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England held elections today. On the way home this evening, a girl stopped me to ask who I'd voted for. I figured that, if she cares enough to ask a perfect stranger, she must have some political awareness. So, I answered, "Let's see, I voted for Al Gore, and then I voted for John Kerry." This drew a completely blank stare. After a moment she asked, "So, you didn't vote for [name I didn't recognize]?" Alright, so she wasn't half as politically aware as I'd gathered. If I had answered Howard Dean or John McCain or Paul Tsongas, all of whom I've also cast votes for, those names are obscure enough outside of the U.S. that I wouldn't expect her to know them. But Gore and Kerry's names are not obscure. It wasn't worth pursuing, though, so I simply connected the dots for her, said, "I'm not British," and walked away.


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 4th, 2006 06:53 pm (UTC)
i don't think it's fair to call her "half as politically aware as I'd gathered," especially when you had no idea who SHE was talking about! not a whole lot of people know the names of people running for office outside their own country.
May. 4th, 2006 07:01 pm (UTC)
I have been outside the U.S. many times, and many of my friends in the U.S. are foreign nationals. In my experience, people outside the U.S. know who Gore and Kerry are, just like I knew Blair and Kennedy before I moved here. It's not as if I would expect her to know the party runner-ups (Dean, McCain, Clark, etc.) or the local politicians. However, she was asking a political question, and every other Brit I've spoken politics has known who Gore and Kerry are. I mean, we're talking the the two viable opponents to Bush in the world's major super power. Don't underestimate how closely people follow American presidential elections.

And besides, my accent should have clued her in that I wasn't British, which was the point I was trying to get across when I answered that I voted for Gore and Kerry.

So, I think it's perfectly fair to say that she wasn't half as politically aware as I had gathered she was.
May. 4th, 2006 09:11 pm (UTC)
Well, haven't you ever asked a question and gotten an answer that you didn't expect at all? I find that when that happens I often have to switch mental gears. She was obviously focussed on the local election and not thinking at all about US politics. She probably didn't have time to switch mental gears.

In addition, if someone asked me that question, I would be perfectly entitled to answer since I am a British citizen, although I have an American accent. There are lots of dual US/UK citizens around.

Finally, I do find that Americans tend to think that foreigners are close to being up to speed with US politics and politicians. Especially when you're talking about FAILED CANDIDATES, it's more than likely that the locals paid little attention at the time and, now 6 and 2 years later, could care less what dimwits lost the 2000 and 2004 US presidential elections. America does not dominate the news here as it does in, well, America. I'm certain that your acquaintances are fairly knowledgeable about US politics. Most of my friends here could care less.
May. 4th, 2006 09:57 pm (UTC)
Finally, I do find that Americans tend to think that foreigners are close to being up to speed with US politics and politicians.

Yes, I do realize that. That is why I chose two very prominent names. Having lived approximately half my life outside the United States where I have always found that people who are at all into politics and world affairs always seem to know about the two main candidates that face off in U.S. presidential elections, I did not think it a leap that someone who was asking me about politics would know those two prominent figures. I certainly was not trying to be "the ugly American." I thought it a good-natured way of saying I'm not from around here.
May. 4th, 2006 08:47 pm (UTC)
Do you even know if any of the candidates on the ballot had names that sounded like Gore or Kerry? Mentioning a candidate from six years ago doesn't really make sense in the context of just leaving a ballot.

And anyways, it was mean of you to just shoot her down like that. You could have let her down a little easier. ;)

May. 4th, 2006 09:48 pm (UTC)
How was what I said mean? By answering that I voted for Al Gore and John Kerry, I simply was identifying myself as American. When she didn't get that, I simply said I wasn't British. How is any of that mean?
May. 5th, 2006 04:26 am (UTC)
Because she was flirting with you and you just walked away! Why else would she just ask who you voted for?

(No, I don't actually think you were being mean. But she did totally get shot down.)

May. 5th, 2006 09:30 am (UTC)
She was a high school aged girl. I detected no hint of flirtatiousness at all. In fact, it seem to me she was having some sort of disagreement with her two equally young friends and simply grabbed the first person who walked by in a busy street. If she was indeed flirting with me, then I and the entire adult world should hope I shot her down!
May. 5th, 2006 12:52 am (UTC)
It doesn't sound like rudeness to me. I do find myself assuming that foreigners pay more attention to American politics than we do to theirs, not out of arrogance, but the opposite, I guess. I do often meet foreigners who have a good idea what's going on here when there's a good chance I don't even know their presidents.

It's kind of embarrassing really. We are the most powerful country at the moment, and it makes sense that other countries would be paying attention to our politics, but that doesn't even vaguely excuse the fact that we don't pay attention to theirs.

Anyway, once I thought about it, it doesn't seem surprising that she wouldn't know the names of the past two American presidential losers -- but I probably would have started off with the same assumption. And I don't see how anything you actually said to her was rude.
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )

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