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When you say where you're from to Europeans how do they respond?

When you say where you're from to Europeans how do they respond?

Old Feb 16th, 1999, 01:45 PM
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When we say we're from Minneapolis, we often get "Oh that's where they run the big race." (meaning, presumably, the Indianapolis 500).
Old Feb 16th, 1999, 05:38 PM
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I'd like to add a little in "defense" of Americans' ignorance of the rest of the world (personally, geography and history were my favorite subjects, so I learned about the rest of the world because I WANTED to). My wife is an elementary school teacher, and the requirements the state puts on her time teaching math and language oftentimes leaves little time for geography. Teachers have a difficult time nowadays getting everything done--they even have to supervise children eating breakfast! So, I grant that school children seem abysmally ignorant of geography, but there will always be those with wanderlust in their hearts who will seek out distant shores to experience different cultures. I would think there are probably a lot of non-Americans who don't really much care what goes on here in America, either, because they are pretty much involved with their own lives.
Old Feb 16th, 1999, 06:07 PM
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Australia.......... Kangaroos in the main street? Where is Australia? Do you speak English? We were asked where we came from - answer Australla - question, do you speak English?

Attitudes changed when it was discovered we were Australian (for the better) on many occasions.

No, the kangaroos are out in the bush, Australia is in the bottom half of the world below Asia, yes we speak English.

Old Feb 16th, 1999, 07:18 PM
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I also am from upstate New York, more specifically, the area called "Central New York." (Syracuse/Cortland/Ithaca) Once in Kauai, HI, a taxi driver asked where we were from and when we said "Central NY" he replied, "That's somewhere near 42nd Street, isn't it?" Funny! And proves the point that most people, even most Americans, don't realize that New York City is a very small part of a large and beautiful state. Do you know what New York's largest industry is? Agriculture! Anyway, the teacher in me now brings a small New York map on every trip. In response to the "Where are you from?" question I whip out the map and explain about Central New York, four to five hours drive north of NYC, etc. It's a great conversation starter and my small attempt to increase geographic literacy - ESPECIALLY among Americans.
Old Feb 17th, 1999, 05:24 AM
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Mimi, I appreciated your comments on New York. People often confuse North and South Carolina too, and some seem to think that North Carolina is always warm. My hometown, which is in the middle part of the state, actually got 24 inches of snow once. Of course, it did melt in one day.

I was surprised once when I was in China and told a man on the streets of Suchow that I was from Wisconsin (I used to live there), and he said "it is cold there." Very few people relatively have regional knowledge about other countries.

Joel, I understand what you are saying about education. I work for a company that sells educational supplies to schools. I know much of the emphasis these days is on math, science, and reading. I am not blaming it on teachers or even all on the educational system that we have. We are a big country that only borders two other countries (and these are far from most states). That has a lot to do with where our priorities are (still the world is coming closer together through economics and technology). Obviously someone in a country such as Switzerland or Germany, which border several widely different countries and are near many others, is going to be a little more aware of the world outside their own country. Another possible reason for greater awareness among others about the U.S. may be because we are basically in the news every day. The U.S. has had, for good and bad, a large political, economic, and even cultural impact on the rest of the world (I have had people I met on the street in China and Germany discuss NBA basketball with me). That holds for other countries too. I am sure that most Americans know more about Germany than Albania for instance. And yes I am sure there are many people in all countries who don't really care about anything but their "own backyards," especially those who struggle from day-to-day just to stay alive.

Old Feb 17th, 1999, 06:07 AM
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After re-reading some of the previous comments by, for instance, Tony and Neal, I feel that I must protest. For those of you who suggest that Americans "dwell in darkness", please speak for yourselves. I am so tired of hearing the classic mantra of Americans as the shallow nationalistic chauvinists! Almost everyone I work with, am friends with, my family at all generational levels, my kids, their schoolmates, etc. have an interest in, and knowledge of, the world. And I would challenge anyone to suggest any other country that has put itself on the line so many times out of concern for another country's citizens. Yes, sometimes for self-serving reasons, oftentimes clumsily, and frequently inadequately. Still, Americans feel a sense of global responsibility that I am not sure is shared. So let's stop this media soundbite stereotype of the American.
Old Feb 17th, 1999, 08:19 AM
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Just because the United States has put itself on the line for other countries, has nothing to do with the fact that we are an ignorant nation when it comes to the rest of the world. Neal hit it right on the head when he said that. Our educational system is sorely lacking, and patriotism has nothing to do with it. People should not take offense at what are the facts. One merely has to look at the education statistics in the US to see that we are lagging behind. And Tony is right. Americans can watch tv all day without seeing something on Belgium. And frankly, unless that piece had gratuitous sex and violence in it, many would tune it out. In addition, many Americans are completely ignorant to the basic facts about the political process in this country. My cousins in Paris can tell me which presidential election was decided by the House of Representatives, but I have to constantly explain to my father what congressional district he lives in. It is a sad, sad situation.
Old Feb 17th, 1999, 08:50 AM
Neal Sanders
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Thank you, Ilisa, and may your children and your children's children rise up as one and bless your name.

Let's do this. Instead of engaging in some kind of flame war (which the kind folks at Fodors ask us not to do), let us run a semi-scientific experiment. Below are twenty questions; ten are about geography and culture, ten are about world history. These aren't "trivial pursuit" kinds of questions, rather, they are ones that have direct links to the world today.

To those of you who read this, anywhere in the world, go home tonight and give this quiz to the school-aged child of your choice. (I start from the premise that the readers of this Forum already know the correct answers.) Note the answers, and e-mail me the results ([email protected]). I will post the results.

Here is the quiz:

1. Who are the prime ministers of Great Britain and India and the president of Mexico?
2. Where is the Iberian Peninsula? What nations are on that peninsula?
3. What four countries comprise Scandinavia?
4. Name any two islands that are part of Japan.
5. What's the name of the big island off the east coast of Africa?
6. What language is spoken in Singapore? Name the nation adjacent to Singapore.
7. Australia has seven states. What are they? What are their capitals?
8. To travel from Rome to Cairo, what direction would you take?
9. On what river is Ottawa?
10. Name the head of any government in South America.

And here are ten questions about world history that shape the world as we know it today:

1. Who divided South America for colonization, and what two nations were initially granted that right? In what century did that happen?
2. What is the difference between the Roman Empire and the Holy Roman Empire? Name any person who held the title of Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. Was the nation known today as Switzerland ever part of either empire?
3. Why is there a city called Alexandria in Egypt? Who established it? What nationality was the person who established Alexandria? In roughly what century did that person live?
4. Why do people in Quebec speak French?
5. What nation invaded and occupied China in World War II?
6. The battles of the Somme and the Marne are identified with what war? Roughly when was that war, and what and where are the Somme and the Marne?
7. People in Europe speak of the "Hundred Years War." What were the two sides of that war, and in roughly what centuries did it take place?
8. What was the Balfour Declaration? What events did it precipitate?
9. How long did the Soviet Union exist? Who was its first recognized leader?
10. Where is Mecca? To whom is Mecca important and why?
Old Feb 17th, 1999, 09:49 AM
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Joanne, I don't think anyone is saying Americans dwell in darkness, but that we have different educational priorities and interests than some other countries. A large portion of the world's most brilliant people are Americans, and I am happy for the most part to live in this great country of ours. Most of the people who use this site are obviously people who do care about world affairs and other cultures, or else they would not be here. The question is whether this reflects most of our population, and I would say absolutely not. To get perhaps an even better idea of the level of this lack of awareness than Neal is suggesting, go ask any otherwise very knowledgeable adult to tell you the capitals of Ireland, Portugal, Finland, Ukraine, Switzerland, Canada, and Australia, and you may be surprised by the results. How many phrases of a foreign language can they speak? Now think about how many people you encountered in Europe who are bi or multi-lingual. This is not to say that Americans are dumb, but a large portion do have other priorities. It depends on where you are as to which type you encounter. I spent a lot of time in grad school where it seemed almost everyone cared about these issues. However, I have been in a lot of environments, including jobs, where I knew many many people who just couldn't care less.

As far as helping out the rest of the world goes, the U.S. has actually taken an isolationist position toward the rest of the world during much of its history. We waited about three years to join World War I and two years to join World War II in regards to direct military involvement. Certainly this has changed somewhat now though.

I hope we haven't gotten too far off topic with this, but it is an interesting discussion.
Old Feb 17th, 1999, 06:53 PM
Bob Brown
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I guess I have to jump into this education discussion. After retiring from university teaching after 30 plus years, and still at it as a retiree, I have come to the following conclusions:
1. Americans college students, despite an average SAT score of 1200 in my college, are ignorant of geography and world affairs.
2. Most of them arrive woefully ignorant of computer concepts although the can adroitly move a mouse.
3. Most American students do less well in math than their Oriental counterparts. I have had to teach the binary system, group and set theory to Americans in graduate school while the Koreans died of boredome, they did it in the 8th grade.
4. Western Europeans as a rule speak one or more foreign languages whereas Americans struggle to know one poorly. Many university graduates know none at all.
5. Vocational training in Germany is far superior to what we do in the states.
6. Many high school students spend more time playing than they do studying. In grade school, pee wee football games can last 2 hours or more. These kids are 8 - 9 years old! The coaches scream at them for minor transgressions like they had just lost the Fiesta Bowl. I think junior aged sports do a great job of teaching the wrong values at a crucial age. To continue on that theme, my son coaches 7 - 9 year olds in basketball.
He knows the game and is great with kids. But he loses out to the team that has a coach that makes his players practice 4 times a week for 2 hours a pop -- 7 - 9 year old kids mind you. If we put as much energy and time into academics as we did into protesting the curriculum, complaining over discipline, knuckling under to hoodlums in high school, and playing professional sports in grammar school we would be a lot better off. Here at UGA, some football hero who pulls a muscle in his thigh gets more ink in the campus rag that a Rhodes scholar. Fulbright scholars are lucky to get listed. It is news here when some football hunk makes 820 on the SAT so he can battle for the Red and Black, but that score would get the ordinary applicant a quick rejection letter, in fact I doubt if he or she would even apply. And we don't send out the female auxilliary to bring in National Merit Scholars. And an assistant line coach makes as much salary as an associate professor. So enough. I think that tells you where the priorities are: football revenue.

Old Feb 18th, 1999, 01:25 AM
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I don't want to start a war with Neal but Australia has 6 states and two territories -
Queensland/ Capital- Brisbane
New South Wales /Sydney
South Australia/Adelaide
Western Australia/Perth
Northern Territory - main city Darwin
and our Capital City - Canberra in the Australia Capital Territory.

Northern Territory tried recently to become a state, just missed out.

Old Feb 18th, 1999, 03:49 AM
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Neal----twenty (20) questions on world history and geography and you couldn't find anything worth asking about the vast Caribbean Region?

Q21. (this one is for Neal!)....Where is the oldest capital city in the New World?
Old Feb 18th, 1999, 04:37 AM
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Amen Bob

As a graduate of the University of North Carolina I can sympathize. It is one of the best universities in the country, and most people only realize it has a great basketball team. I am a big Tar Heels fan myself, but I am prouder of the university's academic history. I won't start a "what was the first state university in the country" argument with you.
Old Feb 18th, 1999, 04:40 AM
Neal Sanders
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Denise: I stand corrected that a) I thought the Northern Territory was granted statehood last year (the scant coverage US papers gave the process made it sound like a done deal), and b) the Capital Territory is separate and apart from New South Wales. I think Australia is one of the most beautiful spots on the face of the earth and I can't wait to get back!

Maira, I can think of two answers to your question. If you mean the oldest capital settled by Europeans, then the answer is Havana, settled in (I think) about 1503. (I grew up in Miami and, in 1959-1960, this stuff was drilled into us elementary school kids; I can still sing the pre-Castro Cuban national anthem, 40 years later.) But if you mean the oldest capital that is still a capital, then the answer is Mexico City, which sits atop the pre-columbian Aztec capital.

Now, how did the kids to whom you have the quiz do?
Old Feb 18th, 1999, 04:50 AM
Diane Moll
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Never having seen this post before, I have enjoyed the responses very much. Last year, while in Brugge, Belgium, we visited one of our favorite little pubs, and because it was a national holiday (Ascension Day) seating in restaurants and pubs was at a premium. An elderly gentlemen (I believe he was 86) came in and asked if he could sit with us, it was obvious he was absorbed in the spirit of the day and he explained he comes into the city only once a year for this glorious occassion. We spoke for several minutes and he asked if we were from the United States or the UK? We have had people ask us this before and we always find it interesting that they cannot tell the difference, but I can assure you I would not know whether someone was either Flemish or Waloon. When he found out we were Americans, he shouted out to some young people he knew that he was sitting with Americans. He seemed so proud. His mind instantly started reminiscing about the Americans who came to the aid of the Belgium people during WW II and how his family and neighbors befriended many of them. It was truly an interesting hour and we felt fortunate to have shared in some of his memories.
Old Feb 18th, 1999, 09:02 AM
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Okay, back into the fray. Bob, enough with that old chestnut about Europeans speaking English but Americans not speaking other languages. English, for better or worse, is the most important language in the world of business and technology, so it is logical for Europeans to learn it as a matter of necessity. And the geography of Europe, itself, necessitates that people learn at least the basics of the languages of the countries surrounding theirs. If the "universal" language were French, I guarantee that American kids would be fluent in that language. What is a matter of necessity should not be heralded as a virtue.

And to Neal. I've figured something out about you. You view the world through the eyes of an historian. Just as a lawyer views the world through the structure of the rule of law. And as a mathematician views the world through it's symbols and patterns. Each of us believes that our perspective is the correct "one", but actually all of our perspectives together are the right "ones". Therefore, your geography and history questions are merely facts, and not necessarily the concepts that define the world. Try a different perspective. What if the hope for the future of the world is based on things like this: (1) innovation in art and science, (2) cyber and bio technology (3) ecological responsibility (4) political freedom, etc.? Then what actually "shapes the world as we know it today", in your words? Your historical facts or the above virtues and talents? If these virtues and talents shape the world, then how would we compare the people of the world? On whether they know the names of the seven, or rather, six Australian states and their capitals, or whether they are able to compare their horned toad lizard data with a kid in Texas (which my 10 year old did last night on the internet). On whether they can tell you how long the Soviet Union existed, or whether they can write a paper on how yesterday's Ocalan arrest can be viewed from the perspective of political freedom (which my 15-year old wrote last night)? Or on whether a youngster knows which way from Rome to Cairo, or rather on whether a child takes the creative initiative to draw a treasure map of our next month's train trip from Paris to Rome with "treasures" like "Loove" and "Colla See Um" marked with stars. (Brooks, age 7.)

As in my direct email to you, Neal, I am in the uncomfortable position of seeming to criticize other people of the world, when my passion is to travel to see everything that is not American! Oh, the irony. But I think that we should also recognize what gifts we Americans and our children bring to the world.

As promised, here is the score. Nick got 14 questions right. Taylor got 7 questions correct, more or less. (You got to know Taylor...) I let Brooks look at a map, so he got some geography questions right, but he also got questions 3, 4 and 5 correct, and you should have heard his reasoning!

Old Feb 18th, 1999, 09:14 AM
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After quickly determining I'm American (gosh, is it the accent that gives me away?), most people then ask 'where in America?' I tell them Arizona, and 99 times out of 100, they say "ah Grand Canyon". Ok, how many Americans know where the Grand Canyon is? Bet it's a lot less than 99%....
In Morocco, our guide was sure all Americans are rich, and I suppose we are in a certain sense. When we explained how much our meal would have cost in the U.S., he was aghast. He also wanted to make very sure that we understood Muslim extremists did not represent his religion or people. Apparently, Americans are staying away from Morocco in droves because "it's Moslem and is in the Middle East"...see my Grand Canyon comment earlier...and Abdul wanted to dispel the misconceptions.
The weirdest experience was when an Israeli security officer in the airport (I was getting on an El Al flight) was totally disbelieving that a WOMAN would travel all by herself and tote all her own luggage.
Old Feb 18th, 1999, 10:20 AM
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A couple of things to add.

First, Elvira prompted me to remember about an incident in Mexico, not Europe. I was talking to a guy in Merida, and he said to me "I bet those sunglasses were expensive." I told him the truth: "no, they cost about $7." Heck, I paid more than that to get another cheap replacement pair when I left them out at some ruins later in the trip.

To Joanne: I guess what you just said supports my own argument some - which is that much of our educational priorities and what we know is determined by our surroundings. Nevertheless, I have a hard time believing that if French was once again the language of the world that a large part of the U.S. population would learn it. Maybe, if we had a huge influx of French tourists, who knows. There have been times when more Americans studied Russian and Japanese over recent decades. You could argue that many are learning Spanish now due to the increase in Spanish speakers in the U.S., but I have heard lots of Americans saying "they should speak English." On the other side of the argument, I guess you could say that a lot of Americans do study foreign languages, but it is hard to speak it well without contact with foreigners. To that I would agree, since I know this makes a huge difference - this is one of the things I envy most about Europeans.

I tend to see things as a historian some too, since I did study it in grad school, but I also earned an MBA and studied international business quite extensively. You make a good point about each country having its own virtues. However, what Neal and the rest of us are arguing, I think, is not that it is important that someone knows the capital of a certain country. The important thing is that they care enough about the rest of the world to know these facts. It is all in the attitude. To compete in today's business world, when the economies of all countries are being linked more and more, it is imperative to think this way. It can also be important in other fields. That is one reason grad schools require foreign language study for a wide range of fields. It helps if a research scientist can read articles from German scientific journals to aid his/her own work before waiting for an English translation or news report about it.

I completely agree with you Joanne that we have contributed a lot to the rest of the world. Our constitutional government, for example, has been an inspiration to others as far back as the French Revolution. Although I am far from being a flag waving type, considering myself a citizen of the world in many respects, I think we do go too far on some occasions in critizing the U.S. Are we really worse than the leading countries of Europe. Yeah, in some things we are, but in just as many others we are better. The good thing about quality criticism though is that it can ultimately lead you to improve on those not so good qualities.
Old Feb 18th, 1999, 01:01 PM
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I love London and have been there several times. When I write my address I write "Kanzas", which though archaic is still an accurate spelling. It throws people and so when I say "Kanzas" the first thing out of their mouths is, "Oh, you're from OZ!" the other reactions, in order would probably be:
1. Wyatt Earp/Dodge City (tie)
2. Kansas City (which is mostly in Missouri)
3. Tornados
4. Ike
5. Bob Dole
6. Boeing Aircraft
7. "Where the bloody hell is Kanzas?"
8. "What-zas?"
9. "And you say that's in the States?"
10."So, you're the rotters who gave the world Pizza Hut? Shame on you!"

I love the fact that in London street crews do repairs at night and on weekends, that you can walk through the parks in safety after dark (yes, that's a problem even here in Oz; in any town over 50,000 population. I love that the shopkeepers sweep the streets and sidewalks and actually clean up around their property.
I was surprised in that, first trip, I actually thought I would recieve preferential treatment because I was a Yank. One old gent asked me where I was from, I simply replied, "The States" and he said, "Oh, well then, buck up, son. We all have a cross to bear."

Among older folks I sense resentment that the U.S. was happy to use London as a center of operations during W.W. II, but when the war was over we poured billions of dollars into the rebuilding of Japan and Germany while most of the English remained on food and petrol rations well into the 1950's.
S. C. DIXON [email protected]
Old Feb 18th, 1999, 02:40 PM
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Consider yourselves lucky...at LEAST people know where some of your states are! I say I'm from "Maryland"...and the reaction is just a blank stare. Then I say, "YOu know, the state next to Washington D.C"....then most people go on about Bill Clinton...hahaha.

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