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17 cultural clashes this European had in America

| 2,658 comments | Category: culture

Warning: If you are pissed off easily, don’t read this post. Although plenty of (American) commenters agree with me, I’m also getting a flood of angry comments and hatemail, but this is my (as always) frank and honest non-watered-down opinion, take it or leave it! Read on to the conclusion to see my positive thoughts about Americans before you conclude that this is Anti-American propaganda.

 

 

If you are coming here from Stumbleupon or Facebook, please share this post with your friends if you enjoy it :). You may also enjoy reading my post about the 29 life lessons learned in travelling the world for 8 years straight, and make sure to look around the site for some language learning tips!

 

 

Normally, after I spend considerable time in a country/city, I like to summarise my cultural experience there and tend to put a positive spin on it, as I did with Germany, Amsterdam, Brazil, and even Paris, which was actually a negative experience for me.

This time I’m not doing that.

This post is my rant about America because of all the places I’ve been, the people who always complain the most about the local country are travelling Americans. It’s mostly for those people (which you may be far from yourself, dear reader!) that I wrote this post – so that they can read a foreigner complain about THEIR country.

Note that I’ve actually really enjoyed my last three months in the states (edit: and I’ve since been back several times!), but there have been too many things that have gotten on my nerves that I need to vent about.

I’m not interested in whining about foreign policy, economics or politics. This is entirely about my frustrations with day to day life in America. The United States is a huge country, and it’s impossible to generalise all 300 million of you, but the points below are my observations after spending:

3 months in upstate New York, 4 months in La Jolla/San Diego, 1 month in Chicago, 1 month in Nevada, 6 weeks in San Francisco, 1 month in Austin, 2 weeks in New Orleans, 2 weeks in Los Angeles, as well as several days among other cities like Portland (OR), San Antonio, Houston, Durham (NC) … (and visiting sites like the Grand Canyon). Over a year in total, most of which was in trying to live as a local rather than staying in tourist accommodation.

(Note: This range will be greatly expanded this year [2014], as I’m visiting all 50 states on a book tour. Come meet me. I don’t complain about America in person ever, I promise, this post was a special case for ranting ;) )

While technically I’ve  already “lived” in America [edit for clarity: when I say America in this post and in comments, I mean USA of course], each time was always a temporary visit. And when you read the conclusion, you’ll see that I’ll definitely be back. But when I do finally settle down it will not be in the United States and this post explains the many reasons why.

Sorry if you find this post offensive, but I expect you to because…

1. Americans are way too sensitive

Sometimes I wonder if political correctness is in your constitution. I found out very quickly in my first visit that I had to bite my tongue pretty much all the time, and (more annoyingly) that nobody was ever straight with me.

It seems that speaking your mind to individuals is a major taboo. You can’t tell a friend straight when he has fucked up, nobody will ever tell you that you look could stand to lose a few pounds, and there’s way too much euphemism to avoid the hard truth.

To a certain extent, I can understand it – America generally does a great job of preventing people from singling out ethnic groups and toning down hate speech. But it waters it down far too much at the individual level.

A lot of Americans I met feel very lonely, and I feel this is a major reason. You may never find a boy/girlfriend if a friend who knows you well and supposedly cares about you, doesn’t tell you the hard facts of what makes you so damn annoying… so that you can change it! Being insulting for the sake of it is needless aggression. But constructive criticism is what friends are for.

The one time in my entire last three months that someone was straight with me was when my friend Karol Gajda gave me some tips to improve my presentation in future after I gave a TEDx talk, while everyone else was doing nothing but massaging my ego. It was really useful advice but it caught me off guard because I was used to months of…

2. Everything is “awesome”!

I really hate the word awesome. It used to mean “that which inspires awe”, but in the states it means nothing! It doesn’t even mean good - it’s just a word – a filler, like “um” or “y’know”.

This is the stereotypical American cheesy word, and I heard it until my ears started to bleed. Too many over-the-top positive adjectives like this get thrown around so much that they really mean nothing.

And when you ask someone “How are you?” the answer will inevitably be “great!” even if they are far from it.

When you start using excessive positivity it waters down the meaning, and those words become neutral. Then what do you do when you need to express true positivity? Of course, when someone says they are “OK, I guess” then you know things are pear shaped! I don’t think “bad” is in America’s vocabulary.

But nothing beats America’s over-positivity more than this:

3. Smiles mean NOTHING

When I meet Americans abroad, one of their biggest complaints are along the lines of “nobody smiles on Prague’s trams!” “That waitress was so rude to me! She didn’t even smile!”

Goddamnit America – I have the opposite complaint for you. You guys smile way too much. It’s annoying! How can you tell when someone means it? And why the hell would a stranger doing a crossword puzzle on public transport want to look giddy?

When people smile in Europe it means something. For example, because Germans don’t go around looking like an American toothpaste commercial when I was with them and they smiled, it lit up the room – you know it’s genuine and you can’t help but smile back, because you are genuinely happy. You’ve shared a joke, or a funny story or you are in love etc.

But all the time? When you smile all the time in public it means nothing. Apparently a smile releases endorphins, but if your face is stuck that way I’m sure your dreams of a natural high will fade soon. I’d rather focus on trying to make my life better and have reasons to smile than lie to myself and the world.

Despite how surly I sound in this post, because complaining is the theme of the article, the fact that I vent when I mean it, means that when you see me happy you know I’m truly happy. And that is indeed a lot of the time :) But not all of it!

4. Tipping

While it’s a perk for most of you, for me it was terribly annoying to be in restaurants and having a waitress interrupt me every 3 minutes asking me if everything is OK. I’d have to feign a smile (it’s the American way – see above!) and thumbs up to make her go away since my mouth was always full. I really don’t see the point – if you’ve given me the wrong order or if I suddenly realise I’m dying from an allergic reaction to your food, you’ll know it long before those 3 minutes are up.

Eating out is always an annoying experience because of this. In the rest of the world we call the server over when we need something. If this was genuine interest, or if the person was trying to be friendly that would be cool, but that’s not what it’s about. In fact, it’s all down to “subtle” reminders that this person wants you to tip them.

This drove me crazy – I really think tipping as a means of waitresses and others earning the vast majority of their living is ridiculous. If I have to pay, say 15% anyway, then include it in the bill! It’s not a bloody tip if it’s mandatory!!!

Once again, one huge complaint I hear in other countries is how rude waitresses are, and Americans claim it’s because they aren’t tipped. Instead of getting tipped they earn a wage like everyone else, and do their job and if they do it bad enough they’ll get fired. But apparently not pestering you every minute and not smiling like you are in a Ms. World competition means you are “rude”.

I think the basic concept of tipping is nice – but all explanations I’ve heard about it as a must-do make no sense when you really talk it out. You can paint waitresses/waiters as hard workers who earn those tips, and need a chance for a higher wage than if they got minimum wage… but what about teachers and nurses? Why not tip them? Why not tip everyone who you interact with in some way – bus drivers, or leave money on your trash can for the garbage man? It’s inconsistent, and waiters, hairdressers and taximen should just charge us what needs to be charged.

See more of my confusion on tipping here.

Some people ludicrously suggest that it makes it cheaper that the restaurant doesn’t have to charge more, but you’re paying the difference anyway. What it does contribute to is clear though:

5. False prices on everything

Tipping is just the peak of the iceberg.

It’s all one big marketing scam to make people feel like they are paying less. The price you see on a menu is nothing compared to what you’ll actually pay. Apart from tipping, you have to of course pay taxes.

Now taxes are things that you simply have to pay on items you purchase – it’s how governments work all around the world. So why hide it from us? It boggles my mind that places refuse to include the tax in prices. The price they state is pretty much useless. It’s just saying “this is how much we get from what you pay, but you’ll actually pay more”.

I don’t give a flying toss how much YOU get, I want to know how much I have to pay! How much money… do you want me… to hand to you? Do I really have to spell this out?

The most laughable of all of these is the “dollar store”. If you have a single dollar, you will be turned away from a “dollar” store! It’s a dollar… that they earn not that you pay. Do you follow? The only thing that matters is the business’s perspective.

I’ve been told that this is because taxing is different in each state. I shed a tear for the poor giant corporations selling widgets in different states who can’t possibly print out a label for millions of people because it inconveniences the corporation/seller ever so slightly. We have the same product sold across many European countries (in many cases in the same multilingual packaging) and somehow someone in the company found the time to punch numbers into a $1 calculator in advance to tell people how much they are actually paying.

It’s nothing but a large scale marketing scam. Make the price seem cheaper, which is lying to people. One great way to get people in more debt is to make them feel like they are spending less, but add the rest when it comes time to hand over the cash. This is one big part of….

6. Cheesy in-your-face marketing

I feel like scraping out my eyes with toothpicks when I’m forced to endure advertising in America. Make it stop.

Most Americans aren’t even aware of it – it’s on all the time so much that it becomes nothing more than background noise. And this means that advertisers have to be even louder to get through to people. It’s a vicious circle that drives any non-American not used to it bonkers.

BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE!

I decided to watch an episode of House one evening on TV. Up until then I had only really seen American shows online with advertising removed or back in Europe with European advertising inserted.

Holy shit.

Every few minutes you get torn out of the show and bombarded with irrelevant spam, and “awesome” images of people who practically experience orgasms as soon as they buy product X, that is (of course) on special offer just right now. And if it’s anything medical you get a super fast voice spur every kind of medical complaint you can imagine that his product will create as a side-effect. But at least the cheesy model is still happy, so it’s probably not so important.

Some of my American blogger friends apply this to the online world and cover their site with flashing or aggressive banners, and a writing style that is psychologically very effective to make a sale, but damn is it annoying. One online pet-peeve of mine is email pop-up sign-up forms, which you can justify with marketing stats, as long as you ignore how much you piss off people you don’t “convert”. I’d recommend you install Randy‘s Stoppity plugin for Firefox or Chrome to turn those off.

And here’s the thing: Americans are marketing geniuses. This can never be disputed. Every time I went to buy just a carton of milk, something about the supermarket that’s different to what I’m used to gravitated me towards some expensive garbage I didn’t need and I almost bought it, or did buy it, feeling very stupid as I walked out.

If you are in Las Vegas you’ll see how skilled they are at this manipulation by how they design the casinos. No windows, no clocks, impossible to find exits, no way to get where you want to go without walking through slot machines, the slot machines themselves have lots of shiny lights and bouncy music to entice you. You feel like you are being hypnotised. They know exactly what they are doing and have the billions of dollars to prove it.

But it’s still manipulation, and to those of us not used to the loudness it’s plain cheesy. Every corner of America is plastered with some kind of advertising or sponsorship, and I feel so at peace now that I’ve left. No more random phonecalls on any landline (including hotels I was paying for) with a recorded voice to try to pitch me something and no more spam promotional brochures taking over my physical mailbox.

7. Wasteful consumerism

Some of the consumerism is difficult to avoid when you are flooded with advertising, but some of it really is entirely the person’s own fault for being so wasteful.

The best example I can think of by far is Apple fanboyism. So many Americans waste so much cash to have the latest iteration of Apple’s iPhone, iPad, or Macbook. When you buy one that’s fine – I personally don’t like Apple products (I find the operating system too restrictive), but there are many good arguments for why it could be better. I also like to have a good smartphone and laptop for example, and I’m as much a consumer as you if you happen to have an Apple equivalent.

The problem is when you replace your iPhone 5 with an iPhone 5S, and do it along with an army of millions of other sheep for no good reason. It’s pointless and wasteful consumerism at its best.

I actually took advantage of this when I was in Austin years ago. I waited until the day the iPad 2 was announced and as I predicted there were 20 new ads per minute on Craigslist in that city alone from desperate fanboys trying to sell their iPad 1. Since my laptop is so big (I consider it a portable desktop), it was worth my while to invest in a tablet and I convinced one idiot to sell me his with a bluetooth keyboard case for a quarter of the original price, just 2 months after he bought it! He was so desperate to have the latest version that was ever so slightly thinner and faster, and with a camera that makes you look like an idiot when you point your iPad at something, but otherwise basically exactly the same.

Personally I only replace my smartphone when I break the other one from travel stress or dropping it in an ocean etc. I’m also a consumer though, and will occasionally buy stuff that I don’t need, but replacing something I have for something marginally better for a large price is something I can never understand.

What makes it worse is that these people sometimes claim to not have much money and Apple products are added to their “necessities” list. The gobshite I bought my iPad from sighed when I told him what I do, and he said that he wished he had the money to travel. I wish he had the common sense to realise that if he stopped wasting his money he’d have plenty left over.

8. American stereotypes of other countries

Many of us have seen videos online of Americans arsing up basic questions of international geography. I went out of my way to avoid people that stupid – my beef is with the supposedly educated ones.

Luckily, Americans you meet abroad tend to be much cleverer, but meeting those who haven’t travelled made my head hurt with the amount of facepalms I’d have to do.

Now, I know there are 300 million of you, but I have had this exact same conversation on both the east and west coast, and in the mid-west and south:

“Hi, I’m Benny”

“Awesome! I’m X. Where are you from?”

“Ireland”

“Wow! You guys certainly know how to drink!”

“Actually, I don’t drink

“Oh, you’re not really Irish then, are you!”

Again, and again and again… and again. The same idiotic script – I knew it was coming every time. They demanded to see my passport, said that I’m the only Irish guy they’ve ever met who doesn’t drink (and very stupidly then admitted that I was the ONLY Irish guy they ever met!!) or had visited Ireland and spent all their time in Temple Bar (not even leaving Dublin), confirming that all Irish people are drunkards.

This is just one of the many dumb things they would say, which of course annoyed me the most.

A few others I’ve gotten include:

  • How was the boat ride over here? [Surprised that we have airports in Ireland - I must have arrived in rags in New York harbour of course]
  • Too many people insisting that Ireland was part of the UK. They actually argued it with me!!
  • Did I have to check my car for IRA bombs when I was growing up? (uuuugh…., so many things wrong with this!)
  • Surprised that I knew more about technology than they did. Aren’t we all potato farmers in Ireland?

Whenever someone said anything about Ireland I’d always try to change the subject immediately or they’d quickly find out how blunt I can be.

Edit: If you think this is hypocritical, I’d argue that this post is NOT filled with stereotypes because it’s based on my actual experience in hanging out with thousands of you. Americans who stereotype us Irish (and other nationalities) have generally never been there, or at best “seen” (not spent time with) a couple of tourists. Stereotyping is based on hearsay and misinformation, and almost always from total lack of contact, or only superficial contact with the people you stereotype.

I’m not talking about Americans being all loud and war mongers and only eating at McDonald’s and all being stupid etc. (typical American stereotypes), because these just aren’t true for many people. I’m talking about what I’ve actually experienced from normal people in every day situations after an entire year of living and working in America.

9. Heritage

Every American you meet is not actually American. They are a fourth Polish, 3/17 Italian, ten other random countries, and then of course half Irish. Since Ireland is more homogenous, it’s hard for me to appreciate this, so honestly I don’t really care if your great grandfather’s dog walker’s best friend’s roommate was Irish. I really don’t.

The amount of “Oh my gaaawwwd, me too!!” retorts I heard when I said I was Irish is quite silly. I use country adjectives more restrictively than Americans do, so this was quite the pet peeve of mine. I finally learned that “I’m from Ireland” means what I wanted to say to them better than “I’m Irish” does.

I don’t want to say I don’t respect people’s rich heritage (a nice mixture makes a country more interesting; the melting pot of cultures and skin colours is one reason why Brazil is my favourite country for example), but when people start talking about it as if it were genetics and their Italian part makes them more passionate and their Irish part makes them good drinkers I really do have to roll my eyes.

I should add though, that it’s a language difference, so “Irish” actually means “Irish American” as I’d understand it. That’s fine, but I’m trying to convey that people genuinely from that country (born and raised) find this annoying. There is no right or wrong, but it’s important to realise that rephrasing it or saying “I have Irish/Italian heritage” may be more appropriate if you are talking to someone from that country. This is especially true if speaking other languages.

10. ID checks & stupid drinking laws

Seriously, I promise I’m not 12. Please let me into the nightclub!

I’ve even seen 60 year olds get IDed. Nowhere else in the world do they ID me now that I’m clearly in my 30s. A few times I haven’t had my passport (the most important document I own that I really don’t want to get beer spilled over) in my jeans pocket and have simply been refused entry.

I find it incredible that drinking age is 21, but you give 16 year olds licenses to drive cars and you can buy a rifle at age 18. And you can’t walk around outside with an open drink in most states (but apparently putting it in a brown bag while you drink it makes it OK). I don’t even drink, and I find these laws nonsensical.

11. Religious Americans

Look – I grew up in a religious town in Ireland, went to an all boys Catholic school, and some of my friends in Europe are religious. Even if I’m not religious myself, it’s up to everyone to decide what they believe in. I find religious people in Europe to be NORMAL – it’s a spiritual thing, or something they tend to keep to themselves, and are very modern people with a great balance of religion and modernism.

But I can’t stand certain Christian affiliations of religious Americans. It’s Jesus this and Jesus that all the bloody time. You really can’t have a normal conversation with them. It’s in your face religion.

12. Corporations win all the time, not small businesses

While there are many arguments against everything working towards there simply being a bunch of large corporations competing with one another, my biggest problem is in terms of availability.

When you get your food from Walmart or Wholefoods, and nowhere else, these places grow and will be separated by a reasonable driving distance for greatest scope. But between them? It’s a wasteland.

I was in downtown Chicago one day and wanted to simply get a bite to eat, but after walking around for an hour the only affordable option I could find was Dunkin Donuts. There are plenty of excellent cheap places to eat in Chicago, but you need to drive to them, or be in a specific part of the city with lots of restaurants (knowing it in advance). There’s too much competition between the big guys for a large number of little guys to sprinkle themselves conveniently throughout cities.

If you plonk me in any major city in Europe, I’ll find food in minutes. If you do the same in America, even downtown and presuming it isn’t a specific restaurant district, and don’t give me a cell phone or a car, I could starve to death.

And this is a major contributor to what I feel is one of the biggest issues I had in America:

13. A country designed for cars, not humans

America is a terrible place for pedestrians. It’s the worst place in the entire world to live in if you don’t own a car.

On previous trips to the states I’ve had it rough – relying on sub-par public transport (which is at least workable in certain major cities, but almost never first world standard in my opinion), or relying on a friend the entire time. You can’t do anything without a car in most cases. With rare exceptions (like San Francisco / New York), all shops, affordable restaurants, supermarkets, electronics etc. are miles away.

I really like Austin, but found it laughable that it was rated as among the most “walkable” cities in the states. Living just outside the centre, but within walking distance, meant that I had a stretch of my path with no pavement. The city centre was walkable, but most people live just outside it, and must drive to get in.

What struck me as the most eerie thing of all is that I felt very much alone when walking in any American city. In many cases I’d be the only pedestrian in the entire block, even if it was in the middle of the week downtown! The country is really designed to get in your car, drive to your destination and get out there. No walk-abouts.

Going for a walk to find food serendipitously (as I would in any European city) was a terrible idea every time without checking Yelp.com in advance.

For my more recent trips, I did actually rent a car for most of my stay (I didn’t even have a driving license before the age of 28, which most Americans find hard to grasp), and everything was so much more convenient, but I really did feel like I was only ever using my feet to work the gas pedal.

14. Always in a hurry

So many things in America are rushed far too much my liking. Fast food is something we have all around the world now but even in a posh sit-down restaurant your food will usually come out in less than five minutes after ordering! What’s the rush?

People don’t seem to have the patience to invest time to slowly improve things, unless it involves some kind of monetary investment.

Americans are also very punctual, because of course time is money. So many of them could do with stopping to smell the roses, and arriving late because they took their time.

Despite all the false positivity, I find Americans to be generally the most stressed out and unhappiest people on the planet. Despite all the resources, and all the money they have, they are sadder than people I know who can barely make ends meet in other countries, but still know how to live in the moment.

This rush to the finish line or to have a million dollars in your bank account or to get that promotion, and to have that consume your life is something I find really sad.

15. Obsession with money

I met far too many people who were more interested in their bank balance than their quality of life. People richer than I can possibly imagine, who are depressed. More money seems to be the only way they understand of solving problems. They don’t travel because they think they need tens of thousands of dollars, and they don’t enjoy their day because they may miss out on a business opportunity.

16. Unhealthy portions

Apart from people not being frank with those who are overweight, the biggest problem is that portions in restaurants are grossly overgenerous. Any time I ordered even a small portion I’d be totally full. Small means something completely different to me than it does to Americans. If you sit down in most places and order anything but an appetiser or a salad, you will eat more than you should.

I was brought up being reminded of starving children in Africa, so I feel guilty if I don’t clear my plate. This was disastrous in a few months I spent in the states a few years ago, where I put on a LOT of weight (that I’ve luckily since lost in other countries)! I should have asked for a “doggy bag” nearly all the time.

I’ve learned to stop ordering a soda entirely, because when places give you free refills, I feel like I should drink more… it’s free after all! Ugh.

17. Thinking America is the best

Finally, one thing I find annoying is the warped view of America’s situation in the world.

Americans ask me all the time if I’m scared to be travelling in South America. I found it way scarier to walk around certain parts of downtown San Francisco or Chicago at night than I did even in downtown Recife (apparently one of the most dangerous cities in South America) – because at least there are people there. And I find it pretty scary to be in a country where pretty much anyone can legally buy a revolver.

America tends to have a skewed view of itself as “the land of the free” – it certainly was… 200 years ago, in comparison to other western countries. (You know, forgetting the problems everywhere had at the time like no freedom for certain ethnicitise or genders…) But nowadays, most of western Europe is as free or more free, with opportunities for people at all levels. America is indeed a better place with a higher standard of living than most of the world, but free speech and tolerance for all is the norm in the western world as a rule, not just in America.

There is no best country. But those who go on about how America is number one, tend to be those who have never travelled or lightly travelled.

How about saying America is great or even… “awesome”? I think patriotism is an excellent quality to have, and we should all be proud of where we were born. But nationalism (believing other countries are inferior) is a terrible quality.

What I love about Americans

Since this post has been a bit of a downer, I will balance it out a bit by saying what I love about Americans :)

While I complained a lot here, I actually go back to visit the states very regularly! There are many reasons for this, including:

  • So well connected; social networking and apps are so well integrated into America compared to other places I’ve been. Meetup.com is super active, and there is free wifi and apps made for your city nearly all the time. I love how much America has embraced the Internet to so many levels, and I hope we catch up in other countries.
  • Conferences and conventions; while we do have some in Europe, we cannot dream of competing with the states in terms of sheer numbers of people with very specific niche interests gathering together. It’s been fantastic for me to attend blogging and travel conferences, and even a Star Trek convention! You have such specific conversations there with large numbers of people that you can’t normally do.
  • Many friends: What will always make sure that I keep coming back is that I’ve made some lifelong friends with so many people that I never would have been able to elsewhere in the world because of so many things that we do share in common, or things we believe in.
  • Countryside diversity and so much to do: As well as some great people, there are some incredible sites – and you can get a whole world of climates within America. To this day, the Grand Canyon remains one of the most impressive sites I’ve ever seen. It’s also so much fun to visit any city – if you know the right people or even use websites like those I mention above, you’ll always have plenty to keep you busy!
  • Open mindedness and diversity: Despite what I’ve said in this post, America is a very special country with so much going for it! I thoroughly enjoy my conversations with people there, and it’s one of the few places that I could write a post like this and still be welcome to come back later ;) And I will!

One final thought:

Some of my best friends in the world are Americans. I will come back – but when I share my thoughts I do it VERY frankly. You have to appreciate this. The cultural issue is that if an American complains about something they presumably hate it, but I’m just sharing my thoughts. Since my style is terribly blunt, you can indeed get the wrong impression that I “hate” Americans from this if you treat it as an American style complaint letter.

The honesty issue is such a cultural difference. My German friends tell me without hesitation if I smell bad after dancing for a few hours, if I’m being too loud, tell me when something I’ve created is crap or that I have terrible taste in music etc. – they don’t hold back. From an American perspective they are being assholes, but in fact they are showing how much they love me. It’s constructive criticism. This post is actually because I care about Americans enough to be straight with them. ;)

I hope despite the frankness that you’ll welcome me when I do come back to visit! Of course there are many many other reasons I love America, but as you can see this post is long enough as it is! I can do much better by having some of you retrospectively look at your culture from a foreign perspective than I can by inflating your egos ;)

May the sea of comments, rants, retorts and insults… commence!

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  • Melissa Rodriguez

    As an American married to a non-American, I can definitely appreciate your point of view even if I don’t 100% agree with it.  Considering you wrote a post about what you DON’T like about the country then I guess the subject matter was fitting.  

    What’s truly bad about this post is the “What I like about Americans” section…. that was really weak.  I’m confident we have a few more or better qualities than the ones you mentioned.  

    America is the country of free speech, so I’m all for your qualms with America. 

    I hope your next American travels bring better experiences for you.

    Cheers!

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Other countries have free speech too you know…

      Just added two extra points to the What I like section to balance it out a wee bit. You do have more positive qualities, but expanding on them wouldn’t have fit with the already long post.

      Actually my experiences in America were great this time! This is just venting my frustrations.

      • Melissa Rodriguez

        Ok, it’s still weak… but I’m not gonna pick on you too much.  I think the US is pretty much like any where else.  We have a lot of great things and some bad things too.  As long as the great is still the majority I think we’re doing ok.  

        • http://www.youtube.com/user/FluentCzech FluentCzech

          Have you lived in many other countries? I left the USA in my late 20s in order to move to the real land of the free (Luxembourg), and after than have lived in several countries, many of which are NOT pretty much like the USA at all. If you try living for a year in some of my favourite countries (Switzerland, New Zealand, and now the Czech Republic) you will find that life really can be better than that lived by most folks in the USA.

          • Melissa Rodriguez

            The part of the equation your missing is that no one, at least not me, is saying America is the “best” place to live.  I just don’t think it’s a bad place to live.  Of course there is a lot wrong with this country but there are a lot of good things here too.  It is a give and take.  I don’t think anything is black and white.  

            And by the way… we are indeed a country known for our free speech.  We are not THE country, but we are one.  In no way should we mistake our freedom for our freedom of speech.   Unfortunately, even though we may be able to say whatever we want, few times does that translate into change or actual rights and freedoms.

          • http://twitter.com/amy_burr amy elizabeth

            I think lots of people say that America is the best place to live…

          • http://www.youtube.com/user/FluentCzech FluentCzech

            Actually, America doesn’t even rank well in terms of freedom of speech, which is best measured by freedom of the press. If you look at the World Press Freedom Index, the USA comes in 19th: http://en.rsf.org/press-freedom-index-2010,1034.html

            If you want real freedom of speech, you would be better off living in one of the Nordic countries. Heck, even Lithuania and Estonia have more freedom of speech than the USA.

            Before I left the USA, to come live in Europe (for the greater freedom), I saw a small essay competition for school children, and one of them contained this beautiful line by an 8 year old boy: “I love America, because we can do whatever we want (so long as it’s allowed)”.

          • http://profiles.google.com/roosevelt.annaeleanor Ketutar J

            Melissa, I think you are the country YOU know for “your free speech”… I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of USonians couldn’t even name another country in the world with “freedom of speech”. Some USonians even think USA invented the concept :-D

            Also, when people receive death threats for exercising their freedom of speech (Dixie Chicks come to mind) it gives me the impression you really don’t have freedom of speech.
            Might be that the government won’t thrown USonians to jail because they happened to say something the government doesn’t like to hear (though with Patriot Act you’re getting there too) but being punished by your neighbors is not much better.

          • Robert Edelstein

            Wait a minute, hasn’t a Danish illustrator been under constant police protection for the past several years because of a cartoon he drew?

            I guess Denmark has no freedom of speech either, huh?

          • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

            How do police protecting someone because a bunch of terrorists have a stick up their ass mean the country limits (or… has “no”) freedom of speech?

            That’s really idiotic. The same thing can and does easily happen in the “land of the free” if the right people organise themselves to avenge someone insulting their religion.

      • http://twitter.com/clogsandtulips Tiffany J. Jansen

        “Other countries have free speech too you know…”

        Thank you!!! America is not the only country that has freedoms. In fact, I actually think that America is more restrictive than a lot of other countries. I feel like so many Americans are brainwashed into thinking America is the only place worth living. So sad. I am American and I love and miss much about the States, but my country also has a lot (a LOT) of shortcomings and I think it’s foolish to pretend otherwise

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Brianna-Forster/2539468 Brianna Forster

          This is exactly how I feel as well!

          Actually, when I was a teenager I used to honestly believe (while LOVING foreign languages and cultures, and longing to travel the world) that everyone who wasn’t American wished they were, that everyone in the world was jealous of us, and that people in Europe and other developed countries tried to imitate our freedoms but fell short because they were too socialist, etc. When I was 17, I lived for a year in New Zealand with this mindset, so everything I saw and heard there “confirmed” to me the “obvious” fact that everyone was harboring an inferiority complex toward Americans. Now in hindsight, I can appreciate how obnoxious and condescending I must have come off as, without even being aware of it, and even while thinking of myself as open-minded and sensitive toward other cultures.

          Now that I’ve had more chances to talk to people from other countries and to live abroad long-term, I’m embarrassed that I ever thought we were The One Truly Free Country. My friends here in my new home sometimes like to puzzle over ironies, such as the fact that some “free” adult American citizens are denied their “freedom” to purchase alcohol, but purchasing lethal firearms is OK…

          • PRINCE

            yeah.. gun laws need to change… it would be awesome if all guns in USA just disappeared. It would be really interesting to see how these gun-toting idiot pussies react.. haha

      • umpirecr

        I like to smack your fake smile off your face

    • http://twitter.com/SashaKittie Sasha Halvorsen

      Actually, as is evident by the recent raids on the Occupy Wall Street protesters and the banning of media publicity and reporting on the events, I would say we have lost our free speech. When a reporter from a major news station is told, “Not tonight” by a police officer, and when air space above a park is ‘closed’ to helicopters, you know our free speech is being infringed upon. I am an American. I’m 23 years old and have lived in this country since the day I was born. I have made extended visits to England, Australia and New Zealand, and I can honestly say that find very few redeeming qualities to Americans and to this country. As you can see, I speak frankly(no one who has ever known me has accused me of sugar-coating anything) and I won’t defend Americans when we have very little to be proud of. I never tell people I am from the United States when I travel abroad.

  • Derron Borders

    As an American who has lived outside of the US for multiple years (I now live in the US again), I find the post completely right! Hell, I’m an obese American dude and I can totally agree with you on why we Americans are fat! You had me laughing multiple times! I can just imagine you meeting some undergraduate frat guys and tell them you are Irish! I do have to admit that many of what you said he is true of so many other countries though. Especially the part about stereotypes of other countries. I ran into so many non-Americans in my travels (so a lot of Europeans, South Americans, Asians) that have these complete fantastical ideas about the US and even other countries in the world, I mean one European having ridiculous stereotypes about their European neighbor. When I lived in Belgium I had met Walloons that had never been to Flanders… anyway, great post, I agree with most of it! It’s rare for me to be able to agree with you on any of this because I completely disagree with you on many of your views about language and linguistics.

    Also, I’m guessing you didn’t meet many academians? I’m in graduate school and the culture is the exact opposite of “watering things down”. Professors and colleagues try to tear you down every chance they get, but I don’t think that always transfers into everyday interactions, though I have become much more critical of others and speak my mind a lot more now then I ever did before I travelled and became part of academia.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Haha, that’s funny that you agree with this post! Of all the ones I figured this would bring out the most disagreement with people :P

      Yes of course, academics are more precise, but that’s not unique to America. I met some academics – linguists actually, and enjoyed their company.

  • Anonymous

    Benny! I agree 100% with you! It was a huge culture shock coming back to the US from living in Germany for a year… All these reasons you stated and more are why I’m moving out of the US this year. I love my friends and family, but I just can’t stand the culture ( or lack of it) here. Great post. Ignore the haters my friend!

    I get so sad when I meet people (typically Americans) who haven’t even been out of their country or worse their own “state”! I think it’s so important that everyone in the world travels to at least one different country or better yet a different continent to realize that the world doesn’t revolve around their country.

    I don’t think Americans themselves are 100% to blame for their ignorance. The Media, Education system and tourism are to blame.

    -The media makes the world sound like a scary place, so who would want to travel? Americans who watch the news are constantly bombarded with negative stories happening around the world.

    -In school we spend about 3 years learning about only American history. Barely even covering any international history. In Germany we spent a whole semester learning about the industrial revolution in Germany, England, France, and the US… 

    -When most Americans travel they only touch the shallow surface of the places they visit. Only seeing the tourist side of things. Never connecting with natives or learning the languages of the places they visit.

    It’s hard for Americans to break through this wall of ignorance. It’s the choice of foreigners visiting America to be the ambassadors of the world. To break the stereotypes that many Americans have of the world. 

    When I was in Germany I made it a point to prove to everyone I met that I am not a typical “American”. “I’m Michael Sieler, I come from America, but that doesn’t define who I am. Let me show you who I am”. I hope I left Germany with the image of an intelligent, hard working, honest individual. 

    I agree with you. I won’t ever settle down in the US (unless certain things change), but I will visit it from time to time. I see myself more as a citizen of the world, not of one country.

    Again, great post as always!

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Thanks for the comment – you are right that the media really does contribute a lot to the problem.

      • http://twitter.com/Mondeto Penelope Vos

        So true- Depression has been described as an epidemic and I’m not at all sure that the ‘news’ isn’t a major contributor. News used to be more local, with more balance between positive and negative stuff. Nowdays a mother in Michigan beats her toddler to death and I read about it in rural Australia. Ever more technology is invested in making sure that nothing ugly happens without the whole world knowing about it.
        Rita Goldman Gelman is establishing a non-profit to encourage young US citizens to take a gap year and visit the world so that they can see that there is so much more good out there than the ‘news’ will ever show them.
        If you are less brave/foolhardy than Rita regarding languages, learning Esperanto is a great way to go to non-English-speaking places and make contacts without depending on gestures, like she does :-)
        And, like you’ve said before, it’s a leg-up for other languages.

  • http://twitter.com/shortlex Alex Short

    I’m American and I totally agree with all of these. Especially #6 and #13.  I got rid of my TV during my last move, with no regrets. But I still have to be afraid for my life when braving the streets on a bike.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Since it’s over 5,000 words I had to stop at some stage :-P

    Glad to show people a foreigner’s perspective. Of course there are lots of great things to say about America too.

  • http://twitter.com/Nymphie Lizzie

    I’m American and definitely agree with you on including taxes in prices. I love that SO SO SO much in other countries.  It would be great if we did it too.

    Its funny how you say we’re so politically correct. Americans think other Americans are HORRIBLE. We feel that our contry is rampant with hate and intolerance for people who are different, ESPECIALLY fat people. It’s drilled into our heads that fat people are not fat through any fault of their own and if you call them fat or think poorly of their fatness you the worst kind of villain. It’s so annoying. Same with poor people and criminals, it’s never their fault, its society’s fault. We really should stop mollycoddling everyone. But if you stop mollycoddling almost everyone will hate you sooo I dont see it ending anytime soon, because who wants to be hated?? Some people try to be truthful when they’re younger but losing all your friends because you’re truthful gets tiring.

    I also agree with corporations winning (many Americans hate corporations, but they are cheaper, and money is everything, so we support them), us being WAY too obsessed with money, many of us being sad, and the need for a car.

    I have never noticed our advertisements, they’re just background noise haha, and I personally feel most Americans dont smile enough. Smiles are contagious and make everyone happy! Frowns are contagious and make people gloomy. And that’s way its only polite to always smile in public because its not nice to put on damper on strangers’ days with your sad face!

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    I had to commute for 2 hours in San Diego to get to work and another 2 to get home. Would have taken 15 minutes by car…

    • John Smith

      I’m a San Diego Native…worst public transit ever.  When I was in Japan I felt like I was on a different planet– clean trains, on time; people will even suffer through your offensive confusion just to get you to your next stop. 
      I’m sorry your experiences in the States have been frustrating…as I read your post I saw a lot of my own complaints.  I’m glad someone else in the world understands that smiling thing…as well as the cheesy ads. 

      I will say though that people here maybe grasp on to their “heritage” because we live in such a synthetic culture that we want an identity other than McDonald’s.   As an American I’ve had to deal with Stereotypes as well…in Greenwich, I was asked if Americans run around shooting each other all day.  I work in Mexico and live in the states, and I always encounter such surprise that I can speak Spanish, that I know about art, countries other than my own, or anything considered “cultural”.  Usually they reach the conclusion that I am “one of the good ones” which is a pretty backhanded compliment.  Americans are expected to be cultureless, fat, and loud.  And I can’t really argue that for the most part but, as you said, it’s impossible to generalize about millions of people.  Stereotypes exist everywhere. 

      Imagine the script I go through every time I tell someone my name is John Smith.  “Where’s Pocahontas?”  “Are you an explorer?” (The historical John Smith was not one)

      Hope to see you in San Diego again soon!

    • PRINCE

      LOL its the opposite in India, well, almost opposite.. btw ever been to India?

  • Derron Borders

    Yeah, but there are many Europeans that have never left their country or their provence/state either! I lived in Belgium, France, and Mallorca, Spain. I met many people that had NEVER left the tiny island of Mallorca and they were in their upper 20s! But education plays a  huge role and the size of our country as well!

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Aw, thanks! :D

  • Anonymous

    Good points all of these Benny, hopefully any American readers will be able to take it on the chin and recognise that all countries have their problems. 

    Point 17 is an infuriating one and it’s not just Americans who are guilty of it by a long shot. Patriotism is all fine and good if it inspires you to do something noble or take an interest in your history or culture, but in-your-face my-country-is-the-best patriotism is one of the most annoying traits a person can have (just to emphasise that I’m not singling out Americans, the two worst examples I can think of about were French and Chinese respectively). You did not choose to be born where you were born, there was no aiming feature built into your mother’s genitalia, stop comparing everything you see in a country to the country of your birth, especially if it’s just to complain, if everywhere was the same there would be no point travelling, learn to love it or stay home. 

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      The difference is really down to patriotism (which I think is a good thing; love of your country) and nationalism which I think is a bad thing – insisting that other countries are inferior.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1227211387 Elizabeth Rust

        Then according to your definition it sounds like you’re being a bit nationalistic here. Hmm…

        • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

          Hmm… eh no, read the start of the post again.

  • http://twitter.com/awaxler Allison Waxler

    I’ve lived in the United States my entire life and largely agree with what you have written. Though I have to wonder where you were in downtown Chicago that you could only find a Dunkin Donuts!  Of course there are many positive aspects of our culture, but every time I travel internationally, I come back disliking our culture a little bit more. Our acceptance (and frequent encouragement) of ignorance and shallowness can be so discouraging.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      I was in the business district. All I could see were high rise buildings. There were restaurants but they were very limited and too expensive and only one every few blocks.

      • Jeff Winchell

        That’s a crappy place to spend a month in Chicago. Chicago is so full of so many diverse interesting neighborhoods. You can see the world in Chicago, never speak English, speak dozens of languages with native speakers, enjoy authentic food from these many parts of the world prepared by first generation immigrants.

        I wonder how much of your time in America has been spent in crappy places.

  • http://twitter.com/ChuckSmith Chuck Smith

    Having worked a few months in the poker industry, I learned another amusing tidbit about casinos. Ever notice that the carpet in casinos is the most ugly possible? Why? To keep you from looking at the floor and rather at all the great ways to lose your money!

  • Anonymous

    Good post and spot on.

    -an American

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/FluentCzech FluentCzech

    One of the commentors just made the comment that “Americans is the land of free speech”. I hear often from Americans that “America is THE land of freedom”. Even more bizarre is “Other countries hate us because they are jealous of our freedom” (how on earth that could inspire hatred, I do not know).

    Now, there are lots of statistics on relative freedom of countries. The “most free” countries in the world (according to an index of all the indices) are actually New Zealand and Switzerland (both tying for top place), and a great many countries are more “free” than the USA (including Ireland, for example):http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_freedom_indicesIn terms of economic freedom (something we often hear Americans boast about it being the land of opportunity), the USA actually comes way down the list, behind Chile and Mauritius, and just one place above Bahrain:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economic_Freedom_of_the_World_IndexThe only freedom where the USA does come number one is in the ease of gun ownership. In 2011, Arizona finally beat Yemen to be the number one place in the world with the most lax laws on gun ownership:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_Rights_Index

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Thanks a lot for those links. :)

    • john

      You have no clue!

  • http://www.GQtrippin.com Gerard ~ GQtrippin

    Guilty user of AWEsome right here

    • Anonymous

      Ha, me too. Agree with every point on this list, but I still can’t stop myself from saying “awesome”.

    • http://twitter.com/clogsandtulips Tiffany J. Jansen

      me too!

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com Kieu – GQ trippin

      Ditto on the AWEsome, Benny. I might have used it on you at our Travel Massive tweet up in Oakland. Possibly even the “Irish and don’t drink bit” when we ordered you another coke refill. =T Lol.  You had me laughing out loud at my desk a few times because it is so honest and very true. Come back and visit us again soon! ;) How’s Peru?

      • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

        So far so good – there are PEOPLE on the streets!!! Actual human beings outside! Oh how I missed that :-P

        • http://www.GQtrippin.com Kieu – GQ trippin

          That’s… (awesome) ;)

  • empty_nest_expat

    This was hilarious! I am so guilty of #1`and #2. But my awesome isn’t meaningless.  I really mean it. And I can’t help but smile.  I’m from the Midwest. We’re friendly….and happy. I loved hearing your viewpoint!

  • http://paperballpotluck.wordpress.com/ Mattie

    These are 17 of the many reasons why this American doesn’t want to live in America anymore.

    Well said.

  • http://twitter.com/SilverAntigen Ags

    You’re on to something. Think this post might need a second part!

    Seriously, I could not agree with you more on several points. It seems here they teach that America is the center of the world. What really gets me is that people just remain ignorant and oblivious about what’s going on.

    The “omg I’m also Irish!” thing really gets me. I wasn’t born here and I grew up thinking a bunch of people mixed and matched to create the Puerto Ricans. I consider myself Puerto Rican. Now, as to what percentage um I dunno Spanish or African I am doesn’t really matter. Don’t even get me started on people not knowing geography around here. I have very little faith in the educational system.

    Oh and you should come to Monday meetings where I work at, no one ever smiles haha Smiling out of obligation is not fun and can be seen as hypocritical at times.

    Additionally, money around here is the center of the world. apparently to be sophisticated and successful you must show it off by having expensive useless things.

    I’ll stop by saying thanks for a great post. Thanks for sharing and looking forward to reading more.

  • http://www.tuisligh.com Claire

    The tipping thing is the most annoying ever. Why can’t you Americans just pay people properly and add that cost to the food? 

    • http://twitter.com/Nymphie Lizzie

      I’m American and thought tipping was stupid, until I went to other countries that didnt tip and I HATED it.  Tips stands for “To Insure Prompt Service” and that is exactly what it does and in a land where everyone is in a rush prompt service is a must. I love tipping now because it means I get treated like a queen and get what I want when I want and that’s what I’m used to. I can totally see how people not used to that kind of service though would find it annoying.

      • http://www.youtube.com/user/FluentCzech FluentCzech

        Tips doesn’t stand for To Insure Prompt Service. Read about it here : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tip_(gratuity)

        The interesting point, though, is that tipping in the USA is effectively mandatory, so it doesn’t reward anything: rather, it is considered rude to not leave a tip of, say 15%, irrespective of the service.

        If tipping really were about service, then tips would be completely optional. Normal service would receive little or no top. Absolutely fantastic service could be rewarded with a generous tip.

      • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

        As I said in the post, Americans are in too much of a hurry.

        • Jeff Winchell

          I though you lived in the South once (in Texas). But maybe that was in a city. In the South, things slow down, just like they do in warmer parts all around the world. In a city, things slow up more relative to the less dense parts nearby.

          Man, the more I read, the more I see generalizations that are way too general. You might as well make generalizations about human beings. 99.5% of the population in America did not come from a culture on that land more than a few centuries. Maybe there is another more diverse country in the world, but not many.

          • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

            Yes, I lived in Austin for one month, and I spent about 4 days in San Antonio and one day in Houston.

            All of my views here are comparing urban Americans with urban Europeans. Of course generalizing to such an extent is bound to bring in lots of exceptions. However, the fact that rural people are in less of a rush is international, so I see it as irrelevant.

          • Jeff Winchell

            Austin is not representative of the south. The “Keep Austin Wierd” motto should make that clear. In some ways, Austin might as well be New York City, San Francisco or Seattle.

            I’ve been in this German city for 6 years, and I continue to be surprised by different cultural values.  An Irish friend of mine has lived here for 20 years and when I asked him when he stopped being surprised by anything here, he replied “after 19 years”.

            I’m sure your travels around the world are quite interesting and I wouldn’t mind doing them myself if I didn’t have other commitments, but
            one has to take with a huge grain of salt, the generalizations gleaned from a few days, a few months, or even a year cumulative (particularly in a country so large and diverse as the USA).

          • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

            As well as Austin I was in San Antonio for several days and actually drove through Texas for a day straight, making many stops in random places along the way.

            One thing to keep in mind is that my observations are being confirmed by a lot of Americans.

      • http://www.tuisligh.com Claire

        There are many countries in the world in which you get great service and leave no tip. In Ireland, if you don’t do your job right (ie – good service) you get fired, end of. 
        And as FluentCzech pointed out, when it’s mandatory it doesn’t ensure any good service. 

    • Bridget Dooley

      Our twisted notion of capitalism. The fact we can justify paying someone $3.75 an hour is ridiculous.

  • Anonymous

    As an American, I loved this post.  Agree with almost everything you said.

  • http://twitter.com/amy_burr amy elizabeth

    I like how you put the worst part at the beginning to weed out all the whiny people hehe. :) 

    I am American and I agree with pretty much everything you said! Especially about the transportation. I want to live somewhere else for one sole reason, and it is that I can’t walk anywhere! It takes me 2 hours to walk to the grocery store and back, 2 hours!! And I don’t live in the middle of nowhere! I hate driving and American people look at me like I’m crazy when I tell them that. :| 

    And the thing about smiling is so funny, cause I was just in another country and I could distinguish the Americans from the local people immediately cause they were always smiling! I don’t think it’s such a big deal, just kinda funny. But it’s true that American people tend to think people in other countries are rude just because they don’t smile constantly. Um, hey Americans, did you ever think that maybe it’s just that we are too polite?? And yes Americans do complain a lot about other countries (although I’m sure that people in every country do this to some extent, I think it’s just human nature…). Every country has it’s flaws, and it doesn’t mean that America is the best country…

    The political correctness thing bothers me too. I understand that it’s partly a result of our history of racism and discrimination, but you’re right that at the personal level it’s unnecessary and it’s frustrating how people are so fake to each other just so they won’t hurt anyone’s feelings…

    One more thing, the false prices! Grrr! I never know if I have enough money to buy things cause I don’t know how much it’s going to cost with tax! 

    But anyway, despite all this I don’t really mind living here. I love some things about it. It would just be nice to have a change for a while. And then when I get sick of the other country I live in I’ll come back. :)

    (By the way, Just so you know I am 5/16 Irish! No joke! Just thought you’d like to know since you’re Irish…)
    ;P

    • Jeff Winchell

      “I want to live somewhere else for one sole reason, and it is that I can’t walk anywhere!”You could live in Manhatten to cure that (or virtually any other similarly dense city).

      Have you tried living in a dense city? I used to think that the walking to everywhere thing was so cool when I moved to my latest city. And how you can bump into people you know, all the time, just by doing your daily walking routine.

      However…
      there is another side to this that I didn’t realize at first, that now REALLY bothers me.

      When you live in a dense area, people are RUDE. They bump into you, won’t let you by, everyone tries to be first in line at a counter, etc.

      At least that is the case in the modest size German city I live in. The population density downtown here is the same as it is city wide in New York City (though not as dense as just Manhatten). Perhaps others who live in dense  cities where people mostly walk, will have similar stories. It would actually make me feel better to learn it has nothing to do with the country’s culture, but just due to density.

      I wish I could live somewhere less dense now, but family concerns keep me here.

      Be careful what you wish for.

      • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

        You didn’t say which German city. I beg to differ that Germans are rude: fi3m.com/german-stereotypes/

  • http://twitter.com/lilredcrimson Autumn Romero

    Benny, you hit it right on the knob!! I’ve lived in America my whole life and, while I consider myself a patriot and “proud” American, I agree with the problems that you’ve noticed. I just wish the rest of my country would get on board and realize that, no, we aren’t perfect, yes, we can change and just STOP STOP STOP with the “now now now” business (especially the in-your-face advertisting for EVERYTHING, including religion). I’m sorry you encountered so many of the local idiots I also encounter (and interact, live, and work with) on a daily basis. It’s ignorance and too much telievision.

  • Melissa Rodriguez

    Can we add #18?  Make it how much we hate self-deprecating Americans.  Oh wait, that’s an oxymoron.  

  • Juho Juvonen

    I enjoyed a lot reading this post. You confirmed some assumptions what I had about Americans like consumerism, unhealthy portions, corporations and car friendly cities.

  • David Cheney

    I found myself agreeing with many of the items listed.  It made me smile.  Of course as an American I probably smile too much.  But I do wish we had the same kinds of controls on firearms that we have on drinking.  I hope on your next trip to the US you find more people who are not sensitive obsessive religious money grubbers who make stereotypes of anything not American.  There are a few of us here.

  • Valentina Gilbert

    Hi! I have found this post very interesting. I was wondering if other Europeans would share some of my points of view or not and I see that we agree on some things actually :) I have recently written one in some ways similar but also  different (in Spanish) http://mywanderingwondering.blogspot.com/ I have not dealt with the subject so in depth as you have as you will see if you read it, it is more of the kind things I like /things I don’t.

  • http://www.yearlyglot.com/ Randy the Yearlyglot

    Spot on. These are among the many complaints I make which have caused so many of my fellow countrymen to label me an “America-hater”, or a member of the “blame-America-first” group. But I think people have begun waking up to a lot of these things over the course of the past generation as a result of a globally-connected internet, low-cost international travel, a global economy, offshore outsourcing of jobs, immigration, etc.

    I think the attitude that is sensed in your list of complaints is encompassed well (if not entirely) by the older generations of people who, prior to the past 20 years or so, could live completely insulated lives with only their pastor and their television to influence them. Today, however, it’s nearly impossible in our society to get through a single day in the US without experiencing the influence of China and Mexico (at the very least), and often many other foreign influences, while at the same time a family’s economic stability was never more fragile in the US than it is today.

    A great deal of life here in the US is directly a product of economical interests – primarily the interests of corporations –  and I think that’s what the Occupy Wall Street movement is really about. I’m really excited about what’s going on, and its potential to bring change to our way of life, because when you get a figure of nearly 20% unemployment in a country (as we are pretty close to right now), all of those economical interests come grinding to a halt. The cars and new iPads and fast food and marketing mean nothing when one-fifth of the “consumers” (that’s what they call us… we’re not “citizens” anymore) in the country have no money to spend. And with all that time on their hands, the unemployed can learn to appreciate walking, and taking their time, and actually talking to people and learning more about other cultures than just the stereotypes they were sold on their favorite tv shows.

    This country is in trouble, but I’m very optimistic that the trouble that’s coming will also be a welcome solution to many undesirable aspects of our way of life.

    Anyway, great post. I only wish that the ones who really need to hear it were the ones likely to read it. :)

  • http://twitter.com/clogsandtulips Tiffany J. Jansen

    I found this post through one of your tweets warning that Americans were going to be pissed. It compelled me to read, expecting to be completely irate. But there was not a single thing I disagree with on this list. In fact, I could easily make it even longer. But then my comment would be longer than the post and I’d be getting fingers pointed at me for being unpatriotic and an America hater.

    Though I traveled abroad a LOT, know many non-Americans, and am fluent in one other language with the basics of 2 others, I am American and lived there for the first 26 years of my life.

    I’ve always seen flaws in the American lifestyle and American mentality, but it has gotten far more pronounced the more I travel and the longer I live outside the US.

    I admit, I’m guilty of the awesome – it’s a catch phrase of mine that would send you running for the hills moments after starting a conversation with me. And I do smile a lot, though I don’t think anyone is rude for not imitating Ronald McDonald 24/7.

    But as for the rest, I can totally relate and they irk me every single time I visit. To the point where I wonder if I could ever go back and live there again.

    Yes, there are wonderful things about America. There are things we do better than many other countries. There are lots of wonderful people known and loved throughout the world who are American. America has done a lot of wonderful things both in and outside of our country. It’s a beautiful country filled with diversity and opportunity.

    But it’s not THE BEST country in the world and it’s people are not THE BEST people. By all means, love America, be patriotic, but also realize that there are other things/people out there and other ways of doing things and don’t shut yourself off from the rest of the world.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      To clarify, smiling all the time and saying “awesome” are not inherently bad. These are just things I personally find annoying ;)

    • Daniel Benson

      One of the first things people are taught whilst studying social and human sciences is that “you cannot learn anything of your culture from those within it” or the like, which, whilst travelling extensively myself, have found out about myself. However this also means that to look at an outsider’s opinion of your culture, you lose the ability to be objective because what you see as normality is quite often not to others.

      Where I don’t agree with everything Ben says, I do however think there is a lot of truth about it. Being English I find even amongst other Europeans (even though I have found that we aren’t generally considered to be a “real” part of Europe socially) there are common generalities which make it easy to get on and associate on a personal level; but with every American I’ve met it’s been a million worlds a part. 

  • Anonymous

    Benny you’ve always given it to us straight. I would expect nothing less. I’ve heard most of your rant before from others, when I used to live in the north of England, and when I would travel in Europe. We Americans who have traveled are accustomed to hearing this kind of thing. As an American, I agree with most of your post, though like others, I disagree with you on some points. I could argue you with you on a few points, but  I won’t waste your time in doing so because you are entitled to your opinions and impressions. The size of the US and lack of foreign travel by most Americans leads to a lot of ignorance. Most Americans who are actively learning second languages are doing so because we don’t belong to that mindset.

    The rampant commercialism, ignorance of many people and growing lack of a sense of community in most
    places in the US are some of the reasons why I left the mainland for the
    Virgin Islands and why I don’t plan on returning to the mainland US to
    live. 

    What I will take you to task for is the stridency and tone of  this post.  I’ve never seen you rant about any other country in such a way before.  Perhaps, being a fellow English-speaker and a native of a country that is part of the Anglo orbit,  your familiarity has bred contempt.  I’m not saying that you are not entitled to your contempt or that  much of it is not deserved, but is it possible that you expect something more out of the US than you do out of the other countries you visit. Are you judging the US  on a different scale than other countries?  I don’t think you would or will rant about any other country in quite the same way. 

    As an aside, I have a similar story to your comment about the Irish drinking stereotype you’d get thrown at you whilst in the US. When I was traveling in Mexico with an English friend, almost every time he would tell a male Mexican that he was from England he would hear the word “hooligan” in the next sentence- referring to football.  My English friend said that it seemed to be all they knew about England. So yes, there are ignorant people the world over, even outside the US.

    Benny you have earned my respect over the years and your opinions in this post will not cause me to lose that respect. Certainly, from a business point of view, the thing to have done would’ve been to say nothing critical, but you wouldn’t be Benny if you didn’t call ‘em like you see ‘em, and I wouldn’t respect you if you did anything else.  Best of luck on your current mission

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      I judge the US more because (as I said at the start) for an entire decade I’ve been listening to Americans whine about the country that I’m in. And the tone of the post is a rant, as I said, which I don’t focus much on.

      • Dominick O’Dierno

        I think the lack of “angry American comments” on this post so far is because while you may be used to listening to Americans “whine” about the country they are in, we Americans are so used to hearing the negative comments about our culture from Europeans (believe me, we hear them all the time) that most of us are dismissing this post as yet another European partaking in America bashing and don’t feel the need to comment.  You do have a  point about the useless ego massaging though, as that’s all the other Americans in these comments seem to be doing.

        • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

          It’s a pity you weren’t among those who “don’t feel the need to comment”. You are really taking over several threads here – give it a rest!

          • Dominick O’Dierno

            I had assumed you were welcoming my comments since you were responding to me, but since this is apparently not the case you will hear no more from me on this article.

            I will endeavor to only post comments in the future if I agree with you, and to keep my comments to under 3 per article, but statistically I am way under one comment per article! :)

          • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

            I don’t care if people disagree with me. It happens a lot and I expect it when I write blunt articles like this.

            But the way you do it over several threads bringing up illogical and idiotic arguments here was quite annoying. And your comment about people agreeing with me on this rant being “ego massaging” is just lame – they obviously have a mind of their own and agree with me because they have come to similar conclusions themselves long before I ever wrote this post.

            Thanks for toning it down.

      • Anonymous

        Point taken, fair enough. I think you’re right, amongst many of us, over-sensitivity seems to be ingrained- guilty!  Believe me I’m no defender of the US- “right or wrong”. That’s why I’m not living in the belly of the beast anymore.  I just accept the US for what it is like any other country’s culture. That doesn’t mean I have to like it or that you have to either. Hope you really enjoy your time in Cuzco and I’m looking forward to reading your posts.

    • Judith

      Try to tell a South American that you’re German… the first thing that will come up is Hitler, even though that guy has been dead since my grandparents were teenagers, Germany now is not at all Nazi anymore (except for some ignorant idiots) and would I even travel abroad if I believed in the superiority of everything German?!

      • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

        That’s strange. I’ve met a lot of Germans in South America and they’ve never mentioned this. A lot of Brazilians and Argentines especially have German heritage and are more likely to have some kind of awareness of how things have changed since the 30s…

        I’ve never personally gotten the drinking stereotype a single time that I can remember in South America. In fact when they hear I’m Irish they may instead bring up U2, or Irish music, which is something to be proud of and I’m glad they do.

  • Ben Atkinson

    This was one of the funniest posts I’ve ever read!  While in the middle of reading it, I got up to do something at work (gotta do something to afford the next iPad :-D), bumped into a co-worker.  I don’t like her, she doesn’t like me, but I smiled at her, and darnit, she better smile at me!  Then I saw someone else and asked how she was doing.  She said, “Good, and you?” and I said, “Very well, thank you.”  I’m not doing very well at all, but that’s just what we say now!  I started laughing and she didn’t know why.

    You hit the nail on the head and cracked me up in the process.

    I do disagree with you on tipping.  It’s not exactly mandatory if the service was bad.  I leave 20% if the service was good, 15% if bad.  I once left a woman a $0.25 tip because I had to wait over an hour for my food.

    I hate political correctness as well and I never realized how annoying sales tax can be to someone new.  I just do the math while shopping and never thought different.  But there is a reason I bring two dollars to the Dollar Store. :)

    I could go one, but I’m in a rush to drive 20 miles to a corporation restaurant to eat double portions of everything I order.  If you’re ever in Virginia, give out a shout!

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      lol, you proved my point about the tipping! If you leave 15% if it’s “bad”, then it’s still mandatory!!!!

      Glad you enjoyed it otherwise :)

      • Ben Atkinson

        Dangit!  You’re right!  Oh well.  Again if you’re ever in Virginia give out a shout and we’ll go drinking cuz you’re Irish and that’s what you do after checking for car bombs. :-) 

        • Dominick O’Dierno

          You’re doing it wrong.  Crappy service == no tip. 

    • A.B.Clapp

      This was one of the funniest things you’ve ever read??  I’m assuming you just mean things written by this guy…otherwise you have a pretty strange sense of humor

  • Anonymous

    Maybe one should just raise the wage then.

  • Olivia

    I’m an American, and I agree with everything in this post. I must be a European trapped in an American body. Haha!
    I remember the time I came back to Oklahoma the summer after my first year living in Turkey. I came across a couple of old classmates, and they asked me if I fly or drive to Turkey. It blew my mind, and it was hard to resist the urge to facepalm right in front of them.
    I’ve always had problems with the portions they serve in restaurants too. I always order of the kid’s menu if I can because I’m really slender and I get full very easily. I always feel like I’m wasting food if I don’t eat everything on my plate. Then people have the nerve to tell me that I’m too skinny and that I need to eat more. *sigh* It’s like it’s a sin to be naturally skinny.

  • http://twitter.com/qhartman Quentin Hartman

    I have to agree with the vast majority of your points. There are details here and there that could be refuted, but that’s not why I’m here. As a born-and-raised American who is deeply unhappy about where his country is today, I’d like to share my thoughts on what I’ve come to believe are the two biggest causes of many of the problems you list above.

    Lack of a cohesive cultural identity
    Other than many of the things you mention above as problems, we have nothing to tie us together culturally as Americans. That leads to a lot of people identifying strongly with their ancestry to act as a cultural anchor. It also allows religion and consumerism to get amplified and distorted into de facto cultures to fill the void. I often joke that the Pacific Northwest ought to secede and become its own country Cascadia, partly because it’s one of the few regions in the US that does have something resembling a strong, positive local culture that isn’t much like the America you talk about above. Also, I’m not really joking when I say that… 

    The disproportionate influence of corporations
    This is strongly tied to the last one, but is distinct in a lot of ways. One could go on and on about the different ways this appears, so I’ll not list specific examples. Suffice it to say though that for at least the last 100 years, America has been more about enriching corporate interests than anything else. It certainly hasn’t been about making life better for one and all. This trend accelerated dramatically in the 50′s, and is continuing to accelerate to this day. Happily, things have gotten far enough out of balance that people are starting to push back (see Occupy Wall Street for proof of this) but it’s going to be a long hard road back to health.

  • http://travelerahoy.com Alouise

    I’m Canadian so I can’t really speak from an American perspective, but I can say a lot of these traits (not all) I can see in Canada, although to a lesser extent. Canadians are also inundated with American advertising on television and it gets to be too much. That’s why I try not to watch too much tv. The tipping issue I get to a point. It would be great if restaurants could pay their servers and hosts a livable minimum wage  that tipping wouldn’t be needed, but I don’t see that happening. Still a good waiter or waitress also knows the fine line between checking up with their patrons just enough, and checking back too frequently.

    • Annette

      I think the lack of public transportation in Canada has to do with the fact that our population is relatively small compared to our landmass.  I think as time goes on there will be more and more public transportation available but until recently, it just hasn’t been feasible because there wouldn’t have been enough people to use it.  Certainly within cities there are buses and subway systems (at least in bigger cities) but one thing that would be nice is a train system like in Europe where you can get from city to city.  I just don’t think there would be enough of a demand for it yet, though… hopefully sometime.

    • Anonymous

      As an American, and somewhat well traveled, I must say that I adore the integrated public transit in Toronto!  It’s a shame that both Canada and the US don’t have rail service anywhere near as good as Europe or Japan.

  • Jason Jaszemski

    As a sensitive american, I’m shocked and hurt at your lack of concern for our feelings.. Just jokes.. you’re so right on :)

    The comment about stereotyping other cultures is right on.  I just got back from a trip to England last week and soooo many people asked me “if I had a spot of tea with the queen’  It wasn’t just one person, it was everyone.  So annoying.  

    One thing you should know though, is that stereotyping happens within the country too.  I’m from a rural part of Delaware, so everyone makes comments to me about chicken farming (I’ve never raised chickens).  Another friend of mine is from Idaho and EVERYONE makes comments to him about potatoes.  I guess people think its polite conversation and a way to point out that you know something about them, but its really lame and annoying.

    I’ve loved the time I’ve spent in Europe and I’m hoping to move to the UK sometime in the next 3-4 years to get away from all those crazy Americanisms you listed.

  • Jon

    Benny, 

    This post is overall a good read. Most of it was very sensical and well thought out and stated but some of it is complete bull shit. Here’s why…

    1. BIG TIME. I can’t say anything without being accused of something. I’m always pushing the limits of what is PC and what is real. American girls are more feminine? and you like this? being feminine is directly related to being sensitive.This goes hand-in-hand with #1. 

    4. Preach it dude. What’s really dumb though is the tip jar at a Starbucks or even in a Drive Thru window. WTF?! Whay should I tip when I’m standing here in line to pay $5 for a cup of coffee and then you want a tip? I totally agree with you on this one. 

    5. Not including TAXES in the cost of goods is one of my biggest peeves with the US. I have often said that the US needs to include sales tax and round everything to the nearest 5 cents or maybe even the nearest 10 cents and eliminate the penny as a whole. I also convinced some of my work superiors to sell our most popular products with TAX INCLUDED in the price so we can offer more transparency to the customer.

    6. Ads don’t really bother me so much. I actually kinda like ads because there’s a bunch of products out there that fix problems that I have. If companies don’t advertise, then I don’t know about their products and I can’t fix my problems.

    7. Yes. Wasteful consumerism is dumb. I currently own less than 200 things and I’m working that down to under 100 things in the next 6 months. I like the term “Apple FanBoyism” Many people would call spending $67 on a language tutorial download wasteful consumerism. You call it “livelihood”.

    8. This is bullshit. Here you are, bitching about how you don’t like the way that America stereotypes other countries in your blog post about how you have stereotyped Americans.

    9. I’m American. I’m not Irish-American or German-American or English-American or somerandomcountry-American. I’m just American. This is who I am, take it or leave it. 

    10. This is one of the reasons that I say that America is not a free country. Absurd ID checks are all over. I agree. The drinking age is so dumb here that I don’t know that words in English to describe how utterly preposterous it is. We’ll give rifles to 18 year olds and send them to the other side of the world to kill people but  can he drink a beer with his friends in the land of the “free”? HELL NO! The majority of these checks are a result of absurd regulations on Alcohol sales. If my ID is expired and a business accepts that ID, then they could lose their liquor license. Bars & Clubs exist entirely around selling drinks so because of dumb law, you get carded for eveything from SuperGlue to Spraypaint to a beer with dinner or maybe just because a cop decides to talk to you one night out on the town. It’s called a police state and the US is well on it’s way. 

    12. Too true. I own a small business and I get taxed to hell.

    13. This too, is bullshit. I should make a blog post called “Ireland: a Country designed for Trains & Buses, not humans” You have more freedom with your own automobile. Millions of Europeans would love to own a car but can’t afford to buy one, maintain one, register one, afford a driver’s license for one or store one. 

    16. This is why we’re all a bunch of fat asses. It doesn’t help when parents say “Finish what’s on your plate” either. Soda kills. I try not to drink it either. 

    17. America is the best in some instances. I’m sure that Ireland is the best in some instances. America has the absolute worst corporate tax rates in the world. This one ties in well with #15. America is viewed by a lot of Americans as the best because we have the nicest stuff in the world, in the highest quantity in the world and the easiest access to that stuff. I personally do not believe that the US is a free country because of some of the things that you have listed above. 

    It’s also very important to note that not all Americans are such ignorant bigots as you make us out to be. Some of us work very hard at a job to make a living and get ahead and even paying income taxes. Others are content with sitting on their ass on Wall Street holding a sign complaining “woe is me”. 

    I’m sure that some of your travels would not be so easy without us Americans spending $67 of our money (that we  are apparently obsessed with) to learn more about other cultures and languages with your help. 

    I hope I haven’t offended you too much either, Benny. Keep on traveling and keep on blogging. 

    -Jon from Colorado. 

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      You prove my point by saying ads don’t bother you much. You are deafened by them so much you don’t hear them any more. I’m not against advertising, I’m against American advertising. You are misreading the point of what I was saying.

      I never said Americans are “ignorant bigots”. Your repeated comments about ME making a living are quite irrelevant to everything here and prove how sensitive you are.

      • Dominick O’Dierno

        Making your #1 complaint be about how sensitive we are is sophism 101.  You can then respond to any criticism you receive
        with “this proves how sensitive you are”.  The truly open minded thing
        to do would be to consider that perhaps you have some misunderstandings
        in your comments that your fellow human being is trying to help you
        understand better.

        • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

          His comment about me earning money is irrelevant to absolutely everything else being discussed. It’s just lashing out due to hurt feelings – so yes, I think it is needless sensitivity. My comment about sensitivity was not a precursor to protect myself in arguments, it’s because I ACTUALLY THINK IT’S TRUE.

          Bringing up irrelevant arguments and trying to make it personal is no sign of a “human being trying to help me understand better”

          • Jon

            So if I disagree with you on part of this post and I voice my honest opinion, then I’m just too sensitive.

            But if I don’t voice my honest opinion, then I’m not genuine. 

            You’re not being consistent.

            I think you need to make up your mind. 

          • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

            My mind is clear. You are being sensitive because your retort was irrelevant, and just a shot in the dark. And I never said you didn’t voice your opinion. What’s that from?

            You are definitely being consistent in strange arguments.

          • Dominick O’Dierno

            There were a couple of irrelevant comments out of 15 separate ideas in his post, but many of the others are valid and might be worth you reading again.  Irrelevant or not, your apparent sensitivity to his comments about your income shouldn’t impede you from considering some of the other interesting stuff in his post.

          • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

            Irrelevant comments annoy the fuck out of me. That’s my “sensitivity”.

            I’ll answer arguments as I see fit. Some of what he said requires no reply. I’ve read them and considered them. What do you want me to say if I don’t have any particular comment, “OK”?

  • http://profiles.google.com/roosevelt.annaeleanor Ketutar J

    “nobody will ever tell you that you look fat (oversensitivity with not telling obese people to get their act together is a major contributor in my opinion to why there are so many of them in the states)”

    So do you think fat people don’t know they are fat, or do you believe it helps people to change their way of life if they are told they are living their lives wrong? :-D

    By my knowledge a lot of USonians are fat because
    a)  they eat too much sweets, fat, salt and starch. (just like we Europeans)
    b) USA is desinged for people in cars…

    BTW, how would you know if anyone told you if you looked fat, when you don’t look fat?

    My idea of USA and USonians is very similar to yours, but what do I know as I’ve never been in USA :-D

    P.S. It’s rather funny to say you’re in “non-America”, when you are still very much in America. I’m rather irritated by the fact that USA has hogged the word to such extend that not many even question it.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Even in South America, they call the United States “America”. The word has been hogged!

      And I think if someone is overweight they need to be frankly informed of this – dancing around the issue does nobody any good. If someone calls someone fat who isn’t, that’s just lying though – I don’t understand your question.

      • http://www.janafadness.com Jana Fadness

        Benny, this is the one thing I have to disagree with you about. I do agree that Americans are too sensitive in general, but I really don’t think it’s okay to just tell someone they’re fat– especially not women. Another huge problem we have in the US is the media’s propagation of an impossible ideal of beauty for girls and women. You don’t need to tell them they’re fat, because the televisions and magazines are telling them that every single day. I’m pretty sure most overweight American females are perfectly aware they’re overweight, and even girls who aren’t overweight think they are! A lack of awareness of weight issues is definitely not the problem. It goes much deeper than that, and I personally would think *very* carefully before outwardly criticizing someone’s physical appearance. The way I see it, overcoming a problem such as obesity starts with learning to love and respect yourself. And just telling someone they’re fat is probably not going to help them learn to love themselves.

        • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

          I’m not interested in telling someone they are fat to improve their sex appeal. It’s simply bad for their health and they will die younger and not be able to enjoy physical activity. This is why I feel it needs some urgent attention.

          The media does NOT inform or support them as a friend should. If a friend doesn’t get someone off their ass to improve their life, then they aren’t a good friend. TV saying “look at these beautiful women that all men love because they are thin” is not the same thing.

          Being aware that you are overweight is not enough if you are in a culture that insists to treat people so sensitively that it never comes up as a serious problem.

          “Learn to love yourself” is another way to say “stay as you are, everything is fine.” Learn to love yourself AND your body.

          • http://www.janafadness.com Jana Fadness

            I would say that loving yourself means loving your body as well. And that unhealthily obese people obviously don’t love their bodies, meaning they don’t love themselves. I guess the expression “love yourself” might be overused in a rather shallow way in American culture, but that’s not what I meant by it. Yes, obviously obesity is a serious health problem and I agree it needs to be improved for this reason.

            Anyway, from what you said in your post and your previous comment I got the impression you were saying we should just go around telling people they’re fat… ^^; But I do think telling someone as a friend might sometimes be necessary if the person is obviously in denial. You just have to be careful how you say it– because, just as you say, Americans are very sensitive!

          • Anonyn

            Except it’s not your business if they’re healthy or not. I’ve always believed that a friend should not be pushy, but rather, should be there to encourage someone when that person decides to make the choice for themselves to be healthy.

            “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.”

            Not to mention, there are a lot of fat people who genuinely cannot help it. I know at least two people who are overweight because physical exercise puts them in crippling pain, and they flat-out cannot afford the medical expenses to get treated (this is in the US, where the healthcare system is shit. I’ve experienced it first hand, and it’s scary enough that it alone will ensure I never live there for an extended period of time). They’re all for “fat positive” because telling themselves they’re ugly, being hard on themselves, will only make them more miserable when they genuinely cannot help the way they are.

          • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

            If you leave it up to someone to make the choice for themselves you could be waiting forever. A good friend will say words that you DON’T want to hear, for your own good.

            Yes, there are indeed people who can’t help it, but this doesn’t justify the huge amount of obesity in the states. If it was genetic it would be worldwide.

            In my opinion oversensitivity is a major contributor to obesity in America. Perhaps I’m wrong. The bad healthcare is a pity though, that certainly doesn’t help :(

      • Jeff Winchell

        I thought just Germans had this problem with the word America. I guess it is more widespread.

        Why is it so hard to believe that an arbitrary collection of letters and sounds are used by one group of people (people in the USA) to describe themselves and that other people (people who live in one of a few dozen countries in the western hemisphere that is not the USA) who were labeled by some logician choose not to use that same arbitrary collection of letters and sounds?

        People choose their language, not logicians. If the people in the USA choose to call themselves Americans and the people in Mexico, or Brazil or Chile or Panama or whereever see the word North America or South America as being mostly useless, then that is their choice. If you want to start a campaign to get a billion people to change a word, good luck with that.

        • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

          I don’t want any such campaign. Just commenting that the word is being used in a way that perhaps not everyone likes. You’ll notice that in this post I went with the “America” adjective, so I’m not the one starting any campaign.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Sean I like that you enjoy my blog but I find comments like “I would much rather people be smiling than frowning” to be quite silly. I didn’t say that – I said that I want genuine smiles, and when you smile all the time, it’s NOT genuine.

    Also, I think I deserve more credit for my “stereotypes” after an entire year of spending time with Americans in many situations than Americans who have never been to Ireland or just visited Temple bar for a weekend.

    • Elyse

      In our country smiling is a greeting. when I pass someone on the street I could say ‘good morning’ or I could just make eye contact and smile. It’s part of our culture.

      • Robert Edelstein

        This is it exactly.

      • Bia

        I believe that it was not what he was meaining about smile…

    • jeremy

      ohhh my an entire year? sound like a whiner to me. if you don’t like it, dont go back . There is beauty in everything. You sound like you have only traveled to Ireland and United states. OH BOOO HOOO people smile at me all the time. grow up haha first world problems…

    • Joe_HTH

      I’ve been to Dublin. So take your assumptions and shove them your butt.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=58400187 Amber Elizabeth

      I’m very timid around strangers, and I tend to focus a lot on non-verbal cues when I’m interacting with them, so if they’re just staring at me straight-faced, and not even giving me any cues in their tone of voice that they don’t mind talking to me, it tends to make me feel like they wish I would disappear (though I do realize that’s my own self-consciousness at work, and not necessarily a lack of interest on their part). I don’t smile at others in a bright, bubbly “OMG I am SOOOO happy to meet you!” kind of way, it’s just a polite “hello I’m friendly, please be kind to me” kind of thing. My polite smiles barely curve my lips–for all I know, people might not even realize I’m doing it. :P

      Of course, I wouldn’t appreciate someone beaming a constant smile at me unless they meant it, but I see nothing wrong with just a casual “we happened to make eye contact” sort of half-smile, maybe a head-bob or something.

      On the other hand, what I just spoke of might be completely different than what you’re referring to!

    • Catherine

      Benny – I am Irish ( yes born and raised in Ireland )and I have to agree with Sean 100%. I have been living here for twenty years and I can tell you right now that there is no way you deserve credit for your “stereotypes” after only one year in the US. I find your statements, especially your stereotyping to be steeped in ignorance. I will never yet fathom the constant bashing of Americans. Get a life and stop jumping to criticize. Your comments on “smiling” are so ridiculous. I wish people smiled more often – who are you to judge if somebody’s smile is genuine or not? Seriously? Furthermore I would rather see a smile than a pout any day. I am a proud smiler.”My nickname as a child even in Ireland was “smiler” – you should try it sometime instead of bashing others. Enjoy people for who they are – embrace the country you are in and respect it. A little more acceptance and tolerance of others is always a good thing. People are different the world over. You come across as very narrow minded and also quite condescending in your blog.

    • umpirecr

      Your assuming its not so why don’t you stop generalizing?

  • Michael Crosby

    It’s interesting Benny to read an outsider’s take on America. And though I love my country, you are so right on your points. It was like awesome dude.

    That’s why I love reading travel blogs. I read Andy Hobo Traveller and though he writes at about the third grade level, you know his writing is unadulterated and straight from the heart. Your blog too has been a joy to read. Always compelling, thanks so much.

  • http://melbournebound.wordpress.com/ danielle

    Interesting, it is nice to see someone has the guts to put this all out there. I would be too scared to write something like that about Aussies….and yes there are things I can complain about! Good on ya for being brave, and for also saying things that most people are too chicken to say!

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Feelings about America were negative during the Bush campaign. I’d imagine they are much better now in comparison.

    • elo

      what country are you in lol ? i hate bush obama and the clintons along with every other pice of shit president that ignored the constitution and what the fedral govts job really is BUT that being said at least i had a job during bush and clinton

    • http://www.facebook.com/sam.malloy.7 Sam Malloy

      Read about what Obama is doing, he’s turning America into Martial State. And there’s more troops in Afghanistan than EVER.

      • lindababy

        Just who do you think started all these expensive useless wars???

    • Matt Nelson

      I wouldn’t count on it with the person we have in office now

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Thanks ;)
    And know that, even if I was annoyed by the concept, I didn’t take it out on waitresses themselves and always tipped 20%! ;)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Yes I know. “Home of the free” has always been hypocritical.

  • http://www.janafadness.com Jana Fadness

    I don’t think you’ll get as many angry comments on this post as you seem to expect. Most of your readers are probably relatively open-minded people, since they’re obviously interested in learning about other languages and cultures. Already, all the comments below are positive! ;) (Unfortunately I suspect that most of the people who really need this wake-up call probably aren’t going to read this post.) And now I’m going to chime in and tell you that as an American (though perhaps not a very typical one), I found this post absolutely hilarious and was nodding in agreement throughout the whole thing! The phrase “Germans don’t go around looking like an American toothpaste commercial” really cracked me up. XD The cheesy smiling thing actually drives me insane as well, and I never understood it even having been born and raised in the states. I used to think I had some sort of problem because I couldn’t seem to plaster a perpetual grin on my face, and people were always asking me what was wrong!  Then I left the US and realized that people outside that crazy country find me perfectly normal. =P

    There are a lot of things I love about the USA and I’ll always keep going back there because of my family, but for all the reasons you describe and more, it wouldn’t be my first choice of a place to settle down either. I’m not ruling it out completely though, simply because the place I live isn’t the most important thing to me.

    Oh! And there’s one thing I’m curious about. It’s true that Americans (myself included!) tend to find Irish accents attractive, but what do you think about American accents? Do you think they sound nice? Annoying? Or just neutral? Though of course, there are several different American accents…

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      I don’t have any real feelings towards American accents in general, but as I said elsewhere American girls have other redeeming features!
      The one exception is the Texan accent. I found it quite endearing!

  • http://cindyking.biz/ Cindy King

    Oh dear, Benny!  And I’ve just decided to move over here! 

    It usually takes me about 2 years to stop comparing the new country with previous ones.  Let’s hope these things become less annoying over time.

    Good post. In addition to the ones you mentioned, the big thing that sticks out for me is the need to identify with brands/football teams etc. It feels like a country of sheep at times.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Very true – people don’t actually smile all the time, but they force the smile way more than other countries. I’m basing my observation more on interacting with the service industry than noting the looks of commuters :-P

    • Jeff Winchell

      I wouldn’t be surprised that every culture has some insincere way of communicating with people. In Germany it is total strangers feeling the need to say “morgan” or “moin” or “Guten Tag” etc to every stranger who is in their vicinity. It has absolutely nothing to do with whether another word will ever be uttered between the two strangers (likely none).

      Probably psychologists or sociologists have a label for this sort of barely minimal form of interaction. How it manifests itself in some culture or another is probably not that interesting to those people other than as a way to distinguish one culture from another.

      I’ll ask my Irish friend for the Irish equivalent to the German “stranger moin” or the American “forced smile.” I’m sure there is one.

      • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

        Yes, I’m sure there is. Just saying that the fake smile happens to get on my nerves. This is just a post about my opinions, not claiming any kind of superiority.

        • Jeff Winchell

          I understand that you are posting your opinion, but honestly, an opinion that generates this much heat, about something that is irrelevant to the point of this blog, should be on another blog. This blog post is doing all the good work you do a disservice.

          If this blog post is a one time exception, fine. Everyone gets a mulligan every now and then. But if starts to become a pattern, I and many others will tune this blog out.

          • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

            Jeff, I have written countless times on my cultural observations after living in the country, so no it is definitely NOT irrelevant to the blog. This is a TRAVEL blog as well as a language learning blog. This post is extremely relevant and I like how it makes my blog stand out that I write about culture way more than other travel bloggers, who dive deeper into architecture, food, logistics etc.

            And I’ve also written many posts that generate heat, like calling shy people deluded: fi3m.com/stop-being-shy , telling lazy people to stop being cry babies: fi3m.com/crybaby , telling people who learn a language passively that they are idiots: fi3m.com/passive-learning/ and pretending like I was faking it with the languages: fi3m.com/bennys-confession/

            All of these posts have generated a lot of aggro, and you can bet there will be more posts in the future that annoy people equally as much. Even within neutral posts I’m blunt. This is my writing style.

            This post was very important to write because I wanted Americans to look at themselves retrospectively. I have no interest in coming back to the topic again, but if you don’t like how I write you know how to unsubscribe – you won’t find me apologising any time soon.

            Having said that most of what I have coming up for the next while are neutral posts. But I prequelled this post with “don’t read it if you don’t want to get pissed off”. You were warned.

    • Jeff Winchell

      I wouldn’t be surprised that every culture has some insincere way of communicating with people. In Germany it is total strangers feeling the need to say “morgan” or “moin” or “Guten Tag” etc to every stranger who is in their vicinity. It has absolutely nothing to do with whether another word will ever be uttered between the two strangers (likely none).

      Probably psychologists or sociologists have a label for this sort of barely minimal form of interaction. How it manifests itself in some culture or another is probably not that interesting to those people other than as a way to distinguish one culture from another.

      I’ll ask my Irish friend for the Irish equivalent to the German “stranger moin” or the American “forced smile.” I’m sure there is one.

  • http://profiles.google.com/roosevelt.annaeleanor Ketutar J

    “Truthfully I must just not be that “sensitive” ;)” – hmm… sounds to me you are.

    - I’m pretty sure there’s a lot of annoying and stupid things that British people say, but what’s that to an Irishman? That aside, I’m also sure there’s a lot of annoying and stupid thing Irishmen say too, and people from every other nation in the world, but does that make the USonian stupidities less annoying or stupid? Nope.

    - “Americans just simply have better smiles”
    Well, I happen to think a genuine smile is better than picture-perfect, but that must be because I’m European.

    Also, are you saying Europeans frown all the time? I’d say we have a pretty neutral expression most of the time.

    - “you cannot deny the fact that the Irish are known to be heavy drinkers”.
    Of course not, just as you cannot deny the fact that USonians are known to be ignorant, full of themselves and fat. Does that “knowledge” others “have” on USonians make it a fact, or does it make it in any way acceptable or less irritating when people automatically assume that YOU are that, or that that’s what USonians are?

    BTW, did you know that Austrians drink almost as much as Irish people? I bet you don’t assume all Austrians are drunk 24/7, but when you hear the word “Irish”, you immediately think green beer… Estonians drink even more than Irishmen, yet they are not seen as “heavy drinkers” by the rest of the world.
    Of course all stereotypes are “simply wrong”, because no nation is a bunch of clones of each other.

    I don’t remember reading anyone saying anything about “huntin’”… are you sure that’s not your preconceived notion, prejudice, stereotype of a “typical non-Californian American”? :-D

    So – what in this post do you think is showing lacking knowledge or experience? It seems to me you are just opposing the negative opinion expressed about your countrymen.

    • Elyse

      The Irish stereotype also has to do with the start drinking at 8am holiday that St. Patrick’s day has become. But those are American people getting drunk.
      also with the drinking age and strictness, that is because when we tried to lower the drinking age / be less strict back in the 70s tons of kids were dying in drunk driving accidents. That’s the real problem is that American kids have this completely different attitude about alcohol, not that we check IDs too much.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Well as I said in the post, I happen to like American girls. The accent may not be so pleasant (apart from Texan, which is oddly alluring) but they make up for it in many other ways!

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Keep in mind this post is about Americans in America. Americans who travel tend to be much better company, although its their complaints (not those who never travelled) about the local country that inspired me to write this.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    I’ve only really been in Canada for a week. I was in Quebec for 3 months and nothing here is applied there.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Sorry if this sounds offensive, but I find too many American girls to dress like men, walk like men, and party like men. This is not the case in South America and South Europe (but somewhat similar in north Europe).

    But an advantage of this is that they flirt like a guy would… which actually works for me :-P

  • Brennaswift1

    I’ve only been outside the U.S. for about a month, which I spent in England and Wales. Nevertheless, I think you’re right about our advertising, the obsession with money, the death grip that corporations have on everything, our lack of pedestrian-friendly cities, etc. I do think, though, that if you lived in the U.S. for a longer time, you would understand why political correctness is a priority here. I’m really glad that public figures take a hit for not being politically correct. Believe me, if they didn’t, you would have found the U.S. roughly fifty times more annoying. 

    About the word “awesome”: That’s just one of our favorite words. People in the U.K. seem to have their own favorite words, too. I overheard the words “bloody” and “wanker” more times than I could count. Also, I was  amazed at the prolific use of the f-word on what sometimes seemed like an across-the-board basis. I guess you’re right–Americans may be little more sensitive. Whether that’s a bad thing, though, is debatable. 

    P.S. Since our perceived sensitivity and obsession with political correctness gets on your nerves, allow me to annoy you some more. >:) I’ve occasionally heard Mexicans and Latin Americans get really offended when the United States is referred to as “America.” I think they’re right. What you mean is the United States, not even North America (which, of course, would include Canada. Are Canadians annoying too?). 

  • Travis Mair

    No qualms really with most of your post.  Most of it is personal feelings, much like how I hate to eat peas and no matter how much everyone tells me how delicious they are I gag everytime I eat them(I have four kids and if Daddy doesn’t eat them then they wont eaither).  I am also an american married to a kiwi(new zealander) who currently lives in New Zealand.  I have also lived for 2 years in Thailand about 8 years ago.

    The only thing I do point out is that your frstration with americans claiming heritage they shouldn’t.  America is probably one of the few countries where most of their citizens, for a while at least, came from somewhere else.  They is not the case anymore, but for quite a long time that was the case.  So for many people saying I am American implies a heritage from some other country. 

    I can not compare the attitude of every country since I have only lived in 3, but it is my observation that it is acceptable to say “I am an American” for new migrants much sooner than New Zealand or Thailand.  In Thailand, unless you were born from Thai parents in Thailand, you will never be considered 100 percent Thai.  My Father in law, despite immigrating to NZ from samoa a long time ago and holds a full NZ Citizenship for many decades now, still gets CORRECTED that he is samoan when he is asked where he is from. 

    So I am not saying that you still wont find it annoying when we Americans claim a heritage that is so distant that its hard to connect the dots, maybe this will at least help understand why we do what we do.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      I never said anyone shouldn’t do anything. This post is saying what I find annoying, not a new list of 17 commandments for the universe to follow.

      • Travis Mair

        Point taken and I like your frankness, and this is probably venting my annoyance about how my father in law still has to fight to be called a kiwi. 

        Side note I hate when the restaurant forces me to tip.  I like american style waiters who earn my tip, but I don’t like being forced into it or made to feel bad if I don’t give a “full” tip for someone who messes up my order.

        Also I do find other americans annoying when I try and tell them that you can just show up in another country and expect to only speak english.  Esspecially when I try and tell them what Esperanto is.   When I try an tell them the history of Esperanto my american friends look at me with a dumb face and say “didn’t he know about English?”  Americans don’t understand that English is not the universal language of that world and even as far back as 100 years ago French had about as much a claim on the universal langauge as English.  I didn’t learn esperanto because of its ideals, but learning esperanto has slapped me in the face of how ignorant Americans are to its place in the world.

  • Todd Schlender

    For years now I’ve been having discussions much like this blog post with friends and acquaintances. I’ve lived overseas on and off for many years (mostly in Germany) and have visited many other countries. To discuss the topics you bring up here with many Americans (who mostly speak one language and have never left the country, or often even their home state!) is nearly futile.
    “America IS the best country, why doesn’t everyone speak English, I want it super-sized and there must be a huge parking lot in front for my car…. Walk? No one walks in _____” (Fill in the blank with your favorite US city….) And don’t forget: “PRAISE BE TO JESUS!” Ugh.
    These are the comments you’ll hear when talking about quality of life in other countries….
    The US is a beautiful country (with way too much sprawl quickly spreading over that beauty). It is inhabited with many kind people (who will help out a friend — but slash education and health benefits for the unknown needy). America: there IS a whole world out there where things are often better.
    Thanks for your blog post, Benny!

  • Caroline Kouma

    As an American living in Azerbaijan at the moment, I agreed with many of these.  It is infuriating that public transportation is so poor, corporations have so much influence, and people are so driven by consumerism and the need for excess wealth.  However, I will say that I thought a few of these points, while annoying, aren’t necessarily uniquely inherent in American culture.  For instance, one of the most irritating things to me about living abroad are the many, sometimes ridiculous stereotypes people have about me because I’m American.  Granted I don’t have nearly as much experience traveling abroad as you do, but I think this may be something in just about any culture that is overcome by a smaller group of people within that culture, namely those who are more traveled or ‘worldly.’  

    I have to say that a few of these also just sounded a little whiny to me.  I realize it’s probably annoying when someone says, “You’re Irish?  I’m part Irish! How awesome!”  But I don’t know that I would necessarily count that as a negative thing.  Frustrating, sure, but it sort of sounds  like those people are really just trying to connect with you in a way they know how.  

    All that said, I found this post to be an entertaining look at a foreigner’s perspective of the US.  Glad to have been introduced to your blog!  It looks like it’s super awesome (smile) and I’m sure I’ll enjoy reading it in the future.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      If the vast majority of people greeted you with the SAME stereotype of being American (e.g. “You’re American! Where’s your big mac?”) then you’d understand why I count it as a negative thing and reason to not consider living there in the long term.

      I’m sure you get lots of negative stereotypes, and I’m certainly not suggesting they are unique to America. I’m just saying that the one I kept receiving is a push factor for me.

      • Caroline Kouma

        In fairness, outside of the western world it IS often the same stereoytype – the wealthy American prepared to spread her legs for anyone who looks at her.  I’m not saying that what you’ve encountered isn’t extremely irritating and I’m not excusing it in the US, but I just wanted to point out that I don’t think it’s uniquely an American trait.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    There’s no double standard. This post is my reply to a decade of listening to Americans whine about foreign countries.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    The ads are not the same in Europe! Holy shit! You really don’t see the difference do you!

    • Jeff Winchell

      Europe is not homogenous. The ads in Britian are hilarious. The ads in Germany are so boring, I have no idea how they sell anything through ads.

      • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

        From an American perspective the entire world is probably “boring”. I find German ads to be informative without unnecessary fluff. But yes, the British ones are at least entertaining!

      • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

        From an American perspective the entire world is probably “boring”. I find German ads to be informative without unnecessary fluff. But yes, the British ones are at least entertaining!

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Your explanation is logical to a point… just that that prices are generally not printed on products but suck on as price tags. These are the supermarket’s duty.

    Lidl in Europe prints the exact same products for dozens of countries, and they sell fine in different currencies and prices. Don’t see what the problem is for a supermarket to just give people the price. They are the ones selling it, not the producer.

    Once again, this post is a list of reasons why I can’t live in America based on my experiences. I’m not interested in propagating or debating stereotypes, just sharing my personal views.

    • Jeff Winchell

      I used to think that price tags in supermarkets in Germany were cool (tax was included) until I started spending money on really expensive things only to be stunned when ANOTHER 19% was added as tax on an already large bill. I wouldn’t be surprised if this inconsistency didn’t occur in many other countries.

      The issue of taxation is probably simple in no country in the world. It is just obscured in different ways in different countries.

  • April

    I’m from Austin, Texas, so thanks first for the nice comment about our accents. ;) I love where I live, which is actually out in the country, but I find much of this to be true. To add onto a few of your points:

    -Americans are way too sensitive–yes, because you can be sued for everything imaginable here! :)

    -Smiles mean NOTHING–Do you know how much I love you for saying this? Do you know that my entire life people have told me to smile? Randomly. “Smile, April!” WHY? WTF FOR? Are we posing for photos? Did someone tell a good joke? I smile and laugh a lot, but I don’t walk around with some stupid perma-grin on my face. Maybe this is why Europeans kept mistaking me for a local in Italy.
    -Tipping–I don’t think waiters are checking on you solely for the tip. We have one-hour lunches here, if that. We also have a “customer first” approach in the service industry. If a waiter ignores you in the US, customers are likely to complain. I don’t prefer this way of doing things, but I do think that waiters are overly attentive for more reasons than getting a good tip. It took a week in Italy for me to convince my dad that he had to stop waiting for the bill or it was never going to come. Then he started trying to wait for the waiter to make eye contact with him. It was hilarious, but eventually he listened to me about how to get the check.

    -Cheesy in-your-face marketing–Yes, it’s everywhere. I don’t watch TV because of it–the noise of the commercials drives me nuts. This doesn’t make me immune, it really is everywhere, but it cuts down on it significantly. I never want to go to Las Vegas, EVER. The thought of that noise makes me want to hide in a cave.

    -Wasteful consumerism–I have only traveled to a handful of places, and more than once people I know have acted like they’d never have the money to travel–people who make waaaay more money than I make, but also have huge houses and giant SUVs and the biggest flat screen on the market. I have a friend who bought a new TV when they released one THREE INCHES bigger.

    -Idiotic American stereotypes of other countries–If no one in your family travels and you do, you hear these a lot. My mom’s coworker said to her, “Why do you want to go to Europe? They hate Americans over there.” Really? Well I’m a fellow American and I hate YOU so much right now, lady.

    -ID checks & stupid drinking laws–I had to stand in line holding a bottle of wine for three minutes until the clock hit 12pm and they could sell me alcohol. Thank you, government, for saving me from alcoholism by making me wait those three effing minutes!

    -Religious Americans–I grew up in the Bible Belt. I could write a book on this.

    -A country designed for cars, not humans–THANK YOU. If one more person tells me how walkable Austin is, I’m going to punch them in the face! I just got back from Barcelona, now THAT is a real public transit system. I love Austin, I really do, but I think people who call it walkable are morons.

    -Always in a hurry–Something I’ve noticed in the past year or so is that so few people really give you their full attention. I don’t know if that’s a US thing or not–maybe it is, since you’ve traveled more than I have. Sometimes I just finish what I’m saying because they seem in a hurry, or they’re texting, or they just seem to want to get to their turn to talk. I’ve noticed that the people I’m closest to really listen.

    -Thinking America is the best–I feel lucky to have been born here, but there are many other countries where people feel the same way and with good reason. I think I didn’t get that until I started to travel because the “America, fuck yeah!” sentiment is so deeply engrained.

    I could definitely expand on the things to love about this country, but I think this comment is far too long already. ;)

  • Sezah

    I loved, LOVED this post. 100% spot-on, IMHO, and yes, I’m an American. Before even my first “real” international travels, I just loved the openness I got from foreign travelers, and striking dichotomy of tidbits like the forced smiles and dearth of public transport, the quest of money and the push of Jesus, and the absolute exclusion of learning anything beyond our borders. 

    A lot of those things (the rushed, insincere greetings, Consumerism & waste, the obesity epidemic which is food AND cars, and the systemic belief that we are #1 in everything “awesome”) stem from one of just one of your points, and that’s the major corporations. Especially in the service industry, you will be reprimanded or even fired for not checking someone’s table every 3 mins or smiling as you ring them up. It’s really awful. (This is why so many of us are really depressed! Wouldn’t you be if you had to put on a fake smile for 8 hours to arrogant, demanding strangers?)
    Don’t know how much exposure you had in this line, but I’d also like to add that Americans follow and care more about sports than they do about politics and their own government. Then they don’t vote, and complain about how the country is run! (But hey, everyone is on board for March Madness and Superbowl commercials and so on…)I would love to pass this article around to as many of my friends, but I know that the vast majority will be very angry or confused if I do. Anyway, keep traveling. I’m sorry you spent a large amount of time in upstate New York (I lived there: beautiful geography, terrible people). If you’ve not been to Seattle, I encourage it strongly. :)

  • Travis Mair

    Waiters/waitresses don’t make less than minimum wage, its illegal to let them work for less, if somehow the waiter did not earn enough tips to at least get them minimum wage then the employer has to top up their paycheck so they do.  What they have is a base rate of 3 or 4 an hour and tips.  I worked it out that my waiter looked after two tables(it was a slow weekday night) at earned 30 dollars an hour in just tips.  So don’t give me this oh poor waiters only earn 3 dollars an hour crap.

    • Chris

      Travis, if you have worked in an American restaurant, you would know that maybe 5% of restaurants here actually make up their employees wages.  To get an employer to do that, you would have to take it to court, and if you aren’t making tips, then you likely don’t have the money to do that anyway.

    • Anonymous

      What the hell is that math? Two tables, unless they’re huge, isn’t going to equal $30/hr. I’m a server and I had 4 tables today and walked with $25. Not to mention my hourly is $2.13. You are severely overestimating everything.

  • Valerie

    I agree with so many of these, especially the tipping thing, and I’m an American myself! Though I don’t know about the punctuality…..I feel like I’m the only one who’s ever on time, while all my other American friends constantly keep me waiting, and when I went to Japan I even had to apologize for every single person on my exchange program trip being late to every single party they were invited to by Japanese people!

    Speaking of Japan, I’m wondering what you’ll think of the place if you ever do end up there….. while I love the place for a lot of reasons, there’s also a lot of fake smiling, awkwardness, rampant consumerism, and completely idiotic ideas about the rest of the world, perhaps even worse than in the States… :P It’s a fun place though.

    And I am very guilty of overusing “awesome”. Perhaps even more obnoxiously apparent with young people lately is the word “epic”.

  • http://www.getintoenglish.com David Sweetnam

    Lol, wonder what I’ll write about living in the Czech Republic one day!

    Enjoyed reading this – brave of you, and refreshing to read what people really think about something without the sugar.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Funny how my views on America are malicious, but American stereotypes of foreigners aren’t. Aren’t double standards great!

    And I never argued that others don’t want to go live in America, and I definitely didn’t say that I “hate” Americans!

    Actually you just gave me #18 I occasionally got from ignorant random people – Americans: you are either our friend or our enemy, there is no grey! You love us unconditionally or you are against us!! But then again, that’s just a reiteration of #17

    • umpirecr

      You are full of double standards yourself dude. take a chill pill

  • John Smith

    If it’s any consolation, a British girl told me that American accents are sexy…depends on who you talk to

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    American girls don’t suck. A “foreign” girl, from whatever your perspective may be, is more sexy. To me Americans are foreigners, and I definitely find many of them sexy – even if many are less feminine than other nationalities.

    I don’t particularly find Irish girls sexy, but it’s precisely for this reason – I’d never say they “suck”.

  • http://twitter.com/buketlistNATION Kalyn

    I almost feel like you wrote this post just to get attention (sounds very American to me). I think its also interesting that you say Americans stereotype other countries when you are doing the same yourself in this post. America is such a diverse country, you can’t fit everyone into little bullets. 

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      I write whatever is on my mind. It’s a blog. Get over it. The whole point of it is to share it with the world. Perhaps you think being a writer means you do it “just to get attention”, but writing to the public is not unique to America.

      And I’ve answered this “stereotype” thing so many bloody times. I lived in the states for a year, and these are my observations. Call them flawed if you will, and I’ll accept that argument even if I disagree with it, but they are not stereotypes because they are based on my experiences, not extrapolations based on hearsay, which is what I get about Ireland.

      You’ll notice a lot of people are agreeing with my points, which makes them even less stereotypes.

  • http://twitter.com/Annienygma Annie

    I love this! I’ve never been out of the states but I found myself nodding in agreement here. One day I would love to travel to other nations (but I gotta cure my iPad addiction) – NOT! Just kidding, I don’t buy Apple products either. We are way too consumerist here. That is why I became a minimalist – got tired of it. Shared your post by the way..

    Peace,
    Annie at Annienygma.com

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Thanks for the share!

  • Stephen Erhorn

    I agree with you for the most part, Benny! As a miserable Brit (I rather fulfil the stereotypes), I’ve often been put off America by the laughably cheesy way in which some Americans present themselves but I won’t let that put me off travelling there when I get the time, I know some great Yanks. I pretty much stopped stereotyping countries as a whole after I experienced Germany, here in the UK we still seem to see xenophobia towards Germans as fine despite living in a very politically correct society, a lot of people I know see the Germans as rude, angry and downright unpleasant but I think you’ll agree that the reality couldn’t be further from the truth, some of the nicest people I’ve ever met are Germans. This isn’t going anywhere so all I’m going to say is, I can’t wait until I go to China next year and for all of my views on its people reversed, happy travelling!

  • Alice

    “Every few minutes you get torn out of the show and bombarded with
    irrelevant spam, and ‘awesome’ images of people who practically
    experience orgasms as soon as they buy product X, that is (of course) on
    special offer just right now”

    You got me cracking up, there :)

    I have to agree with every single thing you’ve said. But you said American girls aren’t feminine? I would say American women are very headstrong; we deal with sexism a lot everywhere, especially in work environments. Women have learned to act like men in order to get equal pay and such (which still isn’t quite working). I think a lot of America is learning to slowly, slowly accept both the masculine and feminine sides of every person, regardless of gender. This may be a piece of what you saw.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Yes I agree with you. This is a quality I admire in American girls, but I also admire femininity as I know it from Latin cultures.

      But of course when here in South America I wish some girls had more drive and independence. You can’t win :) That’s why I say I like different nationalities for different reasons.

  • Amahcuo

    I loved this. Everything you’ve mentioned is true. Except that I would strongly argue that it IS possible to generalize about all 300 million Americans. Despite all its regions, ethnicities, and traditions, Americans are essentially the same: a stereotypical and stereotyping people caught in a web of cheesedom, materialism, and religiosity–just as you said. There is no true diversity here. (You have to go to places like Berlin and Amsterdam, and Madrid to really experience cultural diversity; racial acceptance, and that sort of thing.) I’m so sorry you had find out for yourself. It’s terrible! I only wish that all your other posts were as factual.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      You need to work on your irony skills. But it’s an interesting way of proving my point about sensitivity.

      • Amahcuo

        my intention was not to be sarcastic; i’m sorry if it sounds that way; i am from the dominican republic and we talk about all the topics you brought up all the time; maybe it’s my english; anyway, i do agree with your post–no irony intended

        • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

          Haha, never mind then :-P I have to be on the defensive in this post – getting a lot of angry tweets, emails and comments from people!
          Thanks!

  • Noel

     I find it hugely entertaining that you’ve chosen to illustrate the evils of stereotyping other countries by stereotyping ours. While I realize that people say that San Francisco is a bubble, there are nearly no items on your list that I would say apply to any of my friends (I’ll grant you apple fan boyism as this is the headquarters of it). The majority are philanthropic, community minded individuals, who eschew consumerism, materialism, narrow minded views of other cultures (such as the one you clearly have of America), the rush-rush of modern society, who ride bikes, and are genuinely and deeply concerned about the environment, the world and our place in it.  And while I will no doubt be accused of being ‘just another overly sensitive American’, all of your complaints basically boil down to the ilk of “All Irish are drunks, All French and rude and smelly, and all Arabs are terrorists”. It’s the  worst and ugliest kind of racism. I find it truly sad that you have such a narrow view of other cultures. 
    As an American that has traveled most of the world, I’ll be the first to admit that I am often appalled at my countrymen’s behaviour overseas. I won’t attempt to justify it, but I will say, that growing up in America is quite different than growing up most other places in the world. Because of our geographic isolation and the size of our country, it is entirely possible to grow up in middle America and never meet a single person from another culture, something that is nearly impossible in Europe, for example. It’s not so much arrogance as ignorance. And while that doesn’t condone it,  it does mean that with exposure and education, that which comes across as ethnocentrism by Americans can be changed. Instead you’ve chosen to highlight and generalize the worst of our country and then criticize those traits by aping them, and in the process, have turned yourself into exactly the kind of person you are castigating. Just remember every time you point a finger, there are 3 pointing right back at you. 

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Point #1 proven nicely.

      The post was not about sharing “stereotypes” – and you seem to have blindly missed the whole point by focusing on my frustration about receiving Irish stereotypes. I spent over a year in America, and I think that counts for something. These are my experiences. Over 100 comments so far confirm that I’m not far off. Stereotypes that I receive are from people who know sweet fuck all about Ireland.

      I’ve travelled a lot more than many people, but I’d never go so far as to say that I’ve travelled “most of the world”. I find such statements to be a bit arrogant.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Right. Once again I’ll say that nothing is right or wrong, especially when you talk about cultural traditions.

    I’m just saying that points like that happen to annoy the hell out of me and are a reason why I personally wouldn’t live in the states long term :-P

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Many countries in Asia are more advanced than the states *and* Europe in many ways.

  • Arvin Mathur

    I’m an American currently living in Germany (will be here until August), and to be quite honest, I don’t own a car or a driver’s license either, and it’s kinda hard to manage sometimes!  Here, in Europe, people who own cars don’t really use them unless they have to travel a reasonably long distance.

    I also do find a lot of things about Americans annoying, as well and I got a good laugh out of your post.  It’s kinda nice to be away from all the consumerism and advertising though.

  • http://twitter.com/HalWarning Hal Warning

    Great post Benny!  

    Oh and I’m 1/4 Irish!  Let’s get a beer sometime! I’ll wear a green shirt! Awesome!

  • Annette

    Hi Benny,

    Actually, I would say I strongly agree with you on about 80% of what you had to say.  Some stuff not so much…

    But there is one thing that I take huge issue with and that is what you said about overweight people.  The LAST thing people struggling with their weight need is to be hassled about it, UNLESS the person talking to them is going to actually help them to solve their problem.  Believe it or not, fat people don’t actually want to be fat and most of the time they are quite well aware of the problem.  They don’t need people adding to the emotional pain that may be the reason they are using food to medicate themselves in the first place.  I have found that people who make comments like, “how could someone let themselves get like that” have never had to struggle with the problem themselves.

    People are heavy for a variety of reasons and there is no doubt that in the States there are A LOT of heavy people, in part for some of the reasons you mentioned (too big of portion sizes at restaurants, free refills, car driving society, etc) but there is also the factor of very WRONG nutritional information that PERPETUATES the problem (low fat, high carb diet).

    I am speaking to you from experience.  Years ago, I was almost 220 lbs and it didn’t seem to matter what I did, I couldn’t get the weight off.  Then I stumbled onto the answer completely by accident.  A doctor asked me to do a low carbohydrate diet to try to fix an imbalance in my gut and surprise, surprise!  30 lbs of fat almost effortlessly gone in 2 or 3 months.  I continued the diet and ended up losing more than 60 lbs over a period of a few years.

    I say to you and all others who would judge those who struggle with weight issues, please have some sensitivity and don’t judge unless you have truly walked in that person’s shoes.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    “but for some reason we’re different”. I explained why I was taking this different approach already.

    Yes I believe Americans are obsessed with money, and yes I personally need money to survive and earn from this blog. What the hell is the connection? There is no obsession in my case. About 40% of my site’s traffic is US based so I do indeed sell copies to Americans, but your idiotic argument could be used against anyone trying to make a living, including a European with American clientelle/tourists. You’ll notice that on my sales page I actually prioritise the euro buy button over the dollar one, since I don’t really want dollars in my paypal account.

    Making a living and being obsessed with money are not the same things.

    Calling me fat is really starting to clutch at straws don’t you think? Boy do you love going off on irrelevant tangents! Honesty between friends and underhanded insults for no reason other than to offend are far from one another. You’ve sunk quite low and I think it’s time to stop replying.

    • Jeff Winchell

      Live in rural America for a good example of Americans who aren’t obsessed with money.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    I’m not implying that everyone is the same. I’m implying that based on my year in the states these reasons from the large number of people that I met mean that I couldn’t live there permanently.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    You are misinterpreting it. I’m proud to be Irish, but an American who says he’s Irish doesn’t understand what that means. An Italian American telling an Italian that he’s also Italian is annoying because the Italian knows he isn’t. It’s just misuse of words, not an insult.

    It’s like me saying that I’m blond because my grandfather is blond. It’s just wrong. It doesn’t mean I demonize blond people or brown haired people.

  • John Smith

    I think it’s important to keep in mind this is someone’s personal reasons for not wanting to live here.  I could probably build a case against a lot of the stuff on Benny’s list but that wouldn’t mean “sweet fuck all” (I’m stealing that) because I, just like everyone else, comes from a different set of expectations. 

    Fact is, when going from country to country, you really just trade your current annoyances and problems for a new set of annoyances and problems.  As an American, I happen to share some of Benny’s annoyances and despite the frustrated tone of the post, I don’t see him holding it against us, or even denying the fact that there are explanations for a lot of them.  I spoke on the heritage thing earlier and a lot of people agree that we tend to do it in order to have SOME sense of a past…it still probably sounds stupid to an Irishman to hear someone from Bakersfield saying “I’m Irish too, that’s why I can drink so much!”  That would make me mad if I even overheard it…

    If anything, to the people who are angered by this post, use it as a way to examine yourself, your place in the world, and your identity.  Where does your anger come from?  

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    I felt this post was justified because Americans complain so much about other countries. I don’t see the point about complaining about other places I’ve lived in, especially to an English speaking audience that I’d like to encourage to travel. I prefer to defend a culture the majority of the time.

  • Annette

    US-bashing really ticks me off.  You here it a lot here in Canada, too.  I think it’s okay to disagree with some of the policies over there and what not, but don’t hold individual US citizens personally accountable for the dumb things their government or a few idiots do.  The majority of Americans I’ve met have been very nice and I really enjoy spending time over there.

    • http://www.facebook.com/sam.malloy.7 Sam Malloy

      You people are proving his pet peeves to be VERY reasonable. Talk about over sensitivity, take a joke! I live in North America, and i COMPLETELY agree with his points! And even though EACH AND EVERY American may not fit the description, the over all average often does. He was talking about American Culture, it doesn’t mean that there is no one different. And i’ve been to Europe, you may not get bombarded with fake smiles every two seconds, but at least when people SMILE at you, YOU KNOW THEY MEAN IT! And i know that even the most popular kids in school(many many friends) after graduating most of them said how lonely they felt, and how most of their “friends” didn’t even know a real thing about them. So for the But#-hurt in denial Americans, take a hike. Look at how America barely(if at all) make the list of best Countries to live in anymore… IT’S ALL EUROPE.

      I’m totally moving to Europe, tired of the brain washing in America, AND The brain-washed cattle that will fight to the grave to prove that their Country is SOOOO much better. Please…. no one is “bashing” they are simply stating their opinion. And again i’ve grown up In America, but i’ve travelled quite a bit, because i have family in different part of Europe. So i’m not just speaking out of my as#s like many of you are… so i know what life in different Countries is like…

      • jrelsik@aol.com

        Please leave

        • http://www.facebook.com/sam.malloy.7 Sam Malloy

          Saving up to do so, almost there. But how about YOU get educated beyond FOX and MTV, then maybe you’ll want to leave… Or perhaps you’re too busy giving people the impression that most American’s are arrogan#t and uneducated… good for you!

          • Herbert Walker Esmahan

            Good job, no one will miss you. Get the fuck out Sam Malloy.

      • http://www.facebook.com/rachael.meier Rachael Meier

        Why are you so focused on Europe? “IT’S ALL EUROPE.” This seems so white/European-centered. Japan seems to have a pretty high standard of living, for instance. And people in South America are genuinely friendly with you. Americans can live well there.

      • Ashley

        I also agree, especially with this, “…patriotism is an excellent quality to have, and we should all be proud of where we were born. But nationalism (believing other countries are inferior) is a terrible quality.” I was born in N. America, have lived in other countries, and have traveled all over the world. Still, I have yet to meet anyone but Americans who speak so highly of their own country and who are quick to put other countries and their people down.

    • Ben Hennessy

      After all, it’s the citizens who suffer.

  • http://jessdoesstuff.blogspot.com/ Jessica Peter

    I was wondering which cultural reasons would be your issue, and I guess I was a bit surprised. . . mainly because so many of them also applied to my home country of Canada. But really, most of them I agreed with despite that.

    Except #9, I feel the opposite about! Canadians are even MORE heritage “prone” than Americans, I think because a) Canada is a newer country and b) while America is the “melting pot”, Canada is the “cultural mosaic” – i.e. you come here, and though you might be Canadian, you’re probably something else first. Even if you were born right here in Canada.

    I’ve heard Europeans complaining when Americans/Canadians say they are a certain heritage – and that makes me sad. In Canada (and likely the USA too), a huge part of our identities is where we come from. We don’t HAVE a homogenous society, so we celebrate our differences (for the most part). So you can’t tell me I’m not an Irish/German Canadian. Because, even though I was born right here, that’s exactly what I am. (Even if I didn’t also have an Irish citizenship, I’d consider myself that).  

  • Ken Abel

     You have obviously had a bad time in America and I am sorry for that. But it is the best place to live if you are an American. Theres no place like home.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      I didn’t have a “bad” time, it just had lots of little annoying things that I mentioned here. I’ll be back in America next year to visit for a few weeks. If I hated America then I wouldn’t go back.

      But I have to disagree with your last statement – read the other comments from other Americans…

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      I didn’t have a “bad” time, it just had lots of little annoying things that I mentioned here. I’ll be back in America next year to visit for a few weeks. If I hated America then I wouldn’t go back.

      But I have to disagree with your last statement – read the other comments from other Americans…

  • http://kguac.com Katie

    Interesting opinions, thanks for sharing! All of these things drive me nuts too, except maybe for #2 and #3. While I dislike truly fake smiles and fake positivity, I appreciate the extra effort to be just a little more positive, a little more smiley. I think I interpret baseline attitudes, faces as more negative than they actually are – probably a learned thing from growing up America. :)

  • http://www.moneyspruce.com/ Jeffrey Trull

    I’m American and I agree (and also dislike) just about everything on your list. I especially hate the cars here, and I’m very jealous of other transportation options in Europe.

    I also didn’t find this offensive at all, actually. I think you made a lot of good points and had reasons to back them up. Awesome post! :)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Didn’t say America is worse, I said that these are the reasons why *I* can’t live there.

    I’ve lived in several countries in Europe for longer and find many things terribly annoying, so the grass isn’t that green on the other side, but those reasons are not enough to make me not consider living there.

    I haven’t ignored anyone’s comments, but I have nothing more to say if someone has defended their view well. I don’t like dragging on discussions pointlessly.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Didn’t say America is worse, I said that these are the reasons why *I* can’t live there.

    I’ve lived in several countries in Europe for longer and find many things terribly annoying, so the grass isn’t that green on the other side, but those reasons are not enough to make me not consider living there.

    I haven’t ignored anyone’s comments, but I have nothing more to say if someone has defended their view well. I don’t like dragging on discussions pointlessly.

  • Tergiversator_Maximus

    As a ‘mer’can, I am honor-bound to point out that you seem to have overlooked the fact that America is number 1!… except at education, health care, public transportation, and maybe a couple of other things no one cares about…

    Actually, I found this post to be pretty spot on.  I am constantly frustrated with how enormous our portion sizes are (why not give me a reasonable amount of food and let me pay less?), our draconian and out-dated drinking laws (especially here in Pennsylvania where our liquor laws basically haven’t changed since they repealed Prohibition in the ’30s), the dominance of corporations over local anything, etc.  I will say that some people are obnoxious about the stereotypes and heritage, but it’s fun to talk about it because there are a lot of people with interesting stories about how their families joined the melting pot.  My own family came over from Switzerland in the 1730s and were Amish until the early 20th Century, so something like that can make for an interesting conversation.

    Overall, I think you pretty much nailed it.  It was an awesome post.

  • John Mayson

    With a brief exception when I was in Malaysia I have lived in the US my entire life and all I can say this “Amen, I’m with you brother!”  I really believe if more Americans left the damn country every now and then this would be a better country to live in.

  • Anonymous

    Being an American from a very multicultural background (and I’m talking about having family from and in several countries, with whom I regularly communicate and visit) I feel like I straddle multiple identities sometimes. It’s amusing really, because although I agree with several of the points you mentioned, some of the American readers on here who are falling over themselves to tell you how *awesome* your post was really annoys me. It reminds me of the Americans I meet abroad who jump at every opportunity to agree with every criticism of the United States as proof of how worldly they are.

    I realize that a lot of this was you making a point. Americans are indeed, on the whole, overly patriotic to an obnoxious degree. It also is trendy to criticize Americans and the United States. There is, indeed, much to criticize. However, I think it’s easier for Europeans to criticize the United States because there’s a sense that we “have it coming.” You even stated so much in the beginning, that this was partly inspired from all the loudmouth Americans who complain incessantly about other countries. 

    There were many truths in what you wrote. At the same time, there were a lot of stereotypes that truly were not much better or more mature than “French people smell bad” and “Irish people are drunkards.”

    Let me say that while I adore Europe, (I have connections to several European countries, and have spent years of my studies focusing on the continent) Europe is far from infallible (And you don’t claim it is, but there are many cases where you don’t take into account problems in Europe when criticizing the US). Some of the things you criticized Americans about have me scratching my head. To say Americans are oversensitive and uber-PC, when in many European countries you are now having people getting arrested for saying things deemed racist is ironic. Someone mentioned earlier about the United States and freedom of speech. The United States is definitely not some utopia of freedom like Americans like to pretend it is… but because it is enshrined in the Constitution and has been strengthened over the centuries in American case law, Americans are able to get away with far more freedom of speech than you will find in Europe. Part of the attitude in Europe is understandable enough, due to the not-so-distant past atrocities, yet it is a slippery slope when there is power to arrest people for things that come out of their mouths.

    There is also a far too unhealthy attitude in the United States with working, in that people are now being made to feel guilty when they take a lunch break or go on vacation. It’s madness. At the same time, the European model is teetering. The welfare state has been exploited to the point where it’s on the verge of collapse in several European countries, and I highly doubt by the time any of us 20 and 30-somethings are retirement age that we’ll see any benefit of it. I very much admire European priorities in smaller things and enjoying life. At the same time you need to understand that the American state does not and has never provided the same extent of services and perks that have been made available in many Western European nations. 

    Americans are workaholics, however, I will not dispute that and this hectic lifestyle is part of the reason behind obesity as well. Everything now revolves around things being fast. People do not even have proper lunches at work, they either eat in a small kitchen, at their desk, don’t eat at all, or run out for fast food. Many convenience foods are loaded with unhealthy ingredients. Did you take the time to read the nutrition labels on the foods while you were here?  I’m sure you noticed things you might never see on a label in Europe.

    However, the obesity epidemic also has roots in economics. The poorest areas of cities often have access to several fast food chains or convenience stores, yet no real grocery store for miles. You may or may not have visited some areas and noticed the gross economic disparity in this country. I’m surprised you didn’t make a mention of that in your post today, to be honest. Because what angers me the most when Americans can say with a straight face about how we’re the best country in the world, blah blah blah, is how nobody notices how godawful segments of this population live. I come from a middle class background, and I have met people and visited their homes and been in awe at the squalor of their surroundings. I was born and raised half my life in New York before we moved to Florida, and you see conditions in some areas of Florida for some people (no electricity, living in filth, etc) that Americans poke fun at in “third world nations” without realizing a lot of people in our own country live like this. I was just at Walmart near my university the other week and saw an entire family walk in barefoot. I kid you not. It was just a combination of awe and disgust and regret for me, that this even exists here. Certainly I’m aware of the growth of ghettoes in many European cities, and it just saddens and enrages me at the same time…

    As for American girls… I was surprised by this, because while I find American girls to be quite effeminate, my thing has always been that I find American girls (not all, but many) to be very “plastic” as well as “over-exaggerated” The “Valley Girl” stereotype, if you will. There’s just something I find when I talk to Europeans or Brazilians that I cannot find in American girls. But I think it’s more a matter of taste for me. Anyway, I was just surprised at how you found them to not be as effeminate. I think many of them are hyper-effeminate, in a way. They’re probably just more aggressive than you might be accustomed to…

    I’m going to cut it here… Apologies in advance for the long post but I thoroughly enjoyed reading yours and wanted to offer some points to ponder.

  • A. El-Habre

    I think many Europeans take for granted how easy it is for them to travel abroad (the North American continent notwithstanding).  You can hop a train or fly relatively cheaply to so many locations all within the relative size of the US.  I have not been to even half of my own country – it’s freakin’ huge. It costs me more to fly and see my folks in New England than it would cost in airfare to England if airlines are running specials.   And our transportation system sucks.  We should have trains criss-crossing all over the place – it’s pathetic.  That really should have been #19 on your list.  

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      This is not as true as you think it is. My flight to Colombia from New York costed me $150 for example, and the Irish Airline Aer Lingus do round trips to Dublin for a price that works out cheaper than some national round trip flights.

      But yes, a train system wouldn’t go astray! Although this is also a problem I have here in South America.

  • Jeff Winchell

    Benny,
    1) For someone claiming Americans are hypersensitive, your rant is ALSO an example of that.

    2) Your blog entry is an example of how labeling speech as “English” leaves so much out. Language and Culture are inseparable. The difference in what an Australian speaking English will say and what an Irishman will say in English and what a Canadian or American will say in English is much larger than people realize.

    3) The long pissed off rant followed by a short string of heartfelt warmth is jarring.

    You must have been stressed when you wrote this. I suggest take the post down, calm down, and then write something that REALLY expressses your conflicted feelings/ideas on this topic.

    I live abroad, and could find countless travelers or immigrants from various countries who could, when pressed, write a similar blast about some country that isn’t their homeland or very similar to it and/or their personal “ideal” country. I am really unclear how this has anything to do with the Fluent in 3 Months, unless ranting on the country your visiting is a killer to becoming fluent in 3 Months.

    I suggest you try to become Fluent in American English in 3 months, or try to do that fake out a Brazilian that you’re from Brazil test but in American English (better yet, try to make a New Yorker think you are from New York, or someone from New Hampshire, or Alabama or some other less standardized version of American language/culture).

    It is not just 300 million people. You can fit 300 million people into a corner of China. It is a physically a huge country. There are more differences than you’ve seen. I imagine people who have never traveled “abroad” who live and have travelled extensively in the USSR or the Russian Federation would have a similar take on your comment.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      At the end of all my stays in every country, I attempt to write a cultural summary of it. I’ve been doing this since the beginning. So this is not an oddity in my blog – except that I put a negative instead of positive spin on it this time.

      Yes, it’s a physically huge country, but I have listed where I have been. If I had gone to more rural America or the bible belt, do you think I’d be less frustrated there?

  • Jeff Winchell

    “it seems that everyone knows about us, while we don’t know much about everyone else”

    Only a tiny percent of cultural observers (who usually work in a university or a foreign affairs government department) actually know much about another culture.

    For most cultures, people assume that they don’t know anything about it. In many ways, I wish the occupants of my current address (Germany) did not think “they know about Americans” because they don’t. While their comments “don’t Americans eat McDonalds every day” are comical, too often their false “knowledge” has caused me considerable grief.

  • http://twitter.com/barcodex barcodex

    I have spent only one month in US about 14 years ago, so my memories are not fresh and to be honest, I was much less mature back then. But I do remember how crazy was the idea to count a tax over the price all the time. You also could do a rant about metric system (or rather ignoring it) – while in US, I was wondering why the hell they are still measuring time in seconds!

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Lack of metric system!! I *knew* I forgot something!! That would definitely be #18 :D

  • Lorenzo

    “(…) you complain about the word “awesome” and I can name plenty of just
    downright annoying and stupid things that English/Scottish people say
    (Truth be told I don’t know any Irish people here).” 

    I’ve been living in Northern Ireland for over one year, and I’ve noticed from the very beginning that people here say “lovely” all the time! Everything is lovely! And, just like “awesome” in the United States, it has become very much a neutral word. Needless to say, I’ve never used it myself,  and  I avoid using it at all costs now!

    • http://profiles.google.com/wayne.ruffner Wayne Ruffner

      Brilliant! Oh, wait…

    • Sarah Clark

      No, it really isn’t! Delightful versus inspiration of awe…hmm.

      • Katelyn13

        Awesome doesn’t only mean inspiration of awe anymore, it is now said when something is cool. Just as cool doesn’t only describe temperature.

  • http://tigermuse.com Johan Woods

    It was a fun read (I laughed a lot), and you have a few valid points that I agree with. A bit of an overreaction though.

    I lived in the US for 7 years, and still spend half of the year there. I’m Swedish/American (yes, by blood). I don’t think you’ve spent enough time there to truly know the country well enough.

    Still, hilarious most of the time, some great points, but overall I think you’ve missed the point.

    Awesome post! (lol)

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      You’ve lived there for seven years and I was there for over one year, and have spent a lot of time with Americans abroad. Perhaps you think it’s not enough, but after this year I’m pretty confident about not wanting to live there for the reasons I gave.

      I’m sure I’d find plenty I love if I spent six more years there, but these frustrations would take over and ruin my experience.

      Glad you enjoyed the post!

      • http://tigermuse.com Johan Woods

        Right, it’s not enough. I was annoyed by all the things you mentioned my first year and a half there – and more things!

        But you know what? I got over it. It takes a while to do that, though. One year (+ a few months? weeks?) is not enough to get over all that stuff. Took me almost 2 years.

        It’s a culture shift, despite us being from Europe, which is the Western world. The US and Europe cannot be farther from each other than it truly is. Most people don’t realize this. You got a taste of it.

        I now spend at least 6 months out of the year there. Sure, some things still drive me crazy but it’s not upsetting to the point where I want to move.

        Again, you seemed to have overreacted to this and came across pretty grumpy. But, I’m not going to let One post influence my impression of you ;)

        Thanks for the laughs, though! Read through it again, most of it still hilarious.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    I don’t bore Americans any ill will. I’m just sharing openly why I wouldn’t live there long-term. You seem to have merrily skipped over the conclusion where I say why I like Americans.

    If a Muslim wrote why he “hates” Americans that’s to be discouraged. If he wrote why he wouldn’t like to live in America, I wouldn’t find that to be bigotry, it’s honesty.

    • umpirecr

      You haven’t even live in America to pass judgement on anyone here.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    I was wondering when I’d get right wingers come on stage :-P You don’t get how much you proved so many of my points.

    • lindababy

      Sadly, they always will…

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    I did NOT spend a month downtown. I was living in a nice suburb, but there was absolutely nothing within walking distance and everyone told me to not even consider walking there at night because of how dangerous it is! What the welcome!

    I drove everywhere. One day I drove to meet a friend downtown and for an hour in this specific part of downtown since I had paid for parking, I walked around and found nothing good and affordable to eat and had to settle on a donut for lunch :(. Of course there are a million things to eat in the loop… if you have a car and know where to go, or are in a SPECIFIC part of downtown, or don’t mind splashing out.

    That’s not good enough IMO. There are way more options in European cities downtown, no matter where you happen to be. That was my complaint.

    • Jeff Winchell

      OK, understood now that you went downtown in Chicago for food. I wonder if Chicago is an exception. Chicagoland has GREAT food, but downtown in the loop… nope.

      I know this would not have been an issue in Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, New Orleans, Philadelphia, New York, maybe Ft Lauderdale… others could chime in.

      How did you stay in a nice suburb that was dangerous at night? Or was it downtown Chicago at night that people said was dangerous? At night, just north of the loop (downtown) is the Rush Street area which is the big party part of Chicago. Clearly that isn’t so dangerous or it wouldn’t be a big party area. LOTS of good reastaurants around there too. Around Cabrini Green it was dangerous, but that part seems to all have been gentrified. More good food.

      You really got a bad sampling of Chicago.

      • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

        I’ve been to most of those cities you mentioned and unless you are in a specific region, what I say stands. People presume that because one part of the city is walkable and has lots of restaurants that is good enough, but I’m saying that my issue is that it only works in that specific part. You have to drive there.

        My suburb in Chicago was clean with pretty houses and well connected to the roads, but I was told time and again not to walk around alone at night because of the riff raff that appears.

        I saw the big party area, and know what you are talking about. How do you get there? With a car of course. In most European cities I just walk to parties if I’m staying *anywhere* central.

  • William Crawford

    I think you’ll find that a lot of Americans actually agree with a lot of it.  There’ll be certain parts they’ve been brainwashed into, like the religion or smiling or ‘America is the best country!’  If I hear another person reply that America is the best country in response to a complaint about America, I’ll punch them.  My standard reply to them is, “America is the best because people like me keep improving it.  Stop getting in the way.”

    On your list, though, Smiling is actually my favorite.  I don’t smile much.  When people ask me who my day is, I don’t lie.  When I was a kid, my parents told me to stop being so down all the time, even though I’d protest that I wasn’t.  Fast forward to adulthood, and I’m still the same.  I smile when I’m happy, and I have a neutral expression when I’m neutral.  Which is most of the time.  Heck, even when I’m happy but nothing special is happening, I have a neutral expression.

    I’ve actually gotten in trouble at work for it, because people think I’m grumpy and won’t approach me.  -sigh-

  • William Crawford

    I think you’ll find that a lot of Americans actually agree with a lot of it.  There’ll be certain parts they’ve been brainwashed into, like the religion or smiling or ‘America is the best country!’  If I hear another person reply that America is the best country in response to a complaint about America, I’ll punch them.  My standard reply to them is, “America is the best because people like me keep improving it.  Stop getting in the way.”

    On your list, though, Smiling is actually my favorite.  I don’t smile much.  When people ask me who my day is, I don’t lie.  When I was a kid, my parents told me to stop being so down all the time, even though I’d protest that I wasn’t.  Fast forward to adulthood, and I’m still the same.  I smile when I’m happy, and I have a neutral expression when I’m neutral.  Which is most of the time.  Heck, even when I’m happy but nothing special is happening, I have a neutral expression.

    I’ve actually gotten in trouble at work for it, because people think I’m grumpy and won’t approach me.  -sigh-

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Very true that many of these arguments exist for other countries. But these were my own reasons based on my own background and other years in Latin countries for not wanting to live in USA.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    I lived in London for a month and I’ve visited northern Ireland many times. I definitely don’t remember this and I think you may be confusing it with something else.

    • Lorenzo

      I’ve been living in Belfast since last year and I have never ever tipped here, and I’m not expected to either. Also, I’ve always been charged the price shown on the menu and nothing more than that. And I had the same experience in London and Edinburgh.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Excellent retorts. I wish others tried to argue as logically.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Yes, it’s unfair, but as I said, this post was inspired by hearing so many complaints about other countries from Americans constantly over ten years. It’s very hard to find English articles online defending German and Dutch mentalities in the way I did, but it’s very easy to find half the Internet saying America is awesome.

    I still think this article is unique. Yes I’m complaining about America, which in itself is something we see too much, but not her politics etc. This is a cultural complaint based on a year of living there.

    Glad you liked the conclusion!

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Yes, I’ve heard Japan is pretty bad with advertising. That stuff drives me mad and could contribute to me not wanting to live there long term! But I’ll definitely visit for 3 months first to see :)
    If it’s just on TV then I can turn it off – my problem is with advertising in every aspect of life.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Interesting explanation about America’s nationalism!

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Ah yes, lawsuits. Another aspect of America to be detested :-P
    But indeed some of what I said are present in parts of Asia. I was generally comparing the US and places I’ve lived in Europe.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Yes, I was in Portland in June for several days and made it up to Washington state for a day visit and then another visit overnight (sadly didn’t get to see Seattle, although I loved the skyline image coming in from the road!)

    Portland was a lovely island of exceptions, especially the free public transport and an outside square that people were sitting on and eating, and lots of walking.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Right – that customer service complaint is part of the cultural difference. In Europe we don’t count fake smiles and non genuine tones as “customer service”, only that they solve the problem at hand. You say it’s politeness and I say it’s pointless.

    As for waitresses – they earn based on the price of the food you order. So a bad waitress in an expensive restaurant who I want to tip “only” 15% will earn way more than an excellent waitress in a corner diner that I’d tip more than 20%. And if you order a more expensive dish she earns more even though her work or presentation may be essentially the same.

    This is part of the ludicrousness of the situation as I see it.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    On the Chicago question: I was in the business district visiting a friend and had paid for expensive parking so I walked around. Yes, there are tonnes of good places in downtown to eat… if you know where to go or if you have a car. But several blocks without an affordable restaurant of ANY stretch of downtown is something that’s way more likely in any American city than in a European one.

    I can totally understand how you’d find lack of punctuality frustrating, but after living in the likes of Brazil etc. I’ve come to appreciate it and dislike the contrary.

    • http://languagehopper.blogspot.com Rick

      “On the Chicago question: I was in the business district visiting a
      friend and had paid for expensive parking so I walked around. Yes, there
      are tonnes of good places in downtown to eat… if you know where to go
      or if you have a car. But several blocks without an affordable
      restaurant of ANY stretch of downtown…”

      I moved from San Francisco to Chicago and thought that I never would find a better place than SF for funky, local eateries on the cheap. It took a while for me to realize it, but Chicago has good, inexpensive food no matter the neighborhood.

      Maybe it just took me spending a lot of time downtown to find the places. But they’re there, pretty much every block you walk. They tend to be tucked away in unnoticeable alleyways and nooks.

      • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

        Definitely not every block you walk. I think it’s more that it’s because you took the time to discover them. I was right in the downtown area and found nothing affordable and good in that set of blocks – I didn’t imagine it. The only alleyways I saw were for dumpsters.

        But yes, it’s a great place to eat great food. My point was only that you have to know where to go, or drive or get public transport. Not walk.

        • http://languagehopper.blogspot.com Rick

          Well, it wasn’t/isn’t always me “discovering” them (although sometimes it is). A lot of times I’d just ask someone if they know of any place nearby that has X type of food. I guess unless you live and/or work often in the area then yeah, you would miss a lot of it. It’s not just alleyways and nooks – sometimes you’ll find a great place in the basement of a building (or half way up the tower).

          My first thought to your not finding much was that it was maybe because you’re vegetarian and had trouble finding a meatless place, but honestly, there are plenty of vegetarian options too.  Asking around  definitely helps, though.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    My observations certainly can’t apply to the whole country, but I find it unlikely that I would choose to LIVE in areas other than those I listed, although I will plan to visit more!

    You can call it “gender stereotypes”, but I wouldn’t. My comparison is with girls in Europe, South America and Asia.

  • Anonymous

    Benny,

    Word of advice – turning your popular, rather successful language blog into a political rant = blog suicide.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      There are no political rants here. This is a cultural rant. And I’m not turning my blog into anything. This is the only America rant I plan to write.

      Keep in mind that I almost always write about my cultural observations after several months in a country – this is not just a language blog. ;)

  • Lorenzo

    “Seriously, I dream of a world where political correctness isn’t even a
    term, and where no one gives a shit about hurting someone’s feelings.”

    While Americans have probably carried “political correctness”  to an extreme as Benny points out,  I still definitely prefer this to the opposite extreme, that is, to a world (such as the one you dream of if I understood it correctly) full of psychopaths who voice their thoughts unasked and don’t feel any empathy whatsoever for the other person and the effects their words may have on the latter. I myself want to avoid both extremes at all costs. By the way, in Brazil they say “Quem diz o que quer, ouve o que não quer”, or “the person who says whatever he likes ends up hearing what he doesn’t like”

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Agreed. I think a balance of honesty and sensitivity is a good middle ground. Just that I’d personally swing it slightly more towards honesty than many Americans would, even though it has definitely gotten me into plenty of trouble in America.

  • http://www.davidmansaray.com David Mansaray

    I live in London for about 20 years and this is certainly not the case and I’ve never seen it.

  • Joseph Lemien

    I see no reason why this should be a U.S.-Europe thing. Neither ignorant Europeans nor ignorant Americans have a global monopoly on misinformed/inane statements. There are plenty of ignorant people in other countries as well, and I have to say: I don’t like U.S.-bashing or Europe-bashing any more than I like China-bashing, India-bashing, or Russia-bashing. Unfortunately  forming opinions based on logic and changing opinions as new facts arise is a habit that has not caught on in many places.

    • http://www.facebook.com/sam.malloy.7 Sam Malloy

      No one is bashing, it’s just American culture is messed up. It makes every white trash American(not all, just most) think that he is living in some sort of a golden Country. When in reality, America is retardation in a can, stuffed with extremely rich minorities.

      • mn_test347

        “No one is bashing”
        “America is retardation in a can”

        ummm….

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    It’s the theme of the post. It’s already 5000 words. I can’t write another 5000 positive words in this article, that would make it the longest bloody blog post in history!

    If you don’t realise the power of how great friendships outweight nearly all of these negative points and mean that I will definitely be going back to America, then you don’t appreciate the power of words over the amount of them.

    Sorry you don’t like my praise, but that’s not what this post was about.

    • Natalia Novikova

      Benny, I wish youd have come to Alaska, at least spent time in the wilderness—it is one thing America has over Europe…also, it’d be nice if ye had visited , nay, lived on a reservation. I visited Ireland in 92—we are half Irish and half Indian. It was funny to have Irish say I wasnt Indian because I didnt have “fedders” and a “tommyhawk”. Growing up mixed, we were proud to be half and half. I was the first one to visit the “auld sod” since 1847 and it was emotional. I felt a kinship with the people, but the land was too tight.Indians dont think we’re fully Indian and Irish think Im American. C’est la vie. My wife, from Krasnodar says my makeup makes me 100% Russian. Maybe so.Im far from being an American patriot but  when a person points out the faults of ones mother the normal reaction is to be upset, even if one feels 100% in agreement.

      • PRINCE

        your wife? LOL natalia? lol lesbian? . also Indian? you mean “red indian” or “native american” .. Indian refers to a person form India ( yes where that dumbass columbus originally was heading while he wrongly landed in what was known as america)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Right. Claiming all major stores is something I’ve heard myself. Westernisation and Americanisation are not the same thing…

  • Etka 1315

    As a European who has lived in the US for almost a decade, I can tell you this – your life here is what you make of it.

    In my opinion, a lot of what you described applies to American suburbs, rather than cities. Some of the things I have simply gotten used to (e.g. tipping) and others are not unique only to the US (e.g. marketing).

    This sort of culture shock post could be written about many places. It was an interesting read, even though it came across as a bit too stereotypical. Sure, these things do exists and you make some valid points (e.g. I’ve been asked ignorant questions about Europe), but it’s hard to throw 300 million people into one basket, especially considering the cultural diversity of Americans.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      I’ve been in both suburbs and cities for my year in the states, but way more in cities.

  • Sarah Clark

    I’m so glad I stumbled across your post! I’ve visited the US many times since 1982 and as a child I was positively obsessed with the place. I genuinely could not see why my mother didn’t up and leave the dowdy UK for the US where everything is brightly coloured and everyone is always happy. Ah, to have the rose tinted spectacles of a child on holiday again. It’s been interesting for me to reflect on how my perception of the country has changed over the years. 

    I wholeheartedly agree with all seventeen of your points and found myself chuckling whilst reading many of them. I wonder why it is that the US feels the need to impose themselves on the rest of the world? Has it not learned from “the most sordid history of colonialism, self-destruction, genocide, and totalitarian ideologies imaginable” as put by “SuperHotAmerican” in her eloquently wordy, yet slightly missing the point thus proving herself to be a true “SuperHotAmerican” comment? I hazard a guess it’s because, let’s face it, as a race it’s younger than many of the buildings in Europe and, like the moody teenager that it is, it thinks it’s better than everybody else (!) whilst desperately trying to be noticed. How dare we point out less flattering aspects of a country’s culture?! Case in point: I once asked an friend from the States (after a particularly pro US rant) “Dude, I’m genuinely interested in why are you so patriotic?” Friend mumbled a few struggled attempts at responding, could not answer so changed the subject. I think Europe is old enough and wise enough to acknowledge its mistakes and to poke fun at them. It’s true that people of the US are capable of this, but they are few and far between.

    Something I do admire about the US is its sense of community. Granted one usually has to travel to the suburbs to find it, but it is sadly lacking from much of the UK. I suppose it equates to your admiration of conventions and conferences, but I refer to the smaller scale family based communities. Little leagues, Sunday cookouts and the like. I know it exists, but not on the scale it does across the pond.

    Anyway…I digress. Great post! Everywhere has bad points and good points, but yours are points well made. Suck it up all you blinkered folk.

  • Jessica Stosich

    This is a rude awakening, I’m sure, to many Americans. I agree with almost everything you say. And a lot has opened my eyes through travel. I have been to many countries and each time I go somewhere new, I find that the USA has a lot to learn. One of the most contributing factors, I think, is how new the country is. I don’t think it has been allowed to form a true, realistic, and more modest way of life as so many other countries.
    Whenever I travel I find myself  getting more and more ashamed of being from the USA. But I also have found that I appreciate it more and more when I go somewhere else. I have been to third world countries in Africa, South America, Caribbean.. but I learn the most when I come back to the states. 
    It is a difficult place to live, there is an extreme pressure to be “successful” which means to have “things” and copious amounts of money and status. I don’t own a car, and I live in downtown Salt Lake City. I find myself alone constantly on the streets cycling and walking. It’s sad. And this town has extreme environments… But I love it.
    I do feel like it’s improving (or maybe I’ve just adapted) I feel lucky to live in one of the most beautiful cities in the USA. And one of the most active.  And fortunately the ski tourism brings a lot of people from around the world. Which always enriches the quality of life in any city, in my opinion.
    It’s a strange thing, the more I travel,  the more I resent being an American. But in the same breath, the more I travel the more I appreciate the opportunity and easier way of life I have here.  Most of the time I am ashamed to call myself  “American” but I love to call it home. I was fortunate to marry an Englishman anyway, so he snaps me out of these silly narcissistic tendencies us Americans were raised with.

    Thanks for the good read, hope you venture to Utah one day! It is overwhelmingly “cheery” but we’re pretty genuinely happy in general. Well… I can speak for myself.

  • http://twitter.com/ferricoxide Thomas Jones

    I think you probably need to spend time with Americans that are mid-thirties or older. A lot of what you describe seems more endemic to “gen Y” folks than to those of us who grew up before the self-esteem and PC movements.

    Granted, there’s a lot of head-smackingly uninformed people around. However, as you pointed out, we are *highly* connected and highly niche-oriented. In the US, it’s extremely easy to hold a world-view that’s never challeneged. There’s dozens of magazines, “news channels” (and the like), specialty books, etc. that are easily available to reinforce that your particular world-view is both valid and the only one of real merit. People are lazy. If it’s made easy to be insular, people will take that path of least resistance.

    On the whole, most of the objections you noted probably account for why I’ve generally had a good time when I’ve traveled abroad (and why I’ve often felt more at home outside of the US than I do when I’m “home”).

  • Anonymous

    “It has annoyed me so much over the years that I honestly feel like a lot of you need to hear a foreigner complain about YOUR country.” I am 100% American, have travelled a fair amount, and you now have a new subscriber to your blog. Thanks for this post. Much of it was too true.

  • http://profiles.google.com/heather.knight.pdx Heather Knight

    Seriously funny shit!  I wish I had written it, but because I am American, I would be considered un-Patriotic or un-American.  You pointed out most things I have noticed about my country after traveling around the world…next time, you need to come hang out in Portland, OR with me and let me show you around…you also need to get out of the big cities and experience small town America…much different experience, even for Americans! :)  Great post Benny!  I love your honesty.

  • http://claudiaputnam.com ClaudiaPutnam

    American girls are less feminine… what does that mean? We could do with a few less men on the PLANET who even think that way about women anywhere. 

    • Stephen Erhorn

      I think what Benny means to say is that women elsewhere in the world aren’t constantly banging on about women’s liberation. Men and women are different but equal, there’s no sexism in expecting women to act like women. 

      • Liberal1168

        “to act like women.”  Circular reasoning.  Logic fail.

      • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

        This is NOT what I meant. Women’s liberation is a serious issue and still a problem for many. One of the American girls I was going out with here regularly was definitely an outspoken feminist, but we got along fine, and had a great dynamic.

    • John Smith

      (EXTREME generalization, but) American girls cuss, yell, walk around barefoot, and have a unique way that they express their sexuality very confusingly.  I’m American and I like that I don’t have to watch what I say quite as much, and can be more “relaxed” around American girls.   They simply do not seem to care as much about me being a gentleman.  Some have even gone so far as to make fun of me for opening the door for them and they could burp louder than me.  There are millions of American girls who are not like this, but more often than not, American girls my age act this way (in my personal experience) and I feel like maybe Benny encountered some of the same types that I have (especially if he was in La Jolla).  I don’t think it’s wrong, I don’t care.  I don’t think there is a specific way that a girl should act but if she acts too much like a man, I tend to look at them as friends more than as a romantic prospect. 

      Keep in mind a woman can be extremely powerful without imitating a man and it should be that way, there should be nothing wrong with a powerful woman who acts more “feminine” (whatever that means to you).  basically what i’m saying is “manliness” does not equal “power”.  

      I am dating a latin girl right now and after getting to know her culture, her friends and family, I can say that latin girls carry themselves in a more subtle way.  That is not to say they don’t have their own fun things about them that can be…”interesting” but they are way more low key and prefer to be pursued and are not constantly trying to “prove a point” which I find American girls doing quite often. 

      now neither is the “better way”.  Arguments could be made as to why each group acts the way they do– you can discuss the level of sexism in both cultures, cultural expectations of each, etc but it would be a book’s worth of discussion.  I can only go off what I know and I bet there are plenty of situations that would turn my argument on its head BUT take it with a grain of salt.

      • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

        Well put.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      I’m making my comparison with southern European, Asian and South American girls. They have traits that I feel distinguish them as ladies in how they dress, act and talk, that I feel many Americans unfortunately don’t. And they can ALSO be strong, independent and intelligent leaders, that American ladies are so good at. I feel it’s a great balance rather than absolute equality with men such that you are basically a man with boobs.

      There are many things I actually prefer about American girls, but these are not what I consider feminine traits.

      Please try not to get too offended, remember that I’m very blunt. Instead of disposing of men like me on the planet, maybe you should try to understand what is going through our minds. You will find many guys who have been with different nationalities agreeing with me on this point, so I’d ask that you don’t take it out on the messenger ;)

  • Ashley Coates

    This is a great post.  I have to say though, some people do smile a lot because they ARE happy, not because they’re fake.  
    Another thing, people like to discuss their heritage because they’re proud of their ancestors and the struggles they had when they moved here.  It’s a small way of honoring them on a daily basis. Portion sizes are pretty crazy, but you usually have the opportunity of having it boxed up and taking it home with you- therefore, getting two meals out of one.  

    Overall, this was spot on.

    http://textbooksandtofu.blogspot.com/

  • Sam

    Just one thing about the “American stereotypes of other countries” issue…I’m not sure what the intentions of the people you were talking to were, but I always joke about these stereotypes to break the ice with people from other countries.  I would consider myself very well-traveled and have lived in Europe, and I find that Europeans stereotype each other at least as much as, and probably with more ill-will, than Americans stereotype Europeans.  When we make fun of the Germans for being too serious, it’s just A JOKE.  When other Europeans bring up the same stereotype, there is sometimes a genuine dislike of that trait (ask a Greek person these days what they think of Germans).  I think it’s ironic that you dislike how politically correct Americans are but you yourself get offended by teasing of this sort.  Just because someone is surprised that you are Irish and don’t drink doesn’t mean they literally believe that all Irish people are drunkards.  Plus, I don’t see how this is an “American” thing at all.  The way the Brits make fun of the Irish is way harsher than I’ve ever seen any American make fun of the Irish…

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      The teasing once didn’t annoy me, but hearing the same broken record every single day just kept building up. It’s why I say that I can visit the states again, but I can’t live there. I really couldn’t take those stupid comments day in day out if I was meeting new people.

      And yes, each person I met, every single time, thought they were so clever for coming up with this “joke”.

      Americans will not generally get the *exact same* stereotype from everyone they meet when abroad. There are several stereotypes about America, and when spread out over different people it will become more bearable.

      Brits make fun of me too, but it actually IS funny because they are original! This is why I say I’m not being sensitive – it’s not being made fun of that annoys me, because I’ve got thick skin and I enjoy getting some piss taking with Brits, it’s the same American joke driving me crazy that I can’t bear.

  • Steven V.

    Hi Benny,

    As a lifelong American, I understand and even agree with a
    lot of your gripes. America is the land of fake pleasantness and ads, and we’ve
    mostly become desensitized to it-and in some cases, we’ve found ways around it.
    TiVo is a godsend (if there were a god) :D.

    As for cultural isolation: I agree that we are, and it
    annoys me to no end. I try to be informed about the world (hence my interest in
    languages), but most of my fellow Americans only know what they see on TV.
    There’s a reason for that, though: owing to our status as a superpower, we
    don’t need to rely on other nations nearly as much as individual countries in
    Europe do. For an Irish man like yourself, what happens in another EU country
    is probably pretty important because of how closely integrated Europe is. Here,
    the only reason to be informed about countries other than Iran, Saudi Arabia,
    etc. is for the sake of it-which I think is a good reason in and of itself!

  • guest

    wow speak for yourself!

  • Trudy

    Don’t you think people – regardless of culture – tend to prefer what they know and are comfortable with? I’m sure if I visited/lived in Ireland, I could easily make a list of things I didn’t like simply because they are different than what I’m used to. Don’t get me wrong, there are PLENTY of things wrong with America. I’m a teacher in an inner city public school, and I could list hundreds of things wrong with this country just based on the things I see/deal with on a daily basis, and I’m not just talking about the kids. I’m talking about major systemic problems that ripple out into society. So while you point out some things that are annoying about America, I think there are far bigger problems than not having sales tax added onto the price of an item and having to watch commercials in the middle of a TV program.

  • Tiele

    Benny I enjoyed your post it is something I can some what agree with even as an American. I think its interesting that so many people ARE being Sensitive about this. So Benny keep writing and don’t feed the trolls. :)

  • http://chocolatine.org Nicolai

    I agree with just about everything, and in particular, the bit about Americans never “being straight” with you.  I find it hard to communicate with Americans because they’d rather play mind games than engage you.  WTF for?  As an example, if you run into someone you haven’t seen in a while, they’ll usually say “We should get together sometime.”  So you call them up a week later and they treat you like a psycho for having insinuated that they’re an honest person who is worth hanging out with.  That’s mentally ill.

    Your rant about the word “awesome” is stupid, though.  It says more about accumulated frustration from being in the US than it does about anything else.  And that’s understandable.  Just be conscious of it. :)

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Most of this post is frustration. Obviously there are good retorts for some of my arguments, and people have suggested that words we use in England or Ireland are just as bad as awesome. But ‘awesome’ is my personal pet peeve :P

  • Ryan

    Very interesting! How did you find Vancouver to be, in comparison to the states, while you were there? It was your first experience in English speaking Canada, I understand?

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Apart from a weekend in Toronto, yes! But I was only in Vancouver for a few days – that’s not enough to pass judgment :P

  • Adam

    As an American, I can agree with or at least understand why a lot of
    these things annoy you.  However, I think that in some cases, the
    opinions you’ve expressed show that there are some fundamental aspects
    of US culture that you have not assimilated in your time here.  Since
    one of you’ve said on this blog that one of the most important purposes
    of your travel is to learn to understand and “live as” a member of
    another culture, I’d like to offer my perspective (emphasis on “my”) on
    some of these points.

    To the point that Americans are way too sensitive:  Since its founding,
    the US has had a history of intolerance and repression of minorities. 
    Over the last 20 to 30 years, the standard for what is considered
    acceptable expression has shifted dramatically as our culture has begun
    to purge intolerance from our public consciousness.  A good example is
    stand-up comedy:  There are several stand-up performances from the
    1980′s that were enormously popular at the time, and are still
    considered classics in their own right, but for many Americans, they are
    painful to watch now because of the insensitivity with which minorities
    are abused for comedy.  American “sensitivity” is a product of
    intolerance becoming socially unacceptable.  It has become second-nature
    for many Americans to act publicly in a way that is designed to avoid
    offending others.  (Although this is balanced by our strong belief in
    individual rights, which is why we fucking swear so fucking much.) 
    These norms get relaxed by close friends in private settings.  I know
    that my close friends will not sugar-coat things for me if they think
    I’m doing something wrong, or water down their opinions in order to
    avoid offending me.  Even still, if I want constructive criticism from
    someone, I have to ask for it from all but the most outspoken of my
    friends.  I don’t believe that most Americans are afraid to speak their
    mind if you assure them in advance that you won’t be offended.

    American positivity:  This is a big one.  Very common complaints from
    foreigners are “Americans are too friendly,” “you smiles aren’t genuine
    and you smile too much,” “why would ask ‘how are you?’ if you don’t want
    to know,” and “what’s with all the hugging?”  If there’s any one
    stereotype of Americans that reflects a misunderstanding of the US
    culture, it’s this one.  In this regard, I’m a typical American; I smile
    a lot, talk to strangers in public, casually ask people how they’re
    doing, and use superlatives like “awesome” in everyday conversation. 
    Just because it’s pervasive doesn’t mean it’s not genuine.

    When someone asks “How are you?” the response is dictated by the degree
    of intimacy between those people.  A reply of “good” or “great” actually
    means, “The aspects of my life that I’m willing to share with you are
    good or great.”  Self-sufficiency is an important value in the US, and
    we don’t like to burden other people with our problems unless we are
    very close to that person.  With someone that I have a more established
    relationship with, a response of “I’m alright, I guess,” “I’ve had
    better days,” or “Kinda shitty, to be honest.”  Is perfectly acceptable,
    and could be considered an invitation to further discussion, provided
    the other person wants to engage in such a discussion.  While it may
    seem like an automatic, meaningless greeting to someone who hasn’t spent
    their whole life surrounded by it, for me at least, I never ask unless
    I’m genuinely interested in the answer.  There are some people I only
    say “hi” to when I see them.  In casual public interactions, like with a
    teller at the bank, or a waitress at a restaurant, this quick exchange
    can set the tone for the rest of our interaction in surprisingly subtle
    ways.

    I barely know where to start with the smiling thing… Volumes have been
    written on the cultural differences in smiling.  Again, just because
    it’s pervasive doesn’t mean it isn’t genuine.  We compartmentalize our
    lives to a high degree, separating how we feel about our day at work
    from how we feel around our friends later that evening.  We prefer to
    focus on what is going well and present that to others.  That doesn’t
    mean we’re hiding the negative, just that we’d rather not let negativity
    interfere with our emotions in an unrelated situation.  The best tip I
    can give you, that may help to put it in perspective, is next time
    you’re in the USA trying to blend in with our culture and live as an
    American, don’t smile at anyone unless you can do so genuinely, but try
    to find a reason to give as many people as you can a genuine smile.

    The only other thing I wanted to provide my perspective on is about
    heritage, but this comment is already way too long, and I’m sure other
    people will address that adequately.

    Thanks for posting this.  It’s always interesting to an outside
    perspective on our culture.  And yeah, the tipping, the lack of public
    transportation, and most of the other stuff you mentioned really are
    annoying, even to us Americans.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      I find it weird that you listed “hugging” as an American trait. If I were to add to this list, the dreadful American personal bubble would be way up there in the next numbers to add on. Apart from liberal Californians and a few others, Americans don’t hug or show affection nearly enough as people do in South America and South Europe.

      I have never heard the complaint that “Americans are too friendly” myself. A little the opposite compared to other cultures actually.

      One thing that stood out for me very clearly is that Americans generally are very uncomfortable with people being too close. When I spoke to people I felt the need to lean in, and they would lean back. We’d actually end up slowly moving in the direction I was facing because of this! I was trying to shorten the distance, and they were trying to make it wider. With guys/girls – everyone. I find this personal bubble nonsense sad.

      Yes, others have addressed the heritage issue quite adequately :-P

      • Adam

        Of course, everyone has different experiences and interprets them in different ways.  I think the “hug hello” and “hug goodbye” are tossed about more casually in the USA than they are in other countries I’ve visited.  I’ve read some opinion pieces by people from other countries to support this, but I can’t be bothered to dig out links at the moment :-P  There are certain norms to it, that I’m sure vary regionally throughout the country.  In the particular corners of the US that I’ve spent the most time in (Baltimore, MD and Baton Rouge, LA) the girl is almost always responsible for initiating it.  It’s not unusual for a girl I’ve just met through mutual friends and maybe had a short conversation with at a bar to initiate a hug goodbye at the end of the evening.  This is not a behavior I’ve observed with some of my friends from Europe.  In particular, my Czech friends almost always prefer a handshake, even though in the US I find that I rarely shake hands with girls.

        However, during normal interactions, you’re right: we value our bubbles.  I’m not really sure why this is, but I’ll chalk it up to the strong individualism that we value.  A tongue-in-cheek explanation would be, “The US is a big country, stop taking up my space and go find some of your own.”

        And yeah, the complaint that “Americans are too friendly” is usually “Americans too often act in friendly ways which are not genuine when they have no real desire to initiate a friendship.”  This is a superset of the constant smiling.  The notion I’m trying to express is that these behaviors are more often genuine than you might expect.  Americans, especially in cities, are very transient people.  For instance, by the age of 21, I had moved to a new home every 2 1/2 years on average.  That includes 7 different cities/towns in 3 different, non-neighboring states.  In a country where people move around so much, the ability to quickly establish new social connections is very important.  People who are genuinely warm and outgoing are more apt to be successful in this.  Apart from that fact that the big social networks got their start in the USA, this is probably one of the main reasons that social networking is so popular here.  I hate facebook, but I find it to be an irreplaceable tool for keeping in touch with some of my best friends, who have come to be scattered all over the world.

      • Adam

        Of course, everyone has different experiences and interprets them in different ways.  I think the “hug hello” and “hug goodbye” are tossed about more casually in the USA than they are in other countries I’ve visited.  I’ve read some opinion pieces by people from other countries to support this, but I can’t be bothered to dig out links at the moment :-P  There are certain norms to it, that I’m sure vary regionally throughout the country.  In the particular corners of the US that I’ve spent the most time in (Baltimore, MD and Baton Rouge, LA) the girl is almost always responsible for initiating it.  It’s not unusual for a girl I’ve just met through mutual friends and maybe had a short conversation with at a bar to initiate a hug goodbye at the end of the evening.  This is not a behavior I’ve observed with some of my friends from Europe.  In particular, my Czech friends almost always prefer a handshake, even though in the US I find that I rarely shake hands with girls.

        However, during normal interactions, you’re right: we value our bubbles.  I’m not really sure why this is, but I’ll chalk it up to the strong individualism that we value.  A tongue-in-cheek explanation would be, “The US is a big country, stop taking up my space and go find some of your own.”

        And yeah, the complaint that “Americans are too friendly” is usually “Americans too often act in friendly ways which are not genuine when they have no real desire to initiate a friendship.”  This is a superset of the constant smiling.  The notion I’m trying to express is that these behaviors are more often genuine than you might expect.  Americans, especially in cities, are very transient people.  For instance, by the age of 21, I had moved to a new home every 2 1/2 years on average.  That includes 7 different cities/towns in 3 different, non-neighboring states.  In a country where people move around so much, the ability to quickly establish new social connections is very important.  People who are genuinely warm and outgoing are more apt to be successful in this.  Apart from that fact that the big social networks got their start in the USA, this is probably one of the main reasons that social networking is so popular here.  I hate facebook, but I find it to be an irreplaceable tool for keeping in touch with some of my best friends, who have come to be scattered all over the world.

      • Kalli

        You find the personal bubble nonsense “sad”? Do you find it sad when Asians greet each other with a bow instead of a handshake? For someone who has traveled as much as you, you should know better than to find cultural traditions like greetings sad. Apparently only the European way is legitimate.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    I <3 George Calin

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Yes, I understand it. I’m just saying that hearing someone say they are Irish when they are not (as I understand it) is one of my 17 major pet peeves. 300 million people don’t have to change, but (as the title of the post suggests) if I don’t like it then I’ll simply not live in America long term.

  • http://twitter.com/languageismusic Susanna Zaraysky

    Benny, I agree with you. There’s a reason I don’t watch TV! Good thing you weren’t following the Republican Party debates while in the US or else you would have been even more annoyed by “America is the best” propaganda all the time. I have been to Recife and it was damn scary. But, you are right. At least in Recife, there were people on the street. The scariest place I’ve ever walked alone was in New Orleans. I thought I was going to die. 

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    With Ryanair, after a few pages you see all the prices. This is indeed very annoying.
    In America you PAY a certain price, and then you have to wait until check-in 24 hours before boarding the flight and THEN you pay to check luggage etc. At least Ryanair make you only pay once online.

    Tabloids are quite annoying, but I find America to take that and put it on TV, radio, Internet, billboards, news etc., the extent of which is far more than in the UK.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    I don’t like the biology argument. There is no Irish gene.

    One proposal for English I’d suggest is that the word “irish” (lower case) be used for ethnicity and “Irish” (upper case) be used for nationality.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Smiling doesn’t offend me, but I do find over use to be cheesy.

    I like how your approach demonstrates this: copy and paste and put no real effort or genuine-ness into each one – that’s precisely the problem I have with actual “smiles”!

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    I did clarify this in my introduction. I’m in South America now and happy to not have these 17 problems :P

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    The affiliations of Christianity that tend to be the most annoying in the states are usually less likely to be the Catholics for whatever reason. Maybe that Irish or Italian heritage DOES count for something :-P

    Yes, I saw those interesting characters on Bourbon St. I found them exactly as entertaining as the girls showing people their boobs for beads. They have catchy and ridiculously idiotic slogans they chant.

    I may not live in the states long term, but you can bet I’ll come back to visit, and American girls are certainly a pull factor among other reasons I mentioned at the end of the article!

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Actually this post is currently going viral on Stumbleupon and I’ve received several emails telling me that I am gaining readers from this.

    I am frank in many posts, and expect people to unsubscribe on occasion because I’ve crossed some line. That’s fine. It means that I can keep writing from the heart and not censor myself for the sake of pleasing the masses:

    “I don’t know the secret to success, but the secret to failure is trying to please everybody” – Bill Cosby

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Thanks :) Even though I can’t live there permanently, you can bet that I will definitely be back to visit many times for the reasons I listed ;)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    People asked me dozens of times to share my cultural thoughts on living in America, as I have done elsewhere. This post was answering those requests, as well as venting my frustration with complaining travelling Americans. Since I have a large American readership, I like to force some retrospection on them to envision how other cultures perceive them.

    So no, this is not an entirely negative effort.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    “Americans are arrogant, shallow, and stupid, and the women are a bit
    manly, but they have some nice natural resources and a lot of
    conferences.”

    Sorry but I found this very funny! :)

    No, that’s not what I think. There is huge interest in this post, and I wanted to have Americans try some retrospective thinking about how foreigners view them rather than massage their (frankly already inflated) egos.

    I don’t think Americans are shallow, and some of my best friends in the world are Americans. I will come back – but when I share my thoughts I do it VERY frankly. You have to appreciate this. The cultural issue is that if an American complains about something they presumably hate it, but I’m just sharing my thoughts. Since my style is terribly blunt, you can indeed get the wrong impression that I “hate” Americans from this if you treat it as an American style complaint letter.

    The honesty issue is such a cultural difference. My German friends tell me if I smell bad, if I’m being too loud, tell me when something I’ve created is crap etc. – they don’t hold back. From an American perspective they are being assholes, but in fact they are showing how much they love me. This post is actually because I care about Americans enough to be straight with them.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Well that’s the thing, countries where people are not smiling all the time are NOT countries where people are unhappy and whining about life. In fact, America is one of the least happy countries I know!! Seriously…

    But yes, of course any other country has many problems. I’m definitely not trying to say they don’t, just that their problems number American problems less in such a way that I could live there permanently :P

    Interesting to hear about the protestant work ethic. Your explanation sounds like the problem outlined in the first video embedded here: fi3m.com/life-lessons

  • Toni Gaisford

    I’m a 20 year old american girl, but I lived in Germany for the past 9 years and I absolutely agree with EVERYTHING that you say. The ones that made me laugh the most are the tipping, the false prices, and how bloody sensitive Americans can be. Those were the first things I was complaining about when I moved back last summer, and they still bug me a lot. And the smiling thing. I work in retail and I always have to smile and it annoys me quite a bit, especially because half of the people don’t smile back or barely talk. I find that Americans are the rude ones. Your post made me laugh, because even though I’m an American, my nine years in Europe has given me a very similar perspective on my own country. 

  • Jhermwhite

    Made me laugh.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    I did… but my point was that I was already downtown and had an hour to spare and WALKED.

    Everyone keeps arguing that I should have gone somewhere else! That’s MY point!!!!! You don’t *need* to go somewhere else if you are plonked into some random spot downtown in any European city. You will always find what you want by wandering a bit.

    • Jeff Winchell

      European cities are incredibly dense. Even the small ones. If you love density, South and East Asia are your tickets.

      There are big downsides to density too.

  • Anonymous

    Many of these things are also annoying to Americans as well.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Classic. You just keep digging your own grave! Are you for real? It seems like a caricature.

    • Anonymous

      Your post has been greenlit on FARK, Benny. They have a fine tradition of trolling and mockery. I suspect “SuperHotAmerican” is simply welcoming you to FARK!world. Do not take seriously, and feed the troll at your own risk. Enjoy.

      • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

        This isn’t my first dealing with trolls, don’t worry ;)

        I had a look at fark and there are some sensible people there pointing out how much the other commenters are being whiny “biachtes” :P

    • PRINCE

      most probably just a loser faggot who’s still living in his mom’s basement (typical republicunt narrowminded yet homophilliac piece of worthless troll ).. clearly a troll

  • Beth Kelleher

    As an American who moved to French-speaking Europe as a small child, spent the bulk of my childhood there and then moved back to the U.S. I agree with a lot of what you have to say, especially the remarks about America being made for cars.

    That said, I managed to survive in the U.S. for over 21 years without a driver’s license. It limited where I could live and made getting to certain places a royal pain, but if you vet out neighborhoods carefully, you can find walkable places in many parts of the U.S. Of course, living car-less was in fact much easier in the general vicinity of San Francisco and I miss BART and AC Transit fiercely now that I no longer live on the West Coast.

    I also miss the wonder that can be a simple walk around a city like Paris or Galway with little cafes and shops stuff in every other corner. As a student in Switzerland in the 90s, I backpacked around the U.K. and Ireland with a friend investigating big tourist attractions and the small, out of the way, nooks and crannies until we were footsore and tired, but full of euphoria from everything that we’d just /lived/ and seen, mostly on foot or from the windows of a train.

    These days I live in the suburbs of Philadelphia and have run smack into the ‘America is for cars’ problem. Something as simple as getting to the post office to mail a package becomes an exercise in careful planning or mooching rides from friends. It’s why, finally, after 21 years, I’ve gotten my license and a car. I’m very proud of myself for finally getting that bit of business taken care of, but a small part of me mourns ‘giving up on’ public transport and my own two feet to get me around. Give me a nice trolley and a neighborhood full of tree-and-house-and-shop lined streets any day!

  • Anonymous

    You make too many points, but I do want to defend waiters in the U.S. If you feel that waiters make most of their money through tips, you are right. The U.S. allows restaurants to pay waiters below minimum wage wages because of all of the money that they will make through tips. Not tipping waiters appropriately is actually hurting their income. A tip is not a nice extra, but part of their wages.

    Now, you would probably say that it shouldn’t be that way. And you are right. However, this is how it is in the U.S.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      I always tipped my waiters appropriately, don’t worry ;)

      But I still find the concept hypocritical. It’s not a tip to thank them for good service, you are indeed paying their wages. Other commenters confirm this when they say they tip 15% for BAD service. That 15% is the employer’s responsibility not clients’. It should be reflected in the bill. You don’t tip the supermarket till girl, even though she can smile or ask how your day is and call you sweety etc. and you don’t tip thousands of other jobs.

      But yes, that’s how it is in the states…

      • http://languagehopper.blogspot.com Rick

        “You don’t tip the supermarket till girl, even though she can smile or
        ask how your day is and call you sweety etc. and you don’t tip thousands
        of other jobs.”

        Actually, you’d be surprised at just how many places, large and small, have a tip jar set out for the most ridiculous reasons. Coatchecks, bathrooms, pretty much any cofffee shop – right at the counter where you pay, even after leaving a tip on the table. It comes off as begging. Now that the Christmas season is getting under way, I’ve seen gift-wrapping stations in malls that have tip jars to, you know, pay more after you’ve paid for the wrapping service.

        I also walked into a small town bookstore and the cashier had a tip jar set up right next to the cash register. It’s overkill.

  • S Burgal

    Wow. Everything you have written here is spot on. I try to relate with people here (in America) but everyone is just driven by money, consumerism, and greed, and I thought that was just people in general. Turns out, I was just born in the wrong country. I appreciate your candid comments and look forward reading your other entries.

  • Christine Olshefsky

    I really appreciate your bluntness and have the same problem myself when trying to make new friends. I have lived in Washington State (I have to specify when talking to people from out-of-state because they often ask me if I’ve been to the White House. Washington does not mean DC, bringing up a point you may not have experienced: many Americans don’t know the geography of their own country) my entire life, now attend the University of Washington, and everything you hate about the US, I hate about it as well. Likely, after finishing college I will move away from the states, possibly to never return. I appreciate your unbiased appraisal and confirm that you are Spot On. Thank you.

  • vesey

    I’m 63, have been on 5 continents, too many countries to list  and have really enjoyed all of the different cultures and peoples. Very beneficial to have had these experiences. People are so different and yet curiously similar in so many ways. Never been to ireland, never will…………..

  • http://twitter.com/angjojeff Angie Jeffreys

    Wow, this post was really eyeopening.  I guess just because I have lived
    in America my whole life and have limited travel experience, I didn’t
    realize that some of these things weren’t the norm in other countries. 
    This has made me really excited to travel and  learn more about other countries as well as examine aspects of my own culture.  Thanks.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Some retrospection was my ultimate positive goal with this post – glad to see I’ve inspired someone to travel with my rants!! :)

  • BV

    THE BEST POINT = the tax thing. It’s just the feeling you get of being robbed every time you pay for something in an american shop – why don’t they just put the whole price down, including tax, like everyone else does in the rest of the world?!

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      I know why already; because it’s more beneficial to the big corporations than it is to the little guy.

      People’s arguments about different taxes in different states doesn’t fly with me when it comes down to an individual supermarket that knows the end-price simply putting their sticky price label on it.

      I honestly felt like I was being lied to every single time I made a transaction. They’d be asking for more than what the price says. It’s false advertising.

      • Melissa Rodriguez

        If we had small, locally owned shops I think pricing with tax included would work fine.  But, another one of the faults of the US… everything is big corporations etc.  Keeping that in mind, these big corporations are not going to go through the hassle of pricing things for multi-state distribution pricing.  Taxes vary according to state etc… I agree it’s a dumb system.  But regardless, it is the system and God forbid a corporation should lose 30 cents to make different price labels or tags.  Although travelers are not used to it, I don’t think adding an additional percentage to the listed price should be too taxing for the average traveler.  The need only know what the sales tax is in the state they’re visiting.  It’s pretty simple math.  

        • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

          If the Math is so simple, then the giant corporations should do it :-P

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    21 in men or women? Does it take the change in body weight and lifestyle of Americans since then into account? Level of eating healthily or stress? I find this magic one-size-fits-all number from “research” to be quite dubious, but I believe you that it’s what the justification comes from.

  • http://twitter.com/tyham173 Tyler Hamilton

    I live in Omaha, NE, and when my family (or someone from Omaha) goes to more populous parts of the country they will ask us questions such as, “Do you ride horses/cows to school?”, “Do you have cable television?”, and even “Do Indians (Native Americans) still attack you?”  So I completely understand the part about being a potato farmer considering most Americans think Nebraska is a third world country.

  • Kathryn

    I really enjoyed this article.  There wasn’t a thing I did not agree with, though I do admit to saying awesome once in a while.  Also, the heritage thing is really big around here in North Dakota.  Over 50% of North Dakotans are of German ancestry, and there are lots of groups promoting German pride, Norwegian pride, etc.  One also hears a few barely-friendly feuds between Norwegian-Americans and Swedish-Americans.
    I agree with the point about cars versus walking.  In my city, there are not continuous sidewalks around town, and buildings are spread apart in a way that causes inconvenience quite often.

    Overall, reading this makes me even more happy I’m going to study University out of the country.
    I hope your next visit to the United States is a good one!

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      It will be don’t worry ;) Thanks for the comment!

  • Ann

    i’m really sick of hearing all this “i hate americans” stuff. i know you said at the end that you don’t hate all americans, but come on! if i spent three months in Ireland i’m sure id have a list just as long. This is all cultural. Just because you were raised with out the “i’m good how are you?”, the constant smiling, and everything else you mentioned does not mean that we’re wrong. However, after spending a month in europe this summer, i will tell you that our pricing (without the tax) and our drinking age is a little excessive. anyway, it was interesting reading your point of view, so thanks for posting it (sorry if that part was too “positive” for you).

  • Yvette

    Hi Benny! Thanks for this recent blog post, and for shining a light on our sometimes myopic views with regards to our country and its relation to others. I’m American, and even with my limited international travel experience, I pretty much agree with most of your rant. I have traveled to both the east and west coasts of America and find them extremely different though – the people, the places, the cultures.  Even within a city the people, places and cultures can vastly vary – American culture is definitely a multi-layered quilt.  However, I have a preference for the east coast, so when you do visit again make sure you stop through Philadelphia – its a walking city — and we don’t smile. Unless it’s genuine. ;-)  

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Thanks for the invite!

  • Cspr47

    Hello Benny,

    Loved the post.  As a person who likes to think they believe in the idea behind America, I think you give a lot of great perspective on what are the real issues with the country and actually I agree with a lot of what you have to say.  Religion is way over the top here and enters political discussions entirely too often.  I most agree with your evaluation of the public transportation/difficulty of walking places issue.  I did not get my license until I was 22, and whenever I told people before then that I didn’t have one, they looked at me like there was a whole in my chest.  It was like they thought something was missing.  I really wish public transit was better here, and it annoys me that more focus is not placed on this issue at the city, state, and federal level.  When I visited France, I was very impressed with the public transportation and I wish cities in America had systems like that.  The car is way too central to American culture and it causes more problems than people think about.  The heritage thing is also something I notice a lot.  I like to just say I’m a mutt.  I don’t know a whole lot about my heritage, so I just feel like how I am is just a result of my real identity, not some stereotypes subconsciously reinforced over time.  I also feel like people putting on fake emotions contributes a lot to perceived depression.  I must disagree with your concerns about legal handgun purchases.  I myself own a legal handgun and I only worry about the people that get them illegally.  The problem is that enforcement over illegal firearms is not always handled very well.  I don’t know if you heard about the whole scandal with the ATF a little while back about them basically letting illegal guns slip through their fingers and into the hands of dangerous drug cartels.  That’s the real problem.  I do have to admit, though, the people that buy handguns just because they are afraid can be very dangerous.  I think that you should have to pass a training class before you can get a handgun, and at least a safety course before you can buy a long gun(shotgun, rifle, etc.)  Legal gun ownership does help reduce crime.  I’m not saying gun control is a bad thing, it’s definitely important, but you can have too much of a good thing.  Also, in most states you do have to pass a not-insignificant certification training/approval process before you can legally carry a handgun.  So don’t worry about the guy that bought that revolver from the neighborhood gun store, worry about the gangster that just bought a modified gun from some dealer’s trunk.  Illegal firearms are a problem pretty much anywhere, so I don’t think legal gun ownership is really a scary thing in America. 

    Overall, though, I really loved your post.  As an atheist that doesn’t own a car and thinks the high drinking age doesn’t solve a problem but in fact causes one, you pretty much have another person in your corner.  I also agree that people are too nice about weight issues.  Sure, some people may be genetically predisposed, but not that many for it to be hailed as an obesity epidemic.  We really should tell overweight people that they are just that–fat people.  We are too kind to each other. 

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      I think ALL handguns should be illegal and destroyed. You need guns to protect you from people with guns – it’s a vicious circle. I worry about individuals that might have a bad day way more than gangs.

      If you really think illegal firearms are a problem “pretty much everywhere”, please do some research to see that America is the leader in the first world with gun related murders. http://www.guncite.com/cnngunde.html And if you could remove gang related murders, the US would be the winner out of the entire world.

      In first world countries were firearms are illegal across the board it’s way harder to get your hands on one than in America where it’s half legal and half illegal. When you merrily distribute them so easily, it’s way more likely that a few will slip through the cracks.

      It’s people like you I’m worried about, not gangs. Although I doubt you’ll go crazy any time soon, America is filled with too many pissed off stressed out ignorant people for me to sit easy. Sorry to be so blunt, but glad you appreciate everything else in the post.

  • Shaffer6200

    Europeans, and many other people from different countries have high expectations and usually have some sort “stereotype” towards American that is completely wrong. So, when foreigners visit they are ofter let down by their high expectations. So what I’m trying to say is that everyone has some ridiculous stereotype about some other country that they hear about including you. The stereotyping goes both ways.

  • Kristen

    Benny, I hope for your sake you don’t fall in love with an American girl and get trapped here like my Irish husband. He thought he’d only be here for a year, but it’s been 15. He even has dual citizenship, and gasp – American children now. The horror! In all honesty, I agree with most of your points, but it is possible to carve out a nice little niche here and live a good life. I’ve traveled a ton and lived abroad and there are annoying people everywhere. There are also good people everywhere.

    By the way, I made my Irish husband read your blog and he said your complaints are “amateur.” He said some of the things you mentioned might have bothered him in the beginning (tipping, Irish stereotypes, the word “awesome”, etc.), but after living here 15 years, he’s got more serious concerns on his mind like the lack of funding for public schools and such. Our smiling doesn’t really bother him anymore.

    On that note, I’ve been to Ireland many times and did a road trip around the entire country. I wouldn’t say people there are any less predictable when you ask how they are. Everyone is always “grand.” I do love Irish people though and that’s why I married one!

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Amateur! lol – tell him I’m getting a sea of hate mail because of this post. Imagine if I had asked for his help – I’d be getting death threats!
      I intentionally didn’t want to discuss politics, medical issues etc. in this post.

  • Nicolekristengower

    You summed up exactly why I’d love to try and live outside the United States.  It’s not that I hate my country, but it’s very superficial and lonely….and you hit it on the head when you said it felt more dangerous to you walking around in San Francisco than it did to walk around in Brazil.  Most of my friends here wondering why I travel to the countries I travel to and say I’m crazy it’s dangerous, but I feel less scared walking around in lets say Muscat or Rome by myself than I do walking through D.C. or New York alone or even with another person.   Love this post, but I do disagree with a part of your religious section.  The part where you say they have replaced hard science with religion in schools is not true.  In fact, at least when I was in high school, teachers would have to say I’m not preaching to you if they even brought up something biblical.  That never happened to me in college, but religion was never brought up.  Good post though…it made me laugh at some points!

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Thanks! :)

  • Marsha

     Great article! I totally agree and have said so. Though most don’t like it or comprehend. 
    One of my favorite remarks is ,” Americans have a right to everything, except an opinion”.
     Born and raised in Washington state.Educated only some. Traveled only a little. But I must say, you have hit the mark, and fairly gently.
     Happy travels.

  • Kaitlyn

    There’s one thing I’d like to add to your peeve about cheesy advertisement in the US: the deafening volume. I can’t speak to the cheesiness of the ads because I grew up with them, but one definite thing I’ve noticed in the last few years is how LOUD they are. I hate having to  immediately mute my TV whenever a commercial pops up so that I’m not instantly deafened. 

    I admit, I’ve not watched much television outside of the states, so it might be like this everywhere. If it is, well, I guess my primary source of entertainment will always be book. Books are so much quieter.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      It’s nothing like that outside the states. Did you know that if you watch BBC (and BBC airs a lot of American shows as well as plenty of British ones) there are no advertisements… at all!
      But generally ads are less noisy and even somewhat entertaining in many countries. The only time America produces decent or amusing advertisements is for the superbowl.

  • Steven Thacker

    As an American living in Europe, I agree wholeheartedly! What an AWESOME post, lol. 

    The problem of people not being blunt is true in other countries as well, such as France and Japan.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Yes I’m sure it’s quite different, as would Hawaii and dependencies be. Hopefully I’ll visit soon!

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    I know all about religion, so I definitely do not need to look into Christianity – as I said I was raised Catholic and had priests as my teachers in school. But European and South American religious folk are way less annoying in making sure everyone is aware of their faith. I find it intrusive – and this is from people I’ve met in social situations. I find street preachers sadly amusing but that’s not who I’m referring to.

    As someone with a Christian upbringing I find many American Christians to be hypocritical. They don’t follow what I see as Christian values (do unto others etc.) Their Christianity seems more about loudness and making sure everyone knows about it than spirituality and following a wholesome life. Or they apply Christian values a bit too well – in a way that people in Europe would have done hundreds of years ago. And they are far too narrow minded about homosexuality, abortion etc.

    There are plenty of exceptions, which is why I’m saying it’s only certain affiliations, and maybe you are counted among those following what I view as a more European version of Christianity but I see them way more in America than anywhere else.

    In most of the world I can say that I’m atheist and nobody bats an eyelid. In America I learned quickly to use euphemisms such as “I’m not very religious”, to avoid endless arguments, and I detest euphemisms.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    “People like Benny” – you mean honest and frank people? It’s amazing how anyone being straight with you is “Anti-American”.
    Please do stop responding then…

    • lindababy

      That was my first thought too!!!

  • http://twitter.com/EspreeDevora Espree Devora

    Wow! This post was incredibly honest.  I think it’s very brave you put yourself out there to speak your mind. I admire it. And yes we are def about getting to results quickly. It’s something I struggle with… to enjoy the journey.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Thanks Espree ;)

  • Wayne Turner

    INCREDIBLY well put.  Maybe it’s because I am a little older (48), but these things that disappoint you are no less disappointing to those of use who have watched a lot of this occur.  The consumerism especially, where I have to watch younger friends who are barely making rent (or living at home) needing to go out and get the latest Apple gadget.

    It is so unfortunate that growing up in the US we learn almost NOTHING about other cultures (except for western Europe); maybe that it why we have the deluded sense of our country and people that we do.

    Thanks for a great analysis; I’ll be sending it to all my friends.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Thanks, appreciate you sharing it!

  • Lesley Packel

    I honestly have to agree with most of what you said here, even though I have to admit I am totally guilty of overusing the word “Awesome”…. I think this is well thought out and well put!

    I really hope that I am not a standard issue American though. I have this sudden need to prove that I’m different! I am from Alaska, I live in DC, I speak Russian (no, I can’t see Russia from my house. I suspect I have heard that as many times as you’ve been asked about drinking), and I am reasonably well traveled. I have spent time in Russia, the Philippines,  Ireland (I dated an Irishman who lived near Dublin), Costa Rica, etc. Americans can be international too! Honestly though, I have always identified myself as an Alaskan instead of an American…

  • Elyse

    I am American, and there are SO MANY things that I hate about the ‘stereotypical’ stupid ignorant bigoted American. I felt like some of your comments are just making fun of our language? I figured as someone who appreciates languages you would also appreciate dialectical differences between English-speaking countries. We say awesome, it’s a common, word so what? That’s part of our culture. It’s polite to smile at a stranger if you make eye contact. That’s part of our culture. There are so many awful things about America and you missed a lot of them to make fun of our language and culture.  Also, my great-grandparents on both sides came here from Europe all by themselves when they were 13 and my family is still very close to children and grandchildren of their siblings who stayed behind. I’m proud of everything they went through for my family to be here and visiting my family in Europe has hugely influenced my life. So I am very proud to say “I’m half Czech half Italian” if it’s relevant to say so.  No one I know who was born in those countries finds it offensive.  I think most people who say “me too” when you say you are Irish are trying to be nice and relate to you, they’re not stupid they can tell from your accent you were born there and you can tell from theirs that they were not.  I can understand your frustration with stereotypes, and honestly I think that most Americans I know are ignorant bigots. I go to MSU and we have tons of international students and many of my best friends are Chinese, and I feel like I have to constantly be defending them. There is soooo much racism and intolerance towards the international students. Americans think that anyone who doesn’t speak perfect English must be an idiot. There are so many other things wrong with America, and I do agree with a lot of your points, but I don’t understand why someone like you would find it appropriate to make fun of our version of English or our culture.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      I’m not making fun, I’m explaining why I get frustrated. Other commenters have thanked me for the perspective as it helps them understand how other foreigners have been frustrated with them.

      This post is me thinking aloud. A lot of people think the same things, but will bite their tongues to not offend people.

      I’m not interested in writing a post of “What’s wrong with America”, only particular things that bugged me in my time there. As an Irish tourist I get treated very differently than other visitors would, so I could only speculate about mistreatment of non-native English speakers etc. and that wouldn’t be an interesting post.

    • Polyglot in Asia

      Problems with intl students are not unique to the US.  Some Chinese speaking students don’t seem to be very happy to have non-natives at their schools, unless of course we are in the English language courses, since we are obviously to stupid to be able to speak or read Chinese. (sarcastic – I do)

  • Emily

    My biggest problem with the ‘stereotypical American’ (which really does not apply to most Americans) is the racism, intolerance and making fun of other cultures.  Kind of like how we feel reading (some parts) of your post. Some points I agree with, some are just ignorant.

  • guest

    The US reminds me of the spaceship in the film Wall-E, an insular world created and run by the corporation.  The corporation promises to fulfill all needs and wants as long as one remains on the matrix.   For some people there isn’t any need to wonder about what life is like, i.e. for the people who produce the goods that end up in US shopping malls.  Such questions are replaced by an endless stream of trivia–the celebrity gossip, the fashion, the football.  Of course, many US residents/citizens don’t live on the spaceship at all.  And people around the world are seduced by what the corporations offer, they simply don’t have the same access.   Here in Germany, for example, consumerism is restrained by higher prices, shopping laws, tariffs, and probably more restrained access to credit.  But take all that away and I’m sure that Germans (or anyone) would love to get their hands on more shiny objects.

    Sorry about the Irish (meaning Irish-American) jokes, but race is such a taboo subject in the US, and Irish-Americans are generally so good-natured about said jokes, that they become a rare outlet in a country where a race-based joke can/will get one fired, sued, or possibly worse.  There is simply no appropriate environment, however familiar (i.e. buddies in a bar or at home), for any race-based joke in the US, with extremely limited exceptions, one being Irish jokes.  Since Irish jokes are “safe,” I think they are told because people can feel familiar with each other without fear of having their lives destroyed for saying the wrong thing.  But I would find it annoying too.  

    I do have my own rants about Europe.  For example, why are markets in Eastern Europe filled with German goods, while German markets carry German goods and maybe some French, Austrian, Swiss, Italian and British goods.  Why does it cost 2 euros for a bottle of water in Berlin and there are only expensive (German, Swiss, Austrian) chocolates on the shelves when the Polish border is 1 or 2 hours away?  Seems like the Slavic countries and Romania are being forced to buy expensive W. European products while not having the same access to Western markets.  Meanwhile, Germans are probably dehydrated and unhealthy because it costs so much money to buy water and the ONE public water fountain I found in Berlin is shut down now.  

  • Jhh6586

    “5. False prices on everything”  

    You know who does care about how much that business gets as opposed to how much you pay. The IRS! and accountants as well. Which is a god reason why it is listed separately.  That makes it much more transparent on the business end.  Also, we just know we are a bit behind in teaching math so if a kid has $22 and wants to know if he can afford that $19.99 (whatever high school kids buy), he will need to do some math in his head (or phone calculator)

  • Elyse

    One more thing, even though I’ve already commented, in your “nice things about Americans” section you say that American girls aren’t very feminine? that seems like a pretty ridiculous (and not very nice) assumption to make about every single woman in America.

  • Peter

    I have to admit, as someone who’s proud of being from the United States and happy to call this place home, I did not expect to read this with as much of a smile (a genuine one, of course) as I did. I’d be lying if I said I agreed with EVERYTHING you wrote here, but I understand where you’re coming from on the points that I see differently. A few things I’d like to comment on:

    - I totally get your first few complaints. Even I find the ultra sensitive, constant smiling folks annoying (especially in the south). I’m from Boston, perennially ranked one of the rudest cities in the US. This of course couldn’t be further from the truth, but because we don’t walk around with a shit eating grin all day trying to be a ray of sunshine on everyone we meet, we’re perceived as rude by the rest of the country.

    - The tipping and false prices are annoying as all hell and you would be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t dislike this aspect of our country.. But unfortunately that’s just the way things are. Although we don’t like it, no one really has to the time to picket outside restaurants (maybe because there’s so god damn many of them) until they include taxes on the menu or just put the tip in the bill. Valid complaint, but a part of being in the US that isn’t going anywhere fast.

    - As annoying as our marketing is and as easy as it is to look down on “wasteful consumerism” in this country, #7 justifies why #6 happens. Frankly, it works. Call it how you want, if it’s making someone somewhere money, it’s here to stay.

    - I think every country has stereotypes of other people and places, one of the stereotypes of Americans is that we believe all of them. I’ll be the first to admit a lot of Americans ARE NOT the most cultured people around, but other countries aren’t immune. So while I don’t doubt it’s annoying for people to visit here and get bombarded with stupid questions, it’s no less annoying than being questioned about how many guns we own or how stupid everyone actually is in the US when we travel.

    Those are a few of the main things I wanted to bring up from your post, but there was one other thing I wanted to give my opinion on as well. While answering a question about Canada, you replied that you spent most of your time in Quebec and that none of this applies there, but I couldn’t say I wholeheartedly agree with that. We live just a few hours from the border with Quebec so it’s a place I visit frequently. I think at least a few of these points could describe there as well. For example, I actually find the people, especially in the service industry, just as “friendly” (if not more) while remaining punctual with the service. It’s not a far cry from what you get in a US restaurant. Also, they’re certainly no strangers to marketing and consumerism as I know I’ve never seen the Apple store in Montreal anything but packed with people. And this one is tough to argue because there’s no doubt how much healthier people are there, but the portions are definitely not small in Quebec restaurants. I usually don’t/can’t finish my portions there (or here for that matter).  I’d say it probably has to do with how much less frequently people eat this amount, but getting a shit ton of food is surely available in places other than the US.

    This is the majority of what I wanted to say, kept a few minor things out to keep it as brief as possible, but that’s what happens when you’re always in a hurry. Hopefully you get a chance to see it as I notice this is becoming quite a popular post. And as always, good luck with your next mission!

  • Katherine

    I have to ask where in New York you were. Upstate is a pretty broad description. All New York City people consider anything outside the city limits upstate, however the geographic majority considers Upstate to be Syracuse and northward. And I know I smile a lot, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t genuine. I have a lot to be happy about and I can’t go a few minutes without smiling. Trust me. I’ve timed it. Anyways, there is a lot I agree with you on and some I disagree with, but I accept that be it a cultural or a personal difference. I do wonder how European girls are considered more feminine in your point of view and where in New York you were that you considered Upstate. Thanks for the enlightenment.

  • Chasstevens412

    You don’t want us to say “Awesome” then you freakin Europeans need to stop saying “Brilliant” equally stupid IMO.  And honestly I could easily come up with a list twice as long about what I don’t like about you eurotrash types.

  • BaronAce

    I agree with this beautifully, I’m an American but because of the same things you listed above I feel that America is one of the worst places to live when it comes to happiness. Most, if not all of my friends are concerned about money, myself included. I also work as a waitress and I do agree with you about how the whole service industry can be quite frustrating at times. I personally try not to bother with my customers more then say twice or three times during their meal to make sure that everything is okay, drinks are filled etc. The only place I’ve been outside of the states is China where I didn’t have to pay for anything, but I would love to travel Europe! How much would ou say a person would need to travel comfortably for a few weeks in Europe?

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      It depends on what you mean by “comfortably”. If you go into the forums on this site and ask the question in the travel part you’ll get much more detailed answers :)

  • Monicalf49

    I totally agre with Benny Lewis—–I can hardly stand it here myself

  • Beckie

    Listen, I’m a fifteen-year-old Californian. I have to say… I completely agree with you. This country disgusts me continually every day. 

    Cheapskate companies, crappy laws, half-assed people,  the whole 1% vs. the 99% deal… And then there’s the inevitable American weight gain. There’s weight loss pills, diet systems, surgeries… those kinda work. But you know what really works, you guys?! EXERCIZE, MOTHERFUCKERS!
    But what pisses me off the most are today’s american teenagers – yea, my age group. Skinnyass chicks walkin’ around and flashin’ their asses, fat guys bein’ all emo. All the drama. The girls are bitches, the guys are douchebags. Fun, right?  

    My name is Rebecca. I’m a female wrestler/snowboarder. I’m clean as far as drugs go. I cover my ass n boobs when I’m in public, and I’m not a silly poser. I sing, I play COD and Assassins Creed. I don’t obsess over God or whoever; I live my life for me. And fifteen years in this crappy country is enough. Just three more to go, ’cause the moment I turn 18, I’m packin’ up and gettin my butt outta here to live with family in the Middle East.

  • Kejorrie

    As an American who has lived in three other countries (United Kingdom, New Zealand and Ghana) I understand some frustrations about other cultures but that’s all part of traveling. You learn another lands culture and you try not to offend people because its respectful. It’s rude here to insult or be too frank with someone. I’m glad you have recognized that, now you can respect it. I don’t expect you to walk on egg shells when visiting but maybe try to realize there are other people with different sensibilities around you. When traveling you have to understand that each country if different and has its own customs. I would never touch food with my left hand in Ghana (extremely rude) because I realize I am the visitor. I never got ending every text message with an ‘x’ or ‘xx’ but I didn’t rant about Scottish people (living in Edinburgh). 
    Also, yes the US is huge, yes we have a lot of people that are content with not traveling so they are going to have some false or limited views. Can you blame them? We live in a society that is so diverse that states’ differences make them look like another country to the other. Everything they need is here in the U.S. and why should we fault the farmer that is content with just the local news of his town? Every country has those content ‘farmers,’ even Ireland. 
    And just to end quickly, because I’m in a hurry, every country has pride. I’m American so I think the U.S. is the best country. It doesn’t meant I don’t respect other countries. Can you honestly say you don’t think Ireland is the best country? It’s pride in your origins and how can you fault that.

    Despite my negative comments i did enjoy your blog. I have travelled enough to learn all the little things Americans do that piss people off and its entertaining to hear it from another perspective.

    Oh, and I smiled the entire time I wrote this..
    :)

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      My favourite country is Brazil, not Ireland. I think Ireland is “great”, but I definitely can honestly tell you that I don’t think it’s the best country. I’m proud of it, and definitely patriotic, but I find the “We’re #1″ of Americans to be nationalistic and less desirable than patriotism.

      Note that I’ve been travelling for almost ten years, so I’m well aware of cultural adjustments.

      Glad you enjoyed the blog.

  • Anne Object

    I am a middle-aged Canadian.  I have been stuck with “America” in my face all my life.  I was really looking forward to what you had to say.  I started to agree, but your writing actually sounds very “American” to me.   The habits, such as smiling, “awesome”, “oh my gawd”, etc.  are culture, and if you find them annoying, like “Americans” find others cultural habits annoying, then that, frankly, is your problem.  The obsession with money, and religion, and unhealthy habits: sure.   But hardly unique to the USA.  I think the most disturbing generalizable thing about the USA is that they do not care about the rest of the world and they are convinced that they actually have democracy and right on their side.  I would say, thought, that any culture that lucked out in terms of history and power  and resources like the USA would behave no better, and in many cases much worse.

  • John Smith

    thank you for articulating that so well.  I went to Europe and the first thing I noticed was all the old buildings.  I could touch walls that were touched by hands hundreds of years ago.  It made the cities feel more solid and have more gravity than back home.  

  • http://www.bzemic.com/impossibleInstinct/ steve ward

    Benny Benny Benny, you dont know HOW many times I heard that IT drives me insane 

    1) What you want to leave  usa is the best………..really
    2) Why is this country car friendly over people friendly oh and get this if you say other wise they look at you like your stupid

    oh and dont get me started on the rest of the list this post really hit the mark for me

  • Erika

    I’m from AZ!!! Haha but I live in Colorado now, visit! It’s great (meant in a positive way)! especially for outdoor activities!  Also, Fort Collins is very friendly to pedestrians and bicyclists.  I agree with many of your comments, and I also hate how people can never just say “I’m American” they always have to be 1/8 Italian, 1/4 German, etc. 

  • Me

    Well you know what they say; opinions are like assholes. Everybody’s got one and everybody thinks everyone elses stinks.

  • Brandenvw1

    After having lived in France for about 2 years (I just got back week) I have to say that I agree and disagree with you. For example, I totally disagree with you on the point of tipping. I don’t know how many times I went to a café (not in a hurry) and waited up to 20 minutes just for the waiter to take my order. Sorry, but that’s just not good service. How about the fact that you actually have to pay to call a customer service number? So I buy your product and if something goes wrong with it I have to pay again just to talk to you?

    I do feel that there are Americans that are hyper-religious but I could say that in France there were people who were hyper-secular, to the point that they wanted to ban women from wearing hijab on the streets. On the other hand I didn’t hear anyone saying that nuns should be banned from wearing their outfits on the street. Égalité? Je ne pense pas. And frankly your complaint about the sales tax not being included in the price is just silly. We (Americans) know that the tax isn’t included in the price so we take that into account when we are purchasing something. It’s just a difference in how things are done. And if you ask French people many would tell you that French is the most beautiful language, that French cuisine is the best in the world, etc. So honestly, some of your points could be applied to many countries.

    Now I have to say that I was never one who thought that America was the best country in the world and after living in another country my eyes have been opened even more. My time in France was something I will never forget and who knows? I might go back. I loved the fact that I didn’t need a car. I loved going to the café with friends and just walking around the city. I loved the architecture and the fact that I lived around the corner from a freakin castle (I was in Nantes. Beautiful city.) And I loved the people. But all countries have their positive and negative points and those Americans that think that if they move to another country all their problems will suddenly fall away are just kidding themselves. Talk to expats in any country and they will complain about the country they are in as well.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      When you want the waiter’s attention you call him over. Just looking impatient, à la americaine isn’t enough. If you sit there twiddling your thumbs for 20 minutes why would you be surprised to get no service?

      All “customer service” I got in the states was abysmal. I was put through to an idiotic automatic system with terrible voice recognition or put on hold for a very long time or told to call back. I’d rather pay and get some decent help from a human being, but I actually can’t think of anything off the top of my head that is paid for; most customer support is free in Europe too.

      Yes, some of these arguments can be used for other countries, but I’ve lived in France too for one year and I personally couldn’t apply these complaints to France, although I would have other ones.

      “Talk to expats in any country” – that’s the whole point! Most of the endless complaining I’ve heard over the last decade has been from *American* expats. It’s why I wrote this in the first place. I’ve talked to expats and heard endless complaints about things like rude waitresses and I’m sick of it.

      • Lorenzo

         I was indeed surprised to hear that in your experience Americans are the ones who tend to complain the most about the local country when  abroad…I thought the Brits would deserve nr 1.   Well, maybe the latter come second place! Anyhow, based on my experience and on what I hear, it is the British and the Americans traveling or living abroad that most frequently expect locals to adapt to them instead of the other way round, although this is just a generalization of course…

        • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

          A lot of things I wrote here really don’t apply to the Brits, such as oversensitivity and aggressive marketing. The Brits love to take the piss out of the Irish, but it’s more original so I find it endearing! But it’s true that they expect people to cater to them and to speak English as much as Americans do in many cases abroad, which is a pity. I probably wouldn’t live permanently in the UK either, but I’d feel way more at ease there than I would in the states.

  • Kelly Kavanaugh

    Benny,
    I really, really enjoyed reading your blog. I am a 22 year old American and while I don’t claim to be a seasoned traveller by ANY means, I have been to a few countries in Central and South America ( I’m kind of obsessed with Latin American Culture), Spain, and your very own Ireland last summer. Pretty much EVERYTHING on this list physically either made me say “oh my God YES!” (see, I really am American) or I just smiled and nodded as I kept reading. I especially liked #1- Americans are WAY too polite and need to just say it how it is sometimes! And I couldn’t agree more with the fact that we waste things (I had a hard time finding garbage cans in Europe, butI realized it was because you don’t waste enough plastic/cardboard/insert packaging here to have to worry about trash cans! I personally believe very strongly that I live in a great country, BUT that EVERY American needs to see what life is like elsewhere, even if just for a week or two trip; especially to a third-world country so that they might appreciate things a little more. Thank you so much for this refreshing post– and I must say that I absolutely LOVED Ireland and I can’t wait for my next travel adventure (hopefully the Galapagos Islands!) Thanks again.
    Kelly 
    P.S. Yes, its true, we looooove those Irish accents :)

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Where did you find it hard to find trash cans in Europe? That has been something that stands out for me very much in Asia and South America, but generally I find there to be as many trash cans in most European countries as there would be in the states. Perhaps I’m wrong.

      Glad you enjoyed the post! And thanks for loving our accents :)

  • Kerri

    In the beginning of this post you made it sound like Americans complain about all other countries and non-Americans never complain about the U.S. Just want to say, you are not the first and you certainly won’t be the last person to say what you said here. Every single culture and country has it’s good and bad points. By ranting and raving for 17 topics of how you can’t stand America just proves the European stereotype that no matter what you see when you come to America, you will find and harp on the negative. Then immediately point out every other place on the globe that is better. 

    Did it ever occur to you that Americans aren’t sensitive, you might just be offensive?

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Well that’s the point – the more sensitive one culture is, the more “offensive” the other one seems. My frankness is not seen as such an oddity in many European countries, since it’s the norm there.

      I find it sad that honesty is offensive. I actually find sugar coating the truth to be offensive.

      I’ve met many European expats as well as American ones and they tend to complain way less. There are of course exceptions and those that don’t integrate well, but Americans have always stood out for me when talking to expats.

      You are right of course that every country has its good and bad points. I don’t think I was implying otherwise. I could write a list of things that bug me in France, Germany etc., but it wouldn’t be enough to make me personally not consider living there for several decades, that’s the difference.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    This post was about my day to day life. I’m not interested in discussing politics, economics, foreign policies and the like. Those things are totally irrelevant when you are spending time with individual Americans, who are generally peaceful or against such wars if they are liberal.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Ha, thanks! I like to think I’m learning from the masters, but putting at least a less aggressive European take on effective American suggestions for growing or earning from a blog.

  • http://twitter.com/MilesLord Miles Lord

     I just want to point out that I noticed that you didn’t spend much (or any?) time in New York City. NYC is without a doubt the most pedestrian-friendly city in the U.S. It’s probably the only city in the country where you will find a sizable number of natives who don’t even have a driver’s license.  You can get virtually anywhere via the subway, and there are always lot’s of people walking the streets, especially in Manhattan.

  • Lorenzo

    “The word “awesome” is over used, but just like I’ve read in comments, apparently so is the word lovely in northern Ireland.”

    Oh yes, it is,  over here in Northern Ireland everything you like/every nice person you know or meet/everything you do well at work is “lovely!” according to locals.  How boring! I agree with you,  if one of our friends or acquaintances is fat or obese,  it’s not our business as long as it does not affect us. Plus, I know a few people who are indeed fat or extremely selfconceited or really annoying, and being honest with them about their faults would not only be totally useless, it would actually put them even more on the defensive too. Indeed, the only tangible result you could possibly achieve by doing so would be to make them hostile to you and, very likely, they would see themselves as innocent victims of an unjust attack as well.  But no, their behavior wouldn’t improve in the slightest as a result of your bluntness. By the way, not only is it obvious that honesty can hurt; in fact, UNSOLICITED honesty sometimes even KILLS people.

    • Riesketurtle

      Exactly! Very “awesome” point. I’ve never straight up said “You need to lose some weight” to my fat friends because, well duh, they already know that. But I’ve heard my friends say their families want them to lose weight and make comments and all they have to say is “I’d rather be fat and happy than skinny and miserable.” So flawed, but that’s how their mind works. Also, if you push a fat person to be healthy, they feel like you don’t care about them and their health. I think their mindset is more like “they just don’t want to be seen with a fat person” which, for me isn’t true at all. I do want to see healthier people that actually care, that would be refreshing, but as soon as a fat person in America is told to go to the gym, the binge on Twinkies for comfort.

      • lorenzo

        Glad to see you agree with my point! I found your observations really interesting. Lovely! Brilliant (another overused word here in Northern Ireland)! By the way, last year I heard even on BBC Radio Ulster (the local channel of the British Broadcasting Corporation)  that the word “lovely” is used so frequently in this part of Ireland nowadays that it has become in many ways a neutral term

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    I’ve already left. In case you missed it, I wrote this post from Peru!
    But I will be back to visit, whether people disgruntled with this post like it or not :-P

  • Jude

    at 16, with my class, we spent 2 weeks in Minnesota. One of my classmate’s host family said she was “cute”, so she was very pleased. But then they went for a walk; a dog was cute, a frog was cute, a nice dress was cute… it was our first time experiencing that for some people, some words don’t actually have a meaning.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Yes, cute is another word I find to have no real meaning in America myself too.

  • Unogot

    Speaking of stereotypes try being an italian-american west of 287  in New Jersey ba-da-bing!

  • Dixon L. Creasey, Jr.

    Very well done, and accurate as hell.

  • Shannon S

    First of all, let me say that I recognize that this isn’t a list of “Reasons the US sucks” but rather a list of “reasons I wouldn’t want to live in the US.”  That said, I probably shouldn’t quibble with you on any of them, since you’re perfectly within your rights to choose someplace to live that better suits you! But I’m going to anyway.  
    I am American. I’ve traveled – not extensively, compared to you, but extensively compared to many Americans – and I’ve lived abroad for a semester in Costa Rica. Also been to Ireland and Peru, but only for a couple weeks for vacations.

    I think a couple of your points – specifically the idiotic stereotypes (8) – exist everywhere you could choose to live.  We as humans almost compulsively have to generalize The Other because of our need to find patterns. I’m sorry for all the ignorant people you met who asked if you drank a lot. I’ve been stereotyped abroad as an American (I must be fat, I must be loud, I must be rich), and I’ve observed locals stereotyping other nations, too – Costa Ricans’ attitude towards Nicaraguans comes to mind. I’m not sure where you could choose to live that this doesn’t happen. Perhaps Americans are just worst than most.  I also see a lot of advertising (6) everywhere I’ve been, except perhaps in rural areas. 

    Some of your points I couldn’t agree more with (4, 5, 7,10, 11,13,16,17) . I think the practices of tipping, price-labeling, alcohol policies, consumerism, religiosity, human-friendly-design, and others are done much, much better in other places.  Though I don’t actually think I could find an ideal handling of every single one of them anywhere@72dcd9d28c6369cdc4d9d3f30cb4449a:disqus 

    I do take some issue with the sensitivity item (1), though, particularly since your examples tend to be that people won’t give you “constructive criticism.”  Your US time living here was well beyond typical vacation, certainly, but I would not readily tell someone I’d known less than a month that their breath stunk or that they looked fat in those pants.   However, I might tell a close friend any of those things! I don’t think of this as sensitivity so much as a different notion of what “polite” means in various cultures. Again – if this definition bothers you, that’s totally subjective. But I don’t see it as something that “Americans are.”

    Also on the varying cultural standards – oh, the “I’m great!” thing (2). This is again, I think, a difference of an acquaintance vs. a close friend.  Understand that “How are you?” isn’t a question, really, it’s a greeting. And the formulaic correct response in casual conversation is “Good!”   This is because I understand that the person is actually saying hello, not looking for an in-depth list of my troubles. Is this a non-literal interpretation? Yes it is. Does it take a little getting used to? It might. Took me awhile to figure out that the answer to “Qué pasa?” wasn’t “No mucho” but rather “Bien.” But that’s a problem with my understanding, isn’t it?  
    This fuels a similar attitude about smiling (3), which is “If you and I aren’t having a real heart-to-heart here, then there’s no reason for me to go around all frowny.”  I’ve never had ANY problem distinguishing between a genuine smile of pleasure and a standard polite “how ya doin’” (which remember, is a greeting, not a question!) smile.

  • Aisling Ryan

    Culturally speaking, I’ll just say one thing: Ireland produced Jedward. 

  • Jen

    I started reading this article fully prepared to judge you for making gross generalizations about the American people based on those you meet in typical international tourist destinations (ie. New York, LA, Vegas, etc.) After reading the article, however, I completely agree with each of your points.  This article makes me want to travel internationally and really get an oppertunity to learn about and immerse myself in other cultures to see how the rest of the world lives (I haven’t been able to afford to travel because I spent all my money on my education, not techie gadgets). Thanks for giving me an oppertunity to view my life from soemone else’s perspective! 

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      That’s precisely what I was aiming for! Glad you see it :)

  • Hals

    All I want to add to this is that I’ve never heard or seen the phrase “USonian” before today. I think its a better descriptor than just “American”.

  • Dukecola

    Good article written by someone who wasn’t born and raised in the US.   It’s what you’d expect a foreigner to say.  If you were not raised under our culture, you wouldn’t understand.  As someone who has visited extensively more than 40 other countries, I could pretty much come up with a similar list for every one of them.  For example, in Germany, you are not allowed to name your kid Bob. You have to select a name from the “approved” list.   If you want to go to college, the gov’t tells you what career you can pursue.   In Italy, the restaurants all serve the same fare, menus the same, even written same way.  Don’t get me wrong, food is great, but selection is poor.  Plus I don’t need a waiter to get all huffy if I want bread at the beginning of my meal.  The protocol of eating in Italy is ridiculous.  I do like the no tipping though.  :-)  In Europe,  a car is not really needed because distances are small and buses and trains are everywhere.  I hate nothing more than to have to wait and waste time for a bus or train. Us Americans value our travel freedom.  However, if I want to walk, there are tons of places to do that.  Also,  I guess the author never went to NY city.  No one smiles there!

    Lastly, my mother called herself Irish, she was born of 2 native Irish parents. I call myself American and never refer to myself as Irish. If you are 3rd generation American or later, you generally drop any reference to your heritage.  My mother’s family did not drink, but I agree the sterotype Americans have is wrong, just like the sterotype of Americans traveling in Europe are loud is wrong as well.

    • lorenzo

      Hi, I’m Italian. All menus in Italy are the same?!! Maybe they tend to be in some touristy places, but that’s definitely not the case in restaurants located in more periphal places. Italian cuisine is EXTREMELY varied and changes a lot from one part of the country to another. Even in the small Central Italian region I come from (Abruzzo) you will find an astonishing variety. So whenever you go to a restaurant in my country, try to eat the local (i.e. regional) food.  And the fares are not the same either, they vary widely depending on whether you are in a big town or touristy place, or in a small or mid-sized town or village, or indeed in the northern or southern part of country. You are perfectly right on the no tipping though, and like you I really appreciate that!

      • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

        Agreed. That argument is bogus unless you are specifically only eating at touristy restaurants, which are indeed homogeneous. But most restaurants in Italy offer incredible variety.

        • Lorenzo

          Spot-on, Benny! By the way, I meant “peripheral”.  Sorry for the misspelling!

  • Tuoheyco

    I think this is a great social commentary that looks to give an opinion, but not to stereotype. Thank you for that! I found that a lot of the issues you have with American culture are grievances shared by a lot of Americans themselves.  (I myself am American.) So I think that’s an important idea for people to keep in mind.

    The only other comment I have is about American heritage, which is actually more of a question for you. As an Irishman, if you moved to the United States and had grandchildren here (who would inherently be American) would you want them to say they were American, Irish or Irish-American? This is not an attack on your opinion. I’m simply interested in how you feel people should represent their heritage!

    - Colleen from Michigan

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      I’d certainly want them to be proud of their heritage, but they would still be “Irish American” at best, and in all likeliness 100% American with no Irish traits whatsoever.

      To me personally “Irish American” better describes someone who was brought up in both Ireland and the states, or at least raised by Irish parents in the states. If my grandchildren had never visited Ireland or had little contact with me to influence their development/values etc., I honestly don’t see what would make them Irish.

      They’d be 100% American, “with an Irish grandfather”.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    A year is not a short time. I’ve had deep conversations with many Americans who are genuinely depressed with their life, but they still smile all the time. I don’t find that genuine. Neither do I find it genuine to get greeted at Walmart or whatever by a Cheshire cat – how can that smile be genuine? Yes, I suppose I do have a different “cultural mode”. In my universe these would not be things I’d smile about.

  • Sarah Passemar

    Awesome!  ;)  I’m (obviously) American, and I’d agree with pretty much everything you’ve said.  Although I sure as hell won’t give up smiling. 

    Another thing – Americans out of context are loud.  I’ve traveled around, and many of them take up more noise-space than most other nationalities.  

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    I’m starting to understand even more why so many don’t. By speaking my mind I’ve got a flood of hatemail! And it lead to many awkward situations in person. That kind of treatment would have someone programmed to sugar coat everything. It’s sad.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    There’s no way you were “carded like crazy” compared to America. People check IDs generally to get into nightclubs or maybe high-class bars. If you were in a touristy area they may have had some pressure from Americans.

    No normal pub in Ireland will card you for walking in. That’s what annoys me; I don’t even drink – I’d go to a bar to socialise and maybe get a coke. On occasion I’d forget my passport in the states and even walking in to be in the vicinity of drinkers wasn’t permitted.

    Also, there’s a big difference between someone 3 years older than the minimum age and someone almost 30 getting carded. In the states even if you have grey hair and wrinkles you’ll get carded in many places.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    I specifically mentioned this point in the introduction. Unless the term “USonian” becomes standard, it’s the word that most people accept as true.

    I know for a fact many Canadians detest being called “American” and definitely don’t consider themselves that. They’d say they are “North American” or “from the Americas”. Inefficient as this naming system is, it’s the standard.

  • Christina Hahn

    First, let me say I enjoy reading your blog, and thoroughly enjoyed this post as well. I am an American, now living in Switzerland. I found most of what you said to be spot on, and many of the reasons you gave for not choosing to reside in the US are the very same reasons I am not, and will not again be living in the United States. Many times I am actually embarrassed to have to say I am from America when people ask, because Americans are so well known for many of the things you pointed out…and rightfully so. However, I can confidently say I am not the typical American. So, I guess my only comment for those reading this post is: though these things are true of MOST Americans, they are not true of all (even though you did make this clear in your post), just like the true stereotypes about your culture or country may not be true of you. Throughout my travels I’ve had many people immediately turn up their nose when I say I’m American, but generally if they take the opportunity to actually get to know me they realize I’m not a sensitive, religious, ignorant, money-hungry nationalist, with a bad case of rampant consumerism.

    And just as an addendum: I really liked that your first reason was that “Americans are way too sensitive”. That is probably the #1 Americanism, AND I HATE IT!  Say what you mean and what you think and save your sugar-coating, bullshit, meaningless conversations for your shallow, ego-centric “friends”.

  • http://profiles.google.com/adamdelved Jon Nelson

    I shared this on facebook. I really can’t argue with anything you’ve said. I’m not well traveled. I can barely get by with a few polite phrases in Spanish. I’ve hardly ever left the United States but it’s apparent to me that something is wrong here. You’ve summed it up nicely. Thanks. 

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Appreciate the share, thanks a lot!

  • Anonymous

    It is hard to disagree with any of your points, but I’ll take a poke at #3. Custom, my good man, granted that most of our customs are about 3 days old and exported from southern California via television, but that’s the way we roll. If smiles are difficult for you  here, don’t go to Japan.  #1, Same thing generally, maybe connected to the armed citizen theme, smile when you say that podna.
    3#  Religion, what can I say? You Irish have handled that so well, historically.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Your last comment is terribly ignorant. Please go spend a few hours on Wikipedia and learn a thing or two.

      • Anonymous

        One other reason we smile, is because we GET irony.  Awesome.

        • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

          I’ve come across too many situations where Americans “get” irony in the same way their Canadian neighbour Alanis Morissette does. This is one of those times.

  • Kekort2

    Eddie Izzard on “awesome”:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i6DxV-MkPgM

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Love it :D

  • Andrew

    I thoroughly enjoyed the post. I’m from the US and can appreciate your perspective on these various subjects. I will also add, however, that I do like the various cultures and appreciate their idiosyncrasies. I grew up with the American “fast paced, driving, smiling, AMERICA IS NUMBER ONE” atmosphere and I grew accustomed to it. I enjoy it. But then again, I have lived in Warsaw and Berlin and I can say that those social atmospheres, though quite different, are also enjoyable. I’ve read over some people’s responses to this article and I just want to say that people need to relax. Who cares if someone doesn’t like one aspect about one country or another? When it comes to people’s opinions you don’t have to have to see in black in white. There is no right and wrong. Sure, Benny didn’t like enjoy those aspects of American culture. No need to get bent out of shape about it. Other Europeans may enjoy those aspects. It’s all personal opinion.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Well put. There are plenty of things I love about America, but that wasn’t the purpose of this post. 5 days after writing it and I’m still getting hatemail…

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Yes, as I said, American girls’ love for Irish accent is a major pull factor contributing, among other things, to the fact that I will be back to visit ;)

    Glad you agree with my tipping frustration!

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Hi!

    Yes, I share tables with people all the time in many places around the world if it’s busy, but it’s less likely in cities.

    Glad you enjoyed the post – tell your daughter thanks for sharing it!

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    People have been hate-spamming me all week (especially leaving insulting comments on my Youtube videos) so I’ve had to make my introduction and conclusion longer to cater for how bloody sensitive Americans are.

    They can indeed shove it, but I’d still rather receive less hate-mail, so hopefully the long-winded parts to cushion the blow will reduce the amount of idiots who prove that I’m right about #17 and #1.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Yes, I do find it quite ironic!

  • Hannah_moren

    it’s the United States of Advertising baby, take it or leave it. We eat too much, we buy too much -just sell and consume. It’s gross, and strange, but I like being in a country where I can bop around my home town and hear Cantonese/Mandarin, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, Vietnamese, and occasionally other languages, just going to the mall and getting some groceries. Perhaps this is not entirely unique to the United States, but based on my travels to other countries, we are one of the few. 

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      I’ve lived in many cities where this is the case. In São Paulo Brazil for example you have a very similar opportunity to expose yourself to hundreds of languages and cultures and religions just by walking around. I’ve found this in many European cities too. But if you are visiting as a tourist you are less likely to go to residential areas and be exposed to that.

  • Colekb11

    brilliant…I am in NY studying.. I am from Ireland also.. 100% agree. :)

  • Roy Petersen

    This was wonderful. I want to share it with everyone. I’m American (oh, wait, 23.7% Irish! heritage), I think it’s important to see yourself from another point of view. Thank you for this. Came here through StumbleUpon.com .

  • Roy Petersen

    This was wonderful. I want to share it with everyone. I’m American (oh, wait, 23.7% Irish! heritage), I think it’s important to see yourself from another point of view. Thank you for this. Came here through StumbleUpon.com .

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Yes good old Stumbleupon! It’s sent me 50k visitors to this article in less than a week. I’m a big user of stumbleupon myself, so I always appreciate when it’s nice to me and sending me lots of cool new readers :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tierra-Rideout/100000018701716 Tierra Rideout

    i agree with some of this. i really do hate it when  ppl get in your face at the mall and pretty much put in your hands and expect you to buy it.   and as much as ppl disagree about this, this is a religious nation,  and it shouldn’t be. that’s not even what the founding fathers agreed on, but it happened anyways… 
    the drinking laws are there for a REASON
    and if you see ANYBODY smiling in Seattle, that must be a genuine smile because there really is nothing to smile about unless the weathers nice haha.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Brianna-Forster/2539468 Brianna Forster

    In the paragraph you’re referring to, Benny wrote”With rare exceptions (like San Francisco)”. I was thinking as I read it that NYC must also be another exception. I believe that most other U.S. cities are pedestrian un-friendly with few corner shops, as he described.

  • Bobert1707

    Very interesting post Benny! I am an American who is currently living in France, near the Swiss and Italian borders. I must say I found many of your reasons to be true. We definitely think we are indisputably the best country in the entire world and we can have a very narrow view of the rest of the world. In fact, I avoid going to Paris in the summer because the loads of ignorant American tourists makes me cringe. Furthermore, I hate having to rely on a car for everything, why DON’T we include taxes in the final price and don’t even get me started on our puritanical views on drinking.

     My only major problem with your post is the way you presented some of your opinions. I understand this is a rant and you are a blunt person, but some of your comments came off more hostile than you may have intended. For example, smiling may baffle you but that does not make it wrong or make Americans fake (you do not outright say it is wrong, but that is the tone of your argument). It is just a cultural difference which you may not totally understand or appreciate. Smiling for us is a way of saying hello or acknowledging someone’s presence. Its imbedded in our culture, and for that reason, I don’t think that it is fair to say that smiling is fake (it just serves a different purpose than what you are used to with your home culture). I believe some of my compatriots are misunderstanding your intentions and beliefs about America because of your wording. But other than that, I got a kick out of your post. And I have definitely been in your shoes, except feeling the need to rant about Europe instead of America. Its so interesting to live in another culture and see the differences of so many little things that you normally don’t even think about when you are home. I once went on a ten minute rant about French milk cartons, so I feel your pain!

    Thanks for sharing!

    Best Wishes.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Glad you enjoyed the post and thanks for your comments!

      Just keep in mind that seeing honest opinions like this as “hostile” could perhaps be interpreted as confirming my thoughts on American sensitivity… I’m not trying to be hostile (as I said in the end, I love my American friends and will definitely come back to the states), I’m just being frank, and not-sugar-coating one’s thoughts is not something you find a lot in the states unless someone is indeed being hostile. This is a pity.

      But glad you agree otherwise!

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Yes, there are plenty of exceptions among my American friends to what I described here and that’s why I’ll be back ;)
    As a rule I prefer cities around the world – I get bored in the countryside. But cities in some countries can still have the right balance of enjoying life, while being modern.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    I find it very odd that you don’t consider Europeans as Westerners. We are as much westerners as Americans are.
    And yes, your opinion will change dramatically when you make the trip. You can’t base your opinions of a culture based just on the rich elite who stay in hotels.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Since there’s 600 or so comments already it’s hard to go through them, but I’ve been asked this question several times :P

    I lived in Quebec for 3 months, but only visited the rest of Canada for a week total. That’s not long enough to form an educated opinion, but my opinion of Quebecers would be waaay off what I wrote in this post, and I could definitely live the rest of my live in Montreal (although I’d leave for the worst winter months). Although tipping is still an issue there.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    I’m very glad I didn’t get sick in the states. While I have insurance, I have no interest whatsoever in getting exposure to the American health care system based on the many tales I’ve heard about it.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    I could have also mentioned in my post that many Americans I’ve met do a terrible job at conveying irony.

    • http://twitter.com/glamaFez glamaFez

      It’s not just irony. Our sarcasm is not what it used to be, either.

  • Melodyj1967

    Benny, I find I agree with most everything you said.  I’m not sure if I should hang my head in shame or just shake my head.  Reading some of the things people have said to you really does make me just shake my head in defeat.  People really need to get out more!
    I have lived in Oregon for most of my 44 years save 3 years in Germany and 1 year in Washington State.  For your next visit, perhaps you’d consider coming to Oregon as we’re an interesting lot and I think you might find the scenery enjoyable. 
    By the way, that was a nice read.  I enjoyed it thoroughly and find your sense of humor and the way you weave that in simply wonderful. 

  • Marina

    Well I just found your blog through stumbleupon and I’m never a commenter on articles and what not,  but I felt compelled to reply to this.  I’m a native Chicago suburbanite and now to go to school and live in the city.  You had me laughing at the first one because that is my biggest pet peeve of my fellow Americans–their political correctness.  It’s really infuriating watching a movie/tv show/comedy show and people getting all sensitive over some of the jokes.  I think it’s especially a problem with my 20-something generation.  

    I also semi-agree with your points on consumerism.  My parents have several flat screen TV’s, iPhones, computers, two nice cars, etc.  But, they worked for it.  I mean really worked for it.  They went from trailer trash to working their way up the career ladder (with a sub-par education).  So let them enjoy nice things.  Do they obsess about their products? Not at all. The people that stand in line for the new iWhatever are not the majority here.  It might appear that way, but it’s not.  After listening to the opinions of a healthy sample size of college friends, I would be hard pressed to find two that would go camp outside the Apple store overnight.  Yes, we still have the products, I’ll give you that.  I probably got a little off track here because I know your point was wasteful consumerism, but I just hope you don’t think obsessive consumerism is the absolute norm here. It’s prevalent, but not rampant.

    I see your problem (and I think every other non-American’s) with our rush to do everything.  But, this issue definitely goes both ways.  In my three visits to Europe, I never understood why Europeans went so slow.  I rush through a lot of aspects in my life.  I rush through showers, mundane tasks at work, etc.  I can do these tasks efficiently without error so I don’t see any point in not rushing through them. It allows me to get to other things I don’t enjoy–like travelling, spending time with friends, eating a good meal.  

    Also, your comment about not being able to find a restaurant in Chicago hurt me.  Not because I’m offended, but because I’m truly sorry you felt that way.  I want every tourist to come to this city feeling we have the best there is to offer.  There are too many Starbuck’s, McDonald’s, etc on every street corner (especially in the loop).  But, I’ll be damned if someone tells me it’s hard to find a good restaurant in the city.  For one thing, I would argue that all the stupid chains have made the real restaurants become better.  They can’t be mediocre because people won’t justify spending $10 mediocre when they could get crappy, yet consistent, food at McD’s for half the price.  (My logic is starting to fail here though because McD’s is getting fricken expensive these days.)  If you want to go to a city that has good food that is hard to get to, try D.C. Then whatever thoughts you had about Chicago will go away.  D.C. had great food in Georgetown but I was hard pressed to find food elsewhere.  Yes, yes you may have to travel to get to the food.  But, I will stand by Chicago’s public transportation until the day I die. You don’t have to drive to them.  It might not be as pretty as the trains I took in Portugal during my last visit to Europe, but it isn’t that bad.  I could think of at least 5 restaurants in every square mile north of downtown that are great and reasonable.  (Minus a few shady areas). It does take some finding to find non-chains downtown, but it’s possible.  Keep in mind, the downtown area goes dark after the workday and no real restaurant would want to keep their business where there’s no foot traffic after 6 pm.

    I didn’t mean for my reply to be this long, wow.  But, I agree with you on somethings and not so much as others.  It’s nice to hear a European’s view on the States.  Nice read.  And, really I didn’t get offended because I’m not an oversensitive prick like the rest of us. :)  

  • brittney

    i really enjoyed reading this blog post.  it was nice to hear from a foreigner’s perspective and it gave much better insight into ideas and culture we only talk about.  i agree with almost all of what you said and am slightly embarrassed for my country.  the truth is that american culture is sometimes to ignore problems (or possibly we are too busy to care) because we are too positive and aren’t individually honest with one another.  to my very best friends, i am rudely harsh but those are few and far between.  perhaps if our honesty was shown to the general public, we would have many less problems, so yes, i agree. 

    however, i disagree with #3.  smiles mean a lot in our country and a previous commenter was right when he said that you can see through the fakes.  my hope is that we smile because we believe in the good in people and hope to just make others happy.  i do see that sometimes it can be creepy (definitely had my share of creepy smiles) but i believe that the general person is genuine and it’s a great thing if you are used to the culture, i guess.

    one more thought!  you should visit somewhere other than new orleans to get a good view of the south.  that city has a culture of its own but i would love to hear your thoughts about Georgia….  talk about over-religious.  and it’s true- American girls do love Irish accents!  btw, i have been to many countries in europe and my favorite place is dublin, ireland.  very beautiful and welcoming place to nice americans ;)

  • Stephen Krisel II

    Wow, after just reading a few of the replies, I can see even those interested in learning other languages (hopefully just as much as learning the cultures of those languages), some Americans just can’t seem to evade the ever-present sensitivity issue. I was one of them once also! I don’t mind saying that because I know how hard it is to look into yourself and see something you don’t like and actually do something about it to change. Oh, by the way, Benny “awesome” website. I truly enjoy browsing through so much information here and getting your perspective on things. After reading this topic, I can relate on many of them and commend you on a thorough generalization of Americans-at-large based on the experiences you had. It’s been almost a year since I’ve been back in America (lived in Baden-Württemberg for 1 1/2 years teaching English) and I am aching to get out and try my hand somewhere else.
    Congratulations on all of your success and I wish you much more in the future!

  • Hugo

    Benny, you are balding really badly so you wear hats and grow a goatee to try and hide it. This makes you look insecure and ashamed of it.

    Be bold and shave your head. You will look much more confident.:)

    Keep up the great blog. I enjoy your writing

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      I’ve always had this hairline and males on both sides of my family haven’t balded and kept the hairline into old age.

      I like hats and I like my goatee.

      I don’t really see what the point of that random totally off topic taunt was, but thanks for appreciating the blog I guess…

      • lorenzo

        Spot-on!

  • Jodie99_us

    “Some of my best friends in the world are Americans.”  one of the things that bothers me most about Europeans is their lack of understanding of diverse cultures.  This is the standard, cheesy statement people make when trying to prove that they are not as chauvinist as they are. 
     SO SICK of Europeans sticking it to us.  I’ve lived in Europe for 20 yrs.  Where’s the Europe I remember, that of imagination rather than following the anti-American herd mentality.

    Our country is as big as your continent.  I would catch 100 kinds of hell comparing French to Irish or Italian.  Please don’t generalize in a country of 360 million, and we won’t generalize among your 18 or so countries of 400 million.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      I feel solidarity with other Europeans and pretty much all of my points are exactly that – comparing the states to Europe, because we simply don’t have these traits. There are many things that separate us, but the lack of the annoyances I pointed out is common throughout Europe.

      And Americans will generalise, whether I do it too or not. In fact you did it yourself in saying that us Europeans (all 400 million of us?) lack understanding of diverse cultures, and then you claim to be above generalizations. Hypocrite much?

  • Martytay23

    I SOOOOO AGREE WITH YOU! i’m italian and it’s my second year in college in boston. OMG I MISS EUROPE SO MUCH. these people have no idea what life is lol. 

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    You clearly haven’t read more than this one post on the blog if you think I’m not a people person ;) The only reason I travel is for people.

    Amazing how sensitive everyone is being! A bit of honesty and now I’m suddenly antisocial :-P Ah Americans…

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    I didn’t open my mouth at all. I wrote this :)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    … and perhaps I’ve actually done pretty much everything you suggested. :) What then?

  • Omacindy

    As an American living in the Netherlands for almost 8 years now, I can understand some of the things that annoy you. However, two things bug me, “smiling” and “tipping”.

    You make it sound like if you walk the streets of America, or sit on the bus or subway that everyone has a big fake smile on their face, which is not the case. Myself and most of the people I know generally look people in the eye and give a smile and a nod or a verbal greeting. It is just our way, especially in the South. A simple smile can make someones day, for example, there was a customer in a restaurant where I worked as a hostess. She looked at me everytime I walked past her table. I looked her in the eye and smiled at her, every time. That woman went around to every person in that restaurant that had smiled at her and gave them a $20 tip. She explained that she was having a really bad day and had needed those smiles. It made me feel good to make her day just a little bit better.

    Service in a restaurant in Europe for the most part sucks. The personel has no sense of customer service and often have the attitude “I am getting paid anyway”.  I (and most of my dutch friends) do not want to have to beg to have our drinks filled in a restaurant. We go there to spend our money, our ass hitting the chair should be the first indication. Quite often I get up and leave after 10 minutes of not being noticed. I could rant all day about the quality of service in the US versus Europe but I dont think there is enough room. I will say that in my serving jobs here my colleges wanted to work with me because everyone walked away with more (shared) tips on my shifts. 

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      As I said in this post, it would seem that the American idea of restaurant service “sucking” is that they don’t fake smile at you or pester you every minute. Guess what – you have to call someone over. Sitting and twiddling your thumbs until someone comes to you is lazy.

      You could use that nonsensical “I’m getting paid anyway” argument for EVERYTHING. Teachers, engineers, factory workers, supermarket checkout people etc. – they are “getting paid anyway” and yet somehow the system doesn’t crumble because they don’t earn by tips, but because they have bosses that make sure they are doing their job.

      As long as (perish the thought) I’m the one to call the waiter over, he will understand my order and bring it out to me, and that service is all I need. I don’t want to waste my money on paying people to smile at me or treat me like a baby and ask if I’m OK all the time. I just want to pay for food and that it arrives on my table, that’s all.

      • Omacindy

        In every industry the concept is the same, good customer service, top quality product ensures the customers keep returning. That is the way it should be, any way. Unfortunately, in the hospitality industry in Europe it lacks greatly.

        So you think that when I go sit on the terras it is ok for me to sit there 10 or 15 minutes without acknoledgement and that I should have to wave them over to let them know I am willing to spend my money? My whole purpose of going out to dinner, or for lunch on the terras on a beautiful summer day is to be waited on hand and foot, otherwise I could just sit on my balcony and have my lunch or order out and sit in front of the tv to enjoy my meal. I would think that it is the same for others. Yes, waiting for someone to come to me may seem lazy but the whole act of going to a restaurant to eat is also lazy, otherwise you would cook, serve and do your dishes in your own home.
        A top server should not have to be at your table every 3 minutes.  They should take a drink order, drop of the drinks, take food order and to check if everything is OK a few minutes after you have recieved your meal. We can see if your drinks are empty or your meal is done from across the room. I also do not like someone hovering over me but I do not want to have to wave them down either. It is called guest knowledge and anticipation. Know what your guest wants before he/she knows that they want it. A top server knows exactly when to walk up to a table to see if you would like another drink, without making you feel interupted in your conversation and a top server knows when we have a guest like you, that is lazy enough to let someone else cook and do the dishes but not quite too lazy to wave someone down. Just dont snap your fingers or you could sit there for a good long time.Servers are also sales people and the more we sell the more we secure our jobs. You order a gin and tonic, a top server would suggest a higher priced gin than the well gin. The guest after all may not be thinking of his/her options. If your drinks are empty we want to sell  you another one or give you the free refills (which we can simply do without saying a word to you).It is a shame that you seem to have experienced over eager serving staff and have not really had the experience of proper service, there is a happy medium that I think even you would enjoy.I still dont get the smile thing at all…would you really rather be served by some sour pussed grumpy server? I cant ever imagine that it makes for a good experience.

        • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

          Yes, I’ll reiterate – I think you are being lazy if you sit there staring into space for 15 minutes. Call the waiter over – is it really that hard?

          And I *definitely* don’t want a sales person serving me drinks, hinting that I should buy the most expensive crap since ultimately his tip will be bigger that way. That’s an entirely new level of bloody annoying. Luckily that didn’t happen to me, but you seem to suggest it’s a “top server” thing.

          Here’s the thing: lack of smiles by American standards is “sour pussed grumpiness”. If someone serves me in a neutral way then that is quite fine. My experience is highlighted by good food, good company and a nice looking restaurant, not an interaction that lasts 10 seconds total, that I have to pay so much extra for.

        • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

          Yes, I’ll reiterate – I think you are being lazy if you sit there staring into space for 15 minutes. Call the waiter over – is it really that hard?

          And I *definitely* don’t want a sales person serving me drinks, hinting that I should buy the most expensive crap since ultimately his tip will be bigger that way. That’s an entirely new level of bloody annoying. Luckily that didn’t happen to me, but you seem to suggest it’s a “top server” thing.

          Here’s the thing: lack of smiles by American standards is “sour pussed grumpiness”. If someone serves me in a neutral way then that is quite fine. My experience is highlighted by good food, good company and a nice looking restaurant, not an interaction that lasts 10 seconds total, that I have to pay so much extra for.

  • Derpaderp

    I’m an American, born and raised, and I love this to death. I agree with pretty much everything you’ve said (I, too, have that very bad habit of responding with “I’m fine” when someone asks me how I am, even if I’m not — I don’t -mean- to, it just slips out . . .), with the only thing missing being that punctuality comment. I think I missed the memo on that one, because I’m late to class/work/social events every time, almost without fail! Hahaha. Oh, and I like that food is delivered so fast in restaurants, but I think that’s because I usually procrastinate on going to get food until I’m really very hungry . . .

    Either way, I loved this. I really, really did. It’s so true on so many levels, and I actually really appreciate the blunt honesty. We need more of that in America, definitely. (Especially on the “false positivity” thing. Did you know they give trophies even to the losing teams in little league? Even when I was a child participating in kiddie sports tournaments, I never understood why we got trophies for -losing- . . .)

    Anyway, great post. =)

  • sara etten

    Agree with almost everything here, especially the smiling bit, further reinforcing my belief that I don’t belong here in the US.

  • taboola616

    You are so incredibly right! I’ve been lucky enough to have been to Ireland before and I like it so much better then America. Everything about Ireland, and Europe in general, is better in my opinion. The drinking age is ridiculous, if our men and women can be drafted at 18 and fight for our country and vote, then why can’t they have a beer? And who decided that it was ok for 16 year olds to drive, its ridiculous. Anyway, I just wanted to say that I agree with you 100% and that I’m really sorry for the stereotypes. I was talking with friends today and 2 of them are from Germany and one of my friends was asking the dumbest, most stereotypical questions ever and I was embarrassed to call her my friend. 
    Ireland is a beautiful country and I can’t wait till I am lucky enough to go back. 
    Christine, 
    Jacksonville, Florida

  • http://twitter.com/TheeTapioca21 jessica Tapia

    TOTALLY AGREE with you! I’ve never realized all of these little details, and I’m obviously guilty of many. But thank you!  my favorite part was: Americans are way to sensitive, Marketing in your face, and Idiotic American stereotypes of other countries. For the “Smiles mean nothing” I smile A LOT because I do mean it. Whenever I smile, my intention is to give that person a little reminder that they are loved. I’m really big on loving other people and strangers. Since I am looking for a job and I have no money-living with my mom, the best I can give them a smile to brighten up their day:) Maybe that’s too cheesy, but oh well. However, great article, I LOVED it and I’m definitely sharing it on Facebook,Twitter, etc etc :D   <—–big smile for you!

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Thanks!

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Thanks!

  • Mrsashleymarie

    I am a pretty peaceful person, a hippie if you want to stereotype, but people are people no matter where they are from, what their past times are and how they run their lifestyles. instead of sifting through the positives and negatives of certain countries and what they do with their spare time, why not just appreciate the fact that you are alive. Appreciate that you got to spend another day and possibly traveling around which most people would love to do. I admit, some people are ignorant, not stupid, but ignorant. Im ignorant sometimes too. If i went to france, certain mannerisms i just wouldnt know.  I will already let you know that ive probably misspelled things here.
    I live for the here and now, i love my family and friends and i wake up to a beautiful world. Im not thin, not fat, I eat what pleases me and keep up good health so i can continue living. I make choices like everyone else. Some people make bad choices some are more successful than others. I make mistakes like you do and i learn from those misstakes like you do. I see someone for who they are not where they are from. I learn other languages just so i can communicate and learn things directly from other people in other countries.
    When i smile, its genuine just like my family would if you met them. But i also smile to show appreciation or that its simply contagious and may help someone going through a rough spot. Its never fake and always has intentions. Every one i meet has a genuine smile. If a smile isnt genuine, it isnt a smile. its a funny face that may make someone laugh, which is ok too. im 22 and i dont have a drivers license. my husband drives me. if i could i would because technology was meant to make lives easier and more convienient. 
    I agree that you dont need the latest greatest technology on the planet just because its new, but people earn their money and thats how they choose to spend it.
    Ill never bash a person for their beliefs. if you believe strongly, let it show. its good to have some faith. if people preach to me i listen intently. i may not follow their beliefs as i have my own but i respect it for what it is and move on. My beliefs are often frowned upon mostly due to ignorance but i dont let that get me down. If i cant educate them, then i move on. no big deal.
    As far as heritage goes, there is no such thing as pure bred american. everyone here is of different nationalities  whether they choose to see them or not. i am so much of a mutt i could list a bunch of things that i am! It doesnt really make me who i am. What makes me and everyone else the person they are is they way they choose to be  (and maybe some mannerisms that you grew up around ).
    Anyway i went long enough on my rant. after reading the other posts, i realized how much everyone separates and compares themselves to the rest of the world, and im not targeting anyone in particular on any particular post (sorry matt, it wouldnt let me post above so i had to use your reply to). No one is the same and i shouldnt have to say it. Just like we dont base people on the color of their skin (at least i hope not), dont base it on where they are from.

    • bob thomas

      18. talk too much

      • Lisa G

        Did you all not read #1?? Simmah. DOOWWWNNN…..

        • lindababy

          Summer Donnnna…lol…

    • hd hdhdgheh

      You are a real sick person keep your opinions to yourself we are way better then other countries you are being really hateful and the united states will always stay together no matter what and we are awesome so just keep your opinion to yourself and tht is right I used the word awesome you have a problem see you later loser

    • http://www.facebook.com/margaret.dixon.33 Margaret Dixon Native Earthlin

      Well said…I appreciate reading comments such as yours…:)

    • oppressedandexploited

      No… our overindulgent lifestyle affects other countries. That “hard earned money” could be going toward a philanthropic greater good but instead it goes toward garbage we simply don’t need. Wars are being fought for oil and money. Look at the Government Shutdown we are having right now!

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Yes I know. Please read the title of the post ;)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Well said!

    • http://twitter.com/Chimie45 Tom Streetman

      I am not a smiling person. I generally just don’t smile. Even when I’m happy, I might have a happier expression, but I rarely smile. When I do smile for too long, I find it actually hurts my face… I get asked all the time as well if I’m upset, or down about something just because I’m not smiling. Not to mention, in America when asked about what you find attractive about the other sex, the vast majority of people replied with “Great Smile” in the top 3 choices. Maybe that’s why I feel so much more comfortable overseas?

      • Ack

        Yes, depression sucks.  You better get some help.

      • umpirecr

        Just reading this tom you made me smile, and laugh cause i smile one day and it really did hurt my face as well.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    I don’t hate the general foreignness. I have lived in many countries over the last 10 years, and many of them would be a great place for me personally to spend my life in and there are plenty of differences.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    You really have no idea how much the rest of the world contributes to technology do you? This is exactly the kind of rubbish I was talking about.

    Confusing my frustrations for envy is beyond delusional.

  • http://exotikcar.com location voiture agadir

    Awesome post (and I mean “awesome” in the truest sense of the word). Thanks for sharing.

  • http://twitter.com/slightlyfangirl Nicole Elton

    Ha! I’m from America and I don’t want to live here either! I swear, as soon as i’m out of college I am leaving this fuckin country for good. Who knows, maybe I’ll come visit Ireland!

  • Amber Pieloor

    I have to agree on a lot of points you made. I’m American, but I lived in the UK for five years and Ireland for a short period of time. 

    People can be straightforward and direct here, but it’s discouraged. The funny thing is that it doesn’t usually come out as tact instead.

    I remember someone asking me if I was any part Irish a few years back on St. Patrick’s day, and how crestfallen he looked when I told him I was American. It sets my teeth on edge to hear someone talking about how they’re German or Italian in a perfect American accent. They’ve never even seen those countries, and if everybody who claimed Irish blood showed up in Ireland on the same day, the island would sink. They’re obsessed with ancestry. I suppose it’s probably just their way of laying claim to some history. Maybe they just want to be *anything* but American.

    For the most part, the things you point out are things that we complain about among ourselves. A lot of our culture, humble though it may be, has been hijacked by corporations and advertising. It’s why the food is so uniform and processed. It’s why we have so much plastic crap. Hell, it’s why we all drive cars. We’ve been trained up to be good little consumers of cheap goods in a country that produces less and less. 

    Sometimes it seems as if the corporations want us to be perfect philistines. Just remember that there’s another side to us. It doesn’t come out very often, but we can stand up for ourselves and say what we mean if we have the proper motivation. We’re normal people like anywhere else, and we can be serious when it matters. The trouble is that you’d really have to spend years here to get people to let you in on that side. We aren’t used to expressing ourselves verbally, but it comes out in things like the music we make from time to time. America gave the world the blues, after all.

  • Kelsey Hobson

    As an American who has done some light traveling in different parts of Europe, I couldn’t agree more with the things you’ve said! Apparently I’m another one of those people who always looks upset because I don’t smile 24 hours a day. I constantly get bombarded with “Are you okay?” But, if I admit any of this to my American counterparts they’ll all tell me that I’m “Un-American”, hence “17. Thinking America is the best.” ;)

  • http://profiles.google.com/ramanon K H

    I bet the author is one of those people that says everything is “brilliant”. 

  • Jon Rogers

    What an uninspiring ass you must be.

  • Jonathan

    OMG! I love the article. I completely agree! My family has been in the US since before it was founded, I had ancestors in Jamestown and the Mayflower. Your observations are so true. I didn’t realise why I was so depressed and worn out until I left the country for the first time last year to spend a month in Israel. I rented an apartment and lived there… no tourist stuff, just lived there. People actually lived, they didn’t live to work, they worked so they could live and enjoy life.
    I only disagreed with one thing, your comment about Servers at restaurants; I worked as a server most of my 20′s while in school, the reason the server would interrupt your dinner to ask if everything was ok is usually due to company policy not the server begging for tips (that usually comes in the form of big fake smiles and ass kissing). After the server brings you your food they are supposed to usually wait between 3 and 5 minutes to go back and ensure everything is satisfactory. Though I completely agree they just need to include the tip in the listed price and be done with it…. so many times I had those annoying Christians you mentioned leave me a dollar tip (on 50 dollar checks) with a Christian “tract” (a ‘witnessing’ tool to introduce me to Jesus)
    Again great job on the article!

  • kali myst

    Great article. As a Canadian I often feel the same way even though sadly some of the USA’s bad habits have trickled down here too.

  • Anonymous

    I agree with much of this and thanks for the overall entertaining read.

    The font you have chosen is NOT awesome, for starters it is sway too small.
    You have also abused the use of italic. 

    Number 8, can you not see the irony?

  • Anonymous

    Though I agree with some of your criticisms, you seem to have ricocheted off of a surprising number of real idiots while in the U.S. That said, many Americans can be woefully uneducated about all sorts of things, and, apparently, proud of it. THAT said, in assessing my own daily experience in a university town as a regular American of more than 5 decades’ standing, I find validity in only 4.5 of your 17 rants. And though corporate chains have dominated certain places, such as interstate nodes, you’ll find small businesses everywhere else. In Chicago, the vast proportion of the city is not “downtown,” and in actual neighborhoods there, you’ll find plenty of independent eateries within easy walking distance. So perhaps small sample size has in some cases biased your perception. As for people’s enthusiastic reaction to issues of national heritage, please note that most Americans are mutts, unlike citizens of many countries around the world without a history of repeated tsunamis of immigration. We usually are well aware of, and proud of, our mixed heritage, and reacting with interest when meeting a representative of a part of that heritage is quite natural. I count 7 nationalities in my own background, and my children now have 8, by virtue of their mom’s contribution. In conclusion, you seem pretty “sensitive,” yourself about many issues which I and most people I encounter regard as barely noticeable in our daily lives.

  • Marquis Orr IV

    Yeah, well, that’s just, like, your opinion, man.

  • Corey Cheri

    You’ve left out a paragraph about the sense of entitlement, though it is possible I notice that more due to my occupation ;) 

  • Bernard Dunning

    ok only one criticism of your article, which isn’t bad considering the article itself is a criticism of my home country.  My grandfather was born in Ireland as a child and was brought to this country when my great grandfather found work mining in Idaho.  To me, this is very interesting, and I do feel a kinship with Ireland.  We’ve been Americans for exactly two generations, but we were Irish for probably hundreds of generations, if not thousands.  As someone with what seems to ME a strong connection to your country, naturally it’s something I’m liable to bring up when conversing with an actual Irish person FROM Ireland.  What I’ve found is that the Irish are EXTREMELY rude about this, exclaiming loudly and positively that I’m NOT Irish – not even a little bit – because I live here, I have no right to claim it and shouldn’t even be talking about it.

    Granted, about the only time this subject comes up is when I’m in a nightclub and both the Irish person and I are about three sheets to the wind, but it’s still annoying.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      It’s annoying on both ends then ;)

  • Anonymous

    Fair enough. Although I do smile most of the time and do mean it. I’m generally amused with life. 

  • http://rturpin.wordpress.com/ Russell Turpin

    The US has very few pedestrian-friendly cities. It does have some pedestrian friendly neighborhoods. When you were in Austin, had you had the chance to visit the Hyde Park neighborhood, you would have seen one of the better areas for walking. And many pedestrians out and about. Most of the neighborhoods, though, could be from any other suburban area designed for cars. It’s quite different from, say, Belgium, where it seemed every town and city has a center that is pedestrian friendly. 

  • NWFLConservative

    I am second generation Irish American and have been to the Emerald Isle and I can certainly say the same thing about that little social cesspool of yours. A nice place to visit for a short period, but no place to stop and stay.

    And there is a reason why the Irish and the rest of the Eurotrash don’t smile much. If my teeth looked as fucked up as most of yours do, I wouldn’t want to smile either.

    • Bernard Dunning

      Please ignore anything this man has to say.  He does serve as a pretty good illustration of the problems we’re having with ‘conservatives’ in this country though.

  • Anonymous

    Excellent article. I’ve travelled to many countries around the world, and overall the U.S. (barring all its natural/geographical wonders) is quite disappointing on exactly those levels you discuss.
         Many years ago I was in Japan for an international event – instead of wandering around and exploring this most fascinating country in the limited free time that was available, the American crew members chose instead to eat at the McDonald’s next door to the hotel and play cards in the hotel lobby till all hours. Reminds me of an old SCTV skit where an “American” couple were showing a slide show of their world tour, and the photos were of nothing but the interiors of one Holiday Inn after another, with side mentions of whether or not the meatloaf was good.
         One last thing that always mystified me about Americans – they come across as so hail-fellow-well-met and the-next-time-you’re-in-Philadelphia-you’ve-gotta-come-visit-me, but this instant BFFness vaporizes whenever you are, in fact, about to visit Philadelphia. I much prefer the genuineness, directness and sincerity of the Europeans, who don’t hesitate to invite you to their homes for an impromtu meal if they like you. I have also learned from experience that it is unwise to casually invite Germans to your home in Canada – unless you’re prepared to have them on your doorstep within the month!

  • Anonymous

    One last thought – I feel that the single most significant thing that has buggered up the U.S.A. the most is the legal profession and the proliferation of liability lawsuits. By making it possible to sue over the most innocuous & nonsensical “reasons” – and to win ridiculous multi-million dollar prizes for these suits – has totally warped the whole sense of personal responsibility and common sense in America, especially when the likes of Wall St. and companies like Exxon can cause enormous damage to individuals and/or the environment, and rarely suffer any consequences. 

  • http://twitter.com/miuixtli Diva Medina Camp

    First of all, I have to say that I love this article.  I’m a 12 year immigrant to the States, and a lot of the things listed here are things that also annoy me.  You probably have to be a foreigner to understand why this list is dead on.  I’ve had wonderful relationships sour because of things that I said which were taken too personally, because I had “obviously” meant to impose or demean a person in some sneaky indirect way.  I also get treated by others like any comment or action is ready to offend me, especially because I’m young and female.  I’ve had a really hard time making and finding friends.  I also get tired that a lot of people keep trying to seek fulfillment through things, instead of each other.  That’s why malls are so popular.  Another thing, which you don’t mention is the people’s lack of understanding of government.  They have irrational demands, take for granted what they have, and politicians scramble to earn their favor butchering government programs and basic necessities.  I guess what people really want is for the day when they have to make a neighborhood committee to beg for money to pave their street and charge others for walking on their sidewalk.  

    • http://twitter.com/miuixtli Avid Anidempmac

      Although, to be entirely fair, my experiences in the U.S. have made me a better person. I learned much more about myself than if I had stayed in my country of origin.  I have had an amazing University education, and I am seeking another degree.  I also found an amazing husband.

      In essence, there is no perfect place in the world.  Just places you are more adjusted to, or places your personality fits better into.  There are objections to everything. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Milton-Findley/100000804170632 Milton Findley

    A fair enough assessment in my view.  I have traveled in the past, and I enjoyed what I encountered.  Apparently, we hate pretty much the same things.  Good work.

  • Anonymous

    Benny – Have you noticed that, in general, the posts that are positive towards your article are well-written & usually properly punctuated, and written by people who have travelled? And that the negative ones aren’t? Hmmmm…

    I’ll shut up now.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      You don’t know the half of it! Even though we are almost at 750 comments now, I’ve had to delete well over 100 because they broke the commenting rules and were extremely vicious towards me. Can you guess how well punctuated their comments were between the curse words..?

  • http://profiles.google.com/mrevilwrench Mr Evilwrench because

    You know,  I can’t argue with any of those things, though I bet you can find many analogous conditions other places.  I say this as a conservative from just north of Indianapolis, so about as reactionary as one could possibly be, but intelligent enough to know we’re not all alike, nor expect the same things.  I’ll have to admit, the world would be more pleasant if people reacted to things the way you imply you would expect.  Here we’re afraid to “color outside the lines” anymore, lest we be judged as “racist”, “homophobe”, or somesuch.  The horror.

  • Dale

    I have to say, as someone who was born and raised in Northern California, I agree with every single one of your dislikes about this country.

  • Texarado35

    As a life-long, born and bred in the USA, American, I loved your post.  I agree with each and every point you make, and I wish these 17 things were different.  I’m glad you also made a list of things you like about the US, since I also think that my country is overall, pretty awesome. 
    Cheers!
    PS – Next trip, come to Colorado. 

  • ADBee

    I love this. Yeah more of us in the US need to learn to laugh at ourselves. I wish I could afford to travel, but I did live in China on a scholarship for about 5 months. I hate to hear people in my own country make misinformed statements about China with such incredible certainty….As an American chick, I’d be interested to hear an elaboration on why you think we’re less feminine, though- very loaded statement! (Not offended- just curious)
    Oh! and the whole, I’m Irish because I’m Irish American thing gets on my nerves. my thoughts to them: you’re dead ancestors were Irish, not  you- you’re just boring old American, like shitty processed cheese product- sure you melt well, but do you have any taste?

  • ADBee

    BTW this article is totally AWESOME!!!!

  • Kevpatdav51

    I am an American who agrees with every point you make. Especially the obsession with money and our wasteful consumerism.  

  • Morgen Katheway

    i wana live with this guy

  • Anonymous

    Don’t let the Occupy gangs see this, or they will have more hissy fit eruptions!

  • Darin May

    American here.  Polyglot as well. Lived overseas too. Yeah, I’m one of those rare American beasts. Quechua? Cool!! – I almost typed “awesome” to piss you off. ;-)
    I agree with you for the most part but here are a few comments:Re: 10.Many states will print alcohol restrictions against being sold or served if convicted of an alcohol related offence.  They’re not checking your age, they’re checking you ability to consume.
    Re: 12

    There are a lot of small boutique industries in the US that are unfeasible in many EU countries.  Many former EU nationals like it in the US because people are allowed to take risks.  There are simply too many regulations and taxes to allow small specialized industries to sprout.  Often your career choices are limited because if it’s not an “established” industry it’s almost impossible to find or start one.

    re: 13

    San Francisco has horrible 3rd-world public transport; it’s unreliable and filthy.  New York and *maybe* Boston have true functional transit services to make a car optional.

    —-

    I’m trying to move back to Europe.  Know anyone interested in becoming bi-national? NTTAWWT…

  • Serenity

    Spot on Benny! As a so-called “American” I was absolutely NOT offended in any way…your gripes were completely true. I, too, am put off by the very problems of which you write.  I believe there are more than 17, but perhaps that is another segment, eh?

    I am happy that you like the States, as it is always nice to have many places one can go for travel.

    By the by, I really AM doing great today!

  • Serenity

    Spot on Benny! As a so-called “American” I was absolutely NOT offended in any way…your gripes were completely true. I, too, am put off by the very problems of which you write.  I believe there are more than 17, but perhaps that is another segment, eh?

    I am happy that you like the States, as it is always nice to have many places one can go for travel.

    By the by, I really AM doing great today!

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    There is actually a law in France that states that no establishment (café, restaurant etc.) can turn down someone who requests to use the bathroom for free, even if they aren’t a paid customer.

    But there will also be paid toilets. You just have to know that you don’t have to use them ;) I personally don’t remember paying for toilets in my travels through Europe. But you are right about there being way less free wifi – luckily lots of exceptions are starting to crop up!

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    I’ve been to S.E. Asia. I didn’t feel that attitude from the Thais at all.

    • Marina

      Neither do I and I go every year. A lot of Thai’s might feel resentment against Europeans and Americans because that Westerners act superior… Also many Westerners go to Thailand for sex tourism and partying in bars. No wonder Thai’s might not want them in their country.

    • Clint

      Why are you bashing the United States? I could sit here and write a million reasons why we would not want to live in your country, but what’s the point? At first I thought this was a great site to read about language learning, but for you to write this something must have been on your mine to have such prejudice views.

      • PRINCE

        don’t be such an insecure pussy. no one is bashing anything. also prejudice? really? says the one who’s entire country is prejudiced against the whole world(200 plus countries) for absolutely no reason(other than being brainwashed by american media, you know channels like faux(fox) news especially) stating facts which he has personally experienced is not called bashing. also 100% of what he said was true. you are the living proof of it. someone wrote a proper article, stating some facts about americans, and you are getting all insecure because you know he is right and you so have to protect your sorry arse and hence are taking it in the wrong way and getting all aggressive about it.. its not any country vs another country. Also you obviously wouldn’t survive anywhere else, coz you know that you would need balls to survive in a country where the government does not overprotect and overpamper you like a new born child. YOU CAN’T SURVIVE ANYWHERE.. so don’t you dare go out and say that ‘heyy i don’t like other countries i prefer usa” why obviously you do.. you pussy. why wouldn’t you?

    • Darius

      I live here still and I have to say that Rboots is right…

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    You didn’t save my ass. Your grandparents saved my grandparents’ asses. There is a very VERY big difference there. I’m not writing this article about Americans from the 40s.

  • Anonymous

    There is no tipping in Japan, and the service is absolutely flawless everywhere.

  • http://twitter.com/Litzz11 Lisa

    I appreciate your post and as an American agree with a lot of your criticism … just one correction (which has probably already been pointed out but I don’t have time to wade through the 500+ comments ….)

    Servers and waitstaff DO pay taxes on the tips they receive, so calling tipping a tax evasion scheme really isn’t accurate. What it is, in my opinion, is a living wage evasion scheme by employers: in some states, servers earn as little as $3 an hour (I won’t get into the BS behind this inequity), so tips are how servers can pay their rent and utility bills and how restaurant managers can delude themselves into thinking that they’re paying a “fair” wage since servers get “all those tips.”

    Just wanted to make that clarification.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Thanks for the correction.

  • http://twitter.com/Litzz11 Lisa

    I appreciate your post and as an American agree with a lot of your criticism … just one correction (which has probably already been pointed out but I don’t have time to wade through the 500+ comments ….)

    Servers and waitstaff DO pay taxes on the tips they receive, so calling tipping a tax evasion scheme really isn’t accurate. What it is, in my opinion, is a living wage evasion scheme by employers: in some states, servers earn as little as $3 an hour (I won’t get into the BS behind this inequity), so tips are how servers can pay their rent and utility bills and how restaurant managers can delude themselves into thinking that they’re paying a “fair” wage since servers get “all those tips.”

    Just wanted to make that clarification.

  • Joseph Murray

    -You’re right. “Taking offence” at perceived slights is as American as apple pie so guess you qualify!

  • http://twitter.com/Sikeodelic97 Sikeodelic

    Benny,  

    You know it’s funny.  You’re fat like an American.  And the fact that you have little will power when it comes to soft drinks reduces your credibility.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      For a European, I’m fat (because of the last months eating unhealthy portions in the states), and will be working on that over the next months.

      However, by American standards, I’m in excellent shape. I’m WAY below your abysmal average.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rick.hantz Rick Hantz

    You pretty much nailed it. Unfortunately, the American lifestyle is being exported, as the corporations make a ton of money off it…
    The US has lost it’s sense of local family and community, people live without knowing their neighbors, with relatives living hundreds of miles away.
    Our education and news services keep us uninformed and uneducated –therefore easily controllable. Those who feel lost, turn to evangelic religions for the answers, so they don’t have to think for themselves.
    Hard times ahead, as we have a very complex, technical civilisation that is more and more being controlled by troglydites.

  • P Allen

    Sounds about right to me everything you mentioned would drive me crazy as well and I’m from Northern Ireland.

  • Grace Steele

    I’m American Indian. In many of our tribes, if someone not from our family and says something negative about a family member. We must stand up and defend this family member. You are not a US citizen; and your criticisms tend to be viewed as an affront. You speak as if you are closly related to us. You are not. Your friends would probably defend you; they are your friends. Smiling is a way to show you are not being agressive. Asking if someone is ok, tells the person you like them, as more, than a passerby. If you genuinely want to know how someone is; you ask direct personal questions. ex. How is your leg? Did so and so get that job? etc. Just because you’re honest does not excuse bad manners. Saying you’re blunt does not excuse being hurtful with words. Tone in writing is frequently much harsher then in voice and in person. Verbal tones and body cues make a world of difference. peoriagrace

  • Anonymous

    As an American your article was pretty awesome and i’ll agree for the most part with all of your points. I tend to think that some of the issues were a mishmash of cultural differences and semantics however.
     I also found it amusing that immediately following your point on smiling you moved to tipping and said “I’d have to feign a smile and thumbs up to make her go away since my mouth was always full.” Having typed that I have a genuine smile on my face.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Right. I hated it, but a fake smile seems to be the defacto means of communication in restaurants.

  • Anonymous

    I’m an American living in NY and I can’t really disagree with this article… The only thing I can say, is that most Americans feel the same way. We tend to live in a world  where we fake the smile just as much as the “server” (which plays into your political correctness point) who brings us our dinner.

    I’m not offended by this at all, and I’m actually more interested to hear an honest opinion about N. America from an honest, and educated person foreign of the country…

    I also appreciate your “What I love about Americans”… All in all I don’t really think that you should get too much hate from Americans because of this particular piece. I love your blunt approach and I know many more people in America do as well.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Thanks! Sadly, I am getting plenty of hate… oh well!

  • Steve Guidry

    Many of us also have the same complaints with our country.   (But hey – - it’s like this everywhere, right ? )  We’ve just been around the annoying item/practice that we’ve become desensitized to it. 

  • Steve Guidry

    Many of us also have the same complaints with our country.   (But hey – - it’s like this everywhere, right ? )  We’ve just been around the annoying item/practice that we’ve become desensitized to it. 

  • Mike in PA

    I lived in Germany for 3 years in the late 80′s/early 90′s.  Everything you’ve posted here is true about America.  I travel to Italy every 3 or 4 years, and I try my best to NOT look American (the blue jeans usually give it away).  I hate the “Ugly American” stereotype, and am usually ashamed at my fellow Americans’ behavior.

    I wish my fellow Americans would wake up and read this article, then try to make the adjustments mentioned. 

    And visiting Ireland is on my bucket list.  If only to have a pint of Guinness. :)  (I kid, I’d love to see the country).

    I promise I won’t say “awesome.”

  • Jax72990

    As an American, I have to say I do agree with you on many points (wasteful consumerism, lack of “walkability”), but I also have to say that several of your complaints can also be seen throughout the world, not just in America (obsession with money, thinking one’s own country is the best)… I’m currently in Geneva, and if you want to see a city obsessed with money, just walk around for a day. As well, though I do know how annoying it can be when Americans go abroad and complain about a country’s policies or social norms (like potentially rude waitresses), isn’t that kind of what you’re doing here? Going into a country and complaining about all its flaws? I’m sure that Ireland (though I will admit I’ve never been), like America, like most countries, has its habits which are annoying to outsiders but are likely part of the mainstream culture. I’m not saying that excuses some of those habits, but it does help to explain them a little more. America certainly isn’t perfect, but no country is. That said, I do understand a lot of your frustrations, and you have a right to complain, but that’s just my two cents.

  • Ellen

    Great post Benny! I thought I would add #18: Obsession with pop culture. I’m Canadian and we’re unfortunately plagued with those useless tabloids and generic tunes alll the time. It’s a downright shame that we aren’t aware of what is happening in our own country and  my region (Atlantic Canada) produces some of the best music in all of North America. You should really pay a visit to one of our kitchen parties sometime ;)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Note that ‘wee’ is actually the diminutive, and exists in many languages except for most dialects of English, like the American one. In Spanish it’s -ito, in Czech it’s -ka (and others). So ‘wee little’ is in some ways like Spanish’s “poquito” compared to “poco”. Wee is not a synonym of small.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Thanks. I agree that by far the biggest group of religious nut jobs in the states are white. Hispanics talk about religion in much the same way as religious Europeans would.

    I can sense some serious racism in the comment you replied to. I find it ironic that someone defends America and its values, while ignoring one of its most important trademark values of tolerance.

    Glad you enjoyed the post!

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    No, I had to work inland.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Odd. Most Brits have excellent grammar.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    When exactly did I state that Americans are not Americans? I said precisely the opposite!
    Honestly, some people are getting so desperate to get angry at me that they are making up things.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Actually studies have shown that people who can comfortably support themselves are indeed happier than the poor, but more money does not equate more happiness. Rather than reference some vague “studies have shown” crap I pulled out of my ass, here are the facts: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Happiness_economics#Money

    This also reflects my experience in socialising with people of all levels of wealth around the world. It may be a cliché, but more money really does NOT bring happiness once you have reached a level of comfortably supporting you and your family.

    Happiness comes from enjoying time with your friends and family, not buying rubbish. An expensive holiday isn’t necessary compared to a weekend picnic in the near park in terms of bringing more happiness to your life.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    I couldn’t walk far because I had paid for one hour parking, and as you know that’s desperately expensive in downtown Chicago, and not something I could arrive late for ;)
    Once again you are all repeating the same thing I said myself! That if I had gone *somewhere else* in the city I’d find food. In European cities I don’t have to walk a half a mile, or take public transport if I’m already downtown, and this is my point.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    I actually liked Texas and Louisiana.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    You’ve just reiterated #1 and a major issue I have with the American mentality “If you have nothing nice to say, shut up”.

    Yep, that sounds like a great way to encourage progress!!

    Sorry to disappoint you, but I will be back.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Stereotypes are based on oversimplified guesses based on hearsay. My thoughts here are based on my actual experience, many of which are being confirmed in hundreds of comments by Americans themselves.

    Based on your comment I can see that you didn’t even read the post properly. Did you just presume I said “all of the country between L.A. and New York is a bunch of uneducated hicks” without even bothering to see what I actually wrote?

    For someone criticising me for making presumptions you have a major fail of presuming how this article went without reading it.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Some European countries (although there are plenty of exceptions like Italy and Ireland) don’t give free water and this is annoying and something I welcomed in the states.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    “I smile at them even when the effort was a little weak” – i.e. not genuine, which is what my problem is.
    As you say, a smile is an invitation to break the ice. That’s fine, but I prefer a smile to be a show of emotion, and that’s why I can’t stand its use in America. There’s rarely any genuine happy emotion involved.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    I was in the Logan Square area by Kosciuszko park. My landlady, friends and neighbours told me not to walk by myself where I was at night. And I’m a guy.

    • lindababy

      I was in Logan Square at the same time you were! Logan Square has greatly gentrified for the most part. It used to be very very dangerous though, so I can understand the concern…there are lots of great places within walking distance there that have wonderful reasonably priced food. Many yuppies now live in that area and you would see them walking alone or with dogs late at night. It is still weird for me to see also, as in the 80′s you just didn’t do that.

  • Mindkill

    I was born and raised in the USA and I agree with you.  Especially on the religion, corporations, consumerism and money.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Trust me, if you kicked out everyone who was critical of America (including many intelligent Americans) it would be a far cry from good riddance. The country would go to hell quickly without people working to change it for the better.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Actually a lot of people WILL miss me. As I said in the conclusion I have a lot of friends in America. So I will be back.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it! No leeway though ;)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=626469373 Bill Lyons

    provoking article, I enjoyed it. I often look at my fellow Americans with disdain and confusion, but overall most of the people here are good and kind, as I suspect most are throughout the world. I don’t find any of these observations to be unreasonable and I hope you do come back to the US. It’s our differences that make people interesting!

  • http://twitter.com/JamieChanGordon Jamie Gordon

    As an American, I love this. You’ve written 17 reasons you’d never want to live in America and they’re pretty-much the same 17 reasons I’ve wanted to move abroad my entire adult life.

  • Carl Armbruster

    What a shame, you spent too much time around idiot America. I am from St. Louis, Mo and I see much of this same idiotic behavior but we aren’t all like that here. Some of us are educated, do understand science, don’t take stereotypical views of people from other countries and don’t need to have all the latest toys just to keep up with our neighbors who just bought the latest, greatest toy. But sadly, your portrayal is pretty spot on for many of the mindless drones I run into daily. 

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    I thought some of the comments I have been getting here were silly, but fark.com has been sending me lots of traffic and they have (so far) over 250 comments, many of which go well beyond ridiculous.
    http://www.fark.com/comments/6748985/If-you-want-to-keep-Irish-from-moving-to-America-just-smile-tell-them-how-AWESOME-they-look-WARNING-Prepare-to-be-offended?startid=73170123
    The ones near the end start to realize the irony.
    Anyway, welcome to all the newcomers from fark :)

  • Sgtterri

    Great post and mostly spot on about us!! I have lived in Europe. (Germany while serving in Armed Forced) and traveled there a few more times since I left. I am a shameless Anglophile and am planning to visit Ireland when I get back from my next deployment!! Would love advice on where to go and what to do to experience your country to the fullest!! My sister turned me on to your blogs…dare I say it?! They are awesome!! He he.

  • Beki

    Hi Benny,
    I am an American, from Minnesota actually, so politeness is etched into my genetics. I could not possibly agree with you more about the political correctness thing! If everyone is polite all the time, how do you know if they’re sincere? I lived in Germany, too, and there were times when I thought the Germans were really rude. I eventually realized that wasn’t the case at all. I think that hyper-political-correctedness is the source of so many problems. If we can’t be honest with one another because we might hurt each other’s feelings, then fucking nothing is going to get done. I am guilty of this, too, and I’m working on being less sensitive!
    One thing I may have to disagree with you on, though, is when you say the US is the worst country for pedestrians. It’s really, really bad, yes, but I’m living in Canada right now and I think it’s worse up here. The US is big but Canada is even bigger. Granted, I live in Saskatchewan and not a more populated area, so I could be full of shit. Maybe the Maritimes are better.
    Anyway, as an American I’m not offended at all by this post. There are many reasons that I’m not there right now. I’m glad you like to visit, though! The States has a bad reputation, unfortunately, but it has a lot going for it, too.

  • Amy K

    As a born-and-bred American, I am somewhat chagrined by the fact that almost nothing here is inaccurate! However, as a Chicagoan, I have to wonder where in the world you were “downtown” that you could walk for an hour without finding a place to eat! 

  • Anonymous

    I agree with your points and, yep, I’m an American. Most of the things you’ve cited make me absolutely insane; I wish my country would mature, stop worshipping the dollar, improve the livability in their cities, lose our shortsightedness, and in general act better toward all people.

    Some places are better than others, of course. I grew up in the Detroit area, but I’ve lived in the Portland, Oregon area for 22 years now. I can’t imagine living anywhere else in the US. I’m sorry you apparently didn’t enjoy your stay here, where there is a thriving downtown, plenty of restaurants, excellent public transportation, and no sales tax. Perhaps US cities are better places to live in than to visit?

    I’m pretty well-traveled (for an American) — I’ve lived in Western Europe and in India (six months each time) and have been fluent in French and German in the past (as well as always learning the language relevant to whichever country I was in, albeit less than fluently. I never expected anyone to speak English with me.) I was thinking of saving to travel to Ireland, since like the rest of the country I have Irish ancestry. Even though I take pains not to be the “ugly American” when I travel, I will always BE American, I can’t just make my acculturation disappear. I wonder, now, if I would be welcome in Ireland? You show such disdain for my country that it makes me seriously doubt I would be treated well in my great-grandparents’ country.

    Good luck to you in your further travels, and I hope you find a pleasant place to settle down.

  • http://twitter.com/ScottBD Scott B

    I laughed quite hard while reading this. I agree with most of it and that’s just the way things will seem to someone not from this culture. Anyone getting all up in arms butthurt over this needs to chill out and find something productive to do! :)

  • bob thomas

    great post I was born here and many of those things tick me off too

  • http://twitter.com/MsBigSplash Kasie Hilburn

    A++++ and totally agreed. I’ve wanted to move for many years, but family is a huge factor for me. When my daughter is ready or leaves for college, I’ll be moving. I’ve got my eyes set on Australia, as you can see from my obsessive posts here http://buttercupncream.blogspot.com/search/label/Why%20I%20want%20to%20move%20to%20Australia but i’ll probably need to travel a ton more before I settle in. You’re my new hero, kudos to you and your honesty!!!

  • Anonymous

    If you want to read comments, I’m only too happy to leave them…

    This is what surprised me about your article: THESE are the things you picked as to why you don’t want to live in the US? Really? I will grant you that there are a great many things in the US these days that are hard to take, but it wasn’t until #7 that you got to anything worth putting on the list! You passed up the ridiculous economic situation that is being actively pursued by the republican party in an attempt to bring back indentured servitude for the majority of the country, for what? TIPPING?! False marketing? This is the list you came up with?

    America was great once. Then Reagan came along, and took all that away. We used to, if not actually respect the rest of the world, at least be aware of it. Now half the population believes anyone living outside of the US is in the Stone Age. We used to educate our citizens. Now a sizeable proportion of the populace actually belives the bible is literally true and the earth is flat. We did once give civil rights to everyone. Now too many people want to take them away from everyone but the ultra-rich.

    There are so many things with real meat that you could have put on this list, and you passed them up for shallow gripes.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      I specifically said I wasn’t interested in discussing economics or politics. These are unrelated to individual cultural experiences in many ways.

  • Pavle Lekic

    I must admit this was really an interesting stuff to read, as I never been in to USA, but I do have some friends who are American, and as much as I respect and love them, I did find a lot of stuff you’re pointing out in this entry in their behavior. So, if you don’t mind, I’d share some personal experiences here… 

    Being a Serbian, the whole prejudice and stereotype (or simply ignorance) phenomenon striked me every time I met some American, as following:

    -They usuallly do not think ouside the practical terms of things. Ok, being a pragmatic person can win you some good things in a world we’re living, but when you have a desire to scratch the surface of a person, to meet someone in a more essential way, here you usually find nothing. It’s all put down to a if-then-else algorhytm, or simply put “what’s in there for me/if nothing, why do we discuss it?”

    -Locations, locations, locations. As they are raised to believe they are the center of the world, and the most places outside are either non important or non existing outside the TV. And I actually know where’s Troy, South Carolina… 
      “Hi, I’m Pavle”
      “Hello Pavel, nice too meet you. You’re from Russia/Czech republic/Poland?”
      “No mate, it’s Pavle, and I’m Serbian.”
      Now, here the story can go in three ways, depending on the amount of a general info they’ve got. On the other hand, my country is not really famous for too many things, but still…
      Answer 1 “Heck pal, you guys got some serious winter up there!” -”Excuse me?” -”Well you know, Serbia, I mean, iced Russian desert, has to me really hot for you outside of it!” -”You mean Siberia?” -”…Do I?”
      Answer 2 “God, is there a war still? How do you people manage it?” -”Nope, not really, there was a war, but 20 years ago, now it’s just another south European country, you know, like any other, more-less…”
      Answer 3 “Hah, interesting, you don’t really look like an Arab, pardon me for saying” -”Umm, first, I have nothing against the fact I do maybe look like an Arab, but what made you think I am?” -”Oh well, you know, Serbia, all that Middle East conflict stuff, iI pray to Lord we don’t go to war to your country, it’s enough of wars” -”I suppose you’re probably thinking of Syria?” -”…Do I?”
    I do reckon that it all can get really confusing with the amount of small Slavic countries all around Europe, but on the ther hand, I never really allowed myself to say “Oh, Oregon, Massachussets, same shi*t, whatever”, or at least think that. As you said Benny, there are 300 million of them, but they are not all to be generalized.

    -Everything is made in America. The concrete work although, probably in Asia, or something like that. No? Once and for all, Budweiser is originally Czech beer, Corona is Mexican, Kinder chocolates are of a company Ferrero Rocher, based in Italy and founded in Germany. And Adidas is German, for Christs sake…

    -The whole idea of a status symbols, which are permanent and non changing. City I live in lays on a Danube river, so many tourists from the states have a break from the ship cruises down the Danube in Belgrade center. On the ordinary day, you can hear more than interesting conversations in a pedestrian zone “Oh, I had no idea, the guide told us there was a war and the country is poor, but look at them, every other car is BMW or a Mercedes”. Now, let’s clear this once and for all. As you said, consumerism. There are cars you can buy for a good price, in a good condition, for a small amount of cash. There’s nothing status symbol like in driving a 6000 Euro BMW 318d, manufactured in 2004, hence you don’t have to be a lawyer/criminal/brain surgeon in order to own one. Being a pertolhead myself, this strikes me. No, Ford and Chevrolet are not the only “decent cars made for average decent people” in the world.

    -The Chicago, IL area has the population of around 2.7 million people, where around a million are of an Irish heritage, and somewhat of 420 000 are Serbian. And, exactly as you pointed out, Irish are being drunkard, so as Serbs are probably smugglers or criminals, or whatever. You wouldn’t beleive it, but there are some of us who actually do a decent every day jobs. AND, as you also pointed out, Americans of a Serbian heritage are the first ones in the row for topics about geopolitical status of Serbia, although they’ve never seen it.

    -More is more. Bigger pack, larger Coke, extra cheese, free doughnuts…some of us eat just to get our body going and we do it in small ammounts.

    All in all,  I do not hate or despise those people, no matter the history, politics or conflicts in the recent era, my criticism goes to the system they are living in, which shaped them into this. They are just people, but they need to wake up. Just a bit. And again, a great article.

  • James Beswick

    1. Sensitivity: I’ve never noticed this – I have plenty of American friends who I’m completely frank with and never had a problem. If you’re talking about reality TV, that’s a different matter.

    2. Awesome: again, it depends on your friends. I’ve never, ever had anyone tell me something was ‘awesome’ in a way that made me recoil in disgust. But then I’ve also never experienced the British whiny thing where everything sucks.

    3. Smiles: I think this is a stereotype of people on TV rather than real life. I can give you hundreds of places to go here where you’d have to tickle someone to get a smile.

    4.Tipping: so you prefer to be forced to pay for crappy service because it’s built into the price? Tipping gives you the option to punish the useless and reward the excellent. In Europe, the 20% is built into the price and gives you no choice. Actually, in London some places want an additional tip.

    5. False prices: actually this is more about price transparency by breaking up the costs. My phone bill shows exactly what the different taxes are, most of which would be rolled in other places. As for airlines, taxes on European flights are significantly higher than here, so paying $30 for a bag pales in comparison. (Or fly Jet Blue!) America is the land of caveat emptor so do your research before buying.

    6. Marketing: how else do you think you watch those TV shows for free? If you don’t like it, buy the episode online or get cable. We don’t have an annual TV license tax like they do in the UK.

    7. Consumerism: I disagree here since it’s really about your choice to do what you want with your money. I might also think that buying a $100K Porsche instead of $20K Honda is a waste but it’s entirely your choice. This is basically the foundation of thought in this country.

    8. Stereotyping: I think every country does this to some degree. Especially to Americans, funnily enough.

    9. Heritage: most people here aren’t from here if you go back a few generations. Do you begrudge them for wanting to keep their links to wherever they came from?

    10. ID checks: or we could just have rampant teen alcoholism like they do in Europe. Alcohol is so completely out of control in places like the UK, they should consider tightening up its distribution. And ID’ing people.

    11. Religion: again, this is freedom of choice and varies state by state – not everywhere is religious. And you’re free to practice or not.

    12.Corporations: if you were in Chicago and could only find Dunkin Donuts, you don’t know Chicago. I should hook you up with some people I know there.

    13. Cars: yes, that’s because the US is much bigger than Ireland. I live in Austin and it’s very walkable. I prefer it to being crammed with my face in someone’s armpit like on the London tube.

    14.In a rush: it really depends on who you know. I would argue the opposite in many cases – here in Texas, manana is practically a religion. Trying to get anyone to rush is futile.

    15. Money: depends on who you meet. Not all Americans are obsessed with money, though many would like to be able to make ends meet right now.

    16.Portions: again, this is freedom of choice. You can eat like a pig or be healthy but nobody’s forcing you to do anything. I hear the UK is thinking of a hamburger tax – which really just hurts the poor.

    17.Number 1: growing up in England, all I would ever here was about how shit it is. I actually enjoy living in a place where we’re proud of the country. Telling yourself that you’re best is better than believing you’re useless.

    It’s not perfect here but not nearly as bad as you’re suggesting IMHO.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2OYRG4AAQJQSLH4OISIZ5RR3KQ Natcho

    It is difficult to act properly when we hear an Irish accent around here when all we hear are hillbillies (in Arkansas). What pops in my mind where I hear  Irish besides Luck Charms cereal and Irish Springs soap are the beautiful images I have seen on television of the countryside. Ireland is a place I would like to visit before I kick the bucket. I agree about the too sensitive comment. People choose to be offended, and too often. I hope you can visit many small towns in the USA and get a feel for what country folks are like. Visit Southern Louisiana for good food, music and friendly people.
     

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2OYRG4AAQJQSLH4OISIZ5RR3KQ Natcho

    I wish you would learn English language syntax. It is you’re , not your.

    • Scott Ragland

      Ouch, owned by Kathy

      • TNilsson

        although I hate the term, “owned, ” I agree with you

      • PRINCE

        ouch, you and kathy owned by zach..lol

    • TNilsson

      Fucking asshole

  • James Beswick

    By the way, you’re really inciting some hate mail here from the Apple kids. You can say all you want about what you don’t like about the US but criticizing someone for upgrading from a 4 to a 4S is pure heresy. :-)

  • Cali Stanley

    Well Benny, I thought your positives were total weak sauce compared to your complaints, but there is truth to the complaints for sure. 
     
    One thing I thought fascinating was your contrasting view of the “false prices.”  I would have never even considered a business establishment would add the tip and tax to the list price of an item – it becomes automatic to figure that you’ll be paying more anyway. 
     
    Also, I just moved from the west to NYC, and LOVE being able to get around without a car! I wish it was like this everywhere!
     
    I think the fake smiling and excessive positivity “awesome” are because we either don’t want to burden others with our shitty day, or because we don’t care for all of our casual acquaintances to know about our shit.  Why do we always ask How Are You then? Maybe it’s more of a polite acknowledgement, I don’t know…
     
    I hope to see all of this from an outside view soon when I move to Scotland – which is in the UK – which is also where Ireland is because Scotland and Ireland are exactly the same right??  Right??

  • http://twitter.com/SomeGrit Some Grit

    we only think we are the best because we are.

    Seriously… Ireland? you can’t even own a gun how is that free? what are you “free” to do sit at home and watch TV?

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      You have some hell of a terrible definition of freedom. Why not be “free” to murder, rape and torture people too? There has to be limits for a society to function safely, and giving everyone free access to such a terrible weapon is a horrible idea, especially for arrogant fools like yourself.

  • Anonymous

    (Haven’t read other people’s comments)

    I’m an American, specifically Texan, and I agree on so many of these points. Prepare yourself for a supportive rant.

    I’ll confess to being guilty about over-using “awesome,” though I tend to use it in more limited contexts, like analyzing cinematic action sequences in geek talk. See also, “epic.” I restrain myself to try to avoid cheapening the word like others have.

    Hyper-nationalism: I’m in pretty low spirits on that topic. America’s done some pretty impressive things as a nation that made me feel warm and fuzzy inside, but the nationalism I see these days is severely misplaced. It comes across as an excuse to be complacent in our alleged perfection instead of actually working towards new heights or learning from our neighbors’ good examples.

    Hyper-Religious Americans/Tipping: Don’t get me started. I’m an atheist in Texas, and I just recently read a blog post about someone tipping their waiter with a piece of paper that looks like a $10 bill on one side, only to have preachy John 3:16 text on the opposite side, telling them there are things better than money. There was no actual money given as a tip. The proselytizer gets to feel holier than thou for being miserly and divisive. Without a proper living wage, waiters depend on tip money to make ends meet and/or pay tuition. If you’re going to proselytize, at least try to set an example of charity and generosity.

    Advertising: I’ve managed to shove much of the advertising into the background noise and I’ve nearly abandoned television. The rare times I go to see a movie, I’m annoyed by “regular” ads mixed in with trailers for other movies. If I’m seeing a movie, I’m at least in a proper mindset to be intrigued by other movies. As a general rule, I try to focus on word of mouth to get me to buy stuff.

    Consumerism: I’m guilty of some in that I keep up with console game systems, but that’s probably a much slower cycle than all the Apple stuff, especially since I usually don’t go for remakes of a system. I did get an iPod Touch 4G, but I intend to stretch its lifespan as much as I can.

    Oversized portions: I’ve been a reasonable weight for most of my life, but I do feel the need to finish my plate. I’ve been working to overcome that bit of psychology since I’ve become conscious of it and since I’ve put on a few extra pounds. One annoying thing I bumped into about a year or two ago: Popeye’s Chicken no longer has small drinks. “Medium” is the new small. Though to be fair, they probably did that to cut the cost of people like me exploiting the free refills when eating in.

    Cars: I don’t like to drive, but it’s necessary where I live. No mass transit. One thing that irritates me are car ads where they have some driver going down winding country roads, showing how “fun” driving their car is going to be. Driving is a chore. Driving is a form of work. Driving is only fun in consequence-free video games, not in real life. Especially if you’re surrounded by idiots yakking on their cell phones instead of watching the road. I long for the day they make computer-controlled cars commercially viable. But I’d be happy to settle for decent mass transit systems.

    Prices: I’m annoyed by the .99/.95 cent thing as well as the hidden sales tax. I’ll estimate the latter with mental math. The former did have a role in the age of mechanical cashier machines, since the clerk would have to get the penny or nickel instead of pocketing a whole bill, but now it’s nothing but a transparent attempt to shave a dollar off the apparent base price.

    Foreign stereotypes: I’m not a traveling person, but I recognize that those of you from the other side of the pond are people, not cardboard plot devices. You’re an Irish teetotaler? I’m an indoors Texan who’s never gone hunting.

  • http://openid.y0himba.net/ y0himba

    I was born and raised in this country, and my friend, you are DEAD ON with your assessment. Be thankful you did not visit Northwest Pennsylvania, where you will find the most arrogant, plastic, status conscious individuals anywhere.

    I wish we could have gotten together for lunch or something, so I could show you that some of us are still the humble but proud Americans we once were.

    This is honestly one of the best posts I have ever had the pleasure to read.

    (Note:  I did not say it was awesome)

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Appreciate your kind words :)

  • Mar

    I’m American and I have to say, many of the things you discussed annoy me as well!

  • Jed Hayes

    I’m American, and I largely agree.  I could nit-pick and point out that you’re generalizing here and there, but I find many of these complaints hold true.  Then again, maybe you’re just mad because soccer will never catch on here.  :)

  • Ocaoimh2269

    Benny, while some of your points are off the mark, or you are looking at things from a “different perspective,” many of your comments are spot on.  Whether or not I agree with your feelings towards America, you do seem to come at this topic with a sense of balance. 

    As for Americans “smiling too much,” you need to keep in mind, despite our problems, Americans as a whole are very optimistic people and being generally optimistic about our future, our responses to “how are you doing” might not be sincere all of the time, but honestly, when you ask how someone is doing, do you really want to hear all of their problems?  I mean really, some on unloading their problems would be “offensive..” j/k

    As for Ireland, now I am regretting not spending time in Temple Bar, I only walked through and Dublin took up 1 of 8 days.  In all seriousness, I fell in love with Ireland the country, but more so with the beautiful people who make Ireland what it is…  If in your travels back to the States, if you ever make it to the Atlanta area, look me up, I’ll make sure you have an awesome time!

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    I criticised Austin for not being walkable etc., but it’s still a great city and I’m disappointed that I can’t come back next year for SxSW (I had applied to be a speaker, but the topic wasn’t quite what they want in Interactive). I especially enjoyed spending time with the deaf community there, which have a culture of their own, and are more direct etc.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    There are so many things I find wrong with tipping and punishing the waiter when you don’t realise the full circumstances is one of them. A boss can be aware of someone genuinely having a rough day etc. and only he/she has the real information to decide if wages should be taken away – and even then it’s unfair, and immoral. Even if someone is not working great, they should still earn a normal wage until fired.

    This is not a power I want to give to complete strangers. I see tipping as just a means of the customer to have power over another person. You can use that power for good for sure, but the potential is there to mess up someone’s ability to pay the rent if they don’t smile enough or check up on babies who need to be pampered every minute.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    I never complain about real smiles. It’s fake ones that I find irritating. Your comment just proves my point that people can’t be straight with you – everything has to be sunshine and lollipops.

    I do appreciate my life, more than you realise. And one aspect of that life I like is that I can be honest with myself and the world.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Yes I could see that happen in Europe. We don’t stop people from entering good universities based on their parents’ wealth, so there is more of a professional opportunity in that sense. Steve Jobs dropped out of uni because it was costing his parents so much if I remember correctly. Luckily things worked out for him in the end, but obviously that’s not the case for most stories.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    “Butthurt”? Let me guess… you came from fark.com? ;) Tell the commenters there I think they are whiny “biatches” :-P

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Correction: American football. You don’t have football really ;)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    And when I say “darling” I mean it, i.e. not to strangers I hold in contempt. Makes me question the likeliness of your smiles not being fake.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Or the University of Davis over the weekend, peaceful students getting pepper sprayed.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Not sure if anyone will see your boring comment between the THOUSAND other ones who found the post engaging either positively or negatively.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Who am I to judge you? I’m the person who decides where I live, and this post tells why I don’t want to live in America. I’m not judging anyone, just stating my experiences and opinions.

    Once again this just proves my point about sensitivity. Anyone being straight with you is “judging” you? Of course he is, because honesty is very un-PC.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    South Park reference? :)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    At least I understand the use of awesome. You clearly do NOT understand the use of brilliant. Food is not “brilliant”, an idea or experience is.

    So no, it cannot describe “any occurrence of everyday life”. Fail.

  • http://m5.myopenid.com/ Yusuf

    Wow, I’m from the U.S. and I agree with most of your sentiments, especially #17, #11 and #8. Sadly it seems that the thing the U.S. is most adept at producing these days is well-off dullards with knowledge of little outside of their jobs. 

  • Hector Oses

    A principios de año tuve la suerte de poder estar unos meses en Dallas, y tengo que decir, que estoy de acuerdo contigo en casi todo lo que dices.
    Pude viajar por allí y la verdad es que me gustó mucho y tengo ganas de volver, aun si pienso parecido a ti en lo que has comentado arriba.

    Pero hay una cosa en concreto que no estoy nada de acuerdo. Lo de las sonrisas. Es una cosa que agradecí muchísimo, y mas ahora que vivo desde hace unos años en Praga. Una sonrisa en la calle, puede hacer que aunque yo estubiera serio o preocupado por algo, sonría. Parece una tontada, pero desde hace mucho tiempo que llevo intentando sonreir cada día mas, da igual como me sienta. Ninguna situación es tan horrible que no haya algo bueno por lo que alegrarse. Ni yo, ni tu (aunque no te conozca, lo siento si no es así) tenemos una vida tan horrible, con lo que hay por ahí.

    Es una de las cosas que me hace más dificil vivir en Praga. La gente no suele sonreir, todo el rato seria. Mira con malas caras, parece que esté todo el rato enfadados. Y eso no crea un buen ambiente, uno en el que te sientas agusto viviendo.

    Convivo con gente de mucho paises allí, y practicamente todos estan de acuerdo. Latinos, norteamericanos, del norte de Europa, del sur, este y oeste, incluso Asia.

    Y la verdad que allí en Texas, camareros, en tiendas, amigos, gente por la calle, mayores y pequeños. A menudo te sonríen, y es de apreciar y alegra el día.

    Sonreir cuando no te sientes perfecto no es engañarse a tí mismo. Sonreir te ayuda a ti y a los que te rodean. Es como un: vale, mi vida no es perfecta, pero hay que seguir viviendo y disfrutar de cada pequeño detalle que te ofrece el día. Aunque ello sea tan solo una sonrisa de un desconocido.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      También pasé un rato en Praga (3 meses) y estoy de acuerdo que no sonríen mucho. Pero cuando estás en una fiesta o con una novia etc. sí que lo hacen y sabes que es de verdad :)

      Yo sonrío más que ellos, pero prefiero no hacerlo demasiado. Como dije en el artículo me parece que no significa nada si lo haces siempre.

  • Anonymous

    Wow, we are annoyed by the same things! I live in Minnesota and was born here. One thing that annoys me is that people who visit Europe come home thinking they are superior in some way and that we need to adopt some view Europeans have. The fact is, we Americans of European descent abandoned Europe for many valid reasons, especially the tribalism (they refer to as nationalism) and  their forms of government. I like Europe, I really do, but I like America better. I think Europeans like where they come better in most cases as well. Nothing is better than returning home after an out of country trip.

  • Anonymous

    I forgot to mention that Jameson Whiskey rocks! Benny, you should have a sip even if you don’t drink alcohol. It’s a national treasure.

  • Rebecca

    I did wince a few times, being a smiley-sort of person and tending to falsify my state when asked. In my defense, I smile at people in hopes that the small kindness of that will mean something to them and I flower how I am because I don’t think the people who ask really want to know how I’m doing (see no. 14). That said, I can’t argue with your descriptions. The only thing we sympathizing Americans can do is live our little lives a little differently.

  • Rebecca

    I did wince a few times, being a smiley-sort of person and tending to falsify my state when asked. In my defense, I smile at people in hopes that the small kindness of that will mean something to them and I flower how I am because I don’t think the people who ask really want to know how I’m doing (see no. 14). That said, I can’t argue with your descriptions. The only thing we sympathizing Americans can do is live our little lives a little differently.

  • MBN

    Harsh, but I have to agree with most of it.  and I live in the US.

  • MBN

    Harsh, but I have to agree with most of it.  and I live in the US.

  • Anonymous

    I hate bigoted behavior therefor I will duplicate it. Makes perfect fucking sense.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    [Sigh] I proved MY point. You don’t get the use of the word, so don’t claim you know it. We don’t describe “everything” as brilliant, can’t you read what I said?

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    I specifically clarified in the article that I meant USA. Note that this is the standard way of referring to the USA. Other commenters have suggested writing “USonian” instead of “American”, but this is not common at all.

    Canadians and Brazilians also refer to USA as America.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    You are precisely the kind of idiot I’m writing the article about. Equating what I wrote here to racism shows that you don’t have a bloody clue what racism truly is.
    You prove my point about sensitivity. Any kind of honesty is politically incorrect and as good as being racist? Fool.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    I’m afraid I have to disagree with you here too. North America is Canada, Mexico and the US. Perhaps you mean the entirety of the Americas? Or are you including Central America?

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis
  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    En inglés no es así. No tenemos ninguna traducción por “estadounidense” que no sea “American”. Hay pocos que dicen “USonian” pero casi nadie dice eso.

    En inglés “America” es como decimos los EEUU si no queremos decir USA. Para decir todo el continente se dice “The Americas”. Los canadienses por ejemplo nunca se llaman “Americans”, sino “North Americans”. No es muy lógico pero así funciona.

  • http://www.paradox-labs.com Jason Pant

    Dear fellow ‘Mericans, you’re embarrassing the rest of us. Please stop.

  • matt wade

    Fondue is Swiss.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    I haven’t been to Australia yet. Hopefully some day!

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    This post is not “very offensive”. You are very easily offended… as I mentioned at the start…

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    It wasn’t a pity hug, I meant it. But you are right about why I did it.
    Only 7% of Irish people are red headed.

  • Carcor00

    Good post and very true.
    but:
    I would like to clarify that
      bothers to talk about “South America” to “southern USA”. It is ignorance. Clarify that it is the southern USA, not the American continent.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      When I said South America I meant South America, not southern USA. Please read it again carefully.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Read my about-page and perhaps I won’t seem so ignorant.

    Once again I just feel oversensitivity and whiny to someone being honest. I’ve heard Americans throw around the word “ignorant” a lot when hearing something they don’t like. This is honesty, and when you mix honesty and ignorance, that truly is ignorant.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    I went to Durham to visit a friend for a few days. I did find a few nearby towns interesting to visit, but would hardly call them “attractions”.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Well isn’t that something that should obviously be overhauled, that you have to kiss people’s ass just to earn a living? I’m complaining about how ridiculous the system is – and it would seem that you agree with me.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    This is standard in English. Like it or not. Many other countries from the Americas (like Canada and Brazil) refer to the United States as “America”.

    Your retort is quite idiotic when you say “you may refer to the USA as North America”. And what about Canada and Mexico? You’re as bad as the people you criticise!!

  • Sewwfast

    that is…… DO LOVE  Irish accents. not LOVE DO  Irish accents.  (fake insincere smile)  :)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    At least you can walk into a bar even if you don’t drink. Some people will indeed ID you in Ireland if you look like you could be a teenager. The fact that you said “a” supermarket cashier, so it only happened once, proves how rare it is.

  • http://gogorocketparty.com Aphid

    “And I find it pretty scary to be in a country where pretty much anyone can legally buy a revolver.”
    Yeah. I’ve been out with people that are carrying a pistol, not a hunting trip or some annual meeting of the Mafia, but for a walk in a park. Downtown. During the day. Very uncomfortable. 

  • John Smith

    Benny– how do you feel about the “thumbs up” sign?  I realized, after noticing how much I say “awesome” that it usually is accompanied by a thumbs up…haha it’s kind of goofy i guess.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Whiny white guys throwing the word “racism” around pisses me off.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Lauren-Roan/647924822 Lauren Roan

    Great post but…there are stereotypes there that are not just stereotypes…and Irish people, generally speaking, drink LOADS. I lived in Ireland for 6 years and I’ve seen first hand what I am talking about.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Some Irish people drink loads. It’s faulty logic to presume all Irish drink the same amount. Ireland has a huge number of non-drinkers but if you have selective memory of just the equally large number that drink more than in other countries, it will lead to an idiotic stereotype.

      Lots of Americans eat regularly in McDonalds, therefore all Americans eat regularly in McDonalds? I don’t think so. If I lived for 6 years in the states and confirmed that many Americans do indeed eat in McDonald’s very regularly, this wouldn’t change the actual facts about the vast numbers that don’t.

  • John Smith

    YES!! Knowledge for the sake of knowledge…I was just talking about that with someone.  Instead of writing books and exploring, people are watching “Dancing with the stars”.  Que lastima!

  • http://twitter.com/CarmenGutiez Carmen Gútiez

    Great post. I laughed a lot. I was living in San Francisco for 1 year and during 6 months in Chicago. There I got my driver’s license, I do not use in Europe.
    I particularly liked the points 3, 4, 5,10, 13 and 16. 
    This is exactly how I feelt.
    Carmen. Madrid

  • http://10cities10years.com/ Lyttleton

    As an American who hasn’t had the opportunity to travel outside the country but has traveled the U.S. thoroughly, I would say your complaints are mostly valid.  And for the most part, they are things that I find annoying, too (we need better public transportation, for sure).
    One (major) nitpick:  You were a tourist when you were here.  It doesn’t matter where you stayed, what out-of-the-way spots you frequented, a month in a spot is tourism.  The 3 & 4 month stints in upstate New York and SoCal are more substantial, and probably gave you a fairer idea of those particular spots, but you were still an outsider.
    I live in each city for a year, and I can tell you, it takes a good 6 months in any particular spot to truly become a part of a place.  I’m not talking about being invited out to bars or making friends, you can have that in weeks (or even days if you’re very outgoing).  I mean, there is a wall that I believe all people have (regardless of culture) that doesn’t come down until you’ve truly immersed yourself in their lives.  (There are exceptions to this rule, but they are few).
    Not that having spent longer in the States would have changed your impression of some of these problems (like I said, I agree with them), but many of your complaints are obviously the result of shallow, tourist-y relationships.  Smiling and PC-ness may be the casual American fascade  (though, clearly you never visited Philadelphia), but that hardly represents true American relationships (or relationships in general, anywhere).
    Again, I have no problem with your list, I’m not offended by it.  I just think your premise is faulty:  You are listing reasons why you would never live here long-term based on the experiences of a tourist.  That’s simply shortsighted.  S0me of those reasons wouldn’t change (taxes, tipping), but I think a lot of the interpersonal complaints you have would vanish if you actually lived here, not as an obvious tourist.
    Just a thought from an anti-tourist traveler.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      I had a working visa for two of my trips to the states and worked full time. Working is not quite tourism.

      In my last trip to the states the main purpose was for me to speak at conferences. That is also hardly tourism.

      I disagree with your arbitrary number of 6 months. After just 4 days in Cali, Colombia I had honestly never felt more at home, and more welcome than anywhere else, and I had an intensive experience of making very deep connections with people, and it was not a touristy experience that caused it. But after 9 months in Paris I still didn’t feel at home there.

      I will admit when my experience was more touristy (like in San Francisco), but one thing I really can’t stand in my travels are anti-tourists. They make arbitrary rules of what a “tourist” is, that conveniently doesn’t include their activities, such as speaking English all the time.

      Whether you label me as a tourist or not is up to you, and of little interest to me. The point was that I spent considerable time with people living their lives as normal.

      • http://10cities10years.com/ Lyttleton

        6 months is indeed an arbitrary number, and not meant to be taken as a set-in-stone fact, but I would still say you are missing the point.  I’ve met people who have made me feel very welcome within days of meeting them, and I’ve met people who I’ve known for a year and felt no connection with (as you pointed out you’ve experienced).
        But there is a difference between genial friendship and genuine friendship (as your tirade on smiling would imply).  I question how deep those relationships in Cali were.  Again, as I already said, there are always exceptions, but I find it unlikely you were to the point of sharing deep secrets with this people, and I doubt you knew many of theirs.  The sign of a true connection with someone is seeing them at their worst, not their best (and I’m not just talking about drunken stupidity).  But, for the sake of argument, let’s assume you did have truly deep relationships with a small number of people in Cali.  Do you think that implies that everyone in Cali is that open and welcoming?  Are you really willing to make that generalization based on your narrow experience?
        What I mean by ‘tourism’ is a mindset, an emotional dam that keeps both a person and the people they meet from truly knowing each other.  It’s not about what you do or don’t do.  And a work visa doesn’t automatically make you not a tourist.  I’ve known plenty of people who have come across the pond for a summer to work for 3 months.  They were still tourists, they were there to experience a place for a time and then return to their ‘real’ life.
        I’m not criticizing how you live your life, it actually seems quite enjoyable.  But it hardly makes you qualified to make the sorts of brash generalizations that you have in this article.  Even when I live somewhere for a full year, I feel reticent to try to summarize that location into one blog post (especially if I’m going to be critical).
        I think your critiques of American culture are pretty accurate and get to the heart of my own issues with this country, but where I feel you fall off track is in your generalizations about the people.  There are certainly people who are overly-religious here, overly-sensitive, overly-fake, etc.  I’d argue that there are just as many (especially in cities) who are not, and that if you left here with that impression of the people, maybe that says more about the types of people you attract than it does the type of people who actually make up this country.
        Being ‘worldly’ doesn’t necessarily make you wise, and being experienced doesn’t necessarily make you an authority.  Just a thought.

        • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

          You’re entitled to your opinion, but I still find it to be arrogant hypocrisy. You say you’ve travelled a lot yourself, therefore you are worldly and wise enough to tell me how it is, and point out the error of my ways.

          You have your simple box that you can put tourists into, and I disagree with your definition. Americans I met partying in Paris for 3 months are definitely tourists in my mind, but because of that nobody can have an authentic experience in 3 months apparently.

          I’m not criticising YOUR life, but to quote your own words “it hardly makes you qualified to make the sorts of brash generalizations that you have in this –article–, comment”. You’ve generalized my experience based on your interpretation of how people living in cities for a certain amount of time live. You are no authority either.

          • http://10cities10years.com/ Lyttleton

            I’ve never claimed to be worldly or wise, I’ve just claimed to have experiences that contradict yours, and since your whole post is about making generalizations based on your experiences, all counterexamples disprove your premise.

            I’m not generalizing your experience, I’m simply pointing out that a year in this country, hitting only a few cities throughout for anything more than a few days, hardly gives you the authority to blithely stereotype an entire country of people.

            I’m also not claiming there is anything wrong with being a tourist (when I said I’m anti-tourist, I meant for myself, it’s not a lifestyle I want to pursue), and you can certainly have a meaningful experience in 3 months.  You can have a meaningful experience in 3 days.  But that doesn’t make it a definitive experience, which is what this post is trying to express.

            You can be hyper-critical and rude, and you can say, “Hey, this is just who I am, I’m being real, take it or leave it.”  But really, I think this whole post is as much a put-on as the supposed fake-American smiles.  I’ve read a considerable amount of your blog and you’ve generally been polite and helpful to people with questions.  Here, you wrote a piece critical of a country, people responded negatively (shocking), and instead of stepping back and saying, “You know, maybe you’re right, maybe I’ve been a bit hasty with my criticism,” you’ve decided to double down and play up the whole ‘Asshole just expressing my opinion’ angle.

            Well, I don’t buy it, but then again, I’m just a tourist on your blog, so who knows.  I guess I would need to have a more thorough experience of you to really know.

  • JillyBilly59

    As an american I see your point and many of those issues I agree with. However, you are being more than a little hypocritical. One of your complaints was about how stereotypical americans are, and yet here you are stereotyping us in the same manner. Not all americans are guilty of the offenses that you have accused us of. There are honest and genuine people from this country. There are many Americans who take issue with the advertising world, the corruptness of capitalism and government, the sad state of our educational system and try to do something about it. Yet here you judge us all as one. There are many facets of our governmental, economic and social system which are flawed but please don’t forget that so is every other country, including your own. No country, society, civilization or group of people is perfect. Each person is an individual with their own opinions and behaviors. Each country and society within that country has their own unique culture. The point of travel is to experience another culture for what it is, the good and the bad. You do not have to like everything or anything about another culture for that matter but show some respect and integrity. After all everyone has much to learn and will continue learning life’s lessons until the day they die. And if you don’t like America then don’t come back!

  • Dayne5454

    Hey good job man, speak ur mind!! America is a great place to travel, and freedom of speech is all part of the bag… come back soon bro

  • Rickygonzalez

    1. Americans are sensitive and PC, but Europeans send people to jail for
    lack of PC. For example: I can stand on a street corner and yell that
    Europeans are a bunch of closet homo, primadona, jealous pansies.
    Europeans can go to jail for calling someone a nazi. Winner: America.

    2. The Irish don’t use any fucking slang? That’s a bit of bullshit innit. Winner: Awesomerica.

    3. Americans smile too much. How the fuck is this a bad thing. Winner:  :)

    4.
    I was in europe for 4 weeks. I had the worst service on average in my
    life. Servers couldn’t care less about you. Tipping forces them to
    pretend to care, and the service quality is better. Winner: USA.

    5. It’s a lot less annoying when taxes are included in the advertised price. Winner: EU.

    6.
    We have a ton of ads. Ads pay for free shit, like TV/webpages. They’re
    constantly trying to be entertaining to appeal to their audience. In the
    UK you have to pay a BBC Licensing fee of 150BP/year per tv set. They
    still have ads, but they’re just more boring. Winner: Tie, we pay for
    cable, they pay for regular tv, ads are equally annoying.

    7. Wasteful consumerism? Fuck off. We studied this in my class. EU
    consumers spend just as much as US consumers, but they spend it
    different. Instead of buying everything in their “class”, they buy a lot
    of shit they can’t afford, then don’t have money for other shit. They
    pretend that the “not having other shit” part is because they’re not
    consumers. BULLSHIT. For example, see El Corte Ingles – it’s the biggest
    retail company in europe – it’s like walmart but it also sells $5000
    jackets next to the $10 ones. Winner: Tie, but at least we don’t pretend
    we’re not consumers.

    8. “Americans are all stupid and can’t point other countries out on a
    map. They’re such stereotyping morons”. Winner: Fuck you and your
    irrelevant country.

    9. A nation of immigrants still identifies with their country of origin? Well I never. Winner: You cant win vs a non-argument.

    10. ID Laws are retarded. Winner: EU.

    11. Religion: Remember
    when every state in America waged decades long wars convincing people
    to join their religion? Me neither. They invented catholicism and
    protestantism. We invented Mormonism. Mormons are annoying but they
    haven’t spent 18 centuries trying to murder every other religion.
    Winner: US.

    12. His example of corporations winning is “There are plenty of excellent cheap places to eat in Chicago, but you need to drive to
    them”. I’m baffled at how retarded he had to be to accomplish this.
    Where the fuck in “chicago” was he? Christ. Winner: The guy is clearly
    retarded, we win.

    13. “A country designed for cars, not humans”.  We’re the country
    with the 3rd largest land-mass in the world. What the fuck do you
    expect. I much prefer cities that are walkable, but I understand why we
    need cars. PS. Cars are for humans. Winner: I’ll give it to europe.

    14. Always in a hurry: Sorry our economy doesn’t suck as bad as
    yours. I’m sure our work ethic has nothing to do with it. Winner: $$$

    15. See above. You’re probably right though. Winner: Lazy Europeans.

    16. “Any time I ordered even a small portion I’d be totally
    full.” I’m sorry you get so much for your money and you don’t have the
    self-control to eat it. Winner: US.

    17. “Thinking America is the
    best”. There are lots of things that are awesome in other countries,
    but I wouldn’t live anywhere else. We’re not perfect, but we are the
    best. Deal with it. “There is no best country” is what people from
    not-the-best-country say. Winner: America, FUCK YEAH.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Americans use military grade pepper spray on peaceful students. You are deluded if you think you have more freedom of speech than western Europe.

      Have you ever lived abroad, or do you just get all your “facts” from Fox news? :)

    • http://openid.makabra.org/miroslaw Miroslaw

      Oh man, did you actually read the article? (Also, I do enjoy the fact that you did not find the European waiters servile enough; that actually the norm, they don’t need to humiliate themselves just for the privilege of serving the princedom of the most free country in the world).

  • Will Cheatham

    A year is no time at all.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Read that section again. I’ve added to it since people don’t seem to understand the meaning of “stereotyping”.

  • http://twitter.com/MinjaTheNinja Minja Milicevic

    I just have to say bravo! I absolutely LOVED reading this blog. I have spent the last 3 hours reading it and comments people have posted, very entertaining. I agree with everything you have stated, though from what I’ve been reading, I can see a lot of people have been very offended, and I can see why. I myself can get offended by some petty stuff that  I shouldn’t be but I think it’s because I have been raised in Canada. I was born in Europe but moved here when I was 7 so I have picked up on a lot of western culture. I think people here are way too sensitive, you have to walk on eggshells around them. When I visited Serbia this year though people didn’t think twice about telling someone they’ve gained weight which would be a taboo here. 
    I definitely agree with you on the smiling thing. I hang out with a group of European girls and for years we have been perceived as mean, bitchy girls when in fact we’re not. Whenever I meet someone new people tend to say wow….you girls are nothing like what I’d thought you’d be. For many years we’ve been puzzled as to why we are perceived that way. What do we do that makes us come across as so unapproachable? After reading you’re blog I think I understand now….we don’t smile 24/7. A lot of you who say you don’t smile too much pointed out that people stop you and ask what’s wrong and I have that problem too. I’ve been stopped numerous times and asked if anything is wrong…and let me tell you…when someone asks me what’s wrong …when NOTHINGS wrong…that just pisses me off more because then I think…well thanks you look lovely too. 

    Also I would just like to make a point to everyone who keeps repeating the same bs like “omg…why you only post bad stuff about america, what about Peru or Norway…” I’m pretty sure this blog is titled “17 cultural reasons why this european never wants to live in AMERICA” ….not Peru..not Germany…not Nigeria. If this post was titled lets say…things i don’t like about each country…and then proceed to only talk about America I’d get it. But if you wanna talk about picking on one country all the time then tell me why America chooses to make only Serbs, Russians, and Germans the bad guys in every movie? I have never seen a movie where American’s are portrayed as horrible, but only as victims trying to save their country from other mean countries.. stop the pity act..cuz no one feels sorry for you, every country has their flaws…these seem to be yours. I’m pretty sure if this was about mexico you could give less of a shit. I have noticed that lots of Americans really love to play the victim card. 

    Anyway, on a happier note keep up the good work Benny :) 

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    I would simplify things and stick to geography. Buenos Aires “feels” like Europe, but it definitely is not part of Europe in any way ;)

    To the best of my knowledge, most English speakers consider North America to be just 3 countries. Perhaps it’s different in other languages/cultures.

    • t.c. parker

      Depends.

      North America is a continent for me… as an English teacher in Spain I’ve learnt that many Europeans consider North and South America just one continent (something that I just really don’t agree with, I don’t know why, but it annoys me. Haha.) This continent is simply called the Americas. So I guess that would make the US apart of a lot of countries. If it is considered North America, then I think Central America would have to be considered as well. I haven’t been anywhere where they teach Central American as its own continent.

      As for the people saying that we shouldn’t call ourselves Americans… In Spain there is a lot of South American immigration (they are the subject of a ton of racism here in Madrid),  and sometimes when they ask me, “Where are you from?” I’ll say, “I’m American.” Then they’ll say, “Well I am too…” This this really awkward moment passes and we continue talking. 

      So, Spanish, being the wonderful language that it is, lets me say Estadounidense, which actually kind of translates to Unitedstatesarian. Haha. Also, I just say that I’m from the United States of America, or in English from the U.S. 

      Basically, not worth the arguments to say I’m American. However, one thing in Europe that I don’t really enjoy oftentimes is people just assume they know absolutely everything about me. They don’t really ask me any questions about anything. It’s kind of sad sometimes because I think as Americans we are usually really excited to meet people from other places. If you’re  from another country and are at an American party you’ll probably be the topic of a lot conversation and people will be asking you questions all the time. I realize that this might be because of tv series and movies constantly showing “American life,” but it can be taxing. No, I don’t own guns. Yes I live in quite a large house. No, I don’t own more than 1 car. Yes, I buy stupid shit sometimes (something that I learned to stop doing here). There’s tons of things like this that come up, but I think the difference with us is that our ignorance of other cultures and countries really helps us have an open mind with a lot countries. I mean, what do we know about Spain in general except Flamenco and bull fighting? It inspires us to ask a lot of questions though, which can make many foreigners feel welcomed and perhaps overwhelmed. One thing I have noticed is that we do assume people about certain countries, but I have rarely seen it manifest itself the way it does here in Spain. 

      Rambling again. 

      Sorry. Basically I hate Europe for one big reason:

      Lack of peanut butter in some countries. Seriously, I miss it.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Share the information right away, but in a factual way ;) Saying “my grandfather was Irish” for example would invite me to ask from which part. But YOU saying “I’m Irish” invites me to roll my eyes :-P
    Someone saying they are 1/4 this, 1/4 that, 1/4 the other + 1/4 this, adds up wrong to us when none of those mentioned are “American”. Rephrasing things to be unarguable (my grandmother was this, my grandfather was that etc.) will never annoy anyone.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Glad to see the quality readers coming from fark too ;)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    I’m not interested in signing up for an account just to read. Sorry that community chooses to close off their thoughts from the public without signing up. I have a forum on this site that is fully open to everyone – searchable from Google and readable even if you never sign up.

    I do have one question though; why are so many gun forums interested in this post?? I only mention my dislike of that aspect of America in passing, it isn’t one of the major points. It really shouldn’t be interesting or shocking that a European doesn’t like American gun laws :P

    • Rory_benson

      Gun forums are full of a wide range of folks. Many of us travel extensively for both work and play. We care about the negative comments on gun ownership because it is something we care about, deeply. Although I own many firearms nothing can make me feel a bit better than a trip to Caracas where everyone has and needs A firearm.

      You get the scared to travel bit from folks all over the world. Right along with PRO country X from the same. Southeast Asia, Argentina, the French maybe more than the rest.

      I did enjoy the article though and might keep reading other posts

    • madihwa

      I can’t see why any sane person would like our gun laws. Sometimes I think a streak of insanity runs deep through our land. I mean–allowing guns in church? What sane country would okay that?

      • PRINCE

        exactly, even in terrorist nations, muslim nations, even terrorists have that bit of decency and balls and code of ethics and they don’t do wrong things ( killing, beating, using guns etc) in a mosque. Also I think it is illegal at places

    • Poor

      Hi Benny:
      The second amendment of the United States constitution allows Americans to “bear arms” which not only means guns, but every other firearm, pistol, bazuka etc. The founders of the United States did not include the owning of arms for fun, or just to hunt or shoot rabbits, but rather to keep the people safe from a tyrannical government. A well armed populace keeps its government from going crazy. The government in the United States right now in 2013 has become a tyrannical police surveillance state. This is why the founding fathers put the 2nd amendment in the constitution, and that is why it is LEGAL and NECESSARY to own a gun in the United States. I tend to agree with the founders. As Thomas Jefferson rightly put it “The constitutions of most of our States assert that all power is inherent in the people; that…it is their right and duty to be at all times armed.” I think this quote says it all. The United States is a Republic with a constitution that not only allows, but asserts that it is necessary for citizens to own guns. I couldn’t agree more with the founding documents. And as an Indian who has lived in the United States for 23 years, I wish we had the right to bear arms in India. And trust me, India would be better off for it in MANY ways.

      • Yossarian

        Love all these replies about how gun ownership is so that Americans can sort out their government and stop them from going crazy. Well go on then. Looks like the government is going pretty crazy and has been for some decades now. Where is the uprising? Where is the dissatisfied population storming the gates and overthrowing the powers-that-be? Or is all the wailing and posturing just to protect an antiquated law that amounts to little more than a lame excuse to carry penis extensions.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Yes, I was in India! You’ll love this post: http://fi3m.com/no-words/

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Yes, how dare I share my thoughts honestly with the world. Shame on me.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    My argument is only against people who claim America has perfect unobstructed freedom of speech. In Europe there are many cases of unjust treatment too. My problem is with this arrogant presumption that America doesn’t have situations like this.

  • t.c. parker

    I live in Spain too.

    Maybe everyone should to go El Corte Inglés to really understand why American retail stores the way they are. Tips is something that kind of sucks… however, I would rather pay the 2.00 dollars extra to always have a free glass of water refilled and have my plates of food all served together at the same time. (This are Spanish observations.) I would not consider myself a “sensitive” person. However, living in Madrid for a year and half and constantly being told that you’re stupid (literally) at several government offices/banks because you only photocopied 2 times instead of 4 times… or the real winner, you didn’t print it out in color. This are times with that American sensitivity could be applied. Here’s the thing. I don’t think we’re necessarily sensitive with each other as much as we try to be tactful. A Spaniard might just tell you, “You’re fat.” I don’t find this productive. You care about your friend then oftentimes you try to get them to go do active things with you and go to the gym with them. There are times that we are walking on eggshells, but it’s often only until we can find a tactful way to bring something up. Sorry, I’m rambling. Totally agree on the consumerism and advertising thing. It’s horrible. Corporations also suck.

    There are things that I love about Europe, but I am definitely starting to miss some of our diversity and mixed background selves. 

    I also miss peanut butter.

  • Sarah Gilger

    I think this is hillarious!  Yea I’m an American but I really love to read other peoples experiences and perceptions of my country.  I’m glad you coould enjoy yourself sometimes, even if at times you were a bit annoyed. 

  • Scott

    Dear Benny,

    This article was very cool to read! It’s always nice to see another’s perspective of a  culture. As a Canadian, I think it’s safe to say that the Canadian culture is similar to the Americans’, so most (if not all)of your points relate for me too. I’d just like to say your comment stating that cities are made for cars, not for people, is interesting. I too prefer walking to places and enjoy walking amongst others when I am on the street; however, my next destination is often too far to travel on foot.

    Also, if your were telling me this in person, I think I’d turn a little red when you mentioned how everything is ‘awesome’. I use that word way too much. 

    Thank you for your comments! Maybe if I live in Ireland at some point you’ll find a post of my comments.

    Cheers,

    Scott

  • Miguel

    I actually found, while reading this post, that many of the things you complain about the US are things which also happen in Mexico (my home country) and which I had not noticed. Although there are certainly many differences between the American and the Mexican cultures, I notice that there are many noticeable similarities as well. Except for the taxes, all the points from 1 till 7 would also apply to my country, and some others in the list would do as well (like 12 and 13).

    But there is one thing I find that it does not only apply to the US (or any other country in particular) and it is the fact that almost all over the world people tend to have stupid stereotypes of countries with which they have not had real contact.

    I have been asked things like if we have healthcare down here or if I really know how to drive because surely there must be no more than dirt roads in my country. Many people have the image of the drunk guy having a “siesta” near to a cactus with a big “sombrero” and a poncho associated with Mexico in general. And I have heard this from people from Northamerica, Europe and Asia alike. My point being, I feel this is not a negative thing which is specific to a country, but that there is actually a big misconception of the world by people who only know it through movies.

  • whitney

    This sounds like it could be my list of pet peeves, and I am an American. However, I think Americans from my generation (I’m 25) are increasingly well-traveled and knowledgeable about other cultures. But again, I am an urban-dwelling, college educated artist and so are my friends. 

  • whitney

    Agreed! I find men use my occasional lack of smile as an excuse to flirt with me, saying “you look depressed tonight, why don’t you let me buy you a drink?” Blech. I wasn’t unhappy before but now I am!

    • PRINCE

      just have have a drink and carry on with your life whitney…. or should I say ” white knee” LOL

  • Kathyrsls

    I wish more people could be this honest. I grew up in South America, and when I moved her to USA, I found many of these things about Americans bothered me, but I never would have been as articulate to be able to express it the way you have. Thank you for being so open and honest.

  • Jeniffer Mazariegos

    I hate how they refer to their country as “America”, America is the whole continent. 

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      No, everything from Canada to Chile is “The Americas”. Like it or not, the standard used in English is to call USA, America. Canadians and Brazilians and many others from the Americas would never call themselves “Americans”, but “North Americans” or “South Americans” etc. I’ve been told that in Spanish this is different in some countries, but hasn’t been my experience so far.

  • Andy

    I would say one annoying thing is the incessant desire for affirmation with us Americans. There is a need to never be unpleasant with anything. As with the requirement for everyone to be smiling all the time. I’m not an excitable person, so i rarely go for the top-shelf with words, with everything being “awesome” or “amazing”. In spite of this it seems as if you cannot use the appropriate words without the possibility of being noted as an unpleasant person, while anyone who knows me, knows that I am definitely not. 

    Saying that, I was expecting to be at least a little offended (even though most things anti-american are usually just as ignorant as the things we say), but I found it to be a fairly accurate and refreshingly honest “review” of the states.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Thanks! The warning in the intro isn’t for sensible people ;) Plenty ARE getting offended though…

  • Lucas

    Nossa, o numero 9 é muito verdade!!!!! Eu acho que uma das perguntas mais comuns na minha escola é: What are you? 
    I already memorized my response, and it comes out automatically! hahahaMuito engraçado!

  • CammyK

    I am an American and after spending a lot of time living abroad and traveling on 5 continents, I’m happy to be home in the USA.  

    That said, I’ll say that I agree with much of what you have written.  However, I would say that the obesity epidemic in America has far more to do with #13 (a country built for cars, not people) and also with the American diet than it does with a perceived “lack of honesty/straightforwardness” or restaurant portion size. It’s important to note that grains, and the dairy and meat industries are heavily subsidized by our government.  Fresh fruits and veggies are barely subsidized.  This results in skewed prices, food deserts, etc.  Food in America is a fascinating topic with far-reaching consequences.

    … And many of the rest of your complaints boil down to the fact that we don’t provide a good education to most of our citizens (a great education can be had by those who are economically privileged, but most of us still attend public schools, which are failing us).  Americans aren’t taught how to think for ourselves.  Instead, we are told what to think by the Corporate-owned media or religious dogma.  This results in a myriad of problems.  It is very sad. :(

  • dcooke

    Anyone that gets offended by this accurate view of my country is simply providing Benny more support for his argument. I am an American who has been fortunate enough to travel abroad for a over half of my life (I’m 19), and I can firmly state that seeing Americans while I’m abroad is my least favorite part of travel. Everything Benny said I agree with, and I rather enjoyed a blunt tone compared to the over-sensitivity that I too have fallen victim too.

  • Micah

    Firstly I want to say is thank you for writing this list, I
    couldn’t help but laugh when I read it. I studied abroad in Prague for four
    months back in 2009 and several of your points were some issues that I
    definitely encountered.

    My one criticism of your list is that you didn’t seem to emphasize
    the great (I hope my use of that word isn’t too annoying) difference between
    the peoples of the US. I don’t mean by this the differences in culture due to
    heritage, but differences due to location. I am from southern Wisconsin, about
    a two hour drive from Chicago, and am most definitely a European mutt when it
    comes to my ancestry. I have to say that sometimes when I meet people from
    different areas of the US, who have almost the identical ethnic makeup that I
    do, I almost feel as though we are from a different country. I mean it isn’t a
    drastic difference, but mannerisms, accents, attitudes and outlooks on life can
    vary greatly throughout the US. Basically I’m bringing this up because some of
    these issues listed are more common in certain areas of the US over others, but
    over all I was quite amused by this list.

    Now, to my nay saying fellow Americans who are getting
    offended over some of the reasons listed, please read the title of this blog.
    It says “17 cultural
    reasons why this European never wants to live in America”. This means these are
    the issues that a European, Benny
    Lewis in this case, would be uncomfortable living in the US. He is not calling
    us barbarians, or saying he hates us. He is just pointing out the differences
    that would make life a bit different for him. Plus if you’re offended by his bluntness,
    read the intro next time, so please stop defending the US’ honor and just read
    this list and appreciate the different perspective on our way of life.

    I think anyone traveling from the US over to Europe should
    read this or something like it so that it will reduce the culture shock upon
    arrival. Once again thank you for writing this list and I look forward to
    reading your other commentaries.   

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Well said, some people are really going overboard with being offended about this, ignoring the title and the warning.

      Thanks and glad you enjoyed it!

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    When I pressed “submit” on this blog post I didn’t realise I was sending it to a high school English teacher for grading… :-P Um… thanks!
    “Dropping f-bombs” haha. You mean fucking saying fuck? Refer to observation #1 please ;)
    Reputable magazines have picked up on previous blog posts I’ve written and (with my permission) watered down my cursing to print it. But on this domain the cursing for emotional emphasis remains ;)

  • Anonymous

    Wow, you’re an idiot!  You act like we would be privileged to have you in our country.  Guess what moron, no one asked you to come to our country, nor does anyone want you to even set foot in our country.  Its people like you who actually do come to our country and ruin our ideals and customs.  Why would you ever think anyone would ever care what you have to say… get off your high horse and stay in your crumbling country; we don’t want you… man, I can’t get over how ignorant this post is.  If I ever meet you in person I’ll take care of you the good ol’ American way.  I’m glad this isn’t on HackerNews anymore.
    I’ll leave you with this:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ruNrdmjcNTc

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Proving point about sensitivity, America is #1, ignorance of other countries, and missing the point of this post. Your idiotic video link proves that there is no argument, just “America, fuck yeah!”

      • Anonymous

        First off, your reply wasn’t even comprised of complete sentences. Therefore, I do not even fully understand what you are trying to say. I find this rather comical coming from someone who runs a so-called company that prides itself on language fluency. As a matter of fact, you proved my point exactly in regards to the video I posted. Only Americans can relate to that song/video; I merely linked to it as a friendly reminder and obviously you are offended and/or threatened by it since you took such an overly defensive stance towards it even though the only thing I said was “I’ll leave you with this” – I wasn’t trying to make an argument, as you somehow perceived. Third of all, I wouldn’t say its sensitivity. Its more like pride in my great country that has paved the way for all of the world in my many regards. You are correct, I do believe America is #1; I don’t see why you feel the need to exploit this and I don’t see why I should think any differently just because some kid across the Atlantic is all upset because he had trouble fitting in. Fourth, how does anything I said display ignorance of other countries? Fifth, I don’t care what you think the point of your post was. What matters is how people perceive what you said and I think I summed it up pretty well in my reply, but go ahead and enlighten me as to what you believe your little blog post was all about. What I still don’t get is why would you even come to America if you have so many things to complain about. Like I said before, no one is forcing you to be in America. After all we are the land of the free and the home of the brave, judging by this ridiculous blog post, you don’t fit into either category…

        • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

          I’m not running any companies…

          I find it quite hypocritical of “the land of the free and home of the brave” that free speech and diversity of opinion is being frowned upon so heavily more by the kind of people who share silly videos like that than anyone else.

          • Anonymous

            No one is frowning upon free speech at all. Nor is anyone frowning upon diversity of opinion. I’m merely just stating my opinion that I think you are terribly foolish and ignorant. Once again, more unfounded claims…

            Just so you know, diversity was not a founding principle that America was built upon, so there goes your whole argument. But I guess I don’t need to educate you on American history since you won’t be coming back here. If I am mistaken and you do plan on coming back here then I highly encourage you to brush up on your American history so you can fit it in a little better this time around. You may also want to pick up a copy of Rosetta Stone; your grammer is still atrocious. I guess your “silly” little “language hacks” aren’t working quite the way you think they are.

          • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

            Rosetta Stone to improve my grammar… in English? You really are just another advertisement programmed drone, and an ill-informed one at that.

  • Anonymous

    I was born and raised in a German family who came to Toronto in the mid-’50s. Starting when I was 5, my father made sure we visited our extended families in Germany on a regular basis, and our family also had strong friendships with other German immigrants at home. If it hadn’t been for that, my whole concept of being German, as defined by Hollywood, was that of being either evil Nazis or bumbling fools (a la Hogan’s Heroes). It’s hard to blame people for believing stereotypes of any nationality if that is all they are exposed to, which is why travel is so very important.
    While I will always be a proud Canadian, I consider Germany my second home and continue to cherish the close ties I continue to have with my family and friends in Germany.

    I would also point out that stereotypes sometimes are solidly based in reality – there have been more than a few occasions when my husband (whose parents were Welsh and Polish) pleads with me to be “a little less German” when I insist on something being done perfectly instead of just “good enough”… :)

  • http://twitter.com/HellKitsune Emma Moore

    The part that struck me most true was point 13. I lived in Pittsburgh, PA for 2 months, and on the fourth of July I decided to walk to the park to see the fireworks and displays. I walked for over 90 minutes in the early afternoon, and didn’t see a single person until I was well into the city. I was a little freaked out. I did find everyone to be very open-minded, though I did get a little weary of all the ‘Auch aye the noo’s as they tried to mimick my Scottish accent. 

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Brazil is just slightly smaller than the US and I never ever needed a car there. Buses between cities are of incredibly high standard and within cities you can get wherever you want with public transport (although it is a bit confusing at first).

    This spatiality argument just doesn’t work when you take into account other huge countries like India, Brazil, Argentina where the vast majority of people do NOT own a car, and yet get around fine.

    Also taking Europe as a whole you can get from one end to the other without a car and it’s a comfortable journey by train compared to American Grey Hound.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    I have lived in dozens of countries over the last decade. There are plenty of things I’m not used to, but they enhance the experience so I would consider living in those countries permanently. Not in America.

    There is no elitism here – as I said at the start I want Americans to look on themselves from an outside perspective and reflect a little. Fortunately many commenters get that.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    I always tipped fairly. The service was not because of my accent. After my table they’d repeat the same drill on the next one without foreigners every time.

    Places in touristy areas that had foreigners visit would occasionally print on the receipt that a tip is required. This is the cleverest thing you can do. If you want to cater for tourists you have to be aware of their customs too.

    On the other hand I had a very touristy bus tour in L.A. (I got a free citypass ticket) and the tour guide would not shut up about his poor starving family and that he relies on tips, just to be sure we knew about it. I worked it out based on his “suggested” tip and how many customers he has a day and he earns over 80 grand a year for working 4 hours a day. It was bloody annoying, but by simply stating that he earns from tips, passers by were aware of it.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    That’s a fair argument, but it could be given about many stressful underpaid and under-appreciated jobs. Teaching for example requires incredible discipline and focus over many hours, and extra work and lack of appreciation from rude children etc., but teachers are not earning the same as doctors or lawyers.

    And they do NOT get a tip, and in my opinion if tipping were to be made standard teachers would deserve just as much or much more than waiters.

    In an ideal world we’d all earn $20/hour minimum or much more. Waiters are not so special, sorry.

  • sol gerendi

    Hello, a friend of mine found this post dont know where and I think is brillian. A smart analysis about the american soul. I DONT think you hate americans come on guys dont be babies. He is just saying outloud what many think. I love it and i will follow this blog or site or whatever it is. Saying hi from ARGENTINA, the land of non free lol!!!

  • http://twitter.com/Pistolette Pistolette

    Curious what you thought of New Orleans, even though you were only here 2 weeks. I’m a native Louisianian and relate to Caribbean cultures more than USA.

  • http://twitter.com/Mosetsfire84 Mohamad Masri

    Spot on man.  I loved reading this.

  • http://twitter.com/alexandrio Alejandro Pedroza

    1 thing i wish one day could be is stop saying USA is AMERICA, USA IS NOT AMERICA.

  • Anonymous

    This is a really depressing post. MOST people have jobs where they get paid the same if they do a good job or a mediocre job. Usually people try to do a good job, even in adverse situations, because they are professionals and have some dignity and professional pride.

    • http://twitter.com/sheriseology Sherise Alexis

      Yes, but at the end of the day. Food service is truly taxing. And then having to deal with the fact that you’ve budgeted for a tip that is not coming is more stressful still. All while having to act disgustingly chipper all the time.

      Generally, those in food service NEED the money, so gravitating to the potential for higher gains is a matter of survival. There’s limited time to serve and so we will opt for the most profitable if possible since it collectively makes a different on comfortably affording room and board or not.

      Yes, it’s fake service. But really, that’s what results from a broken system. (Trust me, I despise the false pricing too.)

      Also I’m assuming (maybe wrongly) that “crap service” refers to minimum required. It we were outright awful to every person that didn’t tip, I would imagine that we wouldn’t keep the job very long, since the complaints would mount up.

      • PRINCE

        personally I would not just fire but blacklist and maybe even report to the authorities about a greedy and undeserving jerk/bitch who is incapable of working even as a waiter/waitress(coz we all know most of you have no qualifications, nothing to do, hence you become a waiter lol). I mean behaving rudely or giving “crap service” to ppl who did not tip you? are you kidding me?. what are you going to do? spit on the food? add poison to the food?, I think you should definitely be in jail then, ppl like this *teh* over here don’t even deserve to be in decent society. Also since when did you automatically assume how much you would get and start budgeting yourself including the tips you “might” get? its really shallow, imbecile, greedy, cheap and dirty of you if you budget yourself like that.. not satisfied with the salary boss pays you? leave.. do a job where you get better money. not getting a job? not my problem, just becoz you have no talents and not getting a decent educated job, I’m supposed to compulsorily “waste” money on silly tips? Do you think I’m bill gates? what makes you waiters think everyone that comes to eat in a restaurant are automatically rich and can afford to waste money like that.. for example I value money and would tip someone if I was happy, not otherwise.. its no mandatory, its voluntary

    • John D. Nugent

      MOST people don’t have jobs where their employers are allowed to only pay a minor fraction of the Federal Minimum Wage, since they are expected to receive tips from everybody.

  • Holly S

    Thank you for sharing… I really appreciate your candid opinion. 

    I’ve thought of living in another country before and after breaking out of the mold in many senses have thought how rich, yet how poor we are.
    I love the word, “awesome” though. It’s awesome. :)

  • Holly S

    Look: I even have a happy face after my comment! HA HA!!! So typical.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Happy-Elf-Homeschool/100001845245034 Happy-Elf Homeschool

    The false prices on everything drive me absolutely crazy as well.  Not just the taxes, but the add-on fees and that sort of thing as well.   I don’t know if you’ve ever had the opportunity (ha) to purchase a cell phone service, or cable, or sign up for a credit card and that sort of thing while you were here.  If you thought you were swindled before, those people really WILL ream you. 

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    As you said, if it weren’t for the tips, your wages would be higher.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    As you said, if it weren’t for the tips, your wages would be higher.

  • http://twitter.com/PaulHeck PaulHeck

    Obviously touched a nerve there Benny. I’d have to agree with the most of your blog, but would have to add that it’s the universal nature of some of these observatinos that make them so painful. It’s pretty much the sort of thing that would annoy you about anyone, but for some reason has been evelated to a cultural norm n the US, that makes most of these observations cringe-worthy.
    In a populationof over 300 million its the ones that stick out and the behaviours that are the most obvious that are the ones we remember and then identify them as ‘Americanisms’.
    Personaly I really dislike the over compensatory nationalism and the whole ‘best country in the world’ view of themselves. The huge obsession with guns will, I suspect, go a long way to making a real mess of a great place and a lot of realy good, but innocent people.

  • Travis Blanchfield

    I found this to be pretty funny. I live in Orlando, and I very much agree on all points. The things is though, that most Americans already know this. We know we are over dramatic, sarcastic, full of ourselves, aggressive, and some of us are pretty ignorant. Though a lot of it we’re not proud of; like the consumerism and marketing.
    However, in a nutshell, America, at least one point in time, WAS number one! At least that’s what we were taught. And once you’ve made it to the top it’s pretty hard to give that up. Keeping up with the Joneses is our cultural way of life. Since the beginning, America was a place that if you really worked hard you’d come out on top. And no one wants to be on the bottom. Plus, capitalism is about competition. Competition is kind of our cultural identity. China is growing economically a little too fast for comfort and we must “contain” them. Someone throws a passing glance at uranium research and we’ve already aimed our nukes at their country.
    We compete with ourselves. “Just try to do your best!” We compete with our neighbors. And we compete with foreign countries. America is a dog eat dog world.

  • Eimesl

    I think you’re putting an unnecessary stereotype on all Americans. While I agree that there are plenty of people out there who fit these, there is also a large portion of the nation that doesn’t. It’s too bad that you banished the Irish stereotypes, but still managed generalize our nation. 

  • Nick

    This post was AWESOME!!!!! (irony intended)

  • Eric

    Some of these are accurate whereas others, not so much. You have to understand that you saw but a percentage of what a true American represents. Unfortunately, you met up with all the wrong ones. I for one, for example, went to Montreal for the first time this year. A few weeks back, I went to NYC. Take a guess which place I admire more. As far as thinking America is best, I don’t feel that way entirely. I mean, every country has something significant about it. Generally speaking though, I’m not too interested in visiting other countries. People always say, ‘go somewhere new. experience the culture. the people, the food, the music’. People inspire me,  but food and music, not so much. For that reason, I don’t have much desire to travel most of the world. South America however, is a much different story. It just depends on what a person considers great, or interesting or travel worthy. And the stupid drinking laws? They’re there for a reason. I sell alcohol, and I’m responsible for preventing underage drinking. Am I suppose to sell a substance that already kills teenagers to…teenagers? Yea, teens get it illegally. It’s always going to happen. But if it started being sold legally, there’s the potential for even more drinking and driving deaths, and alcohol poisoning

  • Happystormyweather

    You mean North America I guess.

  • Anonymous

    Awesome blog! What a waste of time. 
     

  • Lang Hurst

    Wow.  I think that you are correct on every single criticism.  I was expected to get all worked up and start waving a metaphorical U.S. flag, but I don’t disagree with any of your complaints.  I think I need to move out of country.

  • Natalia Novikova

    Canada, seen from the Russian perspective, is really Americas Ukraine. A nobody nation that will be consumed by America.

    • PRINCE

      someone is 5, mentally retarded AND guilt stricken. Now for no reason you just degraded 2 countries here (canada and ukraine). btw I’m from neither but had to point out that you sound retarded, pissed and it proves that andrea is correct

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Jesus Christ…

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Brilliant idea

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    I did visit it. I liked the Skyline coming in by car – I could hear the theme song of Frasier in my head…

  • Sean

    Wow.  I am an american, and I must say I agree with every one of your points.

  • Alexbriner

    I loved your post man, im American (Chicago) and I agree with what you had to say 100%, I have made these observations myself when travelling and at home.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Actually this article went viral and I got MANY new readers. While I doubt I’ll be writing a post as negative as this for some time, it confirms for me that honesty always is the best policy ;)

  • http://mygrowingobsessions.blogspot.com Samantha

    I enjoyed this, just to see the perspective of someone who has traveled through the country. What I am left wondering is if you have been to Canada, and your opinion? We share much of the same culture, but have many differences as well. Newfoundland is a wonderful place to visit, if you were so inclined to come here.

  • neardurham

    I enjoyed your perspective and scanned through some of the responses. I didn’t see the usual “America, love it or leave it” response that is usually used when we are critical of our country or an “outsider” is critical. It was probably there but I read your 500o words and formulated my own reactions to them. Some of the millions of words that followed just made me feel uncomfortable as a person. We should all respect each other for our differences as well as our likenesses. I believe I’ll follow your blogs and see what else you have to say. Thanks.

  • Pegasus

    I suppose more people have lived on those rolling hills than on (or is it “in”?) the Grand Canyon. that would give it more “history”, yes.

  • Ack

    with that list, is there anywhere on earth you can be happy?  I think not.  Doesn’t matter where you are from or where you are going; a cranky jerk is a cranky jerk. 

    2000 words of whining.  Lovely.

  • Ack

    2000 words of whining.  Lovely.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    I was in Portland, and I have many witnesses who will confirm it ;).

    It’s a very pleasant city, and I liked the limited free public transport idea and the fact that (unlike other cities in the states) there were areas outside and squares where people could eat.

    Many of my observations still apply though, based mostly on the points you didn’t mention. But you are right that it is a major improvement in so many aspects.

    I didn’t see cycle lanes on most streets when I was downtown. By *American* standards, public transport and ease of use for bikes is great, but it isn’t by European standards for a city of similar size. You are right that it seems to be adapting though.

    Yes, out of all of America, Portland would be the closest city I’d have been in to European standards of living :)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    I hope you’re trying to be ironic, because that is precisely the kind of idiotic thing you don’t want to say to someone when you’re playing the heritage angle.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    A veggie burger I hope! ;)

  • http://twitter.com/tccary92 Tyler Cary

    This article is AWESOME! (haha, get it ;) )  But in all seriousness, I am American and I totally respect and actually agree with a lot of what you are saying!  I agree with both the good and the bad with what you said.  Good article!

  • Scott Ragland

    I agree with you on the majority of this. However i’m kind of disappointed in the way you presented it. Honestly I’ve lost some respect for you because frankly you come across as a dick. When i read this i also sense the “holier than thou” arrogance that many Americans have. I know you will attribute what i’m saying to the bluntness you speak of but i think if you said the same things about other countries some of their people would agree as well. I’m not offended or anything, i’m just sort of surprised I guess. Anyway i wish you better luck in your next country.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Sorry but this kind of proves my point about #1. It’s not holier than thou, it’s just honesty, You certainly seem offended…

  • Dan

    I think you are missing the point.  Benny is not critising Americans being proud of their heritage (indeed he points out similar pride in Brazilians) the thing that annoys him is Americans claiming to be Irish when talking to him (a person who is actually Irish.)  I’m sure he would have no problems with a person who instead replies “I’m descended from Ireland”, “My grandparents were Irish” etc…

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Have you read the comments here? I can’t be “pretty sure” of anything with the amount of shite I’ve to read every day I log in to catch up…

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    You say it jokingly, but the problem is that there ARE so many people who speak like that…

  • http://twitter.com/isoHedonism Brian Bloomfield

    Wow lyke totally awesome post!
    Kidding.
    ;  )

    I found this blog entry scathing yet hilariously true. As an American I was relieved to read what you wrote about Americans always trying to seem constantly upbeat and positive. As a cashier at Target I am constantly asked “How are you?” as just a way to initiate business. The other week I was having a rough day at work, and one of the customers said “Hi, how are you?” I responded “Ok” and watched the guest react in cultural shock. It seemed to be taboo to say anything other “Great!” Or “Awesome!”. Even my coworkers gave me a hard time about it.
    Anyway your honesty was refreshing.
    Cheers.

  • Anonymous

    The only thing I don’t agree with is the smiling. We are not very friendly. Maybe you’re thinking of the Canadians. 

  • Tarak Xformer

    Most of your complaints are due to rampant advertising and corporate psychological warfare against the average American citizen, to make us all feel like we have to “sell ourselves” like a product all the time. Realness and genuine thinking, speaking, and appearances is taboo. Parroting of ad slogans, branding yourself with corporate slogans, that’s the American way.

    Advertising’s goal is to tell us we are deficient unless we have the “must have” item being pitched at us. We can never be good enough just as we are, as that concept stops commerce and breaks down the whole economic structure of “consumerism”.

    The advertising for prescription-only drugs is forbidden in Canada so they don’t have ads like that. It should be banned in the USA, but since corporations run everything around here they would of course be up in arms over the potential “lost profits”.

    We could probably call this the United Corporations of America, and it would be much more accurate portrayal of how things really work. Our government is expressly “for the corporations by the corporations” and we are kidding ourselves if we think individual citizens have any real say anymore.

    A funny American complaint about Europeans is that most of you stink. Either body odor is apparently not considered too important, or your nostrils were all burned out at an early age. I guess it can be argued that body “odor” is what humans are SUPPOSED to smell like, and it’s us Americans all slathered in “baby powder” and “mountain air” that are the ones screwed up about what is natural and normal for body scent.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      That stereotype is from centuries ago, as most I found that Americans have of European countries tend to be.

  • Tadeu Carabias

    I feel like Americans can’t communicate at all, they’re usually very curt. Everything is “awkward”. There isn’t even a word for awkward in Portuguese, the closest you can get is the literal translation of “weird” (in general, anyways).

    A description of  an awkward moment would need to be very specific (they do exist, y’know), and sometimes I feel like the inclusion of the word awkward makes every damn person in this country that way, god knows why.

    Maybe it’s the English language, but perhaps I just feel more at home in Brazil because it’s my own culture. Still, I couldn’t agree more with everything you’ve said, very good read.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      I also like how many cases of weird (not in a terribly bad way) are simply translated as “different” in Portuguese. But you’re right, awkwardness is certainly an Anglo feature…

  • http://twitter.com/IcePrincessAna AnaH Finland

    I absolutely loved your post! I am a Finn, born and raised, living in Seattle. You pretty much managed to sum up my feelings and pet peeves that I have about America! Thank you for putting my feelings into words!

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    With that logic you shouldn’t be allowed to consume anything that influences your body chemistry. No coffee, no smoking, no medicine, no fatty foods, probably no food in general… until you are 25. That argument just doesn’t hold water, but thanks for the explanation nonetheless.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    The truth hurts. Don’t kill the messenger.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Ah, but why is phonology capitalised? Haha, we could keep this nitpicking going on forever. Every time I see it happen I think of this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muphry%27s_law

    • http://www.facebook.com/kayla.mcfly Kayla McFly

      Phonology is capitalized because the names of fields of study are always capitalized (e.g. Algebra class).

      • TNilsson

        nice

    • TNilsson

      It’s capitalized because it’s an actual study, idiot!

  • http://twitter.com/Bickidan Princess Buttercup

    Hi Benny, I have no shame in agreeing with you on a few of your points, but I believe you have not discovered the small faction of people in America who actually employ common sense in getting through life. We are the non-religious, not-overly-materialistic, fashionable, traveling, foodies who enjoy experiences (especially cultural) above all else. Have you been to Minneapolis? Originally from Texas (a place you couldn’t pay me to live these days), then somewhat raised in uber-conservative, overly religious South Carolina, I now make my home in Minneapolis and I love it. I do not own a fancy car, buy into the Kardashian or Jersey-Shore excessive lifestyle, bag my doggie-pooh when I walk all around the city, don’t own an Apple product, look like a million bucks, and look people in the eye when I talk to them. I don’t have to smile at people if I look them in the eye as I thank them for delivering whatever it is that I have purchased and tipped generously for…I also believe if we have not visited our “mother countries” – in my case, IRELAND (postponed a trip, then chose Spain, instead) – we are simply “American”, especially if we don’t embrace our ancestral rituals.
     
    The one little giggle I did get from this article was your smack-talk on dollar stores. Bwahahaha! They are not the equivalent to your two-euro stores, but carry the same made-in-China crap our dollar stores carry. The difference is that you pay US$2.60 for the same shite we pay US$1.07. *bats eyelashes*
     
    You *do* realize that Ireland is roughly the size of one of our smallest states, don’t you? Minneapolis has a ton of bicyclists and walkers, by the way. But we’re a big country. We (Americans, not me) like living in spacious homes, not piled on top of one another within four square miles.
     
    I like your writing. I like your resourcefulness. Keep at it.
     
    ~Bickidan

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      “The difference is that you pay US$2.60 for the same shite we pay US$1.07″
      …Touché

  • Ariel Carter

    I find myself agreeing with you on a lot of points. #5 drives me nuts, however, #6 is just as bad if not worse in Japan. ;) It felt pretty nice not to identify myself with some of the qualities that would make someone from another country think badly of me and my country. We don’t have the greatest systems in place, but the idea of the American dream is nice (even if I don’t have a car or a license and can’t get ANYWHERE).

  • http://twitter.com/joshhostels Josh (Hostels)

    I grew up in the US, spent much of the past 15 years on the road, and agree with much of what you’re saying. You can escape from most of that though if you look around a bit.

    Many of the cultural points apply elsewhere too:
    * for smiles and lack of directness, compare with Japan
    * for false prices, compare with any bargaining country.
    * wasteful consumerism – the US also has thriving “buy local / buy nothing” and environmental movements, if you find the right people.
    * sensitivity: this exists in every country and just involves learning the accepted social cues. We speak the same language, but there are subtle differences that can lead to painful miscommunication. I had a difficult time in Japan because I couldn’t figure out the subtleties even after 2 months. I also noticed this in the UK, where I was thrown off guard because we both had the same language, but there were cultural differences that were surprising.
    * marketing: avoid TV.
    * religion: some parts of the US are worse than others, but compare that with the blasphemy laws found in Europe. In some European countries you can be sentenced to prison for criticizing religion. I grew up in the US and had no idea that people were literally terrified of an actual place in the center of the Earth called “Hell” until I was in my 30s. The religious aspect can easily be avoided.
    * speed of living — it depends. I grew up in western Massachusetts which is very slow and laid back. Avoid the cities if you want to slow down.
    * annoying people: look for the right circles of people — it can take a while. Not everyone inserts “awesome” and “like” into every sentence.

    Interesting post though, and I can see where you’re coming from. I think it’s good to see the perspectives of people from other countries. I will share the link on Facebook.

    Nice meeting you in San Francisco.

    Josh

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Was this reply useful? “Hell no!”

    Honestly, if you don’t like it, stop reading before you get to the 5,000 word point and go do something else. You obviously do give a damn to stick around and to write a comment (idiotic as that comment is).

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    “This is America after all, we’re used to people saying what’s on their mind” No, that was precisely my first point! Also, other western countries have plenty of people who are openly critical of it, without fear of imprisonment etc.

    Free speech exists elsewhere.

    Also, please read the title of this post. These are reasons why I don’t want to live in America, and having travelled a lot allows me to view that a bit better. I didn’t say I’m in the position to “judge” America. America will continue on regardless of my rant.

    You say you’ve visited a lot of countries – how many of them have you lived in for several months and made local friends? This is the perspective I’m talking about, and is very different to the positive touristy experience you expect in a week on a beach resort.

    All of your positive points are generic positive things I would easily be able to apply to most free western countries. The fact that you bring them up only proves that you haven’t experienced those countries you’ve visited nearly enough.

    I also found bureaucracy as a tourist to be quite annoying in America. That wouldn’t apply to locals, the same way bureaucracy in some (not all) countries you visited is something you are viewing very superficially and in a restricted sense.

    I am pretty well travelled so I am entitled to an opinion, not to be a judge and jury. You claim to be pretty well travelled too and have done precisely what I did in this post in your comment. Shared an opinion. Will you look back on it in a few years and regret writing a comment that shares that opinion, as you claim I will be doing? I doubt it.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    There is no hatred in this post. And you’d be wise to retract that statement. I heard lots of hate in America towards certain countries and cultures, stemmed from pure ignorance. Comparing this honest and actually neutral post (especially considering the conclusion) to what I’ve heard is a gross exaggeration of what hatred represents.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    I take nothing for granted. I worked hard to have this lifestyle – nobody has handed this on a silver plate to me.

    When I was a student I investigated affordable options to allow me to work abroad in the summer. The bureaucracy was annoying, but I got through it and managed to get a working visa that would mean I wouldn’t have to save up more than the flight. A round trip flight to Dublin costs only a few hundred dollars if you investigate it properly.

    Others have applied and succeeded in having entire years of study abroad. You can drown yourself in excuses or you can find a way to make it work.

    Don’t just “love” to travel, go and bloody make it work. I also worked all summer and every single weekend for 16 hours in college, going out a maximum of 6 times a year unlike most people in college, so that I could afford to invest my time to study the rest of the week. Despite this I still spent two summers in the states. I didn’t even travel to mainland Europe until years later. There is a way to make it possible – giving into a “woe is me” attitude is definitely not it.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Less feminine from a guys’ perspective; clothing, way of speaking, way of walking, etc. Other comments have discussed it in detail. Disagree with me if you like, but girls here in Peru and pretty much everywhere I’ve ever been are way more feminine in my opinion than most Americans I met, such as the many I met in college jerseys and jeans who shout and flirt like guys. You may not be one of them, but there certainly is a lot. If you define femininity different, so be it. This is only my opinion.

    And yes… wasn’t the title of the post “17 cultural reasons…”? So yes, these happen to be cultural differences I disliked. Your introduction doesn’t say much as far as retorts go. Neither does saying that I haven’t taken a psychology course.

  • http://twitter.com/Rouillie Rouillie Wilkerson

    Although I’ll agree
    with you on many points (I’m immigrating out of the US, I might add), your
    shared observation are just the tip of the iceberg!  And really, on the positive American comments
    portion.  I think you should know that
    they do not appreciate diversity as much as they may let on to a
    foreigner.  You are an Irishman and they
    have a ton of happy, go lucky, albeit jolly drinking stereotypes to go
    with!  Americans are in  fact, incredibly self-absorbed, insular and
    the religious thing has a been a fact as long as I can remember, and can get
    pretty scary if you aren’t careful to just let it go and walk away!  Aloha! 

  • http://twitter.com/1913Intel Matthew Wilson

    Some of your comments are spot on. Some are overly sensitive. Some are pushing into the “wrong” category.

    1. Americans are way too sensitive – It’s called being polite.

    2. Everything is “awesome”! – Yes, we have some lame words that people over use. No other country does this, right?

    3. Smiles mean NOTHING – Wrong! You just aren’t able to pick up on the clues.

    4. Tipping – You are correct. This is annoying.

    5. False prices on everything – You are correct. After moving to Switzerland I was stunned to find out that one actually pays the listed price, not the listed price plus 25% depending on the item.

    6. Cheesy in-your-face marketing – Yes, but you learn to ignore it.

    7. Wasteful consumerism – True.

    8. Idiotic American stereotypes of other countries – You are being overly sensitive. A lot of people are just joking.

    9. Heritage – No one is American. We are all from somewhere else. You are being overly sensitive.

    10. ID checks & stupid drinking laws – You are correct.

    11. Religious Americans – You are overly sensitive.

    12. Corporations win all the time, not small businesses – Yes.

    13. A country designed for cars, not humans – Yes, you must have a car to live in America, or live in a city with good public transportation.

    14. Always in a hurry – You’re too sensitive. Probably not more than many other countries.

    15. Obsession with money – You need to spend time in China.

    16. Unhealthy portions – Yes! One needs to each only half the plate or less. That’s what doggy bags are for.

    17. Thinking America is the best – Shouldn’t every country think they’re the best? You’re being too sensitive.
     

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      I find it so ironic that most of your criticisms of my post is that I’m being too sensitive, and then you claim my main issue with American sensitivity is that “it’s called being polite”. I actually find dancing around the facts and not being straight with people to be quite rude.

      You really need to buy a thesaurus though. While my arguments can be debated, getting annoyed at in-your-face Jesus freaks among many things is not being “overly sensitive”.

  • http://www.tourabsurd.com Katrina

    As an American living in Ireland — and a blogger who just wrote a post that deliberately abused the word “awesome” — I find this an interesting perspective. I think you are picking up on some specifics, but not necessarily seeing some of the bigger picture issues, and on a few you’re really not understanding human dynamics at all.

    Believing, for ex., that telling fat people they are fat is going to make a difference is really short sighted. As the daughter of someone who was chronically overweight, the fat shaming that goes on in the US is astonishing. And once you become a part of the vicious cycle (i.e., gain weight), it can be very hard to break out of it. Open dialog about the causes of health issues may be a way to approach it, but saying something in a judgmental way to someone who is undoubtedly and very painfully aware of their appearance only adds to the shame; it doesn’t motivate them to change something they already want to change.

    Weight and health are a reflection of the overworking white collar lifestyle, as much as anything — or in the case of my parent, a way to cope with abuse. (And yes, Americans work far too many miserable hours with not enough focus on relaxation, vacation, and quality of life. It’s part of what I love about my husband’s Italian family.) The way food availability currently sits, it can be extremely difficult to even find good, affordable food depending on where you live. My husband and I are finding this to be true in Ireland, as well. Yes, you *can* get fruits and veggies, but they are high priced and the quality is quite poor. It’s much easier to find things that do well in the local climate like oats, root vegetables and tubers, apples, dairy, and meat. That we continue to buy the local items over the imports is more of a reflection of our budget than our awareness or desire to eat things with more vitamins, enzymes, and fiber.

    This is not always the case in the US, clearly, but it is a big factor. But it just points to larger questions about education, corporations, city living, etc. But they are complex questions, not a single, simple thing that you can point out to people — and then call them idiots for failing to address. Yes, one step at a time to tear down a broken system, but one step on the road to addressing several, intertwined issues. Let’s not confuse the cause with the symptom.

    As for Americans calling themselves Irish, I’ve had a ridiculous number of Irish people ask me if I have family history in Ireland. I usually try to laugh it off and change the subject, as I don’t want to appear to be that American who is on a quest for Celtic roots or what have you. However, I don’t see people rolling their eyes here when discussing the American – Irish connection. Most of them want to know where I’m from so they can tell me that they’ve visited, how beautiful it is, that they have family in the US, etc. etc. I was surprised at how many people were actually delighted to find I was American; it was not at all expected. I think the Americans you describe are just searching for a connection, a way of reaching out. Maybe thinking of them as that awkward teenager who wants to tell you about his or her latest science experiment, reaching out the best way they know how. Which is to say, with good intention, but low social skills.

    Have you read any books about the difference between cold climate and warm climate cultures? If not, I suggest you do. The way you describe yourself and your German friends fits precisely with cold climate thinking — that being blunt and straightforward are characteristics to be admired and valued. You even put it in terms of “honesty,” which implies that to behave otherwise makes someone “dishonest.”

    Warm climate thinking, on the other hand, tends to place more value on feelings and a sense of connection. A Moroccan friend gave the following example to me to illustrate: if he got a terrible haircut, his German friend would say, “That is an awful haircut and it looks terrible.” A fellow Moroccan would say, “No, it looks fine”, because they would not want him to be up in the middle of the night worrying about looking like an idiot. Both viewpoints have their value, neither is superior. Directness is important to you, but not as much to the folks you’ve encountered. This does not mean all Americans are duplicitous, they just have different priorities. With that being said, I myself prefer direct and often found myself at odds with my fellow citizens because of this. It is part of why I enjoy travel in Europe (though Italians still find my bluntness disarming from time to time).

    I don’t think your final paragraphs really make up for the bashing, either. And I do think there’s a lot of bashing here, even if I agree with the core of many of your statements, since there’s very little understanding or forgiveness. It really comes across as, “Despite the fact that you’re a bunch of wankers, I’ll still visit because of one or two friends.” But then, controversy sells, doesn’t it?

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      I wasn’t trying to make up for the bashing. The fact that I “should” just shows that you can’t take the core of the post seriously enough. Like I have to apologise for what I said. The conclusion was just to make it clear that I actually like many Americans, so the purpose of the post was clear, not to balance out the 17 points.

      I haven’t read about warm vs cold climate thinking, but I’ve lived in South America for almost two years and South Europe for another 2 years and various chilled out parts of Asia that you could call “warm climate mentality”, and America is definitely NOT that. I find Americans to be stressed out and too work-driven to ever be considered as opposites to cold-climate in the way you suggest.

      I’m not interested in controversy. I’m interested in honesty. The most popular posts on my blog that “sells” have gone more viral than this one and were also honest, with the same blunt style, but not controversial. (here and here) The reason this particular post is doing so well is because (as you’ll see in the comments) a lot of Americans are appreciating an honest opinion to see themselves from another perspective, and that’s why I wanted to share it on the blog.

      As I’ve said dozens of times in other comments – you can either get offended by this post as if I’m giving America a list of 17 commandments to follow or you can read the title and see that they are just personal reasons why I don’t want to live in America that I felt many Americans may be curious about.

      • http://www.tourabsurd.com Katrina

        I wasn’t offended and it’s interesting that you would interpret it that way.  Also, I wasn’t suggesting that you “should” do anything.  I was responding to the way you phrased that part of your post.  It simply doesn’t seem all that balanced.  Regardless of subject matter or who writes it, if I see a lot of judgment with little indication of understanding or sympathy, I usually say something about it.  This includes Europeans making ignorant sweeping generalizations about the US (I’m not talking about you here), Americans doing the same about the rest of the world, or people spewing hatred about the various “-ism”s and -phobias.  It’s one of the ways that people find me to be blunt, direct, and honest.

        My point about warm vs. cold climate cultures was not meant to imply that the US is a warm climate culture.  (Indeed, the simple difference between Southern California and Washington state is a testament to that.  Look up “the Seattle chill” phenomenon sometime; fascinating reading.)  It was meant to point out that people value different types of interaction for different reasons.  You value directness and equate it with honesty, another quality that you value.  I generally agree with you on that, and find small talk and pussyfooting around to be a frustrating waste of time.  However, not everyone puts bluntness on the same pedestal.

        In fact, I feel that I have quite a lot to learn from my husband’s family in this regard.  The Italian capacity for chat (while we’re making generalizations) is well known, as is an appreciation for leisure time.  Inherent in that is a willingness to set aside differences at holidays and the dinner table in order to simply enjoy the company of loved ones.  If I was to go all-direct, all-blunt, all-honesty all the time, I’d be in peoples’ faces calling them on hypocrisy an awful lot and missing out on the simple pleasures of sharing a meal with a great bunch of folks.  It’s a matter of priorities.  It’s clear where yours lie, which is fine.  I simply think it’s worth pointing out that it’s not a simple matter of “honest” vs. “dishonest.”

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Yes, I drove across rural America for several days, and yes, I visited and lived in small towns, although not rural farms, as I’d get bored there in any country in the world.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    I was in a dollar store to buy things for Burning Man. I didn’t know I had to justify entering it…

    Yes, false prices on everything. The very very rare times the price advertised was the price I paid it stood out as being so strange because of how everything else is false.

    Yes, everything is “awesome”. I heard this word way more than you have. Perhaps you’ve heard it so many times that it gets drowned out? You aren’t currently in America so you can’t quite listen out for it.

    Yes, I use “all” and “every” a lot. Hyperbole is an Irish trait, that I’m guilty of in this article. But the feeling still counts. No worries and yes we can have that soda/pop/fizzy drink/coke.

  • CitizenZombie

    I found this article, and more so the defensive comments the be quite funny. Settle down fellow countrymen, everyone has a right to their own opinion. Isn’t that what America is supposed to be all about?

  • Mark Gailmor

    n/a

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    You really prove point #1. So apparently use of the word “girl” is offensive now? I know many ladies who would strongly disagree with you there and find “woman” to be more suited to 35+ year olds. It’s sad that you think that feminine qualities that men seek are that of “plastic Barbie dolls”. You really are clueless about what I’m talking about.

  • http://eatthebabies.com/ BradyDale

    Oh man, you are making me want to leave this country even more. I like #14, but if you don’t like #14 you can just go to a small town. We are only in a hurry in the cities (and all cities hurry). I like hurry. MOVE IT, PEOPLE!

    Otherwise, yes.

    Especially #13. #13 is basically the reason I want to move to Europe. Yes, yes, yes.

  • Robert Edelstein

    As an American, I’d venture to say that:

    1) About 1/3 of your “rant”, you’ll find most–or at least many–Americans in agreement with you.
    2) About 1/3 is due to cultural misunderstanding.  (Like the tipping thing and the Heritage thing)
    3) About 1/3 is overly harsh.  But that may have been your purpose.

    As far as Americans thinking we’re better than everyone else, my experience has been that the only reason non-Americans are bothered by this, is because it happens to be true.  ;o) 

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sWS-FoXbjVI

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      I love that song. It’s the pinnacle of American stereotypes abroad. Nuke all your problems away!

      Whenever I got most frustrated in the states I’d actually say “America, fuck yeah!” – it was my way of venting and few people would got the irony.

  • Robert Edelstein

    I don’t own a firearm, although I’d like to one day, but I do believe that one of the greatest things about the States is our constitutional right to arm ourselves.   Gun ownership is about something more than just “killing things”.

    For us, gun ownership is a symbol of freedom–a symbol that the people are the true source of power, not the government.  (Whether or not that latter statement is objectively true is another issue altogether).

    Besides, you never know, you should try going to a gun range, and shooting off a few rounds.  You might like it.  Don’t knock it ’till you try it, you know?

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Cool, then I can start gathering grenades and my own personal tank and walk down the street with a baseball bat and a threatening look on my face. Sounds like a fun world to live in.

      If America is quick it can catch up with some African countries and start handing out guns to kids to help make a gang stronger… for their freedom.

      Weapons are a symbol of oppression and fear and ignorance, not freedom.

      • Andrew Moursund

        I feel like you’ve missed the point. Here in America we look at firearms differently. They’re not symbols of oppression, they’re what helped us gain and maintain our independence from a foreign empire. I understand that the concept of “power from the people” is hard for a European to come to terms with (not an insult), but that’s something that’s been ingrained in our culture since its inception.

        I’m not sure I can really explain it to you from the perspective of an American gun owner, but here’s this: It’s not the people who LEGALLY bought that revolver that you’re really afraid of.

        • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

          I have comment rules that I state and you haven’t broken them. Which is more than what I can say for so many ignorant whiners I’ve gotten here.

          Yes, firearms were a great thing for everyone to have in the 18th century. We are not in the 18th century. Yes, I am afraid of people who LEGALLY bought revolvers who have a bad day, or who don’t like outspoken blunt people they disagree with who should get the hell out of their country, and they know a good way to make it happen. That’s the point.

          • http://www.facebook.com/maeckrich Maria Eckrich

            All I know is–withoutguns, I don’t get venison,and a life withoutvenison seems…bleak

          • Annalisa Dowdell

            You should take up archery! It puts a lot more sport into hunting. My dad always made his own bows and hunted without bait, night vision goggles, scopes, or any of that silliness, and we always ate well! Venison, elk, etc., all which were harvested with a bow.

          • neil_nachum

            I feel great after 40 years of vegetarianism.

          • Woodrow Wilson

            Your medal is in the mail.

          • PRINCE

            failed trolling attempt

          • Naomi

            Most legal gun owners hunt animals for food and, yes, fun. You SHOULD be afraid of those who have guns illegally or carry them concealed illegally as often they are doing it for street cred and/or criminal reasons. Respect & knowledge of guns is more helpful than just being afraid of them or of those who own them. And, no, I am not American & only shot my first gun less than 6 months ago. Knowledge is power.

          • PRINCE

            The way I see it, its simple.. NO GUNS NO ONE KILL ANYONE WITH GUNS.. btw killing ppl with other weapons is much more difficult then just pressing a button(pulling a trigger). If you get the point

          • mat5653

            It’s much more simple & fast to wrap your hands around someone’s neck, than to buy a gun. People kill, in any way. Get that in your head. I mean hell, there’s a knife in my kitchen 15 feet away. What’s stopping me or anyone else from taking that and killing anyone? And I can promise you, taking a sharp object and thrusting it down — isn’t any harder than pulling a trigger.

          • PRINCE

            now you are just clearly in denial mode. Ofcourse guns are much easier to kill someone with compared to anything (especially bare hands). can you kill someone in a few seconds with your bare hands? I’m can bet NO.. unless you are some steroid junkie fatty muscle asshole and you are strangling a little child. If guns were not easier(btw you don’t even need to be in physical contact with the person to kill them with a gun, and that’s the best or should I say worst thing about this) then why would they be invented in the first place? If 3gb RAM is not better and faster than 2gb RAM why have 3gb RAM in the first place? this is I’m explaining common sense things to a little arrogant idiot child here who is clearly stubborn.. ppl WILL not kill. if you have a gun you just need to pull the trigger(less than a second) to kill someone, otherwise you can try fighting with them, during which they would also beat the crap out of you n both will be injured and even if someone is killed, it would take so much time that by that time everyone would know about it, the cops would be there, can’t say the same with guns.. is it that difficult to understand? when you 2 ppl A and B, A is normal, B has a gun, would you be afraid of A or B? normal ppl would be afraid of B, common sense

          • Lee

            Firearms are more likely to kill, plus their utility outside of killing is low compared to knives.

          • mat5653

            That doesn’t matter at all; have you not paid attention to anything else that has been said? They’re only more likely to kill because they’re the main source. Take away firearms, and some other weapon will replace it just as easily, and, without presumption, have just as bad effects.

          • Lee

            Other weapons do not have as bad as effects. Yes,a determined murderer will still be able to kill. However, deaths from mass murderers and non-pre mediated fights such as domestic disputes would be reduced.

          • mat5653

            Other weapons do not have as bad as effects? Are you unfamiliar with ‘bombs’? Have you ever heard about the Oklahoma City Bombing?
            And as for your last sentence, those are both completely unpredictable conclusions, as there are countless factors which [would] affect them. You’re in no position to claim such ideas as facts.

          • seersuckerandapanama

            The principle behind the Second Amendment to the Constitution is not peculiar to the 18th century. It is timeless. Even Mao understood this.

          • Sam Malloy

            Most people who own guns legally aren’t going to go shoot people for no reason. They know that they will get caught. But the people who get guns illegally can always go on shooting sprees and it’s harder to track them because they obtained their weapons ILLEGALLY. But if average, sane people have guns that means that if a crazy decides to go on a shooting spree they will be OUTNUMBERED by the same people who will also have guns. And they will be at a disadvantage as they will get shot. I doubt that shootings would even happen if every 1/2 people owned guns and carried them. The only advantage that crazies have when going on shootings, is the fact that the general population is not armed. Trust me if most people were armed the jealous, miserable, mentally sick people would not dare to try to shoot people who have means of defending themselves.

          • umpirecr

            your country still living in the 18th century your being a huge assumption on Americans base of your visit.

        • http://www.facebook.com/yeshidolmassunflower Yeshi Dolma

          Really? I am American. I hate that people feel the need to arm themselves because it promotesFEAR and hatred. My FATHER kept a gun under his side of the bed. He said he did it because he believed mom was going to kill him. If she hadn’t taken it, I believe she would have been dead. The point is, we don’t need to arm ourselves. It’s not compassinate and humane. It’s based on FEAR and ignorance. I don’t think it’s patriotic.I think it’s insane. People WITH GUNS kill people!

          • lindababy

            Thank you! I am also an American and agree! I also know many others who do too!!

        • petepassword

          They’re what enabled you to kill native Americans and their buffalo on which they depended for everything. And there have been far too many mass shootings in the US for anyone to say legally held guns aren’t a problem. When there are no controls or screening when selling guns, there is no way psychopaths will be prevented from amassing a legal arsenal. One small revolver for personal defence it ain’t; who needs assault rifle but the military? You all read as if your country is so dangerous you HAVE to have a gun to survive, in Europe we passed that stage centuries ago.

          • Katelyn13

            Petepassword, I’m sorry, did you just say it was us who killed native Americans and their buffalo…..? You might want to think again buddy. This is where the lines become a little blurred (as the threads above referring to heritage). Was it Americans who came over to America, or was it the BRITISH and SPANISH and FRENCH who came over to the America’s? So I guess in a way it was BOTH of “us” who “killed” the “native” population.

          • petepassword

            Why put killed in quotes? Trying to distance yourself, or imply it wasn’t really killing? I think you need to think again ‘buddy’ as YOU are the ones who now ‘own’ the land native Americans once ranged over. YOU benefit from stealing the land for cattle farms, not me. We may well share ancestry, but your branch were mostly the religious extremists which Europe wanted none of, which is why there are so many totally retarded religious nutters in America, and very few in Europe, and it is you who now ‘own’the land, so you have benefited from genocide.

            I’m not interested in endless arguments about distant history and the movement of early hominids, that could be used to justify anything, including the invasion and rape of Africa; after all, it was just ‘us’ going home and claiming our ‘birthright’ right? Since the real American heroes are the buffalo killers, ‘Indian’ killers, bank robbers,and other psychopaths, while your society is in love with gund, you even invade other countries just to get to use your latest killing technology, be it napalm [nice one, burn those kids], fragmentation bombs [the bomblets are good at taking off kids limbs], and now, the piece de resistance [that's French lingo buddy] drones, where ‘brave’ American ‘warriors’ can kill from their desk without risk to themselves. How cool is that!

            That you don’t feel any guilt about your country’s past is no surprise, you might have to start thinking about its behaviour since then. It might come as a surprise to you, but this blog’s critique [another Frenchie word buddy] is nothing compared to what the rest of the world thinks of Americans, which is mostly a deep hatred. Youshould know there are a limited number of countries you can visit safely.

          • Kater

            Katelyn13 what you’re saying is pretty silly. Sure, when atrocities were committed by the Americans all of the sudden they’re British, French and Spanish. Don’t get me wrong, what the Spanish (yes the actual Spanish not Americans) did to the people of South and Central America was atrocious but that’s another story. The Indian Removal Act for example was passed in 1830. Now any sane person would consider the “white” people inhabiting what is now know as USA as being Americans and not of some other nationality. If you think I’m wrong about that then stop reading because there’s nothing I can possibly say to convince you why your comment above is wrong. Now one of the main things that contributed to the demise of many Native Americans is the systematic killing of the buffalo herds which took place in the 19th century. Now again those were Americans killing these animals. So Petepassword needn’t think again, you do! Buddy! The majority of Native Americans (in the US) died because of the “white” Americans not some Europeans. Saying that the latter share the blame is about as intelligent as saying that Italy and Germany were equally to blame for WWII.

          • umpirecr

            there more to that rifle issue before. I remember one day it was back in the day in usa. a bank robe and and they had rifles the police only had those small hand guns so they couldn’t compete. so in very tough areas. rifles are needed

        • petepassword

          No point missed, we know you ‘look on firearms differently’, the thing is, it’s not the 18th century any more, and you’re not still fighting a war of independence. I think you’re still fighting the civil war though, and it’s entirely possible the US will split in two at some point in the feature into north and south, and it might have been better for the world if it had resolved that way in the first place. But that ‘foreign oppression’ thing is only half the story, because you have also idolised killers, whether shoot-em-in-the-back deputees, or ‘famous’ gunslingers and robbers, guns have figured a lot, so much that I think they ARE your culture, certainly they figure in the death culture of Hollywood.

          The fairly recent shooting of an unarmed teenager in Miami by a gun-totin ‘neighbourhood watch vigilante’ illustrates perfectly why guns are not a good thing. And the annual toll of that kind is in the hundreds. The US has the highest homicide rate in the world, ring any bells? It also imprisons more people than any other country, and indulges in torture, and guns won’t protect you against that either.

          • lindababy

            EXACTLY

        • Mick Driver

          Gun law and gun crime are unrelated. I tried really hard to
          find a correlation, but there isn’t one. Now, stick with me on this. All our ideas originate in the subconscious. There is a mechanism between the subconscious mind and the conscious mind which is informed/programmed by experience. This mechanism has the right of veto. It is this mechanism which filters out the multitude of information and ideas so that the conscious mind can focus without being constantly overwhelmed by input.

          Now the USA is a country which owes its’ very existence to the fact that the population has the right to bear arms. Without an armed populace there is no way that the war for independence could have been won. To an American, the idea of shooting someone is a good thing. It is how they won a country. This is an idea which is instilled from an early age in many Americans. That is not to say that any average American citizen condones gun crime, but on a subconscious level the filter which decides whether using a gun is good or bad has been set to good.

          Most, ie absolutely the vast majority of American citizens are able to go around not killing people, but because of the programming received by the established view on the right to bear arms, and the value attached to this right, if there is any mental issue or undue stress, an American citizen is more likely than citizens of countries with different gun cultures to have the impulse to use a gun get through the filter and be acted upon.

          So maybe, just maybe, stricter laws regulating gun ownership would send out a message which does something to turn the balance away from shooting = good.

        • Sam Malloy

          I think things are just a little more different in Europe because most European Countries are smaller thus their violent people are regulated better and are kept under better control, thus the general population doesn’t really need to have legal access to guns. But in America the general population is so large, and diverse that the law-breakers will always find a way to obtain guns illegally. Which ultimately leaves the law-abiding citizens in a vulnerable position.
          It’s important to have a way to defend yourself and your family… so i completely understand the gun ownership law, and why people are fighting to keep it. If I lived in America(I live in Canada) I would most definitely get a gun. Heck I wouldn’t mind getting a gun now. It’s harder to obtain here, but I would feel safer walking somewhere at night if i knew I had a gun. There’s always a chance some crazy criminals will decide to attack/jump an innocent person. But if you have a gun, you ultimately have a chance to protect yourself and others from those who wish to harm you.

        • Eimear

          Sorry, just wanted to add that, for example, walking past Buckingham Palace (in a country where you can’t legally buy a gun), I was absolutely terrified of the guards, because they had guns at their waists. I just think that being somewhere in which people can buy guns at any time, rather that just guards, would be like a nightmare to me (not putting down America there, just the fact that you can buy guns).

          Also, holding a gun, no matter how well-trained I was, would not give me a feeling of freedom. To know that I could end someone or something’s life so easily would freak me out. Just my opinion :3

      • neil_nachum

        As an American (who lived 16 years in other countries…traveling via Esperanto) I agree that American thirst for guns is very sick. It is the majority in most regions and most suburbs. A minority of politicians, i.a. New York’s billionaire mayor, fight the gun lobby.

      • Alice

        LOL

      • Malcolm Sex

        Meh, that’s your opinion. Yeah, sure, weapons have surely oppressed many, but they’ve also helped free people.

        • PRINCE

          says the one who illegally migrated from europe, landed on Plymouth’s rock, killed mexicans and native americans, stole their land, stole their buffalo, celebrate columbus day(read:insult to injury) brought in black ppl from africa as slaves and wanted to be “free” lol.. wow .. aren’t you guys versatile.. free ppl? free who? guns never free anyone, they are meant to kill and only kill, thats the ONLY purpose of weapons, to hurt, to kill

          • Malcolm Sex

            Heh, funny… I’m guessing you’re either a troll, or you’re racked with academic, liberal arts, curriculum-laced guilt. Whatever the case is, you have no clue what you’re talking about. First off, my family legally immigrated to the US in the 1930s, so your entire premise doesn’t apply to me. That said, I suggest you read up on your history, and stop lumping people in 2013 in with people so many years ago. Plenty of people have gained freedom by using guns since the turn of the 20th Century, so, you might want to read up on that stuff…

            Also, you might want to not make tons of assumptions about people you do not know…

          • PRINCE

            so basically you misinterpreted me.. so no point arguing with you. It would be a waste of time

      • BK201

        Smart man, decent article, terrible logic here.

      • Sam Malloy

        Sad part is, in Africa the people that ARE armed are the violent rebels that have illegal ways of obtaining weapons. The violent thugs will always have access to weapons. But as long as guns are legal in the US the hardworking, law-abiding citizens can also PROTECT themselves. What you think that if guns are illegal there will be no way of obtaining them illegally? You think that gun violence will come to an end? No what will happen is all of the hard working, law abiding citizens will find themselves very vulnerable and defenseless against the law breaking, thugs, who will start bullying the defenseless citizens. People who aren’t law breakers, and who don’t have connections to any illegal organizations should have every right to own a gun as well, because god knows the law breakers will ALWAYS have access to guns.

      • umpirecr

        Your ignorance is showing. Guns are mostly used to defend people. Yet many Americans love to have the guns cause they think there tough shit. My dad and my brother own guns i don’t nor do i care for them personally. you keep using if your not helping yourself.

      • Dustin Harris

        I guess you never have seen a grown man taking a shit in your backyard or talking to himself having full blown conversations with dead birds…what world do you live in? i am guessing you live in the suburbs…well wait until the rest of this sick world spill over into your fairy land. Then you will be screaming for some kind of justice while someone does unspeakable things to your family

      • Ilike .privacy

        “Weapons are a symbol of oppression and fear and ignorance, not freedom”

        Tell that to those who fought yes fought for Irelands freedom,

    • neil_nachum

      Travel to Canada, few murders by gunfire. Travel to Mexico. The USA sells drug-pushers millions of guns to destabilize that country and 50,000 murders occurred in 5 years. Americans also use/buy the drugs. (I’m o.k. with some legalization of drugs…if it is working in Europe). America builds good prisons and keeps about 10 times more people per thousand in our expensive prisons compared with Western Europe or Canada.

      • Delcio Acosta

        Well, Canada has a higher violent crime rate..so does the UK (highest in the developed world), Sweden, Austria…and 27 other countries. Also, countries like Venezuela and Mexico..which have banned private gun ownership have murder rates several times higher than any American metro, village, township or state. Crimes are reported more frequently, criminals are convicted more often here. The system is deeply flawed in many ways of course..for example possession of what some states consider large quantities of marijuana warrant a prison sentence..as a matter of fact most prisoners are in prison for drugs..it’s a waste of tax payer money. I have also traveled. At the end of the day I could never make a life outside of the USA. This country works for me. No other country offers ME everything that this country offers ME.

        • PRINCE

          exactly, YOU are the problem that needs to be rectified. you overpampered little pussy. self centered selfish crook

        • lindababy

          Typical American attitude. What can you do for ME. PLEASE stay in the U.S. I for one will be leaving it upon graduation and it is nice to know that I will be leaving all of these selfish attitudes behind.

    • Sam Malloy

      Agree with you. Because criminals, and bad seeds will always find an illegal way to arm themselves and often harm the innocent. But as long as gun ownership is legal, hard working, innocent families can also defend themselves. If EVERYONE had a gun then school gun violence would never be such an issue, because if the teachers/students had guns they could easily shoot the a-hole that thinks he has a right to shoot other students. Good people out-number the bad people, we just often don’t have the means to protect ourselves. But with guns being legal i feel that protecting yourself becomes easier.

    • Camels_

      Although I am a first person shooter player, love guns and everything, it would make so much more sense if there were no firearms in the US. There would be less crime and… stuff. I know it isn’t like “if I go to the US I’m gonna get shot”, but I’m more basing this off what I see on the news and everything. I am from New Zealand, where there are no guns unless you have a license for hunting.

    • Patric

      I completely agree. An afternoon on the range or in the woods is something very relaxing, for those of us who do take time to slow down and smell the roses.

  • http://twitter.com/GGArchive GG Archive

    15. I sent to my folks. They still absolutely do not get it. They (who are not happy) are always telling me (who is happy) to go make a pile of cash.

    OK, and then what?

    I will disagree somewhat on the religious issue. I think the problem with religious Americans is most of it is fake. When a god talks to Bush and tells him to kill 1 million Iraqis, you get my drift.

    But Jesus Christ is the way and the truth!

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      I can never tell if people are joking or not in comments when they start writing such ridiculous things. If that’s a joke, well played because I fell for it.

      If you are being serious, you just proved my point about needless over use of Jesus tapdancing Christ. My counter argument to you is that the flying Spaghetti Monster is the way and the truth.

  • Robert Edelstein

    This is why I’m learning a new language.  I’m so sick of the smiling here in NY that I want to move.

    N. Korea seems nice . . .

  • Robert Edelstein

    One would think if you love free speech so much you’d have less of a problem with Cranktastic’s exercise of it.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    What’s wrong with breaking even? I’ve been breaking even my entire life. To this day I don’t have a nest egg in the bank. Instead I’ve got a craptonne of experiences.

    When you think you’d go abroad specifically to make money, you’re missing the point. Please read these two posts: http://www.fluentin3months.com/travel-cheap/ http://www.fluentin3months.com/do-you-need-to-be-rich-to-travel-the-world/

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Your argument is really really silly. I can’t take you seriously.

  • Renu Rawat

    I would say, the first 3 points match me.. And now I can understand why my friends get irritated with that

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    “As a….” [list of arrogant statements that make me seem like such a wiseass] I think you are being overly sensitive and missed the point of the article.

    I find it quite ironic that so many of the most offended Americans in these comments have almost the same script and quote the same line at the end of their comments. It doesn’t bode well for a defense against stereotyping.

    I’m not interested in arguing with a pissed off arrogant linguist about my learning style. Your sensitivity really shows when you go so off topic like that, for questions I’ve dealt with in great detail elsewhere. You’re just getting pissed off with the blog title – it’s like you’re trying to lash out on whatever you can find. Take a chill pill.

    • American Polyglot in Asian

      I apologize for the tone of my first comment, but I don’t bad mouth the country where I live to 250,000 people a month. I worked in the immigrant community for a few years as an immigration attorney, and we had clients from countries around the world who bounced checks or simply failed to pay for services, even those that got residency approved.  We had one client who even bounced the check for his fees so the attorney that I worked for at the time actually ended up paying for all of his costs.  I heard stories about how I don’t really love him so much, but I need a greencard.  We even had a client who referred his mistress to the office who was pregnant with his child.  (His wife was a citizen.) Then, because I have a lot of friends from abroad and speak their languages, I heard many of them talk constantly about the USA in a negative fashion (while some of them worked under the table and payed no taxes). I don’t talk badly about these peoples’ countries because I met equally good people from those countries.  It would be unfair to classify them all together by giving only nationalities.   To date, I would state that 90% of my friends are from numerous other countries around the world.  I am in no means very patriotic, however, I wish that people would quit talking badly about Americans and making others hate us even more than they already do.  It is extremely tiring and frustrating.  I don’t believe the fact that we are born in a certain country even gives us any ties to that country in today’s mobile society. I wish that we were all global citizens and viewed others as such.  Being from a certain country doesn’t even mean that we usually speak that language or eat the typical food.  Please don’t help others hate us and make it even harder for those of American citizens living abroad.  We didn’t choose where we were born.  Besides being overly sensitive (which I will admit and might happen after being singled out for years as a non-Asian in a town where foreigners can probably be counted on one hand and are laughed at and pointed out and talked in front of them by people on motorcycles, in elevators, and even in front of their face because of the misconception that we don’t understand what they are saying), I fit very little of the other stereotypes you stated about Americans.  I just wish we didn’t have nationalities that stuck with us even after we voluntarily left a country.  Its a real burden.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Racist against all white guys much?

    I’m learning an indigenous American language right now. Open your cynical and ignorant eyes in future before you criticise so much.

    Of all the angry comments I’ve gotten, this is by far the most irrelevant and off topic. You obviously didn’t read the post.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    “a Brit wouldn’t go up to their friend and tell them they have crooked, yellow teeth”
    Congratulations, you just proved my point about ignorant stereotypes of foreigners.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Then move to a cheaper dorm, party a little less, and if you like to buy new clothes and electronics, don’t. Because I don’t drink, for example, I saved thousands of dollars compared to other classmates. I could afford to go abroad because I spent less, not because I earned more.

    A lifestyle where you have to work so damn hard all the time just to break even is not a happy life. You will continue this way after college, trust me.

    Since you have a scholarship and not need to spend any money over the summer, I really think there is something you aren’t telling me here that is costing you a lot of money, so I’d really advise you consider a more frugal lifestyle. Rather than argue defeatist reasons why I’m wrong, try to consider ways you would need to earn less money and you’ll see it’s not so hard. Yes, it will require sacrifices.

    Travel is not out of bounds.

  • Anonymous

    “Of course, I HAVE met Americans whose smiles aren’t genuine, which you can tell be the unnaturally static state their faces remain frozen in. ”
    That is likely what Benny was referring to, and I agree with his point. Give him some credit, he knows when someone’s smile isn’t genuine. In fact, most people can spot the difference.

    • umpirecr

      Yes but that could be said for people all over the world. I may not smile but that does not mean i am not happy. People are in a rush and seem selfish. When i was working the other day. I had a lady and old lady hank her reciect out of my hands. Seriously… it just stuff like that pisses me off. I’ll respect people enough. But i also find it very insulting when i open doors for people and they “don’t care” Another story and i apoglize for my poor spelling and grammar (you better off not to ask) that i was in a store in winter lady behind me was buying ice cream so i offered her to go ahead of me and i also offered her if she wanted to put down the cold stuff. She said “aww thanks but no thanks. Those are the type of people i like. I can be a gentleman but i can also be a jackass depends on how you show or treat me. I am not one to give elders a pass being rude or ignorant. They show respect i’ll show respect.

  • Anonymous

    I wouldn’t bother. Just tell them you’re not their emotional puppet. ;P

  • jef

    Stuff like 5, 6, and 7 I totally agree with.  On the other hand, things like “smiling too much” and “being overpolite for sensitivity” is actually something I’m proud of in America.

    I would say that 8 is common for all countries though.  “Oh, you’re from America! Do you have a gun?” is pretty common, never mind stereotypes about fat people.

  • Kim Bauer

    I’d say “amen,” but I’m not of a particular religion! I am, however, American, born and raised and quite agree with what you say. We tend to be a greedy, righteous, violent little bunch and it’s a sad mess.

  • Anonymous

    By the way, I admire your post on the US. I am a US citizen and very
    happy to be living in my country but any country and any government
    deserves criticism for it to improve. I appreciate being here because I
    am an immigrant and my other options of residence are less than
    adequate. (That’s another topic altogether.) I know many Americans who
    would rant more about the US and get more hate mail than you did.

    When I
    lived in Argentina, I wrote an email along the lines of your 17 reasons
    this European wouldn’t live in the US and I had Argentines who hated me
    for it and wouldn’t speak to me. Others agreed with me or at
    least respected my criticism of their culture and government. So I know
    very well what it’s like to alienate and enrage people when commenting
    on their country. It’s hard for people not to take things personally. A general comment on the nature of people in a country can be grounds for self-examination and betterment of one’s way of being. Unfortunately, people feel attacked. But they’re reacting to their own crap. 

  • Mtnwolfsister

    The one issue I have with your rant on America is about tipping, and it being a form of tax evasion. You couldn’t be more wrong, there.  In California, servers are taxed on 15% on their daily totals, whether they are tipped or not. This is only in dining rooms. Counter service and cocktail servers don’t have to do this. The whole system is pretty ridiculous, but to punish a server because you disagree is simply wrong. 

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Who said I punished the server? I tipped 20%, I’m just saying I found it annoying to do so.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    “brought here by white people”. You are racist, plain and simple. Irish people didn’t colonise the states, or execute any native Americans, so I don’t see why you have such a beef with me. Ireland also has a history of being colonised, treated very badly, and executed or killed in wars by almost the same people who did it to native Americans.

    But I’m not going to bitch and whine about something that happened hundreds of years ago… and take it out on anyone, no matter how ridiculously irrelevant the connection is (i.e. only skin colour).

    You don’t have the foggiest idea why I’m learning Quechua do you? Not even bother to read beyond this one post? Even a “white guy” learning an indigenous American language to share that culture with hundreds of thousands isn’t enough. I don’t have a clue what you want from me. You can’t be pleased! Please go take your frustration out on some other white guy who gives a shit.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Cars are used to drive from A to B, not to kill people. Killing people is a consequence of bad driving. It’s a weak comparison. You can outlaw showers because of the few people who slip and split their head open, but the purpose of a shower isn’t to do that.

    Comparing guns, a violent weapon, to influenza, a biological disease with no malice or person behind it is really stretching it in terms of trying to make a point.

    Guns are for shooting bullets at targets, plain and simple, so I don’t like them and want as few people as possible to be walking around with one. This isn’t a cheap shot, I see it as a very simple problem. I don’t want random people to have the ability to kill me from a distance, and own that weapon legally.

    Frankly America is filled with a lot of idiots, and if they can buy a gun something is wrong with the world.

    Gun related deaths are highest per capita in the states in the entire first world, and if you remove gang related crimes, it would beat African countries.

    You aren’t going to convince me about the usefulness of guns any time soon, so it’s best to just agree to disagree.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Don’t even think about comparing my cultural immersion to spend time with human beings… with something designed to extinguish life (both human and animal). You’ve lost me entirely and your argument is so weak it’s getting annoying.

    I’m sick of this gun discussion, please let’s agree to disagree.

  • Anonymous

    LOL…I laugh because although I’m an American, the main complaint I get (from non-Americans!! I live in Europe now) is that I don’t smile enough! I grew up in Asia, Europe, then New York City. Now my goal is to smile more! haha ;-)

    • Anonymous

      Though, I must say that I could easily write plenty of criticism about the countries I’ve lived – in Europe (West & East) and Asia. I travelled my whole life and I learned very early that humans are creatures of habit (“culture”) and we love to complain when we are confronted with some new way to do things ;-)

  • Blair Stanford

    Benny, I couldn’t agree with you more.
    Your list above follows most of my pet peeves as well.
     I was born in the states and like you, have traveled globally. Travel gives one new eyes in seeing what the rest of the world is like. I’m not talking the f’d up tour packages, either. One has to be around the real people that are not there for the tourism dollar. 
    Most Americans never travel outside of their state, let alone world travel. I think this is the biggest problem with the states, that they are too isolated and insulated from the world. The closest thing they have been to, as a foreign country, is Canada (the *nicer* America) and the border towns of Mexico (not the ‘real’ Mexico). 
    I think if more Americans saw Europe, Australia, Africa and Asia, they might get off their high horse. 

    America is principally only “number 1″ in ego. Our schools are way down the list (26th place for 1st world nations! Yippee!!) We are number one in a few places: We have the most gun related deaths and highest violent crime rates (especially in the “bible belt” – go figure). We have the highest prison populations per capita!  We’re number 1! We’re number 1!

    Then we have the Jesus Squeezers…
    Overly religious morons push their agendas on the schools and the schools cave in and teach creationism instead of science (this was tried in Kansas, etc.) . Text books leave out principally important, founding fathers because he might not have been Christian (Texas/Thomas Jefferson resp.).
    Religious groups push town councils and county seats to put 10 commandments at city buildings (there are only three laws in the 10 commandments and the rest is religion – Thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not kill and thou shalt not lie about your neighbor while testifying – perjury and even that one is a reach…)

    A few brief  messages to Americans traveling:
    Don’t go to another country and start telling the residents there what is wrong with their country; you will not be a popular person abroad.
    Don’t go there and expect the same items on the shelves in the markets. Some items you will actually like better if you try them.
    Don’t spend all your time in the foreign McDonalds, get out and live amongst your fellow man.
    Have fun, meet people and relax. Don’t play mind games or be a jerk and you will likely make life-long
    friends with someone.
    What you see on TV is almost never like the country you are visiting! Keep your assumptions at home.

  • Brad

    I recently moved here. This could be my favourite article on the internet, its dead on.

  • Danielle

    I’m American (from San Antonio) but I’ve lived outside of the U.S. (mostly in Europe and Australia) for almost 8 years of my 25 total.  You are 100% spot on with every point.  I’m a bit tired of Australia (have you been?) and wish I could go home to live but I don’t think I could cope with the ridiculousness. Last time I went home they carded me when I ordered wine at a restaurant.  I was literally like, “are you kidding me I haven’t been carded for 9 years and no I don’t have ID on me!”  To point number 1:  it is as if Americans are allergic to criticism of their culture, and for this reason I think the country is having many of it’s current problems; unwillingness to look to other nations and reflect.  I love America, but that does not mean I can’t criticize it!  Most Americans do not understand this and I constantly alienate myself from the majority of passport-less ones. ah well!  My grandmother’s dog walker’s third removed uncle was part Italian though so I’m seeing if I can become an Italian citizen through ancestry… and possibly move there next.  :)   

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Please go and educate yourself properly about Northern Ireland and its current situation. You’ve just proven the idiotic American stereotype point I mentioned, in this case about Northern Ireland being a warzone. I am sick of your weak arguments for guns!!!

    This “discussion” is over, there is no serious debate going on here. You just keep going off on irrelevant tangents, or giving really really stupid defences like guns “are a solid guarantee that no one casually switches from talk to violence”. What an idiotic statement if I’ve ever heard one!

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Please read my about page for my working situation.

    Sorry you feel my bluntness is hostile, but you’ve encouraged me to add one more:

    Thanks for your idiotic heritage stereotype. I’m sure it’s all down to genetics(!!!) Or maybe you love to drink because many Americans love to drink regardless of heritage.

  • http://twitter.com/pollinatorsinfo pollinators.info

    Benny, thanks for this! I’m American, and it cracked me up! Everything you mentioned that annoys you about the US annoys me too… but I’m sort of an odd-ball here. Makes me wonder if I’d feel more “at home” in Europe. :)
    Happy travels!
    Athena Rayne Anderson

  • Anonymous

    Good. Because if there’s one thing this country doesn’t need, it’s yet another asshole who thinks his opinion on the size/shape of my body and what clothes I adorn it with mean jack shit. To quote the great Lesley Kinzel, I don’t owe you beauty.

    You’re also ignorant as fuck about class issues in the U.S. Namely, the food production and distribution system that most of us are stuck in, and how stingy American companies are when it comes to giving people time off — and not just for vacations, but when they’re ill or even when they need to attend the funeral of a close relative.

    As for “politically correct”… oh, you poor dear, you can’t go around casting aspersions on groups of people who are already shit in by society, then claim that defending the status quo is some kind of iconoclastic act. Oh, wait, you totally can! Because while the U.S. is certainly mealy-mouthed in many ways, it’s all in the service of people on top of the heap. Your chances of facing serious social consequences for spouting misogyny, homophobia, or even racism. And certainly not for spouting fatphobia, which kills people, by the way.

    To use a word from your homeland, you’re an eejit. And if you don’t want angry people responding to your post, don’t openly be an asshole on the internet.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Well it’s great that I’m so wrong about everything :P But number 1 is looking more and more true with each comment like this…

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_3AEBPDPFVUMEWJKJWRQPPLYYLY Paolo

      You did no understand the point, probably you didn’t take enough time to read well, but I’m impressed you took enough time to seach on wikipedia to some  latin word and a greek one together (”
      defending the status quo is some kind of iconoclastic act “) to impress, but leading to a nonsense. 
      You think your politic correctness is state of the art but every Italian turns out to be a Sicilian to you. And this is, really, offensive.

  • Craig Allen

    As an American who is often abroad, I agree with almost everything said herein.  However, I think I should point out one thing about the issue with Pricing.  Most retail outlets would actually prefer to show the “real price” but their government usually specifically won’t let them.  This means the State government, although a few situations relate to the Fed…such as excise taxes on tires.  I happen to live on one of two states that don’t have a sales tax, and that means if the price shown is $5.00 then what you pay if $5.00.  Cool.  Too bad it isn’t that way elsehwere.

  • Kristen

    Once again, you’ve written a fantastic post. I’m American, and I agree with you on almost every point you’ve made. I actually laugh at over half of our commercials and never fail to get annoyed with the ones that have to shout to make themselves known. There is nothing worse than when I am relaxing and watching something nice, calm and quiet after a long day, only to find myself jumping out of my seat because of some stupid advertisement. I don’t care if it’s your money and you need it now, and I really don’t care if you have toe fungus. You don’t need to shout about it.
    Also, you are definitely right about America thinking it is the best. My parents are horrible with this. I’m hopefully getting out of the country in a year, and whenever I first proposed the idea of going abroad, I was met with, “But why? Other countries aren’t free, you’d have no rights, it’s dangerous, living conditions are poor”, and all of the other nonsense my brain used to be filled with. Sure it’s dangerous, but anything that could happen in another country is just as likely, (maybe even more likely), to happen here. And yes, I would have rights, I’d just have to adapt to a different culture. Not really taking away from my rights of life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness. In all honesty, the pursuit of happiness is taking me out of here. 
    And as a final statement, America really is a country made for cars. My town has trains, but are they for passengers? No, they’re for shipping products from state to state, railroad to railroad. We don’t have buses, (unless you include the ones that wait in large towns/big cities to take you to another popular large town/big city). It really isn’t safe for walkers and bikers (as in pedal bikers), to get from place to place, either. I’m forced to walk everywhere because I haven’t yet gotten my license, and it’s not bothersome because I have to exercise, but more or so because it is impossible. Most of the roads that lead where I need to go are highways without sidewalks, and perfect for being killed by crazy drivers if you want to take a stroll/ride a bike. I love walking, but it’s only easy to do in the streets of my small town, and impossible to do when I want to cross a busy intersection that wasn’t made for foot traffic. 

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Native Americans originally came from Africa, just like the immigrants. Not sure when you’re supposed to draw the line.

    Thanks for admitting you didn’t even read the article…

    • Mitchell Shelley

      Benny I agree with most of what you say, but come on now! Native Irish folk immigrated to the island as well so I guess that means you can’t really call yourself Irish! Atleast Irish immigration to the States happened within the last 200 years and not before the first ice age…

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    How could you *not* be happy with Eddie Murphy?? He’s the man!

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Yes, I was in Argentina and had a fantastic time :)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WBhkpFKrKCw
    If I’m ever back, I’ll invite you out for some dulce de leche!

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    If my grandchildren were born in a foreign country with parents (my children) also born there, and without me to influence them in any way, then they wouldn’t be Irish in any shape or form. Plain and simple.

    They could say “my grandfather was Irish” and nobody would ever dispute it. That’s what I prefer to hear and I genuinely become curious from there and ask where he was from etc.

    As I’ve said in other comments, “Irish” Americans generally don’t know anything more about Ireland than any other American, beyond the stereotypes. They don’t respect their heritage (other than to announce it), so why should I?

  • http://www.kindredroad.com Mike Cook

    Benny, I’m American, and I think you’re spot-on with damn near everything. Cheers for being so frank and honest with your words. I loved it.

  • Gigglepop

    Smiling: Now a problem.

    xD

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    As I said, no contact means no useful heritage in my eyes. If Brazilian parents raise their kids to speak Portuguese, give pecks on the cheek, eat arroz com feijao and so on, then they are definitely Brazilian in an important way.

    But in my experience “Irish Americans” have nothing at all that makes them Irish other than the claim itself. But yes, I have met rare examples who genuinely care about cultural differences and try to incorporate them in their lives. But these are rare cases. I’m confident this is the case in many other heritages.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Invite me out for a coffee first!

  • http://www.wanderlusting.info Dayna and Kurt

    I could argue against a couple of these, but for the most part, you have it right on.  I’m an American who now dreads heading back to live in the States because I have grown to accustomed to getting around easily and cheaply sans personal vehicles!  Even here in Croatia everything is linked by trains, carpools, buses.  Having spent four months in Ireland, I met several new friends who didn’t drink, but I never make a huge deal out of it, even if it may be mildly surprising.  =)  I find that most people who have Irish ancestry or heritage have never actually been there, yet make a huge fuss about it (I believe you would call them Plastic Paddies)!  When a few distant family members comment frequently on how ‘America is the greatest country in the world,’ it is definitely those that have never left and probably will never leave.  I got scoffed at for wanting to travel because it is ‘dangerous’ (this from family who lived in NEW YORK).  Anyway, LOVED this post, I laughed quite a bit!

  • Manuel Grau

    Hi Benny. Stereotypes are usual, not only in USA. I am a Spanish living in Dublin. When I tell some Irish that I am Spanish they think I like bulls and Flamenco, and I hate both of them.  There are a lot of  Spanish that don’t like flamenco and/or bulls.

    In Spain, that is an european country as you know, a 14 years olg girl can abort her pregnancy without asking permission to her parents, but she can’t buy a packet of cigarrettes or a beer. Do you think this has any sense?

    About unhealthy portions, I feel the same here. Anytime I order a small portion for me is huge. In Ireland I can only eat one course, more than one is impossible for me. 

    You said you don’t like Apple, because is very closed and privative. What are you using, Windows? I you are using Windows you can’t say that.  If you use linux, I don’t have nothing to say.  Apple manufactures a computer, its hardware and software. What Microsoft does is agree with all the manufacturers selling computers with windows pre-installed. If you want to purchase a laptop to use with Linux, you have to pay to Microsoft for a windows license. It doesn’t matter if you format your laptop’s hardrive and you install linux, you have to pay anyway. 

    In Europe, everything is expensive. The US is made for consumism. I purchased in Europe a Levi’s jeans: 95€. In the US is arround 35$. When I was 13 days in the west coast of the US, I had to purchase a suitcase, to carry all the things I purchased.

    P.S.  I am not criticizing Ireland, I love this country and the Irish.

  • Mike Sobol

    Always interesting to hear foreign perspectives, Benny. Thanks! I’ve traveled abroad a bit and have often found myself both charmed and put off by certain aspects of other cultures, as well as that of the U.S. Most often, it causes me to reflect on my on attributes, perspectives and biases. To argue with your own take would be foolish. Better for me to listen than react. Perhaps that is why I’m so intent on traveling abroad much more– the discovery of other people and places is fascinating in and of itself. There is no way to find or quantify the “best” place or even my favorite. It’s a big damn planet, and each of us simply has to decide to what extent we want to be richer for being a part of it. I admire your quest.

  • http://twitter.com/AmyShropshire Amy Shropshire

    As an American who is now back in the US after living in London for 2 years, I agree with everything you’ve said.  Most days, something is said or done that makes me miss my life over there.  Right now, I make more money, am more financially secure, and ‘have more going for me,’ than I did there living in a TINY flat, barely making rent each week but I would gladly go back to that life.  You’ve laid out a lot of the reasons why in this post.  

    I miss the 3 hour dinners with friends without feeling rushed.  With wine.  Taking the bus home.  Walking EVERYWHERE without getting strange looks.  I miss going to the local corner shop instead of Walmart.  I miss the parks.  Once, whilst walking home from my local grocery store that was barely bigger than the frozen department of my current one with 2 bags of food that would have to last me the week, I thought to myself ‘This is Home.’  I’ve never truly felt that way about any place else I’ve lived.

    I’ve never been able to successfully articulate to people just what it was that made living in Europe such a wonderful experience or me, but I think you touched on a lot of it here.  To me, it just felt like life was easier –  even when it wasn’t.

  • http://twitter.com/H2OLIFEaqua Christian Navarro

    Reading all along, and even thou I am an American as I was born in the continent called “America” suppouslty I am not American because the term has being taken just for the US people. Anyways, it is so true.. North Americans are spoiled, but with that also comes other good things. Good and Bad as everythign else. Kuddos for you and your travel around the world, I am very curious now to find out your thoughts about the countries in South America. Totally agree with what you wrote, but that is what it makes this country what it is in Good and Bad.

  • http://twitter.com/onery_ru Anya Priemysheva

    You’re amazing! Smart analysis!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_J55TGND3HLG3QM4LQHPNRMVUJQ Matt

    You make some valid points, but the following quote is idiotic in the extreme.
    “nobody will ever tell you that you look fat (oversensitivity with not
    telling obese people to get their act together is a major contributor in
    my opinion to why there are so many of them in the states)”

    I am an American who was obese for a long time but is now thin. I know from experience that there are two reasons why you are wrong here:

    1. If you are fat, people will tell you. It’s true! People used to call me fat all the time, my close friends and family included. It is true that those close to me would usually tell me only when they had to and only in the most tactful way possible.

    2. All obese Americans know they are fat, and telling them they are fat will not help them one iota. In fact, it often makes the problem worse. No one wants to be fat, so being told you are a fatass is rather upsetting. For someone who already relies on food as an emotional crutch, this makes them eat more, which makes them fatter. It’s a vicious cycle.

    P.S.: If you are the guy in the picture at the top, then you are pretty fat yourself. Did you know? I’m just telling you so you will be aware.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      I meant there is too much sensitivity around fat people in America. It’s accepted as normal and it shouldn’t be.
      P.S. Eddie Murphy isn’t fat – that was only in a movie.

  • http://twitter.com/bardsbabe1 Bardsbabe

    Benny, well done. As an american, I completely understand your point of view, I live in a state where it is exponentially “american”, Iowa.  I am from back east (east of the mississippi) and I have never felt so imposed upon and so  stuck in a small town, living in a large city. 
    I miss my small town back home, one of the places I feel most home at here, is either Michigan or Minnesota, because the people are honest and tell you how it is, not how they wish it to be. 

    I traveled to Europe last year and had a splendidly lovely time with my mates overseas. I felt at home, evidently I am more “foreign” in my upbringing here in the states than many people I know.

    I do hope you get back and have a splendid time in the states, sorry about the cars, I wish there was more walking too…. because many of these people do not deserve their licenses!

    Happy Travels!
    -Bardsbabe

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Read the link to see about my Parisian experience. It’s explained in great detail there.

  • Chris Giordanelli

    Benny – what a great post. I found it to be exactly what you intended it to be, a set of observations from someone looking in from the outside. My wife and I have traveled a bit (although I would not call it “extensively”) and I believe it is natural to compare your life, culture and place you’ve grown up in against other cultures. I can always find things that I like better in those other cultures…and things that make me glad to be an American.  

    I found most of your “constructive criticism” to be pretty accurate (at least in my eyes). With the most important thing being #1; which is why I believe you will always illicit negative comments. We DON’T like to tell it like it is (admittedly, I am part of that problem) and because of that, we are not used to being told that we are in fact bad at things. People can’t process the idea that telling a person something that is hard to say (like “Mom, I think you should really consider losing some weight”) really makes both people, well…better people.

    I can honestly say that I would have to agree with you on all but one observation and that is that ‘Thinking America is the Best’ and that’s because it is the best place I’ve ever lived. That may sound like flawed logic because it is the only place I’ve ever lived, but America has afforded me every opportunity to be happy. And for all it’s faults at times it has proved me an education, a job, a house, a family, the ability to travel to other places. The ability to make as much of my life as I want. And I never smile artificially about that.

    Thanks for trying to make America a better place. I hope that I one day have the chance to come to Ireland so that I can try to make Ireland a better place. Hmmm…I have been thinking of a new vacation destination…

  • http://twitter.com/sistermagpie sistermagpie

    I know you’ve gotten hundreds of comments already, but since you were getting hatemail I just wanted to say this American found this hilarious and not insulting at all, even the parts that I hadn’t noticed myself as a native. Having seen plenty of us Americans be oversensitive and “America is the best” I think it’s a bit like the smiling thing. If you’re not used to people smiling in a lot of these situations, it’s jarring and almost aggressive. If you’re spent your life around people who convince you it’s normal to think the US is, for some reason, magically superior to other countries(so it’s not strange to say so, even if in another country) a little thing like “I didn’t enjoy this cultural habit” must sound like a slap in the face.

    The post and your blog is awesome! (Meaning interesting, informative and fun to read, not inspiring actual awe, like Jesus.)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    I am starting to wonder if people read only the numbered list and ignored the actual title of the blog post and the introduction/conclusion.

  • Brad Tetzloff

    i understand what ur trying to say and where ur comming from. im an american and there r people that dont get i and there are some that get it and they (like me) laught it off and there r some that get pissed

  • Joshpaulhinson

    Feel like I hear this all the time from hipsters…it’s strange because most of these are stereotypes that you have about Americans.  It’s like me seeing I can’t stand foreigners who act like t