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Rex Sorgatz

The Grey Album is less great in retrospect

jun 30
2008

Does America Have Any Culture?

What do European kids think about American culture? Chuck is in Germany finding out.

The proliferation of media has made it virtually impossible to tell the difference between a) what information is unilaterally interesting, and b) what information is merely available. I used to think Richard Nixon and Ryan Adams had nothing in common, but I now realize I was wrong -- they both share an equal potential to be randomly fascinating to Germans.

17 comments

I thought the commonality was they're both "Dicks". Har!

After discussing this topic with Marina yesterday, (fresh of the boat from a trip to Bosnia), we found two things that media influences in Europe, track suits and haircuts.

posted by taulpaul at 1:50 PM on June 30, 2008

you don't even wanna know what Serbs think about Americans:). but to answer Chuck's Question:the most historically important American is John Wayne.

posted by marrina at 2:59 PM on June 30, 2008

All culture that Americans have is derived one way or another from european culture. Except of course if you take into account the culture of the native Americans, i.e. indians. But i'm quite sure that's not what you yankees are after. Sure, you guys have developed some properties over time that may look like some sort of culture, when hamburgers or food are taken into account ;-P
You have decently managed to completely fuck over the lovely British language you inhereted. That's raping culture not cultivating it ;)
Further something that is truely all American is hiphop or rapmusic and the gang-related scene alongside, unique in the world, since music really is a part of a nations culture. The positiver aspect of course is jazz music, even though that is a mixture of African and European styles. Still just history, not culture, perhaps it wil be in due time.

We Euros have imperialised the world for ages and ages. That's something you have only started doing the last 100 years or so, luckily you're catching up fast and have taken (economical) imperialism to a higher level

But in arts, architecture, science, filosophy, fashion, writing, politics and even sports, you guys have a history but surely lack any form of real culture. Something you can't help since your republic (lol) is not even 250 years old. And please don't give me "we have culture but lack the ability to distribute it". Culture grows over ages, and since you lack ages, it couldn't have grown ;)
Further i must mention that it sickenend me when i read "that the United States is as good at manufacturing culture as the rest of the world combined". Only an American can write, think or say something as uber narcissistic as that.

Understand that culture is NOT something you manufacture, and if it were, the Chinese would beat you at it. But then, they actually have a very rich culture.
If there's anything you ARE actually good at it's the ability to distribute your brainless way of living and anything that comes with it.

Taking East Germany's "opinion" is hardly representative for the rest of the European union. Don't forget this was a soviet state not too long ago and you were shot when trying to leave it ( not even 20 years ago!) and they have some catching up to do ;)

But still, we are very thankful for the fact that you helped us out a few times when it was really needed ;)
And of course we also recognise the fact that in most things related to culture, you are currently a leading example, as sad as that may be.

Nice blog btw, keep up :]

posted by h4rbl at 4:54 PM on June 30, 2008

I always love the passive-aggressive smiley. "You are an idiot and I dislike you. lol ;) have a nice day" It just wipes the aggression right away, 93% as though it never happened.



posted by Cultureless buffoon at 6:59 PM on June 30, 2008

the passive aggressive smiley seems to be an annoying part of european culture that hopefully hasn't made it "across the pond."

anyway, i'm not sure i am open to listening to most europeans opinion of our culture, since when you ask most of them if they've been here they almost always say they've been to florida. or they just talk about bush (yeah, we hate him too) or how much they love/d baywatch and macguyver.

posted by kittyholmes at 2:56 PM on July 1, 2008

The "passive agressive" smile is merely a continuation of the style that the writer of the article uses, as is my entire comment. Writer goes us vs them, i continue from that point on, it's merely meant to be stylish (perhaps something you don't recognise since it's a cultural thingy), and most certainly not insulting. But then.., if the shoe fits...

Further i must mention that it's rather weak or lame to only respond to the "smiley", and not to the content of my comment.

It's the writer of the article that wants to find out how European people think about American people, and at the end draws the conclusion that "Euros" appearantly have a somewhat distorted view of Americans.

Personally i know quit a few Americans, from all over your lovely country, most Americans are prolly ok, decent intelligent people. But there are many, many Americans that don't look any further than there own silly country. Give a Yank a world map and ask him some topographic questions and you'll get my point.

Most Europeans know a whole lot more about YOUR history than a whole lot of Americans. Most Euros speak your language (beter than you do). Care to reply on this in Dutch? Nah, i didn't think so ;) <-- p.a.g.

There's no hate for Americans whatsoever, though i wouldn't mind whooping your "presidents" redneck ass. Or should i say thief of democracy?

The article is utterly stupid, the claim that Americans probabely have more culture than most countries together is too silly too mention. The statement that Americans are louzy in distributing there "stuff" is too foolish for words as i point out in my last sentence.
The articel itself and the view of the writer are plain dumb period.

I am a Euro and give my opinion, that's what the silly article is all about isn't it? Sure, i could have left the style as is, but it's just plain fun going us vs them, just like at the office where you have fans of one sportsteam and fans of another working together but verbally attacking the other fans team.

Grow up, argue my comment on content (which is quite hard, even if i do say so myself ;) <-- p.a.g.) and stop wining.

Grow some culture ffs ;-P

posted by h4rbl at 4:53 PM on July 1, 2008

BTW

What really amazes me is, you have this law regarding handguns, everyone is entitled by law to own such a weapon.

Now i have no problem with that, it's a man's right to defend himself and all that is his.

I do wonder if you people (<-- us vs them) understand why your founding fathers thought this would be a good idea. And if you do understand.., why tf haven't you done something to stop this government from doing what it does and has done, they gave you the right and the means to act, and you failed..., big freaking time.

posted by h4rbl at 5:21 PM on July 1, 2008

People in Europe are like this. People in America are like this.

posted by Cultureless buffoon at 11:04 PM on July 1, 2008

-- "The articel itself and the view of the writer are plain dumb period"

h4rbl, considering your comments, the only writer being just plain dumb (or to use your words, "decent intelligent") has to be you.
Do you think you're doing any European a favour with that?

BTW, did you even read the whole article? Because you're totally missing the point.

I wonder if you ever eventually managed to move your ass out of Europe. Judging from your really differentiated insights, i guess not. Its just pathetic.

Regarding the article, i thought it was very insightful. Corresponding to many experiences i had in discussions with Europeans about America and its culture.
I especially agree with the authors statement about distributing american culture. Because it literally is everywhere. Even in China - how about going there "grown-up" h4rbl, and see for yourself. For example, try counting the McDonalds subsidiaries in Shanghai. And that would be only one and very obvious example..

In conclusion, the article excellently proves the problematic view that many Europeans share about America. Actually the younger generations (students) are significantly affected, as the article shows. When America (and its culture) is the issue, more often than not, stereotypes are the predominant "opinion".
Sad but true.

Why, you ask? Well, my theory: envy.

PS. I am saying this as an proud European.

posted by soi-disant at 11:20 AM on July 2, 2008

"Care to respond in Dutch?"

No thanks, and I'm sure most Euros wouldn't either.

Yes, Europeans are more multilingual, but don't fool yourself, they're just as territorial and nationalistic as Americans when it comes down to it.

And, come to think of it, money-hungry.

They do the things they do, like learn English or German, or French, to make money, not out of European Pride.

The people of Ireland made that pretty clear with their vote against Lisbon last month.

posted by Gus at 1:28 PM on July 2, 2008

i didn't respond to what you said because i think you completely missed the point of the article, and to say that america lacks culture is completely idiotic and totally european and it makes me glad i am an american. (and no, i don't own a gun.) oh, and the never leaving the u.s. thing, have you been here? it's really, really big, we kind of don't need to go anywhere for a vacation. we have beaches, mountains, huge cities, las vegas!, beautiful natural parks that are full of other europeans, and anyway air travel is expensive, if you haven't noticed. and europeans can be kind of rude.

as for the language thing, if every state spoke a different language we'd learn, but they don't. the primary language is english, and we have 2/3 of the native speakers, so it's you who talks funny.

anyway, your comments pretty much backed up what chuck is saying, that europeans have a really weird and limited view of what america is about.

posted by kittyholmes at 2:58 PM on July 2, 2008

First, thanks voor responding with any substance and for taking the time to do so. There should be more discussion on substance..., we all have distorted views, let's rearrange that

@ Kitty

You didn't get my point regarding the gun thing, we appearantly DONOT all think you are crazy gunslingers, in fact the intention that is behind your law can only be considered a good thing. I blame you guys (which is lame, i confess, trust me, i understand) for not using the weapons you are entitled to in the way your founding fathers intended them to be used. I am pointing out that Europeans in general have a lot of knowledge about your country and your history, you are a part of us plus world leading, so in fact we have to. I honestly do think that "our" knowledge of your history is larger than you knowledge of ours, whitout any judgement, i do think that's a pitty

If you read through the exaggeration, i am saying Americans have history which will be culture in due time, and of course that's already culture, duh. I am merely saying it's comparing apples and bananas, this due to the time Europe and China for that matter had to grow culture. It's easy and lame to refer to hamburgers as being culture, i only thought and perhaps hoped that visitors of this blog would take that as a natural thing. Words used to debunk that are wasted, simply because it's a dumb statement, but fun to say once in a while (like when i say your pitcher sucks, he is still in no1 team isn't he?) As is the language remark for that matter, it's a lot easier to write night iso nite ;)

@ Gus
"No thanks, and I'm sure most Euros wouldn't either"

Well, French, German or Spanish? Nah, seriously, i can't argue with any of your points simply because they're so true. Except for the last one regarding Lisabon, because there your missing the point, which gets me to my point.

American perception of European people in general is not representative, i am doing exactly what you expect from Euros :] The writer mentions it's our view that is somewhat distorted while i think it's just the opposite, which i will argue in a minute.

Kittyholmes' remark of Bush, Baywatch and McGyver prove my point.

Of course i understand that the whole of Europe doesn't even cover the land of the US, it is therefore a logical thing that we speak more languages than most Americans (when viewed in percentage!), simply because we need to communicate. as do you without the need to learn additional languages (k perhaps spanish)
And i won't fool myself as i am well aware of the fact that Euro governments are equally territorial and nationalistic as Americans are. Guess we even invented it (i did say most of your culture is a derivation of European culture, which can't be argued because most Americans have some Euro background). Especially the dutch with Shell..., our Royal family always had good relations with American intelligence, in fact, our prince Bernard is considered one of the founders of Bilderberg and helped consolidate nazi science after ww2 for use within USA Intelligence. Our government is like Pinokio in Guiseppes (Bush's) hand. But Bush, Obama or McCain for that matter, most things prolly won't change, even though i would prefer Obama, Ron Paul made some sence to btw.

Regarding the Lisboa treaty, that has really nothing to do with European pride. It's about a constitution that was rejected by some countries due to fascistic properties (France, Netherlands, Denmark), which is being implemented in another way, being the Lisboa treaty. This way they tried to keep the new constitution from being subject to the peoples vote in referenda. Sadly (for them) Ireland has a somewhat different view of changing the values arranged in there constitution and there it still required a referendum. And trust me that i am one happy sob because of what the Irish did.
Thank you Ireland!

And indeed, even though i wish i had done so prevously, i haven't been to the US yet. And because of the your laws for immigrants i most likely won't in the very near future. My business is not your governments business.

I am well aware of the great diversity the US holds, probabely one of the more beautiful countries on this planet in all it's hugeness

posted by h4rbl at 3:19 PM on July 2, 2008

Thus.., in the writers somewhat paternalistic point of view, Europeans have a distorted view of Americans. But that view itself is distorted

Nope, i think, in general, we have a really good view of Americans and i think you most certainley do not lack the ability to distribute anything (which is a comliment tyvm). Too effective, not in my opinion, it's a representation of what you are as a nation, nothing wrong with that. It's easy to mention Mc Donalds, but there's still a whole lot of Wendy's we require and a bunch of other stuff for that matter that i can't wait to get my hands on.

But, i must admit that when saying Europeans do have a representative view of Americans, i am refering to people my age in general 25+, and indeed the writer is using students as reference (plus, he has some relativity in his article, i can read ;))

I have travelled beyond Europe but there is so much more i need to see and probabely will never get to see, besides, where you or i have been is hardly relevant, since most of the time we remain anywhere, it's by far not long enough to fully understand what the people or culture at that specific place are about or the way the view things...

I have worked for many years in one of the better known bars (for tourist) in the Netherlands and i have meat many, many Americans from al over your 50 states. To be true, you do have a stereotype, as do we, we are indeed somewhat more rude than most Americans. We prefer to call that "direct" or "in your face/honest", Americans on the other hand are often the somewhat exaggerated and more "plastic", but that can differ from place to place. We figure that is in fact lame, be honest, be upright (to the stereotype in general!)

My point on your distorted view of Europeans; most Americans i meat do this Europe in X days trip. They see most Capitals and perhaps a few other cities in a matter of weeks, running from one museum to another and having a coffee in some tourist bar in between. This does not give anyone a decent view of what a culture is really like and the way "we" look at you. I would need at least a month in New York to at least have the slightest idea what it's people are about and the way they view things. And even then, it's just New York (same size as the netherlands regarding population!), there is a whole lot of US left besides New York as you are all aware off ;)

So the Americans that do get here, don't really get to know what the people are about and the way they view things or other nations inhabitants. Th ones that don't need there info from books, foreign papers or the media.

But here's the problem, since your country is so huge, there's always so much going on, plus the fact that your government is an essential part of world politics. Most of you don't get that much information about Europe (or any other region for that matter), simply because there's so much local stuff going on. There are hardly any Euro tv stations on American cable right?

We on the other hand have CNN, NBC, FOX you name it, by default. Sure satellites change stuff but there's so much going on over there you don't even need to look further.

American blogs are leading in the world, most Dutch blogs for example, were cheap rip offs of mostly American initiatives. And i already mentioned all other stuff that you brought, nothing wrong wit that and still not enough ;)

We practically live your life when it comes to information and media, thus we have a better understanding of you than most Americans will have when regarding European people.

And i apologize for calling the article dumb period, it obviously isn't dumb, since i took the time to troll around on it. And emphasizing stereotypes can be so much fun.

I may be dumb, sad as that may be, but i still think you are all very cool people (even though i don't really know you) :]


posted by h4rbl at 4:17 PM on July 2, 2008

and so sorry for all the mistakes i made in spelling your lovely language, please forgive me as i am Dutch :]

meat is often made from animals :]

posted by h4rbl at 5:45 PM on July 2, 2008

i guess my problem with h4rbl's point is that we don't have culture, or rather that we are so new that we needs hundreds of years to get some, which is bullshit. we came of age as a country just when mass transportation and early forms of mass media came about, so we didn't need the huge amount of time that europe did to move about and build things, what with the average person before the 1800's only traveling, what, 30 miles or less from home? our culture may not be old like venice or amsterdam or athens, but we've moved through so many stages of history in such a short time, (it's like the part of the time machine where everything is going fast) and i personally i find american history fascinating. but then i live out west, my family moved as far from europe as you could get without falling into the pacific.

anyway, my crack about macguyver and baywatch is real, but based on my english cousins and a german friend of theirs from about 10 years ago. i was like, "what? thats all you know?!" good thing their parents spent a fortune on schooling. (oh, and my whole family lives in england or northern ireland, and i've spent probably more than a year in europe, if you add up all the visits.)

posted by kittyholmes at 9:52 PM on July 2, 2008

Could you pass the latest citizenship test?

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/25461301/

85-100%: Welcome to the United States! (And, truth be told, you know more about this great land than most Americans.)(LOL)

posted by h4rbl at 6:30 PM on July 3, 2008

yep, passed, same bracket as you. but a good number of them are basically trivia, and don't really help you learn anything important, like most tests. it's like naming the kings and queens of england. a test that helps understand what the difference is between republicans and democrats would be helpful, or breaking down the constitution, or hell, how about how our election system works? lots of people are totally clueless about that. naming who the president was during ww1 is not as helpful as learning why we were at war, ya know?

oh, and i've been to amsterdam.(i assume thats where you are?) please don't make any assumptions about all americans from the ones you've met there. (it's a bit embarrassing.)

posted by kittyholmes at 3:47 AM on July 4, 2008




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