Europe = The World?


"Canadian? Since when was it cooler to be Canadian?" asks Vince Vaughn in this USA Today article about how U.S. citizens are getting verbally abused overseas. The rap is a familiar one: Americans are "culturally inferior, ignorant of world politics, arrogant in our interaction with the rest of the world" etc. The article justifies at least one of these accusations by employing the Lost Generation notion that "overseas" means "Western Europe." Even on the distorted Risk gameboard, Europe takes up a small portion of the world map. Where's the rest of the gorgeous mosaic? What's going on with all the backpackers in Nepal, the sandalistas exploring Central America, the pedophiles cruising Thailand?

And one other accuracy problem: Vince Vaughn is defined as an "A-list celebrity."

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  1. “…rude, impatient behavior or overly loud demands or even blatant disrespect for mores and norms of the cultures over there are unfortunately, all too commonplace.”

    Sounds like the Bush administration.

  2. When my family lived in England our friends and neighbors were shocked when we folded a map to show them just how small England was compared to the US – The whole country fit in Florida. They were also amazed at all the traveling we did, few of them had bothered to go from East Anglia to Yorkshire, even though it’s about the same as going from NYC to Boston.

  3. While I’ll admit there’re few pleasures like being patronized by an ignorant drunk spaniard for my cultureless americanness, we should maintain some perspective. The vitriol, such as it may be, directed at Americans and American policies does not (yet) hold a candle to the resentments Europeans feel for one another. That it finally may be coming our way is interesting. Have our actions in Kosovo, and our intentions to liberate Iraq, shown them up on their “home” territory?

  4. Ignorance and intolerance abound on both sides of the pond, I’m afraid. I’ve met plenty of Europeans both here and in my travels, and found them as a group to be no worse (or better) than Americans as a group in terms of manners, knowledge of the outside world, etc.

    Most intelligent people, regardless of where they are from, recognize the strengths and shortcomings of their culture for what they are, and see the same in the cultures around them. Those that can’t (or don’t) aren’t worth talking to anyway, be they American, Canadian, European, or whatever.

  5. I can kick anyone’s ass in Risk.

  6. I’m not a pedophile, but was in Thailand on the anniversary of Sept 11. The newspapers have a distinct anti-american tone that is not reflected by the people.

    Nearly the first thing a farang (foreigner)is asked is “where do you come from”? When I would answer “America” the next thing they would say is how sorry they are about Sept 11.

    I have been around Thais constantly since 1968 and married to one since 1971. I did not detect any growing resentment with America with the ordinary citizens when I was there last and I seriously doubt that there is now.

  7. I have an acquaintance who was assaulted in Berlin while on a backpacking trip through Europe. She was beaten because she was an American. Some good-samaritan Canadians gave her one of the flag patches they wear to distinguish themselves from Americans while overseas. Bigots in Europe? What happened to the enlightened E.U.?

  8. i lived five years in copehnagen and was able to observe as the “fly on the wall” — the ignorant, uninformed dislike of america was amazing. don’t let the euros fool you — they know just as little about the rest of the world as americans allegedly do. much geography of the us is unknown or faked. this lack of geographical knowledge extends to europe, too: one danish newspaper put Sudetenland in switzerland. Another danish paper placed “52 states” somehow on the map (when i called very politely to say gently that, errr, um, there’s only 50, the first person with whom i spoke told me that a “political scientist geographer” wrote the story and was “probably correct”).

    the europeans want to dominate the globe — culturally and politically — and they want to force it (“world court” that looks european in structure, “world standards” etc.) not offer choices that people are free to make. They try to legislate and force certain choices through protectionistic means. If there were something like mcdonalds (a restaurant where many of the non-natives i knew always ate in vienna, prague, and copenhagen) that was european, you betcha that the mceuro restaurants’ presence would be a stipulation in every euro-aid package.

    the behavior of some americans when overseas is terrible. rude, impatient behavior or overly loud demands or even blatant disrespect for mores and norms of the cultures over there are unfortunately, all too commonplace. Just as we don’t want to be lumped into that crowd, many europeans would disapprove of hostile, aggressive actions to americans.

    probably with the eu striving for political and cultural power in the next few years, exploiting anti-american sentiment will be the easiest way of uniting europe. it was present around the time of the maastricht vote and at the nice vote. However, traveling, learning, and experiencing are the best remedies against any sort of ignorance. Hopefully that will prevail.


  9. Sigh. If only Miss Manners ruled.

  10. “And one other accuracy problem: Vince Vaughn is defined as an “A-list celebrity.””

    With a hit movie, he’s now an A-lister, if only for a moment.

  11. Even if they are being pissy, this is an improvement over what Europe would be like if it hadn’t been for us.
    Bad manners vs. gas chambers? We don’t even have to gloat.

  12. I’m surprised that the comment writers on this libertarian-leaning E-mag (a philosophy that values individualism rather highly) can so carelessly lump certain behaviors into groups and ascribe individual behavior (good or bad) to a group.

    Only individuals behave in a certain way. And no individual can claim that “his country” has a monopoly on good behavior (or bad behavior) — be that individual a New Yorker, a Parisian, or a German.

    “We all know that people are different wherever we go. There is good and bad on every soil …”
    (McCartney & Jackson paraphrased.)

  13. Having lived in both Europe and the United States, I have witnessed the intolerance some Europeans display towards Americans as well as the intolerance some Americans display towards foreigners.
    Note that I said “foreigners” not “Europeans” (although the French and the Germans suffer the most from the xenophobia in the United States right now). It appears that Americans think they are superior to anyone from any other country (not limited to European countries), which is not surprising seeing how this notion of superiority is beaten into every American child’s head by their parents, the media and the government. Europeans on the other hand think they are specifically superior to Americans (not all other people of the world). Often the arguments have to do with the comparatively brief history of the United States and the fact that what culture the Americans export tends to be quantity rather than quality (fairly ridiculous arguments, when you think of it). Sometimes Europeans will also argue along the lines of the restricted civil liberties in the United States (especially since the end of 2001), or the lack of real social security or universal medical care. Sometimes the violence embedded in American society (and reflected by the much higher rates of murder, rape and other violent crimes) is used to explain the comparative superiority of Europe. In short, Europeans feel that they have become a more civilized society in which the weak are not crushed and forced to live in ghettos but rather have a fair chance at living.
    Additionally, the European dislike of Americans is very likely a product of the arrogance often displayed Americans – the fact that the American quoted above automatically assumed that being American should be “cooler” than being Canadian (i.e. Americans are superior to Canadians) is a point in case.

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