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My travels have taught me that people are generally more relaxed and polite in other 1st world countries. I always find it refreshing to travel outside the U.S. I think other country's populations have a different outlook on life. There's less drive towards materialism and wealth, and more of a focus on family and taking the time to enjoy life (ala their 4 to 5 weeks of vacation).

If she wants to leave the country because she doesn't like how things are going I would suggest Canada, since it's so close and has a much more liberal government than the U.S. Canadians are generally polite and friendly. Also, perhaps Australia or New Zealand. Both English speaking countries with the utmost of manners and they really are warm people, very easy to get along with.

My problem withe U.S. is we're so damn focuses externally. All I hear is the war, Iraq, Afghanstan, what are we going to do to solve THOSE problems, problems we created ourselves. How about focusing on our own country for a change. There are plenty of ways we could spend money and resouces to improve this country. Enough of trying to save and democratize the world. We need leaders who focus on solving our problems. I would have a much better outlook on our country if we were actively working to solve our domestic problems, instead of sweeping them under the carpet and playing the Wag the Dog game by making war with other countries to take people's attention away from our own problems.

I agree with you completely, John.

Ditto, John and J.

John, I think you have to be very careful about overgeneralizing when comparing the US and other first world countries. Having just come back from an extended stay in Europe, this very topic has been on my mind lately, and I've realized that it's easy to be led astray depending on 1) what regions of the US you have in mind, and 2) how broad an exposure to the foreign country you actually have.

For example, considering the topic of being family-focused, if I compare my European relatives to the people around me in Southern California, yes, there is a big difference. However, if I compare them to my relatives in New England, there is hardly any difference in that respect. Which case is the "real" US?

Similarly, any judgment depends on how broad a slice of the foreign country you get to experience. Many of my friends have only been in the major cities, while on my trip I additionally spent a good amount of time on backroads and in villages. Not surprisingly, when we compared notes we had very different takes on things.

Personally, I came back from my travels with a greater-than-ever appreciation of the positive characteristics of America. That's not to say I think less of Europe now -- it offers many positives too -- but rather that it made clearer to me the things that are good about our nation. It also made me realize that despite often feeling out of place in the US, I really am American at heart after all.

I agree, Varenius, that there's good and bad in all countries, and that everything is a balancing act. For instance, I have relatives in the north of England whose biggest concern (besides hating Blair) is that although they live in the same town, one lives in Lancashire and the other in Greater Manchester, and woe to the hapless person who sends a letter to the wrong area. They're quite fierce in defense of a few words. I also spent several months in Graz, Austria, and saw both the wonderful and the not so great.

I guess I'm just crabby and sick of malls and cookie cutter developments. :)

There's good and bad in every country. The good things about the U.S. are the space we have and the fact that it is an upwardly mobile society. If you work hard, you can really get ahead in the U.S. with our comparitively lower tax structure than other 1st world countries and economic opportunities.

Also, I agree that the U.S. is such a large and diverse country that it is hard to make an apples to apples comparison to other countries. However, I can generalize about the disposition of people in the U.S. vs. other 1st world countries, and my travels tell me that people in other 1st world countries people are generally more relaxed and focused on taking time to enjoy life than the business and work focused American society. That's exactly why other countries get 4 weeks of vacation, because they value free time and relaxation, and it shows.

I know Europe has its problems, all the languages and cultures do make it difficult at times to get around and relax at times, I've found. I know that's the spice that makes Europe interesting, but it also can make a trip very frustrating when you travel two hours and you suddenly have to adapt to another language and culture.

I guess I am referring more to Canada and Australia, two English speaking countries that I've found to be very warm and friendly in comparison to the U.S. You just find people to be more relaxed and willing to engage in a sincere conversation. Sometimes just trying to converse with someone in the U.S. is a great challenge. I mean Americans won't look at you straight in the face and act as if they are interested in talking to you, which is rude. I don't find that in Canada or Australia. I find people sincerely interested in talking and sharing their experiences and offering help, if requested.

Just a different mentality, and it makes me wonder why? I think it is caused by a lot of factors in the U.S. that people are so stand-offish. Crime is a big factor, when crime rates are high like they are in the U.S. it's hard to trust anyone and you have a natural defense mechanism working to keep people from getting to close. Also, the U.S. has this national image as the greatest country on earth, even if by many standard measurements we are near the bottom of 1st world countries. I think this national image of supremcy also affects the American psyche. We are so focused on ruling the world and viewing ourselves as the best that it often clouds are judgement as individuals and affects our disposition towards others.

All in all, I'd say for all of our wealth resources and opportunities, the U.S. could learn how to relax, take time to smell the roses and even learn some basic manners. There is room for great improvement in the U.S.

too close, not to close, but otherwise I like what I wrote above.

Another thing I believe negatively affects the American psyche is the notion (which I believe to be a myth) that the U.S. is a benevolent force in the world. As much as we like to view ourselves as benevolent and as the good guys, I really do not think an honest assessment of history or our actions in the world live up to this myth. I am referring to our installation and support for brutual regimes from Haiti to Chile to most of Central and Southern America over the decades. Our actions in Iraq also call into question our benevolence, have we created a democracy or a civil war with everything from death squads to factional fighting. For all the massive oil reserves in Iraq, we are doing their people few favors, gasoline was more available and a lot cheaper under Saddam. Certainly the slaughter in View Nam was not benevolent, no matter how the propagandists tried to package it, burning villages and killing people to "save" them from communism, is not being benevolent, its being reckless and murderous.

They only reason I bring these unpleasant truths up is because I believe the duality of Americans thinking they are good people and benevolent towards other peoples and the bloody and cruel reality of the situation affect the American psyche. We are not honest about ourselves and our actions, and that dishonesty leads to a dysfunctional society that has not come to grips with who they really are, which I believe contributes to the American irrationality on the personel level.

Well, we did kinda save the world from Nazism and Communism ...

That is debatable to some extent. We have replaced both repressive Nazism and Communism with our own represive international system known as Pax Americanism, where we have appointed ourselves rulers of the rest of the world if they like it or not.

Communists like the Soviets, for all its faults, never mobilized and invaded two countries half way around the world like the U.S. has done to Afghanstand and Iraq. We have a odd way of constantly sticking our noses into other country's business.

The U.S. has been building a global empire since WW2, and often empire building is not a pretty practice on the ground and in the far away parts of the empire. When a government starts straying from the fold, sack it and replace it, even if it was once democratic like Chile (which had a century of democratic traditions before we ended it), and replace it with whatever government will toe our line, even if it is a brutal dictator with no interest in democracy or human rights, again like Chile and our little dictator Pinochet.

The U.S. has a lot of duality issues regarding our foreign policy. It seems to be driven almost exclusively by economic considerations and often disregards or flys in the face of our supposedly democratic intentions.

That is debatable to some extent. We have replaced both repressive Nazism and Communism with our own represive international system known as Pax Americanism, where we have appointed ourselves rulers of the rest of the world if they like it or not.

I think everything that needs to be said about the relative merits of these systems can be summarized simply thus: which countries are people risking their lives and dying to flee, and where are they going to?

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