Is the American Way the Only Way?

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.
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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?

Also see: WHAT? How Did They Know I Was an American?

12 Reasons I Will Miss Linköping, Sweden

I will soon be moving back to the US. There are things I am going to miss about Sweden, and the town I have been living in,…Linköping. I am sure there will be other things I will notice after I leave. Here are 12 things I know I will miss, not in any particular order.

1. The small town atmosphere in a fairly large town. The city limits has a population of about 100,000. Because there are few high rise buildings, it maintains a small town feel.

2. Most everyone in Sweden speaks English, since the education system is serious about students learning English. All I need to do is speak in English, and they will switch from Swedish to English. Often the Swede I am talking to will say they are enjoying speaking in English because they don’t always get to practice it.

3. I will miss shopping downtown. It is a walking downtown with many, different shops. Anything from clothing, fabric, craft supplies, household décor and necessities, tools, and groceries. In the US there are very few downtowns that still have this feature.

Walking Street in Linköping

4. Walking is something I will miss. I can get anywhere I want in about a half hour. It is refreshing and good exercise.

5. I have enjoyed riding a bike about town. Linköping is a bicycling city. It is easy to ride a bike around town because most of it is fairly level. Walking and biking is the main way residents navigate to work, shopping, and leisure activities. In the US most areas do not have the bike lanes along the sidewalk, which makes biking more dangerous. Plus towns and the places you need to go are spread out more. So hopping in the car is the norm.

Bikes parked in Linköping

6. Gamla Linköping (Old Linköping), is like stepping back into time with the 19th century town. I can buy handcrafted wood, handmade paper, old style toys, candles, handmade crafts, or candy. The café has table settings of the period, and good coffee, tea, pastries, and breakfast sandwiches. Then I might see townspeople dressed in period costume or a demonstration of old time methods, or just enjoy the museum displays.

Gamla Linköping

7. The abundance of park, and forest areas to walk in town, or bordering town, that lets you remember the creator and the peace of nature.

8. I will miss the simple houses of Sweden. There are very few mansion type houses. If you see one, it was probably a castle at one time.

9. Ryttargårdskyrkan , the church I attend will be missed. I listen to the service with head phones. A translator gives the English translation. The fika time has allowed me to meet a lot of very nice Swedes.

Listening to sermon with translation headphones

10. I will even miss our apartment. The ease of cleaning the entire apartment in 15 minutes is enough to be missed.

11. Räksmõrgås (shrimp open face breakfast sandwich), meatballs with lingonberry sauce, potatoes fixed in so many ways, and the pizza…I love the European style pizza.


12. Last but not least, I will miss the people. If you ask for anything, like to explain something, or directions, every one of them has been gracious to help. I have met people from England, Ireland, Egypt, Serbia, Israel, France, and of course Sweden. The people from all these countries were from the church, and some are in the English Bible reading group I am a part of.

I will miss my American friend who is married to a Swede, and has lived here for 11 years. We have “hung out” together every week that we were both in town. We met because she made a comment on a blog that I also read, and said she lived in Linköping, and was an American living in Sweden. That was only a couple weeks after I arrived, and I contacted her, we have been good friends since. I just met another American living in Sweden. Already we have started a good friendship.

We have all shared, and laughed, and compared cultures, and teased one another, no matter where our culture of origin has been. Those are things that good friends do.

Also, oddly enough I have a feeling of missing out on the friendships that have not quite developed yet but probably would.

Well it’s time to say goodbye Linköping, but not without a few tears. Tack! Hej då!