“The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.”
Gilbert K. Chesterton
This piece may come as shock to many since I am known for my patriotism. But therein lies already a wrong assumption about what I’m trying to relay. The title may be partially at fault but my real purpose of writing this piece is to really display what is different with Americans and what I think we can learn from it.
There are many assumptions about every culture and society on earth and the United States is no different. The most obvious examples are that Americans are fat and stupid. Regarding the former we are and the latter we can be, much like everyone else however. But as I’ve traveled I’ve learned quite a bit about myself and also my country, the United States of America. What may surprise many Americans is how much they don’t know about themselves. Traveling has led me to see what the world considers the norm versus what everyday Americans do on the contrary.
Before I get a load of academics on my butt, let me say that of course I am generalizing and my point of reference is limited only to Europeans as opposed to Americans. Nevertheless, there are some stark differences that many Americans haven’t considered, I feel.
Americans are Rude and Selfish… When it Comes to Appearance
The world likes to go on about how rude the French are and in particular, the Parisians. I don’t think most Americans appreciate how rude we Americans are when it comes to our appearance.
To put it plainly, we are slobs. Gone are the days of covered arms and legs and the collared shirt is now the exception instead of the rule. Casual Friday has given way to casual everyday. Most Americans chalk this up to comfort, but that’s exactly the point. Americans care more about how comfortable they feel than how their appearance is to others. That level of inconsideration is just plain rude.
How you present yourself to others is an extension of how you treat others. Putting your own personal comfort over how others have to experience their day is extremely self-centered. It also displays an innate disrespect of oneself.
When it comes to caring about your own appearance and how that effects others, most Americans have just given up.
Americans are Obsessed with Youth and Adults Acting Like Children is Now the Norm
I may be the last generation that was raised by adults. Baby boomers are adults who are refusing to grow old, leaving a ponytailed, flip flopped wake of destruction behind them. These people who refused to grow up raised kids that were their friends, not their children. There is no wonder why women have stopped acting like ladies since most men have stopped being gentlemen. To be a lady and a gentleman you have to be an adult first. Something strongly lacking in today’s America.
People like to complain about kids nowadays but the real problem is parents nowadays.
Americans See Nothing Wrong With Gluttony
We Americans are so spoiled with food, that we pay extra for foods just so that they comply with our way of thinking. What an amazing luxury to have a financial opinion about where your grapes come from. Culinary snobbiness has become such a norm, that the term “foodie” is applied to oneself with pride instead of the correct shame it should. Instead of documenting experiences and people, more and more people take pictures of their food. Think about that. People take pictures of their food. Not a picture of you climbing a mountain or spending time with someone you love. A freakin’ picture of something you are about to consume.
Americans Feel We Need to Tell Everyone How We Feel, All the Time
Know what I think about something? Of course you do! I’m an American. My buddy in Europe asked me, “Hey. Do Americans still have bumper stickers?” I looked at him with shock. Of course we have bumper stickers, doesn’t everyone, I asked. He just shrugged and said, “seems like it’s letting everyone know your business.”
Wham. There it was. It hit me like a ton of bricks. How had I overseen something so obvious? Americans don’t have much of a filter. We want everyone to know what we think and we want them to know all the time. The idea of keeping things to yourself has become very foreign to Americans. Which brings me to my last point.
Americans Are Openly Intolerant of Those with Opposing Views
If I told you that all people of a certain race are stupid, you would call me intolerant, correct? You would because you’d be right. Now imagine if someone said how stupid liberals or conservatives are. You’re probably waiting to hear why they’re stupid so you can chime in as well why you think they’re stupid too. And therein lies the problem. We think it okay to lambast and generalize those with opposing views of ours. This is more to do with social immaturity than anything but it also helps highlight how excepted our intolerance of others views are.
Okay, so those were some quick shots at what many Americans are oblivious to. I’ll end on a high note on things we do better than others.
We Are Hygiene Freaks
When I’d go to a public restroom with my European friends, I noticed something disturbing about my Old World buddies. Most of them didn’t wash their hands after going to the restroom. In fact, even our homeless population smells better than some of their average populace.
At a very young age we are taught to brush our teeth and bathe daily. You’re probably nodding your head thinking of course but it’s a surprise how this daily ritual isn’t shared with many in the rest of the world.
We Are Generous
Not only do we tip generously, we give very generously too. We have our problems and have a long way to go, but overall, most Americans are there to help someone else when they need a hand, and more importantly, a dollar.