As a preface, understand that America has some of the best scenery and nicest smaller towns in the world. It also provides maybe the most amount of geographic options within a single country. Finally, it’s the greatest place I can think of to do business. All that being said, as a world traveler I find there are many reasons to leave America and become an expat due to cultural issues. I will list them here.
# 10 – The Food is Garbage
My friend and traveling buddy explained to me, “When Americans move to Prague, they are surprised how they just seem to naturally lose weight. I think just being in the United States keeps you fat.’
Food is, by nature, lower quality in the U.S., even though there is a greater abundance of it. At the supermarket, I’ll find 20 different types of bread by big companies all competing for your dollar. More than half of these loaves have dubious ingredients on the back. Some brands even contain high fructose corn syrup to try to addict buyers who don’t know better to the product’s unnatural sugar content.
Most of Europe and the UK, on the other hand, has long since taken progressive measures to ban additives like carcinogenic food coloring. So you won’t find high fructose corn syrup sweetened, blue-dye morsels masquerading as blueberries in your muffin.
# 9 – The Infrastructure is Falling Apart
Nowhere is perfect. In cities in Southeast Asia I see streets with open sewage grates and pot-holes the size of craters. But what annoys me about the United States is that despite being such a rich country, I’ve seen similar problems of unkempt streets. Why? In other Western developed nations, this isn’t really a problem. The answer is probably that U.S. city governments constantly mismanage their funding, and the government in general allocates more money to things like warfare than its own citizens.
As a perfect example, note how most American cities completely lack adequate public transportation.
# 8 – The Architecture is Hideously Boring
Efficient, corporate, concrete slabs—this best describes U.S. cities and buildings. It’s hard to stay inspired in these types of environments for very long. I don’t know how architecture went bust in the modern world, but most European / Baltic cities do not suffer from this problem, as both new and ancient buildings maintain their sense of vision.
# 7 – Thug Culture is a Thing
Obviously, every city has its “bad side of town”, but nothing in the Western world compares to U.S. cities like Los Angeles. The dark reflection of the American “winner takes all” mentality is the celebration of and obsession with modern gang-bangers. Middle class kids try desperately to become these guys, while people who grow up in impoverished areas actually live the lifestyle and join massive, violent gangs like MS13.
To say this mentality flows against civil society and education is an understatement. These kids wouldn’t be able to locate Canada on a map, but they know enough about the metric system to deal crack by age 12.
Ghetto culture becomes so rampant across the states that whole sections of cities are generally considered “no go” areas if you’re not yourself extremely street savvy. Get lost one time and you’ll encounter endless hordes of drug-addicts, pimps, prostitutes, thugs, thieves, and killers. Growing up in Tucson, AZ I remember people in general lived in fear of venturing to the southern side of the city for any reason whatsoever.
I’ve been to “bad sides of town” in Europe and found it laughable. Their idea of a sketchy neighborhood is a couple of prostitutes and maybe one or two weird homeless people bugging you.
So, what’s to blame? Is it listening to gangster rap? Well, I don’t think so. I see kids blasting rap in low-crime European cities all of the time. The problem is systemic. It involves an American loneliness and anti-sociality, where it’s every man for himself. This leads to…
# 6 – Americans Are Anti-Social, Lonely and Depressed
A culture that revolves around business and “individualism” has a deep dark side. The general population, obsessed with anti-spiritual principles like fame, status and stepping over one another, leaves at best successful but lonely professionals, and at worst whole generations of disconnected, emotionally and socially broken souls.
Statistics will prove my points. Median depression rates in Europe are 6%. In my current city, Prague, it’s a bit high—7%. Median depression rates in the USA are around 16% according to the National Institute of Health.
“But Americans seem happy”, you may say. I see this, too. Americans try to fake pleasant behavior. Like the waitress at Applebees who greets you with a big, artificial smile while inside there is probably nothing but pain.
Fake American happiness is actually a coping mechanism. And, it’s a good effort. It won’t help to go around unfriendly and brooding about your problems. Even faking happiness to make other people happier at least helps push you in the right direction. But it won’t cure your existential crisis.
The result of this general malaise in the population can be felt by anyone who lives in the states for a long period of time. You will find that meeting friends is oddly challenging. People don’t prioritize socializing, but will quickly regress to things like video games, TV, work, or alcohol.
As a guy, if I try to meet an American woman I like, nine times out of ten I’ll discover she has more shields and defenses up than the Death Star. To be emotionally guarded is a symptom of pain and depression. I don’t encounter this problem much in Europe, and DEFINITELY not in Southeast Asia.
# 5 – The Family Unit is Broken
Divorce rates are so massive in the USA that it’s starting to seem like marriage itself is just a “career move” for, in particular, women who want the benefits of alimony / spousal support as they continue their own individual goals. (I am not saying men do not initiate divorce, too—but I have to look at statistics, showing men typically are the ones getting their asses handed to them in divorce courts.)
But there’s no reason to call out any particular sex. The real reason for this is the same I listed above: the “winner takes all” mentality. Many Americans enter relationships with the mindset of “What can I gain from this situation?”
The trickle-down effect are broken families as a whole. Unhappy kids, unhappy parents, ruined homes, and plastic artificial happiness in suburbia.
A culture that does not have this problem is vastly different. Depression, isolation and general malaise in the population won’t occur, because people have a family “safety net”, which means if your job crashes or you have a health problem, you have uncles, brothers, sisters, parents, cousins who will look out for you.
This is why people in countries like Thailand or the Philippines can be, gasp, poorer but still happier. Maybe they’re making just enough to scrape by, but while in the U.S. that might be a death sentence, in Southeast Asia you still have your entire family and social circle to provide security.
In the USA in many families, you’re out by 18—and it’s not a big deal, because by then you desperately want to get away from your arguing, manic parents who are on the verge of divorce. Is it any wonder that youth will then turn to thug culture (point 7) to find the social safety net humans desperately want?
# 4 – Americans Won’t Face Their Cultural Problems
“American superiority” is the belief that America is the greatest country, despite the fact infant mortality rates and a burgeoning healthcare and infrastructure points us more toward 2nd world developing status.
Ok, national pride, everyone has that, right? The problem with the states is that this mentality is not what you’d expect to find in just any country. Rather, it becomes something that feels like full-blown brainwashing.
“Yeah, I had to pay $8,500 in hospital bills because I stubbed my toe, and my family hasn’t spoken to each other in 15 years, and my city is falling apart, but fuck am I glad I’m not some socialist European.”
It’s almost as if certain branches of the media infuse people with quasi-nationalism so that they overlook the fact they’re being used as uneducated pawns. Hmmmm….
# 3 – Shallow Attitudes Rule the Day
If you are a teenager or a 20-something in America, I have some bad news: if you don’t follow reality TV like the Kardashians, like to get drunk, and you don’t like to gossip about co-workers or classmates, you will have no ability to connect with people your age.
The problem comes to American youth who just don’t use their brains. From early in school, education is discouraged (smart people = nerds), and thug culture is encouraged. Cool people aren’t the ones thinking about things. On through college, average conversations for me consisted of “Man I got plastered last night”. A guy like me just has to roll his eyes, endure it, or try to play along.
I first noticed something was different about the rest of the world when I started going to youth hostels in the USA and meeting European travelers. Everybody was filled with interesting opinions, ideas, and—unbelievably—actual personalities!
By contrast, exhibiting these traits among American peers is more likely to isolate you among the “outcasts”—in other words, the pimply kids sitting in the back of the cafeteria playing Magic the Gathering and drinking Mountain Dew. Not my idea of a good time, either.
That’s because conformity is the name of the game in America, especially when you’re young. Personality, thoughts, ideas and other taboos are considered low-value. For men, crew cuts, talking about getting plastered, and generally acting like a Neanderthal is the proper strategy if you want any chance of getting invited to parties or dare I say get laid.
In summary, in most places I go to abroad, you are free to be yourself and you won’t be judged for not conforming. Or, if you do experience judgmental behavior by peers, it’s so minor compared to the social excommunication you’d feel in America, that it’s not even an issue, and you can still find things like friends or parties. If you are a young person reading this, I highly suggest to go study abroad. Go somewhere like the Czech Republic, or even England.
# 2 – The U.S. is Becoming a Police State
I can quickly tell how systemically corrupt a country is by the quality of the police force. One major warning sign is if you feel safe in the presence of cops, or paranoid.
I’ve been to some countries that I quickly recognize as having corrupt governments by virtue of how the police act. Cities I feel paranoid include: Istanbul, Bangkok, and Los Angeles. By contrast, even when I was in London I felt safe around the cops (who do not even carry firearms).
While in some countries, the police will outright ask for bribes or blackmail you, the U.S. operates a bit more covertly by working within the parameters of the law. The scary part is how that means the law is slowly inching toward something that does not feel very democratic.
Even small police forces in rural cities are now arming themselves like branches of the military; all the while it’s becoming easier and easier for police to legally shoot and kill unarmed citizens for whatever dumb reason they can think up of.
This leaves a major question: what direction are things going? Where is this going to lead?
# 1 – Americans Are Slaves Controlled By Debt
I wanted to put the laughably bad healthcare system as the primary problem with America, but I realize I could instead address a bigger issue: Americans are forced into corners because of carrying crushing amounts of debt.
The debt is accumulated from primarily school loans and hospital bills—two sources of debt that are often eliminated in first-world countries that manage their governments properly enough to subsidize and reduce these expenses.
The reason is because, once again, people are born and raised in America with the same “winner takes all” mentality. People become educators not to educate, but to reap excess profit from an industry that people feel forced to purchase into. And, a majority of doctors certainly don’t care about helping sick people, they care about prescribing hundreds of thousands of dollars in cheap to produce cancer drugs to the nation’s sick and dying (drugs which are themselves toxic, requiring future medical expenses to treat the resulting diseases they cause, great business model right!).
But even worse is the fact that an uninsured trip to the ER for something as minor as a cut could cost thousands upon thousands of dollars. Many foreigners advise people who travel into America to be VERY well insured, and to keep the visit temporary lest you end up owing some American bank your entire life savings.
I often recount my experience in Thailand, where I shattered my upper femur bone and required a 10-hour operation and two weeks in the hospital. Thailand uses a free-market healthcare system like the U.S., but there are plenty of government-supported hospitals partially financed by private interests (namely, the Thai royal family). During my stay, they fed me steak, vitamins, and I worked with a good physical therapist. Final bill was $1,200.
The system to control Americans through debt is nothing short of evil, and the transparency of this corruption is especially evident when a developing country like Thailand, which is per capita far more populated than the United States, can still provide healthcare—even to a foreigner.
The common theme in this article is that a “winner takes all”, anti-social mindset pervades America as the primary cause of most of its problems. The only way for America to heal and become a suitable place to live is if a cultural, social shift occurs, and priorities of people begin to change, with a new focus on the community. Will this happen in my lifetime? I have no idea.