Americans living in Europe
What I discovered about them
Did you know that Germany is home to over 145’000 Americans? Many of which are active military members who live in military communities spread throughout Germany.
I am a part of one of those close-knit American communities, though really, I suppose I am a bit of an imposter. I speak English, but with a different accent, a kind of “brother from a different mother…. land.” Referred to affectionately as Paul “The Brit.”
During the time I have lived with this Ex-Pat community they have kind of adopted me, and I in return have begun to grow more and more affectionate about America and Americans as a whole, including:
How nice the majority of the people are
Americans are a very friendly, cordial bunch. When you meet them travelling through Europe, you might make the mistake of thinking that this friendliness is insincere. It is a trap that friends of mine have fallen into; “they are always super friendly, it’s so fake.” Well, I disagree; I believe that their friendliness is entirely honest. Perhaps people have gotten the wrong impression through personal experiences from the service industry, where servers and waitresses work for tips. However people that have nothing to gain from you, are still abundantly friendly and genuinely warm.
Americans are not backwards, about coming forwards
In general they are very forthcoming in compliments, encouragement, or in giving you their thoughts and opinions on something. The only warning is that you’re probably going to get their opinion whether you asked for it or not! On occasion these opinions can intrude into areas that in Europe would not be welcomed; such as parenting, safety, or politics - areas that other countries including the UK, would rather you just took your own responsibility for. It is not long before you just accept this as part of the overall warmth of the people and I am pretty sure it comes from an internal compass pointing towards goodness and helpfulness. Which leads me to my next point.
Helpful to the point of family
Americans are the most helpful people I have ever met. I have rarely had to ask any of my friends for help, because it is always offered. Not so long ago I was moving house for the 3rd time in a year, when I moved from the UK to Amsterdam, my father helped me and my wife pack up, but we unpacked alone. When we moved from Amsterdam, to Frankfurt, no one helped at all. But when I moved from Frankfurt to Wiesbaden, a team of my friendly American friends volunteered, took time out of their day and arrived to help. Both where I was moving from and where I was moving. It’s not just physical help either, I found all are keen to mentor, teach, inspire and support in every area of work and life. I am not sure where this intrinsic desire to help comes from, but it is a prevalent and wonderful trait in Americans.
Sporting opinion and competiveness seem to be hard wired into an American’s DNA. It doesn’t matter if the sport is being played at a local, amateur, regional or professional level, you will be hard pressed to find someone who has no interest in sports. You will also find that even if the person has little interest in the actual sport itself, they will always have an interest in being a part of the sporting movement that accompanies it. The whole drama of the event, and celebration of a team’s efforts is celebrated in colorful noise and pride. Sports form the basis of many conversations, friendly rivalries and extravagant TV networks. The USA does sports better than nearly every country in the world and as an outsider it’s hard not to get swept up in it. Even if sometimes they get a little carried away with themselves, recently an advert on an American sports channel described the Super bowl as “the biggest sporting event on earth.” Most research actually shows that it is not even in the top 3. It regularly sits behind the FIFA Soccer world cup, the Olympics and even the Finals of ex British colonial sports, such as cricket and rugby. But who am I to let facts get in the way of some great hyperbole!
Incredible Sense of National Pride & Identity
No-where on earth does a sense of national pride exude stronger than from the people of America. A country that gave the world some of man’s greatest achievements; the moon landing, the Internet, nuclear power, the world’s first mass-produced car and the hamburger. In the UK and in many other countries in Europe, there is a strong sense of identity, but not necessarily pride. In fact the paving of a path to becoming more European has diluted much of the identity that would other wise inspire pride. America does not need to do such a thing and living in a small American community in a foreign country, the bond and sense of identity is perhaps even greater. It is formed from relying on each other and the gratitude of being able to do so.
The stereotypical American in most European comedy films is overweight, brash and loud. I have met people that fit this mold. It has happened, but not regularly. Just the same as not every Brit looks and talks like Hugh Grant, you have met those that do, but they are the exception, as opposed to the rule. I feel that if I lived in mainland America, I would much more closely resemble the stereotypical comedy American, rather than Hugh Grant in a matter of months. Because American food is absolutely AMAZING! Even though some of it is so bad for you, it verges on poison. The rich mixture of immigrants from all over the globe, means that foods from cultures all over the world have arrived on their shores. Over the years these have been developed into hybrid dishes, which are as delicious as they are bad for you.
Many other reasons
There are numerous reasons why I enjoy getting to know Americans and sometimes I even feel like I am living in America, without ever having left Europe and there are several perks to this. As I am still in Europe, I can enjoy everything I have talked about with a lower threat of gun violence and free healthcare for instance. Also I will tend to keep on meeting Americans that for the main part are well-travelled, culturally sensitive and worldly wise. The shame is that many Europeans will buy into the TV madness and be fooled into thinking that Americans can be a brash, gun crazy, cultureless people. If only they could experience what I have and see that the citizens of the United States are largely better adjusted, world savvy and educated than most people in Europe give them credit for.
At a time where politics, gun crime and racism saturate U.S. news story’s in European media, I thought I would share my opinion on actual Americans I have experienced, real ones, not just the ones you see on TV. To live in an American community and experience their national identity and pride, it is so infectious that it is actually impossible to live among them and it not rub off on you.