Cultural confusion

I spent most of the day with the orchestra. The people there are really friendly, it’s very good for my French.

So I don’t know if I’ve mentioned, but in the past (almost) year and a half I’ve met very few Europeans, especially French, who have anything against Americans. I really believe all that stuff in the media about anti-Americanism in Europe was pretty much hype. If anyone ever says anything negative to me it’s always a joke and clearly they don’t really believe it. I’ve gotten so used to people being perfectly open and curious and welcoming that it’s pretty unsettling to run into someone who thinks blatant generalizations about Americans or the United States are okay.

There’s an English girl I hang out with sometimes who is in general very nice but said last night in conversation (a conversation explicitly about Americans at least) that she “n’aime pas les am?©ricains.” So I immediately asked “tu en connais beaucoup?” (do you know a lot of them?) to which she of course said no, but I don’t think she saw the gross discrepancy there. And she also said that the French are “fiers” (proud) and Americans “arrogants” because they don’t pay attention to the world around them, which all in all I find irritating and hypocritical from a person who gives baseless blanket opinions on other cultures and who has little clue where anything is beyond western Europe (when I refer to a place in the US she always has to ask where it is, although one could point out that at least she asks), including Africa and the US, which were the geographies in question last night.

I feel bad about complaining, because I’m sure she doesn’t mean anything by it. I try really hard when I’m with her not to let it rub me the wrong way. Probably it would be a more normal (or French) thing to do to just say something to her about it but in true American fashion I hate to offend or criticize anyone in person. But on another note, later on someone asked “alors qu’est-ce que vous pensez des anglais?” (so now what do you all think of the English?) and I realized that this English girl had almost made me answer negatively, which is ridiculous. I had my irritations with R last year about the English language (“Why DO you say pants instead of trousers?” “To bother you.”) but in the end he was actually very curious and inquisitive about American culture. My English friend L in Nancy is one of my favorite people in France. The other English assistant in BlD last year was a riot. So really this is the only English person I’ve ever met who’s so … well, ignorant for lack of a better word, and so ready to impose her assumptions on other people. Really she’s the only person of any nationality that I’ve ever met who’s like that. I don’t know how to respond to it so I usually just ignore it.

Anyway it was a nice but odd evening because there was another woman there who was freely giving her opinion on the US (though to be fair it was an interesting opinion and she did seem pretty knowledgeable in general). Maybe we deserve it since we’re so over-exported, but it’s very weird to hear people who’ve never crossed the Atlantic expounding on my culture.

I guess that’s all I have to say about that for now.

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5 thoughts on “Cultural confusion

  1. laurel says:

    Good post. I didn’t run into anyone like that (or at least they kept it from me if they were) but I know other people in my program did. There are ignorant people everywhere. It’s just very annoying to have to be the target of that ignorance.

    But I’m glad orchestra is going well!!!

  2. laurel says:

    WTF Heath Ledger died!!!!!!

    I’m listening to the theme from Brokeback Mountain over and over again to make myself sad.

    WTF

  3. Casseeeeeeee says:

    I just want you to know that I wrote a really long and detailed response to this post when it first went up, and it never showed up!

  4. Well that’s irritating. >:-| It’s not in my “awaiting moderation” section so I don’t know what happened. >:-0 The site’s been acting a bit weird lately. But if you ever feel like retyping your response I’d be interested…

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