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When I lived in Europe I quickly saw how much louder the Americans were than the Europeans, particularly at restaurants. I'm actually quiet by nature anyway, but I hadn't really noticed it when I lived in America, because it was just the was it was. I was embarrassed for the Americans in these restaurants.
I didn't see the other point, re: American aggressive/defensiveness. I wasn't in an American community, nor around a lot of Americans. I actually valued, value, greatly the European system and life style--I wasn't attacking, and I wasn't attacked. (Though I do remember in the chit chat before staff meetings, if a question about American politics came up, all heads would turn to me to explain what our President was doing now--which of course some times, I didn't know either. But it was lighthearted.) So maybe that explains the difference of our experiences on that point, or maybe times havce changed on this, as I've spent little time in Europe the last four years.
But I must admit that I have felt called to defend by comments on this website--particularly when I find them inaccurate. It's been a litle odd for me, because it's a role reversal from my normal life, where I often explain the European system to American friends and colleagues less familiar with it. I choose the word explain rather than defend, because among my colleagues and friends, there is basically no prediliction to attack the European system. The tone of the discussion is always more questioning, dialoguing. In fact, as I'm writing this, it's so rare to have an attacking type discussion, that I can remember a rare exception. I was complaining at a dinner table about the high combined US tax rates, when you added the then 9.5% California state tax, and a 39.5% Federal tax (which it was then). A Swiss gent kind of "went off" on my comment, (I think Swiss) saying it was nothing like the tax rates in Switzerland and I should feel lucky to live in California and be able to keep half the money I earned. People at the table were taken aback by his tone, somewhat embarrassed, and changed the subject quickly.
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