10 Things Most Americans Don’t Know About America

10 Things Most Americans Don’t Know About America

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Imagine you have a brother and he’s an alcoholic. He has his moments, but you keep your distance from him. You don’t mind him for the occasional family gathering or holiday. You still love him. But you don’t want to be around him.
This is how I lovingly describe my current relationship with the United States. The United States is my alcoholic brother. And although I will always love him, I don’t want to be near him at the moment.

I know that’s harsh, but I really feel my home country is not in a good place these days. That’s not a socio-economic statement (although that’s on the decline as well), but rather a cultural one.

I realize it’s going to be impossible to write sentences like the ones above without coming across as a raging prick, so let me try to soften the blow to my American readers with an analogy:

You know when you move out of your parents’ house and live on your own, how you start hanging out with your friends’ families and you realize that actually, your family was a little screwed up? Stuff you always assumed was normal your entire childhood, it turns out was pretty weird and may have actually fucked you up a little bit. You know, dad thinking it was funny to wear a Santa Claus hat in his underwear every Christmas or the fact that you and your sister slept in the same bed until you were 22, or that your mother routinely cried over a bottle of wine while listening to Elton John.

The point is we don’t really get perspective on what’s close to us until we spend time away from it. Just like you didn’t realize the weird quirks and nuances of your family until you left and spent time with others, the same is true for country and culture. You often don’t see what’s messed up about your country and culture until you step outside of it.

And so even though this article is going to come across as fairly scathing, I want my American readers to know: some of the stuff we do, some of the stuff that we always assumed was normal, it’s kind of screwed up. And that’s OK. Because that’s true with every culture. It’s just easier to spot it in others (e.g., the French) so we don’t always notice it in ourselves.

So as you read this article, know that I’m saying everything with tough love, the same tough love with which I’d sit down and lecture an alcoholic family member. It doesn’t mean I don’t love you. It doesn’t mean there aren’t some awesome things about you (BRO, THAT’S AWESOME!!!). And it doesn’t mean I’m some saint either, because god knows I’m pretty screwed up (I’m American, after all). There are just a few things you need to hear. And as a friend, I’m going to tell them to you.

And to my foreign readers, get your necks ready, because this is going to be a nod-a-thon.

A Little “What The Hell Does This Guy Know?” Background: I’ve lived in different parts of the US, both the deep south and the northeast. I have visited most of the US’s 50 states. I’ve spent the past three years living almost entirely outside of the United States. I’ve lived in multiple countries in Europe, Asia and South America. I’ve visited over 40 countries in all and have spent far more time with non-Americans than with Americans during this period. I speak multiple languages. I’m not a tourist. I don’t stay in resorts and rarely stay in hostels. I rent apartments and try to integrate myself into each country I visit as much as possible. So there.

(Note: I realize these are generalizations and I realize there are always exceptions. I get it. You don’t have to post 55 comments telling me that you and your best friend are exceptions. If you really get that offended from some guy’s blog post, you may want to double-check your life priorities.)

OK, we’re ready now. 10 things Americans don’t know about America.

1. Few People Are Impressed By Us

Unless you’re speaking with a real estate agent or a prostitute, chances are they’re not going to be excited that you’re American. It’s not some badge of honor we get to parade around. Yes, we had Steve Jobs and Thomas Edison, but unless you actually are Steve Jobs or Thomas Edison (which is unlikely) then most people around the world are simply not going to care. There are exceptions of course. And those exceptions are called English and Australian people. Whoopdie-fucking-doo.

As Americans, we’re brought up our entire lives being taught that we’re the best, we did everything first and that the rest of the world follows our lead. Not only is this not true, but people get irritated when you bring it to their country with you. So don’t.

2. Few People Hate Us

Despite the occasional eye-rolling, and complete inability to understand why anyone would vote for George W. Bush, people from other countries don’t hate us either. In fact — and I know this is a really sobering realization for us — most people in the world don’t really think about us or care about us. I know, that sounds absurd, especially with CNN and Fox News showing the same 20 angry Arab men on repeat for ten years straight. But unless we’re invading someone’s country or threatening to invade someone’s country (which is likely), then there’s a 99.99% chance they don’t care about us. Just like we rarely think about the people in Bolivia or Mongolia, most people don’t think about us much. They have jobs, kids, house payments — you know, those things called lives — to worry about. Kind of like us.

Americans tend to assume that the rest of the world either loves us or hates us (this is actually a good litmus test to tell if someone is conservative or liberal). The fact is, most people feel neither. Most people don’t think much about us.

Remember that immature girl in high school, who every little thing that happened to her meant that someone either hated her or was obsessed with her; who thought every teacher who ever gave her a bad grade was being totally unfair and everything good that happened to her was because of how amazing she was? Yeah, we’re that immature high school girl.

3. We Know Nothing About The Rest Of The World

For all of our talk about being global leaders and how everyone follows us, we don’t seem to know much about our supposed “followers.” They often have completely different takes on history than we do. Here were some brain-stumpers for me: the Vietnamese were more concerned with independence (not us), Hitler was primarily defeated by Russia (not us), there is evidence Native Americans were wiped out largely disease and plague BEFORE Europeans arrived and not just after, and the American Revolution was partly “won” because the British invested more of their resources in beating France (not us). Notice a running theme here?

(Hint: It’s not all about us. The world is more complicated.)

We did not invent democracy. We didn’t even invent modern democracy. There were parliamentary systems in England and other parts of Europe over a hundred years before we created government. In a recent survey of young Americans, 63% could not find Iraq on a map (despite being at war with them), and 54% did not know Sudan was a country in Africa. Yet, somehow we’re positive that everyone else looks up to us.

4. We Are Poor At Expressing Gratitude And Affection

There’s a saying about English-speakers. We say “Go fuck yourself,” when we really mean “I like you,” and we say “I like you,” when we really mean “Go fuck yourself.”

Outside of getting shit-housed drunk and screaming “I LOVE YOU, MAN!”, open displays of affection in American culture are tepid and rare. Latin and some European cultures describe us as “cold” and “passionless” and for good reason. In our social lives we don’t say what we mean and we don’t mean what we say.

In our culture, appreciation and affection are implied rather than spoken outright. Two guy friends call each other names to reinforce their friendship; men and women tease and make fun of each other to imply interest. Feelings are almost never shared openly and freely. Consumer culture has cheapened our language of gratitude. Something like, “It’s so good to see you” is empty now because it’s expected and heard from everybody.

In dating, when I find a woman attractive, I almost always walk right up to her and tell her that a) I wanted to meet her, and b) she’s beautiful. In America, women usually get incredibly nervous and confused when I do this. They’ll make jokes to defuse the situation or sometimes ask me if I’m part of a TV show or something playing a prank. Even when they’re interested and go on dates with me, they get a bit disoriented when I’m so blunt with my interest. Whereas, in almost every other culture approaching women this way is met with a confident smile and a “Thank you.”

5. The Quality of Life For The Average American Is Not That Great

If you’re extremely talented or intelligent, the US is probably the best place in the world to live. The system is stacked heavily to allow people of talent and advantage to rise to the top quickly.

The problem with the US is that everyone thinks they are of talent and advantage. As John Steinbeck famously said, the problem with poor Americans is that “they don’t believe they’re poor, but rather temporarily embarrassed millionaires.” It’s this culture of self-delusion that allows America to continue to innovate and churn out new industry more than anyone else in the world. But this shared delusion also unfortunately keeps perpetuating large social inequalities and the quality of life for the average citizen lower than most other developed countries. It’s the price we pay to maintain our growth and economic dominance.

In my Guide to Wealth, I defined being wealthy as, “Having the freedom to maximize one’s life experiences.” In those terms, despite the average American having more material wealth than citizens of most other countries (more cars, bigger houses, nicer televisions), their overall quality of life suffers in my opinion. American people on average work more hours with less vacation, spend more time commuting every day, and are saddled with over $10,000 of debt. That’s a lot of time spent working and buying crap and little time or disposable income for relationships, activities or new experiences.

6. The Rest Of The World Is Not A Slum-Ridden Shithole Compared To Us

In 2010, I got into a taxi in Bangkok to take me to a new six-story cineplex. It was accessible by metro, but I chose a taxi instead. On the seat in front of me was a sign with a wifi password. Wait, what? I asked the driver if he had wifi in his taxi. He flashed a huge smile. The squat Thai man, with his pidgin English, explained that he had installed it himself. He then turned on his new sound system and disco lights. His taxi instantly became a cheesy nightclub on wheels… with free wifi.

If there’s one constant in my travels over the past three years, it has been that almost every place I’ve visited (especially in Asia and South America) is much nicer and safer than I expected it to be. Singapore is pristine. Hong Kong makes Manhattan look like a suburb. My neighborhood in Colombia is nicer than the one I lived in in Boston (and cheaper).

As Americans, we have this naïve assumption that people all over the world are struggling and way behind us. They’re not. Sweden and South Korea have more advanced high speed internet networks. Japan has the most advanced trains and transportation systems. Norwegians make more money. The biggest and most advanced plane in the world is flown out of Singapore. The tallest buildings in the world are now in Dubai and Shanghai. Meanwhile, the US has the highest incarceration rate in the world.

What’s so surprising about the world is how unsurprising most of it is. I spent a week with some local guys in Cambodia. You know what their biggest concerns were? Paying for school, getting to work on time, and what their friends were saying about them. In Brazil, people have debt problems, hate getting stuck in traffic and complain about their overbearing mothers. Every country thinks they have the worst drivers. Every country thinks their weather is unpredictable. The world becomes, err… predictable.

7. We’re Paranoid

Not only are we emotionally insecure as a culture, but I’ve come to realize how paranoid we are about our physical security. You don’t have to watch Fox News or CNN for more than 10 minutes to hear about how our drinking water is going to kill us, our neighbor is going to rape our children, some terrorist in Yemen is going to kill us because we didn’t torture him, Mexicans are going to kill us, or some virus from a bird is going to kill us. There’s a reason we have more guns than people.

In the US, security trumps everything, even liberty. We’re paranoid.

I’ve probably been to 10 countries now that friends and family back home told me explicitly not to go because someone was going to kill me, kidnap me, stab me, rob me, rape me, sell me into sex trade, give me HIV, or whatever else. None of that has happened. I’ve never been robbed and I’ve walked through some of the shittiest parts of Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe.

In fact, the experience has been the opposite. In countries like Russia, Colombia or Guatemala, people were so honest and open with me, it actually scared me. Some stranger in a bar would invite me to his house for a barbeque with his family, a random person on the street would offer to show me around and give me directions to a store I was trying to find. My American instincts were always that, “Wait, this guy is going to try to rob me or kill me,” but they never did. They were just insanely friendly.

8. We’re Status-Obsessed And Seek Attention

I’ve noticed that the way we Americans communicate is usually designed to create a lot of attention and hype. Again, I think this is a product of our consumer culture: the belief that something isn’t worthwhile or important unless it’s perceived to be the best (BEST EVER!!!) or unless it gets a lot of attention (see: every reality-television show ever made).

This is why Americans have a peculiar habit of thinking everything is “totally awesome,” and even the most mundane activities were “the best thing ever!” It’s the unconscious drive we share for importance and significance, this unmentioned belief, socially beaten into us since birth that if we’re not the best at something, then we don’t matter.

We’re status-obsessed. Our culture is built around achievement, production and being exceptional. Therefore comparing ourselves and attempting to out-do one another has infiltrated our social relationships as well. Who can slam the most beers first? Who can get reservations at the best restaurant? Who knows the promoter to the club? Who dated a girl on the cheerleading squad? Socializing becomes objectified and turned into a competition. And if you’re not winning, the implication is that you are not important and no one will like you.

9. We Are Very Unhealthy

Unless you have cancer or something equally dire, the health care system in the US sucks. The World Health Organization ranked the US 37th in the world for health care, despite the fact that we spend the most per capita by a large margin.

The hospitals are nicer in Asia (with European-educated doctors and nurses) and cost a tenth as much. Something as routine as a vaccination costs multiple hundreds of dollars in the US and less than $10 in Colombia. And before you make fun of Colombian hospitals, Colombia is 28th in the world on that WHO list, nine spots higher than us.

A routine STD test that can run you over $200 in the US is free in many countries to anyone, citizen or not. My health insurance the past year? $65 a month. Why? Because I live outside of the US. An American guy I met living in Buenos Aires got knee surgery on his ACL that would have cost $10,000 in the US… for free.

But this isn’t really getting into the real problems of our health. Our food is killing us. I’m not going to go crazy with the details, but we eat chemically-laced crap because it’s cheaper and tastes better (profit, profit). Our portion sizes are absurd (more profit). And we’re by far the most prescribed nation in the world AND our drugs cost five to ten times more than they do even in Canada (ohhhhhhh, profit, you sexy bitch).

In terms of life expectancy, despite being the richest country in the world, we come in a paltry 38th. Right behind Cuba, Malta and the United Arab Emirates, and slightly ahead of Slovenia, Kuwait and Uruguay. Enjoy your Big Mac.

10. We Mistake Comfort For Happiness

The United States is a country built on the exaltation of economic growth and personal ingenuity. Small businesses and constant growth are celebrated and supported above all else — above affordable health care, above respectable education, above everything. Americans believe it’s your responsibility to take care of yourself and make something of yourself, not the state’s, not your community’s, not even your friend’s or family’s in some instances.

Comfort sells easier than happiness. Comfort is easy. It requires no effort and no work. Happiness takes effort. It requires being proactive, confronting fears, facing difficult situations, and having unpleasant conversations.

Comfort equals sales. We’ve been sold comfort for generations and for generations we bought: bigger houses, separated further and further out into the suburbs; bigger TV’s, more movies, and take-out. The American public is becoming docile and complacent. We’re obese and entitled. When we travel, we look for giant hotels that will insulate us and pamper us rather than for legitimate cultural experiences that may challenge our perspectives or help us grow as individuals.

Depression and anxiety disorders are soaring within the US. Our inability to confront anything unpleasant around us has not only created a national sense of entitlement, but it’s disconnected us from what actually drives happiness: relationships, unique experiences, feeling self-validated, achieving personal goals. It’s easier to watch a NASCAR race on television and tweet about it than to actually get out and try something new with a friend.

Unfortunately, a by-product of our massive commercial success is that we’re able to avoid the necessary emotional struggles of life in lieu of easy superficial pleasures.

Throughout history, every dominant civilization eventually collapsed because it became TOO successful. What made it powerful and unique grows out of proportion and consumes its society. I think this is true for American society. We’re complacent, entitled and unhealthy. My generation is the first generation of Americans who will be worse off than their parents, economically, physically and emotionally. And this is not due to a lack of resources, to a lack of education or to a lack of ingenuity. It’s corruption and complacency. The corruption from the massive industries that control our government’s policies, and the fat complacency of the people to sit around and let it happen.

There are things I love about my country. I don’t hate the US and I still return to it a few times a year. But I think the greatest flaw of American culture is our blind self-absorption. In the past it only hurt other countries. But now it’s starting to hurt ourselves.

So this is my lecture to my alcoholic brother — my own flavor of arrogance and self-absorption, even if slightly more informed — in hopes he’ll give up his wayward ways. I imagine it’ll fall on deaf ears, but it’s the most I can do for now. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some funny cat pictures to look at.

Note: My responses to common criticisms can be found here.
Double Note: If you’re young and live in the US and want to know why you should work abroad, go here

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3,090 Comments

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  • Reply

    Diana

    4 days ago

    I’m an immigrant who is American now and although I appreciate deeply articles such as this one I feel it’s not going far enough. It’s only half a job to see and to admit the problem, the other more important part is to direct critical thinking towards solution.
    There are multiple logical solutions available at this time and with enough open-mindness one might stumble on the next steps in human evolution such as resource based economy (google “Zeitgeist 2011″ or The Venus Project). Anyone who considers themselves intelligent should be familiar with what’s been waiting for us out there to help us become a better family of Humans – not just Americans.

  • Reply

    Coskun

    4 days ago

    I LOVE YOU BRO! WHOOOO
    :)
    Yeah, despite all these facts and observations, it ‘s still great living in the US .
    I’m 45, lived in Turkey, Germany, Azarbaijan, Georgia ( not the State ), Bangladesh, Israel and Kazakhstan, and yet my happiest moments are being spent here in DC.
    Am I optimistic of my future?No
    Am I satisfied with my social life? No
    Am I feeling secure regarding my retirement , health and social security benefits ? Hell No
    Then why the hell I’m here? I guess I am obsessed with success and still hoping to reach out a decent portion of American dream:))

    • Reply

      Emily

      17 hours ago

      I love your comment – I think that’s a piece of what everyone wants, that “American Dream.” Yeah, I guess it seems a bit crazy, but I love America too and I’m willing to take the good with the bad.

  • Reply

    Jules Perlmutter

    4 days ago

    I’ve had the benefit of living outside of the U.S. two times in my life; from 1962 until 1965 in Paris France and from 1994 until 2002 during which time I spent half my year in NYC and the other half in Paris; I agree that it is only when you live outside your culture, living the everyday life of the community you’re in and speaking a different language and learning the nuances of meaning in that language, that you start to get a more realistic perspective on the attitudes, values, sometimes small-mindedness of your own culture.
    I’ve discovered that Europeans often speak two or three languages other than that of their native country while many Americans can barely articulate satisfactorily in English. The priorities in our education systems are skewed – instead of instructing our young into more global views of the larger world, the values inculcated by our schools make the young more insular.
    In short I’m very much in agreement with your views ad criticisms of America. Most often I feel I’m living in a sterile world here in my own country.
    J. Perlmutter

  • Reply

    Jaded

    4 days ago

    The criticism is starting to push us back to being introverts. Americans worrying solely about ourselves is still a distant dream, but we are slowly waking up. No more wars, no more meddling. Free trade and travel only. Wish us luck. This world police crap has got to stop!

  • Reply

    Markus

    4 days ago

    To me as an European it is quite shocking, reading through your first 2-3 points (I didn’t read on, because it would have given me headache). You guys really are taught to be world leaders, VIPs, the best of the best, bosses of the world etc?!?!?! And still you guys criticize Nazis and the system they had about 75 years ago?! I don’t get it, because US-Propaganda seems to be quite similar to Nazi-Propaganda. And why are you stating Broadcast stations like CNN? Do you really believe they are free to choose what to report about? I mean come on, give me a minute …
    Is it really that hard to read between the lines as an american?! That hard to NOT be a dumb sheep going with the masses and the flow?! Is it really more comfortable for you to be part of something, instead of setting up something completely new?!

    I’ve spent 3 years in Washington D.C. and visited lots of US-cities during that time. And to me it seemed that most american people have no personality, no individuality, nothing distinctive from the masses… I could have asked 100 people some question, and at least 99 of them would have given me the same answer… I mean, I’m not really surprised … since americans tend to stay at home … watching TV … getting manipulated by the media … instead of going outside and open their eyes in order to form their own opinion. This is the No. 1 thing that annoyed me most about america … their people … and their attitudes … and in most cases their ignorance, arrogance and stupidity … a lethal combination if you ask me :).

    I mean, who do american people think they are? Do they really expect everyone else in the world to roll over the red carpet as soon as some american comes along and starts telling me how bullshit the rest of the world outside the US is?! Additionally what gives them the rights to think they are the best?!

    Maybe WWI?? Steaming over a completely destroyed Europe is such a great achievement?

    And WWII?! Entering a war in 1944 which lasted from 1938-1945 — and you guys want to tell me you decided the war? Entering in 1944 where axis powers were already down and destroyed!? Dropping the first atom bomb?! Killing approx. 100 Mio native Indians (More casualties than both world wars together) … Afghanistan, Iraq, Korea, Cuba, Vietnam … I mean come on … whats so great about it?!

    It must be quite fulfilling to hear that the USA has won a war vs some little countries in the near past …. and now?! Currently we have Russia as an agressor in Europe and what is the US doing?!?! Nothing … absolutely nothing … and why?! Because Russia may be an enemy which would harm and really damage the US ….

    Well if thats not straight forward foreign policy, then I dont want to know what you guys call it ….

    So back to the question … what gives american people the right to believe they are the best?! I have no single clue … maybe its their professional economy … oh wait … or the land of the free … oh wait … theres so little police forces necessary throughout the US in order to keep it the land of the free …. so is it the land of the free? I dont know… Honestly, I dont see a single reason why you guys are better than anyone in the world. ANYONE.

    Oh well, you guys also have schools teaching students the christian creational story of the world … with god, adam and eve. Maybe a little bit of Noah … Thats totally crazy … and your Nationalism is wayyyyyyyyy too overexaggarated, but it may be an adequate solution for holding all the different people together under one nation …. probably … God save America … God save the world from America … God give America some balls to stand up and fight against real enemies, not just some little insects like Afghanistan, Iraq and Vietnam. Come on guys, take on Russia. I’m sure your whole Identity, points of view on EVERYTHING will change as soon as an enemy soldier or army steps foot onto american soil. Because thats what according to my infromation hasn’t happened yet in American history … except for the civil war, and maybe something in 1812 … Maybe thats why european countries dont really like war … because they have seen it in front of their own homes and told their kids about it ….

    Just start asking your returned veterans from whatever war they came back from … I’m sure it wasnt fun and Im sure they dont wish america to have a war on own soil … so either shut the f**k up concerning foreign affairs, or start taking on every enemy you face.

    But the thing in between, is not really a sign of trustworthyness …

    Anyways, back to my question, and its a serious question?! Why the hell are americans taught to be the best in the world?!?! I mean … I’m shocked and speechless … for real …you guys are the 4th Reich :). You got 2 political parties which only differ MINIMALLY, so basically you can call it a Nation ruled by one party …. people being told they are the best, the first ones to invent and do something (Congrats on Edison by the way for ruining Nicola Tesla’s career … an excellent scientist probably not even being mentioned in your history books … oh wait, he was no american, sorry i forgot) etc etc etc… And why the hell should we be thinking about america all the time?!?!?!?!?!?! We’ve got our own business … geeeeez … thats really arrogant …. Now i know again, why i never wanna step a single foot on that country again … although it has really beautiful landscapes ….

    • Reply

      ken

      2 days ago

      I didn`t get past your first paragraph. Stay in Europe!!

      • Reply

        5uck m1 D1Ck

        20 hours ago

        You are american, right? ‘:|

        • Reply

          1941

          8 hours ago

          Except the USA entered the war in 1941. Guess only European front counts to you.

    • Reply

      donfaus

      2 days ago

      Man, I am from France I have lived in NYC, Miami London, Barcelona and Mexico and have traveled the world too. I don’t know what country “in Europe” are you from (maybe there’s some sort of sensationalist CNN type of television that you watch the entire day over there); first of all Russia is not threatening Europe at all we share vast economical, cultural and historical links (including many wars in our territories as you mentioned before), if any we are the thread to them with NATO. Second, relax! People are just people everywhere, and people are not their governments. I don’t know what happened to you in the US but hopefully one day you’ll wake up from your pointless rage.

    • Reply

      Erik WInslow

      1 day ago

      we entered world war two in 1941, my grandfather was in The U.K in 42 training for Normandy, but what ever floats your boat i guess.

    • Reply

      Teresa Fisher

      18 hours ago

      And your point is? (My assumption would be that your point is that you wanted a place to vent your annoyance with the American people, hence your decision to recklessly read only part of the blog — 20-33% — before adding your comments.) Since the point of the article was to point out how many US citizens are living under a delusion of greatness were you writing in support of the blog, to give more evidence to support the author’s claims (most of which you admittedly didn’t read, of course)?

      I don’t know that I disagree with you and I am quite sure that I agree and/or understand many of your points, but I do question the wisdom of giving your comments after admitting you are not doing so from a fully informed position (since you didn’t read the whole blog). It makes it easier for folks to discredit your words. I am reminded of the pot and kettle phrase.

    • Reply

      Joshua Henderson

      18 hours ago

      Well Spoken.

    • Reply

      Fritz

      15 hours ago

      You really should have read on, Markus. Your tirade was completely unnecessary and inaccurate. As Erik mentioned, the US entered WWII on 7 December 1941. If you are thinking that America was uninvolved in the war efforts until D-Day on 6 June 1944, then you are worse off than some of my uneducated fellow Americans. Additionally, WWII started on 1 September 1939 when Hitler invaded Poland…. so you also need to check when your continent commenced the second world war. (This is information I know, not because the US education system places importance on historical facts, but because I was blessed to have two amazing parents who encouraged me to care about these things. Most Americans are not equally as blessed and it is something that will destroy society.)

      If you are going to get worked up about something you read online, make sure to read it in its entirety. You could have saved a lot of time typing.

  • Reply

    Harry Truman

    2 days ago

    Every single American I know who has been to Rio has been robbed. How is rule of law doing in Mexico? Taking the family to Acapulco? China’s urban air quality is hideous, and Hong Kong’s is not far behind. Russia is run by gangsters. China is building fake cities that will never be populated. The Europe you know and worship is being hollowed out by its aging demographics. The mideast is 1984 with a facade. Rule of law, infrastructure and industrious people trying to make the world a better place, make America work like no other nation. Wake up kid, this place is still the real deal.

    • Reply

      Mark Manson

      2 days ago

      Been to Rio four times, lived in Brazil for 14 months. Everyone you know is either an idiot or just unlucky.

      Most of Mexico’s cities have lower crime rates than New Orleans, Chicago and Detroit.

      China is polluted but has taken the baton as the world’s engine.

      Enjoy your ignorance.

      • Reply

        mariah

        8 hours ago

        Lived in Brazil for 10 years, spent many a Carnaval in Rio – was never robbed. was in miami 13 days… mugged. I wish I had written this article! And you’re absolutely correct when it comes to right-wingers and who will be the loudest whiners. It’s irrelevant, but typical.

    • Reply

      Markus

      2 days ago

      “Every single American I know … Rio … robbed”. Well if everyone knows they are gonna be robbed, why do they still carry things around which can be robbed?! How “street smart” is that?! If you cant go anywhere whithout your credit card or cash money then you seriously have a problem. Noone will rob you if you walk around in casual clothes, with your ID, 5-10$, and nothing else. What is there to rob?! Nothing worth for gangsters to initiate a conflict … But it’s logical that you create a lot of attention if you walk around in 500$ clothing, spending your money at every shop, telling everyone that you’re american, asking everyone for help because you’re misinformed/non-informed about anything going on around you. If you offer gangster so many oppurtunities, then its your own fault … I don’t know if your friends behaved like that, but thats just some examples. I’ve also lived in 3rd world countries outside Europe for more than 10 years. It’s pretty easy to mess around with naive tourists. I guess you haven’t read the first point of this article … Noone is impressed by tourists with white skin, fancy clothing and loads of money. Again … there’s the ignorance of naive americans ” I’m going abroad, but I wanna be treated like home”. That is a total misinterpretation of this world and not even close to reality. Maybe caused by american propaganda? I dont know …

      “How is rule of law doing in Mexico?” Are you referring to the Average or to specific areas/cities?! As Mark Manson already did, it’s easy to pick out certain american cities as well. But one thing’s for sure. Crime rate in Mexico is decreasing whilst US crime rates are increasing, according to my information. So instead of comparing yourself to other countries, you should get your business straight first …

      “Taking the family to Acapulco?” It’s beautiful and worth a shot if you don’t behave like an alien. I recommend it to you.

      “China’s urban air quality is hideous and hong kong’s not far behind” … and american average is not far behind that. Maybe it’s also influenced by the great american capitalistic system which rules the world market and forces poor countries (compared to US) to use cheap but dirty industry … ever thought about that?!

      “Russia is run by gangsters” Oh you know them in person? Or did someone tell you … or did american news coverage tell you … or did some american politician use this topic to distract from the real problems INSIDE the US?! I’d really like to know that.

      “China … fake cities … never populated” … okay … i guess you have skills like jesus and can foresee things happening in places you have probably never been. You Sir have my total Respect!

      “Europe you worship is ….demographics bla bla” Oh yeah? Please tell me everything in detail. I am very interesting in learning more about that!

      “The mideast is a facade …” Why do you care about the middle east? What’s your business there? They have lots of oil and its your privilege to buy their oil legally on the market. They didnt have any weapons of mass destruction, not even your media was able to hide that fact, although everyone else in the world knew there were no WMDs… Next thing that proves your ignorance is that you are not able to see everything from the middle east’s point of view. What do you believe they think about the western world?! You believe they live according to George Orwells imagination … they believe the western world is totally crazy and stupid as well. So we have 2 different opinions. But what gives you the right to state your opinion is the better one?! Miley Cyrus? American Reality soaps? All this Hollywood stuff? All your drug addict celebrities? EVERYTHING running on american television … which is being soaked up by everyone … You think Arabs would ever find something like that legitimate in their culture? Seriously if you worship these kinds of movements because it entertains the masses and shuts off their brains .. then go ahead and become a happy man :).

      “Make America work like no other nation” …. yeah right … Another sign of objectivity… I don’t know if you’ve already heard about it, but there’s cars and planes and trains everywhere in the world … which makes the whole world and its population transport across the world very very dynamic. So just because there’s millions of people immigrating into the US, it doesn’t mean they aren’t migrating to other countries as well…. and there’s also enough americans leaving the US.
      Of course businessmen go to America to make a straight up career. Because it is the most capitalistic country in the world, run by greedy politicians and populated by blind sheep. They have millions of options to make money. If one guy is making lots of money, 100 of other guys lose some small parts of money. Thats the capitalistic system. Either you pull the strings or you are pulled by strings That’s why american society has such a huge gap between rich and poor people. So no wonder all businessmen go to america and try to make this kind of career on a completely legal basis. In television there’s always this luxurious kinda lifestyle which makes people want to be like that (also magazines, newspaper etc etc). So they start spending their little amounts of money for useless things which make them gain reputation in the ridiculous social system, but make them lose their money. Thats just two examples out of millions which support the capitalistic system, the gap between rich and poor, and why businessmen come to america in order to treat others like assholes because thats the way you make money there.

      What about the other elite branches? Science? How many percent of your top scientists are americans, and how many did immigrate?!?! Now … how many of those who immigrated wanted to come to america because of the money, and how many because of other reasons?! So basically america buys great minds from all over the world, simultaniously not capable of creating any respectable fraction by itself. Thats totally inefficient and reflects american way of seeing economy matters. What will happen if China someday will want aaaaaaaaall of their money back which you arein debt?!?! You think it will never happen because you have been crawling up their a*ses for so many years … oh you will see … I would rank America as number 4 nation in the world (Behind China, Russia & India). America may have best military technology but China has multiple times the population and army … Russia is ruled by gangsters (according to you) and India certainly won’t team up with you guys vs China. That would be total suicide and would only deflect the war onto indian soil, not onto american … And if you simply wanna bomb China with thousands of nukes, then you will destroy the world including yourself… so throwing nukes won’t be an intelligent solution … just by the way .. in case you havent thought about it.

      Thank you for your statement. But you didnt answer my question?! What makes american people think they are better than others? Is it because they are being told and naively believe it? Actually in case you’ve missed it, we are all the same and should treat everyone the same. Absolutely nobody in this world has the right to think they are (from nature) any better than somebody else of his own race. Isn’t that stated somewhere in the constitution or the bill of rights or something like that? Isn’t this what Lincoln was fighting for? Isn’t this what held your nation together in the time after 1864? Isn’t this what America is supposed to be built on? Isn’t this what America is trying to reflect to the rest of the world? But most americans – including you – don’t respect that … it’s sad man …

      “Wake up kid, this is still the real deal” I hope you mirror image will tell you someday.

      And to all those guys who believe they are better than the rest? What have you contributed yourself to be in that position? Being born into a country of the first world? And? More? I’d like to know.

    • Reply

      Veronica Fuentes

      2 days ago

      WOW -Harry Truman, you can speak out of clichés! It would be almost endearing if it wasn’t so bigoted. I say you stay home and leave the rest of the world to us.

    • Reply

      Teresa Fisher

      19 hours ago

      Went to Rio. Wasn’t robbed.

  • Reply

    Katy

    2 days ago

    You accuse Americans of being ignorant, unaware, grandiose, boring, arrogant with no personality. You than lay out a bunch of facts that we supposedly know nothing about. You wrote no facts that I have not read about or experienced myself. All countries have problems, America is not alone in this situation. You think America is so bad why don’t you give up your citizenship? You are the one who is arrogant with your supercilious attitude and better than thou attitude.

  • Reply

    Sally

    2 days ago

    Correction to point 1: the English are not an exception.

    • Reply

      Bryce

      2 days ago

      A wonderful and refreshing article. Reading the comments, its amazing how many people get defensive and up in arms the second their long-accepted worldviews are challenged and they are asked to consider the mere possibility of other realities outside their experience. (And from the sound of it, many of these commentators don’t appear to have ever the country). The first step to dissolving ignorance is being open-minded enough to take into consideration other viewpoints, regardless of whether you choose to accept them as your own after. If reading challenging statements like this makes you feel uncomfortable or upset, then perhaps there is even more value in re-evaluating your own beliefs more closely on the particular subject, since there is obviously an element of discord therein.
      I look forward to reading more of your work, Mark.

    • Reply

      Cristie

      1 day ago

      Further correction to point 1: Aussies aren’t an exception either

  • Reply

    Kristi

    2 days ago

    A very interesting ready and very dead on for the most part. Just a question…would any of your answers be different if you were female traveling though the same areas? Not being argumentative, just genuine curiosity. I have been to China and have been in a part of Shanghai that was questionable and while I felt a little fear (due to fear-mongering which Americans do) I never saw any dangers…not that it couldn’t have happened, it just didn’t at that time.

  • Reply

    Paul McCord

    2 days ago

    Sounds like you need to get out more as my experience as an American is vastly different than the BS above. I’m sorry you have had a deprived life. In fact it sounds more like you’re trying to be astute while simply being a pseudo intellectual trying as hard as you can to kiss the ass of non-Americans.

    • Reply

      Teresa Fisher

      18 hours ago

      In your opinion, based on your experience, of course. Hence the disclaimer noted early in the blog reminding folks of the dangers of generalizations and the reality of exceptions.

      I’m always curious when people utilize insults (direct or subtle) in their comments as to their expectations regarding them. Is it a defensive reaction — you hurt me or someone/something I love and thus I will strike back? Is it a deflection — get the person to focus on the insult rather than evidence?

      I’m also curious about your experiences abroad. You give a very succinct response, but are short enough on the details as to hinder your credibility. The fact that you use your name and a picture boosts your credibility, from my perspective, but I’m curious as to what experiences to which you refer so as to better evaluate how yours compare with the author’s as well as that of others who have commented to the blog.

      (I’m not expecting a response, just noting my reactions to your post, in case that’s useful information.)

  • Reply

    someone

    2 days ago

    Obviously for most of this. The only part I disagree with is how other people in the world show affection. I’ve witnessed some French courting each other. They did the same things Americans do: preen their feathers, try to impress each other, play hard-to-get, beat around the bush, not directly express dissatisfaction…

    My family is from the Middle East, but I’m the first one of the American generation to get married. I have no idea how they did it traditionally. They all dated except for my grandmother who was in an arranged marriage. From the stories I heard, there were some unbelievable turns of events (an Israeli and a Palestinian eloping, my Christian aunt marrying a Muslim man which pissed off her mom, my dad flaked on my mom for the first two dates…). While they are different from Americans due to the different cultures, there was still that “I like this person but feel too shy to say it” thing going.\

    In all fairness, my mom always says that Americans don’t show enough emotion. But she’s mostly full of it. I have plenty of Iraqi family that’s the same.

  • Reply

    someone

    2 days ago

    Also, you’re making me have wanderlust again ): And you forgot to mention that in the states, you have to be incredibly talented or BORN INTO it to become wealthy. Unfortunately, I’m neither. I just want to travel!!!

  • Reply

    Diane Miller

    2 days ago

    Just a brief comment: I found eight out of ten of your items completely unsurprising, and I have quibbles with the other two. If, for instance, you thought that everyone around the world loves/hates Americans before you left the country, it just tells me you weren’t paying attention. I would quite honestly categorize most of what you said as common knowledge.

  • Reply

    Cayla Ridley

    1 day ago

    This was very eye-opening. WOW thank you great read!

  • Reply

    Austin Jenkins

    1 day ago

    Mostly, this wasn’t all that surprising but I speak out of a very brief experience in Athens. I realized most of what you wrote just by going to Greece. My traveling companions were missionaries from my University. One of them thought the folks in Athens were so terribly off and that their life must be absolutely dreadful. I was thinking that for the most part, she was talking about material wealth. One of the things Americans definitely do is associate happiness by the level of comforts that you have. Everyone automatically assumes that the less comforts you have, the worse off you are. The people I have observed in Athens were actually teaching me that that wasn’t true. They seemed real happy and content, they lead lives with normal concerns much like Americans have and they were insanely friendly. So from my brief experience, I could confirm that most of these things that was written are totally true. Although, I would make the suggestion that over-generalizing Americans can reduce credibility of your writing because sometimes your readers will focus more on the generalizations you make rather than the specifics.

    All in all, I really enjoyed reading this. Thanks for writing this and educating me a little more on how it is out in the world. I dream of traveling all over the world just because I was basically born with wanderlust. I want to see this world that God has created and get to enjoy it to the fullest and appreciate the people in the world. This would help me to grow in my faith, I think.

    Keep up the good work man!

  • Reply

    Disappointed

    22 hours ago

    I was a little disappointed in this article. I am currently an expat living in South America and have seen first hand many of the things you mentioned in your article. However, EVERYTHING IN THIS ARTICLE IS NEGATIVE. You can have points about America that most Americans don’t know and have them be positive as well. All the points you made in your article make Americans look like stupid dimwits. Though there are a substantial amount of stupid dimwits in the US, not everyone is like this. I would like to see some positive points next time that don’t make the U.S. look like a piece of trash. Things like: How friendly many Americans are compared to much of the world (especially Europe), how many amazing travel locations there are in the U.S. that we don’t realize, or the variety and diversity that America has that most other countries do not have. Again, it was a good and pretty accurate article, but I would like it if the the negativity could be countered with some positivity too.

    • Reply

      Teresa Fisher

      18 hours ago

      A valid point. I would argue, however (as someone who would like to see this conversation enter into the larger consciousness of the US people), that someone else could/should write a response that does acknowledge the validity of Manson’s points, but also points out the ways in which folks in the US are quite lovely. Then posit how we can use the positive as well as our past successes in addition to looking at the historical lessons learned from other countries to change our fate, so to speak. To overcome our bad habits and misperceptions while replace them with healthier habits and ways of looking at and being in the world.

      Just a thought.

  • Reply

    Kevin

    17 hours ago

    This article is pretty much dead on, even I though I agree that individual points are debatable. I think the most important thought to leave ourselves with is that America is not at its best right now, and needs to get its head together. This country is definitely in a grumpy, pissed-off malaise that we need to snap out of, and it’s good to get an outside perspective to help us set our feet on the path to sanity.

  • Reply

    KAB

    16 hours ago

    Perhaps its age. Perhaps as one gets older one can appreciate more of life. I am not afraid in my home, the US, or in other parts of the world. I have not traveled extensively but have been to many places in Europe, and to Guatemala, Honduras, and Dubai. I’ve never been afraid in any of those places and I’ve found the people in all of them friendly. Isn’t it all a state of mind? And the way one approaches others? Perhaps we all just need to appreciate more of what we have while at the same time being open to what needs improvement without so much hostility in identifying those things. None of us and no country is perfect. It is naive to expect any person or place can be. There is no shame in accepting that fact and then working for improvement.

  • Reply

    Ashley Nicholson

    14 hours ago

    most of this article is pretty cool- however, THIS statement irks me. “I’ve probably been to 10 countries now that friends and family back home told me explicitly not to go because someone was going to kill me, kidnap me, stab me, rob me, rape me, sell me into sex trade, give me HIV, or whatever else. None of that has happened. I’ve never been robbed and I’ve walked through some of the shittiest parts of Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe.”

    yea, you’re a MAN. it’s very different for women. and many neighbors/people DO rape children. look at sexual abuse stats please.

  • Reply

    Velska

    13 hours ago

    My daughter lives in the US now, is married to a guy, whose father lives in Hawaii, but hasn’t bothered applying for a citizenship in his 40+ years, despite teaching in a University. He’s a little older than I am, from the same country, and we understand each other fairly well, having both lived in diverse places, and seen the US both from the inside and out.

    When I try to tell some (most, actually) of my American friends about the very observations you have made, they choose not to believe I know what I’m talking about. I’m not actually a very pugnacious sort, but when an ignoramus who cannot place Canada on a globe tells me I don’t know what I’m talking about when I’m on my very own field (I studied economics [not the Marxist-Leninist stuff ;) ], among others), I get somewhat irritated. And then I’m the one who says I’m sorry.

    Anyway, world is a place I just cannot figure out. There is just so much stuff I see to love and rejoice, and at the same time so much stuff that makes my heart ache so badly I lose sleep over it. But I’ve been taking a first look around your site tonight, and I’m encouraged by your positive attitude. Thanks for lifting me up today.

  • Reply

    MorgiePen

    12 hours ago

    You really should specify US Americans.

    America is not a country; it’s two continents. To use the term “America” to mean the US is like using “Europe” to mean the UK.

    It’s cultural imperialism.

    Otherwise, fairly spot on except for a few minor issues– in the South we’re VERY affectionate.

    But then, that’s another misconception: That the US is ONE culture; we are an amalgam and Southern culture in the US is as different as Mexican culture is from New York culture.

  • Reply

    Erik

    10 hours ago

    Couple of minor corrections:

    From (3)

    A) the Russians didn’t defeat the Nazi’s. It was a group effort. Different contributions by different countries, and if any of the Big Three (UK, USA, USSR) were missing, well, chances are most of Europe now speaks German. USA didn’t do it, Britain didn’t do it, USSR didn’t do it. Took all three.

    B) As a political scientist, the reality is the first instance of “modern democracy” IS, in fact, considered to be the United States. Britain is considered the birthplace of a modern democratic system, but political science doesn’t consider the UK to be a modern democracy until the Monarchy’s powers are effectively stripped out, which doesn’t happen until the late 1800s. The US’s system was the first government to actually fulfill ALL the characteristics of what is know known as a “liberal democracy”. Not that the US didn’t borrow heavily from the UK, plus a large amount of the European Enlightenment thought of the time.

    C) Pretty much any popular survey of any country will net you the EXACT same geographical ignorance. Europeans look better because they’re asked to do the equivalent (in US terms) of locate other states. When asked to locate places like Argentina, the Philippines, or Costa Rica, Europeans in general fail as bad (or worse) than Americans asked to find the Ukraine or Libya.

    From (4)

    No, we’re not. We just don’t express it the same way as Southern Europeans. But who says their way is the only correct way? If you think the USA is bad (using Southern Europeans as the “correct” way), we’re still way ahead of most Asian cultures, or, heck, the Auzzies.

    From (7)

    Only if you listen to the media. Certain special interests have a, well, interest in making people afraid. That doesn’t mean we actually are. In fact, most of us are apathetic. And you really, really need to understand the difference between your personal experience and generalization. The fact is, outside of Europe, crime in the rest of the world is SIGNIFICANTLY higher than here. Despite our local politicians and news media, the USA is a *very* safe place, crime-wise. Non-1st-World countries have MUCH higher crime rates than the US. Look at the global statistics for Violent Crime, and the ONLY category the US is high in is gun-related. The fact is, most of the rest of the world *is* significantly more dangerous than here. That’s not saying you shouldn’t go, but you’re also a fool if you think you can wander around San Paulo, Bogota, Bangkok, Cairo, Johannesburg, New Delhi, or even Moscow the same way you could around, say, Boston or even L.A.

    From (10)

    The second an third sentences are blatantly false, and just your opinion. Certain people believe those two. You have no basis for generalizing beyond that, especially since there’s significant obvious signs that it’s not true for many (hello? Pretty much the entire Left in the US?) As to comfort vs happiness. Sure. But, then again, name me one advanced country that this isn’t true, because humans don’t do Happy well – we don’t know what it is, and we don’t have a good grasp of any way to maintain it over the long run.

    The US has a lot of problems, and you’ve touched on some. But, you come across as more of a self-righteous prick than anything else here, especially since you’ve got very significant blinders on.

  • Reply

    Hayley

    9 hours ago

    LOL, my grandmother was from Germany and my mother’s sister and brothers were very touchy/feeling, hugging, kissing (my mom was an exception to this). When I commented on this as a child my mother explained that her siblings had a “European” mentality.

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