From Ugly to Just Plain American

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jingjai
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From Ugly to Just Plain American

Post by jingjai » January 11, 2011, 5:13 pm

I'm gonna take a chance here...I'm not posting this to start yet another debate. I think it is an interesting Op-Ed piece.

http://articles.latimes.com/2011/jan/10 ... s-20110110
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From ugly to just plain American
Diversity stateside, the weak dollar and the rise of other global powers have changed how U.S. visitors act overseas and how Europeans see them.
Op-Ed
January 10, 2011|GREOGRY RODRIGUEZ

The ugly American — the stereotypically brutish, ethnocentric, bumbling traveler abroad — is dead. He's gone the way of global U.S. hegemony, the strong dollar and mid-20th century American naivete.

Thirty years ago, the streets of major European capitals were awash with wide-eyed, culturally entitled, middle-class American tourists who were members of the first generation to take advantage of foreign travel. Once the exclusive province of the elite, the Grand Tour (albeit scaled down) suddenly became available to the average suburbanite, supported by modern transportation technology, a strong U.S. currency and America's unparalleled international status.

But if global dominance produced a certain type of traveler, it makes sense that what Fareed Zakaria has dubbed the post-American era would produce another.

I've spent the past three weeks in Britain, Germany and here in Spain, and I've been struck by how unexceptional the American has become in Europe, as well as how the perception of us as a people is shifting.

Far from projecting an image of narrow-minded superiority, Americans abroad today are more reflective of the country's expanding diversity and cultural sophistication. They come from a broader array of backgrounds and traditions. Many still have strong ties to homelands around the globe.

That diversity partly explains why one recent survey of hoteliers found that of all Western travelers, Americans were most likely to speak the local language.

Linn Peterson, a Vermont native who has lived in Spain since 1977, says that 30 years ago, American tourists and expatriates were mostly interested in replicating the comforts of home abroad. "The people who come now," he says, "are looking for something other than America."


It also stands to reason that we are less "ugly" abroad because more of us confront and negotiate all sorts of cultural differences in our lives stateside. From small-town Indiana to suburban Atlanta, Americans are bumping shoulders with people from many backgrounds and negotiating cultural difference every day.

This cultural openness also comes at a time when the U.S. dollar is losing its dominance. That fact alone could easily be behind the change in attitude.

"Americans were more rude when the dollar was strong," said a longtime waiter at Madrid's landmark Cerveceria Alemana bar. Today, he told me, they are más suave — more mellow.

This more diverse, culturally fluent and easygoing American tourist also meets a world that knows a lot more about the United States than it did a generation ago — and it can better match the new tourist to the new image.

No more cowboys and Indians, for example. "Spaniards no longer ask how big our ranch is back home," Peterson says. "Thirty years ago, most of their knowledge of us came from movies and TV shows."

Not only is the world getting smaller, but changes in the United States also have given foreigners more opportunities to identify with us. The historic election of President Obama two years ago is the example that many Europeans point to.

Jeff Dayton-Johnson, a California-born economist at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris, tells the story of giving a speech the day after Obama's election to a largely African-born French audience.

"People were crying," he said, "and thanking me as if I had personally delivered the White House to Obama. The election really gave people a bigger sense of our population's diversity. I don't think they see us as a people so vastly different from everyone else anymore."

And we aren't. In the 1980s, I lived in Madrid for a year, and I can attest to the fact that since then the cultural distance between Spain and the U.S. has clearly narrowed. The Spanish are more like us and we are more like them — in the clothes we wear, the way we spend our leisure time and the size of the cars we drive.

A week ago Sunday, for example, much to the chagrin of this country's ardent smokers, a public smoking ban almost as strict as California's went into effect. Likewise, the global rise of English and the mass-media-fueled international youth culture has made it a lot harder to tell who is or isn't an American at restaurants, clubs and bars.

The end of the exceptional American suggests that we're not only more invisible, but we're less of a target of outsize hope or disdain.


Just a decade ago, in the days after 9/11, I was in Berlin, where I was easily picked out as an American, and strangers on the street offered me their condolences. Not long afterward, a fellow diner at a restaurant in Rome recognized me and my friends as Americans and started yelling anti-U.S. slogans at us. Admittedly, in 2011, the timing is less fraught, but no one picked me out as if I were wearing the Stars and Stripes, or made me a stand-in for U.S. politics.

I suspect that America's post-imperial angst and the rise of other global powers will have the world projecting less and less powerful feelings on the U.S. and its casual ambassadors abroad. For better or worse, we're just not so special anymore.


grodriguez@latimescolumnists.com
I'd like to point out this Op-Ed piece has nothing to do with American politics, arrogant U.S. politicians, or the right to own a gun.



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Re: From Ugly to Just Plain American

Post by DermotC » January 11, 2011, 5:27 pm

I dunno Jingjai, I can still pick most Americans out of a group of people. Usually the blue jeans, sneakers and a baseball cap gives it away. The message of the article hasnt been lost on me though. I think Americans do try to fit in better with the rest of us. Having said that I feel very comfortable around Americans having spent 10 years with them. Attitudes are changing, there is no doubt. Wheather its to do with Obama, I doubt it but it certainly didnt hurt.

All in all, a very interesting article.

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Re: From Ugly to Just Plain American

Post by rayc1965 » January 11, 2011, 7:26 pm

Are you serious? I've never worn a baseball cap in my life except when I played ball. I can spot a European a mile away with their tank top, flip flops, shorts and loud mouth. I believe you are being a little arrogant with the comment that Americans are trying to fit in with you.

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Re: From Ugly to Just Plain American

Post by rayc1965 » January 11, 2011, 7:56 pm

And by looking at the author of the posted article, grodriguez, I doubt if he would stand out as an American.

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Re: From Ugly to Just Plain American

Post by DermotC » January 11, 2011, 8:01 pm

rayc1965 wrote:Are you serious? I've never worn a baseball cap in my life except when I played ball. I can spot a European a mile away with their tank top, flip flops, shorts and loud mouth. I believe you are being a little arrogant with the comment that Americans are trying to fit in with you.
Now that is hillarious coming from an American saying Europeans have loud mouths! Chuckle Chuckle. I never said Americans are trying to fit in with ME! I said they are trying to fit in with the rest of us and agreeing with the article written by an American. Having spent 10 years of my life dealing with Americans on a daily basis I think Im qualified to my opinions. And an American calling a European arrogant, again Chuckle chuckle!

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Re: From Ugly to Just Plain American

Post by rayc1965 » January 11, 2011, 8:25 pm

Again, I doubt if Gregory Rodriguez would be able to pass off as being American in any country. And I don't believe any American feels the need to "fit in" with anyone. The funny thing is pretty much everyone on this site is a foreigner in another country and they are still stereotyping other cultures. I read this article and your comment and it just reminds me why I came to Asia in the first place, to get away from all that B.S.

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Re: From Ugly to Just Plain American

Post by jingjai » January 11, 2011, 9:02 pm

I grew up wearin jeans. Still love 'em. Most comfortable pants I own. I got jeans in my closet that are close to 30 years old. I'm proud to say I can still button them around the waist...even though they are a little bit tight there :oops: . I'd wear jeans more often here in Thailand, except it's too damn hot most of the time.
As far as baseball hats go...I have quite a collection of them. Everything from sports teams to police departments to fire departments, to military units, to restaurants & bars, etc. In Hawaii I wore them frequently to protect my face from the sun while driving my convertible, and when I went to the beach or fishing. Also, if I do say so...baseball hats look pretty damn good on me. Once again, I don't wear hats here much, because it's too damn hot most of the time.
In addition, in my experience, t-shirts and hats can be a catalyst for a friendship. I can't begin to count the number of times I've worn a t-shirt or cap from somewhere and someone who has also been there, comments on it, or I've commented on a t-shirt or cap they were wearing. Sometimes, believe it or not, we even mutually know some of the same people. Like instant friends. I'm talking people from all over the globe. Not just fellow Americans.
Wear your jeans, t-shirts, sneakers, and cap proudly =D> !
Perhaps, the secret to world peace, is the humble cap and t-shirt? :lol:

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Re: From Ugly to Just Plain American

Post by DermotC » January 11, 2011, 9:25 pm

Jing, I too wear jeans and in fact I just came back from dinner wearing Jeans and a baseball cap. Mt favourite cap is a West Virginia cap with the number 16 on the back. That was a guy called Chris Grays number. He was a quarter back for WV back in the day. He was my best friend and he was killed on 9/11. I dont have a problem with Jeans and tees and Baseball caps as I wear them myself however no matter what people think you can still pick an American out of a crowd and I never said that was a bad thing. I think the other poster has a bit of an inferiority complex. Having said that I understand where hes coming from in his last post. Can i also say that there are idiots everywhere, in America, In Ireland, In England etc etc etc and its not down to nationality.

One more thing Id like to clear up....My passport says Im an Irish Citizen. Europe is not set up like America. We dont have 'States' we have countries who bond together for Economic strength. So when people say Eurofag, Euro Muslim countries it annoys me no end. Im Irish, Period!

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Re: From Ugly to Just Plain American

Post by rayc1965 » January 12, 2011, 1:18 am

Ni inferiority complex here. I started reading these threads when I first starting coming to Udon Thani several years ago. It seems that there are many individuals who start a thread and turns it into "where you are from" bashing. NOBODY on these threads are from here. Everone has an opinion, and I am one that is pro choice and believes everyone is entitled to there opinion. But when someone starts labeling individuals based on their nationality, they need to realize where they are at. My intention was not to start an arguement, there are too many on these threads, but basing an opinion based on an article written by a supposed American named Gregory Rodriguez does get a little under my skin.

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Re: From Ugly to Just Plain American

Post by JimboPSM » January 12, 2011, 1:46 am

rayc1965 wrote:..... but basing an opinion based on an article written by a supposed American named Gregory Rodriguez does get a little under my skin.
Bio of "supposed American" Gregory Rodriguez an "Opinion Columnist" on the LA Times:
Gregory Rodriguez is an Irvine Senior Fellow and Director of the California Fellows Program at New America Foundation, a non-partisan public policy institute.

He has written widely on issues of national identity, social cohesion, assimilation, race relations, religion, immigration, ethnicity, demographics and social and political trends in such leading publications as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Economist.

He is the author of Mongrels, Bastards, Orphans and Vagabonds: Mexican Immigration and the Future of Race in America, which The Washington Post listed among the "Best Books of 2007."
Columnists at LA Times:

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Re: From Ugly to Just Plain American

Post by thrilled » January 12, 2011, 2:07 am

yeah i wear the jeans when it's not to hot.I also wear the baseball hat.I played baseball when I was young.Then in the airforce stationed in florida and udon I wore the baseball type hat.I thought people did in other countries as well.
I guess it shows ya,i'm not very observant.

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Re: From Ugly to Just Plain American

Post by rayc1965 » January 12, 2011, 2:22 am

I would like too say I am impressed, but I'm not. Notice Spain is the only country that he refers to as being similiar to America. Why do you that is? You see, I don't believe wealth defines a person, as Mr. Rodriguez claims. In reality, a weak dollar would mean the middle class would be the ones staying home, not traveling abroad. Obama being elected has nothing to do with anyones attitude who travels abroad. Individuals, no matter where they are from, are either comfortable with what they have or they have a supeiorority complex and feel they are better than anyone else. "Americans" are no better or no worse than any individual from any other country and no one person can claim that their country does not have idiots who believe wealth defines them.

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Re: From Ugly to Just Plain American

Post by rayc1965 » January 12, 2011, 2:24 am

And I am sure Mr. Rodriguez is active in the LULAC movement.

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Re: From Ugly to Just Plain American

Post by jackspratt » January 12, 2011, 9:22 am

I thought the article quoted in the OP was pretty positive about Americans - but apparently not, because it was written by someone with a Spanish name. :-k

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Re: From Ugly to Just Plain American

Post by rayc1965 » January 12, 2011, 9:38 am

Maybe I am misreading his article, but what I read into it that apparently he believes that "Americans" have been humbled due to the declining value of the dollar, which I find to have no merit. Diversity was once the backbone of the USA, but that same diversity is what is tearing this country apart. Unfortunately controversy sells in this country, and that is a shame.

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Re: From Ugly to Just Plain American

Post by jingjai » January 12, 2011, 2:00 pm

Ray, I highlighted in red what I think the gist of the article is.

This is my take on the subject:
As an American, who grew up in post-war America of the 50's & 60's, we were led to believe, by our country and the rest of the world, that America was indeed #1. Number one in everything. And, as Americans, we were special.
The world was beating a path to our door in the 50's & 60's, to buy our products, to listen to our music, basically to emulate everything American. Or, so it seemed.
We used to make jokes about the "Made in Japan" label.
The majority of people in America drove American cars in the 50's & 60's. The majority of people in America in the 50's & 60's wore American style clothes. It seemed the entire world wanted a pair of Levis, to listen to Elvis, and to drive a Chevrolet, so to speak. As a kid, all my bicycles were American made.
Is it any wonder that my generation grew up with a superiority complex?
It wasn't until the mid-70's, that I began to look at things differently. Today, a big majority of American people drive cars made by a foreign owned company, wear clothes made from all over the globe, etc., etc.
Basically, we don't feel that special anymore. It's not good nor bad. It just is.

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Re: From Ugly to Just Plain American

Post by gulfman » January 12, 2011, 4:15 pm

rayc1965 wrote: I read this article .............
rayc1965,
Have you ever read 'The Ugly American', or are you perhaps too young - speculation as I haven't a clue as to your age?

I too thought that the original article was positive about Americans.

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Re: From Ugly to Just Plain American

Post by rayc1965 » January 12, 2011, 6:43 pm

It seem to me that this author was referring to 30 years ago, which would be approximately 1980. If we are referring to the 50's and 60's, or earlier, then are we talking about first or second generation immigrants from Europe and other parts of the world who migrated to the States that the author is claiming were arrogant? There is no doubt that the upper class in the US had a hi so complex during that period, but what about Russian communist leaders or even the upper class European Nations, during this period? Did they not possibly have the same attitude during this period? I believe the entire world has been humbled the past 15-20 years due mainly to the uprising Asian economy. Has not the pound taken the same hit as the dollar during this time? Like I said before, maybe I am reading too much into the article, but I feel it was offensive to a degree. And for this auhor to single out Americans, just because he claims to be from here, and make no referrance to any other culture based on his extensive travel around the world, was also offensive. I am 45, and I can tell you if this author was basing his "opinion" on American attitude abroud during the beginning of the 80's, he is refering to the upper class American citizen, because the beginning of the 80's was a very very bad time for middle class America and the majority didn't have the funds to travel abroad to show off their arrogance; at least not where I was from, they were tough times.

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Re: From Ugly to Just Plain American

Post by gulfman » January 12, 2011, 9:30 pm

‘The Ugly American’ was required school reading when I was at school in UK inthe early 60s and unfortunately the stereotype loud mouthed character was all to evident. Remember, that this was the generation that had just won the second world war, founded ‘corporate’ America and ended up the richest nation in the world. And they had started to travel.

I read into the article that this type of stereotype no longer exists, as the average American is now much more sophisticated and worldly wise. Personally, having worked extensively with Americans from all over the USA over the past forty years I have found them to be pretty much like everyone else !!!

However, there is a small English joke from that era that might (hopefully) amuse you.

Wilmer and his wife were in England visiting the Tower of London, and as they toured the ‘Major Keep’ Wilmer exclaimed to his wife “Will ya just look at that goddamned lawn – it’s perfect, I just gotta know how to make our lawn like that”
So he turned to one of the Beefeaters in attendance and asked how they got such a lawn.
“Well, Sir”, replied the Beefeater, “It’s really quite simple. You cut it: water it & roll it. Cut it: water it and roll it. And after eight hundred years you will have a perfect lawn”. :D

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Re: From Ugly to Just Plain American

Post by rayc1965 » January 13, 2011, 12:07 am

Well now that changes things. I was under the impression that Mr. Gregory Rodriguez was the author of this titled manuscript. So what you are saying that the titled piece originated in the UK? I still don't agree with Mr. Rodriguez's assessment of the time frame that Americans became humbled. Thank you for clearing that up gulfman. I was not around in the 40's or 50's, and neither was Mr. Rodriguez, so it is impossible for me to comment on his views.

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