Not actually anything to do with Moscow.
I will openly admit that my experience with European ideas, opinions, cultures and ideologies is minimal – but I am increasingly suprised at the strong differences between Anglo-Saxon and American values versus what has been termed by some as “old Europe”. Initially it would appear strange given the historial ties between North America as well as the similarities in government and shared western liberal demoratic values. With these parallels one would assume a reasonable concurrent shared set of thoughts, feelings and understandings regarding various issues. But are instead presented with a very large gulf between attitudes. Everything from immigration to welfare to defense to politics to the United States even to the underlying motivations and goals of my future urban planning profession.
I try very hard to avoid stereotypes and other regional classifications. When generalizations are required, I prefer to set them along generational and experiential lines as I feel they are a stronger and more correct form of
I’ve noticed that attitudes of those with similar life experiences and regional backgrounds tend to reflect my own and even to a lesser extent, the greater greater values of my North American background. I will even go as far as to stress the experiential entity of the equation over the regional – although regional has a strong effect.
I’m writing this entry largely as a 4am response to a very, very heated argument with a young Danish women (recent undergrad graduate or current student – that was never established) in the Moscow hostel in which I was residing.
I was very taken back at the strong strong socialist and anti-american arguments presented on varying topics. In a rather crude, but effective manner the conversation ended with yours truly walking out over a comment signaling that my interest in working within developing world cities was nothing more than a mercenary attempt at sucking money from these already poor nations. More specifically that I was only interested in conducting work and possibly research in the interest of my own wallet.
If there was ever an example of “White Man’s Guilt” then it was clearly expressed in this forth floor Moscow apartment by my opponent who also had a very difficult time expressing the difference between George W. Bush and the United States of America. I truly was astonished at what I would have percieved as common values but obviously were not. I was astonished at the complete lack of understading regarding North America. I was astonished at the lack of faith in Western liberal traditions. I was astonished that it appeared that I had completely mis-read Europe. I was astonished that I felt like a neo-conservative when I am anything but.
Regarding the immigration component of the argument the English travelers at the hostel were clearly displaying typical Anglo-Saxon attitudes towards immigration, assimilation and integration (ie. once you land on the shores you are American, English, Canadian etc – although this is to a greater extent in the USA) but like many from European nation-states the Dane had difficulty accepting these feelings and displayed a much more casual attitude towards racial slurs and skin colour connotations – terms that are almost unheard of among similar North American generation.
Again, I find myself walking carefully around the thesis that these represent “old-Europe” attitudes, and instead are largely experiential-inspired opinions. I am a strong believer that opinions shift greatly with experience and distance from a university campus. I am a living example of that. My current travel companion is German and we share an incredible number of shared opinons and attitudes revolving around an astonishing number of topics. I also have met and have other European (even Danish) friends who share similar thoughts…but we are all of similar age, experience and stages in our life.
I’m curious to hear from my brother and sister who both spent time in Scandinavia and their feelings of those places as a outsider. The attitudes of their generation and the country regarding the the important issues of our time. I’m slowly developing a feeling that many Western Europe are developing a paradise-syndrome which ignores positives in favor of the negatives at the expense of traditions that provide for their way of life…if that makes any sense.
Tags: american values, anglo saxon, Dane, denmark, developing world, europe, generational, immigration, Moscow, North America, North American, Scandinavia, socialism, stereotypes, united states, urban planning, Western Europe
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