Current News

Somin: Distinctions Between Americans and Foreigners

Professor Ilya Somin commented in Immigration Daily on a Metafilter thread consisting of thoughts by foreigners about what is most distinctive about the U.S. He discussed differences between the U.S. and foreign nations, saying, "Americans are, on the whole, far more accepting of immigrants than most Europeans and Asians. You can live in France or Germany for decades and still not be accepted as a true Frenchman or German. It's much easier for an immigrant to become a 'real American.' I have relatives and acquaintances who are Russian immigrants in several European countries and in Israel. The difference in degree of acceptance and assimilation between Russians who settled there and in the US is very striking. Only Anglophone Canada is comparable to the US in this respect."

"Relative to people in many European countries, Americans are much less likely to ask how much money you make, or to criticize your political or religious opinions," says Somin, pointing out that US has a strong culture of self-esteem that makes it socially awkward to openly criticize people in many contexts.

At least in the educated classes, he says, Americans are more sensitive than Europeans and Asians to suggestions of racism or ethnic prejudice, while also expecting greater respect for "personal space" than Europeans and especially Asians.

What's Distinctive About America? Immigration Daily. By Ilya Somin.
"The Metafilter site has an interesting thread consisting of comments by foreigners about what they think is most distinctive about the US [HT: Tyler Cowen]. I’ve lived in the US since I was six, so I can’t really see the country from the perspective of a foreigner or a recent immigrant. On the other hand, I did grow up in an immigrant family, have spent time in many foreign countries (including teaching at universities in Germany and Argentina), and have lived in several different parts of the US. So I have some perspective on the issue.

"Obviously, there are the ideological and political differences that some of the commenters cite: compared to most other advanced democracies the US is more politically decentralized (though a few European nations, such as Switzerland, are even more so); more pro-free market (though Canada is now roughly equal to the US on various measures of economic freedom); more religious; and less class-conscious. These traits are, I think, well-known."

Read the article