Not all American cities are the same

Unless it is a horror movie Hollywood producers prefer to shoot their movies in glamorous American cities such as New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles or Miami. Many people, who have never been to the U.S., believe that any city in the States should be like one of these cities they saw in the movies. Of course there are many other beautiful cities in the U.S. but not everywhere in the U.S. is livable. Did you watch the movie Fargo? Fargo is a city in North Dakota. Some other states located in the North have similar weather condition as well. You have to watch the movie to only slightly understand how badly the cold weather is there.

Amman, Jordan

Fargo, the movie
Fargo, the movie

I find it easier to explain to Arabs what North America is by taking the Arab world as an example, and maybe vice versa as well. There are 22 Arab countries spread between Asia and Africa. They all speak Arabic but with 22 distinctive dialects. The farther two countries are from each other the harder they can understand each other. Our political views are very different. Our conservative level is also very different.

Thinking of America as a white Christian nation is like saying Lebanon or Tunisia are as conservative as Saudi Arabia. In Tunisia, it is not uncommon for opposite gender colleagues to kiss on the cheek as a hello or goodbye gesture. This is a NO-NO in the US even in the most liberal state.

To the dislike of many Arab students who come to the Sates where they are is nothing like Miami or LA they saw on TV. Most big American universities are located in college towns. These towns have small populations, no skyscrapers and mostly not as fun as one would imagine from seeing Laguna Beach or Miami Beach on TV. You will never see an American TV series filmed in a small city in the Mid West, it is not fun. Most Americans don’t live in New York like Friends’ or Seinfeld’s cast.

I lived in a small city (pop. 15,000) in Missouri where if you don’t go to bars there is absolutely nothing to do after 8 pm. No shopping center or coffee shops. In America, restaurants are places for eating only not to hang out with family or friends. This is due to the fact that servers are expecting a tip on the bill. Since the amount of the bill will not increase dramatically by hours spent in the restaurant the sooner the customer leaves the better.

Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia


Some Jordanians reduce the geography of the USA to one city. They know the names of the big cities but wherever you tell them you live they imagine that city to have New York skyscrapers, Miami Beach, California weather and the green mountains of Colorado.

My point is the USA is a huge country. It is so diverse. When you watch in the Arabic news that America is covered in snow it is not everywhere. Some states are always warm like Florida for example. Some states are very rich like Texas others are very poor like Michigan.

Arabs know that Morocco’s culture is very different from Yemen’s. Djibouti’s cuisine is very different from the Lebanese’. The same is also true for the U.S. If a Jordanian lives in Houston and was asked about the Americans he may tell them they are rude. But not all Americans are rude. Houston is a big city and the people there might be rude but this doesn’t mean it is a generalization about Americans. In fact, here in the Mid West Americans are super nice. I even heard in the South they are even nicer.


Photos of loess hills national scenic byway, Percival

This is the same for non-Arabs when they generalize about the Arab world. It is not all deserts, not all women wear black and unfortunately we are not all rich.


6 thoughts on “Not all American cities are the same

  1. I enjoyed this very much! I like how you got pictures from the US that sort of matched photos from the Arab world.

    What is interesting to me is how people from certain regions get reputations. For instance where my friend lives in Germany he meets many Arabs from North Africa. Once he wanted to introduce one from Morocco, I think, to one from Tunisia. The Moroccan didn’t seem thrilled about the prospect claiming that all Tunisians are ____________ (insert something unflattering.) So it’s almost like a national or state or regional reputation. I know it’s within the US as well. I find that sort of thing intriguing.

    Thanks for posting. Loved it as always!


    1. Unfortunately, unlike what the West may think, Arab countries are very divided. This generalization about other Arab countries appears more among the not so educated Arabs. This split among Arabs is barely noticeably in America, especially among Arab students.

      So, hopefully this divide among the Arabs is fading away. At least one could hope so.

      In America, there exist some sort of stereotyping about certain states from the mid west or from the south for example 🙂

      From my traveling, meeting different cultures, races and religions I learned to never generalize. I make my judgement about an individual based on MY personal experience with this person.


      1. Oh, I can tell somewhat that Arab countries are divided. I think some have this pan-Arab dream that you all are brothers and sisters who stick together no matter what, but, good grief, anyone can watch the news and see this is not the case for everyone. It’s like the thing with Arabs and Jews being “cousins” who do not get along… at least, in some circumstances. I’m glad the split among Arabs is not very noticeable in the US. My friend gets along well with most Arabs he meets in Germany and he has met a wide variety (although most tend to be more liberal North African ones for some reason). Occasionally he tells me of someone who is difficult, but it’s mostly because that person totally dismisses his thoughts on why dictatorships are bad (he’s a bit sensitive about this due to the horrors committed by his own dictator.)

        Heheheh….I don’t hear too many stereotypes about the Midwest, but I’ve heard the ones about us backward, uneducated, conservative hillbillies who hate women, hate non-whites, and so forth. 🙂

        But,yes, great point about not judging whole regions, but meeting people and basing your thoughts on personal experiences.


      2. The situation is very dire in the Arab world. With Al-Qaeda spreading everywhere it is getting worse beyond imagine.


      3. Who would have thought there can be a group worse than Al Qaeda such as ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq & Sham)?


  2. Since they started in Syria I stopped following what they do. I know they are evil but I don’t know how evil there are. It is just sad what is happening in the Arab world.


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