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Other side of Explore Europe.

I would love to know why Europeans visit the United States.

What was interesting?
Why did you visit?
What worked and what didn't workout on your vacation?

We don't get this sort of reflection in travel sites.

Posted by
15510 posts

Having spent a few years working with visitors to the USA, I can tell you they come here for various reasons: to see our cities, our national parks, and places they've seen in movies or on TV. Many come to see the Mouse.

Posted by
937 posts

If they come to see the Mouse then, that is a sad expression of our culture... :)

I wonder if Europeans visiting the US, just got an understanding about how vast it is.

And the language thing. A European has to speak passable English. The US is not a multiple language area.

Posted by
3949 posts

My first holiday in the US was to see the West, mainly places associated with wild west movies, Monument Valley, the Alamo, Tombstone, Las Vegas, Hollywood. That part of American culture I think has a lot of weight in Europe.

I think the average European knows New York, Florida, and California... everything else in the middle is vaguely "Texas" lol

Posted by
8992 posts

A lot of Germans want to see the West, the Reservations, the Grand Canyon, etc. They also want to go to San Francisco, Miami, NYC, Alaska, and Hawaii.
I don't recall hearing any Germans who have expressed a desire to go to Disneyland or Disneyworld. It may have been on their radar many years ago, but it isn't now, especially with a Disneyland in Paris and many other theme parks in Europe.

Different countries may have desires to see different places in the US and Canada. The French may want to see totally different places than Germans, or Spaniards, or Swedes.

Posted by
556 posts

My interest in the US started because my German aunt was married to a GI. As a child I spent a lot of time with them in Ludwigsburg (Pattonville). When they had to go back to the US we visited them quite often and without my parents I spent a very long time with them in NC.

It was a natural consequence that I eventually visited other parts of the US later - starting with the East Coast and later the West Coast. Traveling in Europe would not have crossed my mind for many years when I was younger. I had to go to Italy with my parents every year and when I could finally decide for myself where to go Europe was just not cool enough for me :-)

As I got older the tide turned and now I prefer to travel in Europe and especially Germany. I realized that there is so much to see here.

New York is still one of my favorite cities in the world but I don't have any plans to go back any time soon. Unfortunately my uncle and aunt passed away and my connection to the US is no longer there.

Posted by
556 posts

If they come to see the Mouse then, that is a sad expression of our culture... :)

I do not know many Germans who want to see the Mouse :-) Could do this in Paris as well.

I wonder if Europeans visiting the US, just got an understanding about how vast it is.

Europe is big as well. It's not possible to visit the whole country in one go anyway, so you choose individual states. I see it the same way as when you visit a country in Europe.

And the language thing. A European has to speak passable English. The US is not a multiple language area.

I hardly know a German who doesn't speak English well enough to be able to communicate in the US.

Posted by
6366 posts

My visits to the US (as we are talking US, not North America) have been based around riding the railroads. So I am very aware of the vastness of the nation having gone coast to coast twice.
I will admit, rather humbly, to having used a highly specialist agency, not doing it independently. But, as a specialist agency, they take you well off the beaten track, which is very much my travel style. So, apart from Amtrak, I have done quite a number of the preserved American railroads (a UK term, maybe not yours, not sure of your term)- like Cumbres and Toltec, Durango, Grand Canyon, Pikes Peak and others, with obvious road sections to get there. I remember on our way from Denver to Pikes Peak we stayed on an Indian (their word in those days, I apologise if I should say Native American now) which I would never have known about if doing it as a road trip.
As I say my travel style is pretty eclectic so, although I've been to LAX my interests in the time available meant that I haven't been to Hollywood Boulevard (but I don't think I missed out), likewise I've been to SFO twice, but somehow not got to Alcatraz. But I've walked the Golden Gate Bridge, been to Sausalito and to all kinds of places tourists don't go to on the BART and thoroughly enjoyed the heritage streetcars. Why spend so much time on the BART?- because it was a specialist study in our school geography class. I don't believe I missed out not doing Alcatraz.
As a genealogist, I know a lot of people from my part of England went to the western US and western Canada as miners. Their lives fascinate me.
On my 3rd rail trip (from Halifax, NS to Perth, Western Australia for the Millennium) we had an overnight, literally, in Seattle- between the Cascades from Vancouver and the CS to SFO. Now I knew little, very little, about Seattle at the time. While I knew that the time there was grossly inadequate it was only when I got there that I instantly fell in love with Seattle.
Yes I know fine well it has it's problems. I don't wear rose tinted spectacles.
And the two kind of merge- the scenic glories of the PNW, and the fascinating stories of the genealogy. By chance one of the descendants of a Whitehaven man who went to Cle Elum (via Canada) visited us here on a rest day/free day from a tour (not a RS tour, although she has been on RS), and so my next (now long overdue) visit to the US is to the PNW. Through her I am very well aware now of parts of WA way off the tourist trail. I must say my itinerary is currently running at 5 weeks, and almost none of the "tick list" items are on there (they are in a sense, but hidden, not to the foremost). Instead there is island hopping and port hopping on WSF, things like a lot of time on the Olympic peninsula, it's lighthouses and Marrowstone. I may be the only tourist to whom the Starlight Room at Port Townsend is a must, or who would even think of arriving via Vancouver and the Coho boat, and leaving via WSF to Sidney, BC (a boat I have now literally missed until 2030, likely forever). I would do the AMH as opposed to an Alaskan cruise. Someone who would love to fly into Paine Field, not Seatac, for it's historical significance. In Seattle things like MOHAI (love especially to do History Cafe in person as opposed to on line), the V5, the Pan Am Clipper Base, St Mark's Cathedral, Ballard, Mercer Island etc are far more important to me than the big ticket items. Obscure things like exploring the staircases. Given a straight choice I would go to the Cascade Symphony Orchestra, as opposed to the Benaroya- because of their online output during Covid.
A lot of time out at CE/Roslyn and area is planned, and (being touristy) Leavenworth.
I would love to do Skagit tulips, be there for 'Cinnamon Bun Day' on the North Cascades Highway (if it still happens now, by her daughter)- strange things.
You asked for reflection. I have taken up far too much space here than I was entitled to.

Posted by
6994 posts

A lot of French people, or Parisians at least, want to go to New York, which still exerts some sort of fascination, being so often portrayed in media. Personally, I like New York, but I've scracthed that itch already. New York also lends itself well to a shorter break and has the cheapest flights so, in spite of the high daily costs, for many people it is the only trip to the US they can and will ever afford.

Florida is high on the list too, with (well-off) families going to Orlando (I had the privilege of such a trip to Florida with my family when I was 10) and party people going to Miami.

Then California, Las Vegas, and the national parks of the Southwest (Colorado plateau).

By the way, not the US, but just north of the border, Québec is also popular here thanks to the lack of language barrier. I have never been myself.

As for my perspective... beyond that US top-3 I've also been to the Boston area (lovely), the NC Outer Banks (beautiful but not worth crossing the Atlantic ocean for, in my opinion), and parts of the Great Plains (family - my partner is American). This summer, I'll add Maine and N.H. to the list!
I generally enjoy the ease of travelling in the US, but I dislike the cost (the gap vs. Western Europe seems to have gotten worse lately, even putting the exchange rate aside) and the temptation to stretch your trip to excessive distances.

Posted by
4574 posts

@Balso Québec is also popular here thanks to the lack of language barrier. I have never been myself. that is interesting as I have heard so many Quebecois complain that the Parisians say they don't understand them. Though it may be western Quebecers and their franglais. However, it is written the same either side of the pond, so that might be in Quebec's favour. If you decide to come to Canada, New Brunswick also has a strong French (Acadian) heritage and language.

Posted by
3949 posts

Do Europeans think about the quintessential American experience?

For me the quintessential American experience is the freedom of driving down Route 66 in a Ford Mustang stopping along the way to see natural landmarks, classic roadside diners, retro motels, and quirky museums.

Posted by
20309 posts

The owners of my favorite Zermatt hotel went to Las Vegas to renew their wedding vows at a chapel with an Elvis Impersonator as the officiant. Then they rented Harley-Davidsons and toured the Southwest. I heard a similar tale from a jewelry store owner in Bayreuth, went to Arizona and rented a Harley. Born to be wild.

Posted by
6994 posts

@MariaF, I work with many Québécois (my company has a plant outside Montréal) so I have a lot of practice by now, but understanding some Québécois people is indeed tough for an untrained French ear due to pronunciation alone. The same gap as between, say, Scotland and Texas.

Posted by
19 posts

One of my co-workers, Gabriela, grew up in Argentina and Italy. She moved here in her 30s when she got married. Each year, my wife and I go to Europe in the summer, and Gabriela tells me that she can't understand it; according to her, everything in Europe is basically the same. The only time she goes back to Rome is for a wedding, or something like that. What she really likes is road trips, visiting the Grand Canyon, the Arizona Desert, or Yellowstone and Glacier. She also spends a couple weeks every summer in Kauai. She is constantly telling me, "your country is so interesting!" Having grown up here, I don't have the same fascination (although I enjoy a good road trip as well). I still find Europe more interesting.

Posted by
937 posts

isn31c, and stephengilbert,, Love every word of it. This is exactly what I asked for. :)

I've met tourists from Europe. And I live in an astounding beautiful part of the world. But, it is rare to see someone from Europe exploring the good places in Oregon. Or really, the entire USA: It is a vast country. And all the areas have huge differences.

If you went to New Orleans and then to, Dallas, was there a sense of culture shock?

Posted by
556 posts

But, it is rare to see someone from Europe exploring the good places in Oregon

I rarely see Americans exploring northern Germany, even though it's beautiful. It is always the supposed stereotype that one wants to see. Or you want to see what everyone else visits.

Posted by
6366 posts

I would look at Culture shock in a different way.
I find it interesting how the American flag is almost venerated in a way unlike any other country I have been to, it is an eternal surprise how often events in Seattle, at least, are prefaced with statements about the native people, whose land it is- showing a real and thoughtful respect.
Actually how open and direct (I nearly said forthright, but that's wrong) American people are.
Simple things like the armed police and your firetrucks- and how respectfully the firemen are treated in the small towns/cities (another thread) at least. The same goes for the enormous respect Americans have for their armed forces veterans.
I've quietly seen discussion threads on here which I couldn't envisage in the UK, for their open ness and candour.
I love how even small towns are so vibrant, so full of "mom and pop" stores, something quite rare to encounter over here.
I see The Magic Geekdom you tube channel and seeing things the other way round is interesting.
In the UK it would be very rare to have "no go" parts of cities. I have been following the Seattle hotels thread with interest, where quite large parts of the city seem to be being viewed by locals as unsafe, even being told not to walk under the I5 to hotels from the Northgate mall. I have picked up some similar sentiments about Portland, Oregon as well. I can't think of anywhere in London where I would say that- or at least nowhere a tourist would plausibly go to.
Please tell me off if I shouldn't say this, but I have never seen anywhere in the world where I have stayed, about a damages deposit at a hotel when I arrive, but I see that widely in Seattle. That is a Culture shock and I'm not sure what message it sends out.
On a more positive note I just love the Conquest Overland you tube channel for the scenic content, even if off roading is not my thing. I stay on tarmac!
One of the things I would love to do, probably in another life, is parts of the Lewis and Clark trail (a fascinating read), although in reality Astoria is as far as I would get on that in all likelihood- that is little more than an aspiration. Astoria would be on a road trip we have talked about down to Heceta Head. At that point I have gone off topic again, and need to come back to reality, as I have wandered off again.

Posted by
8582 posts

When I meet European travelers in the US, I find they they often know more about US history than the majority of people who live here.

@ isn31c, thank you for your interesting comments and observations. To me it illustrates how much our expectations and impressions are colored by the limitations of media and how things change with time. Not sure which is more significant: casual acceptance of violent crime and armed muggings in the US, versus casual tolerance of pickpocketing and petty theft in Europe.

And I remember when Brixton and much of South London was spoken of as a "no go" zone, and more recently, parts of Scandinavian cities. Things change.

But mostly I've wondered what European visitors to the US do about medical insurance, and what they are advised about US ATMs, tipping and language barriers.

Posted by
4226 posts

In the UK it would be very rare to have "no go" parts of cities. I
have been following the Seattle hotels thread with interest, where
quite large parts of the city seem to be being viewed by locals as
unsafe, even being told not to walk under the I5 to hotels from the
Northgate mall. I have picked up some similar sentiments about
Portland, Oregon as well. I can't think of anywhere in London where I
would say that- or at least nowhere a tourist would plausibly go to.

Even the neighbours to the north think that. There isn't a Canadian city where I have wondered or researched if it is safe. But it's an automatic when I book a US trip. Just this week, I asked on this Forum about safety in Baltimore and Washington DC. Heck, I've even looked up Dunedin, Florida safety statistics for a potential trip next March.

Posted by
1672 posts

Interesting topic.

We get a lot of international tourists in my neck of the woods, because of Banff and Lake Louise. Many are Asian or Australian, but there tend to be quite a few from Germany, drawn here by Karl May's books.

Posted by
20309 posts

@Allan, I don't think you have to worry too much about no-go zones in Dunedin, FL, unless you happen into one of those belligerent Blue Jays fans at the ball park.

Posted by
3949 posts

I don't think there is much interest in Europe of really getting to know the US or US history,

Perhaps. But Europe is not unique in this. Conversely, I think there is little interest in the USA of really getting to know Mexico or Mexican history.

It seems there is no where in Europe without American tourists.

Not in my experience, I've found there are vast swaths of Europe where I did not encounter an American tourist or even a English speaker for several days.

Posted by
6366 posts

Re-Medical Insurance- at least from the UK (don't know about Europe) I just get an annual worldwide inc. USA travel policy, which includes (from memory) £10million medical insurance and medivac. The cost is just over £100 for the year for me. And my insurer monitors my flights and automatically gives me lounge access anywhere in the world if delayed for 2 hours or more. Doubtless the least expensive lounge, but still.
I always travel pre paid hotel and use physical cash or card for my other spending, so have never used an American ATM. So I was puzzled by that comment. I have since googled. Very interesting. I just thought it was the same as at home.
Yes everyone knows about US tipping culture- a whole separate debate.
The language question I assume applies to non English speakers. Although it is interesting your different words for the same things. That constantly trips me up. Like gravy. To Brits gravy is a brown meat based sauce to have with meat. I know there are all sorts of gravy over there, but even I was surprised the other week to see popcorn with gravy at a movie theater. Clearly from 5,000 miles away I don't know exactly what that is but look forward to finding out one day.

Posted by
14580 posts

" I rarely see Americans exploring northern Germany...." How true ! Or, eastern Germany for that matter.

One only needs to focus on visiting North Germany apart from Hamburg, and places in eastern Germany....Ostfriesland, Cuxhaven, Oldenburg, Mecklenburg, western Pomerania, Saxon-Anhalt , the towns, villages in the Greater Berlin area away from Potsdam and Berlin , Schleswig-Holstein, you can bet on not running into Americans at all.

Posted by
788 posts

I have little personal experience with Europeans visiting the U.S., except for my husband's family members who come over every so often, and a couple of friends who used to visit when they were younger. However, I have observed foreign tourists from time to time. Living in southern California there are always tourists around, foreign and domestic.

There is one place that seems to be a must-see for Europeans, and that is Death Valley, the lowest-altitude place in the U.S. One summer my husband was taking a road trip with a visiting French cousin who had just finished his Bac, and was on an extended vacation before university. They were on the trip for a few days and went to Zabriskie Point in Death Valley to see the sunrise. All eleven parking spots there were taken. One couple there was German, and everyone else was French! My husband was the only American there! From what we can gather, Death Valley is a big thing to visit, at least among the French.

One other phenomenon I have observed is a number of Germans and Italians driving the coast highway (Route 101) on Harleys that they have rented. You meet them at cafes and gas stations. A motorcycle road trip along the California coast, and a road trip through the southwest to the national parks, seem to have a following among some Europeans. It gives me pleasure to see others appreciate some of the natural wonders that I love. It is great to share!

Posted by
556 posts

It seems there is no where in Europe without American tourists.

If I had to guess I would think more than half of Europe is unknown to American tourists. For Germany in particular, I can say that there is significantly more than half of the country that is unknown to Americans. And for me as a German as well :-)

After a few months in this forum I have learned that for the majority of American travelers Germany consists of the stereotype Bavaria, Rhine, some Frankfurt and Berlin and a little Luther country. From time to time someone comes to Hamburg now but the rest hardly interests an American tourist in this forum either.

And it's the same when European tourists come to the US - traveling driven by stereotypes. Apart from NC, I too have only visited places in the US that you 'must' visit as a tourist. Vacation days are finite and the country is big.

I don't think there is much interest in Europe of really getting to know the US or US history,

I learned a lot about American history in school. But history in general is not my favorite topic ... regardless of whether it's European or American history. It's good to know the most important information but that's enough for me personally.

Posted by
991 posts

And the language thing. A European has to speak passable English. The US is not a multiple language area.

Most Europeans under 60 have a pretty good command of the English language, even if they don't admit to it. The EU's objective is that every citizen should have a working knowledge of at least three languages and most schools include English in those three languages.

The schools here in Switzerland offer English, German, French & Italian at C2 level (for free), that means the equivalent of a native speaker and capable of attending a university degree in the language. Most graduates will have a C2 level and most apprentices, trades people and so on will have at least a B2 level, which is a sufficient working knowledge for most daily activities.

According to one of the teachers I have spoken to English is the easiest subject to teach because all the students are very enthusiastic to learn as they want it for travel, the internet and more importantly they need it to participate in the Erasmus Programme, which is a program offered by the EU that allows students to spend a year studying in another member state and comes with financial support. At this stage it is pretty much a right of passage for young people to go spend a year studying or training in another part of Europe and consequently many courses are offered in English.

Posted by
4420 posts

As much as I love our national parks and the museums in the big cities, I will also admit that on my few visits to The Mouse, I have always been impressed with what a great job Disney does(and at quite a price). And the weather in Orlando was wonderful on our two visits there in Dec 2019(one to attend the Citrus Bowl), which I think would attract people from European countries that are cold and somewhat dark that time of year. The first amusement park our daughter ever visited was Plopsaland-I think it was in Belgium not too far from Dunkirk. But I definitely wouldn't waste my time and money at the Disney in Paris!

Posted by
46 posts

I am not a European but I have talked to a lot of European tourists, particularly those from Germany, for some reason.

Germans, and probably all Europeans, are particularly fascinated by the open spaces, natural environment, and "cowboy culture" of the west. This particular milieu largely doesn't exist in Europe, and they have read about it, watched TV and movies about it, and dreamed about in very large numbers. In Canada, where I live, Calgary, Banff, and Jasper seem to be the epicenter of that fascination, though we get lots in BC as well. This really obviously extends to skiing, and I can't count the number of Europeans I've met on ski lifts in Colorado, BC, and Alberta.

There is also a particular fascination with Hollywood and everything that surrounds it. American entertainment culture permeates the entire globe and people want to see where it originated.

New York City has a different but similar fascination due to its importance in finance, art, cuisine, etc, and the huge diaspora from several European countries.

Posted by
556 posts

New York City has a different but similar fascination due to its importance in finance, art, cuisine, etc, and the huge diaspora from several European countries.

I was just wondering what I like about New York City and none of the above mentioned is important to me. It is solely the fascination for big, loud and exciting cities. Manhattan in particular is exactly my thing because it is sometimes so narrow, the houses are so high and in between life rages.

Posted by
4226 posts

Mignon, I think you described New York perfectly. This may sound strange, but I compare my visits to NYC to those of Venice in that it's a perfect place to wander and take it in. I love big cities and it's usually because of the vibrancy and no site in particular. I'll be in Washington DC in September, and besides taking in a couple of baseball games, I have no other reason to see it except to wander and take it in. I'm so much more focused when I'm in European cities.

Posted by
556 posts

This may sound strange, but I compare my visits to NYC to those of Venice

Doesn't sound really strange to me. I feel the same way in Venice. It is the city itself that fascinates me and not some museum or its cultural importance.

In every city I like, it's that feeling that makes me like it in the first place. But you don't get that feeling if you just walk through a city for a few hours. That's why I always try to make it clear to Munich visitors that there are certainly far more beautiful and exciting cities, but that it's these fantastic little things that make up the unique attitude to life - specially in summer :-) And such a feeling always takes a while to get there.

Posted by
427 posts

My young, athletic French co-worker and his girlfriend targeted the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, the California Coast, the Redwoods, and up into Oregon (Crater Lake, Portland, and the coast) and Washington (Mt. Rainier, Olympic National Park, Seattle). I lent him my American iPhone chargers. That, and a few driving hints on how the U.S. differs from France, were my contributions.

I know I've surprised a few French people who ask me about New York City by telling them I don't know -- I've never been there. That seems almost incomprehensible to them -- as if a French person with sufficient economic means hadn't visited Paris. I think they just don't realize how far NYC is from parts of the U.S. It's not as if you could hop on a train and be there in a couple of hours. Well, you can, but only from the Northeast.

Posted by
6784 posts

I think the average European knows New York, Florida, and California... everything else in the middle is vaguely "Texas" lol

Ha, Carlos! I still remember traveling in the UK in 1996. I stopped in a village called Tissington and met 2 British couples who were out for the day. They asked me where I was from and I said, "Ohio," One of the men asked, "Isn't that where all the cowboys are?"

This may sound strange, but I compare my visits to NYC to those of Venice

Doesn't sound really strange to me. I feel the same way in Venice. It is the city itself that fascinates me and not some museum or its cultural importance.

I agree - I've been to NYC many times in my life; mostly to visit friends or for work, and I have yet to see the Eiffel Tower or the Statue of Liberty. One of these days I expect I will, but for some reason I have never felt the need to see the "sights" of NYC.

Posted by
1977 posts

I live near DC and many Europeans including Germans come here as part of exploring the East Coast-a lot come by Amtrak from NYC. They are excited to see the Capitol/White House and all they see in American movies. Yes, most have passing English but that is because English is a required language in most elementary schools. Most are amazed how beautiful DC is and how well the Metro runs-which always gets a big laugh from us DC people.

It's always nice to see the city from another perspective and most are surprised that their notion of guns everywhere is not reality.

Of course most Europeans final destinations is Florida and The Mouse which Germans seem to love.

Posted by
1102 posts

I’ve visited the US several times, although not for about 10 years and due to the cost have no plans to return any time soon.

I’ve been to…no surprises…New York, Florida, California, Vegas and the Grand Canyon. I have loved all my trips. New York is not about seeing tourist sights for me. I did that on my first visit and wondered what all the fuss was about. It was only when I returned and spent time exploring with no particular purpose that I really grew to love it.

Culture shock for me is the amount of homeless people and beggars everywhere, many with serious physical or mental disabilities.

Posted by
1784 posts

I would be curious to know if American history is taught in Europe. World history is taught in the US and that is one of the reasons I think Americans are curious about Europe and the rest of the world. It sounds, unfortunately, that Europeans have become curious of the US because of the media, films, etc.

Boston, Philadelphia, DC, Virginia and the Northeast would seem to be places of interest, but doesn't sound like they are high on any list of Europeans.

Posted by
8799 posts

I live in Hollywood CA because I worked in “the biz “ for 30 years. Now retired and Have remained here due to rent control.

Always saddens me to see tourists walking along Hollywood Boulevard and realising it’s a pit. What they expect is Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. What they get is tacky stores, homelessness and disappointment.

Posted by
556 posts

I would be curious to know if American history is taught in Europe

Yes we were talking about American history as well in school here in Germany. Of course in fast forward but still.

Posted by
6366 posts

I would be curious to know if American history is taught in Europe.

It certainly is in the UK.

I was just wondering how many Americans (even RS Americans) who come to the Lake District and Keswick think about coming to Whitehaven on the west coast, for it's connections with America?
-Mildred Gale/George Washington;
-John Paul Jones and his raid on Whitehaven (and even if you know that, how many go across the Solway Firth to his birthplace at Arbigland);
-the tobacco trade from Virginia;

If not, why not? This is as much American history as British history. Is none of that in his guidebook?

-also the Wordsworth connection both at Whitehaven and Cockermouth.

On the same theme everyone visits the same small sections of Hadrian's Wall- but how many follow the line of Roman forts down the coast (Bowness on Solway is not the end, there is even a Roman fort at Whitehaven as well), and how many follow that trail into and through the Lake District, or is the Lake District just hill walks and nice lakes?

Posted by
14580 posts

This example goes back to the mid-1960s and to the early 1990s when I was told in the early 1990s by two French females , the two a generation apart, when they in secondary education studying for their respective Baccalaureate degrees, one on the university track , that a course in American Studies was mandatory, which included US history, good, bad, and the ugly.

The main question here is: Why should one assume that American history is not taught at the secondary level over there?

Posted by
4226 posts

The main question here is: Why should one assume that American history
is not taught at the secondary level over there?

I thought the main question should be why would someone assume it IS taught over there? We're you closest neighbour and it's not taught here.

Posted by
14580 posts

Actually, I miscounted, there were 3 French females , one of whom in the early 1980s was an exchange professor here in CA, and couple of years older than I. In her secondary ed. studies leading to the completion of the Baccalaureate, she told me that American Studies, ( lit, history, critical analysis of that subject included, ) was a required subject if one were on the university track, along with passing three grueling exams in 2 foreign languages aside from that in one's native French. Obviously, exposure to and passing American Studies was expected.

In the 1971 trip in a conversation going back and forth with this Swedish girl and her older sister (in English), pupils in the Gymnasium re: the US (this is the time of Nixon, Vietnam, the counter-culture, the 2nd half of the Civil Rights movement, perceived or real anti-Americanism, etc ), she practically screamed at me saying, " we know more about you than you know of us. " I told her that was quite true. Her courses must have included American Studies too. I did not, however, asked this question point-blank , as I would do with the French females in the later decades.

Posted by
556 posts

A quick google search for 'what do you learn about american history in history class in Germany' resulted in countless entries. Mostly material and links that teachers also use. Everything in German of course but lots to read.

Here are a few keywords just copied and translated into English (source Baden-Württemberg state education server)

19th Century American History Teaching Materials:

-American Civil War
The American Civil War 1861 - 1865

-Manifest Destiny
The expansion of the USA across the continent

-Industrialization of the United States
Prerequisites: The role of the railroad and the western expansion; Process: industrialization and big business; Consequences: Social Question and Progressive Movement

-Policy toward Native Americans in the United States since the 1870s

-Women's Emancipation in the United States
American women's path to greater equality in the 19th and 20th centuries

-Integration of African Americans
Integration of African Americans in US politics and society since independence

History lessons in Germany provide for an extra large chapter about WWII, which is covered in lessons over many many months. There of course the allies and thus the US will come up again at some point.

Posted by
937 posts

I grew up in Annapolis Maryland, which has a bit of history, but nothing compared to Europe.
I go to Europe to see and try and understand this longer lived, cultural heritage.

The USA can not possibly provide anything like that. We don't have cathedrals that took 200 years to build.

The oldest know still standing building, from European settlers, is only 380 years old.

There's Native American stuff that goes back 13,000 + years, but I've never seen a foreign tourist, aside from me - on tribal land, on these sites,... ever.

Its always in the middle of nowhere, in Oregon, that most people I meet, are German tourists. Which is becoming a theme to this thread.

I want to ask more pedestrian questions:

Did you rent a car because our train system and mass transit sucks?

What did you think about the pricing, and level of service you got from a hotel?

If the food was good, why was it good? If the food was universally bad, why did you think that?

What do you think about OUR land use laws, and the lack there of, in the USA.

Did this experience in the USA change you in some way?

Visiting Europe certainly changed my; USA, naive, sense of American Exceptionalism.

What does visiting the USA, change in tourists from Europe?

Posted by
50 posts

I grew up and live in Switzerland, did an exchange year at a university in Kansas and visited different parts of the US during and after my exchange year.

Here are my answers to your questions:
There's Native American stuff that goes back 13,000 + years, but I've never seen a foreign tourist, aside from me - on tribal land, on these sites,... ever.
- I tried to go to Taos Pueblo (NM), alas it was closed because of some Easter celebration. It is often difficult to get to those sites, I do not think it’s because of a lack of interest.

Did you rent a car because our train system and mass transit sucks?
- I’d love to take the trains but this isn’t option for a lot of destination. I only once took Amtrak from Savannah to Charleston. It was a good experience, except that the train stations tend to be outside of the city with only few busses that would take you downtown.

What did you think about the pricing, and level of service you got from a hotel?
- From a Swiss perspective, prices are rather low, which leads to me buying a lot more than I need/should. Service in stores and hotels are usually great, very warm and friendly.

If the food was good, why was it good? If the food was universally bad, why did you think that?
- Food is abundant, often fried but very good. In tourist destinations like California and Florida it’s very varied – you can eat Chinese, Mexican, Italian…

What do you think about OUR land use laws, and the lack there of, in the USA.
- I was shocked that trash is still just dumbed somewhere in the prairies and that trash is not sorted. For a Swiss it’s very hard to throw batteries into normal trash cans.
- Otherwise I was impressed by the vastness. So much open land, you probably don’t need such tied laws as we have in Switzerland.

Did this experience in the USA change you in some way?
- It made me question a lot of stereotypes I had. I learned to see things from a new perspective and realized that things are done differently and why. Thus, I became more open and tolerant.
- I loved the friendly and smiling people you see on streets, the general optimism and the “let’s make it happen approach.”

Posted by
6366 posts

@ Francis' questions my seem to be pedestrian, but are also quite searching-

  1. Native Americans- it was either an earlier response of mine up thread or maybe on another thread- but I had a thoughtful PM from someone in WA, actually pointing me to Native American locations in WA (among other things). There is only so much I can put in a post due to length restrictions and not boring people silly. But much of what was written in that PM I am aware of, and am very interested in, and I thank the author for that PM. I found it very interesting how during Covid the reservations were able to set their own rules, often far more restrictive than the state laws, and were very slow to lift them. I also wonder if a European posted a detailed day by day itinerary on here visiting such sites, how far it would be pulled to pieces by locals pointing one to the more well known tick list attractions of the state.

  2. Your train system and mass transit sucks.- I would question whether that is always true. Part of it is that I think local people do not always realise what they have or have the will to use it. It is the same in the UK. For whatever reasons, and they are complex, much of America society seems to have car use ingrained. Yes you have to do your research but confining myself to WA I am constantly surprised by how good and comprehensive transit is. But then I am used to using transit and thinking transit first. Personally I think the King County transit website is far better than the TfL equivalent for London. And the WSF website as well has amazing levels of detail (partly taking us back to Native Americans, above with the ship names). But assuming car use to be the default option the level of information for WA at least is light years ahead of anywhere in the UK. WSDOT has stunning levels of information, the live travel cameras, regular updates on an RTC or weather closure, the facebook page is amazing, the live hourly snowfall and other climate data. I rarely cross the state lines, but did look at ODot earlier, while not as comprehensive and a broken facebook page, still looks good, with amazing numbers of on line traffic cams, and updates on current road issues.

  3. Food- like anywhere you get what you are willing to look for. Yes if you want to live on universally bad food you can. But I have always been impressed with quality and of course it's abundance.

  4. Hotels- in my experience I have never had a bad hotel, service wise; Pricing- to me is way higher than UK equivalents and the US just doesn't see to have the budget equivalents in city centres (like Premier Inn) which the UK has. The recent thread on Seattle hotels was very instructive, even if it only confirmed what I already knew.

  5. Land use laws- I'm not sure what this is referring to and what impact that has on tourists.

  6. Did it change you- I would echo @ Aniol's comments about tolerance and open-ness (noting that this post is getting too long again). I know that there are huge differences between the 'blue' and 'red' parts of WA, but even in the 'red neck' parts your shared history of immigration seems to breed much more of a multi-ethnic tolerance than I see in the UK. The grass may be greener etc, but in my experience @ Aniol's closing sentence is a very good one, in particular 'glass half full'. In the UK too much of life is around "glass half empty". I apologise to any of my countrymen who dislike me writing that.

Posted by
3979 posts

Since 1995 we have exchanged homes with mostly Europeans. We usually exchange for 3-4 weeks and since retiring we try to do two exchanges per year. This gives us a lot of experience looking at where Europeans want to visit in the US, the length of time they typically spend, style of travel (day tripper or road tripper), etc. We spend a lot of time communicating with our exchange families in the months leading up to the exchange trying to find out what they want to see and how we can help them. About half of the time we get to meet them at the beginning or end of the exchange to have further conversations.

Our perspective is a bit limited because 100% wanted to come to California to visit the two major coastal cities. High on their desires are to drive Hwy 1, see Redwood groves, go to a National Park or two, see gold rush or ghost towns. Several have mentioned Death Valley during the summer months and we’ve tried to steer them clear of that. Only a few families went to Disneyland.

Because we can also see where all of the potential exchange families want to go we see a big variety of destinations, mainly east and west coast but a surprising number mention other states and cities.

We’ve done 30+ exchanges, mainly with France (6), UK (5), Germany (5), Switzerland (3), Italy (2), Netherlands (1), Ireland (1). The rest have been US, NZ and AU exchanges. The European list is indicative of which countries seem to want to travel further for a vacation and explore an area of the US. We’ve only had one exchange family include another far flung destination with their California trip, a family of 6 who stoped in NYC last May for 5 days before they came to our house for 4 weeks. Distances are vast and they know it!

PS, isn31c, I like your focus for travel, very interesting.

Posted by
2975 posts

The Mouse is culturally vacuous, but I guess it's fun, especially for the kids.

Our neighbors hope to visit every Disneyland in the world. Whatever floats your boat.

Carlos, yes to Route 66 as the quintessential American experience. Also perhaps other uniquely American experiences like the Old West and Native American sites. Lewis and Clark, Little Big Horn, Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, Joshua Tree, the Badlands, etc. There are even ghost towns that are fascinating relics.

Posted by
3949 posts

Carlos, yes to Route 66 as the quintessential American experience.

Route 66 holds a place of fascination in the minds of many Spaniards, especially the southwest part. Mainly because of the movies, but I guess it may be due in part to our shared history in the area. The Spanish were in the southwest for about as long as the USA has been a country. Even I did not know the extent of Spanish influence in the area until I road trip there, Tucson, Albuquerque, Santa Fe, San Antonio all established by the Spanish. I must say as well I find the Native American history there equally fascinating, all these intricate pueblo ruins remind me of those lonely unnamed castle ruins one stumbles upon when traveling through rural Europe.

There's Native American stuff that goes back 13,000 + years, but I've never seen a foreign tourist, aside from me - on tribal land, on these sites,... ever.

You would be surprised, back in 2008 I visited Monument Valley as part of a wider holiday in western USA, located on a Navajo Reservation on the Arizona/Utah border, made famous by the many John Ford cowboy movies shot there. I mustered the courage to try some horseback riding there too, it was so spectacular I felt like I was in one of those wild west films. I even met Stephen Fry, of all places, in a roadside diner there, he was shooting a documentary about Monument Valley for the BBC.

What struck me though was that many of the tourists there were all Europeans, I did not see many Americans, other than the indigenous Navajos. Even when I tell some of my American friends about this trip, they seem puzzled about Monument Valley, it seems familiar to them but they don't know where it is, I was surprised because I thought that it was a very famous place in the United States.

Other places I found fascinating in the SW during my road trip was Meteor Crater, Canyonlands National Park, Sedona, Petrified Forest, Canyon de Chelly, and all those crazy names of towns like Tombstone or Mexican Hat lol

I was less impressed by Las Vegas, Grand Canyon, Hover Dam, maybe the food in general (but I loved Hopi and Navajo cuisine!)

Posted by
14580 posts

A very good syllabus covering 19th century US history, dealing with the good, bad and the ugly, both concepts and events

Posted by
380 posts

I’ve traveled a great deal and I often ask foreigners where they visited when going to U. S. The majority say: NYC, Miami, Los Angeles, Vegas and Disney. I find this just as discouraging as French people who see the majority of Americans only visiting Paris. A few years ago on a plane I sat next to a 20-year-old from Europe. She had been visiting her sister who was studying abroad in Iowa. They spent 4 weeks using Greyhound and went to Kansas City (saw baseball game), Chicago, Milwaukee, Memphis and Nashville, Charleston and some smaller towns. I was thrilled to hear this! And they’d had the time of their lives.

Posted by
1501 posts

Thank you @Francis for starting this thread and to the Europeans that have contributed to it. I am really enjoying it.

My mother used to work for a German company. We hosted a few young German women in our home. I wasn't aware of the world enough at that time to ask many thoughtful questions of them, but I do remember their fascination with the size of our lower middle class home and the sprawl of the suburbs.

A co-worker's husband was an engineer in the rubber industry and hosted business people from Asia. Their main ask (in Akron) was to go to an American steak house. They couldn't believe the size of the steaks.

Posted by
937 posts

While in my thirties, I ran a hair salon on the University of Oregon, USA Campus.
I met students from all over the world, with a notable exception of former Eastern Block Counties.
This was before I personally did any European Travel which I didn't start till in my mid 40's.

I would ask students where they were from, what were they studying and what do they want to do after graduation.
Ran the shop for five years, And please forgive the broad paint brush here, But there were patterns to the answers depending what country the student was from.

If from, Great Britain, Europe, Canada, Australia or New Zealand, the students almost universally were studying liberal arts subjects. And almost to a person, said they were home sick, and planned to return to their home country and to the area in that home country. This is where their family was, and there was a job, through that family, once they got back home. They did say however, that the PNW was beautiful and they had explored many of the geological splendors of the area. They also said they were somewhat disappointed that the real USA, didn't match what they had seen on movies. I had the same experience when I explored California. The reality didn't match the expectation.

Not part of the original topic, but I'll throw in that students from Asia, and Africa, studied Hard Sciences or Business Administration: Never went anywhere off campus or out of town, and universally wanted to stay, in any manner possible, in the USA, for purely economic and career reasons.

The differences were striking to me at the time. Particularly the Japanese students that had been sponsored by some Corp and were essentially under contract to return home after graduation.

This shaped my decisions as to my future tourist travel destinations, all of which so far, have only been to Europe, Canada, England and near every USA State, and near every major attraction in the USA.
My opinion of the USA, is that it doesn't get interesting till you are in, or West of, the Rocky Mountains. :)
And do not form any option about the USA till you've traveled the back roads. Cause our major interstate highway systems, built in the '50's, are ALL the SAME. You have 4 choices of Gas, Food and Lodging: Each indistinguishable from each other.

I have not traveled much on the A roads in Europe or the M roads in England. But what I have seen, is far better than anything in the USA. In the US, a bus stop is a 15 minute stop, with fried food offerings. In Europe its 1/2 hour to 45 minutes and the Highway oasis, has wonderful food choices. The airports in Europe are so much better than any thing in the USA. In Europe... "Here is the lounge area for you for that long connecting flight." The USA gives you nothing like that.
What floored me, in Europe, was the sophistication, low cost, and extent of public transportation.

London and Paris just blew our little American Brains that are only familiar with Amtrak's fifty year old cars, running on freight rails, never exceeding 60 MPH, terrible food offerings and very expensive. It was always cheaper to drive than take the train, and the buses were just break even.

And to the francophiles out there, Paris wins by a slight margin over London as to mass trans. There is nothing in the USA we have to compare with either city: Not even close.
I looked hard at how to resettle in Europe. This was also an eye opener. Unless you are very rich, or have a very special talent, a US citizen is sort of in an economic gravity well and can't realistically trade what they have in the US for anything comparable in Europe. Otherwise, I'd live in Venice, the city where my soul always belonged, in a heartbeat.

.

Posted by
2975 posts

Shelly, that's encouraging. I understand the appeal of going to NYC, Orlando, and Disney World, but if someone is trying to get a true sense of America they're missing out with such an itinerary. And it's OK if someone doesn't want to get an accurate picture of a country. If I have a week in France I'll probably not be hitting the small towns and skipping the main events.

As for the U.S. interstate system, well, you can drive across the country and not see anything.

Vegas is a place to visit for a couple-few days, see a show and gamble, and then leave.

Posted by
14580 posts

@ Francis....Interesting observations. Even though you're painting with a broad brush, I would say your conclusions are pretty accurate as to fields of study undertaken by students at the university from Europe or anglophone countries as opposed to those from Asia, (India, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan), Africa, or the Middle East, Your observations correspond with my observations. The main question is why? Public transportation is an institution in Europe. Here it is not.

On the comparison between visiting New York versus Paris, not even close, Paris wins in my estimation, C'est un endroit.

Posted by
6366 posts

Francis' observations on UK motorway service stations are interesting, as many people in the UK would have the opposite feelings about the service stations. The length of coach stops differs between companies- Flix Bus in particular tend not to do stops at all, or make them really brief, like 5 minutes.
Last time I travelled Flix Bus we actually and unusually had a scheduled service station stop, that was removed and replaced with a roadside stop at Nottingham station ay 3am where nothing at all was available.
If you call into UK service stations at night usually all or most food options will be closed. All you find then is restrooms and a convenience store.
The big issue about American railroads is that they carry far more freight than any European railroad, especially UK ones. Also with a few exceptions the distances are too big for any kind of sensible frequency to be run.
Given that most of the rail freight is not time sensitive there is no great need for the freight companies to invest in higher speed lines, which could then benefit passenger traffic.
If a true high speed system was built it should be possible to get a train to travel from Chicago to Seattle in something like 12 hours. But the investment would be massive, and it is doubtful that a high enough passenger train frequency could ever be justified, especially as High Speed rail would mean tunnelling through much of the scenery, which is the big draw over flying.
One case study is the plan to reopen daytime passenger service from Spokane to Seattle over the Stampede Pass. The will is there, passenger cars had been located, and train paths between freights identified. The funding is problematical for subsidies and to rebuild stations, but the huge problem is the very low speed limits over the Pass and many grade crossings at the Seattle end. To get timings competitive with road a whole new Base Tunnel (swiss style) would be needed, which would cost billions, and crossings replaced with over and under bridges- all very expensive and very disruptive. Even the most optimistic passenger loading surveys don't see enough of a modal shift to justify running a high frequency service over a high speed, double tracked line. It is actually a very interesting study because it exemplifies so many of the issues with improving long distance Amtrak.

Posted by
937 posts

Thank you isn31c. This is the honesty, I was looking for. I can only have my experience . :)