Don't just hate forced positivity
What annoys me about you, dear Americans
15 things that annoy me about you, my American friends, and that I've always wanted to tell you. In all friendship, of course!
This page is part of our series focusing on the USA
Today something different: This is my angry speech about the USA. Because in all the places in the world that I have visited, it was always American travelers who complained the most about the respective country. Yes exactly, you are meant, dear Americans. I wrote this post mainly for you. So that you can experience first hand how a foreigner complains about your country. Of course, I do this in a cheerful and non-aggressive way and given that I myself lived in the United States for many years.
I point out that of course there are a lot of things in America that I really like. But again there were too many things that got on my nerves that I just have to vent.
I don't feel like whining about foreign policy or the economy. This is all about my frustration with everyday life in the US. The United States is a huge country and it is impossible to generalize about all 300 million of them, but the considerations below are my observations after many years in the United States.
On this page
1. Americans are way too sensitive
Sometimes I wonder if there is political correctness in your constitution. I found out very quickly on my first visit that I almost always had to watch my tongue, and (which is even more annoying) that no one dealt with me directly.
It seems that expressing one's own opinion is a huge taboo. You can't directly tell a friend that he screwed up. Nobody tells you that you look like you can lose a bit of weight (in a nice and supportive way, of course). There are far too many euphemisms to avoid the bitter truth.
To some extent, I can understand this - by and large, the US is doing a great job preventing people from discriminating against ethnic minorities and reducing hate speech. But on the individual level it all weakens way too much.
A lot of Americans I have met feel very lonely, and I think that's a major reason for that. It can be that you never find a boyfriend or girlfriend if a buddy who knows you well and to whom you are supposedly important doesn't tell you the hard facts and then tells him why he's so damn annoying ... so that you can finally change that! Insulting someone for no reason is considered pointless aggression, but constructive criticism is what friends are for.
2. Everything is “awesome”!
I really hate that word awesome (“awesome”, “great”, “awesome”). It used to be called “scary” or “venerable” (“awe” means “awe”), but in the States it means ... just nothing! It doesn't even mean “good”, it's just a filler word like “um”, “well” or “so”.
It is THE cliché American word par excellence. And I kept hearing it until my ears started bleeding. Too many overly positive adjectives get tossed around so much that they end up completely losing meaning.
And if you ask someone, "How are you?" the answer is always "great!" or "great!" even if that is not the case at all.
When you start using such aggressive positivity, the meaning is weakened and these words eventually become neutral. So what do you do when you need to express true positivity? Of course, when someone says, "Well, it works like that," it means they are absolutely shitty! I don't think that the word “bad” is in the American vocabulary at all. The worst part is that this phenomenon is slowly popping up in English usage all over the world, and I hate that!
3. A smile means NOTHING
When I meet Americans abroad, one of their biggest complaints is about "Nobody smiles on Prague trams!" or “The waitress was so rude! She didn't even smile! "
Damn it, Amiland! With you guys, it's exactly the opposite that annoys me: you smile far too often! I'm finally pissed off! How should I know if someone really means it? And why the hell would a stranger on the tram want to grin to himself like a fool when solving a cross?
When Europeans smile, it really means something. For example, since the Germans don't run around everywhere like in an American toothpaste advertisement when I was out with them, their smile lit up the whole room - because you knew that it actually meant something and you inevitably had to smile back. For example, you had told a joke or a funny story, or you were in love, etc.
But you don't need something like that at every moment! If you just smile in public, it completely loses its meaning. Supposedly, a smile releases endorphins, but if the face just takes on this expression all the time, the dreams of being intoxicated with nature will soon fade away. I prefer to try to improve my own life so that I can smile and not have to shit myself and the whole outside world.
Although I sound a bit grumpy in this article (after all, complaints are the whole topic of the article) the fact that I speak my mind means that you know I'm really happy when I look like this. And that happens very often indeed :) But not always!
It might be an advantage for you, but I got maddened to be interrupted by the wait staff every three minutes and asked if everything was okay. I had to fake a smile (it's the American way after all - see above!) And raise my thumbs up so that she would leave me alone because my mouth was always full. I really don't check the sense. If you've served me the wrong order and I suddenly realize that I'm dying of an allergic reaction because of your food, you'll notice it long before those three minutes are over.
For this reason, eating outside is always an annoying experience for me. In the rest of the world you can always call the waitress when you need something. If that were a sincere interest, or if the person in question just wanted to be friendly, that would be fine, but it's not. In fact, it's all about the subtle memories that this person wants me to tip.
That drove me insane - I really believe that tipping as the main means of making money is ridiculous. If I have to pay anyway, put that on the damn bill! It's not a cursed tip if it's compulsive !!!
One complaint I keep hearing is how rude the waitress is and the Americans claim it's because they don't get tips. Instead of being tipped, waiters just make their salaries like everyone else and do their job. And if they do their job bad enough, they'll be fired. But apparently if you don't keep grinning at the customer like a world champion it is considered "rude".
I think the basic concept of tipping is well and good - but all of the explanations I've heard of mandatory tipping make no sense when debated. Waiters can be described as hardworking workers who deserve this tip and need a higher salary than just minimum wages ... but what about teachers and nurses? Why aren't they getting tips? Why not tip everyone you deal with in any way, such as bus drivers, or why not just leave a little tip in the garbage can for the garbage collector? It's inconsistent, and waiters, hairdressers, and taxi drivers should just ask us what to pay for.
Some ridiculously claimed that if the restaurant stopped charging it would get cheaper, but you would pay the difference anyway. But what all this contributes to is very clear:
5. Wrong prices everywhere
Tipping is just the tip of the iceberg. It's all just a huge marketing scam designed to trick customers into thinking they're paying less. The price on the menu is nothing compared to what you actually pay. In addition to tips, there are of course also taxes.
Taxes are of course a necessity of life - without them, governments around the world would not function. So why are they hiding them from us? It's beyond my imagination that businesses refuse to include taxes in their prices. The price you write down is basically useless. It just says, “That's how much we get from what you buy, but you actually have to pay more.
I don't give a shit how much YOU earn. I want to know how much I have to pay! How much money do I have to give you ... Do I really have to pre-spell this for you?
The most ridiculous of these are the so-called "dollar deals". If I have a single dollar, the dollar business will turn me away. It's a dollar they make, not what I pay. Are you coming? The only thing that matters is the perspective of the business.
I've been told it's because taxes are different in every state (and sometimes in counties ??). I shed a tear for the poor giant corporations that sell equipment in various states that are unable to ask local businesses or regional managers to do their own tax bills and labels at that particular tax rate at a given tax rate to their millions of customers because it causes just a little bit of inconvenience for the corporation.
We have the exact same product that is sold in many different European countries (often in the same multilingual packaging) and somehow someone at the company found the time to enter numbers into a calculator in advance (which cost 1 euro) to tell people how much they actually pay.
It's all nothing but a huge marketing scam. It makes prices seem lower, which is dishonest. A great way to make people feel like they're paying less, but the rest of the price comes when you hand over the money. This is a huge part of ...
6. Kitschy, aggressive marketing
I want to scratch my eyes out with toothpicks every time I'm forced to endure US commercials. Just stop it!
Most Americans don't even notice - it plays on television so often that it's now nothing more than background noise. And that means advertisers have to be louder to reach them. It's a vicious circle that drives any non-American crazy who isn't used to it.
BUT WAIT, MORE IS COMING!
I decided to watch an episode of House on cable one evening. Until then, I had really only watched American television series either with no ads on the Internet or in Europe with European ads in ordinary consecutive time spans ...
Oh. You. Crap.
Every few minutes you are torn out of the show - so much so that the advertising actually appears at the beginning as if it could be the show (in Europe there is an animation that announces the moderation or the intro, or something else , which informs the viewer that a broadcast break is coming soon). Your next step is irrelevant spam and “awesome” pictures of people practically orgasming when they buy Product X (this product is only now on special, of course!). And if it is anything medical you get read aloud a super quick text listing all possible medical complaints you can imagine, which could possibly occur as side effects for this product. But at least the cheesy model is happy, so it probably doesn't matter that much.
And that's the thing: Americans are marketing geniuses. That can never be denied. Every time I went to buy a milk carton, I was drawn to some expensive garbage that I didn't need because of something unfamiliar in the supermarket. I almost bought this junk, or I bought it and then felt very insane when I left the store.
When you are in Las Vegas, the design of the casinos shows how skillfully they manipulate people. No windows, no clocks, hard-to-find exits, no way to get where you want without walking through rows of slot machines. The lucky machines themselves have lots of twinkling lights and lively music to attract customers. You feel hypnotized. They know exactly what they are doing and they have billions of dollars to prove it.
But at least it's manipulation, and for those of us who aren't used to the loudness, it's just cheesy. Every corner of the US is paved with some sort of advertising or sponsorship, and I feel so happy now that I have left the country. No more random calls to every landline (including hotels I paid for) with voice recording trying to sell me something and no advertising brochures cluttering my mailbox.
7. Wasteful consumerism
Some aspects of consumer frenzy are hard to avoid when you are continuously surrounded by advertisements, but sometimes it is people's own fault that they are so wasteful.
By far the best example that can come to mind is all of this Apple craze. So many Americans waste so much money owning the latest version of the Apple iPhone or Macbook. If you buy one of these it's all well and good (I personally like Apple products too), but there are many arguments why it could be better, and I need an iPad anyway for my technical work with certain apps. For example, I also like to have a good smartphone and laptop, and in the end I'm a consumer just like you, if you happen to own an Apple.
The problem only arises when you replace the iPhone 7 with an iPhone 8 and do it with a herd of millions of other sheep for no reason. This is senseless and wasteful consumerism at its best.
I took advantage of this when I lived in Austin a few years ago and only the original iPad was on the market. I waited until the iPad 2 was announced and, as expected, there were 20 new ads on Craigslist every minute in town alone from desperate fanboys trying to sell their iPad 1. I convinced a guy to sell me his bluetooth keyboard case for a quarter of the original price, two months after he bought it! He was so desperate that he really needed the latest version, which was a little bit thinner, faster and had a camera that made you look like an idiot pointing at something with your iPod but was otherwise exactly the same.
Personally, I only replace my smartphone when it breaks due to wear and tear or if I accidentally drop it in the ocean, etc. However, I am also a consumer and occasionally buy things I don't need but something I already have I will never be able to understand replacing something that is just a little bit better
What makes it worse is that sometimes these people claim they don't have a lot of money and Apple products are added to their list of "necessities". The smart ass I bought my iPad from sighed when I told him what I do for a living and how often I travel for work. He said that he wished he had the money to travel. I wish he had the common sense to realize that if he stopped wasting his money he would end up with a lot of it.
Every American you meet is actually not American. You are a quarter Pole, 3/17 Italian, ten other arbitrary countries and then of course half-German. Since Germany is more homogeneous, it's hard for me to appreciate that, so, to be honest, I really don't give a shit if your great-great-grandfather had a dog groom whose roommate was from Germany. I really don't care.
Just the number of people who said, "Oh my GOD, me too !!" whenever I said I was from Germany it was just ridiculous. I use country adjectives a little more restrictively than the Americans, so that was always a favorite nuisance. I finally learned that "I come from Germany" means what I wanted to say, more than "I am German."
I'm not saying that I don't respect other people's origins (a colorful picture makes a country more interesting), but if people start talking about it like that, it would be genetic, so their Italian origins make them more passionate and their Irish Origin makes them better drunkards, I really have to roll my eyes.
I should also mention, however, that it is due to the language used, so that “German” actually means “German-American” as I understand it. That's all well and good, but I want to express that people who actually come from the respective country (and were born and raised there) find this annoying. Neither one nor the other is correct, but it is important to recognize that it may be more appropriate to use it as “I have German ancestors” instead. to rephrase when talking to someone from that country. This is especially true when you speak other languages.
9. ID checks and stupid alcohol laws
In earnest. I promise I'm not twelve. Please let me enter the disco! I've even seen 60 year olds being asked for ID. Nowhere else in the world am I asked to show my ID, now that I'm in my early 40s. Sometimes I didn't have my passport (the most important document I have that I don't want to spill beer on) in my pocket and was simply refused entry.
I think it's unbelievable that you can only drink from 21, but you give 16-year-olds a driver's license and from 18 you can buy a gun. In most states, you are not allowed to walk around with alcohol outside (but if you carry it in a brown paper bag while you drink it, everything is fine). I find these laws nonsense.
10. Big corporations win every time, but not small businesses
While there are many arguments to suggest that there shouldn't be just a small group of large corporations competing against each other, my biggest concern has to do with availability.
If you get all your food from Walmart and Wholefoods, and nowhere else, these places grow and are mostly separated by long drives. But what is left in between? A desert.
I was in downtown Chicago one day and just wanted to buy something to eat, but after walking around for an hour, the only inexpensive choice was Dunkin 'Donuts. There are lots of cheap places to eat in Chicago, but you have to drive there or be in a certain part of the city that has lots of restaurants (and know that well in advance). There is simply too much competition between the big corporations to allow smaller businesses to easily expand into cities.
But if you put me down in any major European city, I can find something to eat within a few minutes. However, you do the same in the US, even in the city center, provided it is not a restaurant district and without a cell phone
and car, I'm starving. And that's one of the main factors that add to one of my biggest problems I've had in the US :(
11. A land designed for cars, not people.
The United States is a terrible place for pedestrians. It's the worst place in the world to live without a car.
On my first trips to the USA, it was quite difficult - I relied on public transport all the time (which is at least serviceable in certain large cities, but in my opinion is never at the level of an industrialized country) or on someone with whom I can was friends at the time. In most cities, you simply can't do anything without a car. With a few exceptions (such as San Francisco or New York), all stores, inexpensive restaurants, supermarkets, electronics stores, etc. are miles apart.
I really like Austin, but I thought it was ridiculous that it was rated as one of the “most pedestrian-friendly” cities in the US. Because I lived just outside the city center, but still within walking distance, there was a whole stretch of my way without a sidewalk. The city center was walkable, but most people lived just outside of it and have to drive there.
What struck me as scariest was that I felt very alone while I was traveling in every US city. In many cases, I was the only pedestrian on the entire city block, even if I was in the middle of downtown during the week! The entire country is geared towards getting in the car, driving to the destination, and getting out. No walks.
Going for a walk and luckily find something to eat (as I would do in any European city) was always a terrible idea if you didn't check Yelp beforehand.
For my more recent visits, I actually borrowed a car for the majority of my stay, and everything was all the more convenient, but I really felt like I was just using my feet on the accelerator.
12. You're always in a hurry.
So many things in the US are way too rushed for my liking. We now have fast food all over the world. Even in a fancy eatery, you can get your meal in less than five minutes of ordering! Why is it in such a hurry? People don't seem to have the patience to invest time improving things if it doesn't involve investing money.
The Americans are also very punctual because time is money, of course. So many of them would benefit from simply enjoying life and being late because they took their time.
Despite all the fake positivity, I find Americans the most stressed and unhappy of all the races on earth. Despite all the resources and all the money they have, they are sadder than people I know who can barely make ends meet but still know how to live in the moment.
This rush to the finish line, or a million dollars in the bank or for a promotion, and how it runs through life, I find sad.
13. Money obsession
I've met far too many people who are more interested in their bank balance than their own quality of life. These were people who were richer than I could ever imagine, but who were depressed. More money seems like the only way they can solve problems.
They don't travel because they think they'll need tens of thousands of dollars to do it (which is just not true) and they don't enjoy the day because they might miss out on a business opportunity.
No goal is ever big enough - more wealth, more fame, more power. That is human nature, and of course there is something like that in every country on earth, but I think the US is reinforcing that much further until it ultimately becomes a life goal and the most important priority for some.
14. Unhealthy servings
Aside from the fact that you don't talk honestly to overweight people, the biggest problem is that portions are way too generous in restaurants. Every time I even ordered a small portion, I was completely full afterwards. For me, small means something completely different than for the Americans. If you sit down in most places and order anything other than a starter or salad, you get more than you should.
Growing up I was constantly reminded of starving children in Africa, so I feel guilty if I don't finish my plate. That was disastrous during the few months I spent in the States when I put on A LOT! I should have asked for a doggy bag almost every time.
I've learned not to ask for a lemonade anymore because when restaurants offer free refills, I think I should drink more ... after all, it's free. Uh!
15. Distorted World Perception & American Exceptionalism
The very last thing that gets on my nerves is this distorted perception of America's place in the world. Americans keep asking me if I'm afraid to travel in Europe. I found it much more frightening to walk around at night in certain parts of downtown San Francisco or Chicago than ever in the “dark” parts of London or Berlin - because there are at least people on the streets there.
And I find it pretty scary to be in a country where virtually anyone can legally buy a revolver.
America has a weird view of itself as the "land of the free" - and it certainly was ... 200 years ago, compared to other western states at the time (forgetting of course the problems that were everywhere, like e.g. no freedom for certain races and genders) But today most of Western Europe is just as free, if not more free, and offers opportunities for people at all levels. In fact, America is a better place with a higher standard of living than most other countries, but in Western culture, freedom of expression and tolerance are usually the norm for everyone, and not just in the United States.
There is no best country. But those who talk all the time about how America is number one tend to be the ones who have never or barely traveled outside of the US.
How about saying America is great, or even "awesome"? I think patriotism is a great quality to have and we should all be proud of where we were born.
But nationalism (the belief that other countries are inferior) is a terrible quality.
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