One of the joys of being an American expat is that people are constantly educating me about my home country. Local Hongkongers and European expats love to tell me how fat and ignorant Americans are. The Euros particularly love to tell me how my country lacks culture. The one thing all these people have in common is that they have never visited the U.S. Nevertheless, they insist that their experience with the U.S., which consists of watching American movies and TV, somehow gives them some special insight into American culture that my 30 years of living in the U.S. didn’t provide me with.
I know many Americans are overweight, and I know many Americans are ignorant about the world. I’m aware of the stereotypes, and I can even see that these stereotypes are in part based on reality. But the facts on the ground are a little more complicated than that. Surprisingly, people in HK seem to be unaware of the fact that the U.S. is a large, diverse country. People in HK think that HK is diverse (with it’s 5% minority population), and therefore simply cannot comprehend the scale of American diversity.
I am often confronted by people who dress like Americans, use American slang, watch American movies and listen to American music, telling me that the U.S. has no culture of it’s own. Europeans think U.S. culture is a simply a bastardized version of their own. The fact that foreigners like to mimic my culture does not negate the existence of that culture. The fact that my culture is relatively young, and is a blended culture, does not mean it is somehow not a real culture.
It’s not my fault that Europeans and Asians lack the nuanced understanding of U.S. culture to appreciate the good American music, movies and television. The American music that’s popular abroad tends to be lyrically and musically unsophisticated. This is particularly true of hip hop. I get why the interesting stuff isn’t exportable. But when people use the crappy American music that’s popular overseas as an example of how ignorant Americans are, I tend to lose patience with them.
The fact that McDonald’s and MTV are popular in France reflects badly on France, not the U.S. If we can trick you into consuming our low grade beef and cultural leftovers, and keep the good stuff for ourselves, that’s on you Frenchie, not me.
Sorry for the rant, had to get that out of my system.