Yes, American Culture Is Different. Why Is This a Problem?

American CultureBusiness Insider, an online ezine that really does have some great information for entrepreneurs and business people, has been branching out and now offers human interest pieces.  Or what they think are human interest pieces.  See, in business, for some reason, rankings and numbers on subjective scales are all the rage (it would be helpful if the data was current), and Business Insider is putting its spin on what they think is fascinating, and hopefully helpful to Americans.

The problem, though, is that lot of the material is actually very anti-American (and based on readers’ comments, ticking off their main audience) playing to the crowd that believes that the US is just one of many countries and life here is just not as good as it is other places.

Having travelled a bit and truly enjoying experiencing other cultures, I do like to read these lists and compare them with what I have heard both abroad and from friends who hail from other countries.  (That doesn’t mean I particularly care for what is said, or more specifically, how it is said because so much of it is superficial.)

One list that ticked me off this past week was Things Americans Do That Just Seem Bizarre to the Outside World.  First off, there was no mention of who in “the outside world” is commenting on this or where they live.  Secondly, there was no commentary on why or how any one or more of these items came to be part of the culture.  Minor, little details that might go a long way in understanding, but are inconvenient when trying to convince Americans that we’re just not normal compared to the rest of the world.

One of the points in that list that I’ve heard before is we drive everywhere – that was a choice over mass public transportation made on multiple levels decades ago.  As spread out as we are in the US, driving is just the way it’s done, and at this point it’s not going to change.  Driving everywhere, like some of the other items on the list, is based on the American emphasis on convenience and comfort.  That’s a huge part of the culture.  The bus and train systems developed in Europe are fantastic when one is there, but would be prohibitively expensive to do here, especially if people won’t use it.  Besides, the interstate system was inspired by the superhighways that Hitler built, so really we borrowed that from the Europeans.

Also, on that specific list, there are some points that are valid, like the VERY unhealthy form of puritanism espoused here that objectifies the human body and equates nudity with sex, and pumpkin everything, but the rest is just a difference in culture.  We have cheerleaders.  Most of us girls aren’t perky and athletic enough to qualify.  So what?  Americans have been sold that we need to have straight, white teeth and spend a fortune making that happen.  What exactly is wrong with that?  And knowing the base price of an item BEFORE the taxes are added on is just honest, to an American way of thinking.  That’s how we find out how much of our money is going down the rathole of government.

Life is just different here.  And a note to some of the Kiwis, Aussies, and Europeans I’ve met over the years – if you want to be taken seriously by Americans, learn the state names.  Please.  Several had never heard of my home state.  (Knowing the Wizard of Oz and baseball references is another story and will require a cheat sheet.)

Then came the list with the 15 countries with the highest quality of life as determined by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.  Who?  (Short answer: the OECD is a global organization determined to keep the standards of living among industrialized countries high.)

The US ranked 6 on the list, and the only positives listed were annual income, living conditions and space considerations.  No mention of happiness or life satisfaction – characteristics of living that Americans are actually told daily that are less than ideal and we should search for something better.

Most egregious, though is probably the list of Seven States That The Rest of America Would Like to Kick Out Of The Country.  The choice of states to kick out?  Delaware?  It’s a tax haven.  Florida – what?  Rhode Island – aside from some insanely rich people living there, why?  Either Dakota – huh?  Indiana…well there are a lot of Cubs fans.  Mississippi – because “Lowest average life expectancy, poorest, fattest, second highest teen pregnancy rate and highest teen birth rate, one of the lowest high school graduation rates and still a lot of opposition to interracial marriage being legal.”  No, no prejudice here.  Also no mention of California, Taxichusetts, New York, Illinois, Vermont, New Jersey or Maryland.

This is not to say that that Americans are perfect and our culture doesn’t have some quirks that really are strange (like having everyday dishes AND china that we never use, and that the truly minimalist style that is quite identifiable world-wide), but if we are going to follow the idea of multi-cultural diversity, why not celebrate the aspects and details of American life that are unique and unparalleled, like, decent air conditioning, just in time delivery, the societal expectation that helping others in a disaster will be reciprocated if the need arises – that sort of stuff.

We’re different.  Just as Italians do not hand cash to a cashier, but put it on the counter; just as Mediterranean countries take a long lunch during the heat of the day and work a later second shift; just as the French know their own wine; just as…we’re all different.  What’s wrong with that?

And why call our culture bizarre?  Hmm, Business Insider?

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17 replies

  1. B.I. does indeed write a lot of superficial, pop stuff to build its audience. It hasn’t (quite) started publishing pics of naked models but it seems to be getting close…And it does provide quick, excellent business and economic stuff and even some useful political reports. Given what is obtained from it at the price (0), I’m not complaining…Anyone in their position is trying to invent themselves at some risk; I hope B.I. succeeds…

  2. First off, there was no mention of who in “the outside world” is commenting on this or where they live. Secondly, there was no commentary on why or how any one or more of these items came to be part of the culture. Minor, little details that might go a long way in understanding, but are inconvenient when trying to convince Americans that we’re just not normal compared to the rest of the world.

    We’re not. We are not normal. We tell ourselves that we’re exceptional, that we’re the greatest nation on the planet, but out greatness is based entirely on what we’re bad at. There are worse countries to be sure, but it is so bizarre to see how we’re so bad.

    Consider that Australia enacted gun control laws. They did it. They had a gun death problem, and they enacted gun control laws. We have been told numerous times by people here and elsewhere that if guns are made illegal, only criminals will own guns. But they did it….and it worked. But this will not work in America.

    We have been told that a national medicine program is socialism, that it is terrible, that it will never work. The US spends more on medicine than any other country, for less results. We’re well down on any number of metrics. But the socialist medicine countries seem better. But this will not work in America.

    Gay rights, social programs, these things are the death of a society, it kills the family, it is lethal for nations, at least this is what we have been told. Nevertheless, there are countries who grant everyone full rights before the law. Gay marriage, gay adoption. These will kill the family, but elsewhere it does not. Only in America will this not work.

    In Sweden, women can get significant maternity leave programs. Paid maternity leave programs. They get paid almost what their annual pay was. Guess if we could make that work in the USA? Naturally, it will never work in America.

    America is not normal. What works in the rest of the world will never work in the USA, or at least so we are told from some (to include the Tea Party)

    Except that it can. Costco is proving that unionized membership and high wages can coexist in a profitable company. The concept of stakeholders, which includes community members, environmental concerns, and ethics, is replacing stockholders as the main group a business is beholden to. Conscious Capitalism is replacing the selfishness of Ayn Rand. The world as we know it is changing, it is very, very global, and the US is going to have to change, despite the naysayers.

  3. “Consider that Australia enacted gun control laws. They did it. They had a gun death problem, and they enacted gun control laws. We have been told numerous times by people here and elsewhere that if guns are made illegal, only criminals will own guns. But they did it….and it worked. But this will not work in America.”

    This did NOT work for Australia. They now have skyrocketing armed crime. In the US, where concealed carry is legal, crime rates are very low. I did a whole piece on this in December/January. Try again.

    “We have been told that a national medicine program is socialism, that it is terrible, that it will never work. The US spends more on medicine than any other country, for less results. We’re well down on any number of metrics. But the socialist medicine countries seem better. But this will not work in America.”

    Our medical system came of age with non-profit hospitals, nuns for nurses and pay for services rendered. It became the best, in large part thanks to free market competition. Socialized systems are no less expensive, they just collect the money through higher taxes on more than just medical items. And if socialized systems are so much better, why do Canadians cross the border for surgeries and such that they have to wait for months to get due to rationing? National healthcare has been tried multiple times in the US and it never works.

    “Gay rights, social programs, these things are the death of a society, it kills the family, it is lethal for nations, at least this is what we have been told. Nevertheless, there are countries who grant everyone full rights before the law. Gay marriage, gay adoption. These will kill the family, but elsewhere it does not. Only in America will this not work.”

    Ancient Rome and Greece ring a bell? Just because something is legal does not make it moral, or beneficial to children. There’s a lot of kids who grew up in homosexual households who are now speaking up on that. Also, France had riots when laws were changed to allow gay marriage. That’s a major-league socialist country. At this point, there are not enough of them to make much of an impact over all, but it’s still not natural, moral or good for the family.

    “In Sweden, women can get significant maternity leave programs. Paid maternity leave programs. They get paid almost what their annual pay was. Guess if we could make that work in the USA? Naturally, it will never work in America.”

    And they aren’t staying home to raise their kids either.

    “The concept of stakeholders, which includes community members, environmental concerns, and ethics, is replacing stockholders as the main group a business is beholden to.”

    A business is owned by it’s investors, be it stockholders or venture capitalists or families. If the cost of business is too high, they will make changes so that it will be profitable or go out of business. One business does not a trend make.

    “The world as we know it is changing, it is very, very global, and the US is going to have to change, despite the naysayers. ”

    Once the central banks finish off all the currencies, we’re going to go back to trade the way it was on the silk road and barter. Everything will be off the books. Oh, wait, we Americans do that already.

    • Maybe I am just in the right frame of mind to see this for what it is, Wonderful Job. So True. Thanks

    • This did NOT work for Australia. They now have skyrocketing armed crime. In the US, where concealed carry is legal, crime rates are very low. I did a whole piece on this in December/January. Try again.

      Interesting. What you said was “In Australia, since the gun ban was put into place, crime has done nothing but rise, including an unreal amount of fearless home invasion.”

      Please explain. Gun deaths are 1.06 in Australia per 100k whereas the US is 10.3, ten times the number. Are you saying that other crime statistics are related to guns, and if so how. Please apply some analytic reasoning to this, I would like to see the argument.

      Our medical system came of age with non-profit hospitals, nuns for nurses and pay for services rendered. It became the best, in large part thanks to free market competition. Socialized systems are no less expensive, they just collect the money through higher taxes on more than just medical items. And if socialized systems are so much better, why do Canadians cross the border for surgeries and such that they have to wait for months to get due to rationing? National healthcare has been tried multiple times in the US and it never works.

      Medical tourism?

      The medical tourism industry has experienced massive growth over the past decade. Experts in the field say as many as 150,000 U.S. citizens underwent medical treatment abroad in 2006 — the majority in Asia and Latin America. That number grew to an estimated 750,000 in 2007 and could reach as high as 6 million by 2010. Patients are packing suitcases and boarding planes for everything from face lifts to heart bypasses to fertility treatments

      Good thing India is there!!!!

      Ancient Rome and Greece ring a bell? Just because something is legal does not make it moral, or beneficial to children. There’s a lot of kids who grew up in homosexual households who are now speaking up on that. Also, France had riots when laws were changed to allow gay marriage. That’s a major-league socialist country. At this point, there are not enough of them to make much of an impact over all, but it’s still not natural, moral or good for the family.

      Funny, the kids in these countries do better in school, most are bilingual, are healthier, have lower mortality rates, etc…

      Please explain why this is the case.

      And they aren’t staying home to raise their kids either.

      And their kids are doing better than American kids. Please explain why?

      A business is owned by it’s investors, be it stockholders or venture capitalists or families. If the cost of business is too high, they will make changes so that it will be profitable or go out of business. One business does not a trend make.

      You’re completely unfamiliar with the stakeholders vs. shareholders argument, aren’t you?

      You should read Harvard Business Review or

      University of Virginia’s Professor of Business ethics (who has pioneered the concept)

      Once the central banks finish off all the currencies, we’re going to go back to trade the way it was on the silk road and barter. Everything will be off the books. Oh, wait, we Americans do that already.

      That makes no sense, could you explain. I am not what period of economic history you are referring to, or if you understand the current models.

  4. Yup, and we had the best passenger rail service to everywhere in the world, and the best mail service that went with it, Fedex didn’t exist because there was no need. Mail a letter in NY at 4pm delivered in Chicago by 10:30 am, that’s what first class mail used to be. St Louis is a good example, used to be served by about a hundred passenger trains a day. We killed it for the convenience of the automobile and the truck. So be it. It works for us, especially with steerage class airlines added in, as long as we have cheap energy which this model demands.

    Good article, CL, good reply to Joseph, and I’m glad you didn’t take a trip to OZ the other night. :-)

    • The whole blasted city was in the basements Friday night. The tornado that hit north county took a similar track to the one in 2011, up by the airport. I live in the middle where there are more hills, so we don’t get hit quite so often. Thanks to decades of drills and first class weather people who track the hooks on the radar and tell people in the path to take cover, yet again, no one died. However, there is still an unbelievable amount of damage. We went across the river to a family event and the Mississippi is HIGH. I mean girders on the Eads underwater high. All the tributaries are swollen. Last year a massive drought, now this. Yeah, only in America.

      • Indeed, it was a long week, I have friend in Oklahoma city as well. And as I was watching the radar I was thinking of them and you.

        Even the Platte has some water in it finally although we are still in drought-we’re coming up swiftly on the time when the rain stops.

        NOAA is just plain amazing, if all government agencies worked like that, well maybe I don’t really want all the government I pay for, but they are just incredible.

        But I’m very glad you’re OK. And yes, Only in America!!

      • Never mind the NOAA, our local weather people are REALLY good. The A teams were on the air for about 4 hours straight and when that one hook formed on the radar, there was no “we advise you” it was “get to a basement or interior room now”. The guys were in shirtsleeves with the cuffs rolled and ties loosened. Storm procedures. And MLB really did well calling the game before the crowd got to the stadium. The last time this happened, thousands of us ended up in the stairwells. Busch is actually built to tornado safety standards on purpose.

        It was just one night, and we’re not through tornado season yet.

    • Oh, BTW, we still have the train shed from the glory days of rail. And the cross country tracks that carry the coal trains every day.

      • You sure do, and St. Louis Union is in my top 10 stations, it’s too bad Amtrak didn’t keep using a bit of it.

        And I really know about coal trains, the UP here runs about 150-200 a day and BNSF a bit north isn’t all that far behind. Both coming out of the Feather River fields.

        It’s not so much railroading anymore as conveyors thousands of miles long. Kind of boring to watch but incredible all the same.

      • Did you know that the UP and BNSF tracks sit next to each other going through the city? There was a mishap with a bridge being demolished that fell on one set of tracks, so the other company allowed competitor trains on theirs to keep everything running. Really kind of cool.

      • I didn’t, have done much railfanning in St. Louis. They are in Omaha as well or at least pretty close. And the road have always done that with high value stuff like passenger trains, coal not so much although now it would clog the rads completely in a day.

  5. Great article CL, in spite of the naysayer (and what better way to support your country than to speak negatively about it. It says a lot about the naysayer.) America may not be perfect in each and every aspect, but I have yet to find a country that is better. (and to those who think they have, please feel free to move to whatever country you think is better).

    To be sure there are some who may have some aspects that I admire, but that does not mean I think those countries are better. I do believe that America can improve, and should do so. A good place to start would be to get those currently in office, from both sides of the aisle, who are enacting some of the dumbest laws, who are spending more money than any other president since the country’s founding, who are giving away parts of America, who allow criminals and terrorists to enter our country without any hindrance whatsoever, and the list goes on and on – get them out of office!

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