General Question

RockerChick14's avatar

Why do a lot of people think Americans are fat and lazy and stupid?

Asked by RockerChick14 (951points) December 29th, 2013 from iPhone

I noticed that a lot of people comment about Americans being stupid. Also that we stereotype everyone in different countries.

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78 Answers

JLeslie's avatar

Over ⅔ of Americans are overweight.

I don’t know exactly why they might be calling us stupid. Maybe because they see clips of Jay Leno asking Americans on the street history or geography questions and the people don’t know the answers or give stupid answers. When they look at how America is doing in education our test scores are often lower than other countries in many subjects. Many Americans only speak one language, have very little tolerance for people dissimilar to them, and the religious right is perceived as ridiculous to most other countries and they get a lot of air time because of politics. it isn’t that the majority of our population is stupid, it’s that there are just enough ignorant people and people who the outside world would judge harshly that we get stereotyped.

One gentleman I was talking to from Australia said he dislikes American tourists in his country, but when he meets them while he is visiting America he likes Americans very much and America itself.

A lot of the world judges harshly that America interferes with other countries geopolitically. They feel we don’t understand the long term ramifications.

Judi's avatar

Because we ARE the fattest country on earth, we ARE lazy compared to many people in the world who have to struggle to survive and without googling it can you name the Prime Minister of Canada and the President of Mexico?

JLeslie's avatar

@Judi At this very moment I can’t even think of my two state senators. LOL. I have not paid much attention to politics in general, and having moved here less than a year ago I know very little about what is going on in the state. People around the world know our President because he has so much power and influence and he is so visible in the world good and bad.

I do think we get a bad wrap for world geography. Our country is so big that it is like knowing multiple countries in Europe and Asia. Germans might know cities and rivers and mountains in multiple countries around Europe, but the average America might only know about cities and rivers and mountains in America. The quantity might be similar, but it sounds like Americans know nothing about anything outside of their own country.

bomyne's avatar

I have to be honest here, some of the harsh feeling towards your country comes from your citizen’s attitude towards others. I saw an American tourist the other day trying to pay at the checkout (in an Aussie supermarket) with American currency. The cashier had to take it, he demanded. It’s American money. Dollars. She HAD to take it.

Unfortunately, it’s the few that give the rest a bad rap. I know not all Americans are fat, lazy, and stupid. I’ve had a few friends from the US over the years that are anything but fat lazy and stupid.

It may also be a case of ignorance. If you’ve never traveled to a country, can you really know what it’s like there? Of course we hear a lot of negative news from the US, but to quote John Williamson “Good news never made a paper sell”.

Don’t feel bad about not knowing politics though. I don’t know who the Australian prime minister is, nor do i care. :P

Sorry for the long winded post.

JLeslie's avatar

@bomyne Mexico and Canada actually take American dollars in many of their stores and restaurants so sometimes Americans assume many countries do. I sometimes don’t bother to change any money when I go to those countries, or very little. Not that I excuse what the tourist did in your example. It sounds like she was belligerent. By the way we don’t take Canadian or Mexican money. A few border states along the Canadian border will take Canadian change, maybe a rare local shop will take their dollars.

DWW25921's avatar

As a nation we need to be consistent. We need to stop depending on which party of empty suits is in office to figure out what direction we’re headed in. We need to pick something already! We look foolish because we are foolish.

@bomyne The Prime Minister of Australia is Tony Abbott. I think you guys did a good job in East Timor, by the way. It’s good to know someone else can handle things. Know your allies!

DWW25921's avatar

@JLeslie Along the border there are American stores that take Canadian too.

JLeslie's avatar

@DWW25921 I wrote that. Maybe it is more stores than I realize. When I lived in MI I was shocked at how Canadian change was all mixed in with American. One Canadian dollar was only worth about 75¢ at the time. I once had a bank give me a roll of quarters with three Canadian quarters and when I tried to return them they told me they can’t take Canadian change. From then on I broke open rolls of quarters in front of the teller before I left with the money. No one was accepting the Canadian dollars though at that time where I lived. Maybe way north they did.

Thammuz's avatar

I’d say @JLeslie has pretty much nailed it.

Luckily, the few american tourists that come to my neck of the woods are usually the rich crowd coming here for the fashion and the glamour and all that other bullshit, so we don’t get quite as many ignorant american tourists. We do get entitled trust fund kids acting like the world is theirs to dispose with as they please, but that’s pretty much the people we get in general, not from the U.S. specifically.

Vincentt's avatar

The fat stereotype originates from the fact that… Well, Americans on average are relatively fat, and have a relatively high percentage of people with unhealthy weight (although this number is problematic in many countries).

As far as I hold the view that many Americans are stupid, that originates from things like Fox News being the most popular channel (and seeing some examples of things that aired there that would never have aired here), people like Sarah Palin having relatively broad support, and movements like the Tea Party having so much influence. That said, I think this largely originates from culture, and as such I would be very hesitant to label Americans stupid.

cookieman's avatar

Sadly, it’s how we (the US) choose to present ourselves to the world in popular culture.

US Politics, reality TV, celebrity culture, corporate shenanigans, fast food dependence, sub-par public education, and so on. This is the crap we choose to give the majority of our air time to and what gets broadcast and published to the world.

What’s upsetting is that, in reality, this crap represents the smaller percentage of Americans. Many Americans work very hard, are clever and resourceful, are well educated, care about what they eat, their environment, and their community, have traveled the world, care about culture and the arts, help our neighbors, care not for celebrity, and are genuinely good people.

Instead, we choose to present, no… celebrate our lowest common denominators as our face to the world.

I don’t get it. Maybe we are stupid.

creative1's avatar

I think @bomyne hit the nail on the head, that tourists can make a country look bad. When I was going to France for vacation people gave the French a bad rap for being rude and such but I found them anything but. I met several people on my travels around the great city and found people to be very nice and helpful when needed. It’s the tourists that go to a country that go to a country and think they are entitled to something just because their an american that can make americans look bad.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

Most people I have met who are here in the states for the first time are shocked to see the that reality of this place is nothing like they have seen on TV and that the people don’t often fit the stereotype.—-that is as long as they stay away from starbucks, walmart or sporting events.

Americans are anything but lazy, we are chronically overworked. At least those of us who are lucky enough to find work. Americans on average are FAT, obese actually. Americans are not stupid, the vast majority are simply distracted, tired or sick and appear stupid.

ccrow's avatar

I agree about tourists… my husband and I were in Scotland, and I went into the shared bathroom after another American was finished; he had left the sink full of whiskers/shaving scum. I’m sure the thought of who was going to clean it never entered his ignorant head. People like that definitely give the rest of us a bad name.

livelaughlove21's avatar

Because, statistically speaking, we are.

flip86's avatar

Not that it really matters but, Mexico has surpassed the USA for being the fattest nation. Still though, I think my state is one of the fattest. There are so many obese people in Maine it isn’t funny. When an abundance of 40 to 50 year old women need to use a mart cart(I say women because obese men hardly ever use mart carts) to get around the grocery store, you know you have a problem. It is terrible.

SQUEEKY2's avatar

I don’t know things like this could be a small reason as to why..

Vincentt's avatar

@ccrow Pretty sure non-Americans can be as inconsiderate as well.

@flip86 Second fattest is still fat :)

filmfann's avatar

There is no doubt Americans have it good, but never doubt their ability to dig deep and bring it, even when it causes them suffering. Americans are very resourceful.
There are times when I feel a bit of shame over American intellect, for example the week that Mandela died, the cover of People Magazine had a couple of television performers, who are dwarfs, talking about one of them having cancer.
I understand a lot of the world are envious of America. We have the advantages of a land of plenty, and a separation from most other countries. I hope they realize that we are trying to the the right things, and help the rest of the world.

thorninmud's avatar

Americans are out of step with most of the developed world in terms of our beliefs. Only 21% of Americans think that humans evolved without divine guidance; 30% believe the Genesis account of creation literally. 77% believe in angels. Over 60% don’t see climate change as a near term threat. 55% believe Obama is a socialist…

This must be thoroughly baffling from afar. We have the world’s most esteemed institutions of higher learning, and at the same time seem to reject rationality on a wholesale level. It’s not surprising that stupidity would surface as an explanation. I personally don’t think that’s an adequate explanation, but it’s not surprising that it makes us look alarmingly backward.

LostInParadise's avatar

For the record, the U.S. is not the fattest nation, though the rate of obesity is nothing to be proud of.

Part of the reason Americans may be considered stupid is reflected in the results of the PISA tests

bolwerk's avatar

It may not be an entirely fair stereotype, but there are plenty of fat/stupid (I don’t know about lazy – more like, physically inactive?) Americans and they tend to stick out like a sore thumb when they travel around the world. While the U.S. is perhaps one of the most tolerant societies on Earth, at least if you’re not poor, the American education system is bad enough where most Americans probably don’t have the background to identify the hangups and shortcomings of other western cultures (e.g., nationalism in Europe). Besides a few simple-ish ones that entered the cultural lexicon, like surrender monkey French and British bad teeth, it’s pretty hard to stereotype other cultures if you don’t know jack shit about them.

And American politics have got to be seen as nothing short of retarded. Europe has fascists, but they’re generally a periphery force in politics. The similarly nutty U.S. Republikan Party achieves sometime majorities in politics, yet spreads a doctrinaire neoliberal fuck-the-populace dogma that even eurofascists don’t like. Then, go figure, Europe has had more austerity than us, and has perhaps done more to keep the world economy down….

TheRealOldHippie's avatar

Fat – because over 67% of the American population is overweight…..some grossly and disgustingly so. Down here where I live – the tortilla is king and people eat them like there’s no tomorrow. Forget the fact the flour tortillas (the most popular) are about 80% lard (which is good for the arteries and cholesterol count), and forget the fact that most people don’t get nearly enough exercise around here (see “Lazy”) and you have a bunch of fat, disgustingly overweight people waddling around, looking more like a herd of elephants than responsible people who are looking out for their well-being.

Lazy – because over half the American population finds sitting on the couch and cheering for a football team on a Sunday afternoon to be exercise. Otherwise, the only exercise they get is walking at work – and if they can take a elevator from the 1st to the 2nd floor, they’ll take that instead of climbing the stairs. I see disgustingly overweight young people at work all the time standing by the elevator for up to 5 minutes or more if necessary so they can take the elevator from the Ground Floor to the 1st Floor – and the stairs that will take them to the same place are less than 25 feet away!! They go beyond lazy!!!

Stupid – Once upon a time, this country led the world or was in the Top 3 in categories such as Science, Mathematics, etc. Now we’re lucky if we finish in the Top 20 – usually behind some other world leader such as Bangladesh. Young people today are totally incapable of writing a complete sentence, thinking that what works for texting should work for everything. You should read some of the papers I get handed in to me – and these are from university students, not high school or grade school students. Some of these people got a double dose of “Stupid” when they were handing it out. Here’s an example, taken directly from a final exam in a class just a couple of weeks ago: “Benjamin Franklin invented the photograph and it played CDs, but nobody liked it so Thomas Edison invented a gr8er one which played vinul records and this happened in 1978.” And these are the leaders of tomorrow!! Scary, isn’t it? (By the way, the genius who wrote that failed the course.)

JLeslie's avatar

@TheRealOldHippie OMG! This is why I say not everyone should go to college. What a waste.

ccrow's avatar

@Vincentt True, but that’s not what the question was about.

Coloma's avatar

I’m an American and I think Americans are stupid. I also think we are a very codependent country, always meddling in other countries affairs. and neglecting our own. Jumping in without being asked, assuming others want our input/help.
I am also, personally, at an all time low for intellectually curious and intelligent friends in my life.
Dumb and dumber seems to be the prevalent entree on the menu of morons. lol

JLeslie's avatar

To agree with @ccrow I am disgusted that Americans leave a mess behind them all too often. We have had Q’s here about cleaning up and throwing away our trash after watching a movie at the cinema or eating at McDonald’s and I am stunned at how many Americans think it is just fine and someone else is there to clean up behind them. I find some cities to be much worse than others. When I lived near Memphis I was stunned at how many people left all their popcorn container, drink cups, and candy wrappers all over the floor! I have to say here in FL I don’t experience it anywhere near what I did in TN. If we were doing that in Europe or Asia when touring I am pretty sure we would be viewed as filthy pigs, and they would be right. People even if they throw away their trash don’t bother to wipe away their crumbs. A lot of places stopped using trays and I like trays, because the mess can be on the tray and not on the table. Except for those people who seem to still get their mess onto the table. I seriously cannot believe the mess people leave behind at restaurants, especially if they have children. Mind you I do not mean the majority of people leave a mess, but the percentage of people who do is hard to ignore. The mess people leave in dressing rooms also. Hang up what you tried on and bring it out the sales person! My mom would kill me if I had left a mess behind me. I don’t mean young people are the only ones doing it though, they are learning it from their parents.

stanleybmanly's avatar

Fat and stupid perhaps, but Americans are notoriously hard working, and my European friends marvel at what we put up with. Of course, the Asians all outwork us, and have the appropriate suicide rates to prove it.

ml3269's avatar

These thoughts are not correct. Dumb idiots you find all over the world. If you ask people in Europe about geography or history you would get the same ‘quality’ of answers as in the US.
Visiting the west- and the eastcoast of the USA I have to say.. we are pretty much the same… stupid, lazy, blackbrownwhite, intelligent, awesome, humans.

bolwerk's avatar

@stanleybmanly: many European countries work similar working hour rates. It is the more prosperous parts of Europe that have lower annual rates. Italy is similar and Greece is significantly higher than the USA. numbers

Of course, many Americans work unusually hard because they have to in order to make ends meet. Stolen productivity.

Blackberry's avatar

Look up healthcare and literacy statistics between the developed nations.

YARNLADY's avatar

Where are people getting their statistics? According to my source “a new report from the United Nations, nearly a third (32.8%) of people living in America’s southern neighbor are obese. The United States ranks just below at No. 2 with an obesity rate of 31.8%.”

That’s ONE third, not two.

El_Cadejo's avatar

When I was in Honduras I rented an apartment with a couple from England; after a few days they asked me, “are you from England as well?” This caught me really off guard because I mean, they’re English, they have English accents, surely they can tell I don’t have one as well, so I asked why in the world they thought that. They replied “you speak properly, use big words, and are intelligent, we thought there was no way you could be from the US”

YARNLADY's avatar

Many other countries teach their children more than one language, and the second language is nearly always English.

American travelers to other countries are often ignorant regarding the local customs, and treat all the people like they are there for entertainment purposes, like being in Disneyland or an amusement park.

Many people, not only Americans, think if someone can’t understand you (language barrier) you need to talk LOUDER.

flutherother's avatar

Many Americans are overweight, they eat unhealthily and they tend to drive rather than walk even for short distances. We think Americans are stupid because the quality of your news reporting is so dire, especially on television. If Americans were intelligent I don’t see how they could stand for it.

bolwerk's avatar

@YARNLADY: not sure what the statistics are, but there is a difference between overweight and obese. A significant number of people who are not obese are still overweight.

livelaughlove21's avatar

I wonder if these statistics take muscle mass into consideration. Bodybuilders, personal trainers, etc. may be “overweight” or even “obese” according to their BMIs, but they’re certainly not fat. I seriously doubt these statistics distinguish between fat and muscular.

I’m not saying the US isn’t a fat country, because it is.

bolwerk's avatar

@livelaughlove21: that’s a recognized limitation with BMI measurements, but not very many people have that much muscle mass.

livelaughlove21's avatar

@bolwerk BMI has many limitations. It’s an outdated measurement of health. Body fat percentage would be a much more accurate measurement, but it’s not as easily accessible as BMI.

TheRealOldHippie's avatar

We Americans are also arrogant and belligerent when we come into contact with other cultures. Is it any wonder that people from nations we count as allies don’t particularly like us?

bolwerk's avatar

@livelaughlove21: BMI probably works fine for comparison purposes, or at least I don’t see why it wouldn’t.

I understand not using it for individual health decisions though.

bolwerk's avatar

@livelaughlove21: accurate for an individual health decision is different than accurate for a generalization about a population. Two people with different BMIs says nothing useful per se, but when comparing two countries I can’t see a major problem.

JLeslie's avatar

@YARNLADY Stats from the CDC. Overweight is not the same as obese.

syz's avatar

Because lots of Americans are fat and lazy and stupid.

Coloma's avatar

^^^ Pretty much straight to the point.

Okay, I’m pushing my moderately chubby butt around the park again, started last week. It’s easy to put on weight, you don’t have to be 400 lbs. Most fat people are in the 25— 50 lb. overweight range.
Fat yes, morbidly obese, no.
There are varying degrees of “fat” obviously.

trailsillustrated's avatar

I love America and Americans. If you want to see fat and/or stupid, try some of the suburbs around here. I did, however, find the cleanliness of some of the cinemas there just shocking.

jerv's avatar

I forgot to ask… is the South considered part of America? I know that many who live there don’t seem to think so. And the culture and laws are different enough down there that I am inclined to agree that they are a different country.

JLeslie's avatar

@trailsillustrated Cinema in America shocking? Meaning they are dirty?

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

People who live out in the country, especially the south live very different lives than those who live in the city or in suburbia. It really is like living in a different nation and it’s not always a bad thing. The two worlds just don’t understand each other.

bolwerk's avatar

Different = more dependent on Big Gubbermint. And Fox News for information. Great combination.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

The amount of rural families in the south on public assistance is unbelievable. I bet it dwarfs the inner city by a large margin.

Aspoestertjie's avatar

I don’t think Americans are stupid, I just think they are quite ignorant of what goes on in the world around them. I can’t say all of them are ignorant either as the few I do know actually care. I believe it is the American life style that contributes to them being overweight. They have way too many fast food outlets. In South Africa we still prefer making traditional home cooked meals than to order burgers or pizzas.

JLeslie's avatar

@ARE_you_kidding_me @bolwerk I just tried to search stats on that and could not find a good website. I wonder if there is more assistance for rural vs. city. I also wonder how it all breaks down by state. To me there are advantages and disadvantages to being poor in each place. It is like two different countries in a way. Bible belt smaller town and the rest of the country. Although, in some ways rural is rural and big city is big city, north or south.

It’s really impossible to generalize about Americans, because we are over 300 million people from over 100 countries. But, at the same time, there are some stereotypes that are understandable.

mattbrowne's avatar

I’m German. I don’t know a single stupid American personally. Practically all Americans I’ve ever met are smart, open-minded and kind. Maybe this correlates with their being interested in meeting non-Americans. I know stupid Americans only from the Internet, tv, magazines and books. People for example who want to give the impression that there is a global warming or evolution debate. People who think FOX is a great program. People who think the United Nations are irrelevant or who express views like “why give a damn about what other countries think” or “what waste time by eating lengthy meals”.

On average Mexicans are even more obese than Americans. Plus, obesity is a problem in all developed countries.

JLeslie's avatar

Just to defend Mexicans, I think part of their obesity is from American influence. Our food and restaurant chains are down there more and more. Also, they are only a point or two higher than the USA for overweight and obesity, which I find statistically insignificant.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

@JLeslie That’s basically the truth. Travel further south where there is less American diet and the people usually have a healthier weight.

bolwerk's avatar

@JLeslie the go-to resource used to be the JFK School of Government’s Federal Budget and the States, but it seems to have stopped being published. It broke that out by spending and type of spending. In the past few years, the Census bureau removed a lot of that kind of information too.

Nowadays I mostly just see stuff like this. It vaguely cites the BEA and IRS.

JLeslie's avatar

@bolwerk I’ve seen stats like that before, but your map includes too many things. Medicare and social security, even Native American services. Medicare has nothing to do with poverty and either does retirement social security. That’s not really answering food stamps, medicaid, free lunch, welfare, EIC, etc.

bolwerk's avatar


Either budgets got cut, it got buried, or someone (Rand Paul?!) doesn’t want you to know.

JLeslie's avatar

I appreciate the effort.

LornaLove's avatar

@Aspoestertjie That is a bit of a generalization. A large proportion of the South African population is overweight. Mostly culturally determined but also spread over various race groups. Take-Aways in South Africa abound too.

The only difference I can see in South Africa is that there are healthier alternatives when eating out. That has not reduced the queue at McDonalds though. Plus one of their biggest Health Care Providers, Discovery, ensure that they have a healthy core base by educating people on healthy eating. Looking at Afrikaaner food as being one of the most unhealthy options of eating at home. Laden with fat and sugar. Which makes Afrikaaners quite a large cultural group despite eating at home.

As regards stereotypes:

I have always heard that American’s are nuts. If they are I relate quite well to them most of the time, so I must be a nut too. They are also known to be very aggressive. I think stupidity is a subjective global thing. Unless you are looking at stats of Education per capita.

Aspoestertjie's avatar

@LornaLove I agree. It also depends where you live. Where I live we only have 1 restaurant and 3 fast food outlets. Our choices are boring, so we opt to make our own food. The people I know and get to deal with each day are mostly active and sporty with maybe 3% of them being obese and 10% of them being overweight. Most however look at what they eat and live a generally healthy life. There are many unhealthy options when it comes to cultural food and then there are enough of the healthier options as well. Black people in general are more overweight and obese than the white people. That might be due to several reasons like cultural differences.

LornaLove's avatar

@Aspoestertjie Yes, regards black people, also poverty and food choices, diets high in carbs and lack of education regards better choices. By the way welcome to Fluther.

syz's avatar

Further proof of stupid.

JLeslie's avatar

I think it is only a little higher among black Americans. If I remember correctly 70% of black Americans are overweight, and over 60% white Americans, with Hispanics separated out ina separate category. So, it’s higher among black people, but it isn’t like their number is 70% and white people it is only 30%. Socioeconomics are definitely a factor, but I think it is safe to say America has a problem across all races and ethnicities pretty much. There probably is some exceptions, maybe Asians the stats are much better, but that is from a guess in my head out of stereotypes, I don’t know the real numbers.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

@syz That only speaks of religious Americans.

JLeslie's avatar

Just to clarify my last answer, the stats for black and white Americans are not guesses, just the Asian one was.

mattbrowne's avatar

@JLeslie – The influence part is a good point. However, there’s influencing and there’s letting others influence you. Half of the blame must go to the Mexicans as well.

JLeslie's avatar

@mattbrowne I think more than half. I do believe in personal responsibility when it comes to this topic. Suing McDonald’s is absurd to me, which is a topic for discussion here in the states. However, people living in fat towns where eating fatty food is commonplace, and they are poor and undereducated (I think Mexico’s average level of education is around 6th or 7th grade, up from 5th grade 20 years ago) sets them up to be easily influenced and not understand what they are putting in their mouths.

mattbrowne's avatar

@JLeslie – Educated Mexicans should think of ways protecting the uneducated Mexicans.

JLeslie's avatar

@mattbrowne I honestly don’t know for sure what educated Mexicans think in terms of lesser educated Mexicans in terms of helping them. I never hear my husband’s family talking in those terms. I also should mention that my husband’s family, his parents, are 5th and 8th grade educated, his brother never finished high school, and his sister has some college level courses. My husband has a masters degree. The family when my husband was growing up was part of the upperish classes, because of the lack of a large middle class and his father owned businesses. As far as food, his parents really are clueless about what is healthy, except that they cook from scratch which is a huge help andnstick very close to the diet they have had all their lives. His mom is overweight the last 10 years, but she is 75, less active, and I give her a pass.

I wonder what they do think about helping the poor and uneducated in Mexico on many issues?

snowberry's avatar

It’s also culture I think. We used to live in rural Indiana. There was very little to do recreationally that didn’t involve going to a movie, eating, or playing board games, except for going for a walk somewhere. Not surprisingly, a large number of the residents were overweight. In fact when I first moved there the first thing I noticed was that everyone seemed to have enough of a belly that it hung over the sides of their belts. Everyone, little kids, teens, and old folks alike.

As for being stupid, I’m not so sure of that, but everywhere I go, there is always some country bumpkin, that when you ask for directions, they’ll answer, “You remember where that church is that burned down 4 years ago? Turn right there. You can’t miss it!”

mattbrowne's avatar

Why not create a liquid sugar tax making a bottle of coke twice as expensive as a bottle of diet coke? Uneducated people will switch pretty soon.

josie's avatar

Is it a stereotype if it true?

JLeslie's avatar

@josie Yes, many stereotypes are true.

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