So every nation/society has traditional rivals. These rivalries come in many shapes but they invariably exist. In my case, I will write about the rivalry between Western Europe and the USA. While this is quite a friendly rivalry, there are definitely strong cultural differences that separate us from them - be it capital punishment, or welfare provisions, or attitudes towards immigration, or religiosity…
Here are the things that I, a proud Western European, envy from the United States. In other words, I’m happy to live in Western Europe, but I’d be even happier if we somehow copied these things from across the Atlantic.
Freedom of speech. The whole “stopping someone from saying something” is almost unthinkable in the USA - it is your constitutional right to speak your mind freely with very few exceptions. Too often in Europe people get into trouble - real trouble - for saying offensive stuff against the wrong people. Well done, America.
Your culture of immigration. Sure, there are bigots everywhere. But deep inside most Americans understand that theirs is a country of immigrants, and that they all have to live together. In some parts of Europe we’re really struggling to accommodate new immigrants, which has led to worrying outbursts of racism as well as little real integration.
American showmanship. I really think that Americans are the best in the world when it comes to large events. Whenever I look at the NBA Playoffs or the Super Bowl, with their hundreds of cameras covering every angle, and their on-court journalists and their half-time shows, I am truly amazed. Europeans could do the same with football (soccer) or rugby, but we’re just too restrained for that.
Of course there are many more things that I would like to criticise from the United States, but that is not the point of this thread. What about you? Are you Swedish but envy Norway’s cool language? Syrian and wish that your country were as diverse as Lebanon? From the USA, and regret that your country hasn’t copied Canada’s health care system? Tell me about it!
As an American, I can tell you I’ve thought about my “rivals” in Western Europe or anywhere else exactly never.
That said, I’m mostly envious of the palpable history that’s pretty much everywhere in “The Old World.” I do like the idea that there are structures still around that have been standing for thousands of years, that Europeans see and pass by every day, and probably don’t even think about. Having something like the Parthenon or the Colosseum as just part of the landscape is pretty awesome.
As an American, I agree with DCnDC’s stated envies of western Europe. I envy western Europe’s long history. If a country can be thought of as a person, the US is barely into its teens - loud, boisterous, impulsive, and occasionally reckless. Worse, we’re a spoiled teenager. The last sixty years of prosperity and world dominance has led to the cultural insistence that because we have so much and so much good has happened to us, we must therefore be innately good and deserving of good stuff. That idea of American exceptionalism is incredibly toxic.
I envy western Europe’s recognition that nationalism can easily lead to jingoism. I also appreciate that while many countries have retained a national religion, it no longer rules the day-to-day life of its inhabitants, and one’s religious beliefs are considered a personal matter not to be imposed on others. I know this is due to bitter wars like the Hundred Years War, which basically depopulated parts of Germany, so they’ve earned it. I hope we’ll get to that point without the same bloodshed.
I envy the social welfare net most European countries have. It’s not just that the safety net exists, it’s that European societies recognize that individual human lives have value and are worthy of dignity, even if they can’t contribute economically, and that how we treat the least powerful of our society is clear indication of our national character.
Lastly, I envy western Europe it’s lack of the wide anti-intellectualism streak that runs through American society. The idea that people who spend years studying and learning about a topic are not to be trusted is insane, and yet, I hear or read my fellow citizens espouse it on an everyday basis. Worse, that belief is reflected in our government.
There is a building under construction near my house. It looks like it has at least a year before it opens. Every time I pass, I can’t help but think “If this was China, that would have been complete months ago.”
Granted, it’d probably be shoddy construction and the neighborhood would be ruined by 24 hours of construction. But still, I miss the pace of development there, with entire sections of cities transforming over night.