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Mata
An American friend recently said that he had encounted quite a few instances in recent times where British people were quite insulting about Americans, and even called him a 'stupid yank'. These comments were online, where people are prone to be more vitriolic than they would in life, but it promted him to ask me if British people hate Americans.

I gave a fairly lengthy reply, which is a little over the top, but basically I think it's fairly close to the mark. When I laid it out, it surprised me a little that it was so easy to think of reasons why America/ns would be unpopular. Here's what I wrote:

In general, I'd say 'hate' is a strong word, but overall I'd say that yes, the British don't like America. The thing to understand is that this isn't just the British: most of the world doesn't like America.

This always seems to be quite surprising to many Americans, but there are quite a few reasons why it's got to this stage:

Almost all real Americans in the media come across as either arrogant, stupid, or both. This wasn't helped by eight years of a president who couldn't string a sentence together, but Jerry Springer was a big global export before that. When interviewed on television, most Americans seem to give the impression of being 50% shocked by the horror or disaster behind them and 50% delighted that they can grab their 15 seconds of fame. This doesn't represent the character of the nation in a positive light.

Almost all 'fake' Americans in the media (television dramas, etc) are terrible role models. They look fake, too buffed, and their willful stupidity or arrogance seems to be applauded by their audience.

Few Americans seem to have any awareness of international events. When a country doesn't care about the rest of the world, the rest of the world thinks that they are unpleasent people.

The most popular news outlets seem to positively encourage the idea that Americans are morally superior to the rest of the world. That's bound to piss everyone else off.

The American insistence on introducing religion into all events really grates on more secular societies (such as Britain). If you watch a British award ceremony you'll see that few, if any, recipients will thank God. Many feel that America sticks religious views into places that they aren't welcome. Again, Pres. Bush was a classic example of this, saying that his decision to invade Iraq was guided by God. Most countries treat adults with an invisible friend as slightly suspicious, but when the President says that the friend told him to go to war... Well, that's not a popular thing to say to secular nations. My apologies if that sounds dismissive - I understand the strength that faith can give people, but those who don't share that faith would rather logic and rationality governed the world's most powerful nation.

Americans love guns. In a lot of the rest of the world, loving guns is a cause to put the individual into an asylum, but in America that's a cause for celebration. Which brings me on to...

The American military. In the first Gulf War, the British lost more people to friendly fire from the Americans than they did to conflict with the Iraqis. When British special forces deploy in Afghanistan they refuse to tell the Americans their location. The American armed forces say 'but what if we bomb you by mistake becasue we don't know you're there?' and the British say 'We'll take our chances'. The reason is that the American military have confused their information many, many times and bombed the British. This isn't a new attitude: there's a saying from the WWII: the Germans fire and the British duck, the British fire and the Germans duck, the Americans fire and everybody ducks. The American military is dangerously gung-ho and tends to end up killing a lot of their allies. This really really pisses everyone off.

Unquestioning patriotism. Nothing makes Europe more suspicious than this. We've seen enough of it to be worried by it.

A belief in ambiguous concepts such as 'freedom', especially when it usually means 'the freedom to be able to buy American branded products'.

Terrible food.

The most common way for most people to talk to Americans is playing games online. Playing against any other nation is usually a fun and co-operative game, but playing against Americans usually means that you will be called gay, a homo, or a fag. You'll be sworn at constantly and they'll cheat more than other nations. I realise it's a bad demographic, but how come other nations aren't like that, or at the very least don't exhibit this behaviour so consistently?

The habit of American films to take characters or stories from other nations and relocate them to New York or another American city. Wolverine, he's Canadian, but in the latest film he's American. War of the Worlds happens in Victorian Enlgand, but not in the Tom Cruise version... This happens a lot and it's an insult every single time, as if something is only important if it happens to Americans.

I admit that back in 1999 I was shocked when I got to America and heard people with American accents talking intelligently, sensitively, and using long words. Outside of the US we just don't see that side of America. I knew internally that it must happen, but I didn't recall witnessing it with enough regularity for it to seem normal when I talked to an intelligent American.

I know many wonderful Americans, but it always surprises me that most Americans don't realise that the rest of the world really doesn't like their country.

***

Have I been unfair? I think Pres Obama has changed a lot of attitudes, but there's a lot of work to be done before things truly shift.
Daria
I think, Doctor, you have hit the nail on the head. Many of my friends are Americans, and I don't have a general distain for Americans in general- but mostly just their government. Just as much as I have distain of the French government (damn Sarko) but more so because of the impact the 8 years of Bush has had on the world and on my personal life (anti terror laws etc etc). And, although you can't judge the people on the government they elect, he had a majority vote and therefore got in.
Phyllis
Well! I'm an American (I hate that term, but oh well. Any of the alternatives just sound stupid) living in the UK, and I don't feel particularly hated. tongue.gif That possibly comes from agreeing with most of the points people tend to make about our government. It would be a lot more difficult to live over here if I was the gun-toting Republican type. When I first moved here I felt kind of overly sensitive to comments about the US because I was really, really homesick. If I was the extra-patriotic type of American, I imagine that I might have felt hated. I can't really know, I suppose.

QUOTE (Mata @ May 15 2009, 01:59 PM) *
Terrible food.


I will disagree with anyone who says food in the US is universally awful, though. I miss SO many food-type things from home. I remember when WeeJ went to the US, then asked me why we ate so much greasy food. Well, we do eat quite a lot of it, but it turned out she had eaten at Denny's nearly every meal! Going to Denny's and expecting non-greasy fare is like going to a Texas steakhouse and expecting to find a multitude of vegetarian options. US restaurant food is a bit like US chocolate. Avoid the big names, go for the local independent stuff, and it's suddenly a lot better.

I don't encounter much hostility in my day-to-day life. People are generally nice, ask where I'm from, and then say something like "Oh, whereabouts in the US is that?" or, rarely, "Isn't that an herb? Har har har!" Most people in Derby tend to look shocked and say, "Well what do you wanna live here for when you could be there?!" biggrin.gif

I do sometimes get people saying "No offense, but all Americans are a pain in the arse" and such. Uh, okay? How exactly am I supposed to respond to that one? Or people who insist that _____ is true throughout the US, then won't believe me when I say that it's not the case where I've lived. I think I'd know better than them, really. Or people who hold up a football (meaning what my people call a soccer ball tongue.gif ) and say, very slowly, "This is a FOOTBALL." Oh, really? Thanks, I've only been in the country two years. I HADN'T CAUGHT THAT ONE YET.

Ahem. Anyway. Obviously I have far too many conversations with people who are as ignorant about the US as some Americans are about the rest of the world. A big problem is that a lot of people back home have patriotism shoved down their throats from a young age. They are taught that the US is the Bestest Country EVAR, and they don't really get a lot of exposure to other viewpoints. Other countries can be pretty expensive to visit, so most of the people I know almost always vacation within the US. I think that the lack of exposure to people from other countries is slowly changing thanks to the Internet, though. Well, the non-online gaming portion of the Internet -- meaning the rare pockets of it where people talk semi-rationally. wink.gif

I don't think you were unfair, no. A lot of the things you listed are the things that bug me the most about the US. I just don't know if I'd use the word hate to describe how the rest of the world feels about Americans. Hate, to me, implies a level of disdain that I just have not encountered. Some people are surely like that, but most of the people I meet are simply frustrated with Americans (note: this is just based on my interactions with people within the UK). We're a bit like that uncle at the family reunions who wears loud Hawaiian shirts, talks endlessly about his church/job/garden/whatever, invades your personal space, chews with his mouth open, eats all of your favourite dessert, calls you by an embarrassing childhood nickname, and gets drunk and fights with your other uncles (or was that just my family?). You don't hate that uncle, but you really can't stand his behaviour and would prefer it if he'd just shut up about himself now and then. We're that guy.
leopold
It's like the adage that a person is sensible and rational, but people are stupid. I don't think that American people are disliked per se, but the ones we are exposed to on a regular basis are detestable. I once heard an American comedian tell a joke about that, the punchline being along the lines of "If that was the type of American I met every day, I'd hate them too." I wish I could remember which one, because he hit the nail right on the head.

Thing is, in most of Europe, we English are also disliked intensely and I suspect that a good chunk of the issues stem from the arrogance of imperialism and the numpties that go abroad. It's not hard to imagine why Spaniards hate the English when the bulk of English people they meet are all loutish, lager swilling thugs who laugh at their accents, shout at them when they want something and call their food "shite". And I suspect it's the same with American tourists; we always seem to get the boorish loudmouth ones calling everything "quaint" and telling us how everything is so much smaller.

Of course, it's not true that this is the case with all tourists. The nice ones, the ones we'd like to meet, tend not to be in your face and so you don't see them.

I've been to the US a couple of times and seen them in their native surroundings. And I can say with confidence that they are no different to anyone else. You get the odd one who's a pain in the arse, granted, but that's no different to anywhere else.

But one thing I do disagree with:

QUOTE (Mata @ May 15 2009, 01:59 PM) *
Terrible food.

I don't think American food is any worse than ours, to be honest.

Anyway, I don't think it's accurate that people hate Americans. We just don't like some of the things that is done in the name of America. Thing is, there aren't many countries who can sidestep the same things being pointed back at them, and especially us Brits.
believe
QUOTE
The most popular news outlets seem to positively encourage the idea that Americans are morally superior to the rest of the world. That's bound to piss everyone else off.


Isn't this semi-typical? I mean no one in Japan ever committed war crimes and Nanking is an overreaction, just ask!

I can't really argue many of the other points is American media and popular shows make me weep for my country and the brain cells dying each time Paris Hilton speaks.

Mata: I make no apologies for my 'invisible friend' or arranging my life around His word. However, I will admit was cold comfort with President Bush. I was somewhere between excited and scared when he was elected and that turned to depression. Even within religious standards, victory isn't defined as oh, complete failure, wasted money, etc. It doesn't suggest it was a victory led by God and I won't go into his lying comrades, such as Albert Gonzales.

Bush as a spokesman for Christian America is about as painful as having Carrie Prejean speak for conservative values.

I'm going to go dog train and will try to catch up with the other threads later. *zoom*
Mata
Cand: That uncle metaphor completely hits the nail on the head. Frankly, I wish I'd thought of that because I'd have drawn a comic of it smile.gif

Believe: re. the 'invisible friend' bit. I realise that it sounded a bit dismissive, but I was using exageration to get my point across. The chap I was writing to is a devout Christian and he took it in the tone intended. I do have my own faith in the divine, but to most people the idea of God is a bit foreign, furthermore the concept of a very active God getting involved with your life and judging your daily actions seems a bit weird.

Terrible food: okay, yes, that was a bit harsh. Perhaps I should have said that I generally find the most popular 'American' foods to be extremely unhealthy (and I really like healthy food - for me this is a big criteria on juding if food is 'good'), although they can be very nice taken in moderation.
believe
QUOTE
but to most people the idea of God is a bit foreign, furthermore the concept of a very active God getting involved with your life and judging your daily actions seems a bit weird.


It did sound dismissive, but I wasn't overly offended so it's all good in any case. I'm not sure where you're getting the 'most' part as there's a rather large number of people that identify as religious and that doesn't touch all the in-betweeners. Combined, there would at least be a fair few. I thought it was somewhat more equal than most, but I'm not sure. I know Europe's collective mindset is probably different than America's. hm.
CrazyFooIAintGettinOnNoPlane
Generally people generalize, so yeah, there are probably a lot of people worldwide who hate americans. The US influences the rest of the world a lot, through politics, and through the media it exports, so there is bound to be a lot of things for people to dislike (George Bush being the most obvious example). This is not a valid reason for stereotyping the american people though. I hate lots of american things just like I hate lots of english things. Why blame every person in the country for that?

Some of your reasons for disliking america seem a bit strange Mata... hollywood movies? What's wrong with making crappy films? tongue.gif

QUOTE
Almost all real Americans in the media come across as either arrogant, stupid, or both. This wasn't helped by eight years of a president who couldn't string a sentence together, but Jerry Springer was a big global export before that. When interviewed on television, most Americans seem to give the impression of being 50% shocked by the horror or disaster behind them and 50% delighted that they can grab their 15 seconds of fame. This doesn't represent the character of the nation in a positive light.
We have idiots on TV all the time- big brother?

QUOTE
Few Americans seem to have any awareness of international events. When a country doesn't care about the rest of the world, the rest of the world thinks that they are unpleasent people.
I don't think this is limited to america either...

QUOTE
The most common way for most people to talk to Americans is playing games online. Playing against any other nation is usually a fun and co-operative game, but playing against Americans usually means that you will be called gay, a homo, or a fag. You'll be sworn at constantly and they'll cheat more than other nations. I realise it's a bad demographic, but how come other nations aren't like that, or at the very least don't exhibit this behaviour so consistently?
Hmm... I would guess that it's partly the demographic that plays games and partly just that americans make up a lot of the people playing?
gerbilfromhell
I think the issue is that America *relative* to other nations has a wealth of negative stereotype-promoting media and public figures. It's definitely not limited to the US by any stretch, but I would say that the American stereotype does arise from this. I have absolutely no idea how much exposure lower-than-president level US politicians receive abroad (I would assume little if any), but this really isn't just from Bush. Think of how many scandals there have been over every possible issue for *so many* politicians even in the last couple years. The fact that we spent as much time talking about John Edwards' mistress or whatever as we did about the Illinois governor who was *literally* selling political offices to the highest bidder is more than a little absurd. Or, taking the issue back to the president level, I can't see the fact that the Monica Lewinsky scandal dragged on for *years* and was as important an issue to people as, well, actual issues making us seem like a people with reasonable priorities. Of course, this could have nothing to do with the American stereotype. Also I mean, I know that political/public figure scanadals are the furthest thing from limited to America, and I'm not even saying we have more of them, but we as a people do make an extraordinarily big deal out of unimportant issues. But maybe that's just people (in any case, that's why I love NYC; we just had a one-time cross-dressing mayor, and when that fact came out people cared for at most a few days, because it's really not important. Then again, maybe I'm wrong: http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/2...ng_hitler.html).

I also think, though, that if the stereotype is caused by American media and politicians, it is actively reinforced by American tourists. I don't usually notice them cause we get so many in NYC that growing up here makes you stop noticing them most of the time as anything but background noise. But, the last time I went over the pond, I went to Paris with a friend for a week, and quickly noticed getting a *lot* more shit for being American than I ever did in England or Ireland. When I brought this up, she just looked at me and pointed at a group of some of the most obnoxious, loud tourists ever. For the rest of the week I started paying attention sometimes to how different tourists acted; even Russian tourists out for a night of what looked like pretty serious drinking couldn't match our tourists. Not even close.
Mata
Isn't drinking always taken seriously in Russia? wink.gif

QUOTE (crazymat @ May 16 2009, 11:51 AM) *
Hmm... I would guess that it's partly the demographic that plays games and partly just that americans make up a lot of the people playing?

Try playing Socom on non-American servers - it's a whole different game because of the way that people are more polite and friendly. Americans might be in the majority so the loud people on average will be American on most servers, but when Americans are taken out of the equation completely their brash online presence is rarely replaced by people from other nations. I really don't know why.

Generally I agree with you though, many of these things can be applied to the British too, which partly explains why we're generally not very welcome in many European countries either. We're a pretty boorish and alcohol-sodden nation, and I think that the most vocal of our tourists create an extremely bad impression of Britain (and perhaps mostly the English). This said, I think that Britain does a better job of balancing out its representation in the world than America does. As unpopular as Tony Blair became in Britain, I think on the global political stage he still retained a lot of respect for consistently striving for political solutions to extremely difficult conditions.

We might have Jade Goody (although I doubt she's known outside of the UK) whereas we also have Stephen Fry. There's still something left in our culture that loves the idea of the Victorian gentleman, the Oscar Wilde figure who has witty banter for any situation and who, we assume, always knows which knife to use when eating fish. Maybe it's related to where the idea of masculinity comes from in the culture: America's idea of being a man comes from a idea of the the western frontier (mostly based on the enormously influential rewriting of the west by Frederick Jackson Turner) where being anti-social and confrontational was praised as being not only essential to survival but also as representing the character of the nation. We're still stuck in a dichotomy of the Victorian gentleman (which in turn was a hand-down from the Romantic movement) and the post-modern rejection of this. Personally I prefer the Victorian idea, even with its internal strife, to the frankly pretty ugly opposite, but both are very strong in our culture.

I think America might have swung through a really bad point culturally and is perhaps on the up-swing. It feels like the people who lusted after power in the 1980s, searching for achievement through selfishness and hositility, might finally be moving out of the powerchain to be replaced by the slightly more hippy idealists of the 1990s. The new president has spoken publically on a variety of subjects with intelligence never once seen in his predecessor. On television, American media has been getting gradually more intellectual - shows such as Battlestar Gallactica have dealt carefully with the complexities of fanaticism, terrorism, politics, and the decisions that are made on both sides when trying to persuade opponents to change their views. Comedy shows such as Big Bang Theory are respresenting geeks and intelligence into something that isn't automatically mocked for being unmanly. Even Hollywood is making progress with actors like George Clooney talking with reason and perception on difficult issues such as middle-eastern conflict.

Despite the progress, I think it's going to take a long time to change the international view of America and Americans, but I think that there is hope.

... Although I'm going to point out one more thing that always seems really weird about America: sex is viewed as corrupting but violence is glorified. Violence generally seems to be represented in American media as a more natural act than sex. While I wouldn't say that this makes the British dislike Americans, it certainly contributes to a big culture clash. A person can be shown having their teeth smashed, but a nipple will corrupt tiny minds! In Britain we're far more healthy, and simply despise both sex AND violence! biggrin.gif
Daria
QUOTE (Mata @ May 17 2009, 01:34 PM) *
Isn't drinking always taken seriously in Russia? wink.gif

There's still something left in our culture that loves the idea of the Victorian gentleman, the Oscar Wilde figure who has witty banter for any situation and who, we assume, always knows which knife to use when eating fish.


Well that's obvious- you use the fish knife tongue.gif

I guess not everyone had grandparents who would lay the table with two knives for each person, for the least formal of meals. (Butter knife and meal knife) >_>
gothictheysay
QUOTE
... Although I'm going to point out one more thing that always seems really weird about America: sex is viewed as corrupting but violence is glorified. Violence generally seems to be represented in American media as a more natural act than sex. While I wouldn't say that this makes the British dislike Americans, it certainly contributes to a big culture clash. A person can be shown having their teeth smashed, but a nipple will corrupt tiny minds! In Britain we're far more healthy, and simply despise both sex AND violence!


I think that this is unfortunately true, but that a lot of people realize this and think it's pretty stupid (i.e., me).

Mata and other Europeans, I think you should come visit me in a nice liberal state like Massachusetts, where things are a little bit better than the rest of America! Sure, you'll still run into some of the same old things, but I wish I could show you some cute little American towns full of happy people who are the opposite of lots of the Americans you see on the television or whatever. I can't say that all those things about America don't hold true in some ways, but America is just so BIG! You can find lots of great stuff too! Plus, British men: girls will go NUTS for the accent. wink.gif
pgrmdave
Keep in mind that the United States is roughly the size of all of Europe (3.79 million sq mi vs. 3.93 million sq mi). When comparing how much different nations care about other countries, take that into account. I'd be surprised if the majority of British news didn't focus on Britain, then Europe, then former British colonies, just like our news tends to be local, then national, then dealing with countries where we have some sort of economic relationship.
Mata
Gothic: As I said in the first post, when I first went to SF it was a real surprise - I *knew* that Americans couldn't really all be the way that the nation comes across through its media, but it was still pretty strongly there in my mind. SF and Berkley were a good antidote for the stereotypes! (Although it did create a few more about stoners...)

Dave: There is a similar blend of local, national, and international, but from reading the NYT for many years I saw that there seems to be more international coverage in UK newspapers. The news TV that I've seen from America is also very weird because of all the opinions that are slipped into the coverage.
LoLo
QUOTE (Mata @ May 18 2009, 05:55 AM) *
SF and Berkley were a good antidote for the stereotypes! (Although it did create a few more about stoners...)


That's because you were in SF and Berkley.
Smiler
Hmmm, initial thoughts tended towards 'harsh but true' and although there was perhaps a touch too much tounge in the cheek I don't think it was that far off the mark. I think that Cand best summed up some of the attitudude towards America as frustration. The overbearingness of the entity that is 'America', the one that people see on TV, mags, films the news etc, is, in my opinion, 'just not British' and the same can be said by many other countries.

The nationality argument is an odd thing though. I'm confusingly proud to be British, by which I mean there's a staunch part of me that's proud to be a Brit (when I was confirmed I chose George as my Saint's name) but there's also an element that holds contempt for the thought of being so, or shame at what I see Britian as being in the eyes of others. It's is a British thing. It's something that the stereotype of America doen't seem to hold, doubt in itself. But the pride in the flag and nationalism of America isn't just an American thing, I noticed a similar feeling when I lived in Denmark. Everywhere you go official buildings, homes, cars and individuals bear the Danish flag in a similar way attributed to America yet no one mentions it as a problem. Perhaps it's due to scale but in the case of Denmark I think it's also due to their feeling of Hygge which is difficult word/concept to translate but basically it's a fundamental notion of Danish lifestyle roughly equating to "cozyness" / "pride in successful informity" tempered with great humility.

As most people on the boards would probably agree the vast majority are probably fine people let down by a bad stereotype and minority of individuals, which is a shame, but dem's the crosses we bear...
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