This post is to point out some of the stupid things that Americans tend to do. As with every country the US has its own culture and customs, however I feel the US differs in some ways from many other countries. Primarily because the American influence has been so pervasive in western countries and to a lesser extent in the rest of the world. When I go to Australia or Canada, I notice just how similar the culture is. There are obviously some key differences, but I feel there are more similarities than not – at least on the surface.
What is interesting however is that while I can feel quite at home in the US, Australia, NZ, Canada, the UK etc…, I have only ever observed certain behaviors in the US. The thing about these particular behaviors is that well, they’re just retarded. They also tend to be quite annoying. I think it is interesting that I can not even think of any behaviors that are similar and specific to any other country or culture, as opposed to a random subset of people in general. Without further ado…
- Clapping – Americans clap at the movies whenever something good happens, and on planes whenever the plane lands. WHY! Thousands of planes land every day without incident, and given the idiocy of airport security, lines, delays and all the other crap that makes flying a more frustrating experience than it would otherwise have to be, what is there to clap about? If disaster were averted or someone gave birth or something I could understand it, but just for landing? So what about at the cinemas? I get being engaged in the film, but why feel the need to clap everytime a superhero beats down a villain or a criminal is found and brought to justice? Why stand up and clap at the end of the movie? Who do they think is listening? Is it to let other people in the cinema know? It doesn’t make any sense, and it can be quite annoying if you are not one of the movie clappers and are engrossed in the movie, only to have your concentration disrupted by idiotic clapping. Case in point I saw Avatar yesterday and was quite enjoying it, however some college aged girl decided to clap every time the humans took a hit. I instinctively looked each time to see what was going on, and it is quite annoying being taken out of the moment like that. At least it wasn’t the whole cinema.
- Claiming a false nationality – I talk of course of the tendency some Americans have to claim to be Irish or Greek or Russian just because their uncle had a friend whose dog who lived in a different country for a short amount of time. It’s a pretty simple thing, if you have never been to a country, if your parents or grandparents are not from that country, then you are clearly not from that country. I have no problem with people claiming heritage…but to actually identify as a dual nationality? It was hilarious to see the reactions of people in Ireland to the Americans that came over and said they were Irish and it was good to be home (to a place they had never been). Yoi.
- Thinking all of the US is like a particular state – Far too many Americans think that their state is representative of the entire US. As someone who has traveled quite a bit around the US, this just gets annoying. The US is a diverse place, with the south, east and west coasts all being quite distinct and having unique charms and customs. Surely growing up in the US people would realize this at least from TV, but apparently not. Examples might be arguing that a particular word or phrase is not common in the US at all, when it may be quite common in a different region. Another example may be thinking that all states have the same type of Government, such as thinking all judges and state attorneys are directly elected whereas in some states they are appointed. It’s worse when they take it to the next level, saying that because America is a democracy all judges and state attorneys are required to be directly elected. Yoi.
- Another stupid thing Americans do, and this is actually the most annoying so far. I met an American guy in Costa Rica who was convinced that Americans do not have accents, and that the rest of the world just speaks differently or incorrectly. Really? The fact that Americans sound distinctly different from other countries means that they have an accent, regardless. Whether or not is an accent that tends to enunciate clearly on a regular basis is a different subject altogether.
- Continuing on with the accent thing, while in Las Vegas I met a few people who consider a non US accent to be incorrect, as simple as that. Despite the fact that a west coast accent does not pronounce many words correctly, these people consider any other accent…British, South African, Dutch, Australian etc to be incorrect. I can’t get over such ignorance and flawed reasoning. The US has quite a bit of regional variation in accents, so I don’t understand how anyone can just consider the “American” accent correct. Would these people really consider a very clearly spoken British accent, that enunciates everything clearly to be more incorrect than a thick redneck southern accent?
- One thing Americans do is try to explain to me things about the US. I don’t know if this is stupid, so much as arrogant. I understand when someone visits a country, the locals may try to tell them things about their country. It is only in the US where I feel this is done in a (unintentionally) patronizing way. I’ve been in the US probably 2 years in total, and seen quite a bit of the country. It isn’t that different from other western countries, at least not drastically. Yet many Americans I meet are surprised to learn we get American movies overseas, or feel the need to explain the idea behinds states, or feel the need to explain Mexican food as though it’s only eaten in the US. I know they are trying to be helpful, but good god it’s annoying.
- This one is really minor, and hardly applies to Americans in any significant number, still I thought it was interesting. I’ve heard quite a few people reject the term “Native Americans” on the basis that “America did not exist until 1776″, so they should be called simply natives or whatever term they prefer. Do these guys really not know the difference between the Americas and the United States of America? Sheesh.
This concludes my list of stupid things Americans do. At least until I think of things to add. I should point out I have nothing against the US or Americans at all, I just noted these particular behaviors to be quite annoying, and interesting because they seemed quite unique. I would be interested if people would share any equivalent stupid things from other countries.
Update 1 – August 27th 2010
Ok, updated to add the last two points about accents
Update 2 – October 10th 2010
Updated to add the point about the US educating people
Update 3 – October 13th 2010
Updated to add the point about Native Americans