Why do you think Americans are often viewed negatively around the world?
While living overseas I was sometimes really hurt and bewildered when people viewed me negatively because I was American. The assumptions about us were based on government actions or Hollywood and now a days the Internet.
It was always nice to run into foreigners who had visited here and had a different view. One was our friendliness, generosity and orderliness… Nothing seemed to impress them more than our forming lines without a problem and waiting our turn.
Why is we often view people in other countries with the same criteria? One thing I learned from living abroad is we are much more alike than not. Love to hear your views on this.
Many Americans come across as arrogant when visiting abroad, demanding and not going with the flow of a different country. Also, the US is perceived as interfering in other countries' affairs too often and as favoring certain countries over others with foreign aid and alliances. We have a great country, a real mix of humanity in it, but we do get a little full of ourselves.
You are very much on target! Never stopped hearing... Why don't the locals speak English or why can't I find this or that...
But what was amazed me at the beginning even though I could criticize America when someone outside of it did it I always thought of it like someone picking on my black sheep brother, he may be a mess, but he is our mess... I remember being asked along with other American women to be on a local TV show and discuss Bill Clinton’s sexual escapades... Funny not one woman Democrat or Republican was willing to say anything negative about OUR president, even though they had plenty so say in private.
But I am thankful I learned how to see us from the outside looking in gives you a much better view, even though you might want to keep them to yourself at the local watering hole or on Hubpages… I haven’t learned that one yet though… LOL
The feedback I usually get is that Americans are some of the most kindest, generous people on the planet that will bend over backwards to help.
It's when they travel outside of the US do they become insufferable jerks.
I think we TEND to lack spirituality, depth. Our lives focus on the superficial, like being number one, getting rich, and dog eat dog. Recently I have had the "privilege" of driving a 1989 Celica that travels at best 55 mph. I go out of my way to stay out of everyone else's way, but people pass me on double orange lines, cut me off as they pass me and all kinds of "strange" human or perhaps American behavior. I don't take it personal and I console my car! But I wonder how much of the impatient intolerant behavior we take with us around the world and how much of that is transmitted directly or indirectly thru the media.
I think xstatic has it right, but I also think some Americans who travel overseas make it bad for everyone else by their actions and behavior.
Years ago, while serving in the navy I did my part to help American-Japanese relationships while heading back to my ship with a friend after a night of drinking far from a needed urinal. We came across a Japanese gentleman using a canal at the side of the road for that purpose, so I joined him in that. My buddy was shocked and told me I shouldn't but my reply was that if it was good enough for the Japanese, it was good enough for me. There were several Japanese onlookers there and by showing that I was not above doing that alone I made some great friends that night. On the other hand, this one buddy was the only one of the whole ship who did not act as a jerk in the local bars and flaunt their nationality.
En route to Nigeria, I usually travel through Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris. Once I was stranded in Paris due to a flight delay. When I showed my American Passport at the counter, I noticed I received a very cold reception from the airport officials than most others who didn't have an American Passport. They even stopped speaking english altogether, requiring me to converse with them in French. I do know a little french, but I was so frustrated by their attitude that I felt like saying, 'this is an International Airport, you need to learn how to speak english"
Most other countries or culture think of us, as xstatic said, as arrogant and sometimes, condescending in our approach. A lot of these countries have had some sort of dealings with Americans, contractors, government officials, or business people, and are often appalled by the level of corruption 'we Americans' are willing to engage in - in other to get things done. They view that as hypocritical when we condemn the same actions of corruption in their culture or country.
"It was always nice to run into foreigners who had visited here" - your words.
When Americans come to My country - we NEVER consider them as 'foreigners' - we try to treat them as equals and Never as superior or inferior! Being referred to as a foreigner, is to the rest of the world an arrogant reference that intimates there is a vast difference between you and us - there isn't, but for whatever reason, words like 'foreigners' are sadly used in your every day conversations and thus endorsed as being a negative 'them and us' attitude!
Think about it ..... when NZ's 'Foreign' policy was to refuse entry to (all including) US nuclear powered vessels - how did you guys act?
Clearly it wasn't appreciated, as it took another 27 years for the US to allow our Navy row boats into Pearl Harbor.... even though NZ had provided R & R and Full Medical and Escort Services to US servicemen during WW2.
We don't consider James Cameron as a 'foreigner' - we even let him own a slice of NZ just so he could learn film direction from Peter Jackson!
A few years ago a friend and I took a vacation in the Bahamas. At that time, the islands had been devastated by hurricanes, and their beaches were a mess. My friend and I decided to go outside the resort we'd booked (if you've been to some places in the Bahamas you know what I mean) and took a taxi to the beach. When we got there, a place of desolation, a place of concrete and their re-bars that the sea could not wash away, the last signs of resorts that had been swept away, we were approached by women who wanted to braid our hair, so we agreed and came away with braids and beads that would make Bo Derek happy. Then we found a tiki kind of bar and had a few rum and cokes along with good conversation with the tiki tender.
Later that day, back at our resort hotel, a man came up to me and said, "I saw you on the beach. You got your hair braided. You had drinks at the tiki bar. You never complained. Too many American ladies do."
America has a bad rap because of its politics and the media focus on those politics. We look like war mongers, and worse. But a simple caring gesture, a simple human engagement, one on one, is what matters.
We're all humans and understand the language of acceptance and engagement. A smile is a smile around the world.
Let's fire our politicians.
Part of it may be, that for the most part, we only speak one language: English.
When travelling Europe several years ago, I found it very difficult because I would go somewhere like a restaurant, and the waitstaff couldn't understand me, and I couldn't understand them. Perhaps my frustration showed through? I would view someone negatively if they came into my country, started blabbing at me in another language, then got frustrated with ME when I didn't understand them.
In places like Europe...hell, all over the world, people learn to speak multiple languages. In Germany, they teach you English starting in grade school, and usually French in high school. Then there are Japanese who teach their children English, or Canadians who learn French and English, Chinese who have several different dialects, or Indians who learn English in order to do better business... The list goes on an on.
America sits in a global economy, yet doesn't bother to learn other languages to improve communication with others. People can go through their entire lives without learning any additional languages. That would make America seem selfish to me.
You are so right. Americans don't learn to speak other languages. It's a matter, I think, of America's isolationism. When you think about the square miles in America, where everyone speaks the same language, and then look at the square miles in Europe where there are dozens of languages, Americans look selfish and maybe even stupid.
But the push has been on, not by America, but by world economy, to make English the language of commerce. That's not something America did; it's something the world did.
As for communicating across languages when you don't understand the other, there are ways of getting around that. A traveling companion of mine in Europe who knew nothing of languages other than English had a way of communicating which I so admired but never mastered. She had body language, and she could make herself understood. Isn't body language a universal language? I loved to watch her...she had a gift. She also had street smarts...I think those translate to communal understanding as well.
Body language is most definitely a form of communication, but can differ in meaning from culture to culture. The "middle finger" doesn't mean the same thing in Uganda as it does here in the States. Your friend is innovative to employ other forms of communication when verbal communication is lacking. I wish more people did that.
The main reason is our foreign policy. It started from the Bush's administration and went on with the Obama's administration. Since the involvement of the Bush's administration in the Sept 11th attack (that's the European's opinion), since the US invasion of Irak until the droning of civilians in northern Pakistan, which image did we reflect to the world. A conqueror that steals oil from Irak, Libya, that is aiming at the wealth of the China sea, of Syria (gas field), that arms mercenaries to destabilize and destroy any country...
I believe most of the dislike of Americans is a product of third-party experience. Over time, I have met many people from other parts of the world. In some cases I was the first American they had actually had in their presence. The rest of their knowledge was based on what they could hear and what they garnered third-hand and at a distance from some form of media...often either biased or in error. People also become an extension of their leadership. If the leadership of a country is hostile to America then the people mirror those feelings. Many corporations are teaching diversity concepts in locations throughout America at present with the knowledge that the workforce of tomorrow they will need cannot be provided in total by America. Workers will be more diverse in their cultures and their origins and harmony must exist along with teamwork in the workplace. I seriously doubt that one will find that attitude in China or Russia. America has shown over centuries that we are a giving and caring people. Like any culture, we have a given portion that is ignorant and acts out but that is not America on the whole. What a shame that the people of the world cannot experience all the wonderful folks who do live here....maybe they perspective might just be swayed in the other direction. ~WB
Excellent points raised here and I for one non American (I resent the word 'foreigner!') agree that when it comes down to a one on one meeting between parties, it is generally found that we are very similar and certainly have what it takes to be complimentary in our joint objectives.
When I first came to the states, I traveled alone and covered both coasts, gaining a major insight into what many don't have (or make) the opportunity to do - get out there and meet the people in their own environment, understand their life trials and tribulations, their knowledge, pride of place, beliefs, their accents, concerns and needs etc - and how could I and my export biz 14,000 miles away, improve or compliment their goals.
I met over 3000 individual people overall and made great long term friends and huge business deals that still exist years later. What I did was quite unique and took a lot of courage to achieve.. but the results were amazing... perhaps because people do appreciate others going that extra distant to make and maintain a genuine connection.
Every single person that I met I got on with and found them to be very generous and sincere in their very own interest that they found in me.. Even had the opportunity to spend time with an Amish community in PA... most of whom never knew that my country even existed. I know personally that it really actually doesn't matter whether you are a Kiwi, a Brit, or American, or from wherever, it's really about what common ground, interests and what is in one's heart that really counts! Take away the politics and all those other factors that have been established to divide people - and mostly, we all appreciate the fact that people are effectively the same behind the facade!
Not one single American from a large number that I have had the pleasure to host in my country, both professionally and personally, has ever not completely enjoyed their time here... I believe most of us do consider it important, as a sense of our own pride in our countries, to ensure that visitors leave with a positive experience!
It is a pity that online Americans struggle with our sense of humor though...
Since the crumbling of the Soviet Union 20 years ago, The United States has been the only true superpower in the world. With that status has grown arrogance and the feeling that for good or for bad the U.S. is the world's policeman. Many countries of the world are jealous and despise Americans for the military power they have had to wage wars in Iraq and in Afghanistan. Many Americans stationed abroad with the military or the diplomatic corps also at times do things to offend the local people or other foreigners. An example of this would be the rape of Japanese girls by U.S. servicemen and the derrogratory comments made about European backpackers by diplomatic people in East Asian countries. Then, too, there is the image of the ugly American tourist who doesn't want to follow local customs and expects all of his hosts in foreign countries to treat him or her like being in the States.
When I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Botswana, Africa in the mid-70s people used to tell me that they hated the American government, but liked all the Americans they'd met. I think the way our government acts - it's arrogant foreign policies, military dominance, and secret intelligence manipulations of other countries' governments has given us a bad rap overseas. And that was before all the Bush stuff (Senior and Junior). This has been going on for a long time.
Right or wrong, others usually identify Americans with the government and its foreign policies.
While the American people are probably the kindest and most tolerant in the world, the government is viewed (and with good reason) as being the bully of all times.
This negative image translates into unpleasant situations and both parties are getting frustrated. It happened to me more than once at the passport control check point when traveling with an American passport, but the attitude changed "miraculously" when they saw I was only a naturalized citizen.
People should be treated as individuals and not be made responsible for the "sins" of their government policies, but we all have our prejudices and separating the two is hard.
Surfing around HP this morning, I may have discovered just why other people view Americans negatively.
To see the answer, check out the posts for the last month in the political sections, as our big election approaches. Others can see these, too, you know, as they look at 1% objective truth and 99% demands that everyone else accept whatever the current lie or opinion is.
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