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Why some Europeans call Americans dumb (eloquent essay)

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Why some Europeans call Americans dumb (eloquent essay)

Postby Winston » Sun Nov 18, 2007 4:20 pm

Another eloquent essay by my cultural consultant. The conclusions are
so spot on!

Why Do Some Europeans Call Americans Dumb?

When I was working in Saudi Arabia, a British co-worker once told me:"
Let me sing you the national anthem of the country of dummies!" He
then proceeded to sing "the Star-Spangled Banner" with the following
lyrics: "dum.b dum.b dum.b dum.b dum.b du-uu-mb ". Another British
co-worker said that Americans were "the dumbest race of people on the
face of the Earth".

I asked him why? He said that he once made a phone call using an ATT&T
operator and inquired her if he could place a call to London. She
asked him " Where is London? Is that in Europe?" Later he told him
that whenever he switched the TV channel to see a rugby or a cricket
match, American co-workers would simply leave the room, totally
uninterested in the game. In his eyes, these incidents made Americans

America is the largest economy in the world and Americans call
themselves the richest country in the world. American leads the world
in technology, space exploration in other such areas. So, why is this
accusation of being "dum/b"? And if Americans are so du.mb, why is the
country so rich?

America is rich, there is no doubt about it. And it owes its riches to
many factors. The main factor is probably the culture built on
Protestant work ethics and solid North European common sense. People
work hard and they work smart. They know how to solve problems. While
some may call modern Americans "wastrels", the past generations had
been very thrifty. The country was built on free enterprise and for
hundreds of years the government had a laissez fair policy towards
business. The culture is forward looking with a "can do" attitude.
People are enthusiastic and believe that they can achieve their
individual dreams through discipline and never giving up. Add to this
the fact that education is much more accessible to many more people
than how it was in Europe and the fact that the society has a much
less rigid class structure and you've got yourself a rich country. And
don't forget the fact that the country has lots of natural resources
and unlike the European countries there have not been any major
invasions for the past 200 years or so.

So, where does this "dum.b" thing come from? I think what is happening
here is a classical case of intercultural misunderstanding. It occurs
when foreigners visit the US and when Americans go to foreign
countries. The people that call Americans d.umb for the most part are
Europeans. Latin Americans sometimes call US people uncultured, but
not necessarily dum.b. So, what is going on?

There seems to be a difference in education. Europeans believe in
being informed about the world outside. Being a well-rounded person is
seen as a virtue. In the US, according to Europeans, people are very
good at their individual professions and a few of their hobbies.
However, studying anything that does not lead to practical results, is
seen as a waste of time. That for some reason seems to include
Geography and World History. So, as long as a conversation between an
American and a foreigner runs along a specific topic such as business
or the American's chose field of expertise, everything seems fine.
Problems start when a European wants to have a broader discussion on
international culture or current world events ( the ones that do not
cover America's involvement in some war). Once a discussion like that
starts, an American tunes out. He gives his conversation partner a
blank look and starts feeling uncomfortable. Some Americans will even
say with pride "I don't know anything about ( insert the topic).?You
might be talking to a five-year-old for all one cares.

The neglected areas of Geography and any knowledge of the world
outside the US- a subject that many Europeans take for granted and
learn at an early age which seems to go largely uncovered in the US
causes the impression of 'dumbness'. Brits complain that when they
were in the US, MIT graduates would ask them questions such as : "Is
there a bridge between England and Scotland or do you take a ferry?
One Brit was fuming 봁o you know what that American asked me? He asked
me 멣o what language do you guys speak in England?? Australian TV once
ran a program where an Aussie went to some American city and stood
there with a map, asking people to show on the map where Australia was
and no one, allegedly, could do it.

And these are American reactions to people who come from fellow-
Anglo-Saxon countries! Things get worse when other countries are
involved. Numerous foreign students who go to the US to study complain
that most Americans have never even heard of their countries to begin
with. One Malaysian girl studying at a college in New York was almost
hysterical " No American has even heard of Malaysia". They keep asking
me " Where is that?" One Saudi Arabian official once told me this
story: He was studying in the US in 1980ies and once he was picnicking
with his friends when a man walked up to them and said " F*** you,
Iranian!" They promptly left the place but later decided to go back
and explain to him that they were not Iranians. Upon approaching the
angry man and telling him that they were not Iranians, the question
that came their way was " So, what the f**** are you?"." We are
Saudis!" to which the man replied " Same f****ing s**t!" In Latin
America tales abound of US presidents calling Brazilians "Bolivians"
and being surprised that Brazil had Black people. White South Africans
are asked " You come from Africa, how come you are white?"

The other thing that aggravates the situation is that, because of
geographical and cultural distances involved, even if Americans know
about the existence a country, they have a very distorted picture of
how life in those countries must be. Questions such as " Do you guys
have electricity or TV?" or" Do you guys live in houses and are there
cars in your country?" or "Are there big buildings in your country?"
are asked of Thais, Nigerians and Singaporeans, people whose countries
are quite modern in spite of poverty in some of them. Movies made in
the US about Russia or Korea or Africa notoriously portray poor
peasants and countryside devoid of any civilization whose people,
nevertheless speak English and who all want to go to the US. Since
most Americans have not been to those countries, they blindly believe
the simplified Hollywood version of the world.

A similar phenomenon occurs in the Philippines, a country that was
once a US colony and that adopted an American system of education.
Many foreigners visiting the Philippines or who work with Filipinos
often say that Filipinos, even those with BA degrees have not heard of
many countries unless they are those from which most tourists to the
Philippines come and where Filipinos work : USA, Canada, Japan,
Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Italy, etc. Having a worldly discussion with
many a Filipino is quite difficult in spite of the fact that they are
a well-educated nation.

Hollywood, too , plays a role by putting America in the center of the
world with other countries somehow being "run-away provinces" of
America, who one day will want to join the Union and become another
state of the US. They think that the world speaks English ( because on
the screen most people do) and if some people don't ( actually 75% of
people do not) then they should and soon will. Even the National
Geographic channel covers only the very modern or the very exotic
countries leaving a huge number of countries unmentioned. All these
factors contribute to the international "uninformed-ness" of an
average American and makes him or her appear "d.umb" when a meeting
between an American and a person of another culture takes place.

In all fairness, many Americans also see some other nations as
"dum.b". For example, the "Polish jokes" seems to be a uniquely
American phenomenon. Few people in Europe think that Poles are dum.b.
Countries surrounding Poland actually think of them as astute,
discreet and highly cultured people. In Russia, for example, a Pole is
highly respected as being intelligent and even aristocratic. Possibly,
the Polish immigrants to the States were originally poor and appeared
"d.umb" to Americans since they did not function well in the American
culture in the beginning. French Canadians whose English was often
poor and who also acted clumsy when they first arrived as immigrants
in the US, were described as "dum.b". But these adjusted to the
country, learned the language and the culture and are no longer
referred to as such. However, the "du.mb" American image persists,
especially in Europe.

Being uninformed about the rest of the world does more harm than
earning the title of being "d.umb". People who think that they live in
paradise while unaware of the many social and technological
improvements that are always taking place in other countries will
eventually fall behind in many areas. They will not be able to adopt
many exciting innovations that are being introduced around the world
all the time. Japan had video- cell phones as early as late nineties
and Singapore solved its race problem once and for all by very
ingenuous quota systems that seem to benefit rather than harm. Many
countries, such as Slovenia ( Where is that?) have small per capita
prison populations and have much better programs to rehabilitate
prisoners. However, if Americans do not know about them, how will the
country improve?

They will not be able to elect good leaders and will support
international campaigns of dubious usefulness which drain US resources
by diverting money from home to some overseas ventures in which
patriotic Americans always die. They will believe myths about how the
rest of the world is a God-forsaken place and if they become just like
the US, they will be OK.

Such ignorance creates suffering and death and stalls progress at home
and abroad. And changing that requires improving the education at home
and creating a new generation of highly intelligent, worldly citizens.
Such Americans will probably be the world's most perfect human beings.
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Postby Winston » Sun Nov 18, 2007 4:24 pm ... aphy.quiz/

Among 18-24 year old Americans given a map:

87% cannot find Iraq
83% cannot find Afghanistan
76% cannot find Saudi Arabia
70% cannot find New Jersey
49% cannot find New York
29% cannot find the Pacific Ocean
11% cannot find the United States
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Postby Winston » Sun Nov 18, 2007 4:50 pm

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Postby momopi » Mon Nov 19, 2007 10:11 pm

SOURCE: ... /exam.html
The following document was transcribed from the original document in the collection of the Smoky Valley Genealogy Society, Salina, Kansas. This test is the original eighth-grade final exam for 1895 from Salina, Kansas. An interesting note is the fact that the county students taking this test were allowed to take the test in the 7th grade, and if they did not pass the test at that time, they were allowed to re-take it again in the 8th grade. Also of note, the school year was but 7 months, allowing 5 months for planting, farming and harvest.

April 13, 1895
J.W. Armstrong, County Superintendent.

Examinations at Salina, New Cambria, Gypsum City, Assaria, Falun, Bavaria, and District No. 74 (in Glendale Twp.)

Reading and Penmanship. - The Examination will be oral, and the Penmanship of Applicants will be graded from the manuscripts

Grammar (Time, one hour)

1. Give nine rules for the use of Capital Letters.
2. Name the Parts of Speech and define those that have no modifications.
3. Define Verse, Stanza and Paragraph.
4. What are the Principal Parts of a verb? Give Principal Parts of do, lie, lay and run.
5. Define Case, Illustrate each Case.
6. What is Punctuation? Give rules for principal marks of Punctuation.
7-10. Write a composition of about 150 words and show therein that you understand the practical use of the rules of grammar.

Arithmetic (Time, 1.25 hours)

1. Name and define the Fundamental Rules of Arithmetic.
2. A wagon box is 2 ft. deep, 10 feet long, and 3 ft. wide. How many bushels of wheat will it hold?
3. If a load of wheat weighs 3942 lbs., what is it worth at 50 cts. per bu, deducting 1050 lbs. for tare?
4. District No. 33 has a valuation of $35,000. What is the necessary levy to carry on a school seven months at $50 per month, and have $104 for incidentals?
5. Find cost of 6720 lbs. coal at $6.00 per ton.
6. Find the interest of $512.60 for 8 months and 18 days at 7 percent.
7. What is the cost of 40 boards 12 inches wide and 16 ft. long at $.20 per inch?
8. Find bank discount on $300 for 90 days (no grace) at 10 percent.
9. What is the cost of a square farm at $15 per acre, the distance around which is 640 rods?
10. Write a Bank Check, a Promissory Note, and a Receipt.

U.S. History (Time, 45 minutes)

1. Give the epochs into which U.S. History is divided.
2. Give an account of the discovery of America by Columbus.
3. Relate the causes and results of the Revolutionary War.
4. Show the territorial growth of the United States.
5. Tell what you can of the history of Kansas.
6. Describe three of the most prominent battles of the Rebellion.
7. Who were the following: Morse, Whitney, Fulton, Bell, Lincoln, Penn, and Howe?
8. Name events connected with the following dates: 1607, 1620, 1800, 1849, and 1865?

Orthography (Time, one hour)

1. What is meant by the following: Alphabet, phonetic orthography, etymology, syllabication?
2. What are elementary sounds? How classified?
3. What are the following, and give examples of each: Trigraph, subvocals, diphthong, cognate letters, linguals?
4. Give four substitutes for caret 'u'.
5. Give two rules for spelling words with final 'e'. Name two exceptions under each rule.
6. Give two uses of silent letters in spelling. Illustrate each.
7. Define the following prefixes and use in connection with a word: Bi, dis, mis, pre, semi, post, non, inter, mono, super.
8. Mark diacritically and divide into syllables the following, and name the sign that indicates the sound: Card, ball, mercy, sir, odd, cell, rise, blood, fare, last.
9. Use the following correctly in sentences, Cite, site, sight, fane, fain, feign, vane, vain, vein, raze, raise, rays.
10. Write 10 words frequently mispronounced and indicate pronunciation by use of diacritical marks and by syllabication.

Geography (Time, one hour)

1. What is climate? Upon what does climate depend?
2. How do you account for the extremes of climate in Kansas?
3. Of what use are rivers? Of what use is the ocean?
4. Describe the mountains of N.A.
5. Name and describe the following: Monrovia, Odessa, Denver, Manitoba, Hecla, Yukon, St. Helena, Juan Fernandez, Aspinwall and Orinoco.
6. Name and locate the principal trade centers of the U.S.
7. Name all the republics of Europe and give capital of each.
8. Why is the Atlantic Coast colder than the Pacific in the same latitude?
9. Describe the process by which the water of the ocean returns to the sources of rivers.
10. Describe the movements of the earth. Give inclination of the earth.

Health (Time, 45 minutes)

1. Where are the saliva, gastric juice, and bile secreted? What is the use of each in digestion?
2. How does nutrition reach the circulation?
3. What is the function of the liver? Of the kidneys?
4. How would you stop the flow of blood from an artery in the case of laceration?
5. Give some general directions that you think would be beneficial to preserve the human body in a state of health.


Completed answers:
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Postby dsc » Mon Nov 26, 2007 6:26 am

WWu777 wrote:Aussie program on talking to Americans:

Part 1:

Part 2:

This is actually Canadian, Winston.

I won't hold it against you for now knowing. I have relatives in Seattle and every time I visit, I notice the news shows very little of nearby Canada.

Rick Mercer is a national icon in Canada. His show has been around for a decade and is an unceasing source of amusement.

Thanks for sending the links, however..

While visiting in Canada, my brother (currently residing in Seattle) liked this show about talking to Americans so much, he had to tape it and bring a copy back home!!
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Are Americans dumb?

Postby Kris » Fri Feb 27, 2009 10:07 pm

I think the problem lies in what you are being taught or not taught. One of my pet hates is : -

British - IS NOT AN ACCENT nor is Britain a country

Scots, Welsh, Irish and English are all accents from the British Isles - a collection of four countries.

Europe is not a country and nor is Scandinavia

Very funny YouTube clip and the host is brilliant ... re=related

Female - "I'm listening to what you're saying but I only hear what I want to."
Host - "That's just called being a woman." :lol:
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