This post originally appeared on the Unprofessionals blog. It is written by a college student, Hannah Fain, who is a friend of mine. This fits in very well with my travel blog, as it is bringing up some thoughts about how Americans are perceived overseas, and the arrogance that some Americans show. Here is the post.
American Pride: The Good and the Bad
The concept of taking pride in your country is never a bad one; I believe that everyone should feel like they can be proud of where they came from. However, there has been a shift in our culture recently towards this mindset of a more extreme form of U.S. pride; a mindset that is less about being proud to live in a nation that has overcome hardships and adversity and more about how we, as Americans, do things the “right way.” Undeniably, the United States is one of the world’s leading nations in industry and innovation. We pride ourselves on this concept of “the American dream,” characterized by equal opportunity for anyone and everyone to obtain a happier, richer, and fuller life.
My personal opinion is that so many times we are caught up in this idea that the American way is the only way, and that it is always the best. It is so tempting to fall into the mindset, and while I believe in US pride as much as the next person, I do think it can quickly escalate to an attitude that does not communicate respect for other nations. I think we need to stop and remember that as a country and as individuals, the decisions we make and how we choose to act on them affect other people. We affect significantly more people than we will ever know.
“the American dream,” characterized by equal opportunity for anyone and everyone to obtain a happier, richer, and fuller life.
One of the worst things when I’m visiting another country is to hear the stereotypes of Americans that they have. The common conception of Americans that I hear, helped by media and American movies, is that we’re all rich, spoiled brats that don’t care about our families and never have to worry about money or food. “the American dream,” characterized by equal opportunity for anyone and everyone to obtain a happier, richer, and fuller life.
We cannot always control other people’s opinions of us. However, we can choose how we view other cultures and people. What if, instead of attempting to change everyone to be more “American,” we learned more about other people’s cultures and what makes them special? What if we helped them protect that? It all really goes back to what I believe is one of the most glaring shortcomings in our society: this prideful tendency to think we are better than everyone else. This happens on a personal basis, as well as on a community, state, country, and cultural scale. It is happening everywhere, constantly. I think what is important to remember is that there is no one “correct” culture. “the American dream,” characterized by equal opportunity for anyone and everyone to obtain a happier, richer, and fuller life.
So here’s my challenge: don’t shy away from people just because they’re different than you. Whether you get the opportunity to travel outside the United States or not, there are people all around us that come from different parts of the world. We’re all different, even if we look very similar from the outside. Embrace differences, different cultures, different languages, different customs. Differences are what makes life so full.
What do you think? Do you have examples where Americans always think they are right, but there is just a culture difference, and it really doesn’t matter?