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View Poll Results: Americans: How do you feel when foreigners want to discuss politics with you?
It's nice that they are interested, and I welcome the opportunity to talk about my country. 29 42.65%
I find it ill-mannered and annoying. 5 7.35%
I find it amusing, and rather enjoy baiting them. 9 13.24%
I tolerate it with good humour, although I'd rather talk about other things. 25 36.76%
Voters: 68. You may not vote on this poll

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  #1  
Old 05.06.2011, 12:35
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Americans: Foreigners who want to talk politics - boring, annoying or harmless?

This is a genuine question that has sprung out of another thread.

The United States has a pretty big political footprint compared to most other nations in the world, and almost everyone has something to say about it, wherever he comes from.

As a US citizen, do you find yourself constantly being invited to talk about politics when you'd much rather enjoy a quiet beer and talk about cooking? How do you react when you are approached by foreigners who wish to discuss US foreign policy with you? Are you grateful for their interest? Do you find them amusing? Do you find them irritating? How often does this happen to you?

Citizens of other parts of the world about which foreigners like to express their opinions are also invited to contribute (although I'd be grateful if the poll was reserved for Americans). I'm sure our Northern Irish, Icelandic and Israeli members have plenty of experiences to share.

Anyway, about that George Bush...
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Old 05.06.2011, 12:51
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Re: Americans: Foreigners who want to talk politics - boring, annoying or harmless?

I suppose I could choose any of your options at different times. If the "foreigner" (isn't everyone but the Swiss foreigners here?) is open-minded and truly interested in an exchange of ideas, then it can be a great opportunity for a good conversation. If their purpose is merely to antagonize and slam US policy without offering any intelligent support for their positions or alternatives to the policy, then it's a bit of a waste of time, isn't it? The main problem I find is that all too often the "foreigner" assumes all Americans support all the current American policies even though they don't hold the same support for their own country's policies.
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Old 05.06.2011, 12:55
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Re: Americans: Foreigners who want to talk politics - boring, annoying or harmless?

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the "foreigner"
For the purposes of this discussion, "foreigner" means someone who is not a citizen of the United States of America.

I should, of course, have written "foreigners and Englishmen", but there is a character limit to the thread title.
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Old 05.06.2011, 12:56
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Re: Americans: Foreigners who want to talk politics - boring, annoying or harmless?

Abstractly, I think it's nice of people to take an interest. I'd rather they could satisfy that interest some way besides buttonholing me about it though.

Actually I am more patient with foreigners who do it than I am with fellow Americans (who really should know better.) It's a cultural thing, maybe politics is not considered such a personal subject in their countries.

But yes, it's mildly annoying in either case. Or extremely annoying, depending on their persistence. I won't be rude (or only as a last resort ) but I will make polite noncommittal noises until they give up or until I see a chance to escape.

Happens to me once or twice a month, I would say. Less since moving out of Zurich.
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Old 05.06.2011, 12:59
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Re: Americans: Foreigners who want to talk politics - boring, annoying or harmless?

I USED to be a US citizen, but expatriated two years ago, so now I'm a foreigner, but I was both for 12 years.

As my kids have three passports, they are only 1/3 US, and thus foreigners?

Anyway, I discuss US politics normally only with people with some connection to the US (expats, people married to expats, Swiss who have lived in the US, etc.)

Likewise, I discuss Swiss politics normally only with those with some connection to CH, though that includes Italian frontaliers, other Europeans I know well, etc.

Tom
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Old 05.06.2011, 13:02
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Re: Americans: Foreigners who want to talk politics - boring, annoying or harmless?

When I first arrive, a bit over 10 years ago, I often had quite aggressive comments about the USA. Often it went:

"Are you American?"
"Yes"
"You don't know about this because your news doesn't report it, but American is ... (BLA BLA BLA) ..."

... and the whole of my country was explained to me. Most often A) they had never visited B) they had only been to NYC or C) they had seem Hollywood films and were therefore experts.

I'd rather not discuss politics ...
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Old 05.06.2011, 13:04
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Re: Americans: Foreigners who want to talk politics - boring, annoying or harmless?

We moved here just before Bush II got elected. My response to questions about why he was chosen, etc., is basically summed up here.

I had a co-worker (European, but not Swiss) who sent out an email to all his American friends congratulating us on choosing better when Obama got elected. The mail got deleted without response. I didn't follow politics when I was there and still don't. I'd rather talk about substitutions for brown sugar graham crackers. Or favorite hikes, or restaurant recommendations for Paris, London, Milan, etc.

We moved here for my husband's job, nothing else. We stay here for the same reason and because we like it here.

Last edited by Capacitrix; 05.06.2011 at 13:07. Reason: Added description of co-worker
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Old 05.06.2011, 13:05
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Re: Americans: Foreigners who want to talk politics - boring, annoying or harmless?

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When I first arrive, a bit over 10 years ago, I often had quite aggressive comments about the USA. Often it went:

"Are you American?"
"Yes"
"You don't know about this because your news doesn't report it, but American is ... (BLA BLA BLA) ..."

... and the whole of my country was explained to me. Most often A) they had never visited B) they had only been to NYC or C) they had seem Hollywood films and were therefore experts.

I'd rather not discuss politics ...
Yeah, that. Add in a bit of "well, you're American so you don't know how to talk politics anyways." Then I usually go from "baiting" above to "smackdown."

If I wanted to talk about American politics, though, I'd live in America...
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Old 05.06.2011, 13:16
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Re: Americans: Foreigners who want to talk politics - boring, annoying or harmless?

I don't mind talking policy if I'm talking with someone who has educated themselves about an issue (from something other than emails and blogs) and has something constructive to add. I do mind senseless knee-jerk responses (America is evil, America can do no wrong) be they 'foreigners' or 'natural born citizens'. Of course, it's pretty easy to ignore the latter by not responding. Nothing upsets a troll more than not getting the response that they wanted. That said I find political discussions are rather rare. Probably because I don't hang out in pubs. Of course, I am surrounded by eastern Europeans who do seem to have 'unique' sources of information about things American.
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Old 05.06.2011, 13:20
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Re: Americans: Foreigners who want to talk politics - boring, annoying or harmless?

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Yeah, that. Add in a bit of "well, you're American so you don't know how to talk politics anyways." Then I usually go from "baiting" above to "smackdown."
My favorite response, generally guaranteed to get a good reaction, "Yeah, I guess I'd feel the same if I lived in a third world country." At that point, I'm usually not interested in hearing what they had for breakfast let alone any other kind of opinion.
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Old 05.06.2011, 13:30
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Re: Americans: Foreigners who want to talk politics - boring, annoying or harmless?

Personally, I like "why should I care about US politics, I'm Swiss now!"

Tom
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Old 05.06.2011, 13:31
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Re: Americans: Foreigners who want to talk politics - boring, annoying or harmless?

I'm actually a bit interested in learning about non-Americans' views of American politics. I guess I just find it interesting to hear the "from the outside, looking in" perspective, regardless of whether I agree with it or not. But that's just me...
When Obama was running and first elected, I was often asked by non-Americans here to share my feelings about it. I think that's because it was such a "big deal" at the time to 1) finally get Bush out of office and 2) to have a black president elected. But those questions have pretty much fizzled out by now.
I've actually been curious what people think about Obama now that he's been in office for a while, but I fear/sense that I better reserve that question for somewhere other than this forum.
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Old 05.06.2011, 13:54
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Re: Americans: Foreigners who want to talk politics - boring, annoying or harmless?

i think i'm a bit over talking about politics in general because i feel it's somehow irrelevant to life in general. i know that's a bit ott but when i am on the other side, for example with friends who are suisse but with other backgrounds and they discuss the politics from the home country, i feel, regardless of what i think i know about these issues, that i really know nothing at all compared to those who had to live through it (thinking specifically about our serbo/croatian friends, etc).

i guess i've become cynical (wah.) to what info we get and how it can be interpreted and so i prefer to hear what people have to say about their experiences when they feel like talking about it, not because i want to compare or compete with my ideas about the whole thing, which is imo stupid because what i know from western media is strikingly different from what they know first hand.

that being said, i prefer that others do the same, although i understand that many won't. if i want to talk about politics in the u.s i will, other than that i am much more interested in reality based conversations.

mathnut gave an example of the perfect cue to when to drop the political talk and move on. after a few nods and ahuhs from someone you are having a political conversation with (or to...) it's time to drop it and ask where they found their vanilla extract...much more pressing issues
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Old 05.06.2011, 13:59
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Re: Americans: Foreigners who want to talk politics - boring, annoying or harmless?

I've met very few non-Americans interested in discussing American politics. What I usually encounter is people who have a bone to pick with the US or, in other words, with ME since I'm American and right in front of them. These people typically want to vent their frustrations, express their viewpoint in an unbridled fashion and rant in general. As a Political Science major, I find discussions wonderful and tirades tiresome!
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Old 05.06.2011, 13:59
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Re: Americans: Foreigners who want to talk politics - boring, annoying or harmless?

I agree with Carrie, I enjoy hearing the outside looking in viewpoint - although to be honest, these days I am on the outside looking in. I've been gone for 9 years this year, the US feels more foreign to me than home.

Now that Bush is gone and Obama's been in office for a while, people don't really approach me as much about politics as soon as they hear my accent.

During the Bush II era, it was a difficult time to be American overseas. People would often give unsolicited opinions (which I frequently agreed with, but that's neither here nor there, it was uncomfortable to have people complain about the war mongers when I didn't have anything to do with the wars!) At the end of a German course I attended in 2003, we met with other classes taking the same level of German as my class. We were told to introduce ourselves to everyone and make small talk about ourselves, including where we come from, in German. One woman approached me, asked me where I was from. I answered that I was from the US and her face turned to stone and she walked away.
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Old 05.06.2011, 14:09
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Re: Americans: Foreigners who want to talk politics - boring, annoying or harmless?

well that's just it. i don't mind discussing politics if it is a discussion, give and take. but what i have found is that people think because you are from the states they can say and think what they like about you and who you are and what you stand for. ug. that is very tiring. i like to know what people's take on things are too, but i don't like to have to be a representative of the country or defend myself against ridiculously simplistic and uninformed assumptions.

discussing politics that lead to discussions of other things are great, but as a fly and spider game it's just tiring. and i can imagine when bush was in office what a blast that was to be abroad- people don't understand the scope and diversity surrounding politics in the u.s and although i used to try to explain to them, i'm a bit too bored to do that now... usually it doesn't do too much good anyway. even if they understand what i am saying, it'll end with,"well, i can't say i like americans but i like you." . ug. even if you give a pig a pep talk it still doesn't mean he'll be able to fly...
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Old 05.06.2011, 14:13
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Re: Americans: Foreigners who want to talk politics - boring, annoying or harmless?

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these days I am on the outside looking in. I've been gone for 9 years this year, the US feels more foreign to me than home.
I feel the same way...
It seems that now, whenever I go back to visit the States, I feel like I am a foreigner, "on the outside, looking in." I see so much about the US so differently now than I did while I was living there. Things I use to think were "normal" I now realize aren't necessarily "normal." Even just simple things like how strange it is to me now... to see 3 gas stations and/or fast food restaurants per intersection, etc. I actually do see now what an incredibly capitalist-driven society it really is.
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Old 05.06.2011, 14:23
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Re: Americans: Foreigners who want to talk politics - boring, annoying or harmless?

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For the purposes of this discussion, "foreigner" means someone who is not a citizen of the United States of America.

I should, of course, have written "foreigners and Englishmen", but there is a character limit to the thread title.
And, of course for purposes of this discussion, the word "American" refers to citizens of the USA and not Canadians, Mexicans ornany other citizens of countries in North and South America.
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Old 05.06.2011, 15:07
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Re: Americans: Foreigners who want to talk politics - boring, annoying or harmless?

As a hybrid who has been here since forever, I've witnessed many changes in the European perception of the US and its citizens (not just Switzerland).

As a child it used to be fun. People loved the States, they thought that everything American was interesting. People were curious about us and there was a feeling of empathy.

In the 70s there was still a large % of the European population who had lived through WWII and who perceived the US as a benefactor... with a touch of Hollywood glam (just for the stereotype).


Then in the 90s the emotion started to change, slowly at first as those who could remember WWII were no longer there or had been too young at the time.
The feeling was precipitated with the happenings on the world scene from 2001 all the way until Obama came to office.

Those were tough times.
People could be insensitive, happy to chew your ear off because they happened to have a sample in front of them.
It was quite disconcerting.
Didn't matter if you were a liberal democrat, as an American one had to listen to the loads of feeling being dished out.


I also found the Americans themselves quite difficult, for the response was to become very closed up. I disliked the nascent attitude "them vs us".
Who are "we", who are "they" ?

Fright and difficulty lead to this.

With time, it will all swing back to a balanced center, with a comfort level for everybody.

No, I don’t really feel comfy discussing current politics with anybody, regardless of their nationality. Discussing history and ideas is enjoyable though.
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Old 05.06.2011, 15:10
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Re: Americans: Foreigners who want to talk politics - boring, annoying or harmless?

Most of the time, the discussion is a one-way critic of American policies.

Most of the people have no clue as to how the American society
and politics play a role in the lives of the average American.
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