What Visitors Don’t Realize About the U. S.

I stumbled across this on Quora so I thought I’d pass it along:

Two years ago I traveled with my girlfriend all over the USA. We started our journey in New York and arrived in Los Angeles by bus. Travelling by a bus allowed us to take a closer look at America. On the way we stopped in Indianapolis, Nashville, Dallas, Phoenix. USA turned out to be much bigger than we expected. There everything was big, overwhelming. In the stores there was a huge selection of goods, which have no equivalents in Europe. The USA was a strange experience for us because on the one hand we knew this country from the movies and that’s why we had more ideas about it than about some unknown country and at the same time this country was completely different than the image we had in our mind. In the province people are very open, very curious about the world and at the same time do not know the world. When we said that we live in France, we were asked strange questions such as whether there are cats in France….The USA is a country of extraordinary diversity of landscape, huge spaces, full of colors. I really admired the American province, small towns. The biggest disappointment was Los Angeles.There are a lot of people with guns in Texas. I’ve been thinking about why they go in public with these guns all this time….Do they feel safe because of this or are the streets in Texas so dangerous?

I first became aware of this decades ago when a Brit friend spoke blithely about driving from Atlanta to Chicago. Just because you can go by train or car from London to Bristol or Manchester in a couple of hours doesn’t mean the same is true of the U. S. Most visitors stay in the big cities which also gives them a distorted view of the U. S.

Heck, the problem extends to Americans as well. IMO people from the Northeast would do well to take a driving trip across the U. S. Stay off the interstates. It might give you a different view of the country.

6 comments… add one
  • Drew Link

    In all seriousness. And I’m sure you know this from experience. There are people in NYC who haven’t a clue what its like, or what the people are like, in, say, Lafayette, IN, Omaha, NE or Shreveport, LA.

    Its not just a wisecrack that they believe the world ends at the Hudson.

  • The same exists on the West Coast. There is a wisecrack in LA: “There is no life east of Sepulveda”.

    As fate would have it I have visited all three of those place, both as a tourist and for work.

  • Grey Shambler Link

    And we have people feverishly tearing down the few shared origin stories that hold us together.
    Terrible thing to flay our forefathers lives publicly and out of the context of their day. If nothing is worthy of respect, there will be none.

  • Drew Link

    Dave –

    I have no doubt. Being in the business I’m in: searching for US based family owned manufacturing businesses that are at a crossroads in succession planning, I’ve been everywhere. In fact, I have been to the two largest cities in every state in the country, except Maine. I kept track. And many, many smaller towns. Private equity sounds glamorous. But rolling into Hampton Inns dog tired at 10pm is more like it.

  • I don’t travel as much as I used to. As a tourist I’ve been to all of the states in the continental U. S. plus three countries. For work I’ve been to all of the states in the lower 48 plus at least ten countries. Generally more than just the two largest towns. I was in Fargo when news of the Challenger disaster came out and two weeks later I was in Lake Charles, LA. I used to fly 100,000 miles a year. One year I flew into Boston once a week for the entire year. Another year I spent a summer in Huntsville, AL. Flew in on what used to be the NASA contractors’ circuit—Chicago to Houston to Huntsville to Miami to Washington, DC to Chicago. Down on Monday morning; back on Friday evening.

  • steve Link

    “IMO people from the Northeast would do well to take a driving trip across the U. S. Stay off the interstates. It might give you a different view of the country.”

    Whoa! I grew up in farm country. Lived in Philly for a while, then Tampa when in the Air Force. My current home town has a population of 2500. Some of the places where I work are in areas not much worse that Appalachia. People in those areas are just as likely to know nothing about people in cities. That makes it easy for them to believe that everyone living in cities is an elite looking down on them. Totally not true. To believe that everyone in city’s are godless heathens looking to persecute them for their religion and come take their guns, women and children. Totally not true, though of course their kids are leaving them of their own volition.

    I am sure there is a tiny percentage of people in LA and NYC who live up to the stereotype who never leave the city AND look down on everyone else. I am also certain there are plenty of people elsewhere with similar beliefs about their area being superior. Am I the only here who ever lived in Texas? Great place, except for the Texans. God forbid you ever suggest there might be somewhere else worth living.

    Anyway, this is a recurrent meme repeated baby the right to keep their base nice and angry. Would we all benfit from people knowing more about the areas where we dont live? Sure. Do that and stop demonizing people for where they dont live.


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