Anonymous surveys of both European and American
students at HPU produced the following results.
European students in the United States are usually overwhelmed
by the enormous size of the country. What is often next most
striking for them is the friendly and open American mentality.
A female student from France said that she perceived American
students as funny and open-minded, and that some of them wanted
to know more about the European culture. However, some Europeans
often consider such friendliness only a communication technique,
implying that it is somewhat superficial. Americans are indeed
keen on making contacts, perhaps because easy friendliness is
a necessity in a country where people move a lot and change their
Some Europeans at HPU think that making deep or true friendships
with Americans takes a lot of effort. A female student from Slovenia
said that she thinks American students, as well as Europeans,
tend to stick more with people from their own culture. She finds
it hard to really get to know an American. Nevertheless, a female
student from France replied that, for her, nationality doesn’t
determine friendship, but personality.
Some European students think that Americans are provincial,
ignorant of world affairs, and materialistic. They find that
more educated Americans don’t speak any language fluently
besides English and don’t know much about European history,
let alone geography. Some of the negative images about Americans
stem from such stereotypes and long-standing prejudices that
are hard to break.
The reverse is also true. For American visitors to Europe,
Europeans might seem more formal because they are more reluctant
first names. Also, Northern and Middle Europeans—from Switzerland
to Scandinavia—often seem less easy-going, less friendly
and less talkative, especially in public places like buses, subways,
However, the continent of Europe is composed of a large variety
of cultures and peoples, so one can hardly speak of one European
society. In Europe, the ethnic and cultural differences are mainly
divided by national borders. European diversity is its variety
of cultures, languages, and ways of living in a rather small
area: London, Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Berlin, Rome, and Athens – all
are within a radius of fewer than 1080 miles (1725 km). For the
United States, the distance from Miami to Seattle is more than
3300 miles (5320 km), yet, at least for European eyes, these
cities have a lot in common: both places have their skylines,
their ghettos, and the same supermarkets, shop chains, and restaurants
where one can eat the same pizzas or hamburgers.
What do students find most challenging about the other nationality?
According to a female American student, not knowing another country’s
language is challenging. A male student from Norway replied that
it’s challenging for him to try to communicate the beliefs,
values, and norms of his culture without being interrupted or
told off. Many students also said that food and ways of eating
are different. European meals often tend to be two-hour social
events while many Americans value quick convenience foods and
The biggest cultural difference? A female student from Slovenia
said that it’s the quality of life. Many Americans have
to work hard in order to make a living, while many Europeans
can allow themselves to work less and take longer vacations.
Also, according to a female student from Germany, the social
security system in the United States does not seem that social
at all, for many Americans can’t afford health insurance
and those who have it can still face high costs when certain
treatments are not covered or only partially covered.
A male American said that the education systems and views
of the world are different. Information in the United States
and in U.S. schools is focused on the United States which,
given its size, can easily be seen as a world in itself.
of the immigrants to the United States were completely directed
towards their future in the new world so this has not changed
a lot until today. Therefore, even educated Americans often
have an insufficient knowledge about the rest of the world.
How would students like people from the other nationality
to act towards them? Here, Americans and Europeans alike
that they want to be treated with respect and that they want
to be open minded towards them and their culture. One female
student from Switzerland said that she would like students
to mingle more and not stay within their own circles.
All in all, attitudes and viewpoints of American and European
students are quite diverse and there is a wide range of
individuals in each group. Some seem to have difficulties
a deeper exchange with another nationality, while others
have such a hard time or see differences mainly in education,
food, or other minor aspects of culture. One thing is obvious,
Everyone wants to be treated with respect. By being
tolerant and open minded, we can enhance cultural understanding
bridge cultural gaps.