Different Perspectives about the United States in Spain

For this post, I would like to look at how some of the people that I have met, non-Americans, view the U.S.

For some, I outright asked the question: “What do you think of the United States, the good and the bad?” and if I was asked for more direction I said, “in terms of the people, the culture, the government, entertainment, foreign policy, or whatever you would like.” And for others, the topic came up naturally and I wrote down afterwards some of their viewpoints.

First is a friend my age that I met from Barcelona, I asked him about his thoughts on the U.S., and his response was really interesting. He said that overall, his view was pretty negative. His first and biggest complaint was that America had a unique brand of patriotism that he saw as deeply rooted and was used to justify bad things throughout history. He looked at today and pointed to the topic of guns as an example for what he believed was an injustice or at least led to injustice and saw that many Americans refuse to give up guns on the basis of tradition or patriotism. He also said that there are social issues in America that bother him, and the example he gave was transphobia in Texas. In relation to America’s foreign policy, he said that America is always involved in foreign affairs, and not all of them are good. Lastly, he described the American economy as “radical capitalism” with a strong presence of monopolies and the ability of media to influence politics.

The second person that I asked was my professor at my university here. He said that America is known for exporting culture primarily, which he pointed to Hollywood as the main example, and he said that they have had the most prominent and relevant media in the world with movies and other influences. In terms of American politics, he said that it drastically depends on the president for whether or not the American government is good. He thought Trump was a very bad president who said a lot of things he should not have and was leading the world towards war. The last topic he mentioned was that America is a fellow democracy like Spain and they are both members of NATO, so they collaborate and work together often.

The third is a friend and a helper with the program that I studied with. She described American culture as a melting pot of the world and is composed of many values, beliefs, and backgrounds. She said that American has always had the goal of progress and growth, which it often achieves or works to achieve on its own. She said that although America is considered a democracy, she sees it more accurate to describe it as a republic that is directly influenced by the current president. She said in recent times, she sees Biden as somewhat ineffective in comparison to his promises and platform. She said that he is probably one of the most unpopular presidents of America, which may have a part due to his handling of COVID-19. Lastly, she said that it seems that his administration has been focusing on the revitalization of leadership and having a larger presence in the global balance of power, but recent events and developments like the handling of China and Russia and the signing of the AUKUS agreement, a deal between Australia, the UK, and the US with the goal of intelligence sharing and the acquisition of nuclear submarines in the Pacific, have made this “lofty goal” somewhat tenuous and questionable.

When I asked for these questions, I was genuinely curious how the outside world views America, and I found it very enlightening with the differing viewpoints and all of the similarities between these responses. While my own views are somewhat different, I believe all of the perspectives that I found were valid and had a lot of merit to them, and they even changed the way that I look at the American economy and government. Americans look at the country with a lot of entrenched beliefs from the inside about how the country works and how it should be, but it is imperative that we look with objectivity and an outsiders perspective when looking at many of the problems, developments, or just traditions that we have.

In addition to these interviews, I have had some conversations which I can summarize here. I had spoken with a police officer who said that the general view of America changes with each president. One Spanish student at the university asked my friend about the topic of school shootings immediately upon finding out we were American, which I find very sad and telling of the portrayal of America internationally. Finally, I spoke with the waitstaff at a restaurant during the off-peak hours, and they were excited when I told them I was from Indiana and talked about the car industry and wanted to know if it was really as flat as people say it is (it is).

Until next time…