They saw our Brexit and raised us Trump. Now more than ever it seems easy to dismiss Americans as stupid, arrogant, selfish and fake. After all, they are being represented on a global level by a man who is arguably all these things. But despite Trump, there is still a lot we can learn from America and its people.
As British people we’re often all too eager to highlight the flaws of American culture, especially if it makes us look better. Yet, having spent the last year studying in and travelling around America, I realised some of the stereotypes we’ve come to believe have become obstacles in what could be a valuable cultural exchange.
Now more than ever it seems easier to dismiss Americans as stupid, arrogant, selfish and fake
Perhaps the best example of this is the belief in a general American arrogance. That’s not to say I didn’t meet arrogant Americans, here’s looking at you frat boys. But then there were people like my roommate who, some days, would get ready and say “damn I look cute today.”
This wasn’t her being arrogant she was just being confident, and fairly so. British culture can encourage such excessive humility that in many cases we’ve come to mistake being negative for being realistic, and associate confidence with guilt. Some days you do just look cute, and we can do with taking a lesson from the Americans in recognising this.
British culture can encourage such excessive humility that in many cases we’ve come to mistake being negative for being realistic, and associate confidence with guilt
Americans also know how to engage in genuine small talk. It sounds like a contradiction but I believe they’re onto something. Just because small talk is often used to fill time doesn’t mean it is a waste of time. Just because it usually happens with strangers doesn’t mean you should be less interesting or, more importantly, less interested than you would be with someone you’ll see again.
While there’s no pressure to stay in contact, after all it’s still small talk, putting more effort into life’s little encounters make them much more meaningful. At the very least its makes waiting a lot less awkward and a little more enjoyable.
Just because small talk is often used to fill time doesn’t mean it is a waste of time
Going to class. Although I still don’t understand why students in America still refer to going to university lectures and seminars as going to class, if it’s the reason they seem to value contact hours considerably more than British students I’m not complaining. It may be due to the fact that the final grade for many classes takes into account attendance levels, albeit on a small level. Perhaps the higher level of tuition fees also serves as motivation.
Whatever the reason, the normalisation of this effort to attend as many contact hours as possible made me much more inclined to bother and meant I got much more from the time. Life happens, I get it, but I think we could learn something from the Americans and at least be less nonchalant about wasting our time and money and that of others as well.
Perhaps the higher level of tuition fees also serves as motivation
Finally a note to the British government or at least the university administration. Public water fountains. Go to America and you’ll find public water fountains everywhere: you land in the airport, go to Central Park, on a night out, indoors and outdoors, you name it. Considering you can’t really drink tap water in most of the country perhaps it’s more necessary there. However, I can certainly think of many public places in the UK that could benefit from free access to water. Or at least a few more on campus.
I’m certainly not saying that Americans are without flaw. It’s just that, as hard as it can be to admit, in spite of the stereotype and recent events, America still does some things better than us, and we still have a lot to learn.