All is not rosy in the United States, and a big smile is not synonymous with friendship. However, after spending 20 years in Germany, Americans’ permanent good moods and their positivity is a real breath of fresh air.
In my last post, I listed what the United States could learn from Europe, such as driving better, enjoying life more, eating better etc…but we can also learn good things from the Americans, beginning with their enthusiasm and positivity.
Here is my list of great things you can learn from Americans, which should no doubt be considered when doing business in the United States!
Five Great Things Europeans Could Learn from Americans
One of the best American expressions is “take a chance”, which means to take a risk.
Where we see a risk, Americans take their chances. When considered within the context of the American conquest, we can only admire their courage. Their lives were harsh and their surroundings hostile. Only the most persevering and the most skillful survived. Everything was a risk from our perspective. For them, it was a chance to improve their lot in life.
In everyday life, this means hiring an outsider with no experience to fill a vacant position. It means starting a new business, or even creating a start-up from nothing with very limited means. It also means that failing is not considered a flaw.
2. Love of Country
Americans are proud of their country. Without even having lived here, everyone has seen the great Hollywood productions like Saving Private Ryan or disaster movies like Independence Day. Both are true odes to patriotism.
In 2010, Le Figaro reported that in Bethesda, a city north of the Capital, an association placed an American flag in front of each door, for free:
“In the opinion of the association that sponsored the initiative, it was essential that each yard displayed a flag to mark the national holiday on July 4”.
My 6-year old son, educated in an American school, takes the Oath of Allegiance every morning to the American flag. Like it or not, the American policy of assimilating migrants promotes patriotism.
3. Devotion to the Community
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 63 million Americans are involved in non-profit organizations. While social insurance is notoriously inferior by European standards, American society compensates for the government’s shortcomings.
Guy Sorman, an ENA (ENA is a French elite school) graduate, entrepreneur and essayist, notes that:
“All European states have exceeded their ability to contribute to social solidarity, higher education and to noncommercial culture”.
The American solution relies on volunteering. It begins at a young age, for example in the primary schools, which organize or support charitable activities. In Washington, high schools impose 100 hours of volunteer work per year.
Each year before the holiday season, my 16-year old daughter is fully engaged in volunteering at her school. With profits from Christmas chocolate sales, she buys gifts for children in underprivileged families. She gets to deliver them personally during a special day that they call the “Gift Drive”. It’s all overseen by the school, which establishes contact between the students and the families. This has greatly opened her eyes to the world outside of her semi-private school.
4. More Sports
The United States is a country of paradoxes. According to a 2015 Gallup study, more than a quarter of Americans are obese. But you have to leave the cities to see them.
In Washington, I see joggers from dawn until dusk no matter what the weather. The neighborhood fitness club is very busy at 6:00am, and even well after 8:00pm. As for children, the variety of sports is huge, including American football, basketball, soccer, baseball, swimming, karate, gymnastics etc.
On the other hand, only 20% of Americans do at least 2.5 hours of sports per week, and statistics reflect some inequality: Americans with diplomas are more likely to play sports to stay in shape.
I probably would have benefited greatly from living in Washington first before going to Germany. Sigh. It would have certainly prevented me from gaining all these extra pounds. Another sigh…
5. Customer Service
Opinions are mixed, but it is so much fun to shop in the United States…or to be served in a restaurant! You will always be served attentively with kindness.
Yes, of course the fact that they rely on tips plays a strong part in this. It encourages them to be friendly, cheerful and helpful. But I could care less as long as I’m treated well!
To my fellow Frenchmen: Just go to Germany to understand what poor service is all about. DER SPIEGEL, a very serious German weekly, published an article in 1995 called “Servicewüste Deutschland”, which translates as “The lack of customer service in Germany”.
Americans are helpful and friendly. End of story.
Are there other great things about the United States that you would like to see in France, Switzerland, or elsewhere? Feel free to share your experience in the comments!