An Outsider’s View of American Culture


Chapter 12 Summary: An Outsider’s View of American Culture

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Anthropology is the broad examination and understanding of different aspects of human behavior. Mucha starts chapter 12, pointing to us that it is hard for a foreigner to study American culture with a fresh eye, especially if they come from a nation that respects Americans (136). The author has lived, studied, worked, and experienced American culture and highlights some differences between American and European culture, including his native country Poland.

American urban centers have inadequate physical and social structures. The professor observed that prominent American cities and towns lacked an urban environment, with only New Orleans, New York, and San Francisco cities making to his list (Mucha 137). For instance, some American residential houses were empty. Furthermore, many American cities lack sidewalks, square parks, and coffee shops, with only McDonald’s and restaurants readily available. However, many European cities have adequate physical and social structures, including Budapest, Rome, and Vienna having numerous coffee shops.

On the other hand, urban life anonymity rarely exists in the United States due to security issues. America is widely known for high crime rates, such as violent deaths, but the Americans have treated the crimes with normality with time. However, violent crimes have affected the urban life of Americans. For example, Americans have accepted that downtown areas belong to criminals after dark.

Patriotism is also a significant difference between the Europeans and the Americans. Americans keep national flags in clubs, offices, and private residential homes, while Poland people require state permission to use symbols with national flags only used within the religious context (Mucha 139-140). As a result, the author indicates two consequences that occur in the daily usage of national symbols. It encourages ethnocentrism that one’s customs are always better than others and ignoring other cultures. However, they are factors that support ethnocentrism and make Americans relatively parochial. The American education system failed to promote basic knowledge about the United States and other nations. In addition, the USA is geographically diverse and extensive, making it difficult for the Americans to learn neighboring states. Moreover, the USA mass media stations rarely educate Americans about the world beyond its borders. Besides, frequent use of national symbols reduces the meaning of symbols from sacred to profane.

On the other hand, Americans have different ways of organizing private parties, such as potlucks. Guests are required to carry their food and beverages, such as drinks. Moreover, a guest is allowed to carry leftovers after-party (Mucha 143). Conversely, in Poland, guests are offered drinks and food. Additionally, it is unusual for a guest to carry leftovers after a potluck dinner. Therefore, Americans have their own culture, and foreigners should constantly adapt to the new norm and appreciate it.

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