America Has No Culture ?

Jan 31st, 2010 | Filed under Opinions and Perspectives, Rants, Travel

I have been traveling or living overseas more on than off for almost two decades now, I have spent very little time with people of my native country of Canada, or native continent of North America. I have often worked overseas for Korean, Japanese, Thai, and quite a few British companies as well. Over halve of my adult working life has been spent as a stranger in a strange land.

I had a recent trip to Lao with a group of people, some of them I had met and talked to before, the majority were Brits. For some reason the first thing a group of Brits wants to know is if I am American, I of course tell them no I am Canadian.

For some reason at this point more often than not the Brits will start talking my ear off about how America has no culture, how they are always telling everyone what to do, and correcting my English. For some reason things like English Football being called Soccer in North America is a big deal. And how Potato Chips are actually Crisps not chips.

I actualy found this fascinating when I first started hearing all the opinions of America and Americans, but very often these things tend to touch a bit of a nerve about my home country of Canada also, the accusations of no culture, of being new, etc etc. Over time this has worn on me a bit. I became tired of this conversation a long time ago. I can pretty much predict what they are going to say all the time because I feel with some of these people this is the same list of things they say to every North American, and often with each other.

Now I have no problem with Brits, I have many British friends, and although we had this conversation once upon a time we eventually got past it and worked our way into truly interesting conversations and proper friendships.

But let me make a bit of a rebuttal here about North American culture.

First of all, games like Hockey, Lacrosse, Baseball, and North American Football did not come out of thin air, they were invented in North America, usually adopted from Native North American games and adjusted into our culture.

Halloween in North America is very different to what it is elsewhere, I dare say it is a unique North American culture.

Rock and Roll, Blues, Jazz, and Hip Hop as well as Country and Bluegrass Music were all invented in North America, this too is part of our culture.

North American Movies and Television are also part of our culture, although Americans have a much stronger influence on entertainment, you will find a large number of Canadians mixed up in the headliners for American music, movies, and television.

T-Shirts and Teddy Bears also come from America.

The problem is not that Americans have no culture, it is that you have adopted so many American cultures into your own you can not identify it anymore.

When I go to the stores in virtually every country in the world the Potato Crisps are called Potato Chips right on the bag, I guess the Americans just did a better job of marketing and selling their products, get over it. Same as too many people mistake Chips for French Fries, if there was a huge chain of fish and chips in the word, this wouldn’t have been such an issue. Yes, I realize that chips and french fries are not the same thing, I had my fish and chips wrapped in a newspaper when I was growing up.

Now I would like to take a look at Canada for a minute here, we have three official languages, English, French, and Inuit, but of course there are many other languages used and spoken. Often people only speak one of these three languages, they don’t generally live in the same neighborhood as each other, places like Vancouver on the west coast usually can not speak french, and 4000 odd KM away in Quebec City, generally they do not speak English, Of course there is the extreme north where there is the Inuit also. If you go all the way over to the east coast to places like Newfoundland, usually speak a mixed dialect of French and English, with some Scottish thrown in.

The US has a much higher population, with smaller gaps between settlements, causing more blending of cultures, but all together it can be called American Culture.

You see what happened is a long time ago now, 500 years ago now, and yes there are actually buildings that are almost 500 years old. People came to Canada, with their cultures intact, from many different places in the world, and generally did not settle together, keeping their culture intact until today, in fact I almost wonder if there aren’t more kilts and bagpipes in Canada today being worn then their are in Scotland.

Now I know 400 year old building aren’t that old, but there are an awful lot of them, and considering there have never been any great wars to destroy them, some of the cities like Montreal or Quebec City look very similar to what it must have been like walking around Europe around that time, even more so than Europe does today, with the exception of places like Austria.

I know England has a particular bar that is almost a thousand years old, but, I have actually been to Varanasi, and drank bang lassies in a lassie bar that has been there for close to six thousand years, so in the same way our 400 year old buildings don’t measure up to your very old buildings, yours don’t measure up to India’s.

There are building in New Mexico in the US that have been constantly inhabited for over a thousand years.

I am not sure exactly what culture we are missing, but we do have culture.

And to be honest, saying things like how rude Americans are is actually very rude of you.

I love Brits, I have had the absolute best times in my life with large groups of British friends, my mother is British, and I am also a citizen of Great Britain.

But just because a bunch of people packed up and went overseas together, it doesn’t mean they lost all their culture. Canada and the United states have just evolved over the last 400 years or so on a path of its own. As you have been evolving also in different directions.

No one however, has no culture.

As for Americans always telling everyone what to do, that is just the pot calling the kettle black, England used to tell 80% of the world what to do until recently, now it’s just America’s turn. England hasn’t been told what to do for many generations, it must be frustrating to be in a different position, the rest of us however are used to following orders already, and it doesn’t seem to bother us quite as much.

  1. Ryan Paul
    Aug 10th, 2011 at 00:55
    Reply | Quote | #1

    Did I really spur you on to write this post?

    • PBScott
      Aug 10th, 2011 at 04:43
      Reply | Quote | #2

      There were countless events throughout my life that made this post happen. Mostly it was as I stated at the top a rebuttal to a bus ride to Lao. After hearing two days of people slamming the US I got back and got involved in a discussion you had started on BC about the US, and it made me feel like defending them a bit is all, and with it myself, as Canada and the US are not quite as different as many believe us to be.

      I see your points in the US blindly rejecting all sorts of Socialist type of policies all the time, and I also do not get why they do it, but if Canada ever had a brother in the world it is America, and if the US ever had a brother, it would have to be Canada. I do understand the differences, but they are not as great as the similarities.