Tuesday, July 14, 2009
I just got off the phone with the IRS, why I was on the phone was irrelevant but the conversation I had made me say WTF! I spoke with a very nice woman and of course needed to provide my current address for confirmation. When she confirmed my address she commented on what a great phone connection we had -hello it is not 1980 I could call you over the internet and have a good connection. She answered my question and after providing the mailing address I needed asked if I like living abroad. I was a bit taken aback because call center operators don't usually make small talk. I paused briefly and then answered with a simple yes in order to avoid divulging details of my life to a woman who has my personal file open on her computer complete with social security number and all I know about her is her last name. Without hesitation, she countered my yes by saying she would never live outside of her United States. Of course, I love my country (USA) but I firmly believe no one from any country should have an attitude of superiority and ignorance toward the rest of the world. I simply stated "there's so much more out there" I intended to leave it here and end the call. I guess I underestimated the American ability to have a conversation with a stranger. She began gushing about how the US is the best because it is a new country. I don't think 200+ years is all that new anymore but that was not up for discussion. I told her we need to be more open to other cultures and be aware of what we can learn from other countries. She said something about the infrastructure and I explained to her how, in Germany, short work weeks have been instated in many companies in order to minimize layoffs and gave her an example of the benefits for the person, firm and government. At that point, she told me how the economic downturn needed to happen because people were spending above their means. I agreed with her (I do think consumer spending was unsustainable but I also feel for the people who are now unemployed and would not go as far as to say I was glad this recession happened). That was a long story to illustrate the real views of SOME Americans. I don't get why people think they are better than everyone else simply because of their country of origin and also question why others hate them based on their nationality. This was a very fitting time for me to have this conversation since I spoke with a student this morning who is about to study in the US. To be fair he has already done a year of high school and a semester of his MBA but he is going back to finish. Moral of the story is that we both agreed Europeans see the advantages of studying and working outside of their home country but Americans are much more hesitant to leave. Maybe we could blame the Atlantic ocean but I am kind if in love with the Atlantic so it can do no wrong in my mind. ;) Seriously, I really and truly believe it is so important for Americans to prove the stereotypes wrong and open our minds to other cultures. The melting pot may have boiled over but the world is only getting smaller and America is no longer the super power it once was from an economic, cultural or military standpoint. We need to face facts and make improvements if we ever hope to regain status in the world otherwise we will be consumed by China, and the EU. Look at the dollar, at one point ALL countries were on fixed exchange rates against the US dollar which was backed by gold now it is worth less than the EURO, GBP (sometimes Swiss Franc) and reached an all time low against the Yen. The world is changing American needs to adapt and we as Americans need to become aware of our surroundings and teach our children a second language from grade school! That's my rant, feel free to share yours in the comments, promise I'll read.