Sunday, October 31, 2010

Cross-Cultural Eavesdropping

“America is more than just a country. It’s an idea – an idea that’s supposed to be contagious.” (Bono, lead singer of Irish rock band U2)

One of my favourite parts of travelling abroad is listening to people talk about the USA when they don’t know there’s an American in the room. This afternoon, while studying in the Aberdeen Art Gallery’s café, I overheard an English woman and a Scottish man discussing the upcoming mid-term elections. They seem to think that the Tea Party is bad publicity for the Republicans and were debating whether the Democrats would lose their congressional majority. They also talked at length about the excitement they felt as they followed our 2008 presidential election. It is rather humbling to hear outsiders discuss US politics with a grasp of current events and policy that eludes many Americans. This inspires me to learn more about the politics of the country in which I reside.

Last week I attended a Sociology department seminar where two staff members from my University complained at length about the failure of American sociologists to account for cultures outside their own. I quite enjoyed listening to this little rant but my classmates seemed to think it harsh. They whispered, “are you going to say anything?” but I explained that I hoped to hear more before my cover was blown.

In my conversations with Scottish people I often find them to be very fond of the US. They are not fans of Bush-era foreign policy, but so many tell me “America is a great country.” Even though some of them, while vacationing in the Sates, have encountered ridiculous people asking questions like “Is life in Scotland still like in the movie Braveheart?” they still quite like American culture. In fact, I have to work rather hard to find local culture in this city where the two most popular entertainment districts are full of American restaurants like TGI Fridays. I think Bono was right – American culture is contagious.

Song of the Day: "To America We Go" by Ashley MacIsaac and Scots-Gaelic singer Mary Jane Lamond

PS - I apologize for the Queen's English spelling when I'm writing to an American audience. My mac knows where I am and spell-corrects accordingly. Handy for school essays, but makes me look snooty on this blog :)

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