Yesterday I sat at lunch with four Swedes. Three of whom knew I was American. I sat silently throughout nearly the entire meal for one simple reason. It was America bashing time. Primarily coming from the mouth of the girl sitting immediately to my right. But one other guy joined in a bit.
For example, did you know that:
Americans eat too much? And that they only eat junk food. And hamburgers and french fries.
Americans drive too much? The magic number according to these Swedes was 300 meters. Anything over 300 meters was driving distance.
Americans don’t recycle enough? And when they do learn to recycle Europeans look down their noses at them because Europeans have been doing it since they were little.
Americans have shallow relationships? Because they are so friendly, it was decided that Americans don’t have good friends and that all of their relationships are shallow.
(Finally, one that just made me shake my head), American athletes, before competing will drink a bottle of water, and then immediately fill the bottle of water with pop so that they have it during competition? Little known fact.
Let me remind you that all of these things were actually said. Granted in Swedish but still. One girl actually uttered the recycling and the athlete comment.
Now granted, I have heard most of these before, except for the pop thing, because it is the same thing over and over. Americans are fat and lazy. Americans are bad for the environment. Americans are too friendly. Usually I stand up for the US, but I just wasn’t in the mood to deal with this nonsense. Sometimes I just don’t have it in me. And yesterday was one of those days. So I sat quietly. I mean, literally did not say a single word. I did do a lot of head shaking, because well, that’s what I do when I’m disgusted. Finally, the girl to my left turned to me with a half smile on her face and laughingly commented that I was being very quiet. So I simply stated that I was American. And left it at that. That at least shut up the girl doing most of the bashing and the talk instead turned to the tired food we were eating.
But it made me think. It is socially acceptable to bash America. But had a group of people been sitting around a table eating lunch and bringing up negative stereotypes of, say, Mexico, those people would be considered, at best, mildly prejudiced. At worst, full blown racists. A quick side note, I know that being from a certain country does not give you claim to race, Mexican is not a race, Swedish is not a race, American is not a race, just deal with my colloquial usage of the word.
It boggles my mind that a country that prides itself on openness and acceptance can so obviously disregard those very morals and beliefs when it comes to the US, simply because it is the US. Obviously there are things wrong with the US, but it’s not hard to pull up things that are wrong with any country really. I’ve found plenty of things that I don’t agree with here in Sweden, many of which I have written about. Of course, I would never dream of sitting at a table with four Swedes and go on a tangent about how awful their country is.
This America bashing is something I have seen from most of western Europe. Very seldom have I found anyone from western Europe that has much good to say about the US. I even had one guy tell me that the US really had no impact in World War II. Those people which I have run into from eastern Europe seem to have a different attitude towards the US for some reason, often asking me with disbelief why I would have ever moved from the US to Sweden. So in the spirit of stereotypical assertions about large groups of people: It seems that as a general rule, the bashing of America is seen as acceptable if not required for true citizenship in any western European country.
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