Letters from Americans are kept on the American Perspectives page.
I'm traveling to New York and Washington for the first time in a few weeks. The prospect of going to New York is thrilling. For my whole life I have watched American films and here will be my first chance to see the many landmarks featured in these movies.
I recently saw Saturday Night Fever a wonderful evocation of 70s life in Brooklyn. I saw The Squid and the Whale, too, which is an evocation of Brooklyn in the 1980s. I love the sense of place these films create. The dialogue, and the observations of aspirations and fears, I find fascinating.
I've booked my Sopranos tour, which will take me round all the settings I have grown familiar with, watching six series (or is it seven?) of that amazing drama. I'm looking forward to seeing the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, and the kind of streets that are featured in The Godfather, Sex in the City and Woody Allen films.
Having had the reputation of being a low-brow culture, the Americans in the last decade have redefined television and its possibilities. I'm a fanatical fan of Alan Ball's Six Feet Under. It's a wonderful series which confronts viewers with all the really big questions. It's funny, profound and moving.
I particularly enjoy the ethnic mix which series like the Sopranos and Six Feet Under explore. For seven years I lived in Bayswater in London. It was a tough place to survive, and the English were a community among many other communities.
London is America these days. The idea of a nation state, an England that is for the English, is defunct. As a culture we are not very good at expressing or depicting this new world we live in. The Americans do it beautifully.
About the Author:
Name: Brian Jenner
Country: United Kingdom
Experience With US: Visited the United States
Hailing from a small country called New Zealand, I am a kiwi who doesn't really know that much about the USA. So when I was asked to write a letter to voice my opinion my first thought was what I hear most people around me saying - Terrorism, Bush, the most wealthy, powerful country in the world. All these opinions I have gained from the media.
The USA appears in our news just about every day here, whether it be to do with the war in Iraq, some scientific development, NASA or some other current event. It may be that I am just growing more aware of the world in my 20's but it seems the entire world is obsessed with what's going on in the US. Is it maybe, we admire you? I really don't know...
As someone who has only travelled as far as Australia I don't know what it is like to be/live in the US right now or any other country for that matter. I know only what I build up a picture of from the snapshots I see in the media. As I have grown older I have come to realise that the picture the media portrays is not always correct, so the picture us kiwi's have of the average "American" may not necessarily be true.
All my life I have heard the saying "Only in America". This lends itself to the fact that the US houses an extremely diverse range of people and almost anything can happen there; another opinion I have gained from statistics and the media.
When I was younger I wanted to either be or marry an American. Growing older has changed my mind. This was probably influenced by the fact that at this time well over half of our television programming was from the US. As I have grown older I realise that I am very fortunate to live in my little corner of the world where I am safe. I am proud to be who I am.
I think the biggest message I could give to America is - Be proud of who you are and try to ensure that the picture the media is painting of you is one you can be proud of.
Best wishes for the future America.
About the Author:
Name: Kiwi Girl
Country: New Zealand
Occupation: University Student
Experience With US: Never Visited the United States
How many times have you walked down the street and noticed the color of someone’s shirt, the way they walk, how much weight they carry, or their gender? How many times have you judged what you saw? It’s universal that no matter where you go, we all see with our eyes. No one wants to be enlightened by the image, to hear the story behind it. People want to adhere to the assumption they’ve made of the image.
We’re taught all along not to judge a book by it’s cover, but in a world that judges everything else who are we to deny that we don’t make assumptions on first glance. If we are so adamant about accepting differences why are we even more adamant about changing our differences to be accepted? When do we know when we have fit in? We’re taught not to care what other people think or say. If you’re human you care. My theory has always been, if you affect my life then I care, but if you don’t then I’m not going to stress over it. Growing up I was never picked on for having green eyes, crooked teeth, hair that seemed to change base on mood, neither was I picked on for being white. Was I lucky or just part of the mold? I grew up surrounded by all sorts of friends who were all different sizes, colors, genders, religions, etc. I was never pinned as anything in particular. Neither were my peculiarities pinned as substandard.
I’m a typical white girl from suburbia that is intelligent enough to know physical differences don’t mean anything. However, I’m naïve enough not to know that, to someone who has no control of those differences, scrutiny can mean everything. I never grasped that until I came to a place where my differences would be picked apart and my image the determining factor of assumption. Where I am classified as an American mold and grouped with a country instead of that of a person.
I follow no religion so I’m going to hell. I’m going to hell because I’m white. I’m white so I must be French. I speak English so I’m American. I’m American so I’m rich. I’m rich so I can be taken advantage of. I’m female so I’m fair game to local men. I’m fair game so I’m harassed. I didn’t think someone could accumulate so many strikes against them, but there you go.
Is this all my assumption too? It may seem an unfair depiction, but I have dealt with all of it since moving to Mauritania. Of course not every part of Mauritania is the same. Views change just like the scenery here, gradually and sporadically, but you are aware of the difference. My experiences come mostly from the northern part of the country where I live amongst conservative Muslim White Moors. This is an area that is used to seeing a white face, considering the north is a great deal tourist orientated. You would think they would be more open to differences, but that isn’t necessarily true. In my experience here, they seem to enjoy scrutinizing them more.
I’m not Muslim so I must be Christian or Catholic. I’ll still burn in hell either way since I’m not Muslim. I’m white so I must be French. Mauritania had once been a French colony and now is filled with French tourists so sure, maybe. I speak English, however, so I’m American. I’m American so I must be a spy, come to get information. Information on what, who knows? I highly doubt much of America would be interested on how many goats I have to dodge just to walk across town, or how many days I can go without getting sick from something I ate. I’m fairly certain that Bush, my best friend and family relation according to Mauritanians, wouldn’t be especially interested. I must be rich, too, so they’d be happy to sell me something with a mark up price of triple the normal price. I’m a female so I must be looking for a husband. My pretend husband isn’t here so that means I’d love to sleep around with everyone.
It doesn’t matter that all of their assumptions are false. I follow no religion, but don’t ever tell them that or else they might burn you themselves. I’m not French. I’m not a spy here to get information; I’m a health educator trying to relay information. I’m not rich. I’m living off the same food, housing, transportation, and a smaller income that they are. I’m not here looking for a husband, I’m here to work. And it doesn’t matter how many stories you make up of pretend husbands or kids you might have. When you are female you seem to have a GPS tracker which reads, Female who would absolutely enjoy your advances! Since being here I have been told to dislike people based on their religion, their dress, their ethnic background, their color, their actions, their political views, and so on. All the while, though, I’ve been disliked for my supposed religion, my dress, my background, my whiteness, and my assumed political views.
I am constantly referred to as the white person. It’s true I am white, why should an apparent fact bother me? Because when that is all you are to someone you realize you aren’t being accepted as your whole self. I find myself thanking people for their clarity on my whiteness. Call it a sick humor. That seems to be my defense. If you don’t have humor then what is the point. My site mate and I joke about these things in order to get passed them. A psychologist would probably say we were repressing our frustration through bad humor. I’ll blame it on parasites, seems a lot easier and cheaper. Psychologically though, how would you respond? If you went on a massacre people would think you were psychotic. If you became a recluse holed up under a rock you’d be peculiar. Repression through bad humor makes you nutty too, but at least it keeps you laughing.
Is this true for everyone I live amongst, of course not. Is it the general vibe; yes. Scrutiny is attached to you at customs and follows you throughout your journey through this country, which makes it like any other place you enter, where you are the outsider coming in for a peek. The only difference being that most people only peruse for a few days or weeks, not years. You don’t see the real issues because the traveler is mainly focused on what makes up the surroundings not on what’s behind the surroundings. For those who live here for an extended period of time we are still considered outsiders no matter how much we integrate into the culture and community. The basic fact is that our lives aren’t here. We can live and work here, but have another life waiting for us back in the states.
Prejudices exist all over the states, but it is fairly accurate in saying that it is universal and comes in all types of shapes and forms. We are a very visual world and a world that will base its decisions solely on assumption instead of investigation. I’ve learned a lot so far about being an outsider living in a society where I am the target of assumption. There are people all over dealing with being ostracized for their differences. There is only one thing that separates all of us though and it isn’t our physical diversities, it is our minds. There is a quote I live by, Assumption is the mother of all f*ck-ups. It holds true for anything. When you assume you distort fact with fiction. What is so hard with making ourselves see past what our eyes see? American and the world should know that the outsider will only vanish once we start seeing with our minds instead of our eyes no matter who you are looking at or what spot you are in.
About the Author:
Occupation: Peace Corps Volunteer
Experience With US: Have lived in the United States
How did you rise to become a power nation so influential on almost everything from politics to entertainment? Take a look at Hollywood for example. Why is it so famous that everyone from everywhere knows the actors and actresses, the movies and shows? Why are they getting paid so much to act? Are they really worth that much? Wouldn't it benefit more people if the money went into providing for the people suffering from poverty in America itself?
America has become so influential that its movies, TV serials commercials etc. are being aired to other countries and people are becoming so addicted to those drama serials and movies that cable TV has become a normality in all households. Kids grow up watching 'American' TV, listening to 'American' music, following 'American' fashion trends etc. Kids from all over end up wanting to be like the idols they see on TV and magazines. But that becomes so impossible when you're living in the other end of the world. So kids like me tend to dream of such big dreams yet knowing that chances of it ever realizing it are little to zero, but yet every time we watch shows like America's next top model, American Idol, TV shows like One Tree Hill, The OC etc, we get that inspiration once again to want to be a famous actress or singer because with it comes so much fame, fortune and ultimately leading to 'happiness'.
So how America, how did you manage to influence the world? Start a war between Iraq, change the economy, change history, create new science etc. How will we, living in small countries that some people don't even know exist, ever rise up to become just as successful as Hillary Clinton, Kelly Clarkson, Brad Pitt, Nicole Kidman, Tyra Banks, Opera Winfrey & Steven Spielberg?
About the Author:
Name: Samantha Aloysius
Experience With US: Visited the United States
America…it is hard to think of what to say to you as I see the world is in a constant debate to try to define you and find your proper role. To me, strangely enough, America has become my home and a very strong part of my identity that I cannot refute. I have spent most of my life in the U.S. and obtained my permanent residency at a young age. Having had the freedom to choose to live in the united states, I should be in great awe at the vast opportunities America has to offer…and it has….I am one of the lucky immigrants that has been able to take advantage of what the American Dream has to offer…great education system, good wages, internationalization, vast mixing of cultures, etc. etc. Yet, I am still uncertain weather I can fully accept America for what it is. How can you embrace America as your home if America does not listen to us, us as the many multi-cultural residents in the U.S. that has often found that the world is screaming messages to America that she doesn’t seems to hear.
Do you know how it feels to be told by a relative, “Why are you doing this? Why are you sending troops into Iraq?” Apparently “you” (me) is equated with America, and I am lost as to how to explain to my cousin, that yes although I live in the states I and many others around me were not the ones who sent the troops marching. That democracy doesn’t necessarily mean that you are heard.
You think it is right to play the world’s police, and yet what is it telling the world if you decide not to listen even to the UN? We didn’t care, and we didn’t know, but we will get what we want…ignorance and arrogance as one of my friends put it. We need to learn to fully evaluate every situation by looking into more than the intent the government has. Every country has its history, politics, government, etc…and we need to know the other before deciding what to do. It is too late to find out the very complex history and sects of Iraq that could have warned us of the civil war that erupted. America is a powerful giant, there is no refuting that, but as such a powerful country, it must learn to take responsibility for its actions. It is no longer about what Americas wants, or even about saving Bush’s face, we must begin to re-evaluate our prior actions and begin to have a different mind set in evaluating such foreign policies.
About the author:
Experience with America: Currently Living in the US
Hi, I’m Isabella and I write from
I don’t’ think to really have an opinion about American people, ‘cause I’ve never been to
I think you can really see how a person really is when he’s in his country, but after more than a month spent together with some of you, I’ll try to say something.
About American foreign politic and behaviour of your government I need only a word: horrible.
It’s horrible how many young people are dying in stupid wars they don’t even understand, and observing the situation in Italy I think that like here the poorest and most ignorant people do this work to earn money, a lot of money, risking their life, and the government need poor, scared and stupid people to go on like this and to be able to control the resources of the world.
It is really strange how many people really hate your country and I notice the different behaviour when someone thought I was American: after knowing I am Italian they get more kind and confident. But at the same time all the world want to live like you, to be rich and to be able to buy, buy, buy….
Personally the thing I like most is American music!! I think your richness is to have many people coming from different cultures and that’s a cultural richness.
I notice there are not many differences between American, Italian, French people, when they are all together, many of them pretend to be particular because of their provenience, but I think they try to be and they only seem stupid.
In a group of people, if you pretend to be something different from your own personality sooner or later you’ll be discovered, and seem fake. I noticed some American people want the other people think they are hard worker, more that the other, they are the best because American usually are, and so they are allowed to judge the others, especially if they are Italian, because usually people have the image of Italians that don’t like to work hard, and always play mandolin in the sun.
I was so surprise that such stupid stereotypes are still alive in the mind of young people, and that could bring someone to judge an other before knowing him… so I suppose there are young people that think that Americans all live like we see on MTV’s videos!!
But I think that after spending some times together it’s impossible to follow like this, you’ll find the more similar to you and dislike some others like in everyday life.
When you use to meet a lot of people, you’ll see every time someone between them who’s feeling better than you, maybe because he’s taller, or richer, or faster, …..even if he is not American, and wants to let you know you are worse than him.
And at the same time there are some special people, kind and intelligent, that you are always lucky to meet, who can make you forget the other ones and feel happy about meeting them, and have fun together. So my experience with American is not so different from the one with every other people, maybe sometimes the problems seems bigger, but everything is bigger in
I met some great American guys and girls, now they have a place in my heart and I’ll never forget them, and after that I’m really curious to visit your country and to meet many other nice people.
And to forget all the stupid things I saw on TV. To know a country is necessary to go there.
After my first trip to
About the author:
It’s hard to write to a nation. I think it is important to take time to get used to emotions, who you are how to relate and cope with differences. It’s really important that INDIVIDUALS are constantly aware and open. Otherwise democracy is easily victim to forms of totalitarianism and thinks like a [illegible] wave.
The America democracy is not usual. I really LIKE the idea that a president can’t run for more than two terms. That idea should be in all new democracies. But two party politics is prone to some evils, especially when the setup is such that the richest party wins and takes bribes from various pressure groups. How can that be smart? I get the impression that these pressure groups are big industries like oil, Tobacco, Weapons, but I’ve also seen that the Jewish lobby groups are strong. Suddenly you are in wars that are supported by three of these lobby groups. But what does the average American get out of this? And what does the world get out of this?
I should remind you that the United Nations was the brain child of America. It has its flaws, works slow but it is the ultimate democracy. In a modern world America will need to be more and more part of the western world. This requires some sacrifices and attitude changes. But in the long run the alternative is to be left behind. And there is a danger of becoming a nation stuck in self love and scorned by the world. What a shame. There is no reason for that. In relation to the world, America is tinny, and such a rate will be disastrous.
In Europe America is seen as a cultural and environmental thing. Not big and not smart. America’s energy usage per person is many times greater than the worst of the Europeans. It will cost to repair that, but there is no logical alternative. There is not a scientist in Europe that understands how America can undermine worldwide efforts to correct very real and dangerous environmental problems of global warming. It’s an arrogance against nature that will come back and hurt you and the rest of the world.
It’s easy to talk about political differences but I feel also invited to say something about cultural differences.
There doesn’t seem to be willingness to take a punch in the states. Somebody sneezes on you and you see some dollars and sue. The end result is some crazy balance where reality and authority have nothing to do with each other that is dangerous.
In America money means to much. Money is just supposed to be a grease to oil the cogs of society. The goal should be to participate well, not just to get rich. Happyness is much more than that.
There is a culture of consumerism. People spend too much time cultivating meaningless whims, buying on impulse following fashion minute by minute and throwing all the old stuff away, even though it is ok. Identity is not what you do for others but how much you have consumed for yourself, so this culture presumes. Somebody has to produce all this stuff, since the consumers don’t produce as much as they consume. Who is it? Who gets the rough end of the deal?
About the author: