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Just Wondering

(14 Posts)
CheerfulYank Fri 04-Sep-09 07:16:22

So I'm American obviously, and awhile ago on one of the threads someone said something about most Americans not knowing where London was. Also, one of my husbands overseas colleagues from the UK was shocked that I knew who the current Prime Minister was. Um...I do read the newspaper! I was honestly curious about all of this. Are Americans generally thought to be completely moronic? I'm not naive as to our overseas image, I know we're thought to be (maybe not without reason)blundering warmongers, but I get confused when I meet people from other countries and they ask me things like how many guns I have (none for Pete's sake) or why we all think the earth is only 6,000 years old (huh?!) So...what gives? Oh, and I'm completely impossible to offend, so lay it on me.

Hassled Fri 04-Sep-09 07:34:58

Yes, the general perception of Americans by the British is that around 90% don't own a passport and are completely uninterested in what happens in the outside world, places like Iraq and Afghanistan where there is a direct interest excepted. The perception is also that more Americans are creationists than elsewhere in the world, and that you take your right to bear arms deadly seriously. So a general feeling, I suppose, of ignorant self-absorbtion - plus the gun-toting' redneck cliche. Plus, you're all obese and can't spell wink.

I think at the same time, though, that most British people realise this is a huge, sweeping generalisation. I know it's nonsense, having family in America (an American grandmother), and I think you need to see it in the same terms as people thinking all Scots are mean with money, all Germans are highly organised, all English have lousy teeth etc. No-one really believes it; it's a cultural stereotype, but in the case of Americans it's a bit stronger than that.

Sugarmagnolia Fri 04-Sep-09 07:41:22

Hi there, I'm American too but I've lived in the UK for nearly 11 years now so i guess i've got a pretty good perspective on this whole thing.

Take this thing with the health care debate. Obama is suggesting providing free health care to those who currently have no access to it. What we see on the news is Americans who are absolutely livid (to the point of being almost militant) claiming he's going to turn America into a socialist country, claiming it's on par with the Nazis (did you see the Barney Frank thing?), claiming the NHS is evil, claiming Obama's going to start killing off the disabled and elderly with death panels - it's all total nonsense. I know not everyone feels this way but it doesn't look good.

And the bit about it that makes Americans look really stupid is that many of them don't actually know any facts - like the fact that while the NHS may not be perfect the UK actually has a higher life expectancy and lower adult and infant mortality rate than the US. When I pointed this out to someone I know in the states, her actual response was “Americans get sicker because they work harder than you and anyway it's not about healthcare it's about socialism and I love my country!!!”.

It's responses like that that makes me feel like, yes, some americans are just that stupid. Maybe stupid is the wrong word - ignorant may be better. Apparently only something like 10% of Americans own passports. I think because the US is so big it's really easy to just never travel overseas whereas here foreign travel is a much bigger part of the culture even if you're not particularly wealthy. It does give you a different view of the world when you travel outside your own borders.

Sorry, i hope i haven't said anything too offensive and I've written this in a hurry because i have to get my kids dressed for school but happy to carry on this discussion later.

where are you by the way? your obviously american but you didn't say where you live.

Sugarmagnolia Fri 04-Sep-09 07:45:18

It's also when I hear all things British regularly referred to as English - hello! We're in Scotland here! what about us? (although to be fair the English often do that too)

CheerfulYank Fri 04-Sep-09 07:48:21

Funnily enough, our German neighbor is the most organized person I know! We house sit for him when he's traveling and let me tell you, he is on top of things!

I wonder if the spelling thing is to do with the just plain different spellings? FI I have celiac disease and I can't tell you how many times someone's said "No it's coeliac", but here it isn't. And I only know a few English people but they've all got lovely teeth! I was facebook chatting with a Scottish guy I know the other day and he mentioned being on holiday, and then put (vacation) after it. I nearly pmsl. I do know what holiday means! Ah well, if we've got a bad reputation p'haps we've earned it.

But...I do know where London is!

CheerfulYank Fri 04-Sep-09 07:53:22

Nice to get your perspective sugarmagnolia...guessing you lived in the South when you were here? I'm Minnesotan. And blush blush blush I (whispers) don't have a passport! I'm just too poor to go anywhere, though would love to and definitely plan on it at some point.

And as someone w/o healthcare (though DH and DS have it) who loves Obama and campaigned for him as though my very life depended on it (and let's face it, with the health care thing it just might) I find your friend/acquaintance's response shocking! We get sicker because we work harder? What the eff is THAT?!

KIMItheThreadSlayer Fri 04-Sep-09 08:06:13

In a mad rush right now but will get back to this, intresting

CheerfulYank Fri 04-Sep-09 09:11:45

Bump... this all so very interesting.

Sugarmagnolia Fri 04-Sep-09 13:19:44

Actually cheerfulyank I'm from the northeast - NY then Boston before settling here. what made you think I'm from the south?

Also, George Bush didn't do you any favours now, did he? wink

CheerfulYank Fri 04-Sep-09 16:38:27

Oh dear, no, he didn't! My disbelief after the 2004 election is now a legend among my friends, who like to do imitations of me going up to random strangers and saying, "Really? But...REALLY?! 4 more years? No, really?!" I thought it was an elaborate hoax. wink

I thought you were southern because of the magnolia thing...and then I realized that you're probably just a Dead fan. Wow, maybe there's something to this American idiocy after all???

CheerfulYank Fri 04-Sep-09 16:42:41

Another I thing I think contributes to our image as total morons is that we aren't exposed to nearly as much of your TV/movies as you are of ours, so most Americans I know really don't get it when people from the UK say things like holiday or pudding or whatever.

diedandgonetodevon Fri 04-Sep-09 16:53:16

Having worked in the US for some years, it is a sweeping generalisation however I have lost count of the number of my American customers who have phoned me up (in the UK) to wish me happy Independence Day without a touch of irony and then wonder why we don't also celebrate it.

From an outsiders point of view, it can be a very insular country. I think it was Bill Bryson who said that you arrive in the US and watch your own country disappear.

MilaMae Fri 04-Sep-09 17:19:49

I think Hassled's post hit the nail on the head.

I also think a lot of it is to do with how vast the States is. Re the passport thing. It must cost a fortune and time to visit family in the States let alone get on a long haul plane to go abroad. We only have to jump on a 30 min train/plane to get abroad so most of us do as it is more affordable in time and money.

Also the fact is most Americans you meet really don't have much clue regarding the geography/history of most other countries.

We've visited the States a couple of times and dp has American cousins. Unless we've been unlucky I have to say the lack of knowledge we've witnessed in conversations was startling. Again a lot of this must be due to how huge the country is, it must be hard enough to know the geography/history of all the states in America let alone other countries.

Having said that I have to say I love the US and pretty much most of the American people we've met have been lovely. When we've got a few more beans to rub together dp and I are planning a big trip,the dc are dying to see the States. grin

CheerfulYank Fri 04-Sep-09 21:53:28

That is true about the size of the country. For instance DH, DS, and I are at a family reunion at my parents' place right now. We had to drive five hours to get here and we're still in the same state!

I know a Scottish guy who summed us up as a country by saying, "You're all very friendly and funny and kind, but not the smartest people I've met." Ouch!

That being said, I am crap at geography so maybe there's something to it.

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