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.
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.
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.
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.