Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Comparing the US and Germany

Today's post is primarily just pointing you to this rather long comparison between the US and Germany. The author grew up in Germany and moved to the US at 26 years old. He makes plenty of generalizations (as he freely admits), but if you want to get a hint about how different even similar cultures can be, I strongly recommend reading this work. Some comments are rather innocuous:
Cheerleaders, high school girls cheering and dancing in short dresses for the boys' sport teams, actually do exist in the US. I had always thought they only exist on TV, just like the laughter in the background of soap operas. But no: girls actually do want to be cheerleaders. To Germans, the whole setup is ridiculous, sexist, and degrading.
Castle in the Rhine Valley, Germany
Kaub, Rhine Valley, Germany
Photo by Michael Clarke
Or comments about US racism (though the author notes that discrimination is often less in the US):
There is widespread structural discrimination against blacks in the US. They often live in poor, crime ridden neighborhoods with inadequate schools, health care and groceries, which quite predictably leads to a dramatically lower life expectancy. The HIV infection rate of blacks is about eleven times higher than the rate of whites, yet governmental safe-sex campaigns directed at blacks are nowhere to be seen.
Actually, if you go on to read the comparison, Germany sometimes comes off worse than the US, such as:
It is not very well known however that Germany saw a much more vigilant communism hunt at about the same time. While in the US only about a dozen people ever went to prison for being Communists, that same number runs in the thousands in Germany. The communist party was forbidden by the German high court, and party members who continued their activities were arrested and sent to prison.
That's a bit reassuring, not that the Germans sent so many Communists to prison, but that the author appears to be trying to be fair.

A friend of mine from Austria has read this comparison and he claims it's pretty much the same as with Austria.

While some of the oversimplifications of US life are grating, the overall tone seems accurate. I suspect many Americans really have no idea what life is like outside their borders.

On a related note, if you really want to blow your mind, read this Quora post about things foreigners don't believe until they come to America. Note that for all of the responses in that post, you can click on the "comments" link below them to see what other people have to say. It's mind-blowing at times.