In the United States, national identity plays an enormous role in everyday life. This identity, backed up by the idea of patriotism, is a very big factor for Americans when it comes to encountering new cultures and ideas. Being patriotic in the United States is more than just a characteristic, its a way of life; we see it in the streets, where flags wave in the air and in the rear bumper of cars filled with stickers exhibiting this ‘proudness’ to be American. This patriotism in society allows very large portions of the population to feel united in some way as they are united behind a common denominator and can all relate with the fact of being American, something that while present in other cultures and countries, is never as powerful as it is in the United States.
Now, this does not necessarily have a positive result in every occasion, for example, this same strong sense of patriotism that manages to unite a large strata of the population behind a common identity, it also creates room for alienation and even discrimination in extreme circumstances. It also affects how people react to certain circumstances, for example, this patriotism is more likely to make people defend their country from criticism and especially if said criticism comes from a foreigner. On the other hand I also believe that the unity created by this common sense of ‘Americanism’ is imperative to American identity and is, in my opinion, unique to the American people.
In other places around the world, or at least the places I have been to, patriotism is nowhere near as strong and present in society as it is in the United States. In other places people are far more open to criticism and nowhere near as defensive as Americans are when this criticism is geared towards their country or government. This discrepancy creates room for cultural clashes between Americans and foreigners, especially when foreigners travel to American and, vice versa, when Americans travel overseas. For example a foreigner might be used to openly criticizing his or her country’s decisions whereas if he or she did so in the United States, they would most likely encounter defensiveness form the part of the Americans. Also Americans abroad might face this same culture shock but in reverse when they travel overseas. An American overseas might find it unusual that people are so openly critic of their country and government.
Fortunately for me, I’ve already had the opportunity to experience different points of view and different cultural identities throughout my life, but most certainly will use the knowledge I have about these differences in behaviors and reactions during my time abroad. My main goal throughout this time is to keep an open mind and to be open to different ideas and different cultures, learning and understanding them in order to become a more well rounded individual who is able to understand and accept differences in society and have a holistic understanding of societies and cultures interact with each other.