I'm not sure people around the world would care as much about our cross-cultural shortcomings is that they manifest themselves in our policies. We have, collectively, a very limited understanding of the world around us, and sometimes it shows.

    There's an old line from A. Whitney Brown's "Big Picture" sketches on Saturday Night Live about illiterates, and how we shouldn't be so hard on them. They might steal all the beer nuts and tell you about how the aliens left the Rosetta stone as an intergalactic Bible, or whatever, but some of them also vote. I had one of those moments in that story I tell about leaving work on 9/11. My co-worker, a college graduate with an advanced degree was so absolutely clueless about American foreign policy it was kind of scary. Sometimes you want to shout, "What do you mean, what do I mean!" Is it really so hard to understand? At some point, someone will claim responsibility, and when that happens we'll know not only who did it, but something about why.

    (What do you mean, what do I mean? Really? Seriously? You don't know?)

    There's an old Doonesbury in which Ambassador Duke is talking on the phone with a Central American head of state. Duke asks what he means about American intervention, and the guy starts rattling off places and dates of American incursions into Central America. "Bad news," says Duke to his assistant, Honey. "He's studied history."

    You know, a couple weeks ago I pulled a joke about being a stupid American, patting myself on the back for finding Zimbabwe on a political map without any words. I mean, it's sad; that's why I made a joke out of it. To click on a shape on a map and think, "Well, what do you know? I got it." It's a little disturbing. If I don't laugh, I might get all bitter like so many other people: "Who are you calling ignorant? So what if I can't find Burma on a map? We're Americans! What have you done for the world lately?"

    Unsettling proportions of high school graduates cannot:

    • Find the United States on an unmarked map of the world.
    • Find their home state on an unmarked map of the U.S.
    • Find their state capital on a map without names.
    • Find Washington, D.C. on a map without names.
    • Find New York City on a map without names.
    • Find Afghanistan or Iraq on a map without names.​

    I'm not quite as big on the whole passport thing in the long run in part because I'm part of that crowd. I've never had the money to travel abroad, so I've never bothered. However: I'm sorry, but a night in an English pub, or listening to drunk Frenchmen curse the world, does not a solid foundation for cultural criticism make. And, no, reading a bunch of stuffy books by dead authors doesn't do the trick, either.

    But here's the deal: I don't let much of the criticism bother me. I take issue sometimes with one of our Australian friends, but that's largely because we come from contrasting foundations: many of his criticisms of what's wrong with the United States actually points to generally deliberate outcomes. Thus: I'm sorry, but you think our Congress is screwed? Well, yeah. That's the way it's supposed to be. Don't like our First Amendment? Good thing you're in Australia, where you don't have to worry about it, then. I mean, after all, had the glorious Crown not completely fucked up on that one, we might still be English and, like our Australian neighbors, satisfied with a drop of honey on the tongue. The underlying problem with those criticisms is that they do something I dislike in the American worldview; they presume the supremacy and accuracy of one's own outlook. One need not draw national boundaries around that phenomenon. Indeed, it only makes things worse if we do.

    It's simply a matter of outcomes, of consequences. If you're the village idiot halfway around the world, why should John Q. Englishman care how stupid you are? However, if you're roaming the streets, fucking things up, and making life more difficult in those other neighborhoods? Yes, people might wonder. And if the answer is, "Step back, please; we know what we're doing," it helps every once in a while if we show that claim to be true.

    If we hadn't spent the second half of the last century propping up dictators, overthrowing democratic processes, and committing other, varied geopolitical idiocies, people in England or France might not care how fucked up Americans really are.

    And this is the thing that many Americans don't seem to understand about criticism of our country. The heat we take, that nobody else does? Yes, that is often our burden because it comes with the station. How is this a difficult concept for Americans? We occupy a unique station in the world. We therefore exist under unique circumstances compared to our international neighbors. If any of them want to step up and take the lead, then maybe in a generation or three when they finally solidify their geopolitical foundations, we Americans can sit back and hurl the same sorts of criticism at them.

    Perhaps I would have greater sympathy for the American "poor me" routine if the laments about people complaining about Americans showed any signs of understanding these very basic considerations.
  23. Asguard Kiss my dark side Valued Senior Member

    you know you guys bring it on yourselves by reinforcing the sterio-type everytime you turn around. I mean look at the guy you elected to run the country , thankfully you finally recifide THAT joke. However its not just the pollies, i was talking to a guy from the US on MSN. The conversation went like this (and no im not lying, i wish i was):

    Him:"where are you from?"
    Me:"Im an Australian"
    Him:"where in the US is Australia?"
    Me:"errr, its not"
    Him: "but you speak American"
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