Misconceptions about USA

When I was living in the US, most people I knew seemed to make the effort to travel home for Thanksgiving, but not necessarily for Christmas. Maybe that’s why people get that impression. But Irish people telling you tht you’re wrong is a bit mental…

Is it true that no-one walks anywhere over there, and that even if you want to you can’t as there are no pedestrain facilities?

Yeah, but it’s OK, because we all have our own personal jetpacks.

[sub]just kidding[/sub]

Depends a lot on where you are. It’s virtually impossible to get anywhere in LA without driving or taking the bus, but New York is a very pedestrian-friendly city. (I don’t have a car.)

True enough. Walking in LA can be a headache.

I live in rural Virginia and I can’t walk anywhere as there are no towns nearby.

But pedestrian facilities vary by city enormously, friedo is right.

Pure anecdotal stuff, so it doesn’t prove anything: in Texas, people from 2 doors down from our house drove to ours for supper. And an American friend staying with me in Dublin who had hired a car came back from the local café complaining about the parking. The café was two minutes’ walk from the house. He couldn’t understand why I was laughing at him.

Hang onto your hat - we even have sushi out here in Indiana.

Living in one state and working in another, I’ve had foreigners ask if I need a passport to cross the border and a visa to work in Chicago - nope. Must be from some who have grasped somewhat the size of the US and latched on a little too firmly to the US state = European nation concept.

When on a business trip in Arizona I bumped into a couple from the UK who thought the whole US looked like AZ. Uh… no. Started describing the Great Plains, and how the land looks perfectly flat from horizon to horizon in some spots, the only hills being man-made for freeway overpasses. Then there are two major mountain ranges, plus some small ones… The husband said “But - it sounds like you’re describing an entire continent.” Uh, yeah, it IS a big country!

Some years ago when, in a snit worthy of a two-year-old, the Republicans shut down the Federal government (I think they were mad at Clinton for something. Like winning the election.) there was a thread on the Dope were some concerned folks were inquiring about the effects on Joe Public. Answer: few to none. For all the fuss and bother in the media about the Feds, including considerable interest in media abroad, the average citizen actually has very little contact with the Federal government on a day-to-day basis. Most of us didn’t really notice that Congress was playing hooky. Likewise, shutting down the Federal government for a day or two due to Hurricaine Isabel really will not affect much outside of Washington, DC itself. From the surprise at this, I can only conclude that there are many countries out there where life is more controlled by a central government than here.

(By the way, I’d like to thank the UK media for noticing that the governor of Indiana recently passed away, and saying nice things about the man. Those of us in Indiana often feel forgotten, not being particularly flashy or trendy and full of farmers and folks like the Amish and Mennonites who prefer to avoid attention. O’Bannon was a good man and he will be missed)

I also recall a thread where a German poster was expressing surprise that a person in the US could simply up and move elsewhere and was not required to register their new address with the government (I forget all the details). Yep, pretty much you can go anywhere you want. You are expected to change things like your driver’s license, but (contrary to rumor) not everyone in the US has a driver’s license. I got mine at 16, but when I moved to Chicago I spent the next 8-9 years without a car and I think I went entire years without getting behind the wheel.

I do know I’ve surprised a few French tourists who were convinced no one in America spoke a foreign language. When they found out I did understand what they were saying they then asked if I was Canadian. I said no. They said something along the lines of no, not what my citizenship was right now - I was born in Canada, right? Nope. I was born in Missouri.

Foreigners also seem confused by the US you-are-what-your-ancestors-were approach to identity. I’m 3rd and 4th generation American, but when asked “what are you?” might well answer “Russian” because that’s where my grandparents and great-grandparents were born. But, really, I’m an American. Come to think of it, it can be a little confusing for us, too - there was a thread on this very topic not too long ago.

My MIL thinks I’m about 5 minutes from any point in time from being raped and butchered and she lives in south Arkansas. :rolleyes:

This reminds me of the South African film The Gods Must Be Crazy*. In the first part of it a woman gets into her car, backs out of the driveway, drives a couple houses down to a mailbox to mail a letter, then drives back home.

I wouldn’t say that USans are mostly obese, but I have never seen such an assemblage of grossly fat people as when I spent a couple of hours at O’Hare airport.

Another misconception is that it’s somehow incorrect to refer to Americans as “Americans.”

"In the U.S., everybody is armed."

In some parts of the US this is pretty darn close to accurate.

In one of my criminal law classes the professor took a survey a couple of weeks ago:

“How many of you have some kind of firearm in your house?”

In a class of about 43 people, only 6 didn’t raise their hands.

And West Virginia enjoys one of the lowest crime rates in the nation. Whatta coinkidink :smiley:

Like everyone said, it depends on where you are, and even where you are in the city. I live on the outskirts of Atlanta, where driving is mandatory. But when I go downtown to go to school, I take the train in and walk to classes.

Bill Bryson has a lot to answer for…

It amazes me how many people seem to perceive Americans as highly religious. Yes, there are some people here who are vehemently religious, but there are also a lot of people who aren’t. Perhaps the intensity of some people’s religious expression overshadows the rest of us.

Also, people thinking that we’re all patriotic flag-wavers.

Maybe this is why, booklover:

That’s quite a disparity. Mind you, I’m sure Saudis wouldn’t consider you lot religious, but from a European perspective, you are.

As I drove into Chicago last year I expected to hear the wail of police car sirens,gunshots, screams of “rape” and yet in the 10 days I spent in that lovely city I only ever saw 2 cops.
One of them was in a bar getting absolutely shit faced and the other sat on a bench on Michigan Avenue just people watching.
Never heard a police siren once and no cries of rape…heard a few low moans of delight tho’
The grub is fantastic but you get far too much, the beer is crap especially Sam Adams, the coffee is great, the bread tastes wonderful, baseball is just about the second boring game on earth, the first being cricket, most of your women have rather large breasts (nice!!) the streets are relatively clean and the hot dogs in Chicago are out of this world, Al Capone IS dead, O’Neills bar on N. Lincoln Ave is the best bar in Chicago followed closely by Timothy O’Tooles,my baseball cap and shirt are still at Wrigley Field where I left them having stumbled out numbed,breakfast at Cracker Barrel or Wendy’s is a delight but rather strange to get pancakes with bacon,The Red Lobster serve a fantastic…er Lobster,the ice cream is great and so is the popcorn from that shop on Michigan Ave (forget the name) cab drivers are pleasant, bagels (hot) Mmmm bagels.
I could go on, I won’t.


Not in New York City. New York is owned by the pedestrians. We walk everywhere. And a very high percentage of us do not own cars (compared with the rest of the US).


Interesting! I’ve run into the opposite reaction – international visitors (Swiss and German) we showed around when I lived in New Mexico expressed astonishment when we left the outskirts of town and weren’t in rural farm country, suburbia, or cityscape, just unused land looking like wilderness (except for the road and an occasional power line) as far as the eye could see in every direction. I pointed and said “If you crossed that fence and started walking, you would not run into humans or signs of the existence of humans before nightfall. Eventually, on your second or third day if you hike 10 miles or more per day, you’d cross a major hiking trail, and you’d be well advised to stay on it because otherwise you could end up so lost they might never even find your bones. Out that way is the Pecos Wilderness, which is uninhabited except by a couple hundred hikers and campers, and its about half the size of Luxembourg.”

This might have something to do with Dubya trying to turn his religous beliefs into law and frequently making biblical references in his speeches

I think that’s the same everywhere, even in much smaller countries.
The tourist information in Oslo is often asked by people from cruise ships how to get to Bergen. These people usually have 3-4 hours before the ship leaves.

Spent hours on a jet with visiting Germans who were amazed how big the US was - and we were only flying from Delaware to Arizona.

Also, many Americans think sexual standards are very free and open here, whereas many Europeans find our standards repressive - which idea is misconceived is of course a matter of judgement.

Just to clarify, though, we Americans actually do have no sense of irony, except in parts of New England.