Tuesday, October 12, 2010

American Arrogance

Don't get me wrong, I love my country and am very blessed to be called an American. When we came to the islands, I thought everyone would be in love with the states as well. Much to my surprise, the United States was not the center of the world, and really, not as important to Europeans as I thought it would be.

We have had visitors from the states, and it always tickles me to hear their comments. They make remarks about the style of dress, the fact that men carry "purses," the food, and mannerisms of the people. They tend to think the Europeans are rude and unfriendly. Sometimes I have even groaned in my spirit to hear American teens laughing in the markets as they make fun of certain styles, and not realizing it they offend the vendors. It is as if everything we do in the United States is the "right" way to do things, and we Americans can't understand why they do it differently.

It took me some time to realize that my Spanish friends probably were tired of me telling them "that in the states" we do it this way, or "en los estados unidos......." as I would continually be making comparisons as to how things were much better or ran smoother in our country. It was so boorish of me. Of course we were just expressing ourselves and sharing what we love about our country, but I found that I had to be careful not to sound prideful.

There might be a good reason for why they do things differently. Here is just one example. In one of my driving lessons I was complaining about the way the traffic signals were so confusing to me as an American. My Spanish driving instructor pointed out something to me one day as he explained why the driving system in Spain is so different than in the US. He said that Europe is very old, and that the US is very young, relatively speaking. When they built the roads in Europe, they weren't able to adapt them to the motor vehicle very well. Spaces in Europe are small, and it makes for many challenges when trying to put in roads when old buildings were in place long before the automobile came around. In contrast, the United States is such a wide open country that they were able to design roads and plan them accordingly with more forethought. It made me realize that the way they do things in Europe have evolved over a period of thousands of years, whereas in the states people immigrated with fresh ideas and with open minds that bred creativity.

As Americans we need to appreciate their culture and be careful not to make them feel defensive or inferior just because we think the "American Way" is the better way.

No comments: