Phillip Wade Wilson

Stupid Americans or Stupid Europeans: Commonplace

In America the Marvelous by A. A. Gill, the commonly held notions between the view of America from a European lens is explained.

“Americans are stupid, crass, ignorant, soul-less, naïve oafs without attention, irony, or intellect”

This is a commonly understood way of how Europeans view Americans, and in all honesty, it is correct. The average American who travels abroad does not understand the tourist gaze, the cultural norms of the place they visit, or even the sheer privilege of being an American has on them. Americans typically just make reservations at a hotel, buy a plane ticket, and jet-set off to whatever country piques their interest.

A lot of discussions have been had recently about cultural norms in class and what makes an American feel like an American. As viewed in Tresspass by Theroux, what made him feel like an American was being taken advantage of, and having the unknowing of culture turned against him. When Americans travel abroad, as I stated earlier, they typically do not research before traveling abroad. And due to this, it not only casts them in a negative light for appearing that they are above another’s culture but also puts the tourist at a disadvantage for their lack of knowledge.

Though, as explained by Gill, Europeans also take America for granted due to its advantages. This type of understanding of the world does not simply refer to one nation or area over another, but rather nearly all places. There is this idea of “snobbery” that pervades the ideals of Europeans due to the culture that surrounds western ideals. While there are many problems with America and its schools of thought, the origination of western thought has given Europeans a sense of superiority. Europeans hold certain American aspects in high regard, but they still look down on others. What Gill is explaining is the tourist gaze of America by another western nation and details how the tourist gaze affects Europeans specifically.

4 replies on “Stupid Americans or Stupid Europeans: Commonplace”

You made some really good points here! I agree with your point that Europeans tend to see themselves as better than Americans, yet do many of the same things. I never thought of how Americans travel abroad they don’t tend to do much research on the place, but I can see that happening. It got me thinking of how we are perceived by Europeans as not caring or respecting their culture, do you think that this idea is due to Americans usually not looking up information on places they’re visiting beforehand?

Your writing here is very interesting to me, in no small part because you take a somewhat opposite position to the one that I did in my response. This makes sense, as I used vituperation, while you used commonplace, so you were describing a rule while I was attacking it and its supporters. However, I am also interested in what you say about Gill’s idea of the American tourist gaze, as this is something that is notably very true when you see Americans abroad. However, I would argue the same for many other cultures. Having spent a lot of time in London with my English family, I have on many occasions seen bewildered tourists, some lost in the Tube and others nearly getting run over on tiny, winding London streets. These tourists, who perhaps some could describe as ignorant and oafish, are from all kinds of backgrounds: German, Japanese, Mexican, and so on. It may be true that there is something particular about the American tourist, but the tourist gaze is nearly all-inclusive.

I really like how you brought up the point of “cultural norms” and “what makes an American feel like an American.” I think that it really adds to the perspectives that throughout your writing. For instance, when you say “the commonly understood way of how European views Americans.” Having these different perspectives helps me enjoy reading this more because it allows me to see all these different stereotypes through a different lens.

I like this response due to how you tie in the tourist gaze that Americans have. Despite the fact I agree with you on American tourists often being uninformed and not caring, I do not believe this is solely just an American thing, but rather a tourist thing as a whole. I agree with what Samuel E. has said as I had a similar experience. While in Croatia, there were a plethora of tourists, most not being from America. These tourists were just as brazen and annoying as American tourists, often shoving me or my family out of the way for photos and showing up in groups of 20 which would cause serious congestion issues throughout where I went in the country.

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