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How do Americans think about (American) states and (rest of the world) countries?


I spent the last hour searching information about America and got sucked in the arguments about 'ignorant americans and their lack of knowledge about the rest of the world'. Just so you know: I'm not stupid and don't believe in those idiotic stereotypes. But i do need to admit that some things about America surpise me (the amount of people thay have a passport, the amount of people that can point out Iraq on a map, etc...).

On of the most used arguments to defend the (it exists you can't ignore it) lack of geographical knowledge that some Americans posses is that for an american the surrounding geographical areas are limited to Mexico, Canada and the states of America. This is a logic I can't follow because whether you are from Colorado or Arkansas you still define yourself as an American while for the rest of the world there is a BIG difference between being French or Spanish/South-Korean or North-Korean. I know every country that has a bit of importance in the world (+-150) (except some Afrikan and middle-American ones) and in Belgium (where I live) this is considered basic knowledge under younger people. So how can it be that it seems like in America the teens seem to know so few countries except for the North-American and European ones(read the links)? How do you feel about the difference between a state and a country?


I will be honest: saying all the 50 states is pretty much impossible for me and I'm convinced that knowing the important ones is enough. Do Americans think in the same way about the European countries? In my eyes it's totally different but perhaps that explains the lack of knowledge if you are happy with knowing that the EU has Brussel as capital and has France,Italy,U.K,Germany as the most important members...

4 Answers

  • 7 years ago
    Favorite Answer

    I do think Americans should be more interested in the rest of the world than how a lot of us are, but then again, there is some validity to the point that we are not surrounded by other counties like you are in Europe.

    I will use belgium as an example, you share boarders with Germany,France,The Netherlands,and Luxembourg, the UK is right across the sea and even the scandinavian countries are not to far away.So, to you what is going on in say, Germany might effect you, so you are interested in France, Germany, etc. For me, I live in Minnesota, the State of New York is a world away, you are closer to Norway than I am to New York, People in the South like Louisiana have a totally different culture and are descended from different peoples.

    Sometimes Europeans and others criticize the USA as has having less culture and diversity, but don't realize how massively diverse the USA is, each state has a lot of autonomy and is very different, even though at the end of the day we are Americans first.

    I myself am interested in the world, some Americans are not, but some of thous americans are real experts with their own local history and culture more so than I am.

    Your point is taken though, it is a little embarrassing how little some americans know about the map of the world.

    As far as if I know the states in Europe within a given country, not that well, but I know the provinces of Canada fairly well because I live fairly near that country.Some of the countries in Europe are so small that their states are more like counties in a medium sized U.S. State.

    It is OK that you don't know all 50 states, but understand that the USA is in fact a diverse place, kind of like how a Sicilian is Different from someone who lives in the North of Italy, or how the Basque people are different than other Spanish.

    I've never used a passport, I have been to Canada, but that was back in the 90s before a passport was required to go their, I would like to Go to the Scandinavian countries to see the lands of my ancestors someday.

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  • ???
    Lv 6
    7 years ago

    Here's my theory as a North American:

    A European and an American travelling the same distance would probably end up in another country and another state respectively. I think a lot of people underestimate the size of the US. Each state is large enough to be a separate country (many are larger than Belgium). Individual states can have massive differences, yet all are considered American.

    In short, travelling coast-to-coast in the US is like travelling across Europe. It's the same situation in Canada, except that 90% of the population lives within driving distance of the border. My passport is almost exclusively used to enter the US. Otherwise, it collects dust.

    It's hard to leave the US unless you live near Canada or Mexico. The average American would have to travel a significant distance. Therefore, Europeans visit other countries while Americans visit other states.

    This would explain why so few Americans have passports. My guess is that Americans view each state like how a European would another country. Not being able to name a nearby state is like not being able to name a nearby country in your part of the world.

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  • 7 years ago

    As a fellow Amercan who also happens to be a teenager, I don't nesscacarily think that we are that ignorant. Ok, I admit, most of us have no clue where Iraq is (most of them will just say its somewhere in the Middle East) but we're not totally oblivious to the outside world. For Americans I would say the states are more like different countries except more familiarized as we all speak the same language and generally the same food. I'm not sure about the links you provided as I can name plenty of countries not in Europe or N. America, but I suppose the answer is because we don't really need to actually know that stuff.

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  • 7 years ago

    " So how can it be that it seems like in America the teens seem to know so few countries except for the North-American and European ones"

    Ah, you're entirely aware the USA didn't drop atomic weapons on Japan are you.

    [the Manhattan Project being a combined USA-Canada-Britain venture right down to no one could use it without the permission and consensus of all involved].

    That the USA isn't sufficient in such life essentials as electricity, oil and even fresh water.

    [Canada being the chief importer of all three and more]

    I can't count how many 'what is the USAs allies if North Korea attacks..." questions I've answered

    [keeping in mind Canada, the USA and Britain were founding members of NATO]

    How can a country that is hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars in debt, consider itself one of the richest countries in the world? Wouldn't the countries lending the USA money to keep it afloat, be the richest?

    I could go on ad nauseum but suffice to say...

    Sorry but from my side of the fence the US school system barely teaches about the USA never mind the rest of the world.

    Granted this answer won't be popular, but you did ask.

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