Unlike many countries that have clear systems (such as an air kiss on the cheek, or an air kiss on both cheeks) the U.S. has no system for greeting and saying goodbye. Do you hug? Shake hands? Kiss? Do nothing? There are no clear rules. Well, if you’re meeting someone for the first time, you shake hands, and if you’re seeing someone you haven’t seen for a while, you hug. But what about all of the situations in between? Meeting friends for lunch, arriving at a party, coming home from work, dropping in on a neighbor? Confusing.
2. We are conservative
Living abroad you learn that the term “left” has a different meaning abroad than it does in the United States since we, as a nation, tend to lean more to the right than a lot of the world (Europe and Latin America, for example). So the left in Argentina or in France, for example, is way more left than in the United States. We tend to be more puritan and moralistic than many other developed countries (ahem, nudity), but also, generally speaking, we are financially more conservative than many other parts of the world….which is why my next point should come as no surprise…
3. Healthcare are Education operate more like businesses than public services
In many countries a college education is FREE and healthcare is affordable or, again, FREE. In the United States many people can’t afford a decent college education or healthcare, or they go way into debt with their college loans or healthcare bills. It seems bizarre that such a powerful developed nation is so behind most of the world in these areas. The Obama administration is making strides in the healthcare arena, but we still have a long way to go to catch up to other developed countries.
4. We work too much
Compared to other countries we have very few vacation days and essentially no maternity leave. Also, people go to work sick all of the time in the U.S., a behavior I haven’t seen in other countries, where if you’re sick, you stay home. End of story. And your sick leave would never be taken out of your vacation days as these types of days off have nothing to do with one another, well, unless you’re in the United States.
Just like with healthcare and education, looking at the rights of the American worker, again, it is all a business, and business always wins in our country. I’m not going to state that turning everything into a business, including public services and the wellbeing of our people, is why we are such a powerful country, because I haven’t done the research…but it would certainly make sense. But what is the cost of this type of culture? Families deep into debt because of a medical emergency? Recent college grads that can’t find jobs and are hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt? These kinds of situations just don’t happen in other countries.
5. We have a gun problem
The rest of the world is always shocked at the number of random shootings in the U.S. At coffee shops, at high schools, at elementary schools, at universities, at malls, at movie theaters. They just seem to happen again and again. From the outside, it seems completely bizarre and insane. But if you actually know the statistics of how many guns per capita we have in the United States compared to the rest of the world, it completely makes sense that, just mathematically speaking, we would have a higher ratio of gun deaths in our country. And we certainly do.
6. We have too much buying power and it’s not doing us any favors
Economically speaking, things aren’t perfect right now in the United States, but I do think that compared to other countries I’ve been to, Americans have more buying power. Granted, this buying power puts many of us into debt….because spending money we don’t have is the American way. Also, the sheer amount of cheap crap that you can buy in the United States is ridiculous. Not just material crap, but food crap as well. The money that the average American has gives them way too much access to way too much stuff, so it should come as no surprise that hoarding and obesity have become such widespread epidemics in our country.
7. We have the best customer service
A lot of the points on this list are negative, I know, but it’s good to get some perspective and be able to constructively criticize your own country. That doesn’t make me any less proud or patriotic.
On a positive note, however, when you’re abroad you immediately realize that in terms of customer service, THE USA WINS. Whether you’re at a restaurant, shopping, need tech support or any other type of service, you will always be greeted with a smile, treated with respect, and often get exactly what you want. Because as Americans we are used to this level of customer service, we can often get angry when things don’t go our way (we bought something defective, the food we ordered was cold, etc.), which while making a scene can get results in the United States, it usually just gets us ignored and despised in the rest of the world, where the customer is not always right.
8. We have a lot of diversity
Living in Prague, Madrid and Buenos Aires, and visiting many other countries and cities in Europe and Latin America made me realize that the United States is a very diverse nation. Not just the cities, but the entire country has been formed, and continues to be formed, by immigrants from all over the world, adding to the amazing patchwork of cultures and ethnicities that you see and find in most parts of our country. Also, every state and region has its own unique culture, accent, traditions and way of life.