From one side of the Atlantic to the other

Paula Hafner

Before I boarded the plane to come to the U.S., I definitely carried a few stereotypes with me in my luggage.

I thought that everything in America was going to be bigger and more grand than in Europe—things as well as people.

I imagined the people were very friendly, extroverted, and work-oriented. My expectations of college life included ideas of big, majestic lecture halls with intimidating professors always trying to put you on the spot.

I expected the university and everyone attending it to be like one big family, where we all supported each other, where everyone went to all of the sporting events to show their support and pride for being a Wildcat.

Much of this fantasy about American college life comes from the depictions in American movies and TV shows that dominate Swedish networks.

These stereotypes are obviously not representative of all Americans, but they are examples of commercially successful movies and TV shows that have reached out to a large European audience.

The American entertainment industry has a huge influence on the rest of the world and it ultimately shapes our views and perceptions of this country.

It paints a glorious picture of all shapes and colors, and ranges from reality shows such as “Keeping Up with the Kardashians,” to comedy shows such as “Friends,” to drama series such as “Grey’s Anatomy.”

We Europeans enjoy all of these great products, but I have come to realize that as little as the movie “Eurotrip” is representative of the entire European continent, the “American Pie” movies are a similar parodic  portrayal of the United States.

Although many of my American stereotypes turned out to be true, at least in this part of the country, I’ve managed to dig deeper and become more familiar with the line that separates
entertainment from reality.

Obviously, not all aspects of American society have been portrayed well by the entertainment industry, and I have made quite a few discoveries during the two years I have spent here.

One thing I learned about Americans, as well as my own culture, is how our general attitudes toward things differ.

Americans always find a way to remain  positive about a number of things for which my reaction would be  hiding under my bedcovers in a fetal position hoping it all would just go away.

I cannot speak for the rest of Europe, but from my experiences at least, Swedes really enjoy the occasional hardcore complaining about mundane and normal issues.

We might go on long rants on issues ranging from working conditions, to politicians, to the weather, to public transportation being a few minutes behind schedule. The latter two are probably the average Swedish person’s favorite topics to complain about.

Personally, I will complain about the weather in Michigan every other day or so knowing that it will not change anytime soon.

I cannot imagine any of the Americans I know doing the same. They always seem to find a silver lining whatever the issue might be, and sometimes I wish I had that ability as well. It would have certainly lightened up some of the dark winter days I’ve spent up here in the U.P.