What exactly does it mean to be European...

Discussion in 'Central & Eastern Europe' started by Luciaviolin, Nov 1, 2005.

  1. Luciaviolin

    Luciaviolin Member

    Can somebody explain what exactly does it meen to be European or even Bohemian? It is certainly more that just growing up in a certain location and inheriting certain customs. It is a frame of mind, a way of thinking, isn't it? What exactly is it that makes us Europeans different from, let's say Americans?
  2. Ladis

    Ladis Well-Known Member

    For me, being an European or Czech means nothing since I do things in my way and don't care about others' opinions :)
  3. Ziggles

    Ziggles New Member

    Ahoj Luciaviolin! :D

    As an American, I can't provide any meaningful insight into what it means to be "European," but I've certainly thought about "what it means" to be, well, anything.

    Each of us is constantly engaged in a dance with our environment. The “thing” that is “us” moves through space and time, interacting with our environment at very deep levels, even if we are not conscious or aware of the complex mental processes occurring.

    I’ve come to believe a great deal of who we “are” is based on fundamental, almost reflexive reactions to (and assumptions about) our environment. I’m struggling learning the tiny, tiny amount of the Czech language I do, because of basic, fundamental differences in the “mindset” of the language.

    I am predisposed to “think” a certain way about something as fundamental as “words” that my brain short-circuits. Forget about trying to wrap my tongue around some of the phonemes!

    Something that makes us such successful beings … the ability to reflexively and intuitively interact with our environment elegantly and with little or no conscious thought, becomes a problem when learning a new language because so many of our brain’s predisposed (and normally effective and efficient) methods of dealing with “reality” are fundamentally incorrect.

    We have no working “mental map” and become lost.

    Just some thoughts. Language acquisition is an amazing process, and I sincerely believe the languages we learn as children at some level shape our mental processes. I have a different “mindset” from you simply because my natal tongue is different from yours.

    Trust me, Ladis, it means a great deal you are Czech. You can easily wrap your brain around word structures that drive my brain into fits! :shock: It has nothing to do with your conscious decisions to formulate opinions on your own, there are differences based on the fundamental ways your brain reflexively handles incoming information.

    Just some rambling on culture, language acquisition, and mental processes. Sorry to hijack your thread Luciaviolin (if that happens).

    týče se,

    P.S. Ladis, thanks for your many posts to date here on the boards. I’ve learned a great deal from your comments and input. Děkuji!
  4. Ladis

    Ladis Well-Known Member

    If you take it as understanding a language - for me as the Czech, English has difficult parts, too :) (e.g., pronunciation of "th" in "thirty" is problem for me :D). However, English has a simpler system of words in sentences so it's easier for Czechs to learn English than vice versa about this (and other things).
    Thank you :p I found this forum recently and like to go here, so why not to contribute ;)
  5. Luciaviolin

    Luciaviolin Member

    Ahoj Ziggles and Ladis,

    You both gave me a lot of food for thought. It is much appreciated. I will try to expand a little bit on my original question (and let us see where it's going to go) :)
    I have pretty much ignored the Czech language when I got to the US. It seemed to me so awkward, overly complicated and totally unnecessary. (I know I am not making any friends here by saying that....but one has to be honest with onself and others :wink: ).

    After being here for over 10 years, I seemed to have gone full circle. I miss not being able to utter a coherent sentence in Czech (although thanks to this site I am getting better), I miss dreaming in Czech and I miss the Czech humor. But I also miss the Italian and French humor and Russian poetic tales.

    These European things are very hard to come by here and those that are available are often ridiculed as silly and who knows what. Somehow many American people seem to have missed the point and it makes me feel sad. :cry: Our common experiences just can't be that different, can they? I am aware that humor is very hard to translate unless it is slapstick. But I don't think that the language barrier is all there is to it.
    I really don't meen to sound critical and bash my American friends here. :D
    I am just really curious as to what it is .......... :?

  6. rockinrobin

    rockinrobin Member


    You pose a very good question. Aside from cultural differences (e.g. language, eating habits, formality of speech, etc.) there does seem to be a completely different mindset, but it is hard to put into words.

    My Greek friends are outgoing, laid back and informal, completely different from my Czech friends who are reserved, quiet and formal. Yet, they share a similar outlook about life. They have mastered the ability to live simply but enjoyably. Although they all work hard, they do not live to work. They enjoy material possessions, but don't seem consumed by the need to have more.

    When I think of a European, I think of someone who is cultured, educated, and family oriented with a strong sense of who they are and where they come from. They lead more balanced lives and just don't seem to be as uptight!

    These are just my personal opinions and experiences. Generalizations can be misleading because there are Europeans who are shallow and materialistic, and there are Americans who are not (I am one of them!)
    It will be interesting to see others' opinions.

  7. Ceit

    Ceit Well-Known Member

    If one were to listen to some European politians, being European apparently means being a capitalist white Christian. Fortunately, I think most people understand that nothing is that simple. It makes me wonder, though, how the European mindset will change in the near future, now that Europe is more a destination for immigrants than a source. Are Africans, Asians and Middle Easterners "real Europeans"? Are their children born in France, Spain or the UK "real Europeans"? Their grandchildren? There are plenty of culture clashes right now, but in the future (when things, hopefully, settle down) will people continue to think that skin color or religion necessarily prevent people from belonging to a particular country?
  8. Ceit

    Ceit Well-Known Member

  9. player1

    player1 Active Member

    You cant compare being European to being American because Europe is a continent, America a country...you're not comparing like with like! Europe has different languages, currencies, governnments...America has one language, currency, leader, (brain cell? :twisted: )

    Most people introduce themselves as coming from a certain country - i've yet to meet ANYONE who's described themselves as European...i mean, czechs, brits, germans, italians etc are all completely different and cannot be lumped into one group!

    Maybe this notion of being european is more useful to others outside of europe who dont know enough about our continent to differentiate, preferring to lazily group us all together...like we europeans tend to do with africans!
  10. wissy

    wissy Well-Known Member

    Totally agree with Player1. He has described my own views on the subject exactly.
  11. HampshireLad

    HampshireLad Active Member

    I think being both British and pro-Europe I can describe myself as truly European - that is, wanting to interact and trade with other European thinkers even though for me there are some language barriers (I only speak French and English) right now. Although the so-called "United" Kingdom isn't obviously attached to the main European land-mass I personally view Europe as a cohesive whole.

    Where I feel that I differ from Americans is that although the US is a large, essentially unified country, it is has no other countries adjacent to it that provide the same rich culturtal mix that Europe has, and the IMHO is the key. I know that there is Mexico, and South America, but to me they are too tightly integrated to be separate. Whereas if I travel from London to Paris on Eurostar, as soon as I disembark in Paris there is an immediate cultural difference.

    Just my 2cents worth :)
  12. player1

    player1 Active Member

    SO....Europe is a "cohesive whole"...but "as soon as I disembark in Paris there is an immediate cultural difference."

    What's your point? Is there a typical european identity, or all we all different people from different nations?

    "I know that there is Mexico, and South America,"

    Well, South America is actually a continent too - which Mexico is a part of - i direct you to my previous comment about giving labels to things we don't really know much about :roll:
  13. HampshireLad

    HampshireLad Active Member

    I suggest that if I was to travel across Europe, I believe that if you were to ask someone from each member state, they'd say that they were "European" even though they all have cultural differences. The European identity is perhaps an ideal or aim that we as Europeans strive to achieve - I certainly do - whether or not it exists right now is another matter ! In the UK it almost certaily doesn't.
  14. HampshireLad

    HampshireLad Active Member

    I suggest that if I was to travel across Europe, I believe that if you were to ask someone from each member state, they'd say that they were "European" even though they all have cultural differences. The European identity is perhaps an ideal or aim that we as Europeans strive to achieve - I certainly do - whether or not it exists right now is another matter ! In the UK it almost certainly doesn't.
  15. player1

    player1 Active Member

    Hmmmm, dont even know where to begin to disagree there...

    This is ONLY my experience, but as i said before, having travelled around europe a lot, i have NEVER met ANYONE who described themselves as european - if you have, fair enough.

    As for a european "identity" and/or "ideal", ive never heard anyone else in europe talk about this, so i'd be interested to hear exactly what that involves? Just so i know what i'm striving for...but Im hugely confused here - you say we're trying to achieve it, then say you don't know if "it" exists -so what is it? And how can i strive for it if it doesnt exist?
  16. Ceit

    Ceit Well-Known Member

    So you've never listened to any European politicians? :lol: Not that that's a bad thing. I actually heard a Spanish politician say that the European Union will make it impossible for members to declare war on each other because they will be "one". What, there's no such thing as civil war anymore?? Personally, I think this is the biggest stumbling block for the EU. Oh, sure, it's supposed to be just an economic and political union (which is scary enough for some people), but there's always the specter of history and culture being swept away and forgotten in the process of making, er, a United States of Europe. It scares and irritates people, and with good reason in my opinion. Maybe that's the biggest difference between Americans and (ahem) Europeans: America is many cultures mushed together into one, more or less, while Europe is many cultures separated into territories. And I'm not saying one is better than the other or anything like that, but I think it is worth pointing out a major difference. (cultural? social? psychological?...whatever) By the way, I've never heard anybody automatically describe themselves as European either. I think it depends on how you phrase the question-"Are you European?" "Do you live in Europe?" "Are you European or Eurasian?" Most people identify themselves by country, although some prefer to identify themselves by region/state/province or even by city.

    Oh, and just one other thing:
    Actually, we North Americans consider Mexico to be geographically part of North America. In fact, North America ends with Panama. South Americans claim Mexico as their own, since culturally it is all Latin America, but whenever I've heard any Colombian, Chilean or Argentinian say it, nearby Mexicans harrumph and take offense. :lol:
  17. I am born and raised in the states and let me tell you how things generally are here. I agree with Player1. As far as how Americans are considered. Let me help be a little more specific though.

    We are not really "one language". English is our primary language here, true. But depending on where you are, like I live in Florida, Spanish seems to be more predominant then English more and more each day. Alot of jobs will not hire people nowadays if they are not bi-lingual. Which I think is wrong. Because the Spanish population is so overwhelming.

    You have "African/Americans" which is a totally different culture and mindset unto itself. They are often mixed from different heritages in Africa, Nigeria, etc. Their way of dress, manners, culture (especially)and sometimes religious beliefs can be totally different.

    You have the Asian/Americans. Again another group unto itself with its cutlture and language. Even their own sections of town in some cities (by their own chosing, not like it is segregated, they prefer to make their own communities.)

    You have the Italian communities ( :D ) like mine. We are some of the few groups from Europe to come here and keep our religion, our language, our manners, culture, rich heritage. Italians here are very proud of where they came from as a whole, most just left for a more economical life. You can make more money here. Its true.

    The Germans and British that come here are another group that I have noticed keep their traditions and language as well.

    My fiance is Czech (born and raised here) but his family is from the Czech Republic and moved here. Most of the Czechs I have encountered here do not speak their language much anymore unless they go back to the CZ for a visit with family and friends. They have lost alot of their traditions and who they are and embraced the "American" way as to say. I think it is sad to forget where you come from no matter where you are right now.If you are from a certain country, be proud of it no matter what. I have not encountered anyone as of yet that has called themself a "European" as much as I have met those who say they are from a certain country. Europe is a contient. But people are people from all walks of life. So keep walking and be proud!!! Do not worry about the generalizations, be specific when talking to someone about who you are and where you come from, be proud of it no matter where it is!!
  18. player1

    player1 Active Member

    Guess that told me.... :oops:

    But it proves my point about people who dont know about places making generalisations!

  19. player1

    player1 Active Member

    Nail on head. Cant add anything to that!
  20. debianita

    debianita Member

    I'm from Argentina. I agree with you on the Latin America part, but as far as I was taught at school, the american continent is divided into 4 parts: South America, Central America, North America and the Caribbean. Panama is part of Central America. North America is only comprised by Canada, USA and Mexico.
    Coming back to the subject of this thread I can say that even though all the Latin American countries share the same language and they were all under the Spanish domination for several years (with the exception of Brazil), there are many cultural differences among them. Despite of that, there's a stereotype called "latin american people" which in my opinion isn't incorrect. I think the same thing might apply to being "european", but I really don't know. I'm sure that the cultural differences are bigger among european countries then those among latin american countries.

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