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Author Topic: Americans are inexplicable  (Read 8121 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: February 04, 2011, 11:33:40 AM »

Taking into account that the US citizens make 80%+ users of the forum I am interested in the opinions of the rest about them. There are loads of things they discuss about that I can't understand at all and I wonder wether you (people outside the USA) experience a similar thing.
« Last Edit: February 04, 2011, 11:35:26 AM by Michał Kalina » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: February 04, 2011, 11:58:23 AM »

Taking into account that the US citizens make 80%+ users of the forum I am interested in the opinions of the rest about them. There are loads of things they discuss about that I can't understand at all and I wonder wether you (people outside the USA) experience a similar thing.

Could you give an example or two, that would help. Thanks.
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« Reply #2 on: February 04, 2011, 11:59:38 AM »

Your jokes, your references to the popculture, some of your problems, your slang...
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« Reply #3 on: February 04, 2011, 12:06:54 PM »

Your jokes, your references to the popculture, some of your problems, your slang...

For shizzle my Michizzle
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« Reply #4 on: February 04, 2011, 12:08:01 PM »

I'm sorry I'm still not sure what you are asking. I was raised bilingual (English & Spanish) and I can assure you every culture and every language has it's own hmor, slang and expressions that don't seem to make sense to outsiders.
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« Reply #5 on: February 04, 2011, 12:26:12 PM »

I'm sorry I'm still not sure what you are asking. I was raised bilingual (English & Spanish) and I can assure you every culture and every language has it's own hmor, slang and expressions that don't seem to make sense to outsiders.

I agree, you have to be more specific.
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« Reply #6 on: February 04, 2011, 12:28:35 PM »

Taking into account that the US citizens make 80%+ users of the forum I am interested in the opinions of the rest about them. There are loads of things they discuss about that I can't understand at all and I wonder wether you (people outside the USA) experience a similar thing.
I am Canadian and I don't understand the extremism sometimes as if issues are black & white.  I don't understand the whole Obama thing.  When he was elected it looked like they were all proud to have their first black president and it was a turning point in their history like Kennedy and then suddenly after he was in office the most horrible things began to be said about him on the internet.  I don't undertand why disagreements have to get so personal: I mean you can disagree with a person without making a demon out of him.  Let's be civil.  Some times I see that here too when disagreements turn so vicious.


Also what I see as a tendency for Americans to be so American-centred.  There is a whole world out there and America is not the centre of the universe.  Just my view, but it seems to me that Americans don't study enough world history when they are young and are not aware of world politics/ history.  Or world literature too.  And I don't understand the whole gun thing.  It just seems so violent.

On the other hand I think Americans are in my opinion the most generous people as a nation.  They really donate a lot of money whenever there is a disaster any where in the world.  And they are very friendly truly interested in people when you meet them.  Non-Americans find this a problem, but I think Americans are kind without another motive  at all.
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« Reply #7 on: February 04, 2011, 12:31:18 PM »

I agree that every nation has its own culture but I wonder whether fellow foreigners on the forum have the problem with understanding all American cultural references and traces too.
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« Reply #8 on: February 04, 2011, 12:49:58 PM »

And I don't understand the whole gun thing.  It just seems so violent.

That's one of the things I mean.
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« Reply #9 on: February 04, 2011, 12:51:24 PM »

And I don't understand the whole gun thing.  It just seems so violent.

That's one of the things I mean.

This and most of those are Politics Forum stuff.  Grin
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« Reply #10 on: February 04, 2011, 02:08:15 PM »

If I may speak up as an American who has travelled and lived outside the US for considerable periods of time, I'd like to offer some insights.  I am the decendent of:

1) a convict expelled from his homeland and 'sentenced' to America.
2) several war refugees.
3) numerous people seeking fortunes in the New World.
4) a bunch of others I can't account for.

The American mythos within my lineage, as a result of the circumstances listed above, goes something like this:

1) my homeland was lousy.
2) my countrymen were backwards and/or mean.
3) God has been merciful in bringing me here.
4) hey, it beats prison back home.

Americans are at once attracted to other cultures as they are revulsed by them, the latter in large part because we are the descendents of the discontent from your country (fill in the nation).

The gun issue is, in large part, due to systemic distrust of government.  After all, many of us here are the descendents of those who were persecuted by their home governments.  Guns make it awful difficult for the state to do 'what they did last time.'  Americans, traditionally speaking, don't like government or being governed, but they rebel mostly by voting wildly.

The matter of Obama, I agree, ought to be discussed in the political forum.  However, I will say it is an American tradition to vote for someone and then make his/her life as difficult as possible.  Politicians and clergy are expected to 'stand and take it.'  The ones that don't either are really, really good at manipulating or they have short careers.

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« Reply #11 on: February 04, 2011, 02:59:33 PM »

Or world literature too.

American lack of familiarity with the canon is no worse than in Europe, really. The entire West is on its way to being a post-literary society. I'm always amazed when I visit the homes of old folks in the former Communist world to see the massive libraries of fine literature they acquired. Those books are now neglected because the younger generation reads for pleasure much less. Television and the internet compete for one's time.

Quote
On the other hand I think Americans are in my opinion the most generous people as a nation. They really donate a lot of money whenever there is a disaster any where in the world.

Per capita giving by the United States is considerably smaller than some other countries.

Quote
And they are very friendly truly interested in people when you meet them.

This is mostly fake. Americans might chat with you, but they rarely intend true friendship. Even exchanging contact details doesn't necessarily mean that they ever want to see you again. Among my kin in the Deep South, hospitality is only given if there's serious prior acquaintance; people are accustomed to say "come by and see us", but if an outsider really does take them up on the offer, it's extremely awkward. And of course even the hollow invitations will only be extended to someone who doesn't have dark skin and who isn't from a country considered terrorist (which really narrows it down).

I spend a lot of the year traveling and staying with local people all over the world. Almost anywhere I can knock on a door and ask for a place to spend the night, then leave the next morning having established a lasting friendship. It's not just in countries famed for their hospitality like the Muslim world; it holds even for places with a brusque reputation like the Balkans and Israel. But the fact that my compatriots in the US would have me driven out of their community (and I've seen this happen to other decent travelers) really debunks any notion that we're a welcoming society.
« Last Edit: February 04, 2011, 03:00:47 PM by CRCulver » Logged
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« Reply #12 on: February 04, 2011, 03:01:26 PM »

Taking into account that the US citizens make 80%+ users of the forum I am interested in the opinions of the rest about them. There are loads of things they discuss about that I can't understand at all and I wonder wether you (people outside the USA) experience a similar thing.
I am Canadian and I don't understand the extremism sometimes as if issues are black & white.  I don't understand the whole Obama thing.  When he was elected it looked like they were all proud to have their first black president

Hey now! On that issue, he is both "black" and "white"!
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« Reply #13 on: February 04, 2011, 03:03:45 PM »

This is mostly fake. Americans might chat with you, but they rarely intend true friendship. Even exchanging contact details doesn't necessarily mean that they ever want to see you again. Among my kin in the Deep South, hospitality is only given if there's serious prior acquaintance; people are accustomed to say "come by and see us", but if an outsider really does take them up on the offer, it's extremely awkward. And of course even the hollow invitations will only be extended to someone who doesn't have dark skin and who isn't from a country considered terrorist (which really narrows it down).

I spend a lot of the year traveling and staying with local people all over the world. Almost anywhere I can knock on a door and ask for a place to spend the night, then leave the next morning having established a lasting friendship. It's not just in countries famed for their hospitality like the Muslim world; it holds even for places with a brusque reputation like the Balkans and Israel. But the fact that my compatriots in the US would have me driven out of their community (and I've seen this happen to other decent travelers) really debunks any notion that we're a welcoming society.

Maybe they just don't like you.
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« Reply #14 on: February 04, 2011, 03:12:30 PM »

It is certainly an American quality that we are on the whole are more "friendly" than most, but also engage in a strange quick intimacy with little follow-up with people.

This is my experience living elsewhere in the world and living with a variety of folks from all over the globe.

I can say that many Americans are friendly, but don't follow up on the expectations of what many others would consider friendship.

The word "friend" is of little meaning in American IMHO. Facebook is just the extension American personal relations. Everyone has many dozens of "friends" in RL and at a dozen "best" friends as well.
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« Reply #15 on: February 04, 2011, 03:31:54 PM »

If I may speak up as an American who has travelled and lived outside the US for considerable periods of time, I'd like to offer some insights.  I am the decendent of:

1) a convict expelled from his homeland and 'sentenced' to America.
2) several war refugees.
3) numerous people seeking fortunes in the New World.
4) a bunch of others I can't account for.

The American mythos within my lineage, as a result of the circumstances listed above, goes something like this:

1) my homeland was lousy.
2) my countrymen were backwards and/or mean.
3) God has been merciful in bringing me here.
4) hey, it beats prison back home.

Americans are at once attracted to other cultures as they are revulsed by them, the latter in large part because we are the descendents of the discontent from your country (fill in the nation).

The gun issue is, in large part, due to systemic distrust of government.  After all, many of us here are the descendents of those who were persecuted by their home governments.  Guns make it awful difficult for the state to do 'what they did last time.'  Americans, traditionally speaking, don't like government or being governed, but they rebel mostly by voting wildly.

The matter of Obama, I agree, ought to be discussed in the political forum.  However, I will say it is an American tradition to vote for someone and then make his/her life as difficult as possible.  Politicians and clergy are expected to 'stand and take it.'  The ones that don't either are really, really good at manipulating or they have short careers.



Actually what you say is really helpful especially about the it being an American tradtion to be so hard on your elected representatives.  I could never understand that.

Also about lAmericans leaving "bad" coutnries.  Maybe that is an established mindset based on a "myth" and is not really true.  Americans always have to be best at everything and have the biggest.  I remember seeing a Baskin Robbins poster when I was a little kid visting the USA and it said soomething branches "in the world" and listed all the branches or stores in the USA.  Even as a kid and a non-American I could see that the USA was not the world but that is the way that Americans think.
As a canadian, most of us say we our ancestors came here (mine over 100 years ago) for a btter=economics not poverty life.
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« Reply #16 on: February 04, 2011, 03:34:00 PM »

Taking into account that the US citizens make 80%+ users of the forum I am interested in the opinions of the rest about them. There are loads of things they discuss about that I can't understand at all and I wonder wether you (people outside the USA) experience a similar thing.
I am Canadian and I don't understand the extremism sometimes as if issues are black & white.  I don't understand the whole Obama thing.  When he was elected it looked like they were all proud to have their first black president and it was a turning point in their history like Kennedy and then suddenly after he was in office the most horrible things began to be said about him on the internet.  I don't undertand why disagreements have to get so personal: I mean you can disagree with a person without making a demon out of him.  Let's be civil.  Some times I see that here too when disagreements turn so vicious.


Also what I see as a tendency for Americans to be so American-centred.  There is a whole world out there and America is not the centre of the universe.  Just my view, but it seems to me that Americans don't study enough world history when they are young and are not aware of world politics/ history.  Or world literature too.  And I don't understand the whole gun thing.  It just seems so violent.



I'm American and I don't understand those things either! More of us are in my group, I suspect. We just keep quiet.
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« Reply #17 on: February 04, 2011, 03:36:04 PM »

As another Canadian, I feel much the same as IreneOlinyk. My wife is US born, but has been here long enough that she finds Americans (including very often her relatives) to be on a different wavelength. I have set foot in at least 35 states (+DC). I'm close enough to the border to be in the US within a half hour. But every time I visit, I feel more and more that I'm in a foreign country. Sometimes it's hard to pinpoint exactly why, because the casual viewer will likely see all the similarities first, but there really is a difference that comes out once you dig a bit deeper.

In "Other Topics" someone posted a map dividing the world into West and East. The USA is labelled "USA Best Nation on Earth Man!" But I think the arrow pointing to it, labelled "All By Itself" says a whole lot more. The patriotism as expressed by Americans (as in the map I just mentioned and yes, USAers should be proud of their country) often degenerates into a curious mix of chauvinism and provincialism.

Truth be told, though, we could also have a thread "Russians/Canadians/Greeks/Poles/etc. are inexplicable".
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« Reply #18 on: February 04, 2011, 03:39:48 PM »

In "Other Topics" someone posted a map dividing the world into West and East. The USA is labelled "USA Best Nation on Earth Man!" But I think the arrow pointing to it, labelled "All By Itself" says a whole lot more. The patriotism as expressed by Americans (as in the map I just mentioned and yes, USAers should be proud of their country) often degenerates into a curious mix of chauvinism and provincialism.

Just for the record, that map that I posted (and created) wasn't meant to be an expression of patriotism, it was an attack on the way that some Americans caricature and stereotype the rest of the world, and generally just don't know much about anyone outside America.
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« Reply #19 on: February 04, 2011, 03:41:02 PM »

.

Truth be told, though, we could also have a thread "Russians/Canadians/Greeks/Poles/etc. are inexplicable".

I agree.  Everyone just loves to hate Americans.  And because when they travel they are so open and friendly to everyone more people have had personal experiences with them.  
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« Reply #20 on: February 04, 2011, 03:52:03 PM »

In "Other Topics" someone posted a map dividing the world into West and East. The USA is labelled "USA Best Nation on Earth Man!" But I think the arrow pointing to it, labelled "All By Itself" says a whole lot more. The patriotism as expressed by Americans (as in the map I just mentioned and yes, USAers should be proud of their country) often degenerates into a curious mix of chauvinism and provincialism.

Just for the record, that map that I posted (and created) wasn't meant to be an expression of patriotism, it was an attack on the way that some Americans caricature and stereotype the rest of the world, and generally just don't know much about anyone outside America.

There is an unfortunate rise in a Protestant evangelical fusion of 'religion' and nationalism which is being trumpeted as 'American exceptionalism' which plays to this 'All by Itself" mindset. I find the rhetoric somewhat shrill and bordering on scary at times.
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« Reply #21 on: February 04, 2011, 04:11:19 PM »

In "Other Topics" someone posted a map dividing the world into West and East. The USA is labelled "USA Best Nation on Earth Man!" But I think the arrow pointing to it, labelled "All By Itself" says a whole lot more. The patriotism as expressed by Americans (as in the map I just mentioned and yes, USAers should be proud of their country) often degenerates into a curious mix of chauvinism and provincialism.

Just for the record, that map that I posted (and created) wasn't meant to be an expression of patriotism, it was an attack on the way that some Americans caricature and stereotype the rest of the world, and generally just don't know much about anyone outside America.

It is because historically Americans pretty much don't need to. It is a country that has been self-sufficient and free from any serious geographical entanglements and any entanglements abroad it has had to deal, it has been pretty much successful from the American POV of course.

But all that is starting to change . . .
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« Reply #22 on: February 04, 2011, 04:23:11 PM »

There is an assumption in this thread that America has a unified culture that marks us as distinctly American. I would contend against this idea and say that even within America, we only have sub cultures without a meta-culture (though the sub-cultures are different from other world cultures, thus Americans as a whole appear different).

For instance, spend time in Dallas, TX, Abilene, TX, a small town in Missouri, a small town in Washington, Los Angeles, CA, and New York, New York and you will experience multiple cultures that are greatly distinct from each other.

For instance, name an American language, cuisine, music style, etc. Fact is, every dialect of English found in America, every type of food, every type of music, are parts of American sub-culture...but there is no unifying factor in American culture. I love cajun food because of the spices, but most people in the Northeastern United States will hate it because it's too spicy (and apparently the only spice they're aware of in New England is ketchup). A meal in the midwest will gross out someone from the West Coast. The accents of someone from southwest Louisiana or northern Alabama are almost unrecognizable to someone from Boston or Maine.

It used to be said that there was an underlying ethos that united Americans, one of the first cultures built upon a unifying idea rather than language or any other cultural traits; but we don't even have that anymore.

If anything, there is no such thing as an American culture; just multiple cultures unified by a government. Thus, what many "foreigners" (such a subjective term!) fail to realize when they meet an American is they are not meeting someone who represents American culture, but only represents one of the cultures in the nation of the United States. Thus, the US appears confusing and contradictory to the rest of the world because we are a contradiction.
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« Reply #23 on: February 04, 2011, 04:45:57 PM »

I agree with everything you said except the idea that we do not have a 'meta-culture.'  I think we do, actually several.  The first is our political system at the national level, and the second is popular religion.  They do tend to be pervaded with similar notions no matter what region you are in.

There is an assumption in this thread that America has a unified culture that marks us as distinctly American. I would contend against this idea and say that even within America, we only have sub cultures without a meta-culture (though the sub-cultures are different from other world cultures, thus Americans as a whole appear different).

For instance, spend time in Dallas, TX, Abilene, TX, a small town in Missouri, a small town in Washington, Los Angeles, CA, and New York, New York and you will experience multiple cultures that are greatly distinct from each other.

For instance, name an American language, cuisine, music style, etc. Fact is, every dialect of English found in America, every type of food, every type of music, are parts of American sub-culture...but there is no unifying factor in American culture. I love cajun food because of the spices, but most people in the Northeastern United States will hate it because it's too spicy (and apparently the only spice they're aware of in New England is ketchup). A meal in the midwest will gross out someone from the West Coast. The accents of someone from southwest Louisiana or northern Alabama are almost unrecognizable to someone from Boston or Maine.

It used to be said that there was an underlying ethos that united Americans, one of the first cultures built upon a unifying idea rather than language or any other cultural traits; but we don't even have that anymore.

If anything, there is no such thing as an American culture; just multiple cultures unified by a government. Thus, what many "foreigners" (such a subjective term!) fail to realize when they meet an American is they are not meeting someone who represents American culture, but only represents one of the cultures in the nation of the United States. Thus, the US appears confusing and contradictory to the rest of the world because we are a contradiction.
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« Reply #24 on: February 04, 2011, 05:08:10 PM »

There is an assumption in this thread that America has a unified culture that marks us as distinctly American. I would contend against this idea and say that even within America, we only have sub cultures without a meta-culture (though the sub-cultures are different from other world cultures, thus Americans as a whole appear different).

For instance, spend time in Dallas, TX, Abilene, TX, a small town in Missouri, a small town in Washington, Los Angeles, CA, and New York, New York and you will experience multiple cultures that are greatly distinct from each other.

For instance, name an American language, cuisine, music style, etc. Fact is, every dialect of English found in America, every type of food, every type of music, are parts of American sub-culture...but there is no unifying factor in American culture. I love cajun food because of the spices, but most people in the Northeastern United States will hate it because it's too spicy (and apparently the only spice they're aware of in New England is ketchup). A meal in the midwest will gross out someone from the West Coast. The accents of someone from southwest Louisiana or northern Alabama are almost unrecognizable to someone from Boston or Maine.

It used to be said that there was an underlying ethos that united Americans, one of the first cultures built upon a unifying idea rather than language or any other cultural traits; but we don't even have that anymore.

If anything, there is no such thing as an American culture; just multiple cultures unified by a government. Thus, what many "foreigners" (such a subjective term!) fail to realize when they meet an American is they are not meeting someone who represents American culture, but only represents one of the cultures in the nation of the United States. Thus, the US appears confusing and contradictory to the rest of the world because we are a contradiction.

America certainly isn't alone in this regard.  Go to England, a small island nation about the size of one of our medium-small states.  Someone from south England is going to have a very different dialect than someone from York and the foods and attitudes will be fairly distinct as well.

And actually, America can be fairly easily distinguished by a few cultures: rural and city and North and South.  American rural communities are virtually identical: you have the main road off the highway with whatever establishments the town has (homogenized even further by the invasion of corporate America into small communities, the family diners are giving way to McDonald's and Burger King) and two churches across the street from each other (whatever the two popular denominations are, up North it will be Lutheran and Catholic, down South Baptist and Methodist), and while the residents will be friendly enough you will always be an outsider if you weren't born there.  The cities will be identical as well, the main difference being architecture: you'll have the corrupt city government and affectations of being "cultured", the well-to-do and gentrifying areas and the ghettoes.  By and large the rural areas will be "conservative" and the urban areas will be "liberal".  North and South only really distinguish the rural communities, in the North there's likely to be a local bar or two, in the South you'll have to get to know the guy with the moonshine still.

The main exception is Florida, which is a backward and nonsensical state, where the further north you drive the more Southern you're getting and the further south you drive the more things will be Northern.
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« Reply #25 on: February 04, 2011, 05:35:11 PM »

There is an assumption in this thread that America has a unified culture that marks us as distinctly American. I would contend against this idea and say that even within America, we only have sub cultures without a meta-culture (though the sub-cultures are different from other world cultures, thus Americans as a whole appear different).

For instance, spend time in Dallas, TX, Abilene, TX, a small town in Missouri, a small town in Washington, Los Angeles, CA, and New York, New York and you will experience multiple cultures that are greatly distinct from each other.

For instance, name an American language, cuisine, music style, etc. Fact is, every dialect of English found in America, every type of food, every type of music, are parts of American sub-culture...but there is no unifying factor in American culture. I love cajun food because of the spices, but most people in the Northeastern United States will hate it because it's too spicy (and apparently the only spice they're aware of in New England is ketchup). A meal in the midwest will gross out someone from the West Coast. The accents of someone from southwest Louisiana or northern Alabama are almost unrecognizable to someone from Boston or Maine.

It used to be said that there was an underlying ethos that united Americans, one of the first cultures built upon a unifying idea rather than language or any other cultural traits; but we don't even have that anymore.

If anything, there is no such thing as an American culture; just multiple cultures unified by a government. Thus, what many "foreigners" (such a subjective term!) fail to realize when they meet an American is they are not meeting someone who represents American culture, but only represents one of the cultures in the nation of the United States. Thus, the US appears confusing and contradictory to the rest of the world because we are a contradiction.

I couldn't have said it better. I cringe at the ketchup lovers. We have a friend who douses his pirohi! Yuck!
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« Reply #26 on: February 04, 2011, 05:37:11 PM »

I agree with everything you said except the idea that we do not have a 'meta-culture.'  I think we do, actually several.  The first is our political system at the national level, and the second is popular religion.  They do tend to be pervaded with similar notions no matter what region you are in.



I see the part of the 'pervasion of similar notions'  as the Protestant influenced 'exceptionalism'  theory that is floating around these days.
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« Reply #27 on: February 04, 2011, 05:53:59 PM »

There are defined cultures within the general culture of the USA. The NW people are a pretty distinct people in many ways. I visited TX once and didn't understand anything/anyone. In my area littering is akin to the murder of the earth. It is beautiful, green and lush here. TX had so much styrofoam (I understand why this is necessary, but it is a big shock) styrofoam is practically outlawed in my area. And there was a general lack of "respect for the environment" that is the norm in my area. Texans think the NW people are looney tree-huggers. Maybe we are, but that is how we were raised. That is just one example of a micro-cultural difference within the larger culture of the USA.

Then as an american indian I have to say there are BIG cultural differences. I can't even get into how there are micro-cultures within the various tribes.
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« Reply #28 on: February 04, 2011, 06:59:25 PM »

I agree with everything you said except the idea that we do not have a 'meta-culture.'  I think we do, actually several.  The first is our political system at the national level, and the second is popular religion.  They do tend to be pervaded with similar notions no matter what region you are in.
I see the part of the 'pervasion of similar notions'  as the Protestant influenced 'exceptionalism'  theory that is floating around these days.
Protestant influenced 'exceptionalism' is not a particularly new theory, nor is it necessarily American.  Winthrop's 1630 "City on a Hill" sermon is a wonderful example.  While it may have influenced later generations, it certainly did not come from a unified American 'ethos.'
'Exceptionalism' can be found in many societies outside of the U.S. and Protestant tradition; just ask a Persian, Turk, Greek, etc.

There are some great posts in this thread, and I think they speak to the complexity of the nation.  From ialmisry's notes on the various subcultures, to Father Giryus' narrative of the early colonists/immigrants, who through a combination of history and mythology distanced themselves from many external ethnic and cultural bonds, they highlight a somewhat unique national identity.

To the OP, I think this may be a part of why Americans seem so inexplicable.   
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« Reply #29 on: February 04, 2011, 10:19:07 PM »

I agree that 'American Exceptionalism' is neither American nor exceptional.  When I lived in Japan, I experienced Japanese Exceptionalism (usually called 'Dai Nippon').  Then we have all shared in hearing much about Hellenism and Greek Exceptionalism (anyone NOT seen 'My Big, Fat Greek Wedding?').  Then read Russian newspapers.  As for Native peoples, they generally don't use the tribal names we give them, but 'humans' (i.e. members of the tribe) and 'not humans' (i.e. members of other tribes).

What is interesting about the US is that there are no 'traditional enemies' per se.  Our nation, which split off from England, never held on to animosity for the UK.  There isn't the tension between the US and Canada (or Mexico for that matter) as there is between, let's say, Ukrainians and Russians or Greeks and Turks.  We fought two wars against Germany, but Germans are not a byword.

The roots of the modern exceptionalist concept in America is partly rooted in the idea that we are a 'melting pot' of other nationalities and that all are welcome.  The notion that being an immigrant somehow makes you less of an American than one born here is generally rejected.  Therefore, a Sikh with a star-spangled turban (I saw a lot of those in LA after 9-11) is a source of pride for many Americans.  We like it when others want to become Americans, and we also make it possible.  Such things are impossible in mono-ethnic nations like Greece or Japan.



I agree with everything you said except the idea that we do not have a 'meta-culture.'  I think we do, actually several.  The first is our political system at the national level, and the second is popular religion.  They do tend to be pervaded with similar notions no matter what region you are in.
I see the part of the 'pervasion of similar notions'  as the Protestant influenced 'exceptionalism'  theory that is floating around these days.
Protestant influenced 'exceptionalism' is not a particularly new theory, nor is it necessarily American.  Winthrop's 1630 "City on a Hill" sermon is a wonderful example.  While it may have influenced later generations, it certainly did not come from a unified American 'ethos.'
'Exceptionalism' can be found in many societies outside of the U.S. and Protestant tradition; just ask a Persian, Turk, Greek, etc.

There are some great posts in this thread, and I think they speak to the complexity of the nation.  From ialmisry's notes on the various subcultures, to Father Giryus' narrative of the early colonists/immigrants, who through a combination of history and mythology distanced themselves from many external ethnic and cultural bonds, they highlight a somewhat unique national identity.

To the OP, I think this may be a part of why Americans seem so inexplicable.   
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« Reply #30 on: February 05, 2011, 08:46:59 AM »


For instance, spend time in ... a small town in Missouri, ...


 Just spend some time in a small town in Northern Missouri then a small town in Southern Missouri and you'll think you're in a different state altogether.  Smiley
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« Reply #31 on: February 05, 2011, 08:51:13 AM »



Quote
And they are very friendly truly interested in people when you meet them.

This is mostly fake. Americans might chat with you, but they rarely intend true friendship.

 I'm sorry your kinfolks don't like outsiders, but I've brought home dark-skinned Indonesians to white Romanians - all of whom had thick accents and had "peculiar" ways about them (as my grandma would say).  Hell, we even hosted a Japanese student who didn't speak a lick of English.  Some of my kinfolks are knuckle-headed Klan (and they aren't welcome to family functions), but by-and-large, we've always tried to be outgoing and friendly towards "foreigners" (including all y'all Yankees!  Cheesy)  And you better believe when I say, "Stop by and say 'howdy'" I mean it.

 And another thing you said that strikes me as odd, especially for someone who counts himself as a world traveler;  there is no monolithic American culture or attitude anymore (if there ever was).  So to say "Americans might chat with you, but they rarely intend true friendship" is a damn fool thing to say and you oughtta know better, friend.   
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« Reply #32 on: February 05, 2011, 11:05:44 AM »

I actually find Americans to be quite friendly. My experience though is limited to urban America and the overwhelming majority of my American friends are also different sorts of leftists. I'm sure that skews my impressions a bit.
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« Reply #33 on: February 05, 2011, 11:30:48 AM »

I agree that 'American Exceptionalism' is neither American nor exceptional.  When I lived in Japan, I experienced Japanese Exceptionalism (usually called 'Dai Nippon').  Then we have all shared in hearing much about Hellenism and Greek Exceptionalism (anyone NOT seen 'My Big, Fat Greek Wedding?').  Then read Russian newspapers.  As for Native peoples, they generally don't use the tribal names we give them, but 'humans' (i.e. members of the tribe) and 'not humans' (i.e. members of other tribes).

What is interesting about the US is that there are no 'traditional enemies' per se.  Our nation, which split off from England, never held on to animosity for the UK.  There isn't the tension between the US and Canada (or Mexico for that matter) as there is between, let's say, Ukrainians and Russians or Greeks and Turks.  We fought two wars against Germany, but Germans are not a byword.

The roots of the modern exceptionalist concept in America is partly rooted in the idea that we are a 'melting pot' of other nationalities and that all are welcome.  The notion that being an immigrant somehow makes you less of an American than one born here is generally rejected.  Therefore, a Sikh with a star-spangled turban (I saw a lot of those in LA after 9-11) is a source of pride for many Americans.  We like it when others want to become Americans, and we also make it possible.  Such things are impossible in mono-ethnic nations like Greece or Japan.



I agree with everything you said except the idea that we do not have a 'meta-culture.'  I think we do, actually several.  The first is our political system at the national level, and the second is popular religion.  They do tend to be pervaded with similar notions no matter what region you are in.
I see the part of the 'pervasion of similar notions'  as the Protestant influenced 'exceptionalism'  theory that is floating around these days.
Protestant influenced 'exceptionalism' is not a particularly new theory, nor is it necessarily American.  Winthrop's 1630 "City on a Hill" sermon is a wonderful example.  While it may have influenced later generations, it certainly did not come from a unified American 'ethos.'
'Exceptionalism' can be found in many societies outside of the U.S. and Protestant tradition; just ask a Persian, Turk, Greek, etc.

There are some great posts in this thread, and I think they speak to the complexity of the nation.  From ialmisry's notes on the various subcultures, to Father Giryus' narrative of the early colonists/immigrants, who through a combination of history and mythology distanced themselves from many external ethnic and cultural bonds, they highlight a somewhat unique national identity.

To the OP, I think this may be a part of why Americans seem so inexplicable.  

I want to clarify my point regarding 'American Exceptionalism' as I was dancing around it for fear of intruding into the realm of politics. I am a strong believer in the 'exceptionalism' of my country as that term has been traditionally used and as I learned in the course of my higher education many years ago. Fr. Gyrus' summarizes my beliefs on the subject quite eloquently. Watching my grandfather, an immigrant from Austro-Hungary, tearfully raise the American flag on his flagpole in New Jersey each July 4th when I was a child brought the special nature of this country home to me better than any history book or politician could ever hope

I was alluding to the recent phenomena of one side of the American political divide co-opting the term for ideological advance in a manner that frightens me to some extent. This column is timely and speaks to my thoughts. http://www.nj.com/hudson/voices/index.ssf/2011/02/taking_exception_funt.html

I hope that Michal and others from outside of the US will understand us better by realizing that there is neither a 'monolithic' American culture nor a 'monolithic' American body-politic. We Americans tend to make the same mistake in viewing and judging our neighbors and even our allies overseas and all of us in the world are better off if we look behind the glass and learn more about each other. I will say no more on this, as I would no doubt violate Forum rules regarding political discussions.
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« Reply #34 on: February 19, 2011, 10:22:30 AM »


The gun issue is, in large part, due to systemic distrust of government.  After all, many of us here are the descendents of those who were persecuted by their home governments.  Guns make it awful difficult for the state to do 'what they did last time.'  Americans, traditionally speaking, don't like government or being governed, but they rebel mostly by voting wildly.


What Father said.
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« Reply #35 on: February 19, 2011, 12:44:52 PM »

I think one American phenomena that we can agree is truly inexplicable (or perhaps indescribable), is protestantism.  Wink
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« Reply #36 on: February 19, 2011, 12:49:18 PM »

I think one American phenomena that we can agree is truly inexplicable (or perhaps indescribable), is protestantism.  Wink

Huh

The Reformation began in 16th century Europe.
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« Reply #37 on: February 19, 2011, 12:58:59 PM »

I think one American phenomena that we can agree is truly inexplicable (or perhaps indescribable), is protestantism.  Wink

Huh

The Reformation began in 16th century Europe.

Yes, that is where it started, but it is thriving is in the U.S.
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« Reply #38 on: February 19, 2011, 01:36:10 PM »

I think one American phenomena that we can agree is truly inexplicable (or perhaps indescribable), is protestantism.  Wink

Huh

The Reformation began in 16th century Europe.

Yes, that is where it started, but it is thriving is in the U.S.

Depends on what you mean by thriving. The U.S. has more Protestants than any other country, but many countries have a higher percentage of Protestants.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protestantism_by_country
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« Reply #39 on: February 19, 2011, 01:52:22 PM »

I think one American phenomena that we can agree is truly inexplicable (or perhaps indescribable), is protestantism.  Wink

Huh

The Reformation began in 16th century Europe.

Yes, that is where it started, but it is thriving is in the U.S.

Depends on what you mean by thriving. The U.S. has more Protestants than any other country, but many countries have a higher percentage of Protestants.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protestantism_by_country

But they are not the real Protestants!
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« Reply #40 on: February 19, 2011, 02:06:26 PM »

One thing I don't undertand in Americans is their Patriotism. It seems so overwhelming that it gets corny. But then again that could be because Finns used to live next to the Soviet Union so Finnish political ethos became fairly leftist since nobody dared to be anything else in fear of insulting our beloved neighbour.
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« Reply #41 on: February 19, 2011, 04:48:11 PM »

I think one American phenomena that we can agree is truly inexplicable (or perhaps indescribable), is protestantism.  Wink

Huh

The Reformation began in 16th century Europe.

Yes, that is where it started, but it is thriving is in the U.S.

Depends on what you mean by thriving. The U.S. has more Protestants than any other country, but many countries have a higher percentage of Protestants.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protestantism_by_country

Well, I think what  i was getting at more than anything is that protestantism in America is impossible to describe or classify because there are so many different competing branches of it that often preach contradictory things..
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« Reply #42 on: February 21, 2011, 11:27:48 AM »

One thing I don't undertand in Americans is their Patriotism. It seems so overwhelming that it gets corny. But then again that could be because Finns used to live next to the Soviet Union so Finnish political ethos became fairly leftist since nobody dared to be anything else in fear of insulting our beloved neighbour.
Are you just living in Finland or are you an ethnic Finn?  The reason I ask is because from my understanding of Scandinavian history, Finns and other Scandinavians have always been influenced by egalitarianism which is different from communism.
So what the Scandinavians call socialism is different from the dictatorship of communism.
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« Reply #43 on: February 21, 2011, 11:29:54 AM »

One thing I don't undertand in Americans is their Patriotism. It seems so overwhelming that it gets corny. But then again that could be because Finns used to live next to the Soviet Union so Finnish political ethos became fairly leftist since nobody dared to be anything else in fear of insulting our beloved neighbour.

No, you're not wrong. American patriotism is pretty dumb.
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« Reply #44 on: February 21, 2011, 11:38:36 AM »

There is an assumption in this thread that America has a unified culture that marks us as distinctly American. I would contend against this idea and say that even within America, we only have sub cultures without a meta-culture (though the sub-cultures are different from other world cultures, thus Americans as a whole appear different).

For instance, spend time in Dallas, TX, Abilene, TX, a small town in Missouri, a small town in Washington, Los Angeles, CA, and New York, New York and you will experience multiple cultures that are greatly distinct from each other.

For instance, name an American language, cuisine, music style, etc. Fact is, every dialect of English found in America, every type of food, every type of music, are parts of American sub-culture...but there is no unifying factor in American culture. I love cajun food because of the spices, but most people in the Northeastern United States will hate it because it's too spicy (and apparently the only spice they're aware of in New England is ketchup). A meal in the midwest will gross out someone from the West Coast. The accents of someone from southwest Louisiana or northern Alabama are almost unrecognizable to someone from Boston or Maine.

It used to be said that there was an underlying ethos that united Americans, one of the first cultures built upon a unifying idea rather than language or any other cultural traits; but we don't even have that anymore.

If anything, there is no such thing as an American culture; just multiple cultures unified by a government. Thus, what many "foreigners" (such a subjective term!) fail to realize when they meet an American is they are not meeting someone who represents American culture, but only represents one of the cultures in the nation of the United States. Thus, the US appears confusing and contradictory to the rest of the world because we are a contradiction.

America certainly isn't alone in this regard.  Go to England, a small island nation about the size of one of our medium-small states.  Someone from south England is going to have a very different dialect than someone from York and the foods and attitudes will be fairly distinct as well.

And actually, America can be fairly easily distinguished by a few cultures: rural and city and North and South.  American rural communities are virtually identical: you have the main road off the highway with whatever establishments the town has (homogenized even further by the invasion of corporate America into small communities, the family diners are giving way to McDonald's and Burger King) and two churches across the street from each other (whatever the two popular denominations are, up North it will be Lutheran and Catholic, down South Baptist and Methodist), and while the residents will be friendly enough you will always be an outsider if you weren't born there.  The cities will be identical as well, the main difference being architecture: you'll have the corrupt city government and affectations of being "cultured", the well-to-do and gentrifying areas and the ghettoes.  By and large the rural areas will be "conservative" and the urban areas will be "liberal".  North and South only really distinguish the rural communities, in the North there's likely to be a local bar or two, in the South you'll have to get to know the guy with the moonshine still.

The main exception is Florida, which is a backward and nonsensical state, where the further north you drive the more Southern you're getting and the further south you drive the more things will be Northern.
Really? Why don't you come visit New Mexico. It seems that no one really understands our strange mixture of liberalism, conservatism, Catholicism, Protestantism, Urban life, rural life, technology, art, poverty, money, American Patriotism, Mexican Nationalism, Spanish/New Mexican Culture, Native American Culture, Mexican Immigrant cutlure, White Culture, etc. etc. etc. all within a five mile radius. Trust me. WE are more complex than you think
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