Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Often Foreigners See Us More Clearly Than We See Ourselves

Sometimes I think that many, if not most, Americans think of people living outside of the US as not as smart, not living as good a life, just somehow less than Americans.   But I suspect that non-American see us much more clearly and objectively than we see them or ourselves.

Most educated folks outside the US tend to speak and read and understand English at a level that few Americans (other than immigrants) can match with other languages.  They can read understand our newspapers and listen to and understand our television news.   How is it that someone who only speaks American English thinks he's smarter and knows better than people in other countries who speak their own language plus ours, and sometimes a few more?

They know way more about us than most of us know about them.

For example,  this Dutch TV host seems to see our gun problem much more clearly than many Americans.  How many Americans even know who heads the government of Holland, or even what his or her title is?

OK, to be fair to Americans, because we have been the West's most powerful nation and have great influence on the rest of the world,  we are the country that others are most interested in knowing about.  Or at least have had the most reason to keep track of what we do.  And because English is the lingua franca of most of the world, it's much easier for English speakers to travel the world using English.  The people of Holland cannot expect too many people, when they travel outside of Holland, to speak or understand Dutch.  So they have a greater incentive to learn at least enough English to get by with.

While that explains why it's easier for us to just get by with English, it doesn't change the fact that that means the rest of the world knows a lot more about us than we know about them.  And that gives them a leg up on us that we should be more humble about than we are.

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