28 November, 2018

In Defense of Americans

This is NOT a current events post. Go elsewhere for that. I won't have it here.

As an American Expat traveling the world, I have heard and read various views about Americans in general, some earned, some debatable, some apropos only to the current moment and mood. 

There are two specific views - typically held by Europeans, as far as I can tell - that I would like to address. I'm pretty hot about these two. You've been warned.

1. Europeans* seem outraged that we call ourselves "American"

First off, what do you care? Calm down already.

"America isn't a country! It's a continent."
"You're not from 'America'; you're from the U.S.A."
"You can't claim a continent."

Okay, "America" isn't a country. It is also not a continent. North America is a continent. 
South America is a continent. 
"The Americas" are a super-continent, if you will. Like Eurasia. 

HOWEVER, you pompous Euro-imbecile, please tell me: What other country has the word "America" in its name? 
What's that? None?

That's right, you ignoramus. None. 
If you are annoyed that we call ourselves "American", what is your suggestion? "United States-ians"? "States-ers"? There is no other sensible name by which to call ourselves, and since no other country claims the word "America" in its name, "American" ours, thank you very much.

We are from "The United States OF AMERICA". 
We are "of America". 
We are American. Fight me.

This first issue was broadly complained about throughout a blog post by some Irish dude whose name I will not promote. The blog post was all about things he didn't like about the US. He claimed that he "liked visiting the States, had before and will again, but..." Kind of like the person who says, "I'm not a racist, but..." and then launches into everything wrong with people of a certain race. I've heard this view elsewhere, but he was pretty angry.

2. Americans never learn a second language.

I first started hearing this complaint about "ignorant Americans" when I was kid, going to an international school in India. It wasn't until I was older, living in the States, that I figured out the answer.

Yes. I know. Most Europeans know at least two languages. Yeah, yeah. It's all over the movies and TV, and in all my travels, it has been infrequent that I met a European who didn't speak at least a modicum of English - THE most widely spoken language in the world, including Chinese, which is primarily spoken by Chinese people, not a significant percentage of a significant percentage of countries.

Europeans kind of have to be bilingual. Europe is a continent filled with 50 countries all squished together into a space roughly the same size as the US. Of the three countries that comprise North America, two speak primarily English! For most Europeans to visit any place of a different culture from their own, they kind of have to know a different language.

At least Europeans travel, you say? Thank you for illuminating your ignorance once again. I'll call that point "2a".

Most Americans can't afford to travel to other countries, because most other countries are so far away! If each State in the US was a country with its own language, for sure we'd be learning languages all the time. Well, except maybe Texans**. The smart American traveler allows a day to drive across Texas. If Texas was a country, It's citizens might be given a pass on the language thing.

When I lived in the States, it took me a long day of driving (11 hours) to get from my home on the East Coast to my parents' house in the Midwest, and that was a straight shot on clear highways. STILL, I was only 1/3 of the way across the country. 

Most Americans do travel, to a certain extant. Our single country includes such a variety of geography and history and yes, culture, that we can go long distances and speak English the whole way.

On a personal note, visiting another country doesn't make one American better than any other American. Again while State-side, I once had an employee who, when he could, vacationed in Italy. He was almost disgusted that I took my vacation to drive out to my parents' house in Indiana. He had never even crossed the Appalachian mountains. Even if I hadn't grown up overseas, the fact that I've been to 47 of the 50 States makes me more well-traveled than that particular American who had visited the US Northeast (assuming that he probably left Delaware occasionally) and Italy.

Even still, most Americans do study another language for a while in school. There is just no need to practice it. I would venture a guess that 100% of Americans know some basic Spanish, whether they want to or not.


*Yes, I'm generalizing about Europeans. Don't tell me, "Not this European". I know it doesn't carry to all of you, just the vocal morons.

**I know, Alaska is bigger than Texas, but its population is not. I'm discussing people.


  1. You tell 'em. This goes along with what I've thought ever since I was a kid.

    Most people are stupid.

  2. *whispers* California has more people than Texas... *

    So many people are bilingual where I live. I'm not. But I know so many people who speak Spanish fluently. And there's such a concentration of cultures where I am that there are many other languages present. If I go to little Saigon I see plenty of Vietnamese on signs. Then there's little India, various Korean churches, and that's just in my immediate area.

    1. *whispers* but the size of Texas covers more European countries.

      I know! We are very diverse. Most people just don't learn a language for the purpose of travel, I think. We - correctly - assume that English is available in most popular American destinations. Not all, and some Americans are kind of idiotic about how they handle a lack of English, but usually, English is around!

  3. I've experienced this, both online and face to face.
    It's maddening.
    I'm just gonna end with that. Before, you know, it gets ugly...

    1. I don't defend everything Americans tend to do when they travel, but these two things that outsiders complain about? Seriously, people need to get a life.

  4. good one. there are a lot of stupid people in the world. THe older i get, the more there seem to be.

  5. I once had a discussion about "The Ugly American" with a British guy. He talked about how we in the U.S. are divided into states and there's so much violence and we're so ignorant...
    I pointed out that there's a lot of division within Britain--not just Scotland and Wales and to a lesser extent Cornwall (and that's without getting into Ireland) but the south is seen as erudite while the north is more rural, people from Lincolnshire make fun of people from Manchester, British football hooligans are so violent they've literally been banned from other countries, and places like Majorca are bilingual to accommodate British tourists who don't know Spanish.
    He was annoyed but I think also impressed by how much I, an American, knew about another country.

    1. Good for you! I meet a lot of people from all over who are wonderful and tolerant, but every now and then someone just can't accept that things are different for other people.


I enjoy a good debate. Feel free to shake things up. Tell me I'm wrong. Ask me why I have such a weird opinion. ...or, just laugh and tell how this relates to you and your life.