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First impressions of America: Florida

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Franz Strasser | 14:43 UK time, Monday, 26 July 2010

In 2001-2002, I spent a year in Mayo, Florida as an exchange student at Lafayette High School. Now, eight years later, I travel back to that small town to visit the people and places that gave me my first impressions of America.

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Do you have experiences as an exchange student or host family? How did it change your outlook on the United States or other countries?

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    When I was in middle school, my family hosted a Japanese exchange student my same age. At first things were quiet; after all, none of us were particularly fluent in Japanese, and our exchange student's English was quite limited. But, after a bit, she truly became a member of our family. We were all surprised by how well we could communicate without language, and as the weeks went by, our Japanese and her English improved by leaps and bounds. Needless to say, we were all in tears when it came time for her to return home.
    When I was in high school, I decided to study in Japan myself, and really immerse myself in the country that my foreign sister had exposed me to. What I found when I reached Japan were not stereotypes of polite but cold people, but a warm society, eager to take me in and expose me to their rich culture. Their kindness and hospitality was second to none, and one evening my host parents told me that they would always be my second parents, something that truly touched me. While I was in Japan, I was also able to reconnect with my first foreign sister, and even meet her mother. Despite being years later, not much had changed between us. We still enjoyed each others' sense of humor and unique takes on life.
    Both experiences: hosting and being an exchange student myself have since helped me to see that the world really isn't as different as we sometimes make it out to be. No matter where you go, the human heart doesn't change.

  • Comment number 2.

    Excellent video! As an American with friends in other countries, I'm well aware that not everyone sees us (Americans)through negative sterotypes and your blogs here hopefully might help others around the world to realize we're not so bad, after all. I look forward to following your posts!

  • Comment number 3.

    Franz - I am very much looking forward to your account of your journey. It will be great to hear your depiction of the US and in particular the South. I have often cringed at descriptions of Americans and Southerners in particular offered by others (visitors and Americans too). Too often they are negative. Given that you are young and still forming your own views, I am eager to hear about us from your point of view. The strange, wonderful, fulfilling and the frightening; all of those things that become evident to you on your journey, I look forward to hearing about. All the best and swing by Texas!!

  • Comment number 4.

    Ah. Floating down the lazy river and living the American Dream...

  • Comment number 5.

    I spent 8 months living with a wonderful Cambodian host family in Phnom Penh. I too was first struck by their hospitality. They didn't ever make a big show or dance but overwhelmed me with the little things such as how my host brother would help me with my mosquito net each night, and how they were always so concerned if I ever was sick. Their patience as I was begining to learn Khmer made me question how little time I had had for those who didn't speak english perfectly. We lived on the edge of a city in what many would consider a "slum" community but it was a place that adopted me as one of their own. I was doing research at the time and I would come into contact with many cambodians from un-privileged backgrounds, and it would often be hard for people to feel normal around me and see me as anything more than another foreign, educated, Frenchy (i.e. white person), but it was very different with my host family.

    There when you live together, all pretenses are gone and you see a whole different side of each other. My host siblings looked out for me, patiently would allow me to practice khmer with them and I would help them with their English homework. We'd spend our evenings playing cards and laughing, and having a try at the odd bit of karaoke. My host mother would share her wisdom with me and even attempted to teach me khmer cooking (which involved lots of laughter as I always failed miserably). I think what living with a host family on the opposite side of the world taught me more than anything was that now quite cliche sentiment that despite all our differences we share much more in common.

  • Comment number 6.

    My experience of Americans whilst visiting the US,& when they had a military base here in Wales was of a generous,fun loving & decent bunch of people,that you could ever wish to meet...

  • Comment number 7.

    Four years ago we unexpectedly hosted our first exchange student, a 16 year old boy from Russia. Before he arrived I knew nothing about Russia- I grew up during the cold war, and never quite got beyond the vague feeling of "Russia-bad, U.S.-good". Here in the US, we learn very little about other countries. Our schools teach very little geography, and minimal world-cultures. We are an insulated culture in many ways, which leaves us feeling apart from the rest of the world. Our children grow up with little curiosity about the rest of the world, and even less knowledge. Having our exchange student- who became a beloved member of our family- opened our eyes in many ways. We hosted a second Russian FLEX student the following year, also an excellent, if different experience. These exchanges sparked an interest in me to learn and culminated in a 5 week trip to Russia, ending just last week. What I experienced during the past 4 years and especially this past month has changed my life, and given me a determination that the children I teach will learn to understand and respect the world as a whole, not grow up ignorant of the fact that there is life beyond their own home and country. We live in a world that gets smaller and more interconnected year-by-year. We all need to understand and appreciate the differences and similarities, and learn to work together for the good of the entire world.

  • Comment number 8.

    Fantastic post, Margo_c.

  • Comment number 9.

    I spent a year as an exchange student in Wichita, Kansas from 1998 - 1999. My host family were the most lovely people I could ever hope to meet and we are still in touch. They really made me feel like one of their family and I have never forgotten their kindness and generosity. The other students in the High School were equally lovely and I quickly became immersed in the High School experience. I was however, completely shocked by the level of ignorance about anywhere further away than Canada. I was frequently asked which part of France or Germany the UK was in and on several occasions I was even asked my native language. One Scottish student was given a dictionary as a present on her arrival! On the whole it was a very positive experience and I would recomend it to any student.

  • Comment number 10.

    Great video and very close to the truth...

    ChuckUSA this is in particular for you...I dont have any negative stereotype image about folks in the USA.. they are the same as everyone slse in the world... and usually great folks.

    Im hoping to go with my kids to Florida in a few days... Bradenton, Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Boca Raton etc...... all these lovely places...there is so much besides Orlando.. not that we dont NOT enjoy trips to Disney.. Epcot fireworks the best in the world as far as I am concerned...
    This is our SEVENTH visit... I just love the place... I wish one of my sons could go on an exchange programme when they are old enough...
    University of Central Florida perhaps... Magic.....

    GOD BLESS America!!!!!

  • Comment number 11.

    Spent time in the mid west last year as part of my university degree. Had never been to the US before this trip but had an amazing time. I have to admit i made assumptions about certain people in the States (Republicans) that were prove to be completely inaccurate.

    Please put us back in the green card lottery, I would love to emigrate one day!

  • Comment number 12.

    I don't like at the 'Noles stuff... Gainesville is where it's at... GO GATORS!!!!!

  • Comment number 13.

    ChuckUSA wrote:

    "Excellent video! As an American with friends in other countries, I'm well aware that not everyone sees us (Americans)through negative sterotypes and your blogs here hopefully might help others around the world to realize we're not so bad, after all. I look forward to following your posts!"

    Actually, if you read the blogs here on the BBC website they are rarely about putting America in a positive light. You've come to the wrong web site if you want to see fair and objective opinions about America.

  • Comment number 14.

    Margo_c wrote:

    "Four years ago we unexpectedly hosted our first exchange student, a 16 year old boy from Russia. Before he arrived I knew nothing about Russia- I grew up during the cold war, and never quite got beyond the vague feeling of "Russia-bad, U.S.-good". Here in the US, we learn very little about other countries. Our schools teach very little geography, and minimal world-cultures. We are an insulated culture in many ways, which leaves us feeling apart from the rest of the world. Our children grow up with little curiosity about the rest of the world, and even less knowledge."

    That's ridiculous. Maybe you learned "very little" but considering schools vary from city to city, county to county, and state to state, you can't generalize when it comes to something like that.

    You are only repeating and catering to what many uninformed people out of Europe like to think of Americans.

    "Having our exchange student- who became a beloved member of our family- opened our eyes in many ways."

    How so? Because that individual child was not a member of the communist party that persecuted, imprisoned and murder millions of its own people? What did you expect from a child?

    "We hosted a second Russian FLEX student the following year, also an excellent, if different experience. These exchanges sparked an interest in me to learn and culminated in a 5 week trip to Russia, ending just last week. What I experienced during the past 4 years and especially this past month has changed my life, and given me a determination that the children I teach will learn to understand and respect the world as a whole, not grow up ignorant of the fact that there is life beyond their own home and country."

    So how exactly do Americans not "respect" the world? You came to this point in your life by visiting a country that in many respects still mirrors the Soviet Union? A country where people are still put in prison for simply expressing an opinion. A country where people are often killed if they criticize their government too much or demand democracy and human rights. And yet somehow it is Americans you have an issue with?

    "We live in a world that gets smaller and more interconnected year-by-year. We all need to understand and appreciate the differences and similarities, and learn to work together for the good of the entire world."

    Sorry, but a country like America, god willing, will never appreciate countries like that.

  • Comment number 15.

    ruthyb81 wrote:

    "I was however, completely shocked by the level of ignorance about anywhere further away than Canada. I was frequently asked which part of France or Germany the UK was in and on several occasions I was even asked my native language."

    Sure you were.

  • Comment number 16.

    U3175727 wrote:

    "Spent time in the mid west last year as part of my university degree. Had never been to the US before this trip but had an amazing time. I have to admit i made assumptions about certain people in the States (Republicans) that were prove to be completely inaccurate."

    Many people from your part of the world do that all the time. Your culture, your media, your universities, and many of your politicians help that process along as much as they can. Negative assumptions made in many cases about things that actually have nothing to do with any other country.

    "Please put us back in the green card lottery, I would love to emigrate one day!"

    Sorry, I'm glad you had a good time but we already have too many immigrants in America as it is, mostly illegal. The last thing we need is more. Feel welcome to visit though.

  • Comment number 17.

    AllenT2, I think you're doing more than the BBC ever could hope to reinforce negative stereotypes about America. Your comments are unwelcoming, unfriendly, dismissive, and unfair. The three blogs I have read on this web site about America have been totally fair and open-minded if not positive about the country. On a more relevant note, I really enjoy reading this blog and am very eager to view/read future posts. I think increased interaction between cultures is a valuable way to promote harmony and stability.

  • Comment number 18.

    The irony here is that AllenT2 is busy perpetuating the negative stereotypes of Americans that he's whining about.

    Allen certainly has a chip on his shoulder, and he's misusing the BBC website to vent.

    AllenT2 to ChuckUSA:

    "You've come to the wrong web site if you want to see fair and objective opinions about America."

    My response to Allen:

    First, there's no such thing as an "objective opinion". Second, you should back up your statements by providing proof of BBC's allegedly unfair and subjective coverage about America. Please post the URLs of such BBC articles.

    Allen to Margo_c:

    "So how exactly do Americans not "respect" the world? You came to this point in your life by visiting a country that in many respects still mirrors the Soviet Union? A country where people are still put in prison for simply expressing an opinion. A country where people are often killed if they criticize their government too much or demand democracy and human rights. And yet somehow it is Americans you have an issue with?"

    My response to Allen:

    As much as you chastise Europeans for being "uninformed", Europeans DO (along with Middle Easterners, Latin Americans, Asians, etc) have the ability to think rationally and separate ordinary people from their governments. This includes the separation of ordinary innocent Americans from their government which -at any given point in time these past several decades- always seems to be bombing some far-flung basketcase country whose people are already miserable, or plopping a US-friendly dictator while simultaneously preaching about democracy. No government is perfect, certainly not the US government -contrary to the propoganda you're brainwashed with since kindergarten. But we're not talking about governments here. We're talking about PEOPLE, and how to look past governments and militaries and politicians, and see the PEOPLE of a given country.

    Allen to Margo_c:

    "Sorry, but a country like America, god willing, will never appreciate countries like that."

    My response to Allen:

    False. America has appreciated SEVERAL countries like that, provided that they suit American interests. Think Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Or South Korea before 1987. Or Indonesia before 2004. Or Iraq in the 1980s (yes, Saddam Hussein was a close US ally then), or the dictatorships of Brazil, Argentina, and Chile in the 1970s/80s.

    America never appreciates *any* country that's in the way of American geopolitical interests. Whether that country is democratic or authoritarian is an afterthought. America certainly didn't respond well to democratic elections in Gaza.

    Funny that you call Europeans "uninformed", because no one in the world is less informed than Americans, except North Koreans and jungle tribes in Papua New Guinea.

    No, not everyone in Europe is informed about the world, and many Americans (especially the ones who are likely to read BBC.co.uk) are among the most cosmopolitan and informed people in the world. But as a group, Europeans are far more informed than Americans. Americans are highly insular, and their media gives them a highly censored and distorted image of the outside world, from Gaza to Iraq to health care systems in other developed nations. The information that you get in your media is SO warped, and Americans are SO sheltered, that AllenT2 calling Europeans "uninformed" is BEYOND the pot calling the kettle black.

    Obviously this man is very bitter about something...maybe he had a bad experience during a trip abroad (although I'd be deeply shocked if he actually travels), or maybe had a bad experience with a foreigner...that he felt the insatiable need to spoil an innocent travel blog about a Brit who loves America and loves to talk about his travels in America and meeting Americans.

    Kudos, Allen, for ruining such a positive atmosphere, and perpetuating the stereotype that everyone else here came close to extinguishing.

  • Comment number 19.

    AllenT2 (post#16), I'm real sorry you feel that way. I think it would do us all a lot of good to remember that our country was founded as a nation of immigrants. It is part of our American ideals that we respect and welcome others.

    Besides, history has shown that open societies progress and closed societies languish. Immigration over the centuries has only made our country richer and stronger. I, for one, am grateful. We would be a much poorer country if not for the many contributions that immigrants and children of immigrants have made. Just consider these few examples. Science. Albert Einstein, a man who made great contributions to our understanding of physics, was an immigrant. How about aviation (and aerospace and defense)? We wouldn't have Boeing today, if William Edward Boeing's father had not immigrated to the U.S. Can you imagine what would have happened if we had decided, "nope!", we're barring all further immigration? Boeing might have been founded in Canada or Australia or England instead. What about something more recent, like technology related to the Internet? The founder of Yahoo is an immigrant, and one of the co-founders of Google is an immigrant. Can you imagine what might have been if all these people emigrated to some other (more welcoming) country, i.e., if we stopped welcoming immigrants? The answer is, they would be enriching other countries and not ours. If you love your country, but are against immigration, please think about this.

  • Comment number 20.

    I've lived and worked in the "educational" establishment of the US for the last sixteen years, am in the process of organizing an exit, and am desperate to leave. I only came to the US to work, and like many Europeans had no real idea what the "culture" was like here. Only if you live in the US and come from outside its’ culture, i.e. a different way of perceiving what is, and what could be, do you come to understand that their way of life is based almost solely on the acquisition of material, with a virtual dearth of anything relating to an inner life. Americans in general don't even realize that this is the case - a sort of, “what one never has, one never misses”. The people generally, and I've lived in three states, and visited extensively 26 others, appear rather child-like in their worldview. Some of the comments in this blog show just that lack of wisdom that mature adults in other parts of the world would take for granted. This is a common state of affairs in the US, it can be seen in the way they respond to anything that they don't understand, much like children of 13 or 14 years of age. This is one of the reasons that Americans are so susceptible to their own propaganda machine which uses fear and ignorance extremely effectively to manipulate it’s population; hence the Startrek-like, “Red”, “Orange”, “Yellow”, “Blue”, and “Green”, Alerts depending on, what they like to call, their state of “National Security”, or the over emphasis of appearing to be secure at their airports, when it is obvious to anyone who travels regularly that, like most things in the US, it is done simply for appearance sake, or should I say, “the advertising”. The child-like way they respond to politics for example, or parades, or the military, or nationalism, patriotism, or any situation where they fail to get their own way, all like children. A mature response to anything is very difficult to come by here.

    True, the quality of education is extremely varied depending on where they live, on how much they earn, and who you may know, but even at the very, so called, pinnacle of their educational organization their people are not really given education with the idea that it is to enrich their personal understanding of the world, to help them integrate with other human beings. Most of these students arrive, and leave, with the idea that they have improved their chances of “increasing their life-time income” by a percentage often touted to them loudly by administrations of universities that do not even see the attendees as “students”, only customers, and the more “well-paying customers” the better the income of the establishments in question and the higher the salaries of the administrations running them. I spent eight years at Yale and saw many intelligent people, but way to many idiots thinking that because they were at Yale they were really smart. More people need to come to the US to live, and see what it is really about, or should I say not about, since that would be a more accurate description.

    You can have any colour you like here as long as it is the colour that is available and selected for you by somebody you never actually meet. I dislike Milton Friedman, but he was right when he predicted that Americans would, and continue to, give away their freedom, becoming enslaved by their own ignorance.

  • Comment number 21.

    I lived in Romania (Transylvania, actually) my junior year in high school while Ceaucescu was in power. It was a terrific experience for me. My classmates and teachers were warm and friendly, interested to get to know me, fascinated by American culture. There had been flooding in the Danube the preceding spring and many crops failed. Food was scarce all winter. As friendships developed slowly, I really only got to know people in in the winter and spring, during the shortages. They all moaned that they wished they had invited me over in the fall for plum tarts. I was invited into many homes which were all decorated with wood carvings, pottery, and embroidery. One friend's father was in the secret police and apologized she could not invite me in.

  • Comment number 22.

    We had an exchange student from France and she did sometimes come off as snotty but once we got to know here she was really nice and just like any American teenage girl. I also learned a lot with Japanese exchange students like how overly polite they can be even with friends. They had a hard time expressing a negative opinion about something in comparison with Americans.

    I think the US does sort of live in a bubble but its not actually bad because we have so much diversity inside that bubble. Its also extremely difficult to pinpoint "American Culture" but people seem to love trying to sum us up in an article or short rant. Like any large country you will get a different experience living all over. Just moving a state over can sometimes induce culture shock for US citizens.

  • Comment number 23.

    AllenT2:

    Which Indian tribe are you descended from? Or could it possibly be that you are descended from immigrants too? I hate your, "I'm allright jack, so pull the ladder up" attitude.
    You seem to be a little paranoid about how America is perceived, much of this anti-USA feeling is directed at foreign policy though. This is the downside of being a world superpower, just learn to take it with a smile, the same way I do all the teasing about the war of independence and 'Brit colonialism'.
    Diversity is one of your strengths, embrace it and don't think that you have nothing left to learn from outsiders. Are you happy with your 'pork barrel politics', or is there a better example out there? Some of your strengths are also weaknesses. The failure of regulatory bodies to control Wall Street and the oil companies have caused immense pain and suffering here at home, so you may think that big business isn't quite qualified to run the country yet and look to what other countries do.

    To my regret, I have only lived & worked in 2 States and would love to see and learn more about America and its people. When I go back to Europe I will be taking a huge number of positives with me and hopefully correcting the uninformed negative opinions of my European cousins. That can only happen if you open your doors to visitors, the result of your xenophobia, will be to further isolate your country. You may not be able to contemplate the sun setting on your superpower status, but have a read about Turkey, Rome, Spain, Britain....you may want a friend some day.

  • Comment number 24.

    MattPain:

    The presence of regional cultural differences, of ethnic, cultural, or linguistic minorities, and of immigrant groups is by no means unique to America, although for some reason Americans -including yourself- think they are unique in this regard.

    You're right that Americans live in a bubble, and you demonstrate that point. To YOU, America might be a world in itself, but to someone from Switzerland, Canada, or India, or even more homogenous countries like Germany, Japan, or China (where 98% of the population is Han Chinese), America isn't all that diverse. Not all of America is like Brooklyn. The vast majority of Americans have a common ancestry (the mixture of European settlers/immigrants who arrived over the course of 4 centuries), speak American English as their mother tongue, are Christian or post-Christian, observe traditions like Thanksgiving and high school proms, and adhere to American social norms. Even immigrant populations in America assimilate and intermarry into American culture as soon as the 1st American-born generation reaches adulthood. That's fast.

    Try actually living abroad for a month, and you'll realize that there IS an American culture (no need to put it in quotes), and you were raised in it. You are just as "ethnic" to someone in India as they are to YOU. It's time Americans stop this "we are diverse" "we're not ethnic" "we're above culture" baloney, and start recognizing yourselves as a NORMAL country.

  • Comment number 25.

    To AllenT2: Does that 2x4 on your shoulder ever make it difficult to get through doors?

    To Brian: Sorry we'uns is all so ignernt round hyar. Good luck with your enlightened, propaganda-free, less materialistic life elsewhere. So it took you sixteen years to figure it out?

    To my fellow Americans who lament our national ignorance: Why blame the schools? Take some responsibility for yourselves. If you can afford it, travel. More importantly, travel with your eyes and ears open. I've been lucky enough to be overseas, partly thanks to Uncle Sam and partly my own efforts. I saw some things I admired and some I didn't, and a few things that horrified me, which is pretty much what you can see here in the states. It taught me to love my homeland and to respect those of others.

    If you can't travel, read. There's a world of learning in books. As with travel, keep your eyes and ears open. Sometimes reading a full-on lie, and knowing it's a lie, can be more informative than the truth.

  • Comment number 26.

    24. At 3:13pm on 27 Jul 2010, skye_eg wrote:
    "The vast majority of Americans have a common ancestry (the mixture of European settlers/immigrants who arrived over the course of 4 centuries), speak American English as their mother tongue, are Christian or post-Christian, observe traditions like Thanksgiving and high school proms, and adhere to American social norms."

    WOW

    What other country on earth is more diverse than the US.
    Currently 60% of the population has European Ancestry.
    12% has Sub Saharan Ancestry
    17% has Latin American Ancestry
    9% has Asian Ancestry

    Certainly not any European Country or Canada (83% European Ancestry).

  • Comment number 27.

    Great video! My family hosted 6 students while I was growing up and I went to Germany my junior year of high school. All of my experiences (host sister and student) were enriching and really helped shape me into a better person. I wish more families would be open to hosting; it really opens your eyes. And it's just plain fun to show a student your family, our customs, what high school is really like, etc.

    We are hosting a boy from Slovakia this year. Looking forward to it!

  • Comment number 28.

    26. At 4:39pm on 27 Jul 2010, diverticulosis wrote:

    "What other country on earth is more diverse than the US.
    Currently 60% of the population has European Ancestry.
    12% has Sub Saharan Ancestry
    17% has Latin American Ancestry
    9% has Asian Ancestry"

    1. African-Americans have both Sub Saharan Ancestry AND European Ancestry, and their culture is far more Anglocized than it is African.

    2. Your estimation of persons living in the United States of Latin American and Asian ancestry are ridiculously over-inflated. According to the 2000 US Census (http://www.census.gov/prod/2002pubs/c2kbr01-16.pdf%29 only 4% of Americans have Asian ancestry. "Latin American" is far more complicated to gauge. The US Census uses the term "Hispanic"...a very diverse group which is actually more inclusive than "Latin American" (because it includes residents of Puerto Rico, or Spaniards livng in the US, or anyone with any hint -no matter how small- of ancestry from a Spanish-speaking country). And even the "Hispanic" estimate doesn't mount to anywhere near 17%. Let alone that -as I mentioned- 1st generation American-born (to Latin American parents) are assimilating and intermarrying into majority American culture.

    "What other country on earth is more diverse than the US. Certainly not any European Country or Canada (83% European Ancestry)."

    Linguistically, yes. Countries like Canada, Switzerland, Belgium, and Spain, where upwards of 20-25% of the *native* population have a mother tongue other than the majority language (French in Canada and Belgium, Catalan in Spain, and French/Italian in Switzerland). And those are *native* populations. If you want to talk about immigrants, all 4 of these countries have larger numbers of immigrants (in proportion to their native populations) than does the United States. Shocking to Americans, but true. There's even some countries that are *majority* immigrant, like Jordan and the United Arab Emirates.

    "What other country on earth is more diverse than the US."

    I already named a few. Allow me to add India, Pakistan, Iraq, Indonesia, Peru, and pretty much every African country. There's also countries that are *just as* diverse (but no less) as the United States, such as Russia and especially Brazil where -just like the United States- a majority ethnic group has emerged from the centuries of immigrants that have intermarried with each other. [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 29.

    zoffenberger wrote:

    "AllenT2, I think you're doing more than the BBC ever could hope to reinforce negative stereotypes about America. Your comments are unwelcoming, unfriendly, dismissive, and unfair."

    Assuming that I am the most horrible American you could ever meet how is such a statement logical? After all, I am just one American.

    How have I been "unwelcoming and unfriendly?" By welcoming someone to America and encouraging them to visit us again? That's your idea of being "unwelcoming and unfriendly?"

    I have not dismissed anyone's views in my remarks. I simply challenged the kind of reasoning that would lead one American to view his or her country and his or her fellow Americans in a negative light in a comparison to a part of the world that in the most fundamental ways
    was and still is the antithesis of everything that is good about America and every free and democratic country throughout the world.

    How do you feel about all the "unwelcoming, unfriendly, dismissive, and unfair" comments you see directed at America on this site?

    "The three blog s I have read on this web site about America have been totally fair and open-minded if not positive about the country."

    This "web site" or "three" entries into this particular blog? That's certainly a big difference because I was referring to the general views on America you see expressed on this entire site, not this particular topic, or blog.

    "On a more relevant note, I really enjoy reading this blog and am very eager to view/read future posts. I think increased interaction between cultures is a valuable way to promote harmony and stability."

    I generally have no problem with that so long as the "interaction" is fair, objective and balanced. When it comes to America and the BBC, and much of British media, I and so many others believe that is simply not the case.

    Just because you see the rare topic, or blog, such as this doesn't make that any less likely to be true.

    And I say generally because I don't always agree that "harmony and stability" are always the result of "interaction between cultures." Some cultures are simply and fundamentally incompatible. Often times the end result is a war.

  • Comment number 30.

    skye_eg wrote:

    "The irony here is that AllenT2 is busy perpetuating the negative stereotypes of Americans that he's whining about."

    The only kind of person that would make a remark like would be the kind of person that would wish to see those "negative stereotypes" be true because, after all, I am only one American so where would the logic be in endorsing such a way of thinking about all Americans.

    Right?

    "Allen certainly has a chip on his shoulder, and he's misusing the BBC website to vent."

    An interesting word ("misusing")you chose to use. Surely one that I believe you wish could help silence me.

    What exactly is this "chip" you speak of? The fact that I am merely stating some obvious truths?

    "First, there's no such thing as an "objective opinion"."

    Of course there is. Look up the meaning of the word.

    "Second, you should back up your statements by providing proof of BBC's allegedly unfair and subjective coverage about America. Please post the URLs of such BBC articles."

    If you haven't noticed them by now then you will never be convinced so why would I waste my time doing such a thing?

    I am also not trying to convince anyone about anything. I am merely sharing my opinions. You can agree with me or you can disagree with me. Your choice. If one really wants to learn about something then my remarks can potentially spark an interest, and hopefully an objective one, for them to pursue on their own and for them to make up their own minds, again, hopefully objectively.

    "As much as you chastise Europeans for being "uninformed", Europeans DO (along with Middle Easterners, Latin Americans, Asians, etc) have the ability to think rationally and separate ordinary people from their governments."

    Oh, so now Europeans represent "Middle Easterners, Latin Americans, Asians, etc, too?

    Sorry, that excuse of supposedly criticizing America's government and not Americans is in most cases nonsense or otherwise so many so-called Europeans wouldn't be sticking their noses in our domestic issues that have nothing to do with them or criticizing our domestic cultural traits as much as they do.

    "No government is perfect, certainly not the US government -contrary to the propoganda you're brainwashed with since kindergarten."

    Oh really, I must have missed the "perfect" part in school. Where did you go to school in America? Or did you?

    "But we're not talking about governments here."

    Of course "we're not," as I said.

    "We're talking about PEOPLE, and how to look past governments and militaries and politicians, and see the PEOPLE of a given country."

    Right, like those generally derogatory remarks coming up that you directed at Americans?

    "False. America has appreciated SEVERAL countries like that, provided that they suit American interests. Think Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Or South Korea before 1987. Or Indonesia before 2004. Or Iraq in the 1980s (yes, Saddam Hussein was a close US ally then), or the dictatorships of Brazil, Argentina, and Chile in the 1970s/80s."

    No, it was simply either a case of the enemy of my enemy is my friend scenario during the Cold War, a war that directly benefited you, or in cases like Saudi Arabia an unfortunate dependency on oil that needs to end as soon as possible. You simply have no sight of the bigger picture.

    "America never appreciates *any* country that's in the way of American geopolitical interests. Whether that country is democratic or authoritarian is an afterthought."

    Well, obviously European countries turned out just fine, and so did Japan, and so did South Korea, etc, etc, etc.

    "America certainly didn't respond well to democratic elections in Gaza."

    You sure you want to talk about that dysfunctional part of the world? The dysfunction has nothing to do with America.

    "Funny that you call Europeans "uninformed", because no one in the world is less informed than Americans, except North Koreans and jungle tribes in Papua New Guinea."

    There we go. Just the kind of response I eventually expected to see.

    I said many people out of Europe are uninformed *about things to do with America.* You are the one that is now taking a derogatory tone directed at Americans that is general in nature. Try and notice the difference.

    "No, not everyone in Europe is informed about the world, and many Americans (especially the ones who are likely to read BBC.co.uk) are among the most cosmopolitan and informed people in the world."

    Would that include me, or only those Americans that abide by the consensus view?

    "But as a group, Europeans are far more informed than Americans."

    Something I am sure you will always believe. I've heard it all before.

    "Americans are highly insular,"

    Just think how they would be if they knew how much anti-Americanism really existed in European countries.

    So they should take more of an interest in places that are simply and generally anti-American? Why should they be interested in doing that?

    I wish America would be even more "insular!"

    "and their media gives them a highly censored and distorted image of the outside world, from Gaza to Iraq to health care systems in other developed nations."

    Right, because media in Europe is so fair and balanced in comparison.

    "The information that you get in your media is SO warped, and Americans are SO sheltered, that AllenT2 calling Europeans "uninformed" is BEYOND the pot calling the kettle black."

    Once again, I said many Europeans are *uniformed when it comes to America.*

    "Obviously this man is very bitter about something...maybe he had a bad experience during a trip abroad (although I'd be deeply shocked if he actually travels), or maybe had a bad experience with a foreigner...that he felt the insatiable need to spoil an innocent travel blog about a Brit who loves America and loves to talk about his travels in America and meeting Americans."

    I've traveled to over twenty countries and lived for quite a few years in a European country. You can now try an spin that into your character attack as best as you like.

    My comments in this blog is to simply put into proper perspective the general views of this site and its readers when it comes to America. No matter how positive a topic begins about America it always ends up being spoiled not by someone like me but by the many non-Americans I have mentioned that end up making remarks such as yours.

    "Kudos, Allen, for ruining such a positive atmosphere, and perpetuating the stereotype that everyone else here came close to extinguishing."

    Only ignorant and hateful people will buy into the "stereotype" that you, not me, are perpetuating.

    You will find very shortly that the "positive atmosphere" will soon be ruined by the anti-American mob that will inevitably take over this discussion.

    You want to keep things "positive" then consider engaging the non-American in this forum that had his or her negative stereotypical views positively changed after he or she came and lived in America instead of attacking me and making generally derogatory remarks about Americans.

    Makes sense?

  • Comment number 31.

    alexwgee wrote:

    "AllenT2 (post#16), I'm real sorry you feel that way. I think it would do us all a lot of good to remember that our country was founded as a nation of immigrants. It is part of our American ideals that we respect and welcome others."

    Every nation is made up of immigrants since not all of us came from the same place.

    That said, America also has its own culture that is just as worthy of protection as any other culture in the world. It also shouldn't just let any immigrant into the country. Read the writings of some of our founding fathers, like Jefferson, on what they felt the character traits of an immigrant to America should be.

    And not all Americans want to see even more people encroaching into untapped virgin wilderness because some feel we should be obligated to all those that wish to come here.

    "Besides, history has shown that open societies progress and closed societies languish."

    It depends on what you mean by "open." And just because we are "open" doesn't mean others will be just as "open" to their hosts. We see that in the very dangerous scenario being played out with the so-called Hispanics/Latinos in America.

    When it comes to "open" borders that is what can eventually end up destroying our country!

    "Immigration over the centuries has only made our country richer and stronger. I, for one, am grateful. We would be a much poorer country if not for the many contributions that immigrants and children of immigrants have made. Just consider these few examples. Science. Albert Einstein, a man who made great contributions to our understanding of physics, was an immigrant. How about aviation (and aerospace and defense)? We wouldn't have Boeing today, if William Edward Boeing's father had not immigrated to the U.S. Can you imagine what would have happened if we had decided, "nope!", we're barring all further immigration? Boeing might have been founded in Canada or Australia or England instead. What about something more recent, like technology related to the Internet? The founder of Yahoo is an immigrant, and one of the co-founders of Google is an immigrant. Can you imagine what might have been if all these people emigrated to some other (more welcoming) country, i.e., if we stopped welcoming immigrants? The answer is, they would be enriching other countries and not ours. If you love your country, but are against immigration, please think about this."

    I am not against immigration but I am against illegal immigration and uncontrolled immigration. Are you also against those things?

    America needs to be much more selective on who it allows into the country in accordance with the views of many of the founding fathers and in accordance with immigration laws of other countries that strictly regulate who is or is not allowed to emigrate to their country.

  • Comment number 32.

    buzzardstubble wrote:

    "Which Indian tribe are you descended from? Or could it possibly be that you are descended from immigrants too? I hate your, "I'm allright jack, so pull the ladder up" attitude."

    Since you asked, Seminole. I also have descendents from Spain. That said, America is a free and sovereign nation that does not have an obligation to allow anyone into the country if it doesn't want to.

    "You seem to be a little paranoid about how America is perceived, much of this anti-USA feeling is directed at foreign policy though."

    I know exactly how America is perceived and "paranoia" has nothing to do with it.

    "This is the downside of being a world superpower, just learn to take it with a smile, the same way I do all the teasing about the war of independence and 'Brit colonialism'."

    I have no very few issues when it comes to criticism having to do with foreign policies, essentially things that affect other countries.

    "Diversity is one of your strengths, embrace it and don't think that you have nothing left to learn from outsiders."

    No offense, but I don't need a non-American telling me what the strengths of my country are. I'm quite sure I know my own country better than you do.

    "Are you happy with your 'pork barrel politics', or is there a better example out there? Some of your strengths are also weaknesses. The failure of regulatory bodies to control Wall Street and the oil companies have caused immense pain and suffering here at home, so you may think that big business isn't quite qualified to run the country yet and look to what other countries do."

    Our domestic politics and policies are not the business of non-Americans. I have plenty of faith in my fellow Americans to tend to their own government issues without having to be subjected to the typically condescending, arrogant and hostile advice from people on matters that have absolutely nothing to do with them or their country.

    "To my regret, I have only lived & worked in 2 States and would love to see and learn more about America and its people. When I go back to Europe I will be taking a huge number of positives with me and hopefully correcting the uninformed negative opinions of my European cousins. That can only happen if you open your doors to visitors, the result of your xenophobia, will be to further isolate your country."

    Where have I said I was against anyone visiting America??

    "You may not be able to contemplate the sun setting on your superpower status, but have a read about Turkey, Rome, Spain, Britain....you may want a friend some day."

    Oh please, stop it already. Can't you hear yourself?

    Why is it that so many of you from your part of the world have so much trouble offering something positive without trying to cut down the poppy at the same time?

  • Comment number 33.

    AllenT2:

    US domestic politics are my business all the while my tax dollars go into the pot. Furthermore, when they affect the value of my house and allow 'big oil' to pollute the Gulf of Mexico, which washes up 200 yards from it....you will get my opinion.

  • Comment number 34.

    What a wonderful story. We have hosted a boy from Vietnam and a girl from Hungary over the last 3 years. Both experiences were wonderful. Anh was our first and it was scary at the beginning. But soon we all became comfortable with each other. I love it when Ahn refers to me as Mom. We still keep in contact with Anh and Veronika. They are now part of our family and we love them dearly. I think having an exchange student is a wonderful way for your family to share our culture as well as learn another culture first hand. We are even planning to go to Hungary next summer to visit Veronika and her dad.

  • Comment number 35.

    Families who take in an exchange student have a great heart. And if you don't think that the every day family can't have an impact on the world you are mistaken. Look at France, he is now a reporter for the BBC World News. Who knows if one of these student might become a leader in there Country. We all want a better life for our children and it is up to the families to teach our children. I just hope that children are learning a positive rather negative things about other countries. Thanks Franz for this story.

  • Comment number 36.

    Florida alone has at least four distinct characters - maybe more, depending on how specific youi wish to be. Mayo is hardly the soul of America, though it certainly is a nice place (yes, I've been there), nor does it typify the entire state (which is itself larger than many sovereign nations). Glad you enjoyed your time there, but that's only a jumping off point.

  • Comment number 37.

    Those poor, poor Americans! Always getting such a bad rap, when all along they just want us to love them. After all, they never exploit anyone, they always take the interests of others into account when moving into others’ territory, and never, never, just help others while having an eye on some advantage that just might come their way while helping us. I just don't understand how anyone could not love the American way of living life? Especially, since it is so empathetically driven. Can’t you see just how important American interests are for the rest of the world? Come on you anti-Americans you, you know all those American soldiers and politicians only want to make sure that we all live in a just world, and that they want everyone to have the type of existence that they themselves enjoy? What a wonderful video, it just makes me want to become a citizen on the spot. It’s obvious to me that America as a nation does not really need the rest of the world anyway, so shouldn’t we be grateful that they spend so much time in our countries defending and taking care of people they so obviously cherish? Look at all the money they have spent putting Nuclear Arms in Europe, when at home they haven’t really needed them as they have known, it is their friends and allies whose territories needed the defense from the other evil people, whoever they were at the time, and that it is in Europe where they were expecting any nuclear engagement would occur. Just be grateful that the American people care so much about preserving other peoples’ lives, lively hoods, and cultures, and for the fact, that they have, and are, expending so much energy and resources in an effort to keep us all so safe?

  • Comment number 38.

    skye_eg wrote "MattPain:

    The presence of regional cultural differences, of ethnic, cultural, or linguistic minorities, and of immigrant groups is by no means unique to America, although for some reason Americans -including yourself- think they are unique in this regard.

    You're right that Americans live in a bubble, and you demonstrate that point. To YOU, America might be a world in itself

    Try actually living abroad for a month, and you'll realize that there IS an American culture (no need to put it in quotes), and you were raised in it."

    Actually Matt never said it was unique to America, do a lot of Americans think it is unique to them yes but no where does Matt say it is nor imply it. I think the reason why Matt put American culture in quotes is because one of the most common negative stereotypes of Americans is that they don't have "culture", I can't tell you how many times I have been told by Europeans that American's don't have culture, I think that is what Matt was getting at when he put it in quotes. I mean his last sentence is very true depending upon what state you live in.

    I guess what I don't get is why are you being so hostile to Matt?

    I mean you are acting like AllenT2, I understand your complaints about American's you know when it comes to claiming they are more diverse or whatever but your hostility to Matt's comment, just wow.

  • Comment number 39.

    All countries have "culture", however, not all countries have a predominant "pop culture", i.e. a culture composed of a majority operating without real depth, a culture based predominantly in advertising and impressing, to the detriment of every other consideration. It would seem that truth in advertising has also been lost in the United States in an effort to secure higher revenue. Consider, how Americans, in the main, like to wear uniforms to impress. Whether that is a Cap and Gown as they crawl out of their nurseries, their military uniforms, or police force and fire service uniforms, which they love to trot out at every available opportunity? They all like to dress-up to impress. Consider, those Customs and Immigration officials, in their sunglasses, in the middle of the night, strutting around in American airports, or on their boarders, behaving as though everyone should pay them homage? Could this be because of their lack of inner life, and this is not a rhetorical question? Their psychological locus appears to rest externally, not internally. They must continue to impress to feel important and valuable. Consider, how they like to impress with their parades? Consider, the fact that they are forever reminding us, directly and indirectly, that they are a superpower, a superpower that has triumphed over their adversaries. Consider, how a nation that has to justify itself, both to itself, and to others, NEEDS an adversary, hence, those dirty, immoral, murdering, terrorists, so difficult to pin down just who, or why, they are; but, as they have no other adversary they can focus on (and if they didn’t have an adversary they may have time to examine their own lives), they need the idea of the “terrorist” to avoid their own psychological discomfort. Regardless, of whether those they call terrorists may be behaving just as they who call them terrorists are behaving? Don't forget, their "culture" has the idea that one must win at all costs, coming second is not an option, and they appear not to comprehend the concept of anything called a pyrrhic victory, even if that means doing immoral things to win. Consider, the Wall Street situation where average people are just pawns to others winning outlandish amounts of money, while others even in their own communities, just down the street, starve? Why should the “Winners” really care about oil spills, starving people, dying babies, unjust wars, coveting other countries resources, or anything that doesn’t affect them directly? Consider, how the mortality rate in America for newborn babies is highest of any Western nation, yet the amount spent on health care, per capita, is also highest in the world. Could this be because the spending is not spread out anything like evenly, or justly for that matter? Yet, the “Winners” don’t want any sort of focus on justice or morality, and seeing that ideas such as morality are precluded by an inner life, then, “let’s all focus on our external locus” and we wont have to worry will we?

    Culture, comes in many shades and varieties, and as long as one culture is not forcing itself on any other, it may be as deep, or superficial, as it likes. Only when one culture decides it knows best, it is best, and its values and perspective should be spread with religious zeal to every part of the globe, do we need to do all we can to stop it, since this is, in fact, what we might call, the death of culture as we know it.

    Now, go on, ask me, “can you hear yourself”, as someone said in an earlier entry in this blog?

  • Comment number 40.

    @ ukwales,
    "My experience of Americans whilst visiting the US,& when they had a military base here in Wales was of a generous,fun loving & decent bunch of people,that you could ever wish to meet..."
    I was fortunate enough to have the reverse experience, spending time in middle/northern Wales, from Barmouth up to Conwy and much of the inland countryside between. I found the people to be warm and friendly and encountered no bias towards me, simply because of my nationality. Yours is a beautiful country, with much to be proud of.
    To those who do have a negative opinion of the U.S., condemning a nation because of the acts of its political leaders is absurd. Frankly I'm ashamed of how the U.S. meddles in the affairs of other countries, but we're hardly the first to do so. France, Spain,Russia, the U.K. and others had their time in history when they were the "Superpower" and felt obligated to impose their will on others.
    We (as nations)all have our warts but as others here have already implied, individuals everywhere want the same things: a peaceful, stable environment with the freedoms and opportunities to provide a reasonable state of comfort and scurity for ourselves and our families.

  • Comment number 41.

    And now for something completely different.... Brian, its okay. So much angst and bitterness and negative feelings only steal space from the things in life that really matter: savoring life, love, adventure and learning (about other people & countries as well as information). My family is about to embark on an exchange student experience, which will not be our first, but will be the longest. We have previously hosted 3 Japanese students and a girl from Belarus (near Chernobyl) for summers. Pieces of our hearts were exchanged with these kids. And now we will welcome a South Korean girl for the school year. Franz, loved the video! You and your host family are brave! Could you have been any more different??!!

    Thank God we're all different -- otherwise we'd have the insanity of an Ira Levin novel. Don't waste life classifying people or even countries. Listen to what they think and feel, especially if you disagree. Life is short -- look outside yourself and as Lord Byron said, become part of that around you.

  • Comment number 42.

    I'm sure all those people who are suffering at the hands of a system whose driving force is to exploit and use others, will be happy to focus on, "savoring life, love, adventure and learning"? I think this warm fuzzy, obviously middle class, and probably middle American, comment says it all. People wrapped up in their own little worlds, enjoying the spoils of a system that is held in status quo by such people savoring life, love adventure and learning, while others suffer so they can do just that. Yes, thank God we're all different, although it would seem that some of us who appear to be living in a Louis Carol novel might at least admit to their part in it?

    I wonder how many Palestinians on the Gaza Strip, or Saudis in the slums of Riyadh are savoring life, love, adventure and learning?

 

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