Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Danish Impressions of America

Hello Everyone!

I hope everyone one is well and, for those of you in school (which should be the large majority of you), I hope you are rocking in your classes!

I mentioned in an earlier post that I talked to my host mom's dad and talked to him about his impression of the US and how it didn't jive with what I thought Europeans thought of the US.

First off, I just want to say what I thought Europeans would have thought. I thought Europeans would consider Americans to be ignorant, proud, wasteful as well as hardworking, educated, and independent. I thought that for the most part Europeans would consider us slightly negative, positive or neutral, in other words, somewhere near the middle. This view of mine lacked substantive evidence as I had never been to Europe and all of the Europeans I had talked to had lived in the US for a significant amount of time.

After talking to quite a few Danes I've learned that the impression of the US is generally pretty positive (as I assume most Americans think of Europeans). One thing that is interesting is that many Danes (and prolly Europeans in general) are very interested in Obama and usually like him a lot. Whenever a Danish person starts talking to an American they will almost certainly get around to asking about Obama and what the American thinks of him and the political climate as a whole. I have been asked several times if I am annoyed with Obama for not delivering as much as he promised (i.e. there are still problems that Obama promised to fix). I usually just reply that he came into office with a lot of big problems and it would be unfair to expect him to fix them all. I also try to highlight that there has been a lot of difficulty recently with the legislative branch as the parties have been heavily resisting each other which has contributed to Obama's partial inability to enact legislation to the effect he would have wanted to.

Anyway, talking to my host mom's dad. He has traveled the world quite a bit (in fact he had just returned from a trip in Southeast Asia... I think...). He sails a lot and also just loves to travel. Additionally, I am the fourth student my host family has hosted (I may have mentioned that earlier) and my host mom's dad hosted DIS students back when my host mom was a kid. Therefore, some of his most extensive relationships with Americans are going to be with individuals like me, young, interested in Denmark, open-minded, liberal, polite, etc. His view of Americans is that they are generally nice, talkative, open-minded, and friendly (which I think is pretty congruent with all of the Danes I have talked to). He also said that he thinks that every European is going to think the US could improve this or do this that way but at the end of the day, the large majority of Europeans think very highly of the US and will support the US in its endeavors. One very important reason for this (for him, I have not heard anything similar from any other Dane, I also have not asked) is that he feels like many Europeans are very thankful for the US's support during WWII in defeating the Nazis. He said that Denmark owes its freedom to the US and for that reason Danes will always be thankful towards the US and will support them. He went on to explain that Denmark, while it is a very small country, contributes what it can to the efforts of the United States and often sends troops (or monetary assistance) to support US troops in places like Afghanistan and Iraq.

Of course, he was eager to tell me his two major problems with the US. They were The National Debt and the US's impact on the environment. He thinks that the US should either not spend so much money or should tax its citizens more rather than borrow from China. And of course he thinks Americans rely too much on fossil fuels (I agree) being the environmentally minded Dane that he is (Danes are very environmentally friendly).

So that was him, if I remember anything else he said, or I talk to my host family and want to add something to these thoughts I'll put it in a later blog. But yeah, overall positive review from him.

Another thing that I found interesting was that many Europeans think that the US is very dangerous and that there is a lot of crime. This seems to be an impression that a lot of Europeans have (due of course to some degree by the media). I was first asked by a student at DIA if it was dangerous to live in the US and I was surprised and said no and then questioned my host family and adults at my volunteer sites if this was an impression they had. They said that it was. I don't know about other parts of the United States but having grown up in Austin, it has been very safe and talking to friends from Chicago and Seattle, they have also said that it is generally safe as long as you don't do stupid things (e.g count large amounts of cash in plain site, walk around the south side of Chicago at 2 am, etc.). My host dad even said that many Europeans would not want to move to the US today because they would feel like it is not safe. Huh... I didn't know...

I have also made a habit of asking Danes if they have been to America (because I want to know what they think and where they have been), many of them say no but they all very very much want to go. If they are young adults (i.e. on their own) they quickly point out how expensive it is and that they want to visit the East Coast (mostly New York and Miami) or California and if they are younger (like the students at DIA) they always are very interested and almost always immediately say they want to go to New York.

So that's what I have for my impressions of Americans so far, many people think well of the US overall. Again, I will add more thoughts to later posts if more interesting things come up. If anyone has any impressions the would like to add from their travels (Europe or elsewhere), please do so in the comments as I am interested and other people may be. I would also like to know if anyone else had assumptions similar to the ones I had prior to talking to many Europeans..

Furthermore (if you don't go to Southwestern you can ignore this paragraph), there is a counter culture blog that has sprung up in response to my blog, and I encourage you guys to submit your stories to it (the esteemed Sam Reese is the co-head author with Elmira Mehdizadeh) as I am eager to hear about exciting things happening back home! For example I heard about some poor bloke named Kynan Murtagh who just collapsed today out of exhaustion (most likely behavior that has been seen before and frequently) and then died on the spot, due to illness (presumably some super virus). Luckily the heath services were called and rushed to his aid (they were greatly needed) and everything turned out alright. If anyone wants to offer an alternate version of that story then feel free, but until then, that should be the accepted version. But seriously, I want to hear about y'alls lives so tell Sam/Elms to write more or ask if you can write a column for them.

Well, I have been doing a lot of fun things so I will try and tell you guys about that before next week (I have a paper do... oh yeah and I'm going to Scotland for a week).  So hopefully talk to everyone soon!


P.S. Thanks Erik, it was a pretty good roller coaster.


  1. An e%tremely STRONG individual of possibly italian descent named Kynar Murtachi recently felt overwhelming gratitude towards mother earth after bench pressing 400 pounds rapidly for 50 straight minutes. His concern for and gratefulness to mother earth may have given the appearance of his being incapacitated, which forced health services to get involved. They proceeded to be in awe of his great strength and offered to walk him home in exchange for tales of adventure and italian mystery.


  2. Err definitely not the story I heard from Denise who called the ResLife office to ask us to be creepy and FIND the young man with dark curly hair and glasses who lived in LC 507. And I did! And it was fine. But Denise was very worried, and definitely made it sound like this mysterious young man was dying. But it was not true!! So happy ending, all in all...

    Also this is all very interesting!! Maybe the view of the US as dangerous comes from the high rates of gun violence? Just because it is so much higher here than so many other developed countries... Wouldn't have really thought of that though!

  3. Nick! This was a great post and extremely informative. I have some friends (one) in Sweden, and they (he) like(s) to ask my about Obama too. I am very glad that the impressions are all around positive, because I would not want people to identify you as an American and then kill you on the spot.

    Also, Kynan, you can only bench press eleven jellybeans.

    Also, Nick, have you mentioned that you are from Texas? I often wonder whether Europeans have specific views about Texas/Texans. Before I moved to Texas, the only impression I had of it was that everyone was a cowboy and had a horse. Admittedly, I was six, but maybe there is a similar sentiment in the European culture?