Intersecting Minds: Education, Business and Technology at the North Carolina State Jenkins Graduate School of Management

An American Abroad | September 2, 2009

For most of my life, I have thought to myself, “I am a very lucky person. I was born in the United States. I live in the most prosperous, influential, and opportunistic country on Earth. The United States is a country that others aspire to, and I wouldn’t want to live or come from anywhere else.”

I imagine I’m not the only person from America who feels that way. I think Americans for the most part are very proud of many aspects of their country if not all of it. If you were born and raised in the US, there’s a lot of reasons to adhere to that line of thought. We are the world’s most powerful democracy, a tolerant and wealthy nation that commands respect and projects influence around the world.

And like many Americans who haven’t traveled abroad, I hadn’t really had that viewpoint challenged. After spending more than 15 days here already, I’m beginning to realize that maybe I had it just a bit wrong. I am indeed very lucky to have been born in America, and to live there now, but the people from all these other countries – South Korea, Brazil, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Thailand, Hong Kong, Israel, Bulgaria, Sweden, and of course Denmark – are pretty lucky too.

Many of them love their countries just as much as I love America, and they are doing things just fine their way, thank you very much. It’s been an eye opening experience for me to realize that. We do some things really well in America, for which we should be proud. But there are other things, and I’m not just talking about the big issues like our obsession with guns, or our attitude towards climate change, but also the everyday aspects of a person’s livelihood

For example, late Monday night around 9:30, I wandered down our hall because I heard the noise of several people talking and laughing. When I arrived at the scene, there were about a dozen Italians eating dinner, drinking wine and soda and socializing with each other. They invited me in to eat with them, and of course I accepted despite the fact that I had eaten dinner just a few hours earlier. The food was excellent and the people were very welcoming. It was a definite contrast to how we would do a Monday evening dinner in America.

I know I’m coming about this in a bit of a round about way, but I hope my message is getting through. I suppose I’m beginning to think about America in a more humble fashion, and trying to learn as much as I can about how people from other countries live their lives.

The fun part to think about is that while I’ve spent a lot of time with people from all over the world, I still haven’t really scratched the surface of Danish culture. And the Danes generally live happier lives, something that I hope to keep learning more about in the coming weeks.

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3 Comments »

  1. Mills – glad to see your getting out and taking in so many new perspectives – I’m sure it will one of the most valuable experiences of your life! Enjoy europe my friend – its an amazing place 🙂

    Comment by Chris Zand — September 2, 2009 @ 2:26 pm

  2. So glad you’re not only enjoying yourself, but learning, too. Keep it up!

    Comment by Jen Arthur — September 2, 2009 @ 5:29 pm

  3. Denmark is consistently in the top 3 in the quality of life table and was recently number 1 in the happiness table.

    Comment by Peter — September 2, 2009 @ 6:34 pm


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