Thursday 16 Aug 2018 | 06:01 | SYDNEY
Thursday 16 Aug 2018 | 06:01 | SYDNEY

Reader riposte: Understanding Americans


Sam Roggeveen


6 May 2008 09:24

Chris responds to my post of yesterday:

I have lived in the USA in three separate periods totalling some five years and spent most of my working life in some form of business relationship with US companies and people. I love them dearly but I also view them as the most devious bastards (term of endearment from an Aussie) on this earth. As a German friend of mine said when also working in Washington DC, ‘remember that Americans invented the game of poker’.

I would say that, yes, Americans are self-critical but in the context of an unwavering belief in their pre-eminence in most things. The display of humility you mentioned is more an indirect attempt to elicit your response, for at least two reasons:

  1. They are seeking new information and perspectives – a laudable form of gathering and enriching their information base.
  2. They are evaluating you by your response to what they say. You could say it is an experimentation to learn more about you and therefore be able to place an evaluation on the worth of the information obtained from the first reason above.

Europeans have long underestimated Americans as open, facile and sometimes crass and therefore easy to manage through sophisticated influence and persuasion. But as my German friend said, Europeans are not as good at poker as Americans. So what you see in Americans is not all there is to know.

Americans are less successful at reading Australians because we have an even more unreadable outlook based on our quirky sense of humour, which Americans appreciate as being self-deprecating but also leaves them with an uneasy feeling of not being taken seriously or even subject to gentle ridicule. Humour is the American weakness. And our endearing trait.