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Fast food nation

  • Jon Kelly
  • 13 Oct 08, 02:19 AM GMT

AKRON, OH:Is there a symbol any more American than the hamburger? I don't think cowboys, the Statue of Liberty or even the Stars and Stripes come close. If you're looking for an icon of gung-ho enterprise and king-sized consumer demand, stick a disc of beef between two buns and smother it with relish.

I don't want to sound like I'm down on burgers. Quite the opposite; I've been enjoying US cuisine all too much during my travels across the country. It's easy to pontificate about obesity and diet, but it's even simpler to succumb to fatty, salty, high-cholesterol temptation.

Whenever foreigners want to vent their displeasure at the American Way, they tend to take it out on burger chains - whether it's French farmer-activist José Bové wrecking the site of a planned McDonalds, or Morgan Spurlock's Super Size Me being feted internationally.

But however much it complains about US fast food, it seems the rest of the world can't get enough. Profits generated in Europe alone are worth $1.2bn (£600m) to the Golden Arches.

The BBC's Jon Kelly talks to teenagers at Menches Brothers hamburger restaurant in Akron, Ohio If anything encapsulates the contradictory nature of so much anti-American sentiment, it must be the hamburger, too.

Well, I've been here long enough now to realise that there's more to this country than any stereotype could ever suggest. But what did Americans themselves think of the way they were perceived abroad?

To find out, I visited Menches Brothers restaurant in Akron. Owner John Menches has long insisted that his great-grandfather, Charles, co-invented the hamburger in 1885 - though the claim has been disputed.

I'd arranged to meet a group of five teenagers from the city's PeaceMakers programme - a community group aimed at keeping young people away from crime.

They were smart, engaged kids who were all interested in the views of people from beyond their borders. Each one quickly dispelled any suggestion that Americans wouldn't be interested in the rest of the world.

Ariel Davis, 17, ordered a chicken burger. She didn't have a problem with fast food, she said. But she thought it was a shame that it was used to symbolise her country.

"It makes it seem like we all just want to have fun," she added. "But we're not just about having fun."

There were, she'd noticed, three recurring themes the overseas media would employ to characterise America.

"One is the hamburger, the second is that we're the land of opportunity, and the third is the war," she said.

"I'd like it to be not so much about hamburgers, not so much the war. We're a bunch of people who want peace."

Her friend, 16-year-old Dominique Council, agreed that the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan had distorted many foreigners' views of the US. Her family had hosted a Spanish exchange student who, Dominique noted sadly, had written off the nation before she even arrived.

"She was really upset about the war," Dominique remembered. "She thought everyone agreed with the president.

"She couldn't see that people here might believe the war is wrong, but they still respect the troops."

Cory Jarvis, 15, saw the role of the American military differently. He said he was frustrated that attempts to spread democracy had been misinterpreted as bids to grab power.

"They think we're a bunch of violent people," Cory added. "But we're over there to help them."

Members of the PeaceMakers community youth group in Akron, Ohio For Dao Letdara, the view from the outside was closest to home. The 15-year-old's parents had moved here as teenagers from war-torn Laos. The steady stream of incomers was testament, she said, to the fact that America was seen as a place rich in possibilities.

"The immigrants are coming here because they want a better job, they want a better life - obviously, they believe they can get all that here," Dao added.

But she worried that the American media was tarnishing this impression.

"I think they're getting their images from music and movies - all the R-rated movies with killing and violence," she frowned.

Travis Carlton, 16, disagreed. To him, the image that America projected of itself was one of wealth and prosperity - far removed from the reality of life in a place like Akron.

"People don't see cities for what they are," he argued. "They don't know that there are people living like they would in Africa.

"I'd like America to be what it's portrayed as: the land of the free. I want it to live up to the name."

I thanked them all. As an outsider trying to understand this country, it had been instructive - and encouraging, too, given that they all seemed to really care what the world though of them

But it was time for me to let them enjoy their lunch.

Comments

Page 1 of 2

  • Comment number 1.

    If anyone wants to post up any burger recipes, be my guest. papabryant and christianleft, I'm counting on you here.

  • Comment number 2.

    Jon:
    If i had a great burger recipes i would be more than willing to put on...

  • Comment number 3.

    Fast food restaurants like McDonald's typically use standard hamburger meat which has a much higher fat content than steak. You can save yourself the obesity by skipping the McDonald's and making your own hamburgers at home. Ground Sirloin is available at any grocery store nationwide right next to the hamburger for about a quarter more per pound. Ground Sirloin has the same fat content as steak and is tastier. You can still enjoy that hamburger!

  • Comment number 4.

    I really commend these teenagers. Cory Jarvis is so right, for example, while much of the media (NYT, NPR, etc.) intentionally and otherwise project a negative and wrong image of America in the world. The U.S. troops did not occupy and terrorize Iraq but liberated them from a tyrant and are working to improve the lives of the people there.

    I wish the U.S. can do that in Sudan and North Korea as well, but the U.S. just cannot do it all. The Africans and the South Koreans can do more than what they have done.

  • Comment number 5.

    Stopping at New York City is leaving a great deal of the country, and it has differing foods from the rest of the areas, makes your trip incomplete.
    Try Dynamites in Woonsocket,
    Linguica and Chourese in any of the many good Portuguese areas (spelling is not accurate)
    Real clam chowder and clam cakes,
    I could go on but do wish you would try New England.
    We are no longer mad at the Tories and I am sure we would welcome you with open arms.
    Physical type, not muskets.

    Regards
    Bob G. Lincoln, R. I.
    TinyRI

  • Comment number 6.

    It's linguica and chourico, TinyRI. (The final c's both have the little squiggles under them that make them into S-sounds. And chourico is pronounced as you spell it -- without the final O.) Being of Portuguese descent myself, I grew up on them. Didn't like 'em much, though. Don't tell my family, though -- I'd be out of the will!

    I think the key to a good homemade burger is to mix the salt, pepper, and whatever other spices you like into the meat with your fingers, and then make a ball and flatten it out. So much more flavorful! My mom makes a killer burger with hoisin sauce in it, topped with bleu cheese. Mmmmmmm!

  • Comment number 7.

    I'm sad that the conclusion that not all Americans are idiots is so surprising. The fact that some American teenagers have opinions about stuff is really so revelatory? It's not as if they've said anything very amazing. I'm 18, I'm far more liberal than Obama but that's who I'm voting for, I've been out of the country numerous times (to coutries in Europe and South America), I read BBC because I like to know how things are perceived without American political biases, and I'm very interested in how the world perceives Americans. And by the way, I'm a vegan. I eat veggie burgers very occasionally. Burgers are not part of the regular diet of anyone I know. I cook my own meals, and when I eat out I usually go for Asian cuisines.

    My thoughts about the country.... I love my country. I do. I'm very proud to be American. But that does not mean I agree with its politics. I don't think we should be at war. I think that if we are going to make a pretense of being interested in just helping people out or being "liberators," then we should be someplace like Darfur. I would like the world to have a better opinion of our country. But when I have been among young people from other countries (both when I studied in Germany and foreigners in this country) I am always met with interest and heard good things. Pretty much all the young people I knew in Germany were envious of my being from California. I have classes currently with a number of students from various places in Europe, and they speak of the opportunities here and the desire to stay here. So I think you get some interesting conflicts.

  • Comment number 8.

    I too am a vegetarian, one of the worst sorts in the U.S.- I don't eat meat and I live in Southern California by a beach! :)

    Our country is so diverse from state to state and the current state of the U.S. worries me.

    I read BBC News because it is the most unbiased I have found. This blog confirmed a lot of what I believe the rest of the world thinks about.

    The majority of us do not agree with what Bush has done. The majority of us do not want someone from his political party in the seat again. (At least according to the polls).

    Most of us don't want us to be in this war, blame our administration for the economic downfall and really want what most people want. We want peace, steady employment, a house, and a future for our kids.

    When I think of what other countries probably think of America, based on what I think about America, I am almost ashamed. I love my country and I wouldn't want to be anywhere else, but I am embarrassed by our behavior to say the least.

    Thank you for a well spoken blog.

  • Comment number 9.

    It's interesting, and telling, that the "symbol" of America is the hamburger. It is a food born of immigrants from Germany and modified over time for easy consumption by American workers. Like many so-called American things, it is an amalgam of concepts, blended together.

    As to the concept of it being a disc of beef between two buns and smothered with relish, I must object. First, it is a disc of ground beef of varied dimensions. In its most basic form it is stuck between halves of a single bun. The meat is usually topped with ketchup and a few disc-shaped slices of picked cucumber. Often it is also topped with a few leaves of lettuce and a slice or two of tomato. Sometimes, prepared mustard is added; sometimes mayonaisse; sometimes both. It it is a cheese burger, a slice of American cheese is traditionally added to the top of the burger patty just before it is finished cooking, allowing the cheese to melt slightly.

    But the only consistency in burgers that I have ever met is the ground beef patty in between two halves of a bun. Beyond that, I've met every topping from grilled mushrooms and swiss cheese to bleu cheese and bacon to just about anything else that may taste good in combination. I have yet to meet a burger topped with relish (by which I mean diced, pickled cucumbers sometimes accompanies by other spices or herbs).

  • Comment number 10.

    I recently took a car touring vacation in western USA for 5 weeks from my home in Thailand (I am from the UK). My only previous visit was 30 years ago in the east, which i did not really enjoy. This time was different - I thoroughly enjoyed the american west - the countryside and scenery were spectacular and the people very fine. However, the food was appalling. I only ate one hamburger from McDonalds and the rest of the food I ate was fairly standard american fare. Most of the food americans eat is way too unhealthy - not only the cookies and donuts etc, but even mid-range restaurants have meals that stress quantity rather than quality. I really missed Thai food, with its freshness and green vegetables. I now understand why so many americans are obese.

  • Comment number 11.

    I agree with Joooo2002. We did a similar trip back in 1999 and found the same experience with the food. Even fresh fruit was hard to come by in the places we visited. We lived ion bagels, peanut buuter and jam and creamed corn and noodes! Healthy, eh?

  • Comment number 12.

    More of this sort of stuff please! Anything to break out of American introspection.

    What is it someone once said

    'People never do evil so cheerfully or completely as when they do it from religious conviction"

    "They think we're a bunch of violent people," Cory added. "But we're over there to help them."

  • Comment number 13.

    I think it's sad that the US is known internationally for it's fast food chains and it's desire for war. While there are those aspects of the US, there are many, many American's who don't value these things and who have heart for the well being of animals and people by not supporting places like McDonalds or KFC who deliberately hurt animals and under pay employees just to "keep costs low"; not to mention the war. Anyway, I just think it's too bad the way others view the US because there are people with heart and integrity in the US and they should be acknowledged as well. Even though they may not consist of a large percentage of the total US population.

  • Comment number 14.

    I personally have some American friends that travel out of America. They are straight forward and nice, once you get used to their sense of jokes.

    However, America herself is not protraying the same image as I know of my friends.

    The America of recent years protrays herself as the biggest bully and has no sense of empathy. The iraq war was suppose to be self defense against WMD. However, when IAEA and UN informs US that iraq might not have WMD just before the war. The information was suppress and war declared. The world realise that the war is more than self defense, especially when the oil companies pump oil without a meter in the beginning.

    Then with recent Election in America, the world see a big group of Americans as being very closed in their mindset and their chosen leader are willing to lie for power. What is the differences between this group and some of the muslims organisation in iran? They are both closed minded and willing to destory the other for their objective.

    I really hope for the sake of America and the world that Obama wins and that he deliveries what he promise. And maybe in a decade or two, America can repair the damage done by Bush and retake the image of liberty.

  • Comment number 15.

    What's amazing about Europeans (and I know it's an insult to lump the British in with them) is that they think we care. Europe is irrelevant and moribund. Europeans grew fat and lazy under US protection during the Cold War. They have no principles and are not even willing to fight for their own survival. Soon enough we'll be eating our hamburgers while watching Europe's cities burning on CNN.

  • Comment number 16.

    Don't think Americans are the only people who are bombarded with the hamburger and all it's advertising. We here in Australia get it too. The ads for these companies run night and day. We are not happy about it but we are constantly shown happy people enjoying a hamburger in a fast food restaurant. They are made to look like the typical Aussie family enjoying a family dinner together. What a joke. The actors for these commercials are all young and thin and look reasonably healthy but we as a nation are now called the "Fattest Nation on Earth"
    Ha! I say. But then who is to blame. The advertisers for these companies? or the fact that Families don't have a lot of time to shop, prepare and cook a healthy dinner each night. Where the man used to work, now the wife has to work too. So who gets to stay home and cook? Not me.

  • Comment number 17.

    Traveling through Europe this summer as a 19 year old American confirmed a suspicion I had previously held. That Europeans stereotype Americans. As someone that is very critical of American society, particularly the trend of politics since World War 2, I accepted these stereotypes as something that is sad but not surprising. I don't necessarily blame people for these opinions, but they are still uninformed and unfair. Throughout my trip I considered it my duty to reverse anyones negative stereotypes of today's Americans.

    My dad moved from England to America when he was 30. Obviously, he taught me things that many other American children don't benefit from. Things like the importance of being wary of ethnocentrism, skeptic of the media, and skeptic of politics. It seems like many Europeans hold their stereotypes due to the fact that Americans elected George Bush not once, but twice. I must admit, this left me scratching my head as well. But thats just the point. Many, many, many Americans do not support Bush or any of his policies. He just barely won a majority in 2004, and he didn't win in 2000. The problem lies not in the people, but in the government that has slowly but purposefully moved against democratic ideals. The Republican party was able to turn the 2004 election into a fight for morals (abortion, gay marriage ect). They knew that if people voted based on the real issues, such as the war, the outsourcing of jobs, the corporitization of America and the widening wealth gap, and the many other real issues that I could continue to name, that they would lose the election. In fact, it would be a landslide loss.

    It is true, there are many ignorant Americans. There are people that get their news from Fox and that really believe that Obama is a terrorist because his name rhymes with Osama. There are people that voted for Bush even after he lied to us about Iraq because he was against abortion. But what many don't realize, and what this blog is attempting to point out, is that there also exist millions of young, brilliant Americans that know the truth and are trying to change the world. America was created based on the ideals of freedom and equality, which means the foundation of America is the greatest in the world. The problem is, our society has never truly prescribed to these ideals. But let me assure you, there is still hope. There are those of us that want America to finally become what the rhetoric of our constitution laid out for us. There are those of us that want to spend our tax dollars on inner city education, aid relief to africa, ect and not on national defense and the Iraq war.

    Again, the real problem is not the American people. The problems are the greedy CEOs, the corrupt politicians, and all the others that have manipulated the democratic system for their benefit. The problem is the "American Dream" that has been drilled into every Americans head. The idea that buying that nice car or that nice house in the suburbs or that diamond ring will bring you happiness. The problem is that most politicians don't care about the African Americans in the ghettos. "Statistics show they don't vote, so why should my policies help them?" The problem is the lack of accurate news that is readily available to us. Most people don't get their news from BBC or Al Jazeera. I could go on and on, but the problems of this society run much deeper than just a simple ignorance on the part of its people.

    I apologize for the length and lack of organization of this post, but I'm procrastinating on a paper about the portrayals of the Iraq war found on BBC compared to Fox News so I'm in the mood to vent.

  • Comment number 18.

    Containerized 'farming' with its attendant horrendous pollution via 'lakes' of manure, tons of antibiotic drugs, and endless torture of animals, are the PRIMARY means of raising meat in the USA, not the exceptions. And the devastation of forests and stripping of the land for beef throughout South American countries e.g. the Amazon is all to 'feed' the burger addiction here in the USA and around the world. I stopped eating any meat or consuming any dairy products - all the product of torturous factory-farming practices and extreme use of chemicals and antibiotics. My health has improved greatly; and I encourage others to do the same. Meat & dairy farming are major contributors to global warming, to terrible pollution. And now in Minnesota where I lie, we've had to had a town's population evacuated due to health risks from the sewage 'ponds' and other exudates from their local factory 'farm' industry. TIME FOR CHANGE TO SUSTAINABLE EATING HABITS: local produce wherever possible, and mostly vegan eating habits.

  • Comment number 19.

    I have also noticed this more than many times that when you think of hamburgers, America clicks to the mind instantly. Speaking of the role of America in Iraq and Afghanistan, I among those who highly disagree with the president.

  • Comment number 20.

    JACK BP that is all well and good, but in the Internet age how come we hear so little of the sane side of America? The European media, if your comments are exact, would surely pounce on any chance to recruit American Youth to their side?
    As for the blog..again, this is all fine, but why don't we ask the direct questions that we need to know? Will Obama finally once and for all perform a proper investigation into 911 and let us see some EVIDENCE from both sides? When will the Senate FINALLY get tough on the Military Budget instead of us having to listen to the rubbish that McCain and Palin talk about? And if the American people are not responsible for Bush per se, are these the only candidates out of 150 million people available? Why do they continually receive support? And can we FINALLY PLEASE define DEMOCRACY?
    These are the reasons the US has a bad name abroad, simply hypocrisy and bad management. It's the same with the Arab League countries, so who's to blame when all the apples are bad? THE BAD APPLES ARE.

  • Comment number 21.

    I from Brazil, and when I was at school the most of teachers used to give us de idea that all the ours problems was due to The American Imperialism. Is that true that North Americans has helped the military dictatorship, in Brazil between 1960-1984. On the other hand put the guilty for every trouble that we have in them is too much.
    My advice to country that think the same, is that solve yours problems by themselves e leave the Americans with their problems.

    Thank´s
    (Obrigado)

  • Comment number 22.

    Why do people dislike president bush so much? I beleive that the answer to that question lies in the medias represintation of him as a bumbling fool. While at the same time they accuse him of masterminding the iraq war, i fond this highly ironic. President bush is far from an idiot but rather a great president who stands but his convictions and does what he believes is best for AMERICA not the world becuase he is president of AMERICA. which brings us back to why the world hates Preident Bush, it is because he does not care what the international community thinks, he will not allow the greatest and most powerful country in known to man to be controlled by a group of thugs that the world calls the UN. Europeans are never willing to stand up for there nation(with the exception of GB) france was invaded and controlled by foreign nations twice in a 50 year span. Why is it that when there is a crisis somewhere in the world the US is always first in the scene or when a nation is in turmoil they ask for help from us it is because we are a great nation that does not and never will need permission to do what is right and in the end the Iraq war will be right and the world will thank none other than President George Bush. So my message to europe is be proud of your counties dont feel the need to be part of the world community but be a part of your nation and then you will have a glimpse into how americans love there county.

  • Comment number 23.

    Why sweat the fact that America is known for the hamburger/ chicken. It has given a living to millions worldwide.
    Everybody knows America has a wide and diverse menu.
    People, the success of these foods is something to take pride in. The PC attitude towards some American food is ridiculous. It is all about freedom and choices. Self disipline is the individuals problem.
    Carl's Jr. has a good guacamole-bacon burger, check it out!

  • Comment number 24.

    Even outside of America there is narrow minded people wherever you go. And yes, there are plenty of narrow minded idoits here. The fact of the matter is that Americans get portrayed very poorly even by our own media. Our government thinks we're stupid and worthless and they always claim that we are "victims" of circumstance; like George Bush's policies etc... But the fact of the matter is, is that we picked him to lead (again). I am hopeful that things will start to turn around once Bush is gone, but the lasting effects of his idiocy and ignorance will last a long time. When it comes down to it, we have terribly long work weeks our companies expect us to devote our lives with little compensation given back. Little vacation, terribly expensive health care that you can't depend on because you get turned down for all of your claims, and not to mention that we have no job security due to many companies outsourcing work. Oh yah, and we're fat and love fast food too much. I think unfortunately a lot of that is true due to the fact that the normal middle class person has no time to cook and spend time with their family anymore. I do love this country but, it is fundamentally flawed. Sorry for the rant but, it's important that the voices of normal American's be heard and that when it comes down to it we are all very similar in our values no matter what country you live in. Most of us just want to be happy and left alone. Right?

  • Comment number 25.

    It is sad that the BBC has chosen only correspondants who are fully paid up fans of America ,it's values and way of life.In the interest of balance it would be good to read reports from someone who did not see their role as being to justify America to BBC viewers.I am not asking for hostility,only objectivity.

  • Comment number 26.

    From my own experiences in the US, it strikes me that the country is one of such extremes: either you are a fast-foodie dining on unhealthy diner food and hamburgers or you are eating moondust to reach a size zero; either you are in the military-equals-patriotism camp or you are hugging trees; you and everybody around you must be either conservative or "liberal"; you either live in excessive wealth or abject poverty; you are either religious or you are a communist. I know that there are(because I've seen and met) many exceptions to these generalisations, but I've yet to meet anyone who doesn't fit into at least one of these polar opposits. But this doesn't make any American a bad person, or worse than any other nation. The problem is when US policy towards other unknown differences around the world is translated as anti-american and therfore needs to be corrected (often by force). Such policies do then lead the rest of the world into labelling the US (collectively) as ignorant, xenophobic and a bully. Consider this found last week on another BBC Blog "Have your say": "Shelley from the US", wrote: "Go MaCain! Pleeeeeeeease save us from Socialism. I've been to Europe and I don't want to live like those folks!". QED.

  • Comment number 27.

    Mexico,Guatemala,El Salvador,Honduras
    Nicaragua,Panama,Cuba,Jamaica,Haiti
    Dominican Republic,Puerto Rico,Grenada
    Colombia,Venezuela,Guyana,Suriname
    Ecuador,Peru,Brazil,Bolivia,Chile,Paraguay
    Argentina,Uruguay,Germany,Portugal
    Italy,Yugoslavia,Albania,Greece,Chechnya
    Turkey

    A partial list of the countries that the U.S has interfered with since 1945, I left out Africa, Asia and the Middle east

    Some estimates put the civilian death toll as high as 20 Million people (Pre Afghanistan/Iraq).

    Of course pre 1945 was just as bad and included the Philippines, Hawaii and Cuba 3 times.

    As to the "Respect the troops" comment I suppose you could put this in context by saying that during WWII Germans were right in supporting the war,concentration camps and every war crime committed.

    Because we support our soldiers.

    Like fast food, America and Americans are bad for your health.





  • Comment number 28.

    brilliantTB wrote: "I agree with Joooo2002. We did a similar trip back in 1999 and found the same experience with the food. Even fresh fruit was hard to come by in the places we visited. We lived ion bagels, peanut buuter and jam and creamed corn and noodes! Healthy, eh?"

    You found "fresh fruit was hard to come by" in America? Are you kidding? Did you and Jooo2002 even bother to get off the highways? Quite a bizarre comment and certainly not the America I know. And by the way, those foods you mentioned are in fact healthy. What is unhealthy is eating to excess. That is the cause of obesity!

  • Comment number 29.

    FAO StarWrecker

    Fat doesn't make you fat - excess calories do. Educate yourself before posting rubbish on an internet forum.

  • Comment number 30.

    a_bunny wrote:"Like fast food, America and Americans are bad for your health."

    That's ok at least America has done more for freedom and democracy than any other country that has probably ever existed in this world. What has Europe done in that regard? Oh yeah, it started the most destructive and highest casualty wars that the world has ever seen. It's were millions of Jews were murdered. It sat and watched the extermination of thousands by Serbia. It is the birthplace of fascism and communism which are both responsible for 10s of millions of dead throughout Europe and the Soviet Union. Yeah, America is so so bad. Right.



  • Comment number 31.

    I'm American and have live here my whole life and I must say that I am very much disappointed at this culture and its inability to produce quality human beings who are intelligent, aware, and capable individuals. The education systems are underfunded, the media seems to tell people what they want and what type of person they should be, no one understands politics or has any valid political opinions, the music is crap, sports here are lame, the banking and financial system is very corrupt and immoral (especially credit card companies), the government doesn't listen to the people or understand what they want/need, no one appreciates good art, and the food is often times cheap and lacking in flavor and nutritional value.

    My whole life it has felt that I am living in a world of ignorant idiots. Idiot politicians making ignorant laws for idiot people who work at their worthless jobs serving ignorant customers who go home to their idiot children who they're ignorantly raising so that their children can grow up and live the same worthless, empty, ungratifying lives of material consumption and financial failure. It's a terrible cultural problem with primitive malfunctions reaching to all common perspectives and extending deeply into the framework of how everyone and everything thinks and functions. The very design of this cultural malfunction is self perpetuative and is frighteningly powerful.

    I appreciate all of you countries kindly reminding us Americans that we are broken, but I can assure you that no one is more frustrated and ashamed at the current state of America and its culture than the few people who live here who do happen to be educated and aware and are slowly working to make this country a better place. Unfortunately, progress is slow when you are battling a monster that is both invisible and everywhere.
    -Cory

  • Comment number 32.

    I'm not an American and before i step on the land i won't really want to form notions abt it especially based on someone else's fact file. But I myself associate 'the hamburger' with American food and i really enjoy the eating experience. Every chance that i get i step into Mc Donald's and grab a bite (well, more than a bite)!! I don't think its bad or unhealthy but as the saying goes "too much of anything is bad". So its on us as to how we manage our diet and indulging oneself every once in a while is not such a bad idea. yummmm....

    And as far as the Iraq war is concerned, its a bad political move and the non-deciding Americans are paying for it too, sadly enough. A biasness based on this is like limiting our horizons of understanding. The war is bad, but the Americans are equally suffering, what with the American soldiers giving their lives!! Its the sad state of decision making that sometimes (i'd say mostly) impacts the public to irreparable extents.

  • Comment number 33.

    26. Peter Wells wrote:

    "Consider this found last week on another BBC Blog "Have your say": "Shelley from the US", wrote: "Go MaCain! Pleeeeeeeease save us from Socialism. I've been to Europe and I don't want to live like those folks!". QED."

    I am not sure how this is meant to demonstrate American ignorance, or even xenophobia. I am an American who has lived in Europe much of my life and I vehemently oppose Obama because of his socialist leanings, having seen what it does to a people first hand.

    Far from fielding a uniting candidate, the more extreme elements of the Democratic party felt that anyone would be a shoo-in after GW Bush so went for someone from the left. I'm no fan of Hilary but if she was standing against McCain it would have been a toss up who to vote for. Obama vs McCain? No question I vote for McCain.

    On the hamburger issue, Europeans I have made them for always love them but are amazed when I don't add egg or breadcrumbs (??!!). Just lean ground beef, salt, pepper and maybe topped with cheese (something tangy works best).

  • Comment number 34.

    Iraq is, rightly, figuring prominently in this discussion as it should in any consideration of the image of the US (and UK).

    'Liberating' a country is not normally best achieved by killing some 600,000 of its inhabitants (figures from US study) - the vast majority of whom are innocent men, women and children.

    It's not exactly likely to win hearts and minds, is it? Or is America simply trying to liberate Iraq and its oil wealth from the Iraqi population?

  • Comment number 35.

    a_bunny wrote:"Of course pre 1945 was just as bad and included the Philippines, Hawaii and Cuba 3 times."

    Hmm, lets compare the standard of living and freedom of the Phillipines and Cuba to the American state of Hawaii. Oh that's right, there is no comparison. You also forgot to include the Europeans that also interfered with Hawaii before it became a state. A state where around 95% of the population voted in favor to become an American state. That's a number the EU could only dream of as it tries to coerce and bully European nations to give up their sovereignty in its arrogant and pathetic attempt to create a federal state to control the European continent.

  • Comment number 36.

    So - the "Hamburger" is a symbol of America? Ho! ho! ho! Just for information, folks, it comes from Germany, and the word "Hamburger" itself literally means a resident of Hamburg. The native Hamburger, however, calls it a "Rundstück" - literally a "round piece". It originally consisted of a white bread roll with a slice of rye bread for its filling. The present-day filling of cooked mincemeat is simply an American adaptation of the German original, and is NOT an American invention!

  • Comment number 37.

    One of the big problems with a lot of Americans, as can be seen from some of the more ignorant responses here, is that they are actually educated to have a world view that is fundamentally skewed.

    Take this comment: "That's ok at least America has done more for freedom and democracy than any other country that has probably ever existed in this world."

    No, it hasn't.

    America did not invent freedom and it did not invent democracy. The electoral college system means that even the election of their president is not fundamentally democratic.

    The fact that their major politicians are beholden to big business for the funds they require to get elected makes the US far from being a functional democracy.

  • Comment number 38.

    CorySchulz wrote: "I'm American and have live here my whole life and I must say that I am very much disappointed at this culture and its inability to produce quality human beings who are intelligent, aware, and capable individuals. The education systems are underfunded, the media seems to tell people what they want and what type of person they should be, no one understands politics or has any valid political opinions, the music is crap, sports here are lame, the banking and financial system is very corrupt and immoral (especially credit card companies), the government doesn't listen to the people or understand what they want/need, no one appreciates good art, and the food is often times cheap and lacking in flavor and nutritional value."

    It sounds to me that you would fit in quite well with the so-called Brussels elite as a model European. Maybe it is time to emigrate, or to lose some of that cynicism?

  • Comment number 39.

    Oh I had to laugh at newScrolllock's mis-informed views. For one thing, Europe isn't a country, so there go all your theories in one fell swoop. "Europe" didn't start a war, Germany did. And it was America who sat lazily by watching as Germany killed the Poles, Jews, Roma, etc. As for this peace loving nation called America, I think the Vietnamese and Iraqis might disagree... and those living in Panama, Lebanon, Korea etc etc.

    I was bemused by the student's sadness that the Spanish exchange student had come to the US with preconceived ideas. Reminds me of how Americans view Russian. They don't see the people, they see the government officials.

    At least in Britain we realise that in the past we brought with us death, destruction, murder and mayhem. We not only realise it, but we celebrate it. We even give it a name - the Commonwealth.

  • Comment number 40.

    #15 NeoPoliticus

    "What's amazing about Europeans (and I know it's an insult to lump the British in with them) is that they think we care. Europe is irrelevant and moribund. Europeans grew fat and lazy under US protection during the Cold War."

    Here I was thinking 'this is a good blog, an exchange of views some provocative but really interesting comment', and then along comes the rubbish shown above.

    Whats amazing about Americans like Neopoliticus is that they believe this rubbish.

    As a Brit living in France I'm proud to be both a Brit and a European.

    One and one half million Brits went out on the streets to tell Mr B Liar that we didn't want to go to war in Iraq. We knew there were no WMD's we knew that Saddam and Al Quaeda hated each other. He much, to our shame, went to to war. Hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis died.

    You didn't protect us in the cold war we were the buffer zone between you and the communists that you were so frightened of. Britain was used as an aircraft carrier and would have been obliterated in the event of that war. We, the citizens of Europe also provided our own defence forces.

    In the same way you didn't join in WW11 to come to our aid, liberate France or any of the other reasons you give. You were attacked by the Japanese and the day after that the Germans declared war on you. You had no choice.

    Please note I'm not saying that many brave Americans did not assist in that war, they did and the participation of the US certainly shortened the war. It also probably stopped most of Western Europe being communist at the end of it.

    If 'to save money' the US wants to remove all of it's forces from Europe in the coming months or years it's fine by me. As long as it's all of them including the early warning systems and those silly missile bases you want to base in Poland and Czech Republic. They won't defend us and we don't need them.

    Now having got that out of the way can we get back to having an informative change of views.

  • Comment number 41.

    As European and vegetarian I do occasionally enjoy vegetarian 'burgers'.
    Obviously with coming elections there is increased interest in the USA but aren't we here just mythologising the subject. With all its achievements and faults USA in just another country (as Johnny Rotten famously sang).
    In every country you have those who think differently and disagree with their government. This discontent is dealt with state violence is some countries (ie China) or with estrangement from the politics-that-matters (ie UK, USA). One could argue that the latter is more effective as it, on one level, gives a sense of freedom, but on the other guarantees a broad legitimacy to politicians and poor policy that leads to war in the USA or wall of mirrors in the UK.
    This is all coupled with the false impression perpetuated by the media that every opinion (or thought) matters. This has led us to the world where Sarah Palin is taken seriously and voted for.

  • Comment number 42.

    Wasn't also pizza invented somewhere in the USA?

  • Comment number 43.

    The Land of the Free, yet a suspension of Habeus Corpus.

    Invasions of Sovereign Countries in order to topple Governments in a badly disguised attempt to secure Oil reserves.

    It's a shame in some ways that a Government's own spin and propoganda can have such an effect on its own populace.

    I've met plenty of different Americans with a very strong view on the United States but the only views that I've heard which have been free of that most ridiculous of American bias that they seem to garner when talking about their country, have been from those who have lived outside of the United States for a considerable time of their lives - mostly in Europe.

    The Hamburger is such a potent sign of Americanism for precisely this reason - because so many Americans when outside of their own territory will ignore local custom and cuisine and simply head towards a McDonalds, something they know and understand, for their sustenance rather than learning and understanding about other cultures. It's not necessarily the World's perception of the US which is the issue, it's the other way around. How many other Countries on Earth have an Elected Head of State that had to issue him with a Passport as he'd never been outside of its borders???

  • Comment number 44.

    I surprised Americans are typified as junk food- eating violent idiots by many of the comments here. We had an (American) vegan comment, a vegetarian, and I myself am vegetarian. I also have a fairly large (organic) garden. I dont approve of the war and never did. I also did not vote for Bush.

    My point is, Americans are not all the same, we are varied in views as well as lifestyles, maybe even more so than the people of other nations. Bush has a 25% approval rating, congress 18% give or take. Obviously we dont like our government anymore than the rest of the world does. So please people, stop judging Americans as one monolithic group. We are very, very diverse and some of us actually deplore junk food)

  • Comment number 45.

    I think what a lot of foreigners don't seem to realize about America is just how big it is. What people see about this country in the media is a small percentage of East Coast and West Coast and all that falls in-between. We are a multi-ethnic nation with some of the greatest percentages of diversity in the world, and that equals some of the greatest diversity in views in opinions as well. What you'll get out of the mouths of teens in Manhattan isn't necessarily going to be the same as teens in Miami or San Francisco or small town Lubbock. I'm from Texas, and even here, being a white female, I'm in the minority (you have Latino, but also Asian, African, Middle Eastern, European, Pacific Islander, etc etc). It's a very diverse country, and if you give it time, you'll find many of us are incredibly open-minded as well. It's just the few retards who shout the loudest that seem to get the most attention . . . unfortunately.

    As for hamburgers . . .

    I'm 26, 5'7", weigh 126 pounds, haven't had a major illness since 8th grade, and I've been eating hamburgers my entire life and LOVE them. They can actually be very nutritious. In my family, we blend spices in with the meat (a little smoked salt, dried peppers (cayane and chile), Worcestershire sauce, and a top secret family marinade) and top it with mushrooms, tomatoes, and avocados, and load it all onto a bun. The real secret to good burger, however, is in the quality of meat: not too high or low in fats and preferably from organically fed and free-ranging cows--happy cows make happy meat. :P And the perfect bun: firm on the outside but soft and springy on the inside so the toppings don't fall off, first grilled with a bit of butter. And a REAL hamburger must ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS be GRILLED.

    This is Texas, so hamburgers and steak pretty much are a staple for my family, and we're all incredibly healthy individuals. You just gotta balance it out with enough fruits and vegetables . . . and bordering Mexico, we get fresh fruits and vegetables almost year round (if they aren't first available at the local farmer's market). Organic whole grains have become increasingly easily available even in regular supermarkets as well. :) This is a country growing, and a lot more people are becoming aware of the wonders of fresher food. But there's still a lot to shake from the 50's era of bleach and scrub all nutrition away (ie: white eggs, flour, and rice).

    So no, we aren't all McDonald's junkies who sells sub-par slabs of prefabricated meat (if you can even call it that) in an attempt to give another hit to the salt-addicted who can't seem to get enough of the stuff. And we're working on weaning those who ARE back to the real food that's not only American, but tasty and nutritious as well. :)

  • Comment number 46.

    I've lived 5 years in the USA, but I've been to Belgrade for one day. I must admit that the best burger I've ever eaten was (surprise surprise) in Belgrade. They call it Pleskavica, it's made from fresh meat, mixed with herbs and garlic (no cheesy substances needed on top to enhance taste). In the USA, a barbecue always started with a gasoline smell and frozen patties ensued... I don't hate "America", I just want to eat proper food. Fortunately, most of my North American friends are vegetarians.

  • Comment number 47.

    The stereotypical side of America is rarely shown if you join online forums and debates. I have been part of a McDonald's debate and there were at least half the comments were against fast-food for various reasons (others were against the way of farming etc but still liked to eat the burgers). I have been on online forums for several years and the majority were from US, and there were plenty of smart Americans. The idea is to keep an open mind ad not believe the media stereotypes- not everyone's the same as George Bush!

  • Comment number 48.

    Dear Schwerpunkt,

    ... Obama's "socialist leanings" - you make it sound like he has some kind of depraved tentendicies!?.. I'm intrigued, could you give examples of what you have seen that "socialism has done to people first hand"?..... Socialism isn't communism; and socialism isn't fascism. I would have thought that as you have lived in Europe most of your life, you would have noticed that most of the continent (with the exception of Belarus) no longer has a planned economy overseen by a myriad of despot dictators. Capitalism has well and truly taken over (for better or worse - see recent developements), with social measures such as free health care, education, social protection for children, the elderly, the unemployed etc. being retained. If these forms of social responsibilities, shared by all, are seen as socialism - then you are correct, and we are also depraved. [BTW - Government bail-outs of private businesses (paid for by tax payers) is socialist too] ... (but that's a whole different blog entirely!)

  • Comment number 49.

    The people of America are no different from the natives of other countries. They consist of the "good, the bad, and the just plain ugly". Regretfully, the "bad - and the ugly" - of the Americans seem to have more persuasion and clout than the "good"! And the "good" seem to have little ability to resist the pressures of the "bad and the ugly". They, the good, might even be called gullible. The Carpet Baggers of the 19th century springs to mind. More recently, the election and re-election of Pres. Bush is a fine example. Perhaps this most recent collapse of the financial markets might just be an asset to the "good", whilst the "bad and ugly" are struggling to re-establish their holds on the market place. But - is there any "good" american strong enough to move in before they recover? And will that "good" american have enough clout to gather all the other "goodies" along with him - or will they all scamper back into their holes to await the outcome?

  • Comment number 50.

    #13 'I think it's sad that the US is known internationally for it's fast food chains and it's desire for war.'

    Yet oddly no-one thinks this about Germany or Japan. One of the things that REALLY annoys me about this sort of blog is that its fine to say that the US is the only country to have used A-bombs and therefore has no right to criticise Iran etc for wanting nukes, but it would be almost taboo to say Germany is the only country that has attempted to irradicate an entire race by industrial means so shouldn't criticise other nations that carry out genocide.

    Why? Neither Bush nor Merkel were even alive when these things happened yet Bush seems somehow responsible for WW2 yet Merkel isn't. This sort of anti-US double standard is so entrenched its almost normal and I think many people don't even notice it anymore.

    Incidentally your comments about McDonalds deliberately hurting animals are libelous. The BBC wouldn't have published them if you'd used them against a european multi-national.

  • Comment number 51.

    To JackBP2001: you wrote an excellent post. Sadly, the problem of the "greedy CEOs, the corrupt politicians, and all the others that have manipulated the democratic system for their benefit." is not just an American problem, I think it is universal.

    Americans get stereotyped as much as any other nationality. I have given up explaining to my friends that in Germany we don't necessarily walk around in Lederhosen and eat sausages everyday.

    I would have never put the Hamburger as an American symbol.

  • Comment number 52.

    #37. The US doesn't claim to be a democracy. Its a republic. It uses a democratic system to elect the President and senate but thats where it ends. The college system is quite sensible given the history and population demographics of the USA. Remember that the USA isn't exactly a single nation- rather its like a super-federalised EU and each state has its own governor with immense personal powers, unique laws, huge budgets and in some cases a military larger than many European armies.

    The system isn't perfect but its a damn site fairer and more popular than the european parliament (or British first past the post system) could ever hope to be!

  • Comment number 53.

    Maybe people don't want America's Democracy, Iraqi's seem less than pleased to have all of these westerners setting up camp there.
    And, judging by the choice American's have been given this time round, it looks like nothing's going to change for another 4-8 years.
    I dont know where these stereotypes of "hamburger" have come from. I think of america and the words, Born again Christianity, Obesity, and Self Rightousness come to mind.
    Land of the Free? Rich in Possibilities...
    The Founding fathers went over to the New world, to escape Religion and Oppression.
    It seems they have come full circle and become the Religious Oppressors.

  • Comment number 54.

    I'm sad the conclusion has been reached that Americans are not stupid, this was a very small survey and if we take all the evidence available, ( Sarah Palin just getting a Passport, George Bush, the two Miami Dolphin Fans in Earls Court a couple of Months ago who asked me if Poland was part of the UK), we can see that many Americans are, if not intellectually challenged, very insular and self absorbed.
    Any article that challenges this perception is heresy and should be avoided at all costs. The world must know the truth.

  • Comment number 55.

    No need to apologise JackBP2001, a well thought out and written comment.

  • Comment number 56.

    USA? Love the place and the food. I regulary visit California....for burgers there is only one place to visit...Carls JR! mmmm

  • Comment number 57.

    Oh dear.

    I am an American who is currently living in the UK. I'm not the widest traveled person in the world, but neither am I the least.

    What I've mainly noticed in my travels is that people are more the same than they are different. We all have our bigotries. Due in large part to that whole Us vs. Them thing that human beings like so much, many people are bigoted about the Americans, or sometimes just America, while they have no problems with Americans. ("All Americans are ****, but the ones I know are all right.")

    There are certainly people I've spoken to who are bigots where America is concerned. One extreme example is the Englishwoman I talked to who said she would never set one foot in the US because they once kept an MP on a plane over some papers for FORTY FIVE MINUTES (she couldn't name the MP) -- yet her dream place of residence is China, that well-known bastion of human rights.

    A particularly insidious and ugly viewpoint I've observed is that the US *deserved* 9/11, etc. (This morally and ethically bankrupt viewpoint, taken to all logical ends, would also mean that the innocent people of Armagh deserved a bomb in the middle of their shopping district, as just one "for instance".) I've noticed that it's held by many of the left-leaning Brits that I've met. Oddly, I've found the right-leaning Brits of my acquaintance view this idea with nausea, which confused me, a left-leaning person myself, until I realized it was a bigotry on my part. :)

    It is to my considerable bemusement that many people simply cannot and will not see their own bigotries, but then I suppose that's why we are bigots. There are lots and lots of bigots everywhere, in every country, and sometimes they're us.

    The ironic thing about British people bigoted about Americans/America, of course, is that for ages it used to be about the British, for everyone else. Rule Britannia.

    By the way, I realize that the hamburger was simply a literary device, but I would like to point out that if you want a humburger, you don't go to McDonalds. You stay home and make one. What you get at McDonalds is a McDonaldsburger, which bears only a passing resemblance to a real hamburger.

    Also, the person from the UK who talks about American fat people as if the US has sole proprietorship of obesity has obviously never sat for very long looking at the people walking down the average UK high street. My English friends tell me it's always been like that. Chinese children have the fastest growing obesity rate in the world, and my Australian friends (I just came back from a visit) told me recently that Australia is either first or second for obesity rate.

    Obesity, I'm starting to think, is not about laziness or a national propensity. It's a question of economics.

  • Comment number 58.

    NeoPoliticus using the latin spelling does not make you more intelligent. You'd better don't comment ( alongwith newSrolllock) but read! You are given a good chance to know opinions different from your politicians' media ones.
    I am glad to get to know that americans like JackBP2001 and Corel Shultz DO try to explain their country fellows that you are hardly on the right way of living.
    I am avoiding to post my personal opinions since I try to maintain the level of my nickname, but ... PEOPLE OPEN YOUR EYES!

  • Comment number 59.

    Like rounders and netball, Americans have reinvented, not to mention improved the sandwich with their usual relish and success. And yes, homemade are so much better... lean beef steak with some finely chopped, fried onion and garlic and herb breadcrumbs, the mixture held together with beaten fresh eggs. And grilled, of course, rather than shallow-fried.

    Find this article a tad condescending to be honest. Kind of obvious that in a country with a diverse population of X million people, you are bound to find differences of opinion.

    Sorry Jon, but I don't see anything new here. Did you write some blinding copy about the FBI that your editor wouldn't print?

  • Comment number 60.

    newScrolllock:

    Please, continue to post I think you are proving some valid points.

    Cuba: Standard of living is very poor, probably because the U.S has illegally embargoed the country since 1960 and called for the embargo of any country or business that has any dealings with Cuba.

    38 Years !

    For the last 13 years the United Nations has called for an end to this illegal embargo the vote is every country in the world versus the US, Israel, The Marshall Islands and one or two other Island nations with usually 3 to 4 abstentions.

    So what part of democracy don't you understand.

    Philippines: Living standard very poor.

    Initially invaded by the U.S in 1898 followed by a 44 year American occupation.

    also

    U.S supported military dictatorship (remember Marcos ?) 1972 - 1986 directly supported by the U.S. The Filipinos were actually poorer when he was ousted then when he was first elected President (1965)

    And of course occupied by the Japanese as well, the Philippine people haven't had very much opportunity in the last century to improve their lot.

    Hawaii: Government overthrown by U.S. and U.S sugar interests in 1898.

    Statehood gained in 1959, 66 years after the country was invaded.

    So Iraqis only have to wait another 60 years, I'm sure they will be happy to know that!

    newScrolllock you might want to read some history so that instead of saying look at what they are today.

    You could maybe see how they got where they are today.

    But in your case I doubt it would make any difference

  • Comment number 61.

    Not everyone in the US is a Republican or Democrat, or an Evangelical Christian, or a Jew, or a millionaire, or white, or dirt poor, or illiterate. There are 305,000,000 of us (give or take a few million), and each one of us is an individual. I see so many people here trying to pigeonhole us as one extreme or another, but isn't that the same as saying all Aussies are named Bruce; all Brits eat scones at every meal, or all Indians are Hindus? The narrowmindedness of Europeans (and those wanna-be-Expats) who love nothing more than bashing the US and the 300,000,000 of us who mostly just go about our business and try and let the others do the same, is just disheartening.

    I'm not going to claim that the US is a perfect place to live...I just can't think of a better place for me. Or my wife and daughter. Or our unborn twins. We have a pretty good life here in New Jersey (other Americans think of NJ the way Europeans think of the US, by the way). We live in a nice house, I have a pretty good job, my wife doesn't have to work, we eat three square meals a day, and take an active part in politics and our local communities. Who wouldn't want to live here? Unless you really like where you are, in which case, good on you.

    I live near two military facilities, one Army and the other Navy. We have protesters outside the gates of teh Army base every day, one group on the east side of the street protesting against the war, and one group on the west side of the street protesting against the protesters. I would gladly go to the grave defending teh rights of BOTH sides to say and think what they want. That is the wonder of the US, the fact that for most of us, even if we don't agree with what you say, we agree you have the right to say it. Everyone here has the right to be stupid, and that's the way we like it.

    Those of you who don't appreciate or like the US or Americans, you are free to stop shopping at Wal Mart, eating at McDonalds, driving Ford/GM/Chrysler producs, flying on Boeing planes, watching US produced films and TV shows, or frequenting Starbucks.

    Thanks and Regards,

    Jim from New Jersey (GO DEVILS!)

  • Comment number 62.

    As usual we Brits like to think ourselves intellectually superior to our American cousins (even that phrase has a whiff of condescension).

    However, I'm willing to bet that 100 US teenagers would have more idea about who Gerald Ford was than 100 British teens asked about Harold Wilson.

    The problem is that the political agenda is taken up by the likes of Sarah Palin - who's views at time seem quaint and very 19th century. However, even though I think creationists are loonies a lot of the people behind this movement are very intelligent individuals just with a somewhat blinkered view.

  • Comment number 63.

    #45 rgreulich

    Thank you, thank you, thank you, and all of in Europe are not starving SOCIALISTS living on state hand outs. I totally agree about the diversity of the US and it's population and about Hamburgers.
    There is nothing wrong with a home made burger it's only when you add the chain influence with their sneaky tricks, high fat content, massive amounts of mayonnaise and the rest that things become bad.
    Can we please keep up the intelligent exchange of views and not the knee jerk we are the greatest stuff.

  • Comment number 64.

    42. lacerniagigante wrote:

    "Wasn't also pizza invented somewhere in the USA?"

    If anyone tells you that they're lying. Pizza was invented in Naples.

  • Comment number 65.

    The last American people who visited me in Germany, were two texan girls. They pretty much confirmed the MTV image, bringing over 20 pairs of shoes on a 14 day trip.
    But I could not help myself beeing very impressed, when they were confonted (as Americans so often are) with Pres. Bush and his war on terror, eventually yelling out:" F-word you! George W. Bush is Texan! You know nothing about us! We love Bush! Yeeeehaw!"
    Right they are. We know so little and complain so much. Nothing against constructive criticism, but constantly moaning Europs, who have no idea about what their own countries are up to, should not be leaning out of the window too far!
    Or in their own words: God bless those Texan chicks!

  • Comment number 66.

    #52 Peter_Sym
    Thanks for the first part of the post it was most informative. Shame that you then went on to spoil it with the bit below.

    'The system isn't perfect but its a damn site fairer and more popular than the european parliament (or British first past the post system) could ever hope to be!'

    Are all Americans so lacking in self confidence? Why have you the need to constantly tell yourselves and the rest of the World that you are the greatest
    Democracy
    Economy
    Health Service
    Political System

    It's a lot better to let others work that out for themselves don't you think. If they like it they'll imitate it.

  • Comment number 67.

    T1m0thy wrote:"He much, to our shame, went to to war. Hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis died."

    Interesting that you leave out the many more murdered by the Iraqi government.

    "You didn't protect us in the cold war we were the buffer zone between you and the communists that you were so frightened of."

    Don't be silly if it were not for America the Soviet Union could have steamrolled all over Europe. Maybe you were not frightened of the Soviet Union because you didn't have to live under such a system. Convenient, huh?

    "Britain was used as an aircraft carrier and would have been obliterated in the event of that war."

    Why didn't that happen if it could be so easily "obliterated?"

    "We, the citizens of Europe also provided our own defence forces."

    Citizens of Europe? Last time I checked there was no such thing as a country called Europe. Why not let the EU coerce and bully its way into making that a reality first before proclaiming it as somehow reality. They were also quite tiny in comparison to the Soviet Union.

    "In the same way you didn't join in WW11 to come to our aid, liberate France or any of the other reasons you give."

    And who was giving the UK and the Soviet Union the crucial aid it needed? America was giving "aid" long before boots hit the shore.

    "the participation of the US certainly shortened the war."

    It very likely made the difference between winning it and losing it.

  • Comment number 68.

    Well there we go, the good 'Ol US of A is OK after all!

    Pity many of us don't agree with that, the kids are as brainwashed as the politicians are war like.

    The US is driven by one thing and one thing only OIL.

    That why the invasion of IRAQ happened, oh and to make sure that as many American companies as possible won the contracts to rebuild the place after the military had finished using it for target practice.

    The US government has been involved in more direct and indirect attempts to overthrow regimes since the end of WW2 than any other, and why, OIL people, OIL.

    Uncle Sam doesn't give a monkies about tin-pot countries and banana republics so long as the OIL keeps rolling in.

    The whole attitude of the US is "Live for Today" never mind that you SHARE the planet with the rest of the world.

  • Comment number 69.

    Quote from JackBP2001:

    "Traveling through Europe this summer as a 19 year old American confirmed a suspicion I had previously held. That Europeans stereotype Americans"

    Does that mean all Europenas stereotype American's? You just stereotyped me!

  • Comment number 70.

    There are a lot of factors that have gone into generating the stereotyped opinion that I have of American people - the american culture and society is pushed in our faces everyday as though it is a benchmark for people aspire to. If it's not films, TV, music, or books, then its politics and current affairs. Within all of these contexts, I find that it is the Americans themselves that project the stereotype. Taking your typical hollywood blockbuster, how many good guys save the day on account of anything more than brawn and luck? Many of these people / characters represent themselves as the "idiots" who just got lucky, mainly on account of being American and not much else.

    That being said, I have naturally formulated a stereotype but I know very well that it is a stereotype and I don't judge Americans that I meet by it. I've heard some horrible tales of what individuals have to face when they come to Europe, and in my opinion that is equally as ignorant behaviour.

    When Clinton was in power, I was admittedly quite young but public opinion of America was a lot higher then. I distinctly remember the shock and horror of everyone when Bush was elected the first and second time.

    My question to the Americans here is that when a blatantly obvious systematic error like that happens, (even if election by popular vote doesn't immediately appeal to us as a democratic approach) shouldn't alarm bells by ringing?

  • Comment number 71.

    #54 re your claim that americans are all stupid and saying anything to the contrary is heresy: how about we judge the intellect of the UK on Jade Goody, Heat Magazine and Eastenders. Its as valid as as your examples.

  • Comment number 72.

    The reason I dislike the burger chains is that they are expensive and make poor burgers that are smaller yet cost more in the UK than they are in the USA. However, the solution is simple - don't go to the chains, and make your own instead!

    To make your own burgers, simply roll about 200g/8oz of mince into a ball with some salt and pepper. Squash it flat and fry it. Then lightly toast a bun. First put some mayonnaise on, then some lettuce, then a slice of beef steak tomato. Then put the burger on. Note: putting the lettuce at the bottom keeps it crisp and the tomato slice stops the heat of the burger wilting it. Then at the toppings: cheese, bacon, mushroom, barbecue sauce, cucumber pickle, raw or cooked onion, mustard etc. as you like. Put the top and eat!

    You should be able to make burgers for under a pound each that are bigger and better than the chain ones.

    P.S. If you are really adventurous (or a pig!) you can make even bigger burgers by making 300g of dough in a bread machine and baking it in an 8 inch cake tin, then use 1lb of mince in a big frying pan and you can make a burger 8 inches across. Here's one I made: www.tragopan.demon.co.uk/MonsterBurger.jpg
    However, this is the upper limit of a burger you can pick up and eat. Although is it actually deserving of the name "Big"/"Whopper" - unlike the chain burgers!

  • Comment number 73.

    I think #52 makes a valid point regarding why "America" is such a nation of confusion. From idealism to culture to cuisine, as much as each State is governed by a Central Legislature, each person is governed by its State Legislature, which varies wildly up and down the country. This results in a myriad of cultural, religious and political bias being fed to the populus of each State pretty much independently of any other.

    So, honestly, is it any wonder that American "culture" is so insular? Is it any wonder that American "education" is so insularly driven?

    As pony a comment as it may be to make, why do we view the hamburger as being symbolic of America and Americanism? Because it's the one thing that unites the entire Nation.

  • Comment number 74.

    Wilburrobert wrote:"I think of america and the words, Born again Christianity, Obesity, and Self Rightousness come to mind."

    Sorry to break it to you but obesity levels are rising throughout the West. If you want to see the ultimate expressions of "self righteousness" just talk to any of the Europhiles that post on this site. Christianity made the West what it is today. Western values and morals are based on Christianity.

    "Land of the Free? Rich in Possibilities...
    The Founding fathers went over to the New world, to escape Religion and Oppression.
    It seems they have come full circle and become the Religious Oppressors."

    Very funny because most of the founding fathers were much more religious than our politicians of today. They were also quite more open and vocal about. The kind of politicians that America hating leftist Europeans would call lunatics or evil.

    Also the majority of the founding fathers did not go "over to the New World" since most were American born.

  • Comment number 75.

    What disturbs and frightens me, and most people I talk to, about modern America is the apparent attitude that 'The end justifies the means'. Unfortunately an approach that seems to be gaining ground within the UK as well.

    History is littered with the appalling legacies of Nations that felt so strongly about their own beliefs that International Law and Human Rights were either totally ignored, or at best made subservient to a vision of the greater good.

    I do believe that the vast majority of people in America as elsewhere want nothing more than to live in peaceful co-existence, but while we allow our leaders to wage war, imprison and torture people we suspect of crimes against us without due recourse to the process of law and lie to their own people in order to gain the mandate to do these things .. all in the name of some greater good, a great many of us will find it very difficult to rest easy.

  • Comment number 76.

    SmallHadron wrote:"One of the big problems with a lot of Americans, as can be seen from some of the more ignorant responses here, is that they are actually educated to have a world view that is fundamentally skewed.

    Take this comment: "That's ok at least America has done more for freedom and democracy than any other country that has probably ever existed in this world."

    No, it hasn't.

    America did not invent freedom and it did not invent democracy."

    Talk about "ignorant." What kind of logic causes you to state "America did not invent freedom and it did not invent democracy" based on what I said? How on earth did you arrive at such bizarre conclusions?

    I'll pass on the equally flawed analysis and understanding you have of America's election system.

  • Comment number 77.

    To olivia724:

    I think it's quite ''revelatory'' that you think that you think that Europe and South America are (sic) ''countries''.

    Part of the problem?

  • Comment number 78.

    olivia724, i'm actually the idiot. Accept my apologies.

  • Comment number 79.

    Lest we all forget, Americans were first Europeans. We are all the same, fundamentally.

  • Comment number 80.

    "For the last 13 years the United Nations has called for an end to this illegal embargo (of Cuba) the vote is every country in the world versus the US, Israel, The Marshall Islands and one or two other Island nations with usually 3 to 4 abstentions.

    So what part of democracy don't you understand."

    ironic: cuba isn't a democracy. Neither are the vast majority of the members of the UN. It seems you only focus on the US's failings, not those of the rest of the world.

    Incidentally I've a lot of time for Castro- he's certainly a lot better than the Batista regime, but thats not saying much.

  • Comment number 81.

    madloverci wrote:"Oh I had to laugh at newScrolllock's mis-informed views. For one thing, Europe isn't a country, so there go all your theories in one fell swoop."

    When did I ever say it was a country. When I lump Europe as a whole it is directed at those that see Europe as somehow one entity or wish that to be the case. Along with that desire there is usually a strong sense of superiority directed towards America.

    "Europe" didn't start a war, Germany did. And it was America who sat lazily by watching as Germany killed the Poles, Jews, Roma, etc."

    See my response above. As for the Holocaust what would you have had America do? Bomb the concentration camps? There were many people a lot smarter than you and I that determined the best thing to save them was to end the war as quickly as possible.

    "As for this peace loving nation called America, I think the Vietnamese and Iraqis might disagree... and those living in Panama, Lebanon, Korea etc etc."

    Hmm, lets compare South Korea to North Korea. Gee, which one is free and prosperous? The Iraqis now have their first chance at living in a real democracy. Vietnam is a Communist country where people are not free. Lebanon is an epicenter of Middle east violence/not America's fault! Panama? Please.

    "At least in Britain we realise that in the past we brought with us death, destruction, murder and mayhem. We not only realise it, but we celebrate it. We even give it a name - the Commonwealth."

    That's because of all the nations I have visited I have never met one as self-loathing as the UK.

  • Comment number 82.

    #61 Jim from New Jersey

    Those of you who don't appreciate or like the US or Americans, you are free to stop shopping at Wal Mart, eating at McDonalds, driving Ford/GM/Chrysler producs, flying on Boeing planes, watching US produced films and TV shows, or frequenting Starbucks.

    Thanks Jim I appreciate the size and diversity of the US and it's population. There is one little but, however, that only accounts for 6% of the world's population and the rest of us think we are pretty good as well. With regard to the above we do not see a lot of WalMart in Europe. I can't stand McDonalds. the reason Ford/GM/Chrysler have just been bailed out to the tune of US$25bn is because not even the Americans want to buy them. Airbus seem to be as good as Boeing. Starbucks coffee wouldn't even get used for dishwater where I live (France). Which leaves us with the films. and some of them are very very good, but they often send out a very bad image of the US. e.g. US made cars are dangerous they always burst into flames when they crash. The US is a violent and dangerous place everyone is always shooting each other.

  • Comment number 83.

    I have not read all the responses to this article, just a few, but from the few I have read I find it hilarious that Americans are upset by the stereotypical image the rest of the world has of them. Every nation has sterotypical images that the rest of the world refers to. Thats why Brits on American TV shows always have an emperial accent, drink tea, and watch play cricket.

  • Comment number 84.

    No. 31 CorySchulz who said "The education systems are underfunded, the media seems to tell people what they want and what type of person they should be, no one understands politics or has any valid political opinions, the music is crap, sports here are lame, the banking and financial system is very corrupt and immoral (especially credit card companies), the government doesn't listen to the people or understand what they want/need, no one appreciates good art, and the food is often times cheap and lacking in flavor and nutritional value."

    I can understand where you are coming from. However, with your comment you do exactly what countless people do when they talk about Americans, you GENERALISE.

    Take this for example: "no one appreciates good art". Have you been to a museum lately? Have you been to an exhibition lately? If you have, was it empty? Were you the only person? (Maybe we should first discuss what you mean by "good art").

    Furthermore, I find it quite upsetting to read that you think my friends are far from "quality human beings who are intelligent, aware, and capable individuals". I can assure you they are. Why would I otherwise bother?

  • Comment number 85.

    lacerniagigante (#42) I seriously hope you're joking.

    Cambones (#23) I agree. Unfortunately for some of these extreme lefties it's not enough to live entirely on a diet of cardboard and lettuce - they have to evangelise about it too, and either condemn anyone who chooses otherwise or patronise them with the notion that they're 'victims' of easy fast food and pernicious advertising.

    The number of sanctimonious vegetarians on here speaks volumes, as does the fact that being 'obese' is still, by the Left at least, considered the worst thing in the world and perfect justification for the moral condemnation and ridicule directed at this group.

    Personally, I love American fast food, partly for the taste and convenience, but also because of the lack of the good side helping of guilt that is now being served up with any type of food in Britain. Is it organic? Is it fairtrade? Brown or white? Will it make you fat? Enough already. It's my business what I put in my mouth, however much the nanny-state socialists might try to convince us that food, and weight, are now serious political topics demanding uncompromising intervention.

  • Comment number 86.

    Nice to read the thoughts of young people, honestly stated. The trouble is that they will probably never travel outside the US to see what the rest of the world is like.

    I first went to the states in 1979 and was in awe of the place. I visited many times over the years until 2006. When I realised the security at airports was ridiculous, the food in restaurants was huge & awful. Supermarket fruit and veg had no flavour, and that the rest of the world had passed America by and that it had become a third world country but with money.

  • Comment number 87.

    #66. I'm quite amused. I'm not an american, I'm a Brit. The confusion is easily explained... I must be one of the few europeans who doesn't have a blind hatred of all things american.

    Actually I quite like our first past the post system because it gives us strong government (at least compared to the coalitions you get in Europe) but its anything but fair or democratic. That said its far fairer than the EU parliament and I'd repeat my comment about its popularity- if Brits love Europe so much why is our government afraid to give us a referendum on Lisbon?

    You should click on my name and read some of my other posts especially my criticism of private health care. The NHS isn't perfect by a long way but its still better for most than the US system.

  • Comment number 88.

    #67 newScrolllock

    Interesting, the nit picking use of words European citizen. Europe doesn't exist.
    Europe or the European Union has a population of around 496 million and an economy one and one half times that of the USA. Non existent!!

    'And who was giving the UK and the Soviet Union the crucial aid it needed? America was giving "aid" long before boots hit the shore.'

    Aid? I thought it was called 'lease lend' and we paid for it.
    Having fought off the Germans at first almost alone and then aided by the Russians we then had you 'coming to our aid'. Except you didn't, you joined in because you were attacked and then Germany declared war on the USA.

    I notice you don't address the point about removing your military and weapons systems. The reason being that if you did you would be a lot more vulnerable. We in Europe are and always have been a buffer zone for the US.

    It's the great American self deception, you always seem to have to need to explain your actions on the grounds of altruism and not self interest.

  • Comment number 89.

    I think the main obstacle preventing mutual understanding between Europeans and Americans is education. Most Europeans speak three languages because that is what they are taught in their schools. Most Americans only speak English and expect others to speak English when they travel to Europe. That in itself is taken for arrogance. To overcome this obstacle and pave way for mutual understanding, the public school system in USA must be improved. Although English is the international language of business, it is not necessarily the primary medium for mutual understanding and fostering of good relations. Knowing a foreign language is the source of learning others' culture and also opens one's eyes in understanding others' perspectives.

  • Comment number 90.

    a_bunny wrote:"Cuba: Standard of living is very poor, probably because the U.S has illegally embargoed the country since 1960 and called for the embargo of any country or business that has any dealings with Cuba."

    Gee, I didn't realize it was America's duty to trade with Cuba to sustain their superior Communist system. No one country that I know of has been stopped from trading with Cuba. Your tourists also visit there quite often.

    "the United Nations has called for an end to this illegal embargo the vote is every country in the world versus the US, Israel,"

    Good thing the UN doesn't always gets what it wants.

    "Philippines: Living standard very poor."

    I have friends from the Philippines that all agree when I say they would have been much better off as an American state or territory.

    "Hawaii: Government overthrown by U.S. and U.S sugar interests in 1898. Statehood gained in 1959, 66 years after the country was invaded."

    Don't forget the European participation. And of course don't forget around 95% of the Hawaiian population voted in favor of American statehood. :)

    "So Iraqis only have to wait another 60 years, I'm sure they will be happy to know that!"

    60 years??

    "newScrolllock you might want to read some history so that instead of saying look at what they are today.You could maybe see how they got where they are today."

    Where America has stayed the distance and with cooperation from the local population there has only been success.

    "But in your case I doubt it would make any difference."

    Yet you still feel it necessary to set me straight? :) Typical.

  • Comment number 91.

    'there a symbol any more American than the hamburger? I don't think cowboys, the Statue of Liberty or even the Stars and Stripes come close'

    Your kidding right? Is this a serious blog? The stature of liberty and the stars and stripes are the most enduring symbols of the US by a country mile.

  • Comment number 92.

    America has indeed had a bad press for some time. When there is a crisis somewhere in the world, be it humanitarian or political, Europeans tend in the main to sit on their hands and pontificate. Words are issued, but often there is a marked lack of decisive action. On the other hand, the USA tends to be there early. This can be an unquestionably good thing, in times of natural disaster for example, but in other instances has left them open to criticism. Consider the rise of the Islamic extremists and their hatred of the west, and their aim to convert the world by force to their ways. While it is people in Arabic countries that are suffering, Europe is content to turn a blind eye, saying we should not interfere in other "cultures". When they start to export their hatred and violence, Europeans start muttering that something really ought to be done, but simply argue amongst themselves as to what this should be. So nothing is done. This is how the Nazis rose to rule much of the continent.
    America, on the other hand, will blunder in and try to sort things out. Well intentioned, but perhaps a little clumsy, but far easier to criticise by those that would do nothing. Hence their bad press.
    Other reasons that America is subject to ridicule; well, just look at their TV companys' output. They seem to produce a far higher percentage of banal worthless rubbish than most countries, and heaven knows we can produce some trash of our own in this country. Their destruction of the English language - not that we in the UK are perfect (seen Eastenders lately, or the average radio DJ in the London/Thames area?). Anyone that has dealings with companies in the US will be appalled by their poor use of language, even at quite senior levels. Their healthcare for the less well-off is not a subject for celebration either, I understand.
    But there is much that is good about the place that is relatively unsung. They have achieved remarkable things of the decades, partly due to their size and economic capacity, and partly due to the (relatively) fee nature of their society. Where is the country to which of those (rich or poor) in the most anti-American countries would like to emigrate? America. Despite their food! This says it all really.

  • Comment number 93.

    Firstly, on the food theme. My favourite place in the States is the South West, TX, NM and Ar. Apart from the fantatic long traffic free highways and scenery it has to be the Tex Mex food. Fresh warm tortillas and homemade salsa on your table, fantastic. It may be the image of America, but you do not have to eat it. I cannot remember the last time I had roast beef, or Fish & Chips.

    As to the view people have of Americans, well, it is one of the hardest things to understand people from another country. You have only got to see what happens when somebody like Spielbarg for instance tries to represent the British to see this.

    A funny story. While I was in Texas a couple of years ago, I was invited to an evening meal in somebodies Winibago (I think it is spelt), and they had the 4 Feathers on the DVD. A film about the British in the Sudan. I had to explain it was the British they were looking at, but my attempts to explain Corporal Jones of Dad's Army, who's character served in the Sudan led to looks of amazement and utter bafflement. People say we are similar, but that evening you would not have thought it.

  • Comment number 94.

    tinybubbadee wrote:"When Clinton was in power, I was admittedly quite young but public opinion of America was a lot higher then. I distinctly remember the shock and horror of everyone when Bush was elected the first and second time.

    My question to the Americans here is that when a blatantly obvious systematic error like that happens, (even if election by popular vote doesn't immediately appeal to us as a democratic approach) shouldn't alarm bells by ringing?"

    The arrogance in your post is quite stunning. It's a "blatantly obvious systematic error" for Americans to vote for and choose who they want to run their own country? Is this a joke? Since when did Americans need the approval of foreigners on who to elect president? Do Britons or Germans or the French need American approval on who they should elect to office? Get over yourself.

  • Comment number 95.

    Schwerpunkt wrote:
    On the hamburger issue, Europeans I have made them for always love them but are amazed when I don't add egg or breadcrumbs (??!!). Just lean ground beef, salt, pepper and maybe topped with cheese (something tangy works best).


    An observation about "egg or breadcrumbs": I was born and raised in central Illinois, so perhaps this is a regional thing (?). Growing up and especially when Dad's paychecks were lean, Mom would add egg and breadcrumbs (or oatmeal or some other type of filler) to the ground beef. It was called meatloaf and baked in an oven. Mom did this to "stretch" the meat and make the meal go farther for a family of 5. Never ever did we grill a hamburger with egg or crumbs added to it. Doing so was considered a poor-man's burger. If Dad grilled a burger, it was meat only with a little onion and seasoning added to it before making the patties (and my brothers and I celebrated because we hated meatloaf!). Adding egg or crumbs to the patties, especially at family barbecues, would have made a statement that he couldn't afford enough meat for the family. Dad wasn't a rich man, but he had his pride.
    Again, just an observation from my extended family's midwest outlook on burgers :-)

  • Comment number 96.

    Supadan1977 wrote:"I have not read all the responses to this article, just a few, but from the few I have read I find it hilarious that Americans are upset by the stereotypical image the rest of the world has of them."

    You take pleasure in seeing people "upset?"

    "Every nation has sterotypical images that the rest of the world refers to. Thats why Brits on American TV shows always have an emperial accent, drink tea, and watch play cricket."

    None of which are insulting, unlike most American stereotypes coming from that side of the Atlantic.

  • Comment number 97.

    An interesting discussion here, I must say.

    Admittedly, I had a very negative, sterotypical image of the average American until I actually visited the place.

    Maybe it was the place I visited (Boston) but I must say, I found the 'average' American to be incredibly warm, generous and full of humour with good grace. Nearly everyone I met was interested in the UK and other places and I was genuinely surprised by the level of community spirit - something we seem to be lacking over here.

    Food-wise, in the week I was there, I ate Italian, Mexican, Thai and I even had fish 'n' chips that *almost* rivalled ours over here! I also had a meal from one of the biggest salad bars I've ever seen. It was all scrummy.

    Didn't try a hamburger though ...

  • Comment number 98.

    #82. ASDA (the UK's 3rd largest supermarket) is owned by Walmart so Europe has plenty. Ford also own jaguar etc and seem to sell pretty well here. My Vauxhall astra is a GM and about every 3rd car on the roads in the UK seems to be a Vauxhall. Mine has never broken down in 9 years and I'd happily buy another one. Airbus IS about as good as Boing but given the level of state subsidy it recieves it should be. I've had some very good coffee in France and I've had some filth. There's nothing wrong with Starbucks, its just too expensive and the majority of their menu choice isn't coffee in any recognisable form anyway. Equally your home country of France has more McD's per head than the UK so although you may not like them someone in France does.

  • Comment number 99.

    #22 Bigbri91 Sadly it is comments and attitudes like your's that give Americans a bad name.
    Patriotism is not the same as nationalism...if it were Germany in the late 30's and early 40's should be your role model..along with Russia from 1917 to '89...This fact seems to be convieniently ignored by many flag waving Americans today.

  • Comment number 100.

    There's no denying America IS the land of opportunity - you have the opportunity to eat as much as you like!

 

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