Thursday, October 05, 2006

What Americans are Like

I've been reading about American vs. European cultures, and I'm getting hooked on Rants and Raves. He's been living in Poland with his Polish-born wife, and his perspective is riveting.

One year in college, in a Literature class, I was, by happenstance, in a class that was surprisingly multi-national. There were, I remember, 17 different nationalities represented, as I remember:

  • Dutch
  • French
  • Polish
  • Ukranian
  • several different groups of Spanish-speaking students (don't remember exactly which countries)
  • Africans - Ugandan, Ethiopian, Nigerian, Liberian
  • Mulsims from - Lebanon, Syria, UAE, Egypt
  • Asians - Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese

One delightful side effect was a renewed appreciation of what it meant to be an American. During the time I was in this class, I began to see the American experience as never before. Compared to other cultures, we are:

  • Friendly - we are not generally suspicious. We answer questions, even personal ones, readily. Even strangers can ask us questions and get a straight answer. We don't expect our questioner to turn our answers into fodder for future punishment. We don't expect to be turned in to the police.

  • Generous - we have, in abundance, material wealth. We can be tapped for donations to charity. We don't generally hold back money for "those like us". That's what has made it possible for Islamic charities to get cash and send it to terrorist groups. We have sometimes funded our own destruction.

  • Blessed with short memories. We don't generally hold a grudge. Even as short as 5 years later, many people have forgiven the Saudis for the fact that almost all the terrorists came from there.

    Shortly after any war, we welcome the "enemy" war brides. It's not in us to hate for prolonged times.

    One exception was the War Between the States, as I've come to call the Civil War. There, children were taught to hold a grudge. However, even there, eventually both sides made up. I've not heard myself referred to as a Yankee since I came, except in jest.

  • Tolerant of social and monetary mobility. Few people think work is "beneath" them. We also give 2nd chances to those who have screwed up. We call it Reality TV. Some benefit, and turn their lives around. Some continue screwing up.

  • Fiercely loyal to our home team, without feeling the need to riot against the fans of the other side (occasional drunks excepted).

  • Trusting. We expect to be told the truth. We are angry when lied to. We are NOT cynical.

  • Loving to our families, but NOT putting them above our civic responsibilities. The occasional cases of nepotism are not the norm.

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