Why is it that some Europeans perceive America in such a negative light? I was enjoying the post-Wilma weather and a latte outside Starbucks with a friend when we struck up a conversation with an individual at a neighboring table.
He informed me that I belong to a capitalistic society obsessed with money and technology and ignorant of foreign languages, and that most of Europe agrees with him.
I know that many Europeans can respect American ideals, even if those ideals don’t correspond with their own. So, Mr. Anonymous European, I have a few things to add to our discussion that I think all of USF needs to hear.
According to The Pew Global Attitudes Survey, an international poll surveyed in 64 languages across the world, some countries’ perception of the United States has improved. According to the Pew Research Center, America’s approval rating in Russia climbed from 37 percent in 2000 to 61 percent in 2002.
Even though that attitude may not be comparable elsewhere – in Germany, for example, the overall image of America slipped from 78 percent in 2000 to 61 percent in 2002 – European countries such as Britain, Turkey and Italy are all strong American allies.
Americans are fond of technology, and rightly so. We are a country rich in fresh ideas that increase our standard of living. Much of the technology cherished by the rest of the world is American-born: Robert Jarvik helped to develop the patent for the first artificial heart, and Willis Haviland Carrier is responsible for the air conditioning you enjoy every day. And let’s not even get into Steve Jobs or Bill Gates.
Europeans are not without their technological preferences, either. In 1996, residents of Sweden and Denmark actually had more cellular phones per capita than the United States. More comprehensive research is unavailable for recent years. But Americans are more technology-crazed?
As far as money is concerned, the American Dream was born of people – mostly those who emigrated from Europe – seeking measures to elevate their means and provide for their families.
Most people who have money worked hard to earn it and take pride in the luxuries provided by having money. Americans may be obsessed with the dollar, but one of the unfortunate facts of life today is that having a comfortable lifestyle requires having the finances to attain it.
Capitalism is a means of making the necessary funds to enjoy our paradigm of reality. Consistent with the American Dream, successful businesses have transformed into chains, which generate jobs and capital for the country. You’re familiar with these so-called monstrosities, aren’t you?
According to the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, McDonald’s France has 860 markets. In these restaurants, the French, on average, spend the equivalent of five American dollars more per McDonalds visit than Americans do, even though a Big Mac costs about the same in Paris as in the States, according to the online edition of Business Week. Isn’t that one of the evil examples of capitalism commonly used to insult the United States?USF offers degrees in Spanish, French, German, Italian and the Classics (generally Latin and Greek). For a university to offer a any program, there must be a demand for it.
Yes, some Americans are monolingual, but America doesn’t have many countries on its border. Unlike Americans, Europeans can travel a few hundred miles and visit territories that do not use their native language.
Latin America’s close proximity to the United States accounts for a high population of Spanish speakers. There are 1.5 million Floridians who speak Spanish as a first or second language.
If I lived in France, I would speak French, Spanish and Italian so I could easily communicate with other Europeans. Americans, in turn, speak Spanish and French as second and third languages because French-Canadians and Hispanics influence our professional and personal spheres. Some Americans have a tendency to live with blinders on, being unaware of international events.
Have you been across America? It’s a big country. It’s easy to become consumed by domestic affairs.
Then there are those who simply don’t care, but you can find ignorance in any country. Basing one’s entire judgment of a large nation on a few superficial stereotypes is not conducive to a diplomatic relationship.
Europeans are quick to criticize America and then eager to utilize the fruits of our ambition. If you’re here, there must be a reason. If you’re studying at our universities or working in our country, then America obviously presents opportunities for growth.
If you seriously detest America and the values we endorse, then realize that you made the choice to come here.
If you don’t like the principles we stand for or the sovereignty afforded to you, the world is a large enough place to find a location akin to your sensibilities.
Taylor Williams is a junior majoring in English education.