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How Does the Rest of the World See America?

Updated on October 5, 2016
Is this what an American looks like?
Is this what an American looks like?

America Viewed from Afar

The people of America are extremely diverse, with different ethnic backgrounds, and different interests and goals in life. In this article, however, I won't look at individual Americans, but the 'average American', the 'typical American'. The average American doesn't exist in real life, but they do exist in the minds of people from other countries, which is why I will use this idea to illuminate world attitudes.

Patriotism is one of the defining characteristics of the US psyche to many people from outside the country. To an outsider, Americans miss no opportunity to play up the spirit of fairness and achievement which they think captures what it is to be American. They will complement the successes of your country, but can't help mentioning the success of their own.

America has been both incredibly popular and incredibly unpopular internationally at various points in its history. At this point in time, it is going through a phase of popularity. According to a Pew poll, 63% of Europeans had a favorable view of the United States. Of the countries surveyed, only Greece had an unfavorable view of the US. This is probably because the United States believes in individual initiative and unrestricted free markets, whereas Greece prefers a collectivist, socialist model.

Many people from the United States probably assume that everyone, no matter what country they are from, respect the achievements and values of the US. After all, how could anyone hate what is so clearly good? But they are wrong to think this. Many people in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan hate the US, because it promised to help them, but ended up making their lives worse.

The American Personality

According to a Pew poll, personality traits that people from various countries around the world most associate with the United States are: optimism and willingness to work hard. American is country of innovation, where inventors and entrepreneurs are seen as embodying the American ethos. However, according the poll, there is also a dark side to the American personality. According to the Pew poll, many people associate greed, violence and arrogance with America. People might associate greed with America from films such as The Wolf of Wall Street and The Big Short. Violence is inextricably tied to America, with Chicago known worldwide as having areas of lawlessness and constant violence. The US is also associated with the Mafia, and gangsters.

How does the world see America?

Cultural Differences

American culture is different from European, Asian and African culture. Americans are often seen as overly brash. What was meant to be a friendly Hello might come across as intimidating to people from European countries, who are used to a more restrained way of speaking. People from the US can come across as excessively concerned with wealth and status to people in many countries, especially in places like Scandinavia, which put the community first, and the individual second.

Around The World - Episode 4: America

Land of the Free?

Foreign Policy

The USA has a history of making bad choices in the foreign policy department. It unwisely waged a long and brutal war in Vietnam from the 50s to 70s, causing many people in Asia to hate the US. People in Vietnam are still living with the consequences of the war today, with unexploded bombs, and deforestation just some of the problems. In the 90s and 2000s, the US decided to intervene in the Middle East. It took part in a number of conflicts. Even now, people dispute the reasons for these wars, but energy security issues related to oil, and the need to have leaders in the Middle East sympathetic to the US were certainly involved. Many Middle Eastern people, and people in the US, argue that the war was illegal. They also claim that the US continued to fight wars even when it was clear that victory was unattainable. Many people from countries which fought alongside the US in the Middle East think that the US coerced their countries into taking bad military decisions, yet another reason why the US is so unpopular. The US has recovered from the unpopularity that followed the war in Iraq, but if it were to start another war, its popularity would fall once more.

Lasting Legacies


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