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Old 01-06-2011, 04:11 PM
 
Location: Miami, FL
187 posts, read 312,172 times
Reputation: 182

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I have always been fascinated by European history and culture, it always seems like theres just so much more of it. I like American history a lot, but there's just not that much of it so it seems so insignificant sometimes. The US is like the baby of the world, we really don't have that much to offer in the historical/cultural sense.

I have always wondered what Europeans thought of the US history and culture. I would like to hear from any Europeans or just non-Americans what they think about us. Do you guys just see us as the stereotypical BigMac-eating, obese, tractor driving, rednecks or are you actually genuinely interesting in learning about American culture and history? Do you guys even care about learning about the Revolution or Civil War? Do Europeans even know what the American Civil war was? Do you guys even know how American politics work and about our Constitution and such? It might just be a stereotype, but I gete the feeling that Europeans don't really care about the US and feel that the world would be better off without us.

It would also help if you guys could post what country you are from. Obviously I know that Europe is a huge continent and opinions vary by country, and even regions. I'm sure the British have drastically different views on the US than the Danish, or Dutch for example.

I have also wondered, contrary to what many of you guys believe, many Americans realize that Europe is a very diverse and different place. It's not just one block of countries. But I get the feeling that you guys see the US like this. The US might as well be 50 independent countries with 50 different histories and cultures and viewpoints. The US truly is a vast place and despite being so young, we have a surprising amount of history for our age. I don't think Europe accomplished as much as the US has in its first 200 years.
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Old 01-06-2011, 04:14 PM
 
Location: Zagreb, Croatia
346 posts, read 139,395 times
Reputation: 163
I think it has awfully degenerated in the last couple of decades.
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Old 01-06-2011, 04:20 PM
 
Location: South South Jersey
1,652 posts, read 2,251,425 times
Reputation: 712
Who cares? Obviously, it's highly important/desirable if you're an American to be very much aware of European culture/history, but making a study of an uninformed, often arbitrary/variable, biased *view of you* (and your friends, family, personal family history, regional/civic history, ethnic traditions) held by milliions of complete strangers? Massive waste of time, IMHO.

BTW, the US isn't the only 'baby' of the world, in terms of longevity.. I often wonder why people like, say, Bono don't moan that they 'have to get back to (e.g.) Ireland' because 'they're sick of having no history around!!!!' them when they've been in (say) Australia for an extended period...
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Old 01-06-2011, 04:42 PM
 
Location: Yorkshire, England
4,599 posts, read 3,729,931 times
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You'll get a skewed sample on here since we all choose to come on a mostly US forum about mostly US issues, but I think it's a fascinating country with more variety and more contradictions than anywhere. The only American history I specifically studied at school was from 1929 onwards (the colonial era and the Revolutionary war are not taught at all in British schools) but through the media I almost know as much about your history and civics as my own country's, and I've never been there. It's easier to learn about your history and culture through your media than it would be for you to learn about ours the same way because even in shows like The Simpsons there are countless cultural/historical references about stuff like the Civil War and the constitution and past presidents, etc. This would never ever happen in an equivalent British show. When you think that roughly half the media content we get (books, TV, films, music, news) etc comes from the US, than that's a lot of knowledge we subconsciously pick up. The danger of that is that a little knowledge can sometimes be a dangerous thing and you get smug people assuming they know it all, but it's still inevitable we'll know more about you than you about us. As somebody from a small country I like the idea that it's impossible to see it all in one lifetime and people won't know as much about the rest of the country as somebody here would know about the rest of this one.

The part of US history which interests me most is the foundation of new settlements. Most of our towns developed over hundreds/thousands of years from small farming settlements before written records, so the idea of a group of migrants crossing an ocean with a specific purpose and trekking across mountains/plains/deserts to finally say "Right, we're building a town HERE and doing things THIS way!" Ditto for the system of government; ours evolved over centuries and there is no such thing as a founding father.
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Old 01-06-2011, 05:14 PM
 
Location: Miami, FL
187 posts, read 312,172 times
Reputation: 182
Quote:
Originally Posted by ben86 View Post
You'll get a skewed sample on here since we all choose to come on a mostly US forum about mostly US issues, but I think it's a fascinating country with more variety and more contradictions than anywhere. The only American history I specifically studied at school was from 1929 onwards (the colonial era and the Revolutionary war are not taught at all in British schools) but through the media I almost know as much about your history and civics as my own country's, and I've never been there. It's easier to learn about your history and culture through your media than it would be for you to learn about ours the same way because even in shows like The Simpsons there are countless cultural/historical references about stuff like the Civil War and the constitution and past presidents, etc. This would never ever happen in an equivalent British show. When you think that roughly half the media content we get (books, TV, films, music, news) etc comes from the US, than that's a lot of knowledge we subconsciously pick up. The danger of that is that a little knowledge can sometimes be a dangerous thing and you get smug people assuming they know it all, but it's still inevitable we'll know more about you than you about us. As somebody from a small country I like the idea that it's impossible to see it all in one lifetime and people won't know as much about the rest of the country as somebody here would know about the rest of this one.

The part of US history which interests me most is the foundation of new settlements. Most of our towns developed over hundreds/thousands of years from small farming settlements before written records, so the idea of a group of migrants crossing an ocean with a specific purpose and trekking across mountains/plains/deserts to finally say "Right, we're building a town HERE and doing things THIS way!" Ditto for the system of government; ours evolved over centuries and there is no such thing as a founding father.

Wow, that's really interesting. I think you might be right about people being biased, but it still is nice to hear what people think of us. I think it's really interesting that you guys in Britain know a lot more about the US than we know about you. Everything I know about British history and culture, I learned from actively checking out books and reading articles on the Internet about the subject and taking World History and European History courses in school. We have close to no exposure to it from media. Really, the only things that you will find on American media about Britain are American movies produced in the us that take place in Britain, and I'm going to assume those are not exactly accurate. Also, you find it interesting that the US is so big and we kinda just decided to exist. Like the founding fathers, which were around 10-20 people, decided that they wanted to rebel against Great Britain and start their own form of government, which at that time was an unprecedented system, and in 50 years extended their country's borders to almost twice the size of the whole of Europe. I really think this is interesting too. But what I always found really fascinating is how much history there is on such a small little island. The entire UK can fit in some of the smallest US states, yet it has at least 10x more history. There are so many little towns and cities and different regional accents and people in an area the size of Alabama. In the Us it seems like everything is so spread out. You can go hundreds of miles in a direction and not encounter a single major city. I guess we both find interesting what our country lacks.
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Old 01-06-2011, 06:48 PM
 
Location: Fife
6,611 posts, read 4,914,557 times
Reputation: 3113
I love American history, for a fairly young country it has a lot of fascinating history. There is no other country like it. The war of independence, the American civil war, slavery and the growth of America, its all interesting to me
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Old 01-06-2011, 08:08 PM
 
350 posts, read 310,237 times
Reputation: 383
I am not European but still giving my opinion. I learned in school some general things about US history, but it would have been covered under the "world history" umbrella. I remember reading about the Boston tea party, the civil rights movement for e.g. I'm sure there's more that was covered but I can't remember. The bulk (99%) of what I know about America is from tv and of course these kinds of boards.
I am also from a "young" part of the world which has a broadly similar history to the US. I can relate to feeling short changed history wise, when you consider the sort of history that you find in the Eastern Hemisphere in general, Europe included.
On a sidenote:-To any native Americans reading this I do not mean that you guys did not contribute to history in the Western Hemisphere....it is just that so much of it was destroyed.
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Old 01-06-2011, 08:58 PM
 
Location: Black Hills
109 posts, read 146,391 times
Reputation: 105
I'm over in the US studying now and having the option to pick history here in the US as classes to fill my general education requirements have been such a treat. In danger of showing the nerd in me, I felt like a kid in a candy store when I could pick classes like that. This last semester I had two classes covering native american history and it's been SO interesting getting to learn more about that. I'm probably going to take some US history classes later too.

Back in school in Norway (Which reveals where I'm from ) we had some general history for the US, but didn't go into great detail. There where some things that our teacher taught us more about, like Rosa Parks for example. I knew about the Revolution and Civil War, I couldn't tell you when they where, but that is probably more to do with the fact that I'm HORRIBLE at remembering historical dates no matter where in the world you talk about history. (Heck, even my own country)
Oh, and like Ben86 mentions about the UK, most of media stuff at home is from the US which gives us the extra little window into USA I guess.

I didn't at all have the big mac eating, obese stereotype set in my head before I came here, but many of my coworkers seemed to have that view, they pretty much acted like I was insane for wanting to come here to study.
I was surprised when I actually started bumping into people wearing cowboy hats, I thought it was just a stereotype. But from what I'm told, it's more common in the midwest than the rest of the US.
And yeah, after I moved here I've definetly had the "Oh god, stuff is HUGE!". Not just cities, stores or cars, but your country. I haven't ever seen wide open ranges in the way I have while driving across South Dakota or Wyoming. Can't wait to be able to see and learn more while I'm here studying
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Old 01-06-2011, 09:51 PM
 
1,034 posts, read 511,645 times
Reputation: 740
When I think of culture and history I always think more of the people rather than the buildings, and what I think is that the US had so much promise but in the end it came to look awfully much like Europe; both have near totalitarian states now!

When thinking European history don't forget that that most of that history "belongs" to many Americans as much as to the Europeans. You just don't have fast access to the really old buildings like we do, which is overrated in my opinion.

Liberty, which is the cultural thing what the US once truly was more mature with than Europe, has been brought down to its knees.

About the constitution and politics: as I said, it showed so much promise but in the end it's not much different from Europe. The battle between "God" given rights vs. government given rights is hopefully yet to be fought rather than already lost but I'm not very optimistic about that one anymore.

Maybe a bit depressing view for you but you'll have to do with it.
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Old 01-06-2011, 11:23 PM
 
Location: CT
1,215 posts, read 1,289,937 times
Reputation: 1967
I'll be honest, I'm from Europe, I grew up with Europeans and spent time with them for all my life, and if there's one thing that Europeans really rag on when it comes to America in my experience, it's the lack of "real" history and culture. It seems to be a pretty universal thing too, not limited to any one country like the UK or Poland or Italy or anywhere. America's not alone though, I've heard lots of similar comments about Australia, and some others but none really more than those two and America way more than Australia cause obviously everyone pays attention to it more.
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