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I’ve never been sure what to think about the spread of the American culture throughout the rest of the world. Some people say it’s a bad thing–that too much spreading of the American culture causes other cultures to be stamped out, ultimately creating a single monoculture for the whole world. I can see why this might be a concern–after all, even though I’m in Germany, I still see/hear many traces of my country here: the movies playing in the theaters, the shows on TV, the music on the radio. Not to mention the fact that the majority of the people I encounter know at least a little bit of English.
I have also always felt that the lack of emphasis put on learning a foreign language is one major pitfall of the United States, which is why it’s so important to me to learn German. Surprisingly, though, no one I have talked to seems to mind learning English. In fact, a couple weeks ago I had a similar conversation with one of the other international students who is from Romania. He said he thinks it’s good for everyone to learn English because then people from all different countries have one language in which they can communicate. When I told him why I want to learn German, he said, “Well, I guess it’s good to learn it if you’ll use it, but if not, why bother?”
I’ve pondered this subject quite a bit in the past few weeks that I’ve been here, but it wasn’t until today at lunch that it dawned on me that perhaps the spread of American culture isn’t all bad. Today after my German language course several of us went to eat in the cafeteria. Being international students, we were a pretty diverse group: one American (me), one Mexican American (Chris), an Iranian, a Turk, and a Brazilian. We spent a chunk of time reminiscing about TV shows and movies we had all watched as children: Sesame Street, Looney Tunes, The Lion King–you name it, and we’d all seen it! It didn’t matter that for the majority of the group (except for me), these were all from a foreign country–we were all equally excited about them. What’s more, we spoke about all of them in German, a language that is foreign to all of us.
My point is not to say that I think that the whole world should simply adopt everything American for the sake of common ground between people–how boring would that be?? There is plenty to love about other cultures. For example, I love German breads and chocolate, and though they may not be as well known, there are some great German movies and music artists. I love how Italians (as well as some other Europeans) kiss people on both cheeks when they greet them. I always feel like I’m really awkward about it when people do it to me, because it always takes me by surprise, but I think it’s cute nonetheless. Since we’ve been here, there have been a couple people with birthdays, and it’s always fun to hear what birthday song each person sings in their country.
So will the spread of the American culture lead to a single monoculture in the world? I hardly think so. The U.S. may be a powerful country, but should we be so arrogant to think we have THAT much power over all other cultures? I think one can take pride in being an American without thinking that their country is BETTER than other countries. All it takes is an open mind and a willingness to learn. Whether you’re from the United States, Mexico, Turkey, Iran, or Brazil, this is the mindset that will unite us all.
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