Having arrived here with typical European preconceptions towards the US folks, I am getting surprised over and over again.
Well, I haven’t been around during the Vietnam era, but I remember this progressing slowly since at least 9/11 and the subsequent Iraq invasion: the constant decline of the reputation of US Americans.
Lets be honest, there are prejudices for every country and culture, and I won’t even start making examples like the Russians are always drunk and the Austrians keep their children in cellars.
Instead, lets have a quick look at the typical things you associate Americans with. For a starter, what is a typical American anyway?
In the eyes of an average Central European, that apparently is a gunslinging redneck who does not know the difference between Austria and Australia.
One per cent ignorance ratio = Not too bad
Ok, fair enough, I did meet a total of three people who I told that I was from Austria and who replied: “You mean Australia, right?” No kidding.
But hey, that is actually not too bad: Three out of at least three hundred leaves us with a one per cent ignorance ratio – and that is actually pretty damn good. I mean, have you ever tried walking up to the average guy in Bad Gastein or Kritzendorf and asking him: “Hey buddy, can you refresh my mind, Sacramento is the capital of?” Good luck with that. (Not to mention that he’d most likely not understand you if you spoke English).
Sure – they say – we have to keep in mind that his is the Silicon Valley, full of the very brightest and best educated people on the globe. And is best not to being confused with Midwest America, where the actual gunslinging rednecks hang around their Dodge pickups.
“How are you today?” & “Have a great day!”
I’m not sure if its the Californian weather – today its sunny, duh, its always sunny – or if people here are just genuinely nicer, but the difference to the near-famous impoliteness of Austrian’ bartenders is mind-blowing.
I have actually been warned about this by fellow Europeans. “You know,” they said, “everything is much more shallow. Everyone smiles all the time, but its only on the surface.” Duh. Of course it is. But simply adding this – not just polite, but friendly – smile to every interaction with strangers makes your life so much nicer and everyone happier.
So might this be as shallow as it likes, it is something a lot of Europeans could really learn something from.
… are something that I was really afraid off. No kidding, they are like the one species you cannot, and usually don’t want to, argue with. Now, somehow – I believe I know how – they have become some if not the most feared stereotype of US American idiocracy. And I have not encountered a single one! Hurray!
Ok, to give them some credits, I did encounter one proud Republican. And the following discussion was hilarious. Let us not disclose his identity and simply call him Bob. Bob is a well educated and fairly wealthy man in his mid-fifties. The following argument is just an example from our discussion, it might sound a bit ridiculous but did actually take place:
Bob: “Did you know that during Obama’s administration, he and his family have spent more money on going on holidays that any other president so far? They spent millions of taxpayers money to go to Hawaii with his whole family, on taxpayers money!”
Me: “Well, ok, but you do realize that during the previous two administrations Billions of Billions of taxpayers money have been spent on pointless wars, or that Bush’s tax cuts for the super-rich have cost society many more Billions that are now missing?”
Bob: “Sure, I know, that was stupid. But the holidays are taking place now!”
Well, I’m not going to publish an entire transcript of our discussion, partly because I wouldn’t want to write his repeated argument “Now for me as a Christian…” and “I as a Catholic…” five times. Btw, I love when these guys bring up stuff like this to a political discussion and disqualify themselves. (Not to mention that this made the discussion particularly funny because he was, after all, defending a Mormon.)
Now, don’t take this the wrong way, there are idiots everywhere. The one thing you should remember after reading this is, how long it took me to find someone like this. Because after all, that really is a good sign. Consider this: how long would it take you to find some small minded xenophobe right-wing voter in Austria?
Thinking about the current 25 per cent estimate of the FPÖ.. well, not very long, or am I wrong?