What Americans think of Europeans

I wrote a hugely popular post on what Europeans think of each other, and we all know what Europeans think of Americans (that we’re fat and stupid – well, it’s a bit more complicated than that; I’ll delve into that in another post). In this post, I’ll write my experiences with my fellow Americans think about Europeans. Keep in mind, though, that the diversity of knowledge and opinion in the US is far greater than just about anywhere else in the world, so I’m not going to capture everyone’s sentiment.

At the outset, it’s important to understand this about Americans:

  • a lot of Americans live by the “if you can’t say anything nice about (something), then don’t say anything at all” adage. So most Americans, who generally have a vague positive feeling about Europe, will only say vaguely positive things about Europe, if anything at all. (“I hear it’s nice over there.”)
  • Most Americans are profoundly ignorant of geography and don’t give much thought beyond their immediate frame of reference. Before you think that means Americans are chauvinist, keep in mind they don’t give a shit about the next state over, or even next city, much less another country. Americans may be brilliant when it comes to technology, innovation and business, but they fail when it comes to geography. They are simply not interested. (This is why, I think, America assimilates foreigners better than Europe. They don’t know where other people come from, and soon forget; their foreignness ceases to be a liability, unlike Europeans who always remember that China had the Tiananmen Square massacre, a Serb killed Archduke Ferdinand and Serbia gave the world Slobodan Milosevic, etc.)
  • the last few years have seen politically-active Americans attuned to world affairs much more than they have traditionally been, because of the wars, antagonism towards US foreign policy, propaganda by the Bush administration, etc. Growing up, I can tell you that no one ever cared what was going on outside our borders, other than to think the Soviet Union was a miserable shithole, and everywhere else was OK (but not as great as the USA).

That said, let me get down to the specifics, country by country. Remember that I’ll only include those that the average American has heard of and actually knows is in Europe (you ask the average American where Albania is, and you might be surprised at the variety of answers; I expect fully a third would say “Antarctica”). I’m being a little harsh on my fellow Americans, but, as an American, this is something we tend to do:

  • UK – This is the only European country (and, like the Brits, Americans don’t always consider it part of Europe, even though it clearly is) that Americans tend to have largely uncritical views of, regardless of whether they’re at the political right or left (actually, let me add the neighboring Irish to that list). Brits are considered “polite”, “dignified” and “cultured” by virtue of their speech, which Americans, through decades of inculcation through movies and television, have come to ascribe values to. The only negative is of those with posh, elite accents to be thought of as devious or cunning; many Hollywood thrillers aimed at a middle-class audience have some greedy British villain who’s just too smart for his own good (stupidity is equated with a lack of guile, which middle-class Americans admire). I don’t think most Americans, until recently, have known that there is a substantial, vociferously anti-American contingent in the UK; many on the far left think it’s all directed at Bush and his policies (it isn’t nearly that temporal nor partisan), so they tend to think of the Brits as being “on our side”.
    There is a perception, poked fun of in popular media, that Brits have bad teeth, but it’s one of those stereotypes that is not really taken all that seriously, like that Poles are stupid or that Italians don’t bathe.
    Among younger people, the UK is synonymous with London, where it’s imagined everything is cool, edgy, rock. For many young women, having a English rocker boyfriend has substantial cachet.
    Other than that, I think most Americans are completely oblivious to the stereotypes that the English and Scots endure by Europeans (that they’re cheap, two-faced, etc.)
  • France – Mixed feelings, mixed feelings. Most Americans have known that the French enjoy criticizing the US and Americans; they know that Parisians are rude the minute you say something in English. But they still go there. Except for the minority of hard-core right-wing Americans who choose travel destinations on principle alone (they usually stay home), most Americans want to visit Paris.
    But, the average American is going to use the following word when describing the French: “snob.” And by most accounts it’s probably the most offensive word you can use in America, where “he’s a regular guy” is one of the highest compliments you can pay to someone.
    On the positive side, “cultured”, “sophisticated” and “thin” betray a certain jealousy that even the most hardened anti-French have towards this country, our oldest ally in the world.
  • Italy – American perceptions of Italians are shaped by Italian-Americans (who are mostly from Sicily, and are quite different from most contemporary Italians), the food, and, of course, Hollywood. Italians are considered laid-back, stylish, loud (in a good way; remember, we Americans are loud), and know good food. Think about it – if there ever were a universally-liked cuisine, it would be Italian. Italian women are considered very sexy – think Sophia Loren and Monica Bellucci. The men, too, are loved by American women (and gay men). The only negative stereotypes are that they’re mafiosos, and don’t bathe – very old stereotypes that made them the butt of jokes about 100 years ago. No one takes these sorts of jokes seriously anymore.
  • Germany – Unlike the Brits and other Europeans, Americans don’t have anything against the Germans. This is probably due to the fact that a plurality of white Americans have Deutsch blood coursing through their veins, and because Americans have fantastically short memories. Of course, if an American hates any particular German, he’s going to call him a Nazi, but Americans don’t think of them as the humorless, stiff, nazionalsocialistischer automatons that your average Brit, French or Czech does. Beyond that, the only perception of Germany is beer, sausage, sauerkraut and Oktoberfest. And maybe lederhosen.
  • Spain – I’m sorry to say this, considering Spaniards’ enormous sensitivity around it, but most Americans are going to conflate the Spanish with Mexicans. They’re going to assume Spain is poor, the people eat tacos and burritos, and they pay with worthless pesos. They’re going to assume Madrid is a suburb of Mexico City, and Barcelona is an island near Cancun. If they have fantastic memory, they might remember the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria, those famous Mexican ships sailed by that Mexican explorer, Hernan Cortes.
  • Scandinavia – I’m throwing the Netherlands in here, too, because for whatever reason, most Americans think “Dutch” applies to Denmark, and that they speak Danish in Holland. (I tell people although they’re all tall blondes that speak Germanic languages, Dutch bikes are routinely stolen while Danish ones aren’t.) Scandinavia is considered advanced technologically and blonde, blonde, blonde, but beyond that, there’s no reason to ever visit any of those countries. And most Americans might think Scandinavia is a country, and they speak a language called Slavic.
  • Ireland – Considering a happy, beautiful, green country full of shamrock-covered meadows and cheery little leprechauns. Maybe not too far from the truth, actually. The negative stereotype is that they’re drunks, but in America, that’s not really an insult anymore. Most Americans would be floored if they knew the per capita GDP of Ireland was higher than that of the US, and that Ireland has only 4.6 million people. Most Americans think it’s a huge, poor country.
  • Portugal – Part of Puerto Rico.
  • Greece – Based on the popularity of the 2002 film, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Greece is probably considered a quaint, colorful country full of charmingly nationalistic bumpkins. But the reality is that the country doesn’t cross the minds of most Americans whatsoever.
  • Countries completely ignored except by some ethnic descendants – Poland, Czechoslovakia (that’s right – it’s still one country), Yugoslavia (v.s.), Hungary (most Americans will think you’re joking if you tell them this is the name of a country; they might even believe you if you tell them it’s near Thirstary), and anything eastward, until you hit Russia.
  • Russia – Large, poor, cold, angry, gray. Again, not too far from the truth. Russia includes places like Moscow, Ukraine, all the -stans (sometimes even Paki- and Afghani-) and just about any other country with a majority white people that speak a language that’s not English that they’ve never heard of (Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, etc). Like the other former Iron Curtain countries, considered cold, depressing, nothing to see. They wouldn’t believe that St Petersburg is as beautiful as it is, as are Prague, Budapest, Krakow, etc.

These have been my perception of what the average insular white American knows and thinks. Here are some variants for different subgroups based on my conversations:

  • African-Americans (black) – Love France. Neutral on the rest of western Europe. Have absolutely no interest in, knowledge of, or desire to visit Eastern or Northern Europe.
  • Latinos – Love Spain. Positive on France and Italy. Have absolutely no interest in, knowledge of or desire to visit any other European country.
  • Asians – Indians adore Britain. The Vietnamese adore France. Filipinos adore Spain. (Are we beginning to see a pattern here?) Other Asians are not particularly interested in Europe (unless they’re very “Americanized”).
  • Gays – Europe is London, Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin and Ibiza. The Mediterranean is hot. So is Eastern Europe, paradoxically (so much Eastern European gay porn comes Stateside). Very, very confused on which city goes where; a widespread perception that London, Paris, and Prague are an hour-long train ride from each other.
  • Lesbians – The only lesbians I know have gone to Amsterdam and loved it. Too small a sample size for me to form an impression.
  • Hipsters – Love London, Paris, and slightly more “edgy” capitals like Copenhagen, Prague, Helsinki and Barcelona. They tend to be relatively well-off and educated, so they might buck a lot of the stereotypes I’ve laid out here.

This will, no doubt, make more than a few Europeans fume in indignation, or nod smugly that Americans really are as ignorant as they’ve thought. Remember that there is a small but not insignificant (maybe 5-10%?) number of Americans who are widely travelled and know a ton about Europe and its geography, national temperaments and culture. They tend to live in the “urban archipelago”, esp in coastal cities like New York or San Francisco.

Update: If you want to see it quantified, here are Americans’ sentiments towards other countries (not just European). Unsurprisingly, the current bugaboos harped on about in the media are at the bottom of the list.

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  1. I feel bad for you because I think it is a sign of stupidity if you don´t know so much about other countries that you mix Spain with Mexico and Holland with Scandinavia! (don´t you have pictures of world maps out there?). When we were in Boston (Ma) 2 weeks ago and we´re having a sightseeing tour the guide asked my 12 year old son (who speaks fluent english!, most young people do in Finland) where he was from and my son answered, “Helsinki, Finland” and the guide said “okey”. So I understood that a) he had never even heard where Finland is (Nokia?) and b) he wasn´t even interested to know.

    That is so sad. I have been to over 50 countries and learned so much about other cultures and everywhere I´ve been to people always come and ask where we are from etc and start a discussion but that never happens in the USA! People are not interested at all and it´s really difficult to start a conversation when they realize you are not an american.

    Don´t get me wrong, I like the states but I guess the americans are a little bit self centered than other people
    but I guess you have to be an american to really understand. And I have only been to the big cities, maybe it´´s different in the smaller cities and on the countryside?

    Comment by Rita — August 17, 2009 @ 3:48 pm

  2. Rita
    Please understand that in my neighborhood alone there are Greeks ,Chinese,Irish,Italian,Hatian,Lebanese,and that is first generation.My father was from italy,my dentist is from Lebanon and my doctor is from Greece and my best friend growing up was Norwegian.
    Americans not knowing Spain from Mexico is a little hard to believe but believe me no one I know would mix them up.
    I don’t know too much about Finland but I will find out more about it.Thanks.

    Comment by bgc — August 29, 2009 @ 12:56 pm

  3. […] interactions with Europeans, having lived there for 4 years. Here’s a run down: {Via} {More} {More} and {More […]

    Pingback by It isnt “a load of crap” its ‘clever’ and what makes a lot of people ‘laugh’. « Funny Emails — September 24, 2009 @ 11:01 pm

  4. Jeez, I think the lessons from the comments here and in the post about Europeans is that Americans are a lot more sensitive to criticism. Chill, people.

    Yes, all of the above is a generalization. And that includes all the indignant comments raging that all the Americans *they* know are hyper-intelligent geography geniuses and this post isn’t true at all. That’s another generalization, based on the handful of people you associate with.

    But really, if you want so badly to make your country look good, then learn to smile at posts like these.

    Note how little actual *anger* was in the comments on the post about Europeans. If there’s one thing Americans as a whole (woo, another generalization) can learn from Europe, it’s that. Don’t take it so goddamn seriously when people poke fun at you.

    Comment by jalf — October 1, 2009 @ 6:37 pm

  5. God damn Americans – you are just too smart.

    Sorry but only 1/3 of you are idiots (and most Nobel prize winners are American). Compare this to at least 50% idiots in my country that gave the world nothing but a toxic lake and borscht.

    A good bunch of your 15 year olds can’t even point out USA on a map. Our children don’t even know what a map is. (I admit to still being confused by the concept myself)

    Thanks to Google Translate for translating this from the original Russian….yet another American invention. (One of Google’s founders is Russian…or rather was. He, like most of the Jews, left our anti-Semitic hellhole when they got the chance)

    Comment by Kirov — October 12, 2009 @ 1:58 am

  6. You are not “hyper-intelligent” when you know Mexico and Spain are two different countries. Maybe the author meant the culture of the two are thought to be similar.

    Comment by bgc — October 30, 2009 @ 4:50 pm

  7. I’m from Portugal and have live in the US since i was a kid. I have never once heard anyone think Portugal was a part of Puerto Rico. lol. That made me laugh actually.

    Comment by Frank Bettencourt — November 21, 2009 @ 7:30 am

  8. haha, i like the part where he said: ask any american where albania is, they’ll say antartica. i am albanian, and have tried that many times with fellow classmates and friends, and they had no idea what i was talking about, let alone that albania is a country. americans are extremely ignorant when it comes to the world’s diverse cultures. as for the people who are getting mad at the guy who wrote this: dont get mad & hate because someone finally exposed the stupidity& selfishness of americans. maybe you should grab a globe and educate yourself.

    Comment by sarah — December 10, 2009 @ 6:45 am

  9. Funny article, pretty much what i expected.

    Greetings from Spain. 😉

    Comment by byteme — December 16, 2009 @ 8:42 pm

  10. Very funny article and unfornately quite true in many regards.

    I still get a knee jerk reaction to calling Sweden/Finland/Denmark/Norway and throw in “Netherlands” as Scandinavia.
    ..one small problem, there is a whole country called Germany between there….but ok. Given the possible answers of many of my countryman, I suppose they would consider the coupling to be true..but you might as well through Switzerland in there as well then..because everyone seems to think Sweden IS Switzerland (sighh..someone get a map please….) The only thing they have in common was being neutral in WWII.

    Anyway, great and fun article!!! For the rest of my countryman..I know it is very difficult, but try not to take everything so serious. They have their point of view with one possible exception, yes the french in Paris are jerks….;) Even if you TRY to speak french..still jerks.

    Comment by Debbie — December 27, 2009 @ 8:18 pm

  11. Actually most Italian Americans do not originate from Sicily, Large numbers of Italian Americans come from Naples, and communities surronding Naples,and also from Calabria, Southern Italy at the beginning of the last century was a third world country which had more in common with poor Latin American countries then it did with Europe. Because of the lack of jobs, education, and even food the whole south of Italy including Sicily fled to the new world.

    Comment by Brian — January 8, 2010 @ 9:52 am

  12. ROTFL at Portugal being part of Puerto Rico! Every semi-educated american I talked to said otherwise. It’s more like another person described it, we’re like Spain’s canada xD

    Comment by Pe6r0 — January 14, 2010 @ 9:53 pm

  13. I find it astounding at how stupid you think Americans are. I will agree with you that most of us are not the sharpest knives in the bag but… your perception of your country men is ludicrous. Where did you grow up? From what you’ve said it must have been a really terrible place… LA, Chicago, or what? Even the small town in the south I came from would laugh you out of the room for some of the accusations you’ve made here. Americans have a hard enough time abroad because of their government and the liberalized piss poor public education they receive … They don’t need people like you making them out to be complete retards. I won’t make excuses for stupidity and I call like it is… but then again maybe the people you have lived around were morons but… That’s certainly not the way American life is for all of us….

    Comment by Dave — January 19, 2010 @ 2:33 pm

  14. Great and funny article! I dont think most of the Americans (aka. US citizens) are like that, but probably some of them… Plus, I have some American friends, living in Europe, who very well educated and interested in other cultures. Maybe, thats why or because fo they r living in Europe.

    Please, do not compare Montana with Greece. As someone said, the first is national geography (that all of u should know) and the second is general culture. Even though I do know some of the States in USA and more or less where they are located!

    You should know about Greece (even if now its a small countruy with, apparently, any importance in the world politics) because it was the firts Democracy in the world, 2500 years ago! Plus it is a beutiful country with great people, great food…

    Greece just to give an example, not to talk about amazing Spain 😛 or any other country in the world. Again, just because knowledge doesnt take up any space.

    Comment by José — January 22, 2010 @ 9:39 am

  15. I’m English although I grew up in Andorra (which I can’t imagine many Americans knowing where that is)!

    I went to the US once and was flabbergasted when a guy on a train I was chatting to asked me what language we spoke in England.

    He couldn’t believe it when I said English!

    Seriously, this is no joke!!!

    Comment by Chris — February 17, 2010 @ 5:19 am

  16. I have to say I’m a little insulted by the stereotypes that Americans are ignorant of the geography of Europe, but then again I consider myself to be well read and have traveled quite a bit in Europe. I could name every capital and point to every single European country on a map.

    Comment by Chris — February 24, 2010 @ 2:18 pm

  17. This is hilarious and mostly true of Americans (I am one but not insular). I am married to a British man and we often discuss how we each view other nationalities. He hates the Germans and I try to say who really cares but that leads to an argument! I think most Americans do not care about geography or other cultures, but I do and I am raising my son to know more as well.

    Comment by Di — March 10, 2010 @ 7:36 am

  18. I am a U.S.-born Korean citizen and I’ve spent most of my time in U.S. for 10 years in Boston and New York City and in U.K. for 7 years..My general impression is that there is nothing so special about “special relations between U.S. & U.K.” at all..To me U.S.A.-U.K. relations is just one of those friendship ties that’s all..That’s because I see Asia is growing its economy much stronger and New York Wall Street Crash in October 2008 signalled a shift in the economic center of gravity from NY to Shanghai,China.I am Korean but I have full confidence that China’s economy will match that of U.S. someday..U.S. better pay attention more on Asia than EU because the age of British Empire is dead now and it’s the dawn of the Asian Century even if Japan’s economy is in slump..Fortunately U.S. has military alliance with South Korea so Americans are still welcomed by the vast majority of South Korean people even if minority of Korean youngsters are somewhat biased against U.S.A. And please allow me to add I LOVE U.S.A.!!!

    Comment by Michael Jun Sung Shim — March 17, 2010 @ 11:49 am

  19. Seems about right for the average American. I hate when I encounter Americans who are ignorant of other countries and cultures. I am somewhat chauvinistic about our culture, but I still love exploring cultures very different from what I’m accustomed to in the US.

    As an American traveling abroad, I had many people assume all Americans eat is pizza and hamburger. It really bothered me whenever someone offered to tell me where I could find these foods in their country. Then I came back and saw most of my fellow Americans stuffing their faces with pizza and hamburgers…

    Comment by Vincent Ignatius — April 15, 2010 @ 9:46 am

  20. I find this list kind of insulting. You can’t lump the views of the entire United States into one list. That would be like lumping the views of all of Europe into one list.

    American views are diverse and depend on what part of the country you visit. I’ve been in national sales for 20 years and been to multiple cities in every state…including Alaska and Hawaii.

    If I were you, I’d really try and break things down regionally as the viewpoints are quite different. France, for example, is viewed much differently by people in the southern region of the US than by the North East region. Most of the south adores the French, especially in Louisiana, Georgia, and Alabama. New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland (on the other hand) have a neutral view of France. If you go into the Mid West…there’s downright hatred of the French. Then there’s the western states ike California, Oregon, and Washington. They simply could care less about the French what-so-ever. Then there’s Texas…oh God…then there’s Texas. I advise the French to stay far away from there unless it’s Dallas/Ft. Worth or Houston.

    The United States is far to culturally diverse to create a definitive list.

    Comment by Logan — April 21, 2010 @ 9:58 am

  21. Whenever a European has asked me if i know where (whatever, europe) is I answer with: what is the capital of california? 99.9% tend to think its Los Angeles. Stupid Europeans and their poor educations.

    Look, it’s natural to be geographically aware when your country is bordered by 5 other countries. It’s natural to believe america has no culture when your own has become coopted and made into a charicature by your own tourist industry.

    I believe Americans get a bad rap because we only get 2 weeks vacation a year. We throw money around and act like assholes who only have 2 weeks to spend a years savings.

    Comment by local — April 23, 2010 @ 2:04 am

  22. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the article on ‘what Americans think of Europe’. And the comments it entailed were incredible — outlandish and misguided — we’re all biased.

    It’s only natural for people to judgement, accuse and use stereotypes to help them understand their World.

    I’m from Dublin and I’ve never been to America but I am heavily influenced by American “T.V. Culture” so my views are somewhat based on that.

    I enjoy a lot of the entertainment and technology that comes from the USA but from the Americans I’ve met on my travels around Europe (I’ve never left Europe!), I have to say they’re hard to judge. They seem dismissive, ignorant, content and flaunt their American Culture as if it’s the best thing. However, they only do this because of the way they were raised — as we all do.

    I’d like to point out that Czechs are widely regarded as “bigger drinkers” than us Irish, based on their GDP. It has also been taken into account that, even though there is a huge population difference [Ireland & Czechia], they still consume more alcohol than the Irish do. It does not mean they’re all Alcoholics; Europeans can control their “drink” intake better because it’s apart of our culture; and there less restrictions in Europe compared to America.

    It’s sad to hear that Americans aren’t taught about the World they live in properly. The more knowledge, the less fear!

    Thanks for reading and I enjoyed the humour and humilty of the article, once again. XD

    Comment by Graham — May 5, 2010 @ 8:09 pm

  23. I NEVER mix up Spain with Mexico. Sorry but I prefer Mexico not only because I’m Mexico but because I’m proud of my ancestors and the culture they left behind. Our political system is relatively new compared to Spain’s which would explain Mexican mentality; however, I will argue that I respect Spanish culture and Spain itself but I prefer mine.

    Comment by A Mexican-American — May 8, 2010 @ 9:57 pm

  24. Just little note: Santa Maria, Pinta a Nina were ships of Christopher Columbus not Hernan Cortes

    Comment by PHM — June 3, 2010 @ 1:09 pm

  25. “I am not an Athenian or a Greek, but a citizen of the world.”

    “I know nothing except the fact of my ignorance.”

    Comment by Socrates — June 29, 2010 @ 11:13 am

  26. Is anyone else afraid that as a whole, we humans are deteriorating intellectually?

    It seems that critical thinking and the ability to objectively examine one’s own ideas are dying virtues.

    Someone much smarter than I, once said: “certainty is the sincerest form of ignorance.”

    Comment by Todd — June 30, 2010 @ 12:53 pm

  27. This was incredibly amusing and very painful to read. I’m an American (born in Minnesota close to Canada, lived on the west coast for 8 years) and I’ve done my very best to become as educated as possible on global affairs and cultural interactions, since I want to move out of the U.S. someday.

    I’ve gotta say, a lot of your opinions cover the basics of most airhead Americans who would be interested in going to Europe just to buy souvenirs. A few of the things you said made me wince because I know better, and I really, really hate the fact that all Americans are viewed like ignorant bastards, but it is true: at least a third of our country are just this plain idiotic.

    I’m young and I’ve never been to Europe but I’ve studied up plenty (advanced European history classes and befriending the German and French exchange students) and all I have to say is, I hope I can be part of a generation that will change the perception of Americans around the world.

    Comment by Dakota — July 26, 2010 @ 6:27 pm

  28. @ ann- Maryland does not contain DC. It is not part of Virginia either. Washington, DC is a district unto itself.

    @graham- It isn’t that we aren’t taught about geography or other cultures, its that it isn’t something that we remember. Think of it this way we have fifty states across a large land mass much in the same way that Europe has a multitude of countries across a somewhat similar sized land mass. Us, memorizing the states is like Europeans memorizing the countries that make up Europe. You have 44, the US has 50. We’ve heard of these countries but can we expect you to know the exact geographic location of Bangor in comparison to Boston. Not really. We have our states and you all have your countries. Its the same deal.

    Comment by Kevin — August 13, 2010 @ 11:05 am

  29. Hey, I´ve read the main text and some of the comments, and seen that Finland repeatedly have been mentioned as a part of Scandinavia, it isn´t.
    Scandinavia is Denmark, Sweden and Norway. The geographical term is defined but areas where the scandinavian languages are spoken, and Finland belongs to an other branch of languages.
    I can say that the “best” thing i´ve heard from people “over ther” is that Norway is the capital of Sweden. My experience is that Norway is the first country to be forgotten when one are talking about Scandinavia. Or people are mixing Scandinavia up with just Sweden.

    Comment by Andreas — August 14, 2010 @ 4:34 pm

  30. Yes, most Americans are quite ignorant of other countries and their geographical locations. Shooot I’ve lived in other countries and have a hard time pointing out many as well…quite sad really!! But I do have a big giant map sitting behind me so maybe I can start studying locations 🙂

    Oh yeah, and don’t forget to mention that you can see Russia from Alaska 🙂

    Comment by LVnative — August 16, 2010 @ 2:39 pm

  31. It’s very funny actually; I’m an american but from a different perspective. My mother is Ecuadorian (literally not a citizen) and my dad is a true born country guy. We were originally from New York City but are now living in California (growing up I moved around a lot). I’ve got to point out some true and untrue things about this piece.

    1) Yes, I’ve met plenty, PLENTY of americans who just don’t know their geography. A student admit at Columbia University, and old friend of mine, who had barely any idea where her homestate Texas was. There have been other accounts too; people thinking Asia was a country (fail), etc. I’ve got to agree with this.

    2) Most average Americans don’t know how to travel. And I mean TRAVEL. I spent the summer studying in Malaga, Spain – where I lived with a family, I drank, I laid on the beach, I engaged with the people, I danced all night long at the Discotecas, I took trains to neighboring cities on my own. Most Americans are blindly scared to do this. Why? Because what every person living in Europe doesn’t understand is that America is SAFE – unbelievably SAFE. I mean sure we have bad places like the ghetto. But for the most part, the suburbs? Come on? How many American Citizens would flip if they didn’t have running warm water for a day? or a bathroom invested with ants? Life is different. Very different. And sadly often taken for granted. When most americans travel, they take ‘tours’. pathetic little tours as I like to call them. You see, they’re perfectly happy with their Cannon photography cameras, going on a cruise with all the other english speaking folk and never truly make an attempt to get to know the culture. This is where I bet some people get the idea of the ‘big stuck up american’ and why many have mixed feelings.

    3) France is snobby. Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve known nice french people -natives to the country. But you talk to any other european country and they will give you their undying opinion about it “Nobody likes France” I’ve heard the same thing from Italians, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch and even Germans haha, nobody likes the french! Now don’t get me wrong, I like the french. I think it’s a beautiful language. And most peculiar culture at best. I’ve never been to France. One day I’ll have to make that judgement for myself.

    4) Yes, sadly, americans will incorporate any spanish speaking person and classify them as a ‘Mexican’. I can’t tell you how many people think that Ecuador is next to Guatemala. They are so pathetic. And most other hispanics hate this! But it’s not the americans fault actually. Increasing illegals have caused severe problems, especially in California. It really is hard to not have a bais about mexicans. For example; I go for an afternoon jog around my town, like friendly neighbor I smile at all those passing by; the local jews, the local japanese, the local indians. Everybody is friendly enough to smile back. Except for the mexicans. Everytime I pass a hispanic by all the do is give me a death glare, no matter how wide I smile. It’s scary often. Like they want to stick a knife in my throat. So don’t blame an American for having their assumptions. It’s for our own protection. What often others don’t understand is that Americans don’t have a problem admitting immigrants and people who are in need of work, people who want to better their lives. There isn’t a single soul in America who wants to prevent that. However, the immigrants coming over are not coming over seeking better oppurtunities as an American, no. Even kids in highschool, flaunt their ‘mexican pride’ Which is fine, if it didn’t include violent threats towards the white children in spanish. (I’m being serious).

    Anyway these are my opinions.
    I’m an American, and proud to be one too. I can laugh when foreigners talk about how stupid some Americans can be (trust me, I do it myself) because I have actually lived in Ecuador, traveled the world, and have quite a different lifestyle then most of my average american friends. However, I think your assumptions are slightly off key.

    Comment by Mary — August 16, 2010 @ 11:21 pm

  32. Part of this is true depending which type of american you’re asking.
    I’m a New Yorker and I can guarantee you that if I asked my friend where greece or Portugal was on a map, they can point it out. New York along with many other cities are culturally diverse, and if we, for example, have friends from another country, we tend to know more about that country.

    But yes, we are geographically retarded. I am a geographically-educated person, and the truth is, Americans don’t give a shit about things that don’t interfere with their daily lives. I couldn’t give less of a shit about New Jersey. Seriously, nothing important ever happens there, why should I care? I know the capitol is Trenton, but I couldn’t care less about New Jersey. We (New Yorkers, or at least New Englanders) think of the east coast as the cooler part of America (due to the fact that we have a lot of major cities here), California as the cool place of the west, and pretty much every other state is useless garbage. We think of the south as rascist hillbillies who can’t speak properly (Seriously, they talk like retards), and the mid-west as a place similar to the south, but not full of hillbillies. My friend also told me that people from California hate New Yorkers, and I also read that Chicagoans don’t really like New Yorkers either, because apparently Chicago is a better place than New York, and New Yorkers are loud, rude, and too obsessed with the city. What ever. The point is, people from big cities are geographically knowledgeable to a decent extent. People who are from states that get no tourists are geographically stupid, because no foreigners go to their state, therefore, the thought of other cultures doesn’t cross their minds, and like I stated before, they end up not caring about other cultures.

    Also, Latinos love Spain? No. That statement is wrong. I’m Peruvian, and there is no way in hell latinos love spain. All of South America doesn’t like Spain. Mexico should Hate them just as much as us south americans. Spain practically went to Mexico and South America, wiped out the people there, took all of their gold and silver, and left.

    But at least I know where Spain is on a map…

    Comment by Random Name — September 26, 2010 @ 12:48 pm

  33. Wow. Where did this guy get his information? Americans know geography, and aren’t as stupid as everyone is portraying them as. They may be slightly self-centered, but they aren’t dumb.

    Comment by Katherine — September 27, 2010 @ 4:28 pm

  34. I am your average American woman. I will admit my geography is not all that good, but that does not mean that I am stupid, or that I think so poorly on other countries. You cannot place every single American into the same mind frame. Thanks to the Internet I have been trying to learn more about people from other countries, all the way from how they talk, dress, religion, to daily activities. I don’t and have never looked down on them and have found many good people out there. Also I don’t blame other countries for things like our gas….I am not that closed minded. I would just like for you to realize that not everyone in America is as you described. Many of us do have our down falls as is human nature, but many of us are also very smart, nice, and accepting to other people and their cultures. And no it is not that we have small memories but more that most of us are accepting to the other cultures. Just because my ancestors fought in this war or that war does not mean that I have the same veiws as what they had. I hope this makes you realize that not all of this are so bad.

    Comment by your normal american — October 7, 2010 @ 6:46 pm

  35. All these comments sound like a bunch of Europeans saying they know the thoughts of the entire American population.

    Comment by The American — November 10, 2010 @ 11:37 pm

  36. Shame on you for perpetuating ignorant American stereotypes (and some negative European ones as well). You seem to fit a very strong stereotype within the country – that of a coastal snob that thinks everyone between New York and San Francisco is an idiot. I thought Internations was supposed to be focused on overcoming stereotypes so that people from different cultures could find understanding and conviviality???? You my friend, have failed at this.

    Comment by Lori — November 12, 2010 @ 11:21 am

  37. um… The Usians ( i won’t use American cos it refers to Canada) on this site keep going on about how we Europeans don’t know their country geography, but they don’t know our continents basic geography! Sure their countrys big but we’re lots of countrys the average British Year 7 (not sure what grade it is for you guys) can point to almost any country you say in North America, South America, Europe, Asia and Austrulasia.

    Now i want to ask all the Usians i the audience wwhat happened on the 7th July 2005 in London?
    No one in American even knows without looking it up whereas we Europeans are forced to lap up you 9 11 sob stories.

    Comment by Brit — November 14, 2010 @ 5:47 am

  38. “Before you think that means Americans are chauvinist, keep in mind they don’t give a shit about the next state over, or even next city, much less another country.”

    …What? Since when? Most Americans have similar perceptions [and stereotypes] about the states around them as the Europeans do about the countries around them.

    For example, Texas – my home state – we tend to view people from Louisiana as lazy, backwater hicks, Arkansas we mutually ignore, Oklahoma as red neck farmers…and we tend to just snub New Mexico all together.

    The views about the states aside – whole regions to have different ways of interacting [though usually some form of picking on each other I’ve noticed] but regionally tend to move the same direction politically – but the regions [and the states with-in the regions] don’t ignore each other, and they certainly ‘Give a shit’ about each other.

    As for the rest…yes, we are a bit self-centered, but we’re not really stupid, and, as a whole, we tend to something along the lines of ‘Where? Oh yeah, I’ve X about that place, but I don’t know if it’s true. -shrugs and moves on to a different topic-‘

    Comment by An American Southerner — November 15, 2010 @ 1:16 pm

  39. Well, I have to say the comments on your ‘What do Europeans think of Eachother’ post were much funnier.

    Your comments have set me thinking…I find Americans to be strangely literal and pompous! Good people – some of them very ignorant of course – but just quite dull. You make all Europeans – even the English who are considered very reserved – seem fiery, quick thinking and passionate.

    I would like to like you Americans, but you’re just a bit souless.

    [Editor: I find it amusing that you dislike Americans for being literal, pompous, ignorant and dull…and you chose to move to England, of all places. That certainly makes me doubt the sincerity of your post.]

    Comment by Eurogal — December 10, 2010 @ 1:13 pm

  40. This post wasn’t nearly as good as the “How Europeans view each other” one. 🙁

    Comment by Jon — January 11, 2011 @ 12:14 pm

  41. Europe = Pansy’s who lose wars

    Comment by 3430204-9 — February 7, 2011 @ 12:32 pm

  42. Interesting piece! My parents are immigrants from South America (Chile & Venezuela), I spent my formative years in Florida, unfortunately not Miami but in northern mainland Florida closer to Orlando – white trash swampland as I like to call it.

    Boy is most of what you said sadly true, in all the schools I went to in Florida, everyone thought I was Mexican, my parents lived in a hut & rode llamas to get anywhere. Whenever I invited my Florida school friends over to my house they would refuse to eat the food my mom prepared because they never heard of that type of food & wouldn’t dare try something new (I mean who doesn’t like empanadas & arepas!)

    When I graduated I got the hell out of Florida & moved to New York for university, I was relieved to meet people that knew South America wasn’t just part of Mexico & had actually traveled to Chile and Venezuela.

    Sadly there are Americans that fit the stereotypes of being ignorant & self-centered and they give a bad name to all other Americans!

    Comment by Gabis — February 25, 2011 @ 10:51 pm

  43. Before you judge Americans for not knowing much about European geography in general, think about it this way: How much do you as other countries know about the states within the U.S.?

    The one thing I disagreed with the author about is that the states don’t give a shit about each other. We do. More so depending on what state you are from than anything else, but most americans have a vague understanding of what people from different states will be like.

    We, unlike Europeans, aren’t shown a map Europe at an early age and asked to memorize it, we are shown a map of the 50 states. We have to take tests in geography class about the 50 states alongside maps about Europe in highschool.

    It’s not that we “don’t care”, it’s just that our attentions are divided. Forming our own stereotypes about how egotistical Texans are, or how snobby people from California are, or how much everyone hates New Jersey to focus on other countries all the time.

    One last thing. Part of the reason we love Ireland so much and assume it’s larger than it is, is because we have had a lot of irish immigrants in our history and we hear in history class about people escaping the poverty of Ireland to come to New York

    Comment by Sean Brunk — March 8, 2011 @ 4:40 pm

  44. I just don’t get it… How can people possibly think of comparing the USA states with WHOLE COUNTRIES in Europe? It’s not a size thing, it’s a politics-world representation-nationality thing.

    Because if we’re going to ask an european about the states in the USA, then what about asking a USA national about the Mexican states and their capitols? They’re right there, you know, not even as far away as Europe… and what about, say, the Italian states? Or the German’s own divisions of their country? The UK ones?

    That’s what I thought.

    Comment by Ann — March 12, 2011 @ 10:15 pm

  45. #Eurogal, on December 10th, 2010 at 1:13 pm Said:

    Well, I have to say the comments on your ‘What do Europeans think of Eachother’ post were much funnier.

    Your comments have set me thinking…I find Americans to be strangely literal and pompous! Good people – some of them very ignorant of course – but just quite dull. You make all Europeans – even the English who are considered very reserved – seem fiery, quick thinking and passionate.

    I would like to like you Americans, but you’re just a bit souless.


    While I’m not fond of Americans, I wouldn’t go so far as to say I actively dislike them. I DO find Americans somewhat lacking in emotional depth and spontaneity. I suppose this is the product of growing up in such a materialist./aggresively capitalist society, but I’m sure there are other factors.

    Another thing that’s always surprised me about Americans…why all the anger? It always seems to be bubbling just below the surface, beneath the 1000 watt fake smiles. Life in America must be pretty harsh.

    The English on the other hand are neither ‘literal, pompous, ignorant or dull’. On the whole I find them to be quite original thinkers, self-deprecating, comparatively well-informed, playful and lively. Their great handicap is their emotional distance, but also their almost completely repressed superiority complex, which is quite annoying for the foreigner! On the emotional distance they’re definately improving though, becoming a bit more Continental. Actually they’ve changed a lot in the last 20 years.

    [Editor: That’s wonderful that moving to the UK has allowed you to interact with the English and dispel a lot of the stereotypes you have about them. Maybe one day you’ll spend considerable time in the US and similarly be forced to debunk the ridiculous stereotypes you have about Americans that you’re so confident in.]

    Comment by Acinom — March 19, 2011 @ 8:33 pm

  46. Ukraine is not a part of Russia. It is one of the biggest country in Europe. Our native language is Ukrainian, and our culture is different from Russian culture. It’s big assault what you wrote about Ukraine.

    Comment by Lana — March 20, 2011 @ 3:20 pm

  47. I know I found this post super-late, but I’m an American traveling to Europe soon and another post of yours came up on a google search. I agree with you whole-heartedly.

    I’m visiting friends in Dublin and Rotterdam next month and my folks didn’t even know that the Netherlands was in Europe. My mom didn’t know Ireland was just west of the UK (she was VERY relieved to know that the two countries are so close, for some reason) and my grandmother said, “Why do you keep saying ‘the Dutch’ if you’re talking about going to the Netherlands?” I have no idea where she thought the Dutch lived.

    I also think you are correct about the American ability to forget…or inability to remember. It doesn’t really matter what nationality someone is. If you’re friendly and honest, you’re “good people” regardless of where you come from.

    That being said, I still want my parents to take a geography class.

    Comment by tee — March 26, 2011 @ 9:38 pm

  48. Cool post, loving the honesty. In my view, ask Europeans what they know about the US and I bet there will be some pretty funny replies as well! greets from Amsterdam (Yes, it’s a country)

    Comment by Andrew — April 6, 2011 @ 2:27 pm

  49. In America we have the sayings “book smarts and street smarts”.

    Americans are exposed to the modern European according to what region of this enormous country they happen to live in. A New Yorker might live and work along side someone from Europe everyday while a person living in rural Mississippi might have never met someone who even speaks another language (except Mexican perhaps).

    Few Americans are of old families that colonized from England, at least where I live in New York. For example my family came on boats from Sicily and Ireland after the war. I migrants were not received well by that time period and they separated into their own neighborhoods, trying to assimilate but holding onto bits and pieces of their culture.

    This is why an Italian-American and an Italian hardly resemble each other. The result of blending 100 year old ethnic traditions with American culture is something completely different than modern Europe. This happened in many east coast cities and spread across the country.

    If an Italian were to walk through an Italian neighborhood in America, or an Irishman walk through west Manhattan or south Boston, they would most likely understand why Americans have such strange ideas about Europe.

    Our stereotypes come from each other here in the US rather than modern Europe.

    Comment by Luke — April 30, 2011 @ 4:24 pm

  50. I feel that many Europeans unfairly judge us on the actions of of government/military. Perhaps it is because we are a democracy. But our vote doesn’t mean very much we have little control over what our military does.

    Also I would love to speak another language and learn about the rest of the world. I try to teach myself but I only know so much.

    There is a big gap between rich and poor in the US. Most of us can’t afford an education (I can’t afford to go to school) and we spend most of our day working to pay our bills.

    Comment by Luke — April 30, 2011 @ 4:46 pm

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