March 04, 2005

We can take all that and more!

Tim McGuire asked me to write something about how the US is described in the newspapers here. I found something interesting in a paper called 'Expressen.' Expressen is not the journalistic cream of the crop. They do have a fun logo though, a wasp, they've 'got more sting.' Here's a translation of part of an article by columnist Marie Soderqvist (

USA, land without style and finesse

After spending about three months in lower Manhattan it feels nice to come home again. Being in America is like meeting a missed but tiresome relative. It is fun, but after an intense visit you start to see the bad sides of their personality: the noise, the bragging, the self-centeredness and the compact disinterest in everyone else. And as long as we're bringing these things up, their complete lack of table manners, bad taste and childish jokes wear thin. Compared to Europe, America is like a large country cousin who has not been raised properly, without style and finesse but with a contagious energy.

Last week the move 'The Prince and Me' had its premier in New York. It probably won't have a premier anywhere else except in Denmark, because it wasn't that good. The movie is about an ambitious farmer's daughter from Wisconsin who meets the Danish crown prince. The American way of showing that people are refined is to have them speak British English, which is what the Danish royal family does at home in their castle in Copenhagen. Languages other than English do not exist in the USA, with the exception of Spanish which has been forced on America by all of the immigrants from Latin America. The Danish prince comes to a university in Wisconsin anonymously, and succeeds in remaining unknown. Nobody is interested enough in the polite young man who can speak six languages and quote Shakespeare to reveal him. There is no other country on earth where you can meet so many people who are so monumentally uninterested in everything outside of their own sphere. After all, what is a Scandinavian kingdom compared to a Midwestern American farm?

After the young prince has spent a few days among real Americans in the country and learned to catch cows, fight like a real man and do an honest day's work, he is called back to Denmark to become King. But, he wants to bring his American farmer's daughter with him. But that's not what she wants, because she is modern and the little Scandinavian kingdom is too backwards. That's how the movie ends. Americans get the job done without dusty inhibitions while Europeans are pompous nitwits who need to learn a thing or two from the Americans, and not the other way around. Not even my ten-year-old daughter, who was the one who wanted to see the film, was ready to buy that description of reality. And suddenly, America felt just exactly as stimulating and foreign as the overconfident self-righteous country cousin.

(Matt again: This is typical-- I often encounter Europeans who base their opinions about the US on short visits and Hollywood movies.)


At March 07, 2005 1:01 AM , Blogger Tim said...

Heh heh heh. That was brilliant. thank you.


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