Friday, February 22, 2008

The Real American Dream

High on the list of things about America that really irks Europeans is any talk of "The American Dream." This statement, or ideal, or goal, or whatever it is, just sounds like we must think it is something real special I imagine, to non-English speakers. They must tell themselves, "Well it has 'America' and 'Dream' right in there in that line. So the Americans must be trying to throw something in our faces! Let's show them why they are full of crap! American dream my ass!"

I'm pretty sure that when Europeans hear about the American dream they imagine that we think it means everyone is rich, drives a hummer, is ultra patriotic, talks about freedom all day long, or that we think we are better than any non-American, or? What do they think it is? The only thing I know is they don't like it....

Well, here's a news flash for all of you who think that the American dream is some kind of heaven. Guys, "The American Dream" is really almost a tongue-in-cheek expression - but then really it's not. The American dream is very simple, very basic, and very, very modest.

What it means is this: You, as a normal schlub, can accomplish a simple thing in America with hard work. You can own a house, a car, - have a life - and a place to raise your family and send the kids to school. You can watch TV, you can have a hobby, and then croak - unmolested. That's it!

How does that sound Europe? Is it really worth getting upset about? We are not bragging. This is no boast. It is very simple - yet very powerful, why? Because there are many countries where these simple rights and pleasures are not allowed or are not possible. I believe the American dream was invented for people from places in the world where the rich, or the army, or the local landowner, or whomever, can shoot you in the street as easily as look at you - and with no consequences. Or from places where you can work 14 hours a day and still not be able to provide for your family - nor have a place to sleep.

When you put it in that context, going to a simple job then coming home to your family to have dinner and watch TV, sounds pretty damn good doesn't it? Maybe that is heaven.


Jever said...

A: Hey, I have a chance to move to the U.S.A!
B: Wow, how lucky you are!

A: Hey, I am moving to China!
B: Are you getting transferred???

Going to the U.S.A. is still a big dream for many people. But you still need to work your butt off to make a living or you will be one of the 45 million without health insurance.
And you'd better be well educated or you end up working for minimum wages.
It can be a dream life -- depending on what you leave behind.

Carl said...

No one said life was easy. Both Europe and America have to compete with countries (and newcomers) who bring our wages down. The truth is we are all going to have to work harder - and probably for less money.

Brendan said...

The "American Dream" maybe Americans gave it a name for marketing purposes. For the rest of the civilised world it's called life ;)

Carl said...

Maybe. But the name was given a long time ago - when it was a lot rougher in the rest of the world. When a "normal life" like we know it now in the US and Europe, was not that easy to find.

Jever said...

There is a real "American Dream", of course. People go there for advanced education, for a better life, for certain opportunities. And it is real. But - it depends on where you come from nowadays.
If you come from Europe, the U.S.A. is not the land of "milk and honey". If you are from e.g. Pakistan, it is.
But a majority of Americans don't know/think about the difference. To most Americans, any new resident must be glad to be here.
I was there in the early 80s and early 90s and both times I was seen as somebody who must be glad to have "escaped" Europe. Social studies and history would have proven helpful before making such assumptions.
Again, being able to move to the U.S. can be a wonderful opportunity, but not for everyone. It depends on your origin and your goals (your past and your future).

Carl said...

Well Jever, I might make the same assumption since you were in fact in the U.S. When I am in Madrid, I am very glad to have escaped L.A.

Bilingual Blogger said...

The beauty of the American Dream is that it is different for each individual. At its foundation the American Dream is about hope and optimism about the future. It's about expecting good things. It's about the freedom to live one's life the way one sees fit. It's about believing in possibility.

The other day I saw a thread on, an expat site for Spaniards, and somebody asked the members for their opinion of the American Dream, did they think it existed, etc. Without fail, several Spaniards responded with derision, saying that the American Dream was total bullshit.

And yet, the top category of questions on that very same expat website for Spaniards is filled with tons of questions from Spaniards asking other Spaniards for advice on how to emigrate to the U.S. They view the U.S. as one of the few places IN THE WORLD where they can leave behind their "sueldos de mierda", finally be able to buy a house AND find a job in their chosen profession without needing enchufe. On top of all this, they know that if they move to the right state in the U.S., they can do all this without being fully fluent in English! Hmmm, sounds like the American Dream, doesn't it?

Carl said...


The first paragraph of your comment was better than my whole post.

Ayse said...

Ditto Bilingual! Well said...