Others’ perceptions of Americans

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    What do people from other countries think of Americans? Is there a “stereotypical American”? Do they envy Americans or hate them?

    User Detail :  

    Name : Ryan, Gender : M, Sexual Orientation : Straight, Race : White/Caucasian, Religion : Catholic, Age : 19, City : Iowa City, State : IA Country : United States, Occupation : student, Education level : High School Diploma, Social class : Middle class, 


    The stereotypical American takes no interest – and has had no education – about other countries in the world. This is in sharp contrast with Europeans,Russians,Australians, Singaporeans and others who learn about many countries in their regions. This means they overreact ignorantly when international issues impact on them. I have great admiration for Mr Colin Powell’s influence in the current crisis. He does understand other countries!

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    Name : Kent26454, Gender : M, Sexual Orientation : Straight, Race : White/Caucasian, Religion : Episcopalian, Age : 59, City : Melbourne, State : NA Country : Australia, Occupation : business academic, Education level : Over 4 Years of College, Social class : Upper middle class, 


    I’m sorry, but I can’t see a reason to envy you. In many European countries, you are thought to be stupid, mainly because the example of an American we most see is your president. In the Middle East, Americans are quite hated because of the United States’ interfering in conflicts there. My own stereotypical view of an American is someone wearing jeans and a t-shirt going to McDonalds to buy a Big Mac and Diet Coke.

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    Name : Lauri26098, Gender : F, City : Helsinki, State : NA Country : Finland, 


    Envy or hate!!! Wow, you don’t give us many options do you. At least here in Venezuela, most admire the country (the system). I have never seen envy, and hate is extremely rare. The only hatred I’ve seen is from some old communists. Most admire the organization of the country, it’s law and order. But there are many myths going around about ‘americans’ being egocentric, worldly ignorant, money-hungry, materialistic, law suit happy, psycopathic, and ridiculously racist. Although everyone knows that americans come in all shapes and colors, there is a stereotypical ‘gringo. He is white, blonde and tall, cowboy type. In general, americans are seen as ok people.

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    Name : Nelson-A20156, Gender : M, Race : White/Caucasian, Age : 32, City : Caracas, State : NA Country : Venezuela, Occupation : Lawyer/Business, Education level : Over 4 Years of College, 


    The German stereotype (negative) of Americans is: boisterous, noisy, incredibly self-centred, Puritan/hypocritical, chauvinistic (patriotism tends to get read as chauvinism by other countries), politically domineering and completely ignorant of other cultures, or indeed of any culture. Foreign languages are alien, history is a word they heard some time at school, and tolerance is not a strong point, it being – with China – the place widely known for its death penalty.

    The German stereotype of Americans (positive) is: daringly creative, extroverted, kind, with a good sense of humor, patriotic and involved in community life. Still, somewhat naive.

    As you see, the negative sides are stronger and more varied, so there is a widespread, sometimes unacknowledged antagonism toward and suspicion of Americans. Ah yes, I forgot, part of the ‘no culture’ stereotype is that they lack taste and thus easily fall for kitsch and tackiness, the louder the merrier.

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    Name : c.t., Sexual Orientation : Straight, Religion : Atheist, Age : 32, City : Munich, State : NA Country : Germany, Education level : Over 4 Years of College, 

    A. Ryan

    I admire Americans for their optimism and positive, can-do attitude. However, Americans seem very insular. They often know little about the rest of the world, leading them to make sweeping statements like ‘America is the freeist country in the world,’ as if the whole of Europe was a dictatorship, rather than a liberal continent with far less movie and art censorship and much less Draconian laws regarding alcohol. When I visited America, I was surprised by how much my freedom was compromised compared to Britain.

    People outside America tend to judge Americans on three things: TV shows, visiting tourists and your foreign policy. As far as the latter is concerned, Bush’s refusal to sign the Kyoto Agreement made America sound like it didn’t care about the rest of the world and cared only about itself. No amount of humanitarian aid overseas can compensate for this, or the uncountable damage from floods and other effects of global warming.

    Perhaps people see America as the richest neighbor on the street, who has an expensive car they leave running all night. When people complain that the exhaust is choking the rest of the street, America accuses them of being jealous of the car.

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    Name : A. Ryan, Gender : M, Sexual Orientation : Straight, Race : White/Caucasian, Religion : Atheist, Age : 26, City : London, State : NA Country : United Kingdom, Social class : Middle class, 


    No I haven’t ever envied Americans, but I don’t hate them. I’ve liked almost all of the Americans I’ve met, though. It’s funny, I don’t like the stereotype of an American – loud, pushy, rude, insensitive, not particularly smart, racist, rabidly Christian – but most of the Americans I have met and known have been lovely people. The stereotype seems to come from TV and movies. The only part of the stereotype that I have found to perhaps be true for a reasonable number of Americans is the racist part. Of course all Americans aren’t racist…it just seems more common in people over there than where I live.

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    Name : Netta, Gender : F, Sexual Orientation : Straight, Race : White/Caucasian, Religion : Agnostic, Age : 18, City : Armidale, State : NA Country : Australia, Occupation : Student, Education level : High School Diploma, Social class : Middle class, 


    My experience as an American traveling in other countries has been very positive. I travel for my work, so I have had the opportunity to work with people overseas as well as to be a tourist. I have found that, as an American, it is very easy to meet people because they seem interested in talking to me because I am American. I have heard similar reports from other Americans travelling overseas. I think there are those all over the world who hate Americans for various reasons, but they are not in the majority. Just as there are those in the United States who hate people from other countries, but those people are by no means in the majority.

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    Name : Lucy22374, Gender : F, Race : Hispanic/Latino (may be any race), Age : 26, City : San Jose, State : CA Country : United States, Occupation : Engineer, Education level : 4 Years of College, Social class : Middle class, 


    Some adjectives that have come up when talking about Americans: naive, self-centered, enterprising, self-confident, old-fashioned, patriotic, superficial…

    It feels like the American people live in a bubble, unable to see the surrounding world too well. Sometimes it feels funny how you consider yourself the greatest nation in the world, when you have so much poverty, uneducated people, a bad healthcare system, violence, inequality…

    I don’t think people over here envy or hate Americans. It’s more about being amused. Stereotypical American? Loud, wears sneakers with everything, has a big, white smile and loves small talk. I think that’s the American tourist stereotype.

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    Name : Saana, Gender : F, Sexual Orientation : Straight, Race : White/Caucasian, Religion : Lutheran, Age : 28, City : Espoo, State : NA Country : Finland, Occupation : hydraulics/ sales, Education level : Technical School, 


    What I really love about Y? Forum is occasionally a question or responses pierce through and cause me to look at myself differently. The responses to this question accomplished this, because just about everything said unfortunately had some element of truth. I can see how we Americans can be perceived as naive, insular and culturally immature. When I am in Europe, I do worry about the parts of American culture that seem to be be flourishing – fast food, action movies, material goods – and I am truly embarrassed. I actually wish European countries would protect against this a little better. I would much rather be known as the country that produced jazz, John Updike and half the total Nobel Prize winners – achievements that surely cannot be considered ‘shallow’ or ‘stupid.’

    One particularly interesting aspect of the responses is criticism of the United States’ claim to having the most freedom. I do feel European cultures allow more tolerance of personal behavior. However, while we allow outlandish behavior here, we just don’t like to see it. Americans define freedom as a willingness to allow anyone to be an American. This is something we don’t see out of many other countries.

    Finally, I also think that to judge the United States by its president is illustrating some of the very traits you dislike about Americans. Most Western European heads of state are actually found interesting by Americans – provided we can remember their names. Strangely, we actually like it when Europeans don’t like our president.

    So, thanks for the insight, and I will surely leave my sneakers at home the next time over.

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    Name : Steve27840, Gender : M, Race : White/Caucasian, Age : 45, City : Houston, State : TX Country : United States, Occupation : Skyscraper Dweller/Not Afraidnd, Education level : Over 4 Years of College, Social class : Upper class, 


    I live in Northern Europe, and I think most people here think Americans are shallow and exaggerating, and too loud. Why on earth do you have to make such a big deal about everything? I mean, when we watched the movie Pearl Harbor, everybody just got sick and said, ‘That’s so American!’ – and that was not a compliment. We also think that your nationalism must be an obsession to you. We dislike you because it seems that you do not know anything about the world outside the States, and you’re so focused on yourselves. Shame on you.

    This is not just my opinion. I’ve gathered a lot of information about how people relate to the United States. My friend lived for a year in New York, and when he came back he was so glad he didn’t have to live with selfish Americans anymore. However, I have to admit that I have two American friends living in my country, and they are wonderful people.

    I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings, but it’s time for you to start seeing the world as it is.

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    Name : Kisha, Gender : F, Sexual Orientation : Straight, Race : White/Caucasian, Religion : Christian, Age : 22, City : Helsinki, State : NA Country : Finland, 

    Ben S.

    I’m from Australia and currently living in Britain. From the Australian perspective we tend to see you as somewhat loud, enthusiastic, but also a bit superficial and tending to lack a sense of irony and self-deprecation – this is the thing I notice the most and it often means you don’t share our sense of humour and so aren’t as close to us as we are say, to the British. These are generalisations – I know many Americans who aren’t like this – but they’ve also been confirmed many times when I’ve meet Americans. I am not sure why you would expect us to envy you, but it may indicate something about your views of other peoples of the world that you might care to think about. The issue of hate is different. Obviously, recent tragic events show that many hate America. To that end, your country has got to think about the way it acts in the Middle East and elsewhere. Supporting repressive regimes such as Shah Rezah Pahlavi in Iran and the Royal House of Saud – on the basis that you need their oil or in support of other US commercial interests – isn’t going to be an option any more. Assisting Israel to ride roughshod over the rights of Palestinians is just storing up trouble too. I read a recent essay at a US site, ‘The Salon’ which looked at how the study of geography in US schools has declined in recent years. The world is complex and maybe America’s going to have to start to appreciate that complexity again. Like it or not, you are a big, highly visible country and when your government does particular things some people are going to see you as responsible.

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    Name : Ben S., Gender : M, Sexual Orientation : Gay, Race : White/Caucasian, Religion : Catholic, Age : 31, City : sydney, State : NA Country : Australia, Occupation : Public servant, Education level : 4 Years of College, Social class : Lower middle class, 


    A couple of my friends, who have long-term experiences of America, have told me plenty. The stories make up a diverse picture, and that’s how it should be. Too many people hate or love based on idiotic stereotypes, and because they’re willing to go with the flow. My friends have told me that there are people that are genuinely friendly and open-minded and not just interested in themselves. They’re capable of self-criticism, capable of forming objective views of what’s happening in the world. They’re not into the useless form of small talk, but the one which really helps them to get to know new people and make friends. There are types who think that the rest of world is primitive compared to America. There’s hard-core patriots. There are people who sue others over the silliest things. There are types that think America is the most democratic country in the world (the presidential candidate who gets the least amount of votes is elected the President?). There are types in which some of the abovementioned have combined or mixed, or then something completely different. Different types of individuals can be found in every single nation. Americans are no exception.

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    Name : Saara, Gender : F, Sexual Orientation : Straight, Race : White/Caucasian, Religion : Lutheran, Age : 16, City : Tampere, State : NA Country : Finland, Occupation : Student, Education level : Less than High School Diploma, 


    The really hilarious thing is that you just lived up to so many of the preconceptions many people have of Americans, insular, arrogant, ignorant of other ways of life, and falsely assuming the whole world wants to be American. At least get your facts straight. The greatest interferers in the region have historically been the British, followed by the French and the US, with the Soviets a distant fourth since their help was openly sought out most of the time (unlike the US). Jeans are worn because they are cheap, and coke is drunk in places like Mexico primarily because the water is bad. Complaints about how Americans materialism and greed influence the young are as common in the Third World as complaints about what Hollywood sex and violence do to the young are in the US. And again, if you knew your history, you would know that most Middle Easterners know that centuries of colonialism (plus the US propping up wealthy exploiters like the Saudi royal family) have more than a little to do with why the region has these problems. You also should avoid using a term with racist connotations like ‘backward.’

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    Name : ACC25023, Gender : M, Race : Meixcan and American Indian, City : Phoenix, State : TX Country : United States, Occupation : Grad student in history, Education level : Over 4 Years of College, 


    Stereotypical Americans eat McDonalds, wear tennis shoes, are illiterate and have no concern for global warming and feel that the world should envy them? What planet are you from? Sure I’m proud to be an American. Are we the greatest country in the world? Depends on what your definition of great is. Are we by majority nice people? Definitely. While I march my Euro American ass through life I am greeted and embraced by those that are Iraqi, Ukrainian, Polish, British, Spanish, French, Philipino and practically ever other country and/or culture in the world. I eat hoummous with my Arabic friends, splurge on Russian chocolates and vodka with my Ukrainian friends, drink Vietnamese coffee with my Vietnamese friends and enjoy a Guinness or two with my sister’s British tenant. Where else in the world can you do that? To say that Americans are selfish may be true. To say that Americans are rude may also be true. To say that Americans are unhospitable and single-minded and racist is absolutely false. I, like most of my peers, am a person that appreciates the world that God has blessed me with. And I appreciate everyone who is in it. Regardless of race,religion, creed, etc., etc., etc. Maybe some of you, who are so eager to criticize the rest of us who hold our country in high esteem should realize where WE’RE coming from. We have spent the last two hundred years welcoming people from every country and continent in the world with open arms. Maybe YOU should be a little less critical and realize that WE are LIKE YOU and only trying to live one day at a time. We, too, wish the best for our children. We, too, wish the best for your children. The only thing the majority of us want is WORLD PEACE. May the rest of you wish for it as well.

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    Name : Lisas, Gender : F, Race : Human, Religion : Methodist, Age : 29, City : Suburb of Detroit, State : MI Country : United States, Occupation : Real Estate, Education level : 4 Years of College, Social class : Middle class, 
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