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  1. #21
    Protocol Droid Athenian200's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tallulah View Post
    I don't understand why some in this thread seem to have an air of superiority about not understanding it.
    It's because a lot of people research it and then try to put on a superficial veneer of belonging to their ancestral culture, when in reality they don't fit it that well, and have ancestry from other cultures as well. There's also the feeling that a lot of white people just do it because they're jealous of how other races have a strong sense of their traditional culture, and this makes them look silly, being members of the dominant/primary culture anyway.

    Basically, the sense is that people who are interested in it, are trying to appear more cultured and traditional than they really are. Like those people that make a lot of money overnight, and then try to present themselves in the same "classy" and "cultured" manner as those who've had money for a long time. It just doesn't work, and it doesn't impress anyone, because they usually don't put enough work into it to make it look good.

  2. #22
    Post Human Post Qlip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Athenian200 View Post
    It's because a lot of people research it and then try to put on a superficial veneer of belonging to their ancestral culture, when in reality they don't fit it that well, and have ancestry from other cultures as well. There's also the feeling that a lot of white people just do it because they're jealous of how other races have a strong sense of their traditional culture, and this makes them look silly, being members of the dominant/primary culture anyway.

    Basically, the sense is that people who are interested in it, are trying to appear more cultured and traditional than they really are. Like those people that make a lot of money overnight, and then try to present themselves in the same "classy" and "cultured" manner as those who've had money for a long time. It just doesn't work, and it doesn't impress anyone, because they usually don't put enough work into it to make it look good.
    Well, I honestly don't know anyone who uses their ancestry to look more cultured. It's more about feeling connected and curiousity. But, in my area, there really is little to gain in status in uncovering your Czech/Polish/German roots. I know a few people who were able to contact branches of their families in Europe.

  3. #23
    Superwoman Red Herring's Avatar
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    What was said about language was referring to people who identify primarily with a culture whose language they don't understand which is not the same thing as being interested in your heritage or saying "I have Russian ancestry". Nobody said they were stupid or inferior for not speaking Italian, only that it seems strange to call yourself (primarily) Italian when you know very little about Italy and its culture. I don't think any sense of European superiority was implied.

    PS: Why is it that so many people here are so touchy about Europe and always suspect European arrogance even when there is none involved (not that it doesn't exist at all, but at least on the forum I have seen more Americans complain about European snobism than actual European snobs).
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  4. #24
    Senior Member Llewellyn's Avatar
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    Default Whakapapa

    What comes to mind is the Maori in New Zealand do something similar, though they've lived there for a while longer than Europeans (meaning the current, after 1492, emigrants), they tell eachother's ancestry back to the first set of tribes that have come to the island(s) and it is of high importance to them (something similar to their name, or more important than that).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whakapapa
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  5. #25
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    Language is one component of identity. In America's case the families and communities were seperated from the old country for a few generations, and naturally the language is either going to fade or mutate(especially with the pressures to assimilate at the time). This is similar to what's often said about the kind of French spoken in Canada*. I mean the loss of Gaelic didn't seem to hamper the identity of the Irish or the Scottish people for example too. Yet now with greater communication abilities, there are more serious attempts to preserve the languages(or even re-learn them).

    *Speaking of Canada, in many ways ethnic identity is taken far more seriously there than in America. For example, I know Ukrainians there often see themselves as more Ukrainian than Canadian. Here it's more like a synthesis of ethnic identity with being American.

  6. #26
    Senior Member Adasta's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Red Herring View Post
    What was said about language was referring to people who identify primarily with a culture whose language they don't understand which is not the same thing as being interested in your heritage or saying "I have Russian ancestry". Nobody said they were stupid or inferior for not speaking Italian, only that it seems strange to call yourself (primarily) Italian when you know very little about Italy and its culture. I don't think any sense of European superiority was implied.

    PS: Why is it that so many people here are so touchy about Europe and always suspect European arrogance even when there is none involved (not that it doesn't exist at all, but at least on the forum I have seen more Americans complain about European snobism than actual European snobs).
    Thank you for writing a better post than I ever could have done.

    Some Americans have an inferiority complex, I think, when it comes to identity. In a broader context, this might also play a part in some Americans' fervent nationalism. At other times, it might manifest as a person identifying with another nation and clinging on to an ancestral past in order to align oneself with, as I have said before, a mythologised lineage.

    Nobody is saying that researching one's family history is bad - a lot of people do it; indeed, I have done it. What I (and Red Herring, it seems) am saying is that it is very odd to explicitly identify oneself with the nationality of a grandparent, or even further back. The question here asked for European views on Americans' "obsession" with ancestry. I am saying that those that are obsessed appear ridiculous to Europeans (or at least to me) because the veneer of their "heritage" is so fragile.

    I think what people from "The New World" might not understand is that, in terms of history, I share more in an historic sense with, say, a Spaniard, than I do with someone from a former British colony such as the US or Canada. America sought to strike out and distance itself from its British (and European) history as a means through which to found an independent, free nation not shackled by the monarchic tyranny which marked centuries of rule in Britain and elsewhere. However, we, in Europe, experienced another few centuries of interrelation with our European cousins: war, economic migration etc. This links us more historically and politically than with any "Old World" former colony. I believe this plays a part in one's identity, and the struggle for it that sometimes occurs in liberated or newly-independent nations.

    This is not to say I "don't get on" with North Americans or anything; rather, I am trying to point out the complexity of historicity.
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  7. #27
    Senior Member wildcat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aquarelle99 View Post
    I'm curious how you all feel about the fact that Americans of European descent hold on to their immigrant ancestry even many generations later, and even if their parents didn't raise them practicing any customs or traditions from that culture. It's not uncommon in the States to be asked, "What are you?" (meaning where did your ancestors come from) and I've always thought this probably seems kind of strange to other people in the world.

    I'm especially interested in what European members' thoughts are, but I'd be interested to hear everyone's thoughts. I have some of my own ideas on this, of course, but I want to hear yours first.
    From a European standpoint, I see it like this.
    America has changed in this regard in my lifetime. America was involved in the European War 1939 - 45.
    There were strong personal links among the people of the two continents after the war, that lasted for four decades. The American soldiers who had fought in Europe used to come back, every summer. They took their families with them.

    This generation is now dead, or dying. The new generation does not have such personal ties with Europe.
    You do not see Americans in European cites any more. They used to be everywhere. Even the widows came here, after their husbands had died. There were busloads of them. We used to call them flower-hat aunts.

    European-Americans' interest in their ancestry is waned.

  8. #28
    Protocol Droid Athenian200's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Red Herring View Post
    Why is it that so many people here are so touchy about Europe and always suspect European arrogance even when there is none involved (not that it doesn't exist at all, but at least on the forum I have seen more Americans complain about European snobism than actual European snobs).
    It's directly related to our founding myths. The revolutionaries saw Europeans as aristocratic and "lording over" us in an arrogant way that didn't take our needs into account. They might also have viewed those who chose to stay in Europe as being "spoiled to civilization," and not having the same pioneering spirit as themselves. I think that this misconception became amplified and distorted with time, and it's especially incorrect now, because Americans are fairly well-off and spoiled to civilization themselves now. Unless you live out in the country or have lived a fairly hard life with few modern comforts, you really don't have any business calling Europeans snobs.

    It also didn't help, that when some of the descendents of the colonists went back to Europe, they were viewed as "provincial," and out of touch with European culture. Which they were, of course, but the Americans perceived this as snobbery, because they felt that they weren't being given the same respect as native-born British subjects. This helped fuel revolutionary sentiment. Ego... is a strange and powerful thing.

  9. #29
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    Why is it strange? Europeans get to be so certain of their history and lineage. Americans tend to have to trace our history and lineage because to even have a sense of the past...well, we must. Plus, often where your immigrant ancestors were from largely does affect your family for generations, whether you realize it or not. It affects accents, food eaten, religion followed, in some cases even socio-economic status.

    It also conveniently answers the question, "Why was your grandfather so dark?" and "why does your sister look hispanic?" It's like, well, because we're Native American. And I can also tell you it makes a difference in genetic health problems, and sometimes even in some cultural tendencies...I think the Southern tendency to run around barefoot is rooted in Native American cultures. People from other parts of the country think it's positively freakish that I walk around barefoot outside so much.

    I just love other cultures, anyway, and I would suspect that people who are deeply into it just like studying world cultures as I do.

  10. #30
    Away with the fairies Southern Kross's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Adasta View Post
    In England, your "lineage" is generally considered to go back to your grandparents. So, for example, if your grandparents are Italian (like mine), people might say I'm half-Italian. However, I would always call myself English (if in Britain) and British (if elsewhere). If people make a comment about it, then I'll tell them, but it's not at all imperative.
    Its the same here in New Zealand and we are also an immigrant nation like USA. I admit I have also found it rather odd how central heritage is to Americans. We are rather blasé about such things.

    Quote Originally Posted by EffEmDoubleyou View Post
    This. In addition, many of the immigrant communities in early America did not get along well, to put it mildly. So your identity of ancestry also determined who had your back and who you should be wary of. I'm sure that kind of thing has an effect down through the generations even if the original reason for it is rendered moot.
    Yes, I've heard this explanation before and its interesting. New Zealand probably had mild divisions in its early days but these divisions didn't endure for long. I'm so mixed in ancestory (with only 3 nationalities I know for sure) I couldn't possibly straight-forwardly tell you "where I came from". I wonder why, comparatively, Americans held on to the divisions of ancestory and resisted intermixing for so long...

    Quote Originally Posted by Llewellyn View Post
    What comes to mind is the Maori in New Zealand do something similar, though they've lived there for a while longer than Europeans (meaning the current, after 1492, emigrants), they tell eachother's ancestry back to the first set of tribes that have come to the island(s) and it is of high importance to them (something similar to their name, or more important than that).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whakapapa
    Yes. The tribes are each named after the corresponding canoe that brought them to New Zealand sometime in the 14th century. Although if I wanted to, I could probably trace my Maori lineage back to this too, as almost everyone whose ancestors have been here long enough has Maori blood in them - just as all Maori have European blood too.
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