I’m not from America

Hi! Let me introduce myself. I’m a 25 year old web developer in Sweden. I use a 24 hour clock, which means I get up at 06.30 and go to bed at 23.00. I am in the timezone GMT+1, which probably means I get up when Americans sleep. To me, today is 2007-04-17, a Tuesday, the second day of my week.

Why am I telling you all this? Well, I’m getting tired of Americans assuming US is the world. When picking a random book from the bookshelf I’m expected to know how the educational system in the US works. I’m expected to know the names of popular persons in Hollywood. I’m expected to share your view of American gun policy, and I’m supposed to sing along to your national anthem.

When I shop things I use the Swedish krona (SEK), and I don’t keep track of how it relates to other currencies, because I don’t need to. Of everything I earn I pay about 30% in taxes to the government but got paid to study at the university (everyone here do). I’m writing this on a computer with a 100mbit connection, a fiber cable drawn to my apartment that I pay 229 SEK a month for.

There seems to be a problem in the US with coping with the rest of the world. I’m not disputing that America is where most of the money today is generated. If you say so. But I’m getting worried that Americans forget about the rest of the world.

Sweden has seven political parties, four of which rule the country right now. Two new parties got a lot of votes the last election but didn’t get over the 4% barrier you need. The first one is the pirate party, working for integrity and loosened intellectual rights, and the second one is the feminist party, working for equality between the sexes. Each year there’s new parties entering.

By not respecting and collaborating with the rest of the world you Americans are missing out on a lot of opportunities. What’s worse is that since you brag about your excellence a lot of people envy you, but when you don’t let them in your get them frustrated.

There’s lots of people and countries in the world, don’t assume I’m living in yours. Lets all hug.

48 responses to “I’m not from America

  1. I’m also from Sweden, and funnily enough I’ve managed to avoid the kind of people you’re talking about, pretty well.

    Generally I share your point of view – we look at Americans sort of the same way – they’re quite self-centered, but I’m not sure I’ve actually met particularly many of these people. And just as Americans tend to think USA is the center of the world Swedes believe Sweden is a great country (and so do I), perhaps the best.

    Still, thanks for posting this – we need some loosening up, all of us. Hugs for all.

  2. I’m American, but not one of what you call “you Americans.” Perhaps your post would be more friendly if you aimed it more precisely at the people who need to hear it (instead of implying that all Americans are like that!).

  3. Wow.

    I can respect you, your country, and your work.

    But I’m not sure I want to hug you right now…

  4. I’m from New Zealand (Aoteroa) and I with you.
    I have met several Americans who say the US is the best country in the world. When I ask them what other countries they have traveled to compare, their response is usually “…”

  5. Wow… you seem angry. :)
    But I understand exactly where you’re coming from (as my IP undoubtedly can tell you). What’s worse is probably the fact that some 84% (or thereabout) of the US population would NOT be ready for an atheist president. And how many of those are creationist? Yay self-centered de-evolution. :D

  6. It’s all about the American Dream. And it’s so incredibly funny how extremely few of them actually live, or will live, that Dream. They rather watch those few ‘successful’ on TV than have a better life themselves. Get rich or live substandard, hoping. Ha ha!

  7. I have to admit, being an American myself, that I often am simply just ignorant of what information is common knowledge to me, but not to the rest of the world. It’s interesting how you put it though. If I were to pick up a book written in England, for example, I wouldn’t understand all of the social systems mentioned. I wouldn’t expect to. The book is written within a particular time and context. I’m not saying that authors shouldn’t try to broaden their appeal, especially in light of how things are progressing towards a more global market, but we also need to just realize that it’s impossible to shed one’s culture when writing. When I read Shakespeare, for example, I’m expected to understand his time and culture. Why should reading authors today be any different? I know you’re not talking primarily about writing par se, but I use this as an example, since you mentioned it, that we must each one of us, no matter where we are from, seek to understand the other. I’m glad to learn about your tax system, currency, and time difference. Tell me more! How does this affect your life?

  8. I’m a web developer from Denmark and can relate to your point of view.

    I just don’t think that the ones you are aiming at, are ever likely to read your blog. In fact I think that the Americans that read this blog are quite aware of the things you are describing.

    Oh and by the way, I only consider myself a Dane when I practically have to refer to where I come from. Ha ha just think of all the confusion if I actually where CONVINCED that I was a Dane – that would suddendly breed the notion of “the others out there” and ha ha who knows, maybe I would do something stupid someday – like say, to kill some of “these others” because I felt disconnected from them. What a terrible misunderstanding. Oh wait… did someone do that?

  9. @Dan Pettersson: As a swede I do like Sweden, and I’m not saying Americans shouldn’t like America. What I wish people would do is to broaden their vision, and from my experience Americans have a harder time doing that than others.

    @Berty: Why not?

    @grimman: Not angry, rather frustrated. As the US affects the world as much that it does, they have a bigger responsibility to look outside their borders. To become even more self-centered in that position will only lead to bad things…

    @Chris: I totally agree that you shouldn’t discard your culture. But there’s a difference in assuming others have (or want to have) the same culture and explaining yours. What I find with American authors more than with others, is that they more often assume things about culture.

    That said, I want to learn more about all my reader’s cultures, how do I best do that?

  10. I was really confused when reading the beginning of your post in my feed reader :)

    Sadly (?), I don’t know much about the things you tell us about. What books do you read? Tell us more about you instead of your country only (however, it depresses me you got a 100mbit connection ;)).
    The only book written by an American author that lives in my bookshelf is David Allens “Getting Things Done”. Every other English/American literature is prose or lyrics. And when I think about books that might interest me, I think about “The Pragmatic Programmer” or other techy stuff out there.
    I just can’t afford these books right now. Someone in Germany seems to like the idea of doubling the original prices (USD 20 to EUR 45) of books related to PC/Programming.
    And I honestly doubt that those books include a lot of cultural aspects.

    So what is your bookshelf looking like? “Show me your library and I can tell who you are” or something like this someone said once. It’s quite true, I think, although I myself am not so good at “interpreting” bookshelves :)

  11. Let’s be honest about Sweden as well. The largest party not making it into the Riksdag is Sverigedemokraterna who are populistic, xenophobic and nationalist. Not Swedens finest moment in my mind.

    The parties you’re mentioning got 0.63% and 0.68% respectively.

  12. Hi Emil! I’m from America too, but South America! Argentina more precisely.
    And it bothers me that the rest of the world when they say ‘Americans’ they are meaning just the people from U.S.A. I think that’s another example of their influence in the world.

  13. @Marcus Ahnve: Thanks for addings some extra facts. While I’m not happy with “Sverigedemokraterna” I still view all the new parties popping up as signs of a sound democracy. Sweden is not a perfect country, and probably not the best in the world.

  14. @Juani: Well said! People, just like me, forget to take a wider perspective and it gets consequences. Right there I pissed off a whole continent, and Canada. Sorry!

  15. I agree with you. I live in Virginia, but have traveled a fair bit through Central America and Europe, so my experience is different from many.
    I agree that as citizens of the United States, we need to look outside our own borders and remember there is a world out there that is not the US. I think a lot of people get lost in this country and forget that.
    I was talking with a friend from London last night she made the excellent point that we practically have to fly to get outside the country, whereas if we were in Europe, we could drive from country to country.
    And that made a lot of sense.
    Anyway, I’m rambling so I’ll shut up now. I wish we had the internet speeds and progressive, open government in this country that you do in yours.

  16. I’m curious. Was there a specific incident that prompted this post?

    One hopes that some reading it might relish the prospect of living in a society where taxation is used to provide proper services, where few are in poverty, where free education is available to almost anyone, where internet infrastructure is way ahead of most other countries, where there is a robust democracy and the electoral regulatory agency is not (and cannot be) hijcaked by any political party.

    Regrettably, few of these features can be found in Australia (which is rapidly turning into America).

    Jag har åkte till Sverige tre gånger och jag gilla det, men jag talar så väldit lite Svenska!
    (Hope I got that right!)


  17. @David Rodger: This is something that has gotten more and more apparent. Two things that got me extra frustrated was the US watchlists, that prevent people from traveling in and out of the country if they’ve got the wrong name. The second thing was a book called “The world is flat”, that is has it’s sections that are great, but also has large chunks of “lets not care about the rest of the world”. That’s an US author, writing about globalization, that clearly has gotten something wrong.

  18. I’m American and I understand where you are coming from. Americans have a certain type of Nationalism that needs more education and culture. We, as well as all countries, need to be a citizen from the same country – a citizen of the world.

  19. To a conservative American your essay reads something like this:

    “I’m not from America, but I’m protected by US troops, and employed by US economic activity and enjoying pirated US media.

    But America should do even more for me. They should adjust their media to my tastes, and they should adopt my country’s political customs and liberal viewpoint.”

    Read that way your post seems a little self centered…

    P.S. For what it’s worth, Ikea has done a lot to make Americans think highly of Sweden. Cheap and cheerful furniture, and meatballs, Yum!

  20. I recognize this article for some USA civilians, yep, I do, but not all.

    More political parties would be very healthy for the USA civilians, at least it makes them think again. You’re not born republic or democratic, there are more political nuances to think about walking around on this earth.

    This weak I had a thought the right to self defence, which implies to have weapens for civilians, is more worth to USA citizens then learning students which could be important for the future. Could they explain this after a year to the parents who lost their children? I’m very afraid we only have to wait until a next mental not healthy person copy cats the other murderers in another university.

    And yes, it is not only your own excellence which is important, my dear USA, it is also looking after you’re living and thinking you’re collaborating with.

  21. @Joe American: Let me reply like this to the American conservative: I don’t need protection by American troops, because Sweden has not been in war since 1918 (that’s 100 years ago). About the America economy helping me, yes, to some extent, but America is also helped by my economic activity. America is no different than any other country (I’m also helping the Brazil economy).

    I’m not saying everyone should adapt to me, that _would_ be self centered, I’m saying don’t automatically adapt to America. The world is larger than that.

  22. I like Emil, he is a great guy. I wish more people would be like him.

    But I just wanna say. Hurray for the USA, If it wasn´t for them we would have lived in Germany right now.

    If you feel like watching a movie, what do you pick ? One from Urguay !!
    I bet you pick a Hollywood one, I know I do..

    Spain, Portugal, England, France and even Sweden have built USA. Not to mention all the slaves from Africa, and the native Americans etc etc.

    We are all humans, and we should all be proud of our motherland.

    People from USA are only Europeans with a little more land.

    I love ém

    “Im a Swede btw”

  23. Well, who gives a rat’s ass about them yanks? Yes, their mentality is too self-centric (more because of a propaganda), but all in all they are just people. And they will learn how to live in a different world, for U.S. is in decline, and in for a long, slow, slide down into harsh reality.

    P. S. Didn’t see all the comments, before I posted, so I wanted to focus on comment 25. There is a perfect example of how American propaganda gets to people.

    Would I deny that America had substatial impact in Allies victory of WW II? No, it is true. But first of all, they did it not without self-benefit (war-time economy proppeled them out of the Great Depression, and that’s because they didn’t do it for free — weaponry, tanks, planes weren’t just give, they were land-leased). Once again, not to disregard good will of average American, and the blood they spilled.

    But let’s not forget, that they were not the only ones fighting Axis. And let me remind you of a country, that not that many Westerners like to mention. I’m talking about Soviet Union, that (let me indulge in pathos a bit here) “put on the altar of victory” over 25 million lives, including 18 million Russians.

    Yes, that victory was everybody’s — Russian, British, American, French, and other countries that participated. Let’s just remember them all, and not say stupid stuff, like Americans single-handedly saved the world from Nazi terror.

  24. More fact-checking: Sweden has not been in any war for almost 200 years. Last time we fought it was against Napoleon.

    Opinion: If American factories had not produced as much weaponry as Germany, Russia and Britain combined during the war, we might have been part of the Third reich – IMHO.

  25. You Swedes really need to get off your high horses some time. So what if Americans don’t want an Atheist president? The fact is that by and large we are a spiritual people and are proud of it. Swedes can be so bloody hypocritical. You talk about how “open-minded” you are but what you really mean is “We believe in anything that is LIBERAL/LEFT OF CENTER”. If it’s not that “we don’t want to hear it”. The fact is that an openly spiritual/religious Swedish PM is just as unlikely to get elected in Sweden as an atheist here. I’m amazed how you can go on and on about America but how many “open minded” Swedes have got on the T-bana to Rinkeby or Tensta in the past week? I mean really. Stop being so obsessed about America. Guess what, besides the gorgeous blonds (I love a backslick stekare any day of the week)…what is there to discuss? Yes Americans can be arrogant but so can Swedes. So just have a kebab and watch bingo lotto and chill out, will you….geez

    Having said that, Joe American, please recognize that half the problems we “solve” we “caused” in the first place. There’s no reason that a country that represents 5% of the population should use 50% of the world’s resources. Or, that segments of the population have the same infant mortality rates as certain countries in the East (ex. Poland)

  26. @Lars Günther: “1917-1918 Finnish Civil War; a Swedish Volunteer Regiment participated on the side of the Whites”. But a real war, yeah, you’re probably right.

    I’m not sure how US weapons have anything to do with this article.

    @dd ddd: I have no idea what you’re talking about. This article is about how the US needs to start to collaborate with the rest of the world and not assume the US IS the world. Agreed?

  27. Lars, I’ll repeat it once again — U.S. enjoyed huge economical benifit because of this war. Industrial tycoons were selling their stuff long before Americans entered the war (Frankly, those guys don’t really care whom to sell their stuff. Even now there was scandal of parts for F-14s were caught at the customs on the way to Iran.). And after that they had tremendous advantage of not having war action on their soil.

    And, being the only major industrial power in the world not ravaged by war, they were able to dedicate their resources to production.

    And funny thing is, that regular American people, those who fought, and those who worked day and night at the factories, did so because they believed they do it for good. They gave blood, sweat, and tears, but industrial tycoons didn’t cut into their profits much.

    P. S. 8000 Swedes volounteered for Finland in Talvisota (1939-40). ;)

  28. @Emil Stenström
    What I’m refering to are the comments made by Joe America and others above. Please try very hard to read with comprehension.
    My point was and is this: whatever you focus on expands. The very fact that on average everyday DN, SVD, Aftonbladet, etc. runs front page stories about every minute thing that is happening in America only reinforces the “America as center of the world” mentality. As the saying goes “imitation is the highest form of flattery. Perhaps is Swedes (and others) weren’t so obsessed about America, America wouldn’t be obsessed about itself. I find it hypocritical how Swedes complain about how self-centric America is yet consume so much of what is America. I mean if anything, take the lead of France. They too feel the same way about America and that’s why there is less consumption of “all things American” there. I feel if so many Swedes have certain feelings towards American, demonstrate it with your words. Instead of buying “American muffins” at Wayne’s Coffee, by “Canadian” or “Uruguayan” (or whatever” muffins. Instead of watching American movies all the time, watch South African movies, etc. Instead of everyday writing about what XYZ American is doing on the front pages of the newspapers, write about what is happening in Finland. And so on, and so forth. But once again, it’s pretty hypocritical to talk about how “America sees itself only as the world” when everywhere you look in Sweden there so much “Amerification….”

  29. What about China, almost
    the largest economic force in the world?

    I think it is lame to bash on the US. US people I met, they were just overly into Europe, and could not wait to live permanently here (=Belgium).

    Sweden is well respected for its high living standard and social efforts but I believe you should not mix up US foreign policy with US identity = over 50 states with so many different cultures and ways…

  30. @dd ddd: So what you’re saying is that since so many countries imitate the US, it has in fact become the world? I don’t pick up China or Sweden as examples because I don’t see that mentality there. Sweden has three core courses in school, Swedish, Math, and English. We know we can’t cope with only our own little language… Accept that the world is larger than your own country, no matter what country you live in. Agreed?

  31. @ddd,
    Um, I think you are allowing your emotions to cloud objectivity. My point is that I think Swedes lie to themselves alot. America bashing is a sport in Sweden. Yet, I don’t think you (meaning the collective “you” not “you” personally) realize how silly it looks when you all complain about America almost every micro-second of the day yet consume everything thing that you can which is “American” while you are doing it. There’s a Macdonald’s or 7-Eleven on every corner of Stockholm – and you know it. Please don’t mistake my points here. I am fully aware that less than 20% of Americans even have passports and that is a crying shame – I think Americans really miss out alot on life. But where we differ in opinion is that you seem to think it’s an “American” thing when I would argue it’s a “human” thing. When people cater to you, it makes you lazy — notice how many thousands of Swedes who eat meatballs and listen to SR or watch STV while on holiday in Spain every year. Since they know they are going to be catered to, most don’t bother learning even though they’ve been there every year for the past 10+ years. This is just a small example. I guess the point I am making is that I think it is down right foolish how obsessed Swedes appear with regard to criticizing America/-cans given how much you embrace culture. It would be like me walking around criticizing the French when I openly embrace everything French. So, I feel for all those Swedes who feel the way you do, you should avoid being hypocritical by bad-mouthing a country one minute, then imitating it the next. Seriously dude, it looks so stupid. I always chuckle when I watch Swedish television and one minute they ae talking about the shitty things America is doing then bring up some lame story about what such-and-such American celebrity is doing the next. I mean if Americans complained about Swedes the way Swedes complain about Americans, there would be no way in hell we’d be imitating them!!!

  32. Wow! What a thread. As an American by birth, I don’t take offense to Emil’s thoughts. But you also must remember that our country is a country of immigrants. I like Fredrik’s comment “People from USA are only Europeans with a little more land.” So funny, at least we started out that way. Until recently most of us didn’t need passports to travel to Canada or even Mexico. And yes, travelling around the 50 states but staying in our country does make a us spoiled and a little clueless to the rest of the world. But we exist because your ancestors and mine wanted a better life and religious freedom. I think most people who do come to America now still come for that reason. Yes, we need to raise our children more aware of their world, and not just of middle-east conflict. But our public schools have suffered from short sighted, money saving views. Our children aren’t taught the arts and even physical education has been phased out in some states. In California where I live (which, by the way is NOT all Hollywood) our schools have to teach to ‘state standards’ and little time for much else. The PEOPLE of the United States know that for all the ‘stuff’ we have, we’ve given up a lot of our soul. Our parents and their parents made sure we had better lifes and ours and the next generations turned that into being spoiled. The bright side – despite all this, contrary to what you hear mostly about us, our teens are becomming people who are serious and empowered to make the changes needed to improve our world and the world around us. We know it’s there.

  33. I have lived in American most of my life (I am American). But my mother is Swedish.

    What most Europeans don’t take into consideration, is that the average American, doesn’t travel. My wife had never seen snow until our honeymoon. I have a co-worker who is 30 and he has never seen an ocean. Most Americans don’t wander far from where they were born. When I tell people that I was born in Germany, they assume my father was in the military (and they would be right).

    My mother is the only reason I have traveled outside of the United States. She taught me how important it is to experience different cultures and people.

    I was visiting some of my family in Sweden several years ago in Uppsala (sp) I was in a great little pub and met a dozen or so college students. I think we spoke till almost morning. I taught them American slang and they taught me Swedish customs. It was an amazing evening of drinking and laughing. I also sold the Levis 501 jeans that I was wearing for a 100 USD.

    Most Americans just need to get out an experience the rest of the world.

  34. And the fact that you write your articles in english just adds to all this.

  35. @silversk8r: I write in english to be understood by as many as possible (without having to learn a new language). How has that to do with anything?

  36. Pingback: average american girl » Blog Archive » American bashing? From a web developer you say?
  37. Easy my friend! America is a big country and some of us are trying to get others to “think out side the box” that is Americanism!

    Have patience with us – we’re slow learners unless we can profit from it or it immediately threatens our life! *grin*

    Regards & Good Cheer

  38. PS – Cheers to you for learning English because I’m still trying to learn Spanish of all things and if not for your forethought I would not have benefited from your posts.

    Also your right nav menu on this page it aligned to the bottom:


  39. i like ur post… but i think a new point for this frustration is that they assume “global view” = china / india. so, instead of not knowing “what the rest of the world means”, these “Americans” (in quotation marks, not everyone, not a particular person, just on average), they now thought that “rest of the world” = China/ India and at best Europe = France.

  40. WOW!

    How easily fur can fly… :-)

    Read all the above twice, and still can’t manage to get upset…

    I’m a USA born citizen, and never lived in one place for over a year until I was married at 35 (my father built churches).

    I was 12 before I realized that moving so much was rare in the US.

    I believe most US citizens would first think “Huh?” to the original post.

    Not that I would argue the original post was wrong, but that the focus was a bit narrow.

    I’ve been around the world 3 times, private sailing, merchant marine, and the US Navy.

    You can find jerks anywhere, and good people next to most of them…

    Sometimes, finding a good dancer is hard, when all you can see are muddy feet.

    Your web site is a great tool to fight the good fight on ignorance and social change.

    Ease up a bit and take a deep breath, to avoid your good work being ignored.

    Social change is best done with small steps.

    William O. Yates


  41. Not every author in the USA writes for an international audience.

    If you do not like how random books assume you have knowledge of the USA then don’t pick up random books.

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