Okay, okay, that headline was obviously clickbait. It should read: “Four reasons why the U.S. is one of my favorite three countries” because naturally Sweden and Germany are also my favorites. Why the United States though – with their crazy president, gun laws, poor conditions for employees and social inequality? Because, as (probably not only) we Germans say, “Where there is light, there will be shadow”. Everyone talks about the American shadows (even the Americans themselves). But when I’m here, I encounter a lot of light, too. So here is my list of highly subjective reasons what’s awesome about America.
Americans have a reputation to be friendly and to engage with others. “You look summery”, “How’s your day going?”, “I like your shirt!” Other cultures often like to remark that this is just superficial friendliness and that’s probably true. But what’s the alternative? I have not yet been to a country where people at a fleeting first encounter display deep friendliness and entertain sincere conversation. And if I can chose between friendliness that is superficial or unfriendliness that is superficial, I will chose the American way. (Oh, and customer service is a part of this. Few things can compete with American customer service!)
2. Traces of History
So the U.S. is a super young nation and their ‘historical’ buildings on the West Coast are 200 years old, which make a European laugh. But what is extremely fascinating is how you can feel history’s impact everywhere you go. Everyone and everything here is a proof of living history. Names, customs, holidays, cultural attitudes – everything reflects the history of this place in a direct, hands-on way. From services with gospel music that originated in the black community to bilingual signage because this was a Mexican city not too long ago, it’s all there.
Americans don’t want the state to interfere with their lives? Ehm, well, that’s the very reason why they came here back in the day. Instead of having just Protestant and Catholic churches (and the occasional Muslim), there is a vast array of confessions, including ‘creative denominations’ – because 250 years ago, British, Swedish, German people left for the U.S. to finally be able to exercise their faith as they wished to. The list goes on. If you want to see the results of history in real life, go to the U.S. and look around (or keep reading).
Needless to say, that kind of history leads to diversity. Different races, different religions, different traditions, different styles. Media might still portray the all American white girl or guy, but real life gives you all the options. (And media is starting to catch up on that.) All this diversity in at least the big cities also means you are never the odd one out. You can wear what you want, do what you want and be blonde, brown, black or whatever. Because everyone else is also special, you don’t stand out. What a relief.
4. Entrepreneurial spirit
You don’t settle in unknown territory and fight for independence from the Old World if you’re not a daring character. Americans get stuff done. At our potluck dinner, I learned about Emily’s friend’s business, a subscription service for parents and teachers. What I didn’t understand was that she did this on the side of her real job. She had a good idea and just did it. Non-Americans would probably find 100 reasons why this would not be feasible. Maybe the idea won’t work out. It might not be generating enough money. Tax declaration could become more difficult. And, eh, working a side hustle, so exhausting. In the U.S., there’s overall a stronger entrepreneurial spirit, Americans are characterized as optimists – and, frankly, that’s just inspiring.