Phil Gyford


Friday 31 January 2003

PreviousIndexNext How many Americans own passports?

One of the reasons America is sometimes described as being an insular country is the low ownership or passports, and thus the low rate of international travel. Which in some ways is fair enough; in comparison to Europeans, for example, popping over to another country is often a bigger deal than jumping on a train. But Ted read that only 7 per cent of Americans own passports and wondered where the figure comes from. It seems the statistic varies, for example:

None of these are remotely official but I can’t find an official government statistic for passport ownership. The closest I’ve found is this page of the number of passports issued per year. First, lets be generous and say that every passport was issued to an adult and therefore lasts ten years. Assuming that everyone who’s been issued a passport over the last ten years still has it, that’s 60,884,784 people with US passports. Given the US population is around 280 million, that gives us 21.7 per cent owning passports. Taking into account some of these will be five year passports, we have a figure that’s probably a little under 20 per cent. Is there any reason this calculation would be way out?

Incidentally, I graphed the statistics for US passports issued per year [updated 24 April 2004]. You can see the dramatic rise over the past ten years. This may account for some of the lower figures people give; they could simply be out of date. Using the same method for the years 1981-90, for example, we get less than 15 per cent ownership, without taking into account five year passports. If the rate of issue stabilised at around 7 million per year, never mind further growth, then by 2013 around a quarter of US citizens will own a passport (assuming the same total population).

Update: From the comments, the Economist has a subscriber-only article that states 34% of Americans over the age of 18 own passports, but cite no source for this. By comparison, it says 41% of Canadians over 18 have passports. (10 Sep 2005)

Update 2: Here is a source for the above figures, the Canada Tourism Commission research report ‘The Potential Impact of a Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative Passport Requirement on Canada’s Tourism Industry’ (500K PDF). They conducted “household surveys” in Canada and the US with the results summarised in a table titled ‘Passport possession in the United States and Canada’ on page 4:

2005 Survey ResultsUnited StatesCanada
General population (18 years and over)34%41%
Same-day travellers (transborder)44%60%
Overnight auto travellers (transborder)50%70%
Overnight air travellers (transborder)67%75%

The percentages of passport holders among those who travel between the two countries might help to make better comparisons with Europeans travelling between countries. (21 Nov 2005)

Update 3: From a 2008 report (PDF) from the United States Government Accountability Office:

According to State data, about 28 percent of the U.S. population has a passport, with 85.5 million U.S. passports in circulation as of February 2008.

(25 March 2010)

Update 4: Here’s a map showing US passport ownership by state. (25 Feb 2011)


It'd be interesting to see how many of these passport-owners are newly naturalised American citizens, for whom getting a US passport is a natural step to ensure less hassle by the INS when travelling.

Anyway, there's also the fact that it's harder as an American to travel to Canada and Mexico without one: the old 'drivers' license only' rule is increasingly being tightened, so that you need a birth certificate or some other concrete proof.

Add on the fact that the US is big enough for you to travel domestically for a lifetime and still think a) you've seen a hell of a lot of world; and b) you've still a lot of world to see.

Posted by nick on 31 January 2003, 9:01 pm | Link

My first few hours in America I got a bus from JFK to the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York. I sat behind the driver who was trying to impress his girl friend with his knowlege of downtown Manahatten. It was fairly obvious that the girl had only been to manhatten once or twice in her life and she probably didn't live very far away.

The equivalent of the costa brava for most Americans is either Florida or Hawaii, depending on where they live. The cheap package holiday which we take for granted has no equivalent in the states and most Americans enjoy a miserable holiday allowance until they retire.

I don't think they are any more or less insular than we (English) are. They do have trouble understanding people without cars.

Posted by Richard Hyett on 31 January 2003, 9:40 pm | Link

I didn't mean to imply any criticism of Americans for having few passports; I was just curious as to what the correct figure was.

I'm certainly in no position to criticise them for rarely leaving their country when most of my holidays over the past ten years have been to the US!

Posted by Phil Gyford on 31 January 2003, 10:34 pm | Link

Quinn pointed out that there's been an increase in requirements for ID in the last ten years, and that may contribute to the spike.

I wonder if there are any statistics on the number of Americans travelling abroad each year?

Posted by Danny O'Brien on 31 January 2003, 10:56 pm | Link

This is astonishing! I was just thinking about the passport statistic this morning (I'm an American living in the UK, so I hear Brits jeering about this fairly frequently), and was wondering if there was any way to verify it. In fact, I thought maybe I would put an essay on the Web about it. Then I clicked Mr Gyford's link on the Pepys page, and there it was!

Richard Hyett and Nick have made excellent points about why Americans don't travel abroad more often. I would add that -- despite what people flaunting this statistic seem to assume -- the mere act of travelling to another country does not necessarily make one any less ignorant, provincial, etc. While the British do travel abroad quite often, many of them just want to go clubbing, stock up on cheap booze or stay in beach resorts populated entirely by other British tourists. By contrast, an American who has planned and saved his whole life for a trip to Spain is probably intending to SEE Spain, not to kill as many brain cells as possible in Ibiza.

Americans can indeed spend a lifetime travelling around their country -- but I think the British could as well, if they wanted to. Britain packs a startling amount of cultural and linguistic diversity into a small space, but it seems that its citizens are not taught to take pride in this or to explore it. (Londoners, in particular, often seem to know nothing about British culture beyond Hertfordshire or Kent.) Therefore, unlike Americans, the British do not quite regard travel within their own country as being "real" travel.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that both cultures are equally ignorant! Seriously, having lived in both countries, I find that the ratio of smart people to stupid people, sophisticated people to unsophisticated people, etc., is pretty much the same. I suspect this would hold true in just about any country. Not very interesting, but there you are.

Posted by Laura Brown on 1 February 2003, 1:05 pm | Link

One other reason for the increase would be the upswing in the economy after 1992 (the beginning of the Clinton years). What happens now is anyone's guess.

I find the very low figure hard to believe--I know maybe only one or two people who have never left America. Or maybe I surround myself with travelers...

Posted by ted on 3 February 2003, 7:59 am | Link

Back again. Phil, using his A-Level maths to full effect is pretty close. I just now found this statistic:

The current US passport population stands at 18% of US adults. Source : European Travel Commission. Recent research indicating that Britain is the most popular overseas destination (excluding Canada & Mexico) for US residents. Source: Travel Industry World Yearbook 2000. The top cities for passport ownership are: New York, 38%; San Francisco, 37%; Miami/Fort Lauderdale, 33%; West Palm Beach, 31%; San Diego, 29%; Los Angeles, 27%; Washington DC, 27%. Source: US Office of Central Statistics

Posted by ted on 3 February 2003, 8:05 am | Link

Excellent, well done on finding the statistic Ted! Nice to know Mr Ward's maths teaching wasn't entirely in vain.

Posted by Phil Gyford on 3 February 2003, 8:55 am | Link

I think as an English citizen it is unfair to sneer at Americans for not owning a passort because there are many valid reasons for not needing one including cost of holidays, finding time for holidays, living in a large and varied country to begin with and living in a country that is made up of people from other countries.

As a Brit, I have only been able to go abroad twice in my lifetime, mainly due to the cost of holidays and my always finding something better to do with my money when it comes to the crunch.

Posted by Paul on 6 February 2003, 2:59 am | Link

The average American urban dweller is subjected to 5000 advertisments per day.

The average American household has the television on more than seven and a half hours a day.

The average American urban dweller spends more of his life than ever before stuck in traffic, or working to pay for his car. It is estimated that the average car owner spends 1/6 of his waking hours either in transit or earning wages to support his vehicles(s).

I guess they are all to busy in traffic, working to pay for their car, dealing with adverts and watching tv. It doesn't leave much time for passport applications.

Posted by Richard Hyett on 10 February 2003, 10:29 pm | Link

Of course, if you had statistics to show that UK residents view dramatically less adverts and TV and spend far less time in transit it might make your point more convincing!

Posted by Phil Gyford on 11 February 2003, 12:16 pm | Link

From yesterday's Daily Telegraph:

"A grandmother who has lived in the same village for more than 50 years could be deported from Britain tomorrow because she is considered to be an American.

"Mary Martin ... was born in America to a British mother and came to live in Britain in 1949 when she was two.

"It was only when her mother, June, died two years ago that she became aware that she did not have a birth certificate or a passport and decided to apply for them.

"However, when she attempted to sort out the documentation the Home Office responded by telling her that it did not believe that she was a long-term resident and ordered her to leave the country within days. ...

"She added that she had never previously applied for a British passport because she had no desire to go abroad, nor had enough money to do so."

See? It's true! Those bloody Americans never get passports! :-)

(I'm happy to say that the Home Office later reviewed its decision, and Mrs Martin will be able to stay in Britain. Oh, and by the way, I don't actually buy the Telegraph -- it's just the only newspaper web site we can see at work, for some reason.)

Posted by Laura Brown on 13 February 2003, 12:09 am | Link

I write a weekly newsletter. I found your site when I was trying to find out how many Americans have passports. Thanks for the calculation. Here's what I wrote:

Why Europeans Worry about the Americans

[Long article deleted by Phil]

Posted by Glen Kendall on 15 March 2003, 12:04 pm | Link

What I'd be more interested in learning is how the percentage of Americans with passports compares to citizens of other countries. I've never seen any statistics on that. Surely there are other countries that are just as bad about going abroad as we are, but the label 'American' often creates higher expectations.

Posted by Manda on 26 March 2003, 2:36 pm | Link

There are some interesting statistics and points made, but frankly I find the whole question absurd and the fact one hears it asked so often is evidence of the petty Anti-Americanism that is so fashionable these days.

The US is over twice the size of the EU yet while a passport is not needed for travel within the US, it is needed within the EU. Travel outside the US is obviously more costly, since a long flight trip is more than likely necssary.

I don't have any statistics, but I suspect if you compare the number of Americans who travel outside the US, with the number of Europeans who travel outside Europe, you would get a very different picture. My experience anecdotally, is that wherever I have travelled in the world, I always saw plenty of Americans.

Posted by Michael McMahon on 2 April 2003, 4:53 pm | Link

I'd like to disagree with the last comment. I back-packed in over 9 countries in South America in 2001 and spent some time in Thailand in 2002, and I hardly ever saw Americans travelling (less in S.A. then Thailand, interestingly). In fact, Isrealis seemed to take the cake in both S.A. and Thailand. Surprising considering the distances and costs involved. And there were definitely more Brits, and even Canadians, in S.A. than Americans. Of course, I don't have any stats to back this up, just my own subjective view.

Posted by Mike Gill on 14 April 2003, 11:16 pm | Link

OK folks, from here on I'd like to restrict comments to statistics, rather than subjective experience and opinions. Thanks.

Posted by Phil Gyford on 14 April 2003, 11:37 pm | Link

Great research Phil.

I too was thinking about the issue of US citzens with passports, particularly in the context of recent events and claims of the alleged imperialistic stance being held by the US government.

I vaguely remember hearing this argument and also hearing an additional statement claiming that of the relatively small percentage of US citizens with a passport most of those with a US passport are in fact members of the military or diplomats.

I don't know if there are any stats available to support or refute this claim.

Posted by Steve on 28 April 2003, 2:34 am | Link

I have lived in England and Turkey for over 8 years and it amazed me to go back to the US and find out that many Americans have never even left their state, nevermind going to another country. I think this is a better comparison to Europe since many states are equivelent in size to European countries.

Posted by Tammie on 2 May 2003, 11:01 am | Link

If you think you have seen more canadians abroad than americans, think again. A lot of americans tell people they are canadians so as not to confront anti-american sentiment.

Posted by Rebecca on 18 May 2003, 2:54 am | Link

The total percentage of Americans with passports is actually a pretty poor indicator of how often Americans are travelling abroad. Canada, Mexico, and most of the Caribbean states have never required a passport. Only recently is it being required more often.

The size of the country and the diversity of the terrain and climates also make international travel less necessary.

Honestly, I think the entire issue is being inflated by those Americans who like to wear their passports like a Boy Scout Merit Badge (ie, Yes, I've been to Europe, I'm so much smarter and cultured than the rest of you.)

Posted by David on 7 July 2003, 7:41 pm | Link

All of these emails make good points. It's true that America is big and diverse so maybe there isn't the need to travel. But as diverse as it is, Americans seem to know little about the foreigners in their own country. It wasn't until I traveled extensively that I appreciated that the owner of my neighborhood liquor store was from Punjab, India, or that the owner of the Thai restaurant down the street was from Chiang Mai. Also, how many people from poor countries have passports? Countries like Tanzania or Morocco or Turkey. Many of them want to get passports just so they can go to another country and get a job.

Posted by Doug Stine on 20 July 2003, 3:56 pm | Link

I've figured out an amazing comparison between two countries, one of them is under a cruel dictatorship junta style government:

Burma (Myanmar)- less than 10% of the population have passports. The press is controlled by the government and anti-establishment views and reports are not published. The Government there has the right to punish people without a trial, and is pushing for stringent measures that mean even less freedom of speech. The people of Burma are unaware of what is going on in the rest of the world and have a huge poverty and unemployment problem that the government tries to cover up. The 'fatcats' of the nation dictate what policies should be adopted by the government. The government is guilty of the slaughter of innocent civilans.

Sounds familiar? Thats because it is. Its identical to the USA.

Posted by Jake on 24 July 2003, 4:00 am | Link

The last comment comes from someone who clearly does not understand or appreciate the USA. We are far from perfect but we are a long long way from Burma. The comparison makes me sick. If you live in the US, you should leave. If you dont, dont bother coming. Spend your next vacation in Burma or maybe North Korea.

Posted by a not ugly american on 24 August 2003, 9:26 pm | Link

What a stupid comment. The only reason that fellow had to go through all the trouble of comparing the USA to Burma is because it isn't true.

If it were so true ("familar" as he said), then Americans would not need to be told that it is true. They would know it.

Point? His logic is flawed. The comparison is ridiculous and far from "familar." It exists only in the mind of cynical Anti-American better-than-thou naysayers. I wonder if Jake is a hater of his own country, or a foreign snob. One thing is for sure, his attitude is bad.

Posted by Daniel on 30 August 2003, 2:15 pm | Link

What a stupid comment. The only reason that fellow had to go through all the trouble of comparing the USA to Burma is because it isn't true.

If it were so true ("familar" as he said), then Americans would not need to be told that it is true. They would know it.

Point? His logic is flawed. The comparison is ridiculous and far from "familar." It exists only in the mind of cynical Anti-American better-than-thou naysayers. I wonder if Jake is a hater of his own country, or a foreign snob. One thing is for sure, his attitude is bad.

Posted by Daniel on 30 August 2003, 2:15 pm | Link

Moving on, another possible reason for lack of US travelers abroad could be that US workers have far less vacation days than other workers around the world, especially Europeans. Here's a link to an article breaking out vacation days by country.

Assuming you use a few vacation days for visiting family members, that only leaves a few days to travel and, considering the expense and the travel time alone, staying in the US seems like an easier option. I currently live as an expat in France with my husband who is working for a French company. He gets 8 weeks (!!!) of vacation here and is expected to take all of it. If he doesn't take all of it, the remaining days are banked and he receives extra vacation days the next year as "interest" on the days he couldn't take. I worked at some very large financial institutions in New York, where you received a "generous" 3-4 weeks of vacation, but you rarely had the chance to take it, and occasionally, were asked to forgo a planned vacation because of a last minute project. In general, attitudes toward taking vacation seem to be very different in Europe.

Thanks for all the information!

Posted by Kimberly on 1 September 2003, 8:44 am | Link

Does anyone have stats on other countries. I have been searching the web and not able to find numbers for any other country other then the US. I had someone tell me that Australia had a lower percentage then the US.

Posted by Keith on 5 September 2003, 5:47 pm | Link

Does anyone know what the percentage is for how many Canadians hold passports. Just wondering since I heard a Canadian shooting off his mouth tonight saying that only 8% (Which is obviously wrong) of Americans hold passports in a very condescending manner. Strange that he would say it to me and my other friend who is also American as we were sitting in a bar in Berlin. I'm just sick of the Canadian attitude and their stupid maple leaf patches they insist on wearing on their backpacks when they travel.

Posted by Kathy on 9 September 2003, 3:13 am | Link

Well the closest thing I could find was that 1.7 million passports are issued in Canada every year. That number percentage wise seems higher than the States but I guess if I were Canadian, I would want to get the hell out of the freezing cold wasteland myself. (I love Montreal but only about 3 months out of the year)

Posted by Kathy on 9 September 2003, 3:27 am | Link

This goes back aways to Steve's comment suggesting that most US passport holders are military or diplomats. As a veteran of the US Air Force, I never had to have a passport, as military orders suffice for all official international travel. (I did have a passport but only because I did a big trip through SE Asia from the ROK). And I doubt that any US soldier had to stop at the border of Iraq to get his passport stamped!!

As for the broader question w.r.t. the actual percentage of passport ownership, I think it should be pointed out that most Americans can't afford international travel (excluding Mexico, Canada and the Carribean) and many can only afford one or two trips in their lifetime. So, even if they get one for that trip, it only lasts ten years so most Americans don't need a passport more than a handful of times in their life. Also, when you can go to Hawaii for surfing, Colorado for skiing, San Diego for sailing, Montana for hunting, Minnesota for fishing, Maine for hiking, Washington D.C. for history, and New York for culture, why would you ever go anywhere else? North America has every climate known to man and a wide variety of culture, cuisine and lifestyles. A lifetime isn't enough to see everything.

Posted by Adrian (from London) on 15 September 2003, 10:40 am | Link

I'd like to know what percentage of the USA's elected officials hold a passport.
I once heard that it was less than 50%.
How can you have a respectable opinion on new laws or changes to laws without knowing how the world works?
And is it true that Pres George W. Bush had visited just two countries before becoming Pres, and that one of those was Canada?

Posted by Boo on 25 September 2003, 4:57 pm | Link

Boo, I don't understand your point or your problem with Canada? There are a lot of ways to learn about different parts of the world and most elected officials only deal with laws for their own land. I do not think the Mayor of Cleveland should be spending any official time in Ibiza.

Posted by Keith on 26 September 2003, 3:36 pm | Link

I find it amazing that people are this defensive and agressive towards a statistic of the number of people that travel outside a country. The number of Americans that see any relevance to the world outside their borders is rather low percentage wise. Understandably so. No country outside of the US dictates policy to them, no people outside of the US have any real ability to influence american opinions or pull them along. Why then would the majority bother to consider leaving the nation when the people and things that affected their personal decisions were all within reaching distance.

Frankly I agree with the fact that more americans SHOULD travel, and yes I agree that they should understand and try to co-exist with peoples from other parts of the globe. Unfortunately this outlook is neither realistic nor likely. We're dealt a hand and we kind of have to accept it. American's always will be the loud outgoing bombastic group in the world, making decisions for people on the other side of the world that they have no personal attachment to or concern for beyond what they see on their television or hear on the news... they've just taken over the role the European imperialists had during the colonial era.

*See the south-sea bubble fiasco, the opium wars fought with China, slave trade in west central Africa, Boer War in South Africa, creation of a zionist state in Palestine after World War One, etc. if you want a brief recap of how powerful insulated nations decide things for countries - which they have nothing but money invested in - that lie on opposite sides of the globe.

I would be extremely surprised if you found that the US WASN'T in a range of travellers similar to that of Burma, or other 3rd world nations, solely because the number of reasons to travel in both places is minimal. The countries in the middle of the road in terms of power and influence are probably far more likely to have a high proportion of travellers.

Posted by Steve on 8 October 2003, 12:45 am | Link

I wonder if it has to do with something I read somewhere, which is that US news shows have 95 percent stories about the US, and only 5 percent rest-of-the-world content.
Any more than that and they change channels, and of course it's all about the ratings...

if that were true,
it would explain a lot, a lot, a lot.

Posted by barb on 17 October 2003, 3:13 pm | Link

I just read something in the paper today about people traveling in Europe. It is not about about passports but I found it interesting.

From a French report the Dutch travel more then any other Europeans. 71% of the people questioned have in the past 12 months been out of Holland. Belgium was 2nd with 68%. People in France, Italy and Spain traveled the least with only 1 in 5 leaving the country in the past 12 months.

This seems to show that the size of a country does have an impact on travel.

Posted by Keith on 5 November 2003, 2:07 pm | Link

About the comment of small countries of Europe traveling more, that is not only true out of necessity, but you will notice that the southern countries travel less because they are the ones the rest of Europe travels to for their fair weather.

Posted by John Danenbarger on 28 November 2003, 12:58 pm | Link

I heard the thing about American passport ownership for the first time yesterday (in Sydney, Australia I might add). I was rather suspicious, so I'm pleased to have found this very illuminating discussion!

However, back in September Keith insinuated that Australians have lower levels of passport ownership than Americans. Not likely!

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (, in the financial year 2000-2001, 1.088 million Australians were issued with passports. This number represented 5.7% of the total population (which was 18.97 million in 2001). Using Phil's formula, this figure extrapolates to just over 50% of Australians owning a passport. Furthermore, in the year 2000-01, 18.9% of Australians travelled overseas (which is pretty close to the total percentage of Americans who own passports).

Aussies are like Americans in that we have a HUGE and diverse country of our own to explore; and travelling to other countries is expensive due to distance (keeping in mind that we haven't got a single neighbour who we can visit via land). But STILL we travel. And, I have to add, travelling in foreign lands has been a life-changing experience for me.

Posted by Samantha Madell on 19 December 2003, 5:18 am | Link

Because of my job in the military (US)I have a blue, brown, and black passport. I've lived overseas in 4 different countries and worked in20 others. When I'm done with my time in the military I never want to travel to any other country but the USA. I've been forced to travel to all but one continent, forced to learn fluency in 1 language (German) and 5 other (conversational) languages. You can have the rest of the world. Linda Ronstadt had it right....." I'm so glad I'm livin in the USA!!" Its only until you've lived and traveled outside of the US that you truly understand that we are the greatest nation on this planet.

Posted by JC on 4 January 2004, 8:46 pm | Link

Can anyone tell me what proportion of US passport holders are non-native Americans?
I understand that 18% of Americans were born outside of the US. My guess would would be they're a lot more likely to have passports than native born Americans. If less than 20% of all Americans have passports the implication would be if all non natives had a passport less than 2% of native Americans would have a passport. For what its worth all of the non native Americans I know do have passports but I'd like to hear from someone who had a bigger sample than my buddies.

Posted by Richard on 15 January 2004, 6:39 am | Link

A quick note for future commenters: Please avoid anecdotal speculation. "I've only ever seen one American tourist in my country and they were loud and obnoxious" doesn't further the discussion in any way. Thanks!

Posted by Phil Gyford on 25 February 2004, 12:19 pm | Link

Any idea what percentage of Americans actually use their passport for travel to foreign countries? Are there stats on how many Americans go to which countries?

Posted by Karl on 26 February 2004, 4:38 am | Link

I want to say that most of the comments on here are very relevant and eye opening but I have yet to see cold hard statistics. I do want to comment about a couple of posts. First, with the comparison of countries in terms of passports I would love to get that data but I would initially be suspicious due to each country possibly having a different methodology of collecting this data. This may also be why Australia does or seems to have so many more passport holders...I am not sure but I want to throw that question out there. As for the person stating their antecdotal experiences in South America, you have to realize there are MANY variables to consider. Sure, you may have seen more Israelis and Europeans but what time of the year was it? Seasons are not the same around the world in terms of holidays, school breakes, etc. Also, one thing I have found while studying tourism is that the culture of a country is extremely important to the acceptance of travel...especially long-term. The Gap Year which is primarily composed of New Zealanders, Australians, and the British, is an "accepted" institution. From what I understand it is not looked down upon to take a year off to travel. In the states it is different....not better or worse...just different. The same goes for the Israelis. Many of the long-term travellers one comes across in Asia and South America have recently completed their military service and its culturally accepted that they take a year to travel after their service. There are so many variables that come into play. This is actually a field of study that has a lot of empirical reseach being conducted on it. If you are really interested in this area, take a look at the tourism research that has/is being conducted. Back to the stats on passport holders though, I have yet to find a number from a credible source. I hope through the discussions posted on here we will be able to find actual numbers.

Posted by mark on 10 March 2004, 9:14 am | Link

I think before many people jump to conclusions, there is something everyone should consider: that is how many people in countries outside the United States own passwords. Even if you limit the examination to developed countries I'd think you would find the statistics are similar to the United States. Everyone is parochial, not just Americans. Europeans might disasgree and say they have a high percentage of people with passports, but this hardly counts and many of these people havn't been outside Europe.

What I think is a valid statistic for concern is the percentage of decision makers in the United States (and elseware for that matter) that do not own passports. President Bush famously had not travelled outside the continental US before he became president. The same is true for most congressmen and senators. This the most powerful country in the world and is scares the hell out of me that the vast majority of its leaders havn't even seen it.

Posted by Justin Hardman on 27 March 2004, 3:34 pm | Link

ok, so lots of things are true about american travel abroad: its HARD to get off the continent because holidays given are so short; debt caused from HAVING to buy that new car and that NEEDED new phone that links up to the internet, but... WHY do americans have so few passports and WHY dont they ever get them?

WHY we have such few passports is the monumental flaw of our society. it all comes down to the fact that we think, WHY TRAVEL ANYWHERE ELSE? AMERICA HAS EVERYTHING. so we dont leave our entire lives. this is flawed perspective that should be changed first and foremost. by learning about other cultures and countries they exist in, we can gain an importance about how great america can really be and the feeling you get when you come home after a long trip overseas and see the american flag waving free... theres nothing like it.

but were looking for stats... if there is a stat that says how many europeans leave their CONTINENT not their countries, then youd have an equal comparison to the number of americans traveling OUTSIDE the N.American continent. samesame. no dfiferent. and as the smart aussie Samantha said on 19Dec03, thats NO EXCUSE why americans dont travel outside america. OZ is almost as big in comparison. plain and simple truth. damn shame i think. ive been forever changed by the 5continent journey ive taken thus far and im not stoping there. let the stats commence!

a great man once told me... "travel is the best education." we all should b so lucky to experience something other than our own culture at least once in our lives. de program.

Posted by brian bibi on 29 March 2004, 9:46 pm | Link

I can't believe people actually care about who has a passport or not. My reason for looking at this site was by pure accident. Let me guess, you're all about 28-31 years old and you've done a bit of travelling, perhaps even lived somewhere else and now you're working in a job that seems like a really hip place to work, but you're getting paid shite and therefore have to share a flat with others. You must be experts on why Americans don't leave their own country because you've 'been out'...hhmmm, your comments are bit of a generalisation and sound quite arrogant and pedantic. You must be English.

Posted by christine on 30 March 2004, 1:17 pm | Link

I can't speak for those who have posted comments here, but as for me... you're wrong on almost every count apart from the last one.

I'm not entirely sure why you feel being rude on someone's web site makes you superior to those who use it to discuss something they find interesting.

Now, back to the matter at hand...

Posted by Phil Gyford on 30 March 2004, 2:04 pm | Link

Interesting site. I came here like others looking for %-age of Americans with passports. All I know so far is that the number is low (when I find out, I'll come back).

Many good reasons have been posted here already why Americans don't travel. Let me give some why they don't need to (I have been living abroad for 10 years myself).

In America, at least on the coasts and in big cities, there are plenty of opportunities to experience other cultures. I have worked closely with people from Sudan, Ethiopia, UK, France (great girlfriend :-)), Sierra Leone, Iran and many other countries.

Many cities have their "Chinatown", "Little Italy" among other ethnic neighborhoods. Ethnic restaurants are all over the place - not only big cities. I lived in a small town in Kentucky in the '70s and we still had real Chinese running the Chinese restaurants.

When I lived in Florida we often went to the Italian and German markets to get the imported stuff you couldn't find in a regualr supermarket.

Another old girlfriend had spent a summer studying in Italy so I took her to the Italian restaurant in Disney World. I told her she'd love it because everything was from Italy - the food, chefs, waiters, decor - everything. She was very skeptical. By the time she got to the cappuccino, she was crying her eyes out because it was "just like Italy".

Of course, travelling abroad is better but if the money/time/whatever isn't there, the average American still has plenty of opportunities to learn about other cultures right at home.

Posted by chuck on 12 April 2004, 1:44 pm | Link

OK folks, enough of the reasons why people in country x would or wouldn't want to leave their country. It's getting boring.

Please only post a new comment if you have hard figures (with references) about the percentage of people in a country who own passports. Thanks.

Posted by Phil Gyford on 12 April 2004, 9:49 pm | Link

I am curious about the ethnic breakdown of passport holders. Does anyone have any stats on how many African Americans own passports? I'm writing a paper for school and this would be very helpful. Please include the basis for your comment or where I can locate the stats. Thanks!

Posted by Renee on 13 May 2004, 12:22 pm | Link

The statistic can be found in a single web search. While it probably isn't exact it seems that the percentage of Americans who hold a current passport is in the mid twenties, and the number who have ever had one is around forty percent. My guess is that it isn't that different than other countries considering many of the factors that have been discussed here.

Posted by Nicolas Nierenberg on 27 June 2004, 1:30 am | Link

My apologies in advance for this not being related to passport percentages directly, but the Tourism Authority of Thailand ( keeps statistics for visitors by country which can be pulled up going back to 1998. I pulled up all of 2003 to get an idea of the numbers (data is in the form of a downloaded Excel spreadsheet, or I'd link directly). As the focus here seems to be on North America, Europe, and Australia, I'll list some of the largest numbers from countries on those continents:


You can normalize by each country's population if you feel slighted by these numbers ;) Note that these numbers surely include some individuals being counted multiple times, but with such large numbers of individuals, it's probably a wash if you're wanting to compare countries.

Posted by Jason Kenney on 6 July 2004, 7:38 am | Link

This is a ctrl-c from another site but has some stats in that people seem to be asking...


concerning the passport issue... what is the average percentage of passport holders in the UK, France, etc?"

I found 2 apparently reliable sources, one of which claims 7% of the US population has a passport. This rises to 12% of the US Senate. The second source claims that the 7% figure is 10 years old, and that it is now 17%. As 18% of Americans were not born in the US, it may be that the majority of passort holders are immigrants enjoying the chance to prove their status?

In the UK in 2001, 5.6 million people (almost 10% of the population) either applied for or renewed their UK passport, suggesting that the vast majority of us are passport holders.

In Australia, over 50% are passport holders, and 19% do travel abroad each year. In Belguim, this rises to 70% passport holders. Apparently the Dutch are the biggest European travellers, with 71% of the population having travelled outside the country in the last year.

Posted by Selucus on 19 July 2004, 11:43 am | Link

Do the military need passports? Given the size of it in the US and the fact that the demographic is unlikely to be in the pasport owning community otherwise does this skew the statistics somewhat?

Posted by David on 1 August 2004, 6:00 am | Link

First to David. Yes, all US citizens travelling abroad to places requiring passports need passports--including military. There are different styles issued for diplomats, military etc. however. Still, they're in the statistics.

I'm an American (who grew up as a military dependent by the way and love to travel) and work in Sweden as an inward investment director--meaning that I'd sure love to see more Americans consider doing business here! Sure I love the US (quite a patriot in fact), but after all my years of transiency, I really feel very much a part of this side of the world too. The only barriers are time and language for most of us, but a couple of languages isn't too hard to master. Anyway, flights to Stockholm are only about 400 round trip from Chicago--non stop--8 hours. And today it is 85 degrees and sunny. Check it out!

Posted by Mary Spaeth on 12 August 2004, 5:37 pm | Link

An interesting statistic from yesterday's Zoby poll:

Posted by Karl on 17 August 2004, 1:54 pm | Link

On the same vein as that last comment-- I have been looking for statistics on passport ownership breakdown of Republican and Democrat in the US; does anyone know where I could find that? I suspect it to be <25% Republican, but I would like to know for sure...

Posted by Paz on 1 September 2004, 10:24 pm | Link

Looks like the answer is here at 21%

Record Number of Americans Request Passports

Nov 11, 2003
Travel Agent

The U.S. State Department issued a record 7,300,667 passports in fiscal year 2003, which ended Sept. 30, including first-time passports and renewals. The record followed two years of declining passport numbers, according to the department

Posted by Dan on 1 September 2004, 11:34 pm | Link

As a citizen of China livingin the United States for the past 5 years, I would say the Americans travel abroad a lot more than the Chinese.
China, as a country still ruled by the Communist Party and a per capita GDP of less than 1000 dollars, has very few passport owners. I don't know any statistics about it, but I think the percentage of Chinses citizens owning a passport is below 1 %.

Posted by mark on 14 September 2004, 11:24 pm | Link

I found the the number of passport holders in the US to be very interesting, but I think it only fair to report that on a trip to Germany, people were amazed when I admitted that I had never visited the Grand Canyon, the Mississippi River, Mt. Rushmore, or the Statue of Liberty. I'm not being snobby, nor do I share the "my-country-is-bigger-than-your country" attitude, but a person has to realise that the sheer size of the US sometimes makes travel to other countries seem silly. When planning a vacation, especially when one has children, it seems ridiculous to fly halfway across the world, to visit a country that is only as big as one of our western states. I'm not isolationist, and I have lived abroad in in four countries (currently Scotland), but the fact that a small number of US citizens holds passports, doesn't really mean very much.

Posted by Michele on 17 September 2004, 12:43 pm | Link

This debate on the relative number of persons holding passports seems to have its roots in the 2000 United States presidential election, when GWB's inability to accurately name various locales became a topic of discussion in the blogosphere, with a tag of "well, what do you expect from a country where only X percent of the population has ever had a passport?" (the X varies quite a bit and never cited a source that could be verified.) I finally found some numbers,…

then found this site.

I live in California. Our closest national neighbor is Mexico. Until recently, one didn't need a passport to travel to Mexico. Prior to 9/11/01, I do not recall taking passport to Mexico. I am wondering if this accounts for the increase in passports in the recent past.

Another explanation for the low incidence of international travel in the US: calculate travel time to an international air port. For example, from the central coast of California one must drive 4 to 5 hours to reach an international airport (Los Angeles or San Francisco/San Jose). There's very little public transport available (unlike the UK, for example) so it is car or nothing. This part of the journey isn't a free good, either....if you take a airport bus or limo, it is usually less than parking the car at the airport. Then it is 11 hours in the air (SFO-London).

It takes a lot of money, effort, and planning to get out of the United States, compared to most of Europe. I am not so sure about Australia. I'd venture to say that more of the population lives closer to international airports, and that there are relatively fewer tourism draws within Australia than the United States.

Posted by Liz on 27 September 2004, 12:42 am | Link

The 18% foreign born claim is inaccurate and misleading:

According to the 2000 census, 31 million out of a population of 281 million are foreign born. (that's 11% *not* 18%) Of the 31 million, only 12.5 million are actually citizens, and only citizens are allowed to apply for a passport. (It should be remembered that one does not have to be a citizen to be counted in the official population in the U.S.) That's 4.4% of the population which is foreign born *and* eligible for a passport. Even if you take the non-citizen foreign born out of the count and only consider the foreign born citizens as a percentage of the whole citizen population, that's still only about 4.8% of American citizens who are foreign born, according to the 2000 census - a far cry from the 18% that previous posts argue.

You can double check the stats here:…

Posted by Jessica on 4 October 2004, 2:05 pm | Link

I met an Englishman in Greece who kept telling me that fewer than 20% of Americans own passports. I was fairly certain this couldn't be true and that it was just more of the "Americans are mostly all dolts" attitude that some Europeans have. I set out to research this and I can only find evidence to corroborate his claim. Yikes. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area and I can't think of very many people I know who don't own passports. I forget about how different the rest of the country can be.

Posted by Tamar Kirschner on 13 October 2004, 10:05 pm | Link

I think that Americans don't travel much because they are terrified of travelling outside their borders. They might have their food spat on or be beheaded. I don't know. I was born in Texas and have lived in several states in different parts of the country and have travelled to several continents. There seems to be some psychological fear that the US international border is this 'great other', like some terra incognita, where this USA cultural reality is utterly changed once you cross over. I believe that a tiny fraction of native born US citizens have passports. Among these, they are mostly the elite in this country. I have been on overseas flights to Europe and Asia where the solid majority of Americans where business executives. This is very general, but Americans don't feel the need to travel to China when they have a Chinatown. They don't have the need to go to Oaxaca when there is a Taco Bell up the road. When they cross over by car they see a decrepit Mexico or an identical Canada. They see no need to go any further. The problem starts when these Americans who do not travel outside the United States begin to believe that the world functions exactly as it does here. A large majority of them honestly believe that people want cars, Burger Kings, and Wal-Marts. They don't understand that the immigrants in this country are a tiny minority who miraculously got a visa to live and work here or who crossed the border illegally. In the US, the general encompassing culture preaches that we are the best in the world, and that no one else really matters. The federal government should give everyone passports with the same ease that you get a driver's license. With a passport, those Americans that don't travel might think "well now since i got one of these, i might as well make that trip to Paris and find out how those cheese eating surrender monkeys really are in person."

Posted by Phillip Martin on 17 October 2004, 5:27 am | Link

OK, I've long since given up hoping that people will stop posting wild generalisations, and only post hard facts. So enjoy yourselves, slag off every nationality you can think of. If you have some interesting hard facts then just email me and I'll put them in the main body of the entry.

Posted by Phil Gyford on 17 October 2004, 10:46 am | Link

I'm fascinated by how *much* discussion there is here -- as telling, in its way, as the question itself. It would be interesting to find a way to consider its relation to that other favorite recent statistical concern, the percentage of Americans who believe in creationism rather than in Darwinian evolution. Given some of the complications of the travel question cited in posts here, wouldn't the latter statistic (it hovers around 50%) be more useful for those seeking an index of American ignorance? Of course we'd want world comparative data on that question too . . .

Posted by Charles Hartman on 1 November 2004, 1:53 pm | Link

An interesting question, but a whole different kettle of ballgames and not one I wish to get into here. Please keep comments vaguely on topic, thanks.

Posted by Phil Gyford on 1 November 2004, 2:20 pm | Link

Does anyone know if it is true, as stated in one of the USA's satirical magazines, that when elected in 2000, George W Bush did not possess a current US passport?

Posted by Ian on 3 November 2004, 9:50 am | Link

Hi Phil. Thanks for the stats, very interesting. I'm originally from New Zealand (but used my passport to get e to London) and got to thinking how many NZ passports were issued as a comparison.

Statistics on how many are issued are available in the Dept. of Internal Affairs annual reports (available at, and after a bit of a hunt I got the following figures - a couple of them extrapolated:

2003/04 390419
2002/03 315763
2001/02 318000 (to nearest '000)
2000/01 341073
1999/00 337424
1998/99 331500
1997/98 320000 (guess)
1996/97 308271
1995/96 274265
1994/95 270000 (guess)

This gives a total of 3,206,715 passports. The Department of Statistics estimates the current population of NZ at 4,077,244, which using your math above means 78.6% of New Zealanders hold a passport. Bit of a contrast with the US there.

Posted by Mike on 4 November 2004, 11:47 am | Link

While we're at it, I dug some stats off the UK passport agency site - These are a bit rougher:

2003/04 - 5.9m
2002/03 - 5.1m
2001/02 - 5.0m (guess)
2000/01 - 5.0m (guess)
1999/00 - 4.9m (guess)
1998/09 - 4.8m (approximation from graph)
1997/08 - 4.9m (approximation from graph)
1996/07 - 5.1m (approximation from graph)
1995/06 - 4.7m (approximation from graph)
1994/05 - 4.0m (approximation from graph)

Total is roughly 49.8m passports issued in the last 10 years, and the total UK population is estimated at 59.6m, which using the same method by which Phil arrived at his 20% figure, gives 83.5% of the UK population having a passport.

Obviously a few of these are names changes, replacing lost passports etc, but then that applies to any country. Also NZ and UK citizens can have dual passports, whereas I believe US doesn't allow that. Either way this number is a lot higher than I thought it would be.

Posted by Mike on 4 November 2004, 12:23 pm | Link

Cultural education is something that is not taught in schools. Background: I am a 21 year old male living in Southern California (Orange County). Both of my parents have passport (as well as my grandparents). I was taught at a young age that traveling the world is something to be cherished, and I am extremely grateful that my parents had the money to send me to Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia. I am one of the VERY few Americans that took a gap year (well actually it was a year and a half), and I honestly believe that I have learned more about the world in the past year and a half, than I learned during all four years I spent in high school. When I came back I didn

Posted by Bradley B on 14 November 2004, 9:01 am | Link

Very informative thread. I live in LA and had no idea one could visit Mexico without a passport! In fact, we were lectured sternly at the Canadian border for NOT having a passport for our then 3-year old daughter, "This IS a separate country, you know!"

I did the search that led me here because I was "informed" several times this summer by apparently reasonable Brits that "only 5% of Americans have passports" which I found impossibly low. I can however believe 18% - there are a lot of people here for whom spending $3000+ to vacation far away instead of nearby is not a priority!

Posted by Sam on 15 November 2004, 6:31 am | Link

Something that has to be remembered is that Americans only need proof of citizenship for many countries in North America and the Caribbean. These also happen to be the countries most often visited by Americans. In addition, the US is huge in and of itself, and (as far as I know) is the only country that has tropical, temperate and arctic climates (perhaps France as well because of the Overseas Departments).

Here is a list of places Americans can go sans passport:

Posted by American with 72-page passport on 21 November 2004, 11:09 am | Link

As a Brit living in Canada for the past 35 years, and no it is not the "Frozen North", I live in a semi desert area and our two Countries are only seperated by a thin line.
The point I should like to make is that you will likely find a spike in passport applications this year with the re- election of G.W. Bush from people wishing to leave the U.S.A.
By the way, before you get too angry can you name, without peeking, the Prime Minister of Canada I bet less than 5% of you can! and less than 1% the Deputy Prime Minister

Posted by Colin on 22 November 2004, 4:27 am | Link

I'm an American from one of those dreaded red states (believe it or not). :-D

My wife and I have always kept valid passports. When our son was born nearly four years ago, one of the first things we did was apply for his passport. We were in Mexico a couple of years ago and (believe me) it really helps to travel with a passport. Leaving is easy; it's getting back in that's hard.

We have a new daughter now and we applied for her passport during lunch today. People at work ask me where we're going and why we need passports. First, I tell them that our next significant trip abroad is the 2006 World Cup in Germany. Second, I tell them that you should always keep a passport because you never know when you're going to do something stupid and have to flee the country on short notice. ;-)

Speaking of red states, I'd like to see the breakdown of passport holders by state.

Posted by Mark on 23 November 2004, 7:33 pm | Link

I would say that less then 20 percent of Americans have Passports and probably a large percentage that do have a passport are foreign born.
The reasons are many, one we as Americans have no statutory vacation
time under the law. Millions do not have vacations. When you first start a job you may receive a week vacation the first year or maybe none. If you stay at a company, you average 2 weeks.
Our international airline tickets are more expensive then many countries. I pay twice what a German would pay flying to Germany, verses the German coming to America. My Friend is flying in from Germany and she paid $550.00 for a direct flight, to Florida during the high season. I would pay at least a $1000,00.
We have a very large rich-poor gap between the people here, they don't have the money to be travelling around the globe. They do not have Universal Medical Coverage, Cheap University Educations, and they also have a high cost of living besides the two basics I mentioned.
Milk for instance is around $4.00 per gallon, in Germany is it $2.20.
Free Educations, Free Medical and welfare benefits.
The Eurodollar is worth 34 cents more then the American dollar, they have more buying power.
In 1969 Americans travelled more then any other nation, fast forward to the present, we are not near the top.
Why? Because we are no longer a production economy, Europe is more industrialized then America and Japan also has more industry with China coming fast.
Europes UnEmployment to Work ratio, meaning 18 to 65 years of age workers, working is actually slighly higher then America's at 64% verses 61%. A much better gauge then unemployment benefits which after 6 months ends and your no longer counted as unemployed.
We have a 650 billion dollar trade debt per year and rising. Federal Debts of at least 650 billion per year counting the raids on our retirement trust funds which they try to hide.
Mostly borrowed from Europe, Japan and China.
Are we the richest?
With 70 to 80 trillion dollars in total debt, I do not think so.
For each dollar of profit produced in the American economy(2003) we are producing six dollars in debt.
We are mostly a service economy based on low wages with a dwindling manufacturing and production economy.
As far as scientific journals go, Europe and Asia have passed us during the mid 1990's.
The is research published by scientists around the world.
Our education standards for many of our students is behind many countries, because evertime we compete directly with international tests we are towards the bottom.
So I think Americans have more problems then to worry about travelling around the world.
If you are in the top 15 to 20 percent of Americans you are doing good, If not your in trouble.
Hmm...15 to 20 percent, like the 15 to 20 percent that have passports. Is there a correlation?

Posted by tom on 28 November 2004, 3:40 pm | Link

You folks from other countries outside of the USA are so worldly. Wow, you really travel a lot. I think you are much more sophisticated than us Americans. You should be so proud and Americans should be so ashamed. Your countries are so amazing. I will bow and make way for you the next time I meet you while abroad, especially, you proud Australians, New Zealanders and Canadians. You guys really are superior to us Americans. Congratulations!

Posted by Hobart on 1 December 2004, 12:58 am | Link

even better I would like to see the number of people in congress (US) that have a passport or have traveled out of the united states -- these are the people making up foreign policy, it would be scary if they had never left the US.

Posted by gearedup on 9 December 2004, 10:05 pm | Link


Great topic. Some possible skews in the stats. mentioned...

In the UK you need a passport to start travelling Europe, whereas within Europe border checks are almost non-existent. Add to this booze cruises to France, high GDP and cheap Spanish holidays to escape the rain, and it's no surprise the UK usually tops the list for passport holders (I am still trying to find relative stats, but I've read this several years ago).

That aside, travel from the UK is very easy. Fairs are cheap, English is spoken everywhere and you rarely need visas thanks to our colonial past. As an island gateway we get a lot of people passing through, so I think some of the attitude rubs off too. To travel is the cultural norm.

Another skew. For Europeans in general, applying for driver's licences and other documents usually involves either a passport or a birth certificate. I had a passport a good year before I did any travelling simply because it's a convenient form of ID.

I'd also love to see a breakdown between rich and poor, both within countries and around the world. People only travel if they have the money.

yours, Marcus

Posted by Marcus Baker on 25 December 2004, 2:31 am | Link

I'm an American currently living in Moscow. When I was in the US I did not travel abroad for vactions for the above mentioned reasons: cost and lack of vaction time. When I did have time off, It went to visit family that are spead out over the US.
Now that I am in Europe it is much cheaper to travel to other countries, plus my work gives me more vaction days to do it in! I have noticed in Moscow and in my numerous travels, that most Americans abroad are either students or senior citizens on group tours.

Posted by Karen on 26 December 2004, 12:07 am | Link

Don't you folks have anything better to do than obsess about whether we Americans own passports? I'm an American living abroad and I just happened upon this site. Get a life!


Posted by NiNi on 27 December 2004, 1:09 pm | Link

I'm amazed at all the abusive people on this site, and feel sorry for the administrator who frequently asks for constructive discussion upon the statistics yet people igmore him. I stumbled across this site after reading michael moores book 'Dude, Wheres my country?' which contains the statistic of 92% of americans not owning a passport and thought this not possible.

I'm amazed stats like this aren't released by governments every few years. Surely the passport agencies know exactly how many people have valid passports? Or am I being too nieve?

Posted by david robinson on 4 January 2005, 4:29 pm | Link

To reverse a frequent comment above - are there statistics available for what percentage of UK passport holders (or other EU passport holders) were not citizens at birth?

In the UK, a non-citizen (but legal resident) only needs to live in the UK for something like 5 years before applying for citizenship/UK passport and the application process is supposedly quite easy. Many expats cite this as a perk for living in the UK for 5+ years: UK passport = EU citizenship = work privileges w/o need for work visa!

In the US, the barriers to obtaining citizenship is supposedly not as easy.

Also, does anyone know if there is a correlation between the lack of national ids and number of passport holders?

Posted by AR on 10 January 2005, 11:36 pm | Link

I'm an American and just got back from 3 weeks in South America. It was almost annoying how nearly every chat with a fellow traveler led to this mysteriously low stat of US passport holders. (A range of 7% to 15% was what was quoted to me most often). None of these people were rude or annoying themselves, it just got old, and I had no stats to answer them other than those factors mentioned by many here (size of N. America, limited vacation, costs). And so my search for stats led me here, and I want to Thank everyone's research and input to give me a confident empirical # around 20%.
BTW, What was more annoying was meeting or over-hearing Americans who, in foreign company, spoke insecurely and apologetically about being Americans. It was like bashing your little brother or parents to look cool for the popular kids. Are we still a teenager nation?

Posted by Isaiah on 12 January 2005, 9:20 am | Link

I have been to Britain 6 times and routinely met people who had never even been North of Manchester... or who still made snide and ignorant comments about the Welsh... One of the first places I went was Shetland, and on the mainland, everyone I met acted like I was crazy to go "way up there". I'm sorry but ignorance comes in all forms and passport ownership--or lack thereof-- isn't an accurate yardstick by which it should be measured. America is the third largest country in the world. You can experience everything from the arctic to the tropic, multiple cultures, hundreds of languages, and a truly mixed population. The fact is, Britons can hop on a train or a ferry and be in another country after a short ride. Here, you drive for days and days and days and DAYS and you're still in America. Give us a break! It's expensive to get off this continent. I just shelled out over $3000 to go to Africa. Do you have any idea how long it took me to save that? An American is LUCKY to get two weeks vacation a year-- and I've worked in plenty of places that did not offer any paid vacation benefits at all. Also, remember that a lot of Americans choose to go to Mexico and Canada for trips-- which don't require passports. And finally, what's wrong with people staying home? I wouldn't enjoy it- but if someone is truly happy siting on the porch reading the paper, then more power to him! It seems like we love to go places and observe "native cultures" and "traditional life" and we love seeing people and animals in their "natural habitat" ...but we look down on those around us who are doing that very thing!

Posted by Jamila on 18 January 2005, 2:48 am | Link

A very informative website, and quite shocking really, since all of my family and 98% of my friends are passport holders and have either lived or traveled extensively overseas. However, I understand most of the reasons why we Americans are not able to travel as frequently as other cultures. I am just now in a position to travel more outside my borders; vacation time and money have always been the issues. I had finally decided to live inexpensively and travel all over Europe this summer, when I realized how expensive it would be with the exchange rates. I am disappointed as I wanted to see more than just Western Europe (I have heard Croatia is stunning), but I had to modify and plan trips where the dollar will go a long way. Therefore it is Central America and Canada for me. Thanks to the moderator for supplying such an informative website and to the other posters who have enlightened me with their views.

Posted by Victoria on 19 January 2005, 4:39 am | Link

I have been looking into this issue because I teach a US Politics class at a British university and am always dismayed at how readily even bright people assume that Americans must be insular because they lack passports, without taking all of the factors mentioned into consideration, especially the shortness of vacations.

I found a listing in the infoplease almanac indicating that 23 million Americans travelled overseas in 2002, including 18.5 that travelled as tourists. 23 million is about 8% of the population,while 18.5 million is about 6.3%.See: This figure does not include Canada or Mexico, where a certified birth certificate and a photo id might be enough, although a passport is better (since it can be replaced while abroad, among other things). According to the U.S. State Department, 15-16 million Americans visited Mexico in 2003. According to the Canadian government, U.S. citizens made over 15 million overnight trips and 20 million day trips to Canada in 2003 Although it is impossible to put these together with the overseas travel stats, I know that many members of my family in the U.S. have been to Canada but have never had a passport.

I looked for that November 2003 newspaper article that was mentioned on European travel habits. It noted that "Seventy one percent of Dutch people, 62 percent of Belgians, 61 percent of Germans and 54 percent of Britons travelled abroad over the last year, compared to only 33 percent of the French, 28 percent of Italians and 20 percent of Spaniards."

I am a somewhat skeptical about travel necessarily expanding one's understanding of international cultures. After all, there are some resorts in southern Spain which are more like sunny extensions of Britain with a bit of sangre thrown in.

Posted by Christine on 19 January 2005, 3:42 pm | Link

I happened upon this site after various discussions with people on how unaware of other countries and cultures a large number of Americans are. This is not to say ALL Americans are completely ignorant of the the world outside their own borders, but the fact remains that there is a large number of people who are. Those of you that have been getting very defensive and in some cases rude about this discussion are mostly passport holders and therefore not the people that this discussion is about. (By the way the rudeness is not helping your cause). I have found that the majority of Americans that DO travel are much more aware and willing to learn about the world. An earlier comment of the different ways our cultures view travel is valid. ie I'm a New Zealander who has grown up wanting to learn about other countries and cultures and this is something that is encouraged in our country. This is not so in the USA. This is the fault of the system and not the individuals. It is this kind of insularism that causes much of the racism and abuse of other cultural and religious beliefs in the world.

All the excuses about cost and distance of travel being the reason for lack of passport holders are irrelevent. If people wanted to travel they would. New Zealand is one of the most expensive places to travel from as we are so isolated. We have only two airports that support flights further than Australia which means huge distances for people to travel to get to their nearest airport. The same goes for Australia (in reply to Liz's comment). There are only six international airports all of which are on the coast, so anyone living inland has enormous distances to travel. Again the length of holidays given is just as irrelevant. The majority of New Zealanders get 3 weeks holiday per year, Australians and the English get 4 weeks. A lot of the travel done by these countries is done on a long term basis ie. a working holiday or taking unpaid leave. Incidentally there are five countries that offer working holiday visas to Americans - the UK, Ireland, Canada, Australia and NZ. I wonder how many people make the most of this opportunity.

Posted by Charlene on 19 January 2005, 10:11 pm | Link

Is the statistic that I have seen quoted but not substantiated that 50% of Americans live with 50 miles of their birthplace more or less correct or one of those 'facts' that is repeated so many times it becomes the truth?

Posted by Michelle on 21 January 2005, 8:31 am | Link

Here are some stats

I just discovered this thread today and looked up some data on the web about American overseas travel (not necessarily Passport related). Here's what I found (note that they refer to residents, which may include permanent residents as well):

Total International Travelers to and from the U.S. 1993-2003:

(In Summary - in 2003 there were 56,175,000 outbound travelers - 14,158,000 to Canada, 17,566,000 to Mexico, 24,452,000 overseas)

And for those who wanted further breakdowns - here's the 2003 Profile of U.S. Resident Travelers Visiting Overseas Destinations (this refers only to overseas travel - not Canada and Mexico). It gives you breakdowns on many parameters - from Region of Residence, to purpose of trip, to main factor in airline choice:

(In Summary - 80.9% traveled for Leisure/Friends/Relatives, 28.7% for Business/Convention. 9% First time visitors, 91% repeat visitors. Destination: Europe - 42%, Caribbean - 22%, South America - 8%, Central America - 7%, Africa - 2%, Middle East - 3%, Asia - 16%. Plenty of other stats)

On a more personal note, I'm a permanent resident living in the US for 6 years. I agree with previous posters that the number of vacation days and cost, though they are contributing factors, are not the main reasons for lack of travel and lack of curiosity.

There's a larger cultural issue, expressed here in some previous posts (we've got everything you could ever want), which I believe has a profound effect on the way Americans perceive the world. While in and of itself this attitude is valid and understandable, when it translates to foreign policy of the world's only superpower and global cop, this inability to understand attitudes and motivations of other people can become troublesome.

Posted by Accidental Visitor on 24 January 2005, 8:32 pm | Link

" First, lets be generous and say that every passport was issued to an adult and therefore lasts ten years. Assuming that everyone who

Posted by Glyn on 10 February 2005, 4:28 pm | Link

Two things that do seem especially relevant from the above posts is the fact that Americans have less vacation times than other people (including working on 26 December) so don't have the time to take annual trips abroad; which is why they may have had passports in the past but have let them expire.

But one thing I did notice in the Tsunami Disaster was how low the American death toll was in relation to other countries such as Sweden and Germany. The media said that it isn't a typical American holiday destination, but we weren't talking about a single resort but a sizeable proportion of the planet.

Posted by Glyn on 10 February 2005, 4:39 pm | Link

I'm not sure your 28% figure is any better I'm afraid Glyn - children have passports too and (I assume) they're included in the 60 million passportholders. Therefore the full total population of 281 million should be used.

The only variable this brings up is that child passports don't last as long as adult ones, so the percentage should probably be slightly lower than I suggest. I think.

Posted by Phil Gyford on 10 February 2005, 5:09 pm | Link

Useful site. Embarrassingly I work for the UK government and stumbled on your site while looking for a total figure for UK passport holders. Thanks. I'm now close enough. Not much to add except on a couple of points.

One is on the number of British people who travel outside the EU. The figures are: In 2003, UK residents travelled to the EU over 45 million times and spent a total of 342 million nights there. This represented 73 per cent of all visits abroad and 55 per cent of all nights spent abroad. These figures increased by 21 per cent and 16 per cent respectively over the past five years. In 2003, UK residents travelled to non-EU Europe over 5.5 million times. Many visited countries which have subsequently joined the EU. It is likely, therefore, that 2004 figures will show that approximately 80 per cent of all visits abroad and 65 per cent of all nights spent abroad by UK residents were within the EU 25. France (12 million visits in 2003) and Spain (nearly 14 million visits in 2003) between them account for about 40 per cent of all visits abroad by UK residents.

I'm not sure, however, whether I completely agree that travelling around the EU is no different from travelling within the North American continent. I think there is a greater variety of culture and language within the EU. But I fully accept the earlier point that travelling in of itself, even to the most exotic locations, does not necessarily broaden one's mind. I lived for four years in China and found that the backpackers transiting the country had learnt little or nothing either about the local people or themselves. Conversely, you can meet people of infinite wisdom who have sat on the same bar stool for the last 35 years and let human experience come to them.

Posted by John Edwards on 17 February 2005, 5:57 pm | Link

The idea that 'number of passports' can indicate anything other than the number of passports in circulation is laughable.

The US is the only country that has two bordering nations that do not require passports for it's citizens to enter those countries.

I realize it is a parlor game for most liberals to talk about this and other 'so-called' indicators of American 'stupidity'; I would think however that someone would actually point out the basis for such specious arguments. Then again, why worry about facts and reasons; when smear tactics are much more fun.

Posted by Joe Traveler on 17 February 2005, 10:17 pm | Link

Of course Americans could just be insular and self centered, personally I dont mind if they stay in their own country, then I dont have to encounter them. Oh and by the way I have an American brother in Law

Posted by Keith on 20 February 2005, 1:30 pm | Link

Most of these comments miss the point. It does not mean that Americans are stupid because so few of them own passports. The frightening thing is that here is a country with enormous firepower whose inhabitants know and care so little about the world outside their borders that they can cheer on adventures like the invasion of Iraq and may yet drag us all into World War 3.

Posted by Terence Nunn on 21 February 2005, 10:40 am | Link

I hate to be arrogant but I'm not just American, I'm a Texan. Why should we care about the rest of the world. Sure, openness to other cultures is important, but America is the dominant force in the world. Our media is the worlds media, our culture is the worlds culture (Dont tell my you've never drank a Coke, or seen a movie from Hollywood), our language (yours too England) is the worlds language. Americans take great pride in their homeland and rightly so, I have been to about 30 countries on 4 continents and I dont really care to ever leave again, prehaps slip across into Mexico for a little fun. Yeah, and I'm only 20. To knock Americans for not leaving isnt fair.
And to comment on our elected officials, their job is to protect the interests of the United States, not Europe. Sure, legislation passed in the United States may effect Europeans, unfortunately Europeans are not part of their constituency and therefore they dont care about you. I dont know if my congressman has ever been to Europe, and I dont really care.
God bless Texas!

Posted by Jerry on 23 February 2005, 11:43 pm | Link

I'm thinking Jerry just wants to argue but it's hard to carry on a conversation with someone who thinks culture is Coke and Hollywood and who think that there's no news but FOX new. American's do not travel much. According to the US State Department 7% of American's travel abroad each year (the number is much higher if you include Canada and Mexico). That's higher then I thought but compared to the U.K.(73%) that's low. The vast majority of people in the U.K. just hop somewhere in the EU for vacation. It's much better to compare us to Australia where the number is 17-18%. What I really want to know is how many young people travel to third world countries from developed nations? How much cultural exposure does America have compared to other developed countries? I think we Americans (and all world powers)need to be much more involved in the world around us. In a time when our nations production base is being shipped over seas, our standard of living is dropping, and multinationals are working in a lawless enviroment, we should be informed. Problem is to many of us FOX news is the news and the rest of the world is filled with dirty evil terrorists or american hating euro-hippies. So next time you talk to one of us American's invite us out of our holes and politily help us understand your views of us. Be nice, unless we sound like Jerry, then you can sock us.

Posted by Eli on 1 March 2005, 12:53 am | Link

Lets play fair here Eli...
Perhaps I did sound a bit aggressive; however, you were wrong as well to jump to conclusions about me. Honestly Eli, how many thrid world countries have you been to? I hope it is alot, I honestly do. What I do not understand; however, is why you would be so apt to not defend your home country. You complain about FOX News, but you are obviously a liberal, and therefore get your news from any other source of News in the United States that is not FOX News, and therefor has a left wing bias. Unless you actually believe that CNN, any of the big 3, or your local newspaper give a balanced report of the news.
However, in the spirit of fairness, you did make a good point about statistics on travel to third world countries. That would be an interesting comparitive statistic. Unfortunately, I dont believe whether or not you have set foot in a third world country makes you a better citizen of the world.
Final point... if, as you claim our standard of living is dropping (which would be a bit counterintuative since unemployment is going down, and the Wall Street Journal reported today the US economy grew 3.8 percent, much higher than 1.6 percent in the Eurozone, last year) wouldnt that deter us from visiting thrid world countries, for cultural enhancement.
To all Americans out there, get out, travel the west... board the 8 hour flight from Honolulu to Atlanta, spend a week driving from NYC to LA, sunbath on three different coasts, admire mountains over 20,000 ft high (Mt. Mckinley) and grill a steak and drink a cheap cold beer while your at it.

Posted by Jerry on 2 March 2005, 9:43 am | Link

"The US is the only country that has two bordering nations that do not require passports for it

Posted by nick on 6 March 2005, 12:41 am | Link

It is good to see an intellectual discussion based on real statistics (although I feel sorry for the webmaster for the deviation from the original topic).

I am currently a student in Australia and would like to say that travelling is encouraged within the education system here and the news (and no I don't watch fox :) ). There is quite a lot that can be learnt from travelling the world, be it about history, culture, or developing a much more informed understanding about politics.

But I think that the most important thing that can be learnt is that different people from different countries and cultural backgrounds have very different perspectives on the world. It is quite sad to see that so few citizens of the most influential country in the world (or at least in this period of history), understands so little about the views and culture of the rest of the world. I have been to the EU as well as Sri Lanka and India, and so can say from experience that no Indian resteraunt, or novel is a substitute for the being immersed in the culture of the country itself.

The relatively small number of U.S travellers abroad are a telling of the lack of understanding and empathy of the perspectives of the rest of the world. And unfortunately this means that it is easier to portray another culture as "evil" to an uneducated public (by uneducated I am merely refering to the lack of understanding of different culture and situations).

To Jerry, although I would like to visit the U.S at one stage, I'm so not sure that the culture and history of the U.S (modern) comes close to comparing to that of the rest of the world. I guess it depends on what you are interested in, there is some quality beer in germany and some nice mountains in the himalayas from what I hear.... (and have seen too)


Posted by Mike on 11 March 2005, 1:40 pm | Link

I think that some of the discusi

Posted by Rich on 14 March 2005, 3:59 pm | Link

Some would say, like the above that no other country dictates or has any influence over the U.S.
I would say that would be false since most of the money that the country runs on, Government and Private comes from Japan, Europe and China, over 1 trillion dollars a year.
When I go to the store, everything is made overseas. We only produce 50 percent of our own manufacturing needs and 70 percent of our oil comes from other countries.
We Speak English and to a lessor extent Spainish,is that American?
Our religions, Catholics for example, mostly came from Europe and to a lessor extent other areas of the World, Hindu for example.
America from 1863 to 1971 was a very different and special place where people could come and escape prosecution, political and economic.
Economics is the key because that leads to political.
The past 20 years we have been eroding, economically and politically which are one in the same.
We have a gini-index of 46 and rising, with such a rich poor gap why does it surprise people overseas that we do not travel that much. Perhaps your media's are not as open as I thought they would be.
Why is the Euro-dollar 34 cents more then the American dollar?
And that is a new currency!
We export 9% of the world's goods and import around 18%, is that dominance in trade?
On a PPP GDP basis we have about 18 percent of the World's economy.
Is that Dominance?
In the 1970's the U.S. had 50 percent of the World's economy!
We also travelled the World more then most other countries!
In the early 1980's that changed and has been deteriorating since.
50 Million people have no healthcare, over 100 million more only have partial coverage.
Very expensive Higher Education and a very underdeveloped trade education with no national system such as Germany's.
When I drive up and down the roads in Tampa, we have many stores and restuarants. I would say that is where the majority of the people work. And not just Tampa, Walmart is the biggest employer in the U.S.
Current Account deficits approaching 800 billion dollars a year, Governmental debts approaching 650 billion a year including the raids on the S.S. and Medicare accounts.
Over 60 percent of our research budget goes into the military, so how can our products in the civilian world compete?
The Military is very currupt with the money, no competition so even much of the military money is wasted.
Look up the Grandfathers economic report and read some of the stats from the World Bank, IMF, Economist magazine,etc. and you will get a clearer picture why we do not travel as much.

Posted by thomas riccardo on 20 March 2005, 1:27 pm | Link

Thank you for assembling this data. Alough I'm an American citizen myself, I was surprised to learn that the level of passport ownership here is so high. Had someone asked me to guess, I would have estimated it to be 10% or less.

Posted by Jack on 22 March 2005, 5:26 am | Link

There are some very simple reasons that are unique to the US that easily explain this statistic.

(1) American vacations are shorter. Sometimes all you get is two weeks. It is hard to cram a trip to the other side of the planet in such a short time.

Compared to other nations when you have time to travel somewhere.

(2) American youths do not have a skip year (like Euros & Aussies). After high school they usually go straight into college/university, and then usually straight in to work. Often they don't get their first real vacation until their late 20's or 30's.

Hence, when they have time, they often have young children too. Dragging screaming kids on an 8 hour international flight is not most people's idea of fun.

(3) The US is huge and very diverse. You don't need to leave the country to get a very different way of life and a very different change of scenary. We have awesome parks everywhere that can take a lifetime to explore.

(4) No passports are/were needed to travel to Mexico, Caribbean, and Canada. Why pay $50-$100 for a passport when your drivers license will do?

(5) Fuel is cheaper. To "travel" far enough to require a passport usually means having to fly. When you have a family of 3-5, it is often much cheaper to simply drive the family car to a vacation spot in the US or Canada.

(6) Inexpensive foriegn holiday destinations. Mexico and Caribbean offer resorts and cruises that are affordable and quick to get to. Why fly to Greece when you can go to Cancun? Why fly to Queensland to dive when charters to the Caymans are not that much?

So there you are. The average American is in their 30's when they finally get to travel. They have some kids to drag along and only 12 days off. They see they cab go on a Caribbean cruise for $2000. No passport needed. All inclusive. No having to lean another language, find hotels, wait in lines. Just climb aboard and relax.

No brainer there!

Posted by Ron Larson on 24 March 2005, 7:17 am | Link

Many of the arguments made thus far sound like excuses rather than legitimate reasons. Travel can be accomplished on a shoestring budget, especially to developing countries. The notion that it is expensive to travel is based on the assumption that one will maintain their level of comfort.

I just spent a week in Costa Rica on what I felt was an extravagant week (considering the level of development of the host country) and airfare included I spent less than $600. That includes transport, lodging, meals, and entertainment.

I recognize that America is a vast country with numerous spectacular landmarks, but the cultural experience just isn't there. Compared with travelling to another country, traversing this nation doesn't provide that drastic of a difference from what I'm accustomed to.

I will concede that foreign travel isn't for everyone but I'm firm in my belief that travel really opens one's mind and helps nurture a respect for the international community. In the modern world, America will not maintain its current status by isolating itself and disrespecting the rest of the world.

Posted by Michael on 24 March 2005, 3:07 pm | Link

Sorry for ruining your statistical calculations all those that were estimating the uk passport figures.


Posted by dave fuller on 25 March 2005, 10:52 pm | Link

One of the reasons American may not travel outside the U.S. is because of the attitude/reaction they get from other travellers. I met an American (Eddie) while travelling in Chile, and he told he that he gets a lot of negative comments from other travellers, about U.S. foreign and environmental policy, and the assumption that as an American he must be a supporter of the George Bush/Republican policy.

Eddie explained that it was mainly Canadians and Europeans making criticisms of the U.S. but in fact the biggest critics of Bush/U.S. policy were Americans such as himself, and that over 50 percent of Americans are not supporters of Bush.

Examples of negative comments Eddie gave were
- people mentioning the Kyoto protocol, and that the U.S. has not signed up (making no mention of Australia not signing up)
- people criticising the US over the the Iraq war (again not mentioning the UK Australian and other support for this)
- people saying "you

Posted by Rich on 2 April 2005, 10:43 pm | Link

Note to Ted: There is no such thing as the US Office of Central Statistics. General observation: Americans are ultimately like everyone else. Some of us have the means, the time, and the inclination to travel abroad, and some of us don't. Oh, and because this is a very big place, some of us live very, very far from big cities, big airports, and cheap international airfares. From my experience, most people who rail about Americans' "insularity" have never even been to the United States.

Posted by Tom on 5 April 2005, 6:23 pm | Link

Interesting stuff, i read it all. I was born near heidelberg but have lived in Canada most of my life. I have never been back to Europe. I live in Vancouver and the last places I visited were Tokyo, Seoul, Seattle and Hong Kong. I've never visited Montreal or New York, it seems so far. I guess everyone is different but I think if you live near the East or West coasts of North America you're more likely to travel abroad and therefore need a passport. So it make sense the highest % holders are New York, San Fran, Miami, L.A., San Diego etc.

Also (North) America has lots of places to see without needing a passport... although it will now be required within two years. Imagine - Every American visiting Mexico or Canada will have to show their passprt to re-enter USA (legally at least) !

As for statistics does anyone know what country has the most international visitors every year? If USA is near the top then there is a question why so many can afford to visit (but not as many US nationals visit abroad).

btw isn't mine but is a beauty webcam in my apartment building

Posted by Mike D on 6 April 2005, 7:41 am | Link

Hey - News report today: Passports May NOT be optional soon...
It goes on to say Feds proposing new rule for travel in the Americas
From Desert News:

The federal government announced Tuesday that it wants millions of American citizens returning to the United States from Canada and Mexico to be required to present a U.S. passport to regain entry.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security said the proposed passport rule was a way to tighten border security by detecting "people who want to come in to hurt us."
The most recent government figures show that 16.2 million U.S. residents visited Canada and 16.8 million visited Mexico in 2002.
The tough, new proposed travel requirement would be phased in gradually at airports, seaports and land crossings over the next 32 months, if adopted by the administration after public comment.
Under the proposal, U.S. citizens would be required to present their passports:

* By Dec. 31, 2005, if returning from Caribbean nations, Bermuda, Central and South America.

* By Dec. 31, 2006, if returning by air or sea from Canada and Mexico.

* By Dec. 31, 2007, if returning across border crossings with Canada and Mexico.

It currently costs $97 to obtain an initial U.S. passport, in addition to providing two passport photos and obtaining an original copy of a birth certificate or other documentation proving U.S. citizenship. Expedited processing for travelers who need passports quickly costs another $60.
The State Department said other travel documents may be accepted under the proposal but that a U.S. passport would remain "the document of choice."
Visitors from Canada and Mexico, as well as other nations in the Western Hemisphere, also will be required to present their passports to gain admission to the United States under the proposal.
Currently, U.S. citizens who travel within the Western Hemisphere are not required to present a U.S. passport to re-enter the United States.
"Our goal is to strengthen border security and expedite entry into the United States for U.S. citizens and legitimate foreign visitors," said Randy Beardsworth, acting under secretary for border and transportation security at the Department of Homeland Security.
Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Maura Harty said advanced notice of the proposed change was made because "we recognize the implications this might have for industry, business and the general public, as well as our neighboring countries."
The administration said in a statement that it planned to solicit reaction to the proposal and then adopt a final rule later this year.
Bush discussed details of the planned passport rule with Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin and Mexican President Vicente Fox at their three-way summit in Waco, Texas, on March 23.
Bush has faced mounting political pressure from Republicans in Congress, led by Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, to bolster border security as a pre-condition for any congressional action on his proposal to allow foreign workers, chiefly from Mexico and Central American, to legally enter and remain in the United States to fill jobs left vacant by Americans.
Bush's plan would permit foreign workers to legally come into the country as part of an effort to alleviate the illegal immigration that consumes most of the resources of U.S. border enforcement personnel.
The Bush administration said in a statement that other documents that may be acceptable included the Border Crossing Card known as a "laser visa" used by citizens of Mexico and documents used by shippers moving cargo across the border, including documents used in the Customs and Border Protection Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection program known as SENTRI and the Free and Secure Trade program known as FAST.

I bet if this happens A LOT more Americans will be getting a passport!

Posted by Brad on 6 April 2005, 7:57 am | Link

Oh yeah I forgot to mention the fact that if this is going to happen ^above post^ Americans might start traveling to Europe and Asia more...

Posted by Brad on 6 April 2005, 7:59 am | Link

5 April 2005:

"Americans will need passports to re-enter the United States from Canada, Mexico, Panama and Bermuda by 2008, part of a tightening of U.S. border controls in an era of terrorist threat."

That may change the statistics a little over time.

Posted by Phil Gyford on 8 April 2005, 11:56 pm | Link

I'm sure passports won't be the worst thing the US requires for entry into their country - Biometrics aren't far off I'm sure. It'll be a cold day in Hell before I hand my iris over to the US gov't though. I'll take my dual passport (which a US customs official once told me "wasn't recognized", like their recognition changes anything) over to Europe or Australia thank you very much.

Posted by Canadian on 12 April 2005, 9:13 pm | Link

Hey, I've enjoyed the discussion and it really does seem to highlight both how keen the world is to do down Americans and how defensive many Americans are about their position in the world. I'd like to diversify the discussion slightly. I work for a large international aid agency. I spent last year in Afghanistan and this year in Somalia. I have noticed how, in these two limited examples, European aid workers hugely out numbered American ones. This seems strange to me considering America's history in both countries. It's also bizarre as the one compulsary language to work in both these countries is English. I should point out that the Americans I have met have been worldly, bright and charming in every respect, I'd just like to see more of them. Europeans, particularly Brits like me, have a colonial history. I was brought up on tales of Brits exploring the world this has always inspired me. Perhaps the stories of the frontier in America have led to a similar inspiration for internal exploration? I hope someone can find stats on Americans in international development I think it would be interesting. I look forward to further comments.

Posted by Jack Perschke on 13 April 2005, 4:42 pm | Link

Jack, that was an excellent point. The idea of manifest destiny and "internal exploration" as you mentioned is still very strong in the hearts of many Americans. As a westerner myself, I have, in the past few years rekindled the love I have of the west. I have done a fair share of travel abroad, but my overwhelming affection of the west seems to keep me close to home, at least relative to the other side of the globe. There is no doubt in my mind that many other people share this same affection that I do.

Posted by Jerry on 17 April 2005, 8:04 pm | Link

I am a dual citizen between the USA and Australia... I currently live in NSW. I must agree with many of the American generated comments. I find a large amount of racist energy directed at me once my "nationality" is revealed. Im not overly concerned with being American or Australian or whatever. I like to travel, work, read, hang out with my wife, surf, and train my dog. I think that any of these people (Americans included) that attack the integrity of all Americans, based on fallable statistics, are just as idiotic as the people they are picking on. Sorry, but its usually the unemployed, backpackers, uni students, and six fingered banjo players. Not anyone Im too worried about earning the respect of.....peace to all.

Posted by Matt on 5 May 2005, 1:39 pm | Link

i think travelling is important and also learning a different language and all about it's culture. it opens your mind and makes you see things in different perspectives. this important and enriches your life.
i have travelled and lived abroad for over 10 years. i speak italian and spanish fluently. this makes me feel like i am on the inside. in the states i can watch different perspectives in the news - on cable - in italian and spanish, and get a different angle on a news story.
i recommend that all college students or high school students study abroad.

Posted by suzie on 9 May 2005, 1:48 pm | Link

geezes people, google is only good if you know HOW to use it...

from the state departments FAQ webpage (

from the census webpage (

tweak the math however you feel you must to make Americans either well-travelled or giant ignoramuses.

Posted by Michelle on 19 May 2005, 8:14 pm | Link

Michelle may be smarter than the rest of us but her links are both dead ends.

Posted by Tom on 23 May 2005, 1:35 pm | Link

Jack makes one of the most insightful points yet: The British in particular are (from my observation) inspired from an early age to look beyond a relatively small island and explore the exotic, the unknown, the colonial! In the United States, we're inspired from an early age to visit the things in this country that are considered either a) unique to our heritage (Washington DC, the Civil War battlegrounds, Little Big Horn, the Alamo, to name just a few) or b) uniquely spectacular (Yellowstone Park, Niagara Falls, the Redwoods, a couple of nice oceans, the Great Lakes, New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, San's a long list). Yes, some of us wanted to see Paris the moment we first heard about her, but she was far away and we couldn't just get in the car or on a train with the family and go see her.

Posted by Tom on 23 May 2005, 1:51 pm | Link

Just watching the Daily Show on Comedy Central. Russell Crow was just on and said that 17% of Americans have passports. I was shocked to hear that number. I've had a passport since I was 8. I found this site and couldn't believe it. I also found this:

The U.S. State Department issued a record 7,300,667 passports in fiscal year 2003, which ended Sept. 30, including first-time passports and renewals. The record followed two years of declining passport numbers, according to the department

Posted by Erik on 3 June 2005, 4:29 am | Link

Heheh, like Erik I was just watching the Daily Show as well. I have a feeling this site is going to get a boost in popularity thanks to Mr. Crowe.
Anyway, an earlier poster asked about which countries are the most popular tourist destinations. I have a book called "The State of the World Atlas" which provides a bunch of recent statistics on the matter.

According to this, France was the destination for 10.9% percent of the world's tourists in 2002, followed by the United States at 8.1% and then the following:
Spain- 7.2%
Italy- 5.7%
UK- 4.4%
China- 4%
Mexico- 3.8%

The book also has predicted 2020 stats from the World Tourism Organization based on 1998 data.
They predict that in 2020 China will be the world's biggest tourist destination with 137 annual vistors, followed by the USA with 102 million, then France at third place with 93 mil.

They go on to predict that in 2020 most of the world's tourists will come from Germany (164 mil), followed by Japan (142 mil), and then the USA (123 mil).

Interesting stats, I am not sure what they necessarily prove. I would assume the 2020 stats are largely similar to the trends of today. Despite America's supposedly insular nature, it would not shock me at all to learn that the United States is in the global top three as far as tourist generating countries go.

Posted by J.J. on 3 June 2005, 8:43 am | Link

I'd like to address the "cultural" debate too, if I may.

I'm a Canadian, and despite what some Canadians will allege, I feel Canadians and Americans have largely the same mindset as far as foreign travel is concerned.

I've been to Holland a few times, and have visited much of the Western United States. However I have done very little travel within Canada itself. In fact, I've never left my home province and have probably only seen about 1% of it.

I've found whenever I mention this to people, especially older people, they tend to get a bit critical. A common sentiment seems to be "you should visit your OWN country before you worry about seeing all these foreign places." When you live in a country as big as Canada or the United States I think a lot of people tend to prefer to travel internally, not just because of the economic / time restraints mentioned above, but also, as Jack mentioned, because of sort of sense of cultural obligation to "explore and discover" the vastness and diversity of our native land.

This may be wrong, or undignified, or uncultured or whatever, but I would say that American/Canadian society would generally hold a citizen who had visited all their nation's provinces/states in a higher regard, as both a patriot and an intellectual than someone who had visited all the countries of Europe.

I think this ties into the criticism we've seen expressed in some of these posts towards the so-called American "tourist class" who are often seen as being elitists or liberal snobs. Everyone wants their tourists to be good ambassadors of their home nation, but when a tourist is someone like me, who has only seen a fraction of his own country, I can understand why some would be hostile towards wanting this person to be your "face to the world."

Posted by J.J. on 3 June 2005, 7:30 pm | Link

Pop US: 294mil
Pop UK: 60mil

"After falls in recent years, the number of visits by UK residents to the USA remained unchanged in 2003 at 3.6 million. However a decrease of 7.3 per cent was observed in visits by residents of the USA to the UK. Nevertheless, residents of the USA made 3.3 million visits to the UK and spent

Posted by Monjo on 8 June 2005, 11:33 am | Link

Interesting discussion. I'm an American living in Canada and have also lived a large part of my life in Japan. Is the US an island? A bit. It depends on which "America" you're talking about. Is it the one looking creatively forward to the future, or the other seeking refuge and security in the past?
Is the country geographically and culturally diverse? Yes, but not to the point that a trip abroad with eyes and mind open will be any less stunning or informative. A couple of things are certain regardless of what passport you hold or where you reside; much of what we think of ourselves and others is largely self-perpetuated myth that allows us all too comfortably to "confirm" what we're not and affirm who we wish we were. The second being that if travelling internationally or just to the corner store and your pack of certainties remains intact over the duration of the journey, it all meant precious little.

Posted by mark on 14 June 2005, 12:18 am | Link

I have to question J.J.'s posting. In it s/he states that the "World Tourism Organization...go on to predict that in 2020 most of the world

Posted by Richard on 17 June 2005, 1:08 am | Link

Both Japan's and Germany's population will DECREASE over the next 50 years. By the year 2050 Japan's population is predicted to be cut in half to 65 million. All of Europe's population is expected to decrease in the next 50 years as well.

Posted by Brad on 20 June 2005, 12:30 am | Link

I've just read this entire site and am saddened that so few people have so little that is positive to say about any country. It seems you have to be positive about other countries and negative about your own or vice versa. Why can't we all appreciate each other's good qualities and realize we've all got room for improvement as well? I'm an American living abroad and not once has someone said to me "Oh you're from Virginia, what's it like there?" If I met someone from another country I would immediately invite them over for dinner, to stay with us, and ask them as many questions as they'd let me about their culture. I'd like to see statistices on where children of the world say they'd like to visit. I bet they all dream bigger than the rest of us. I have studied Sociology and Anthropology and statistics can only be a guide at best, they don't always get at people's desires. Who hasn't heard a statistic or sterotype about themselves or their country and not thought "That's not me!" My mother-in-law doesn't have a passport because she's always had a fear of heights and flying, but she adopted 11 orphans from South America and changed the course of her family's lives forever. She is more than a statistic, more than just an ignorant non passport holder.
On this site we've divided ourselves by nationality, what languages we speak-but who of us didn't watch with horror when the tsunami struck last December? Didn't citizens of the world grieve? And didn't they as individuals give generously (perphaps with money they were saving to travel with?). The fact that all of us can read and have internet access puts us in an elite group when compared to the entire world. Aren't there working classes in every country, different levels of education? The one thing we seem to have in common is the propensity to want to compare ourselves and try to determine who's "better."
I live in Belfast, Northern Ireland, which has had it's shares of trials. But people here say they still love it, it's their home. Rather than arguing all these points, many of which are very valid and are starting to repeat themselves, wouldn't it be worthwhile to acknowledge that many basic human values are the same around the world? That wherever "home" is or has been, that there is a value in appreciating where you have lived, do live, and perhaps will live in the future? I love my Virginia home, my American home and I've loved the places I've travelled and I don't think there's any statistic that accurately captures all those feelings. I appreciate everyone's pursuit of accurate data, which is what brought me to this site as well, but I think what I've learned is that using the information like a weapon doesn't really do anything to encourage each other.

Posted by Suellen on 24 June 2005, 1:45 am | Link

Suellen, that was a very nice post, I enjoyed reading it. You must work for the state department.

Posted by Jerry on 30 June 2005, 2:30 am | Link

I just happened to stumble across this site as well after some colleagues of mine in Australia "called me out" on the low rate of passport ownership in America. Just to throw my own two cents in, whether you are a red-blooded, small-town, super patriotic American or a wordly, cultured, ethnically diverse country-hopper (or both), I don't think anyone can argue the value of getting out there and visiting foreign places with an open mind. At worst, it will at least reinforce the idea that "America is the best" or "America just doesn't understand" or whatever other position in between one holds.

Posted by Mario on 1 July 2005, 5:58 am | Link

It was interesting that a

Posted by Richard on 2 July 2005, 11:50 pm | Link

Americain in genereal are not welcome to alot of places through out the world. Why? "Becuase you are closed minded and think that America is the best thing since sliced bread." Sorry my to me America is the greatest thing since

Posted by Skippy on 7 July 2005, 7:27 pm | Link

Skippy... That seems like a bit of a close minded statement you, yourself just made. There is nothing wrong with taking pride in your country.

Posted by Jerry on 8 July 2005, 5:03 pm | Link

Americans as a whole are having a very difficult time at present.
You may say that it is an excuse that we use money as a reason for not travelling or time.
1/3rd of Americans did not take a vacation or only part of their vacation time this past year.
We have double digit inflation rates and stagnant wages.
House prices in Holiday, Florida have gone up 25 percent this past year. Healthcare up 14 percent.
College Education costs up 12 percent this past year.
Get the Picture!
You hard-headed people out there, Get the picture?
My Mother ownes a small busines, she works 16 hour days at times. There have been years that she has not taken any vacation time.
She is 60 years old and is spending $1020.00 per month on Health Insurance with a $3600.00 deducatable.
No Welfare or Unemployment Safety nets for her!
20 percent of the people have good jobs here, the other 80 percent are losing ground.
What do you not get through your heads?

Posted by thomas riccardo on 22 July 2005, 5:41 am | Link

Thomas... What was the point of that post. Some people in America are having hard times? I think that is true for anywhere. And it seems to me that you are defending Americans for not having passports. If you are trying to shamelessly deface Americans, than shame on you. Your points are somewhat vague. If property values in Holiday, FL... which is not a major city by any means... have gone up 25 percent that means that making an investment in this town is a financially secure move. I wish I would have invested in property in this town, i would have some money to show for it.

Thomas, you took an unmerited cheap shot at your own country and that is unfortunate. I cannot fathom why somebody would try to demean America's financial power, that is just odd to me.

Somebody, please post something meaningful that is more than just a cheap shot at america. I am a proud American and I understand that everyone thinks they are better than us because they can drive for an hour and be in France and consider that abroad. Please bring a valid arguement to the table.

Posted by Jerry on 23 August 2005, 9:05 am | Link

Phil, I don't know if you're still reading these comments, but the latest issue of the Economist (27 August) says 34% of Americans over the age of 18 own passports. They don't say where they got the information, though.

The article is online at , but if you're not a subscriber you'll have to pay for it.

Also, the U.S. government is about to require passports for travel to Canada, so the percentage is probably going to go up.

Posted by Laura Brown on 26 August 2005, 3:26 pm | Link

Also, the article says that, by comparison, 41% of Canadians over 18 own passports.

Posted by Laura Brown on 26 August 2005, 3:52 pm | Link

I would like to add that, to a lot of people, the term "American" does not just refer to US citizens, but to citizens of all of America - that is, North, Central, and South, not just "United States of".

Sometimes it seems that people forget that it is the United States *of* America, and think it is United States *is* America.

Also, I lived in the USA for 6 years on an H1B via and it is most definitely required to have a passport to travel within the USA. Also, in practical terms, everyone does need some form of identification almost all the time - usually a driver's license.

In any case, it should be confirmed that the statistics actually do refer to only US citizens.

Posted by Max on 29 August 2005, 11:20 am | Link

I live in Cincinnati, Ohio( I wonder how may people from France have come here?) if I had to have a passport to go to kentucky I would have gotten one when I was a kid(and so would most people in Cincinnati!). I'm a 35 year old engineer and I would love to be able to travel to europe or asia. I have always wanted to see Japan and Austrailia. I would like to visite my relations in Germany. But I can't I have had one, yes one paid one week vacation in my life. I cannot spend four months wages to fly around the planet to spend two days in europe grumpy from jetlag and then turn around and go home. Most of my "vacations" come in the form of three day weekends and a short drive to the smokies is as good as it gets for me. I'm not suprised at how little Europeans understand the geography of the U.S.(how many 160 square mile farms in Italy?) or the way we work and live. Before insulting us make sure you don't make yourself look foolish. I have been to 37 states(countries!) in the U.S. I have also been to mexico and canada, why because I can drive there. If I could drive to Spain I would have been there years ago.

Posted by Thomas on 29 August 2005, 2:44 pm | Link

The whole 'PC' shiboleth that 'America' should somehow indicate everyone from Tierra del Fuego to Point Barrow or else it indicates that the user is an insular citizen of the U.S. is simply absurd. The term arose obviously as a means of shortening an unwieldy name, not to disenfranchise from the international arena everyone to the north and south of US borders. When the average Brazilian or Canadian starts calling themselves an American, I'll sit up and take notice but until then I'm sick of hearing about this non-issue. Likewise I'm tired of hearing this endless garbage every time I go to Britain that Americans are insular because they don't have a high percentage of passport holders. (This coming from a society that willing embraces a plethora of tabloids as their source for daily news of the world!) Yet let the American tourist rate drop as it has lately since the exchange rate has been unfavorable and every B and B owner I visit asks me where the Americans went - their businesses are suffering! American tourists are apparently obnoxious and insular - not to mention everywhere - but their dollars aren't! I could make a very similarly structured argument and express my very real shock at the low percentage of the UK population that attends university, much less how many hold masters and doctoral degrees, and then claim that this somehow accounts for the incredibly entrenched and horrifyingly backward social attitudes and mores, particularly toward women, that I witness there.
Americans are insular? Don't even try to foist that one off on me : I just last week explained to two Brits who King Arthur was and what the Mabanogian is!
The very foundation of an argument that posits one nation or nationality as being this way and another nation or nationality as being that way is flawed in that it overrides the enormous complexity of issues involved and does nothing towards revealing the true dynamics at work. But excuse me, it's a gorgeous day, and I have to get back to my three month long 'holiday allowance'.

Posted by amanda on 29 August 2005, 7:53 pm | Link

Oh, and let me just mention that it was in this century - 2003 to be exact - that I heard an average Brit - one whose job involved use of a computer - explain that black people are black because their mothers had intercourse with Satan.

Yeah, right BBC is doing a GREAT job!

Posted by amanda on 29 August 2005, 8:04 pm | Link

I believe that owning a passport has its advantages. I hate waiting at DMV so whenever my driver's licence is expired, I use my passport to travel within the continental US and for banking and several other stuff. Besides if anything happens and people from the US get rescued to another country I bet you that at least 75% of them would not have a passport handy. And if you ask me, I will say most american fear the thought of leaving their country. over 50% percent of americansI know never even left their town or cities they were born. some say it's not ignorance but i call it so cuz the media does not always tell how green or dry the grass is on the other side.

Posted by Ella on 31 August 2005, 1:28 am | Link

I am an American and very proud of it. I was doing research on living in other countries when I came across this site. I am absolutely appalled. I can not believe how ignorant and unbelievably presumptuous some of you are from other countries!! How dare you even begin to think you know what it is like to be an American?! I was looking to got to school in the UK, but now I am definitely rethinking that possibility. I really had no idea how wide-spread anti-American sentiments run. It is completely naive to say that Americans are not encouraged to care about other countries, that is simply not true. American children are taught tolerance of other countries and religion at a very early age, and it continues into their schooling. But to MOST Americans travel to another country is an unattainable dream. I do not use the word "dream" lightly because for most of us it is something we would absolutely love to do! Frankly, I think Europeans take this privilege for granted. Not only is it terrifying to hear all the anti-American sentiments but most Americans can NOT afford to travel, even to other states. It is also very ignorant to say that we do not appreciate citizens of other countries. When we get to encounter someone from another country we want to know everything we can about them and their way of life. For the most part we are extremely friendly and their political and religious beliefs are not criticized within minutes of meeting them. While you

Posted by LC on 31 August 2005, 5:35 am | Link

LC. You are a great American and it is great to see people like you standing up for Americans like us at this site. America is the third most populous country on the planet, and there are a few bad apples on every tree, but the intentions of Americans are good and always have been

Posted by Jerry on 2 September 2005, 2:35 am | Link

OK --

53 million Americans have passports, or had them as of March 25, 2004, according to Maura Harty, the Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs.


That's about 18 percent of the total population. However, there are 72 million kids under 18 in the country; I have no idea how many of them have passports.

It's an interesting statistic and you can color it different ways. Yes, it sounds awfully low. Still, more than 27 million U.S. residents DID travel abroad in 2004 (Commerce Department) and that sounds like a lot, doesn't it? ;-)

Posted by Jeff on 5 September 2005, 7:04 pm | Link

A recent article in the Canadian newspaper "the National Post" mentioned American passport statistics in passing. I found a copy of the same story online. This was the relevant passage:

"According to research by the Easy Crossing Council, which hopes to change perceptions of long lines at the Peace, Lewiston-Queenston, Whirlpool and Rainbow bridges, just 34 percent of all U.S. citizens 18 or above, and 41 percent of Canadian adults, have a passport."

Posted by J.J. on 17 September 2005, 12:33 am | Link

sorry slightly off topic here, but found this site while trying to find numbers of Americans living abroad. Does anyone have any idea how many American expat's there are around the world???

Posted by QoQ on 18 September 2005, 1:26 am | Link

I will take a damn cheap shot at my own country because first of all I have the damn right so If you don't like it, that's too bad. Secondly if you don't want to hear the truth about 80 percent of the American Population then we have no further comments with each other. I have lived here all my life watching the situation slowly decline for a large portion of the American population and people like you stick up for our Government which is selling us out to foreigner powers left and right. If you choose to ignore that nice little fact then How Pro-American are You?
I have 5 years higher education in business, I have worked for several large corporations, I have trained for several Technical degrees and I can truthfully tell you that for most American our standard is deteriorating.
Everything I said and If you choose to ignore it is backed by stats from the I.M.F., World bank, the econommist magazine as well as most importantly the People I speak to on the streets everyday. I think you should move, I will move when I'm ready not when you tell me!

Posted by thomas riccardo on 24 September 2005, 3:25 pm | Link

And I am the true American for trying to get a response from the people who only care about themselves.

Posted by thomas riccardo on 24 September 2005, 3:29 pm | Link

I will bring some valid points to the table since you want some.
The Euro is higher then the American dollar, We have an 800 billion dollar trade debt, 650 billion dollar Government debt. We are the world's biggest debtors, borrowing money from Japan and Europe. For such poor areas why would we borrow money from them if our financial system is so strong?
It reflects directly on our travel patterns when the economy is not producing jobs that give Americans the time and money to travel to other countries.
1/3rd of Americans the past year took No Vacation!!!
We are a service economy and 1.5 trillion dollars of our wealth that my Father and his Father built up since the early 1900's is being siphoned overseas to Japan and Europe(Germany) the two largest creditor nations in the world.
I have a friend in Germany, her son is going to College and they are paying for it, his healthcare is paid for, and he receives $1,000 Euros monthly to live in while he studies and does his practicum.
The tax rate is about 35 percent, many states around the country when considering the high land taxes, State taxes and so forth have higher tax rates then Germany.
And for your comment about the houses going up 25 % the past year while the wages are stagnant, how is that helping make the country richer? It's called bubble if you know anything about economics and secondly if you sell your house and make alot of money I think the only way to really be richer would be to take it outside of the borders because the inflation is correspondingly increasing with the asset bubbles that are being created by printing and loaning to much money over true economic Growth.
How can we be doing so well if for every dollar of profit in the economy we are accumulating 5 dollars in debt?
This means the inflation is much higher then admitted and therefor many American have economic troubles besides traveling.

Posted by tom on 25 September 2005, 1:50 pm | Link

Want to respond to this comment:
"Yes, all US citizens travelling abroad to places requiring passports need passports

Posted by Richard on 25 September 2005, 8:47 pm | Link

In response to tom, I have a few comments:
1. You can't really compare the European Union to the U.S. The U.S. and Canada could agree to an economic union and would immediately exceed the economic status of the EU. Until the EU, actually becomes a soveriegn nation, comparisons are not valid.

2. We do not have a higher tax rate than Germany. You only mentioned Germany's income tax. You did not mention their VAT tax that they pay on everything they buy. You also did not mention their extremely high gasoline taxes, which makes their gasoline prices around twice ours. If you were to consider ALL taxes paid by both nations, Germany would still be way higher than ours.

3. Housing costs have skyrocketed in many places in the nation. However there are many places in the nation that don't have those ridiculous prices. Where I live is one of them. So you could (and many have), sell their house at a good profit, then move someone where else.

Posted by Richard on 25 September 2005, 9:35 pm | Link

Yes, I could sell our house in Florida and move someplace else. That is a valid point.
Secondly yes they have a Vat tax of 17% in Germany which is true but the prices of the food for example are no more then here in Florida and certain items are cheaper. Milk in Germany is $2.20 a gallon, orange juice is cheaper then here in Florida and Pineapples can be bought for $2.00 for example. Car insurance in Germany $600.00 a year for a new toyota.
In Florida the same car on average would be $1200.00 a year
Electricity for a 1000 square foot flat is around $36.00 a month, heating in the winter in Essen Germany runs around $40.00 monthly for the same flat.
For something similar in Florida such as a Condo, $100.00 a month.
If you live up North in a Small House you can spend $150.00 to $200.00 per Month on heating.
Gasoline is more expensive in Germany but many people use diesal cars which can get 50 miles per gallon.
Germany spends 8 percent of the GDP on Petroleum products, we spend 14 percent.
Healthcare: Germany- 10 percent of GDP
U.S.- 15 percent of GDP.
The U.S. has the most expensive higher education costs in the world.
House Insurance is more expensive here, Medical Insurance is more expensive in the U.S.
Workmans Comp Insurance is more expensive here in the U.S.
And I know what I'm talking about because I've lived in Germany and I have friends there.
I have a friend who owned a house in Clearwater, Florida and she was from Germany. She retired here and stayed for about 5 years, at the beginning the prices were similar to Germany but as time went on she moved to Costa Rica because the cost of living increased Greatly.
When the Government figures inflation they leave Housing, Food, Fuel and many Other items out of the equation basically they only count the cost of many basic consumer items which is maybe 25 percent of the cost of living.
In New York Taxes can run over 40 percent of income not counting land taxes.
In Florida I spend 50 Dollars a month for water.
I spend $30.00 monthly for garbage pickup and also a yearly fee for the incinerator they built here.
My Friend Swetlana pays 36% income tax in Germany, her land tax is $200 a year because land taxes in Europe are generally much cheaper then the U.S.
Water and garbage included.
You won't find this in newspapers nor magazines and you may find it on the internet if you look hard enough but all in all you must experience things yourself and find out what is going on in the world not what they tell you!
I guess If I was a European or Japanese business person and I owned a good portion of the U.S. I would attempt to keep things Hush, Hush while I made my Money off my Colony!
And to Verify that you look at the current account deficit and the Governmental Deficit that we owe them which comebined is 1.5 trillion dollars a year going into foreign hands!
German Media Companies own 60 percent of U.S. book and publishing industry and media all together is 70 percent foreign owned including many of our movie studios. No Influence over the way we think?
There is a word for this-Globalization
Another term would be Neo-colonization.

Posted by thomas riccardo on 26 September 2005, 2:24 am | Link

Mate you should see what we here in Britain pay for our Water Electricty bills and our local council taxes!

We also have a range of what we call 'stealth taxes' which our wonderfiul Chancellor of the Exchequer quietly slips into us.

Posted by Trevor Holcroft on 5 October 2005, 5:38 pm | Link

Mate you should see what we here in Britain pay for our Water Electricty bills and our local council taxes!

We also have a range of what we call 'stealth taxes' which our wonderfiul Chancellor of the Exchequer quietly slips into us.

Posted by Trevor Holcroft on 5 October 2005, 5:53 pm | Link

Yes,Britain probably has the highest cost of living in Europe!
I visited London about 5 years ago and it was very expensive. Britain, like America has been opened up to the profiteers and we are all suffering for it!
Britain lost most of it's industry over the past 30 years and nolonger is a manufacturing country. You say what does that have to do with Taxes and cost of living, everything! The politicians are trying to keep the benefits of the past generations while the country declines industrially. Britain has a huge current account deficit(like America) and is losing vast amounts of wealth to outside profiteers.
Unless the U.S. and Britain both retool our industry, we are both in for a rude awakening and very low standards of living within the near future!
And as the economy goes so goes Democracy-Usually anyway.
America has the most people behind bars and on probation in the world. Britain also has a high incarceration rate compared to the rest of Europe.
France and Germany for instance has much lower rates of inprisonment then our countries.
They too have problems but they are both still very large creditor nations and whatever the media wants to say it basically means they are both very wealthy countries.Germany is the second wealthiest in the world behind Japan and France I believe is the fourth largest creditor meaning they still have a very strong industrial base and corporations.

Posted by thomas riccardo on 7 October 2005, 12:37 am | Link

what is the ethnic breakdown, ad education of most passpor holders in the US. And what occupation do most passport holders have

Posted by Desmond on 11 October 2005, 12:34 am | Link

what is the ethnic breakdown, and education of most passport holders in the US. And what occupation do most passport holders have.

Posted by Desmond on 11 October 2005, 12:35 am | Link

I'm not sure what the ethnic breakdown is for passport holders are but Hispanics and African Americans as a percentage hold less passports then Anglo-Americans because on average they make less money and have fewer assets.
In 2000 the average household income for a passport holder was $87,000 and up.
Average Age of passport holders is 35 and up.
53% of passport holders spent $5,000 or more on trips.
72% are University Graduates.
The economic situation in the U.S. is this: We have a Gini-index approaching 50 which is by far the highest in the industrialized world.
If this continues, in the future America will have the characteristics of a third world country.
For every dollar of profit in the U.S. economy at present, we have 6 new dollars in debt.
IN reality, No Economic Growth but growth in debts which in the future will come due to the Creditors, like Germany and Japan.
The people are in a feeding frenzy over the housing bubble so it blinds them to our situation.
We have the most expensive univeristy system in the world, leaving some without college training and others with massive debts.
We have the most expensive healthcare in the world leaving 50 million without coverage, over 100 million with partial coverage and millions more with massive debt.
We have a massive housing bubble, leaving young workers without the opportunity to buy houses and producing a huge credit bubble.
WE have a huge current account deficit of 800 billion!
We have lost a huge chunk of our manufacturing base, including hightech areas.
We have a Governmental deficit of over 600 billion!
We borrow 1.5 trillion dollars yearly from foreign countries and climbing!
They are buying our assets with this money!
We have 45 trillion dollars in debt throughout the U.S. economy not including S.S. and Medicare liabilities which would be trillions more.
That should explain somewhat why many people do not travel overseas, many people do not take vacations all the time period and many more must bring their work with them on their vacations.
That is what happens when you become a debtor nation!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by thomas riccardo on 13 October 2005, 12:52 pm | Link

I'm not sure what the ethnic breakdown is for passport holders are but Hispanics and African Americans as a percentage hold less passports then Anglo-Americans because on average they make less money and have fewer assets.
In 2000 the average household income for a passport holder was $87,000 and up.
Average Age of passport holders is 35 and up.
53% of passport holders spent $5,000 or more on trips.
72% are University Graduates.
The economic situation in the U.S. is this: We have a Gini-index approaching 50 which is by far the highest in the industrialized world.
If this continues, in the future America will have the characteristics of a third world country.
For every dollar of profit in the U.S. economy at present, we have 6 new dollars in debt.
IN reality, No Economic Growth but growth in debts which in the future will come due to the Creditors, like Germany and Japan.
The people are in a feeding frenzy over the housing bubble so it blinds them to our situation.
We have the most expensive univeristy system in the world, leaving some without college training and others with massive debts.
We have the most expensive healthcare in the world leaving 50 million without coverage, over 100 million with partial coverage and millions more with massive debt.
We have a massive housing bubble, leaving young workers without the opportunity to buy houses and producing a huge credit bubble.
WE have a huge current account deficit of 800 billion!
We have lost a huge chunk of our manufacturing base, including hightech areas.
We have a Governmental deficit of over 600 billion!
We borrow 1.5 trillion dollars yearly from foreign countries and climbing!
They are buying our assets with this money!
We have 45 trillion dollars in debt throughout the U.S. economy not including S.S. and Medicare liabilities which would be trillions more.
That should explain somewhat why many people do not travel overseas, many people do not take vacations all the time period and many more must bring their work with them on their vacations.
That is what happens when you become a debtor nation!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by thomas riccardo on 13 October 2005, 12:53 pm | Link

I'm not sure what the ethnic breakdown is for passport holders are but Hispanics and African Americans as a percentage hold less passports then Anglo-Americans because on average they make less money and have fewer assets.
In 2000 the average household income for a passport holder was $87,000 and up.
Average Age of passport holders is 35 and up.
53% of passport holders spent $5,000 or more on trips.
72% are University Graduates.
The economic situation in the U.S. is this: We have a Gini-index approaching 50 which is by far the highest in the industrialized world.
If this continues, in the future America will have the characteristics of a third world country.
For every dollar of profit in the U.S. economy at present, we have 6 new dollars in debt.
IN reality, No Economic Growth but growth in debts which in the future will come due to the Creditors, like Germany and Japan.
The people are in a feeding frenzy over the housing bubble so it blinds them to our situation.
We have the most expensive univeristy system in the world, leaving some without college training and others with massive debts.
We have the most expensive healthcare in the world leaving 50 million without coverage, over 100 million with partial coverage and millions more with massive debt.
We have a massive housing bubble, leaving young workers without the opportunity to buy houses and producing a huge credit bubble.
WE have a huge current account deficit of 800 billion!
We have lost a huge chunk of our manufacturing base, including hightech areas.
We have a Governmental deficit of over 600 billion!
We borrow 1.5 trillion dollars yearly from foreign countries and climbing!
They are buying our assets with this money!
We have 45 trillion dollars in debt throughout the U.S. economy not including S.S. and Medicare liabilities which would be trillions more.
That should explain somewhat why many people do not travel overseas, many people do not take vacations all the time period and many more must bring their work with them on their vacations.
That is what happens when you become a debtor nation!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by thomas riccardo on 13 October 2005, 12:54 pm | Link

I'm not sure what the ethnic breakdown is for passport holders are but Hispanics and African Americans as a percentage hold less passports then Anglo-Americans because on average they make less money and have fewer assets.
In 2000 the average household income for a passport holder was $87,000 and up.
Average Age of passport holders is 35 and up.
53% of passport holders spent $5,000 or more on trips.
72% are University Graduates.
The economic situation in the U.S. is this: We have a Gini-index approaching 50 which is by far the highest in the industrialized world.
If this continues, in the future America will have the characteristics of a third world country.
For every dollar of profit in the U.S. economy at present, we have 6 new dollars in debt.
IN reality, No Economic Growth but growth in debts which in the future will come due to the Creditors, like Germany and Japan.
The people are in a feeding frenzy over the housing bubble so it blinds them to our situation.
We have the most expensive univeristy system in the world, leaving some without college training and others with massive debts.
We have the most expensive healthcare in the world leaving 50 million without coverage, over 100 million with partial coverage and millions more with massive debt.
We have a massive housing bubble, leaving young workers without the opportunity to buy houses and producing a huge credit bubble.
WE have a huge current account deficit of 800 billion!
We have lost a huge chunk of our manufacturing base, including hightech areas.
We have a Governmental deficit of over 600 billion!
We borrow 1.5 trillion dollars yearly from foreign countries and climbing!
They are buying our assets with this money!
We have 45 trillion dollars in debt throughout the U.S. economy not including S.S. and Medicare liabilities which would be trillions more.
That should explain somewhat why many people do not travel overseas, many people do not take vacations all the time period and many more must bring their work with them on their vacations.
That is what happens when you become a debtor nation!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by thomas riccardo on 13 October 2005, 12:56 pm | Link

I'm not sure what the ethnic breakdown is for passport holders are but Hispanics and African Americans as a percentage hold less passports then Anglo-Americans because on average they make less money and have fewer assets.
In 2000 the average household income for a passport holder was $87,000 and up.
Average Age of passport holders is 35 and up.
53% of passport holders spent $5,000 or more on trips.
72% are University Graduates.
The economic situation in the U.S. is this: We have a Gini-index approaching 50 which is by far the highest in the industrialized world.
If this continues, in the future America will have the characteristics of a third world country.
For every dollar of profit in the U.S. economy at present, we have 6 new dollars in debt.
IN reality, No Economic Growth but growth in debts which in the future will come due to the Creditors, like Germany and Japan.
The people are in a feeding frenzy over the housing bubble so it blinds them to our situation.
We have the most expensive univeristy system in the world, leaving some without college training and others with massive debts.
We have the most expensive healthcare in the world leaving 50 million without coverage, over 100 million with partial coverage and millions more with massive debt.
We have a massive housing bubble, leaving young workers without the opportunity to buy houses and producing a huge credit bubble.
WE have a huge current account deficit of 800 billion!
We have lost a huge chunk of our manufacturing base, including hightech areas.
We have a Governmental deficit of over 600 billion!
We borrow 1.5 trillion dollars yearly from foreign countries and climbing!
They are buying our assets with this money!
We have 45 trillion dollars in debt throughout the U.S. economy not including S.S. and Medicare liabilities which would be trillions more.
That should explain somewhat why many people do not travel overseas, many people do not take vacations all the time period and many more must bring their work with them on their vacations.
That is what happens when you become a debtor nation!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by thomas riccardo on 13 October 2005, 12:56 pm | Link

would you by any chance know how many US citizens visit Canada Annually ,

How many of them own properties in Canada ??????????

Thanks Hannah

Posted by hannah on 2 November 2005, 6:01 pm | Link

I read that in 2003 16 million American tourists visited Canada.
At the present time you do not need a passport but within a few years the U.S. Government will require Canadians crossing the border to have their passports so Americans also will need Passports to visit Canada.
I also read that the U.S. Government now wants Canadian Tourists who stay more than 1 month to seek permission.
It looks like in the future the border may nolonger be open as it has been in the past.
The number of Americans buying realestate in Canada has greatly increased the past few years partly because of the politics in Washington and also in certain areas Canadian Realestate is cheaper than U.S. and the U.S. dollar(at least for now)is still higher.
Many are second homes and some are actually moving to Canada to live and work, also some retirees.

Posted by thomas riccardo on 6 November 2005, 12:35 am | Link

Also, when in Europe you only need to show your passport once when entering at the airport or port. You can travel to 27 countries at present, more in the future and they all have open borders. Basically like traveling from one State to another.
The E.U. is like another United States except these are countries coming together.
Most countries use the Eurodollar and the ones that don't many times still accept it.

Posted by thomas riccardo on 6 November 2005, 12:45 am | Link

Also, when in Europe you only need to show your passport once when entering the E.U. at the airport or port. You can travel to 27 countries at present, more in the future and they all have open borders. Basically like traveling from one State to another.
The E.U. is like another United States except these are countries coming together.
Most countries use the Eurodollar and the ones that don't many times still accept it.

Posted by thomas riccardo on 6 November 2005, 12:50 am | Link

As has previously been stated by a number of people, both European and US citizens, the US is made up of 50 states each easily the size of a European country. To compare simply the number of people with passports in Europe or America is not really a fair comparison since international travel from the US usually constitutes intercontinental travel - how many people in Europe have travelled outside their own continent? The majority of British holidaymakers go to Spain, France, Italy or other European countries, and the majority of intercontinental travellers go to the US! I have no idea of the holiday habits of other European countries, but I would imagine the statistics are largely the same.

Posted by Richard Wood on 9 November 2005, 2:06 pm | Link

It is really amazing to me how people of one country seem to focus on what is supposedly different or worse about the people of another country instead of focusing on what traits and similarities they share. In the case of the UK and the US, can you possibly think of two cultures that are more similar among the larger nations of the world? As an American who has lived in France, currently lives in the UK and has travelled to 40 countries the UK is definitely the only place I've ever felt at home or something close to it, besides home.

Posted by Tom Herman on 10 November 2005, 2:13 pm | Link

Americans are usually unaware of world geography/hitory/current affaires. Some can't tell whether Holland is in the far East or not and whether Scandinavia is actually a city in Nevada. You can go through the education system and get your degree without the need to study world history/geography. The result is that most americans think that everything outside the US is either 'void' or some kind of 'MadMax Land' where they should not travel in case they can't find food, water or shelter... In this context; who needs a passport!!!???

It is sad to see such nice people with such great potential totally wasted due to a poor education system. Having an Orangutan as a president doesn't help much either ;-)

Posted by Gorka on 10 November 2005, 4:31 pm | Link

Americans are usually unaware of world geography or hitory or current affaires. Some can't tell whether Holland is in the far East or not and whether Scandinavia is actually a city in Nevada. You can go through the education system and get your degree without the need to study world history or geography. The result is that most americans think that everything outside the US is either 'void' or some kind of 'MadMax Land' where they should not travel in case they can't find food, water or shelter... In this context; who needs a passport!!!???

It is sad to see such nice people with such great potential totally wasted due to a poor education system. Having an Orangutan as a president doesn't help much either ;-)

It is sad to see such nice people with such great potential totally wasted due to a poor education system.

Posted by gorka on 10 November 2005, 4:33 pm | Link

The americans are IDIOTS! I am quite glad that many don't own a passport so they can stay way from england and the rest of us. They think they own the world but have no knowledge of it; they are ignorant and have no concept of other cultures!

Posted by british on 12 November 2005, 2:51 pm | Link

Poor "British" !

Luv, I can understand why you would like to insulate yourself from the barbarian hordes of my fellow countrymen (though, in fairness, their ancestors fought two wars in the distant past to establish that precedence themselves....).

We're an incorrigible lot. As an American citizen, I often empathise with our great comedian, Grouch Marx, who said "I wouldn't want to be a member of any party that would have me as a member."

Without a doubt, there is much truth in your vitriol. America, to paraphrase Dickens, is "the best of countries and the worst of countries." Alpha/Omega; Yin/Yang; we've got it all. The occasional great leader; and as someone above mentioned, the occasional "Orangutan". I personally vacillate between hope, despair, pride, and shame at regular intervals. (And comedy and tragedy, just to add a touch of Shakespeare.)

However, it is a shame, as a son/daughter of a great commercial empire (and, yes, one that left many scars along its own studded history - geezus: Opium Wars? Slave trade? Boer concentration camps?, et al) that you personally haven't progressed past all the rubbish that paints cultures intrinsically as "good" or "bad". While greatly admiring your own country and it's 'give-it-a-go, stiff-upper-lip' mindset, some of the most ignorant, prejudicial, and 'ugly' people I've ever met (football, anyone?)live within your misty isles - nor are they necessarily confined to poor, uneducated, non-travellers. But I could say the same for many countries I've visited... and that's the point, Luv.

I would assume from your diatribe about cultural ignorance, that you would wish not to be seen as the poster child for those aforementioned hooligans. But it seems to me -- that like many of my fellow Yanks -- you, too, could use a touch-up session with "Gulliver's Travels."

"Travel is the bane of all prejudice" -
(Mark Twain, aka Samuel Clemens - a great, if somewhat pedestrian, American author)

Stephen, world citizen

Posted by stephen banick on 14 November 2005, 8:04 pm | Link

I think that most Americans are afraid of travel to other countires mainly, because of the anti-Bush vibe that other countries have. Over time the Anti-Bush vibe has changed to anti-Americanism. That is unfair to us Americans who didn't vote for that basterd Bush. I didn't vote for him-ever! Yet, Americans are getting harrassed, put down, and assaulted! We don't treat you foreighners bad. We're very nice to you Brits, French, and ARABS! Especially nice to you ARABS! When it was ARABS who crashed planes into the world trade center! When it's muslims that teach anti-americanism. America may have her flaws but I'm sure England has hers, too. BUSH SUCKS and so do his supportors!

Posted by Angry American on 26 November 2005, 2:35 am | Link

Yeah, see, We have stereotypes for you, too. Not ALL Americans are idiots just like not all British people are ugly and have rotting teeth. I'm glad I don't own a passport. I wouldn't want to go to your boring country where it rains all the damn time. I love America. She's beautiful. I can go where it snows. I can go where it rains. I can go where it's sunny. Oh, lucky me! I live in sunny California. Whatever I'm feeling America has a place for me. No wonder you guys hate us. P.S. tell your people to stay out of our country!

Posted by The British have bad teeth and are very unattracti on 26 November 2005, 2:45 am | Link

I find all these statistics on the percentage of Americans owning passports fascinating. To suggest that going to Chinatown in a US state gives an accurate representation of China is ridiculous, to suggest that there are many more areas of interest in America than Australia is equally naive. People have also likened travel in Europe to travelling around America- I would seriously challenge this presumption. There are huge cultural diversities within every European country let alone across the whole of Europe. In Poland and the Czech Republic for example you have countries still emerging from communism (are Americans aware that this even occured), you have the huge variety of nationalities within individual nations let alone across Europe. I also think that Americans perhaps dont realise that Europe does consist of more than just Britain, Germany, France and Italy! There is a whole area called Scandanavia which has vastly different ways of living to the British and the rest of Europe. There are well over 30 nations (Turkey, Bulgaria, Azerbaijan, Slovakia, Ukraine, Belarus, Armenia, Slovenia, Croatia and Malta to name a few) in Europe each with its own peculiarites which without wishing to offend Americans is far more diverse than I think you will find in your nation. Its also not so cheap for us Europeans to go to places in Asia and Africa but we still go because we value the learning experience. When I travelled to Japan i didn't do it just to say I had been there I did it because I was incredibly interested in the people and their way of life and perhaps Americans could learn something from this.I think the person who quoted that "Travel is the best education" had it exactly right. Travel teaches you more than a years worth of lectures will ever do because you are constantly seeing things different from the comfort zone that we all live in when we are in our own country- we learn not only about other people and cultures but also a lot about ourselves. Perhaps if more Americans travelled abroad you would see that other countries are permitted more leave time from work than yourselves and that is something that perhaps could be challenged and possibly changed in your own country if enough Americans were aware of it. If I were to ever quote the statistics about the small numbers of Americans who have passports it would not be to insult Americans it would be because I genuinely feel sympathy that the najorty of Americans are missing out on a quite amazing experience- call that patronising if you like but it's the way I feel. So I will be hoping that more Americans apply for passports for no other reason than it will benefit them as individuals, as a nation as a whole and hopefully th rest of the world too.

Posted by Tim on 29 November 2005, 11:11 am | Link

Europeans can catch ryan-air and hop around the continent for less than 10 euros.
Americans can catch a cold packed in an overpriced seat on a 747 for 15 hrs to get to the same locales.
A lot of Americans do travel to Mexico & Canada - both of which do not require passports. (i'm sure you can glean hard stats online)
Lastly, most importantly, Americans work longer hours and have less time off. In a purely capitalist environment, one must work for their education, success, healthcare, and retirment. There is no socialized subsidy to pad the pockets of its middle class.
Besides, just like someone mentioned above, America has every climate and recreational pursuit you can imagine at hand.

Posted by Minnesnowta on 12 December 2005, 11:14 pm | Link

Tom Herman, says he is “an American who has lived in France, currently lives in the UK and has travelled to 40 countries the UK is definitely the only place I’ve ever felt at home or something close to it, besides home”. It is great to hear that you feel at home in the UK, but I have to challenge your comment that “In the case of the UK and the US, can you possibly think of two cultures that are more similar among the larger nations of the world?” Perhaps, you may not consider Australia and New Zealand ‘larger nations’, but they are definitely both more culturally similar to the UK than the UK and US. I would imagine that other Commonwealth countries such as South Africa or Canada are also, as I have observed on my world travels that people from these countries seem to ‘click’ with people from the UK in the same way Ozzies and Kiwi’s do. Yes America and the UK may have many similarities, and we are (rightly) extremely welcoming to Americans and people of all countries but I think that there are many countries we are far closer to culturally. I probably don’t need to give examples, but will give 2 anyway. In the UK a ‘gay marriage’ law has just been passed (without any fuss or protest) giving such ‘civil partners’ exactly the same rights as married couples. An American commentator in the London Times stated that this showed how culturally different the two countries were as such a move in the US would likely be met with much protest and probably not pass into law. Example 2: The biggest sporting event in the UK this year was the Ashes Cricket test between England and Australia, and the biggest sporting event in Australia in 2007 will be the return series, but cricket hardly warrants a mention in the US media perhaps because there is no US involvement.

Angry American says “I think that most Americans are afraid of travel to other countries mainly, because of the anti-Bush vibe that other countries have.” I think this hits the nail on the head. I recently completed a 13 county 8 month world tour, and was shocked at the bad attitudes American’s experience from other travellers. For example, I met an American (Eddie) while travelling in Chile, and he told me that he gets a lot of negative comments from other travellers, about US foreign and environmental policy, and the assumption that as an American he must be a supporter of George Bush/Republican policy. Eddie explained that it was mainly Canadians and Europeans making criticisms of the U.S. but in fact the biggest critics of Bush/U.S. policy were Americans such as himself, and that over 50 percent of Americans are not supporters of Bush. My advice to travellers is; 1. Don’t be hard on American travellers. 2. Don’t assume all U.S. citizens are Bush supporters and support American foreign/environmental policy. 3. Basically, give people a chance! Perhaps if people from other countries are more tolerant then America passport ownership will increase.


Posted by Rich on 28 December 2005, 10:14 am | Link

These tax comparisons are completely false. I have lived and worked in Britain, Germany, CZech Republic, the US and Canada. The lowest taxed nation by far of these is the US. Mr. Riccardo is no accountant, as he mentions the top tax rate for Americans while not mentioning that these rates kick in about 100,000 higher than the top rates in Britain, Canada or Germany. Additionally, in the US there are massive deductions!! HELLO! This has not been even mentioned in his rants. In Canada, I will pay at the same earnings rate (I am at the highest marginal rate in all these countries) $30,000 more in personal income tax - Then ad in Canadian Govt pension plan and employment insurance for an additional $5000. That is significant. And he speaks of high land taxes!?!?! In Britain I paid double, in Canada where I live in a smaller city, I pay about the same as in Atlanta - which is rather high for the US. I rented in Germany and Czech, so I am unaware if the property taxes. I hope Mr. Riccardo does not do his own taxes!

Posted by C Tabb on 29 December 2005, 10:00 pm | Link

The Economist's "The World in 2006," published in December 2005, states on page 41 that "Only about 20% of Americans have passports." (Subscriber-only version of article at )

Posted by Ert Dredge on 8 January 2006, 8:42 pm | Link

as an american who has travelled extensively, i believe we do get a bad rep abroad because of our government. however, if you come in with a self-deprecating attitude about it and actually get to know your fellow travellers, this stereotype fades fast. i've been told "you've really changed my opinion of americans" by other travellers on more than one occasion, which is disturbing because it makes me think about what kind of image our country is portraying to the rest of the world.

i also feel the biggest factor leading to few americans travelling is the lack of cultural acceptance. if you don't get a job or go to grad school right after college, or don't go to college right after high school, you are considered abnormal. it's just not socially accepted the way it is in england, australia, israel, etc.

also, it is very difficult for americans to get work visas for extended trips. brits can get working holiday visas to australia real easy, while for us it involves a long and costly process to get a 4-month work permit.

finally, to those who say that america offers as much to see within its borders as the rest of the world, that is complete garbage. going to europe for the first time is such an eye-opening experience because even very minor differences (the cars are smaller, the urinals flush differently, etc.) are incredibly noticeable to those who have never left the states. california and new york are very different, but they both feel like the U.S. my biggest realization from travelling for the first time was "oh, not everyone lives the same way we do, there's not one universally accepted way to do things". this is a lesson that people without passports will never learn.

Posted by Dave on 9 January 2006, 1:13 am | Link

I find the term 'American' vague - being Brazilina and part of the Americas I would urge the inclusion of the USA's central and southern neighbours. Including Central and South America - then I guess my maths tells me that only 3% of 'Americans' have passports mainly because the people who don't cannot afford them. So stopping picking on the less affluent.

Another statistic - South America has won more FIFA world cup titles than Europe - so next time think twice before saying Americans do not understand football.

Posted by Flavia Lagnado on 10 January 2006, 12:28 am | Link

I find the term 'American' vague - being Brazilian and part of the Americas I would urge the inclusion of the USA's central and southern neighbours.

Including Central and South America - then estimates change to only 3% of 'Americans' having passports.
Mainly because the people who don't cannot afford them. So stopping picking on the less affluent.

Another statistic - South America has won more FIFA world cup titles than Europe - so next time think twice before saying Americans do not understand football.

Plus South America has lots of llamas, none of which have passports - but some are found in zoos all over the world - so one cannot conclude that passports are an essential tool in acquiring a cosmopolitan lifestyle.

Posted by Flavia Lagnado on 10 January 2006, 12:31 am | Link

Apologies - my lack of education (despite holding a passport) = do not know how to write proper English or post blogs messages

Posted by Flavia Lagnado on 10 January 2006, 12:34 am | Link

I should like to thank Phil for starting this post, and everyone else who has contributed. For academic purposes, I have recently needed to write a letter to President Bush. I chose a theme that centred on the topic of this thread and have read every post with great interest. Indeed, the ideas of most have been very helpful and some, quite inspirational. I have pasted below what I wrote in return. I hope some of you find what I have written to be interesting and even useful in your own research.

Mr Bush,

Recently, at a café in a small town in Kansas, a waitress asked me where I was from. I replied “the UK”. She said “I am fine, thanks, but where are you from?”. I repeated my answer but to no avail. In isolation, this dialogue could be put down to the waitress not understanding my British accent. However, it got me thinking. What other reasons there could be for the waitress’s failure to understand that I come from a country called the “UK”? And what are the implications? Americans do have a reputation for being somewhat insular, poorly travelled and unaware of their global surroundings – I wonder, is that fair and, if so, could it be the cause of the waitress’s apparent mistake?

Subsequent research has turned up some interesting statistics. In 2004, only 53m Americans – 18% of the population – had passports (1). Of those, the majority were held by residents of only four states: New York, Washington, Florida and California (2), notably wealthier coastal states, with better educated populations than average. In 1998, only 9% of Americans travelled outside North America – extrapolated figures indicate that today’s figure is only 13% (3).

Perhaps this apparent lack of appetite for international travel is to be expected, with the country being so large and having so much to see and do within it. Travel distances and costs are often high, both to international airports and the destinations they serve. And Americans typically only get 2-4 weeks vacation per year so they don’t have as much time to travel as, say, Europeans, the majority of whom have passports and who travel extensively. But Europe is not a fair comparison because short distances and low costs make international travel easy. But what about Australians? They are arguably comparable to Americans in terms of their economic means to travel, vacation time and the physical characteristics of their country, yet at 53%, nearly three times the number of Australians have passports than Americans (4). And, in 2005, 23% of Australians travelled regularly to international destinations (19% if New Zealand is excluded), which is almost double the proportion of travelling Americans (5).

This apparent reticence continues in the field of education. In 2003 only 1.7% of the total global population of tertiary students studying outside their home country is from the United States, whereas, in comparison, Europe (EU15), which has a similar population size to the US, contributes nearly 16.9% to the total (6). It is notable that Asia (which includes China, India, some ex-Soviet states and the Middle East) contributes 45.8%. So it does seem to be the case that the American People are significantly less well-travelled than others in the world with similar opportunity, and that therefore there may be a case to support their reputation. But why and what are the consequences?

Looking at American attitudes to news and current affairs, a survey found that “the number [of Americans] who follow overseas news closely has grown from 14% to 21% [since 1999] but that a solid majority of the public (61%) continues to track international news only when major developments occur. By comparison, solid majorities keep up with national and local news (53%, 56% respectively) most of the time, not just when something important happens.” (7) This, combined with the fact that TV in the US is driven by ratings, helps to explain the limited amount of international coverage from news services such as CNN and Fox – perhaps the two perpetuate each other. From this, it could be concluded that Americans are simply not as interested in the rest of world as their peers. A logical explanation for this may lie in education and culture.

Europeans and Australasians are taught from an early age to look beyond their borders – they are encouraged to go out and explore the world to “complete their education”, with young people often taking a “gap year” between school and work to do just that. Yet Americans are not, primarily due to intense competition in their labour markets, where “globe trotting”, unless part of a structured educational programme, is generally frowned upon (8). Anecdotally, it seems that Americans are taught to look inwards and to celebrate their own country and its history. That is not to make a judgement as to who is right and who is wrong, but with that background, there is no wonder that, relatively speaking, Americans are not well travelled. They used to be. In fact, they used to travel more than anyone back in the 1950s, which may help to account for America’s economic position in the world today. But, Mr Bush, your government is now making decisions on behalf of others that the people who elected you know and care very little about. These are often big decisions that affect all of us (Iraq being a classic example), which strikes me as dangerous, both to the American People and the rest of the world.

Perhaps of greater concern to Americans would be the future of the United States in the emerging global economy. If the majority have their backs to the 3 billion increasingly well educated people (more than 10 times the population of the US) forming the Chinese, Indian and South American emerging economies, so many of whom travel for their education, then they will not see the economic Tsunami that is headed in their direction. Given that there may be some foundation behind the reputation the American People have for being insular, then they could be forgiven for feeling that theirs is the best, that everyone else would do well to adopt. But only because that is what they have been taught. How many Americans truly understand the significance in the global economy of indicators like the huge 5 state power failure of 2003; the country’s lack of public transport and heavy consequential reliance the motor car and oil; power and cell phone networks run on different standards from much of the rest of the world (9); the government has failed consistently to step in line with other leading countries on environmental issues; trade barriers and record deficits? I propose that the education system, lack of travel and the US media does little to help the majority empathise with the rest of the world and so see potential improvements and alternatives to the American Way, or indeed wisdom that exists elsewhere in cultures that are more mature than their own.

My conclusion – I worry for America. Is it ready for the new global economy? Are the people ready to compete? Are they embracing competition and rising to the challenges and opportunities that it presents? Are they equipped to leverage the knowledge present in other cultures? Or have they become fearful, retreating behind their own borders, slipping into protectionist trade practices, hoping their inexorable consumerism will prevent the American Dream from turning to a nightmare?

Mr Bush, do you agree that, if the American People’s view of the rest of the world is allowed to prevail unchanged, the American Dream could, in fact, become a nightmare? And if you do, remembering that those coastal states with higher proportions of passport holders did not vote for you in the last Presidential elections, what are you doing about it?

1 Maura Harty, Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs in a speech to the Migration Policy Institute in March 25, 2004
2 US Office of Central Statistics
3 US Census Bureau - Statistic Abstract of the United States: 2000 – Sec 7 Parks Recreation and Travel
4 Australian Dept of Foreign Affairs and Trade – Annual Reports
5 Australian Bureau of Statistics - 3401.0 Overseas Arrivals and Departures, Australia, 2005
6 OECD – Education at a Glance 2005
7 PEW Research Center – June 2002
8 The Backpacker Boon – Jeff Jarvis, Victoria Peel, Autumn 2005
9 Power: 45/215 countries run on ~120V, the rest run on ~230V. Of the 45, only Japan, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, Canada, United States, Venezuela and Mexico are significant economies. Source:

Posted by Dan Margetts on 20 January 2006, 8:34 pm | Link

Great stuff! Again, a bit off course but the diverse ideas and arguments are certainly entertaining. Mostly wise sentiments with a few potshots from the Knothead Contingent thrown in!

I have worked in Saudi Arabia for the past two years on a contract that is manned by a majority of guys from the UK and Australia. I am one of the few people from the States on the contract and I was interested in the "passport issue." Sadly, I am not surprised by many of the statistics and personal testimonies in this forum. I won't repeat all of the great points mentioned previosly- except the most important one (in my humble opinion) from Jan 9th that was contributed by Dave. "Listen and be Self-Deprecating!"

I too have had the phrase of "You are a different kind of American," thrown my way. Compliments are nice, but again as Dave mentioned, it made me think. "How can I be the voice of reason?" I am not a Bush supporter nor do I support what the "other side" has to offer. Is that not the key? I am not obligated to "sides." I listen to ideas! Open your minds!

I have enjoyed great conversations on 6 continents. In bars. On mountains. In the water. At rock concerts. At museums. In airports. On trains. To borrow a phrase from my UK buddies, "Don't be a loud-mouthed wanker and respect & understanding should flow your way!"



Posted by Glen on 21 January 2006, 2:18 pm | Link

Don't get me wrong i dont hate the US but there are somethings about you that really do annoy other cultures.

Although the world does see the US as being insular but i don't think it is totally because of the lack of travel. It is more to do with the notion that is portrayed that nothing out of the US is of any importance.

Much of what the world see's from the US that potrays the arrogance is the richest country in the world with a third class public health care system. One of the highest unemployment rates in the democratic west and the lowest base wage with a large percentage of your population living below the poverty line.

What the world knows of the US is that you are very rigid in the teaching of US history, whilst this in istelf cannot be faulted because of it's contribution the founding of the US nationalism it is at the expense of the world history, social and current global affairs.

On internet sites across the globe US individuals get very aggressive in the correction of gramar and spelling of other english speaking nationalities. Even though you forget that it is from our grammar and spelling from which Americanism's are derived. To us and the Brits it is you who spell incorrectly, your phoenetic spelling is alien to us but we ignore it and get on.

The US very out of touch with the rest of the world. I was pointed towards a blog relating to the issue of donations by car manufacturers to the NY appeal after Sept 11. It literally tore shreds off some companies because the didn't donate (fiat) or publicly display their donations to the redcross and other charities. This in itself is majorly arrogant. The US, of which the whole population of Australia could fit(with room to grow) in one of your major cities, donated an amount of money to the tsunami appeal that was only slightly higher than that of the Australian govt? Your annual expenditure on military is greater than that of our total budget for a decade.

It is a poor day when the richest counrty in the world cannot be bothered to institute a medi-care system that caters for the masses and allows free health car all citizens and residents and visitors with recipricol rights in their country (Australia-New Zealand). Education and Tertiary studies are not available to all, having to pay upfront for you education puts it out of the reach of the average person.

Doesn't your govt get it that there are better ways? Bush maybe for the 'American People' but he certainly doesn't support you. Not allowing reasonable access to the above is locking out an entire portion of society. It is not only the rich that produces intelligent progeny. Quite often it is the rich who produce the least deserving of education who waste and flaunt it whilst not putting their talents to good use.

It is a very sad day when the govt deliberately keeps tertiary education away from the masses by not instuting a system that allows the student to pay off their debt interst free to the commonwealth govt (and our students riot because they don't have a fair go, at least if you have the brains out here you can attend uni and get a degree irrespective of your socio-economic stance).

As the other gent from the uk pointed out, there is no general acceptance of trades being important unless it gets you famous? We have a technical education system, state run which allows accreditation for anyone in any trade through apprenticeships. from plumbing to panel beating to electrical. It is a sign of our times when plumpers are hearder to book in for doctors and paid just as much.

There are other ways than the 'American way'. In what other country would a movie star be elected Governor and the president originate from the state with highest state sanctioned murders in the country.

It is not your lack of 'passports' and unwilligness to travel that creates your insular society it is your belief that anything occuring outside of US borders is of no consequence.

Eric Bana is a fantastic comedian, Britsh humour is however king.

And PS, it's Koala (not koala bear) kangaroo's don't hop across the front lawn (the non existant front lawn) of the Opera House.

The fact that your oscars have a section on 'foreign' films is also amusing, it is as though just becuase they are foreign they are somehow less that one filmed in the US and that a great foreing film is something of an irregularity. This relfects the attitude that nothing is good enough if its not 'American Made'.

Of all the movies released each year throughout the world the are a few exceptional US films and a hell of a lot of medicore ones where as coutnries like the UK, India, Germany and France, Hong Kong, NZ, Aus, Korea and Japan are churning out world class movies that are intelligent, entertaining thrilling and above all more worthy of a 'gong' or 'oscar' than many US films. And if they are a comedy it is with the vigour and intelligent humour that gets you thinking with quipps that come from no where rather than the infantile slapstick comedy that originates from the US and is aimed at the 12-13 year old male market.

Posted by Jenny on 26 January 2006, 4:12 am | Link

Oh and yes, LC sorry but reading your paragraph after i posted. You have shown arrogance and ignorance. Almost every english speaking coutnry has signage (street signs and otherwise) that relfects the local population. We (as most countries with immigration) have Chinese quaters, Spanish quaters, Italian quaters, Indian quaters etc The US is not unique in that. Jeeze, the Chinese along with the Italians were our first major non Irish and British immigrants.

Posted by Jenny on 26 January 2006, 4:29 am | Link

Oh and yes, LC sorry but i read your paragraph after i posted. You have shown arrogance and ignorance. Almost every english speaking coutnry has signage (street signs and otherwise) that relfects the local population. We (as most countries with immigration) have Chinese quaters, Spanish quaters, Italian quaters, Indian quaters etc The US is not unique in that. Jeeze, the Chinese along with the Italians were our first major non Irish and British immigrants.

You can walk down the main street of any suburb in the whole Sydney area and see signage in another language.

Posted by Jenny on 26 January 2006, 4:50 am | Link

Spanning over 2.5 million square kilometres (1 million square miles), Western Australia covers one-third of the Australian continent and is the largest State in the world.

Bordered largely by desert to the east, Western Australia is bound by 12,500 kilometres (7,813 miles) of the world's most pristine coastline to the west.

Australia is the sixth largest country in the world. It's about the same size as the 48 mainland states of the USA and 50% larger than Europe, but has the lowest population density in the world - only two people per square kilometre.

curtosey of

And you think the states are big!

PS LC, yes most countries do have other languages on their signage. most ocuntries have their own china town, little italy, spanish quater etc. It isn't something that is uniquly American.

We have the golden sand and blue ocean that many crave but the god-damned humidity and all of our deadly creatures could kill you before you get into the water.

Posted by Jenny on 26 January 2006, 5:00 am | Link

3 billion well educated? Where? Not in China nor India, that's for sure and certainly not any time soon if at ever.

Wheeew, I'm done laughing. That must mean there are 300million currently in the US, when in fact only 20-25% of the US is college educated (recently reported as being higher than Western Europe BTW).

Posted by mike on 27 January 2006, 3:37 am | Link

Just want to say "brilliant" to Dan Margetts' column of 20 Jan. Very well thought out, very "gentlemanly", and respecting of all those who wish to engage in constructive discussion instead of alienating our cultures like philistines.

Bush won in 2000 with less than 50% of the popular vote, due to the technicality of our state-by-state "winner take all" category (the final decision, referred to the U.S.Supreme Court by virtue of Florida's deadlock, threw the decision to Jr. by a 5-4 partisan split). Four years later, even after referring to himself as a "wartime" leader in some kind of ridiculous Churchillian-vein, he barely won again, and it all came down to a few counties in central Ohio who were convinced that "Moral values" (whatever the hell those are) were the most important thing in the election, because Bush's Machiavellian managers knew how to wave the right carrot in front of the right donkeys - religious fundamentalists. (It also resulted from the opposition party fronting a highly intelligent, but very flaky guy,Kerry, who's "blowing in the wind" personality didn't help him any)

so we're stuck with this bozo, and shame on us, but if its any consolation his "approval" ratings are down under 40% and the incumbent party is going to get its ass-kicked in the midterm elections this year (by a bunch of guys who aren't much better, to tell the truth), thus making him even more of a "lame duck" for the 2 years thereafter. Do not, however, my international friends, doubt his ability (and that of his handlers) to concoct another war, to once more issue shrill edicts about "bad guys" and "axis' of evil" (not that those are necessarily fiction) in order to whip the sheep - e.g. the usually misinformed American voter - once more into a fearful, bleating frenzy. This time, however, I think W's bubble has popped - (we usually drift back towards the center after going too far left or right), and his remaining 2 1/2 years are going to fade into history and antiquity. It appears that the Chicken-Little "sky is falling" tactic is wearing thin (not that we don't realize there's some truth to the need for vigilance, but rather the one-size-fits-all "big stick" is not always the best way to handle things.) Let's hope that that's all they're known for. W, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rove are capable of so much more.. let's hope we don't find out what that is. Even then, I believe the corruption trials which are going to start this summer will at least neutralize, if not remove,these extremists' bluster.

Whoever above made the comment is correct, that by far, the biggest resistance to the cabal of Bush & Co. are Americans. I too have taken the wrath (or subtle condescendence) of non-Americans in my travels, not based on whatever virtues I may or may not possess, but on whom I'm associated with. That's ignorant, folks, grow up. Maybe finally, if W's boys are gradually getting defanged, America has a chance to rejoin the family of nations as "an insider" instead of "outsiders" - not that others are necessarily "right" either, all the time - but we sure as hell need each other, in case anyone's not paying attention.

"We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring
will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time." - T.S. Eliot

Posted by stephen banick on 31 January 2006, 4:16 pm | Link

Dang, I can't believe the liberals are still moaning about the loss...even the SECOND time! lol

I pitty the sore losers.

Bush's percentage is hovering just above 40% which is really good, I think, considering he's in a very unpopular war. Imagine all those that would shut up if we pulled out of Iraq...but, still, we'd have to hear the hippies complain about their presidential hopefulls losing not once, but TWICE to the same man!!

Silence the big mouth liberals from the web and you'd find that most of America does not support the cindy sheehan, tie die t-shirt wearing crowd!

Last time I checked our allies were referring Iran (part of the axis of evil) to the UN security council. Last time I chcked, Poland, Britain, Japan, etc, had troops in Iraq. The last time I checked Brtian was increasing its amount of soldiers in Afghan. The last time I checked George Bush did not squander world support from governments, as the hippies often suggest (they are still living in the extended rhetoric of the Al Gore that likes to think nobody supports the USA...).

Voted Bush...Voted American!~

Posted by wild bill on 3 February 2006, 7:35 am | Link

Some really interesting comments up here.

Flavia - your right it is the USA that has no idea of football.

I just wanted to add as a Brit - and we have taken some stick here too - that Americans don't speak English take for example Aluminum - Aluminium, either way even the great Bill Gates has started to say English - US, English - UK.

The most stupid thing I find about living in England is that we still actually need a passport! I lived in Italy for 3 years and my wife and I travelled all around Europe during the month of August (Italy generally shuts down then) and never had to show a passport once. I fly from the UK to France or even on the boat and I need to show my passport - unbelievable.

However, living in Italy gave me the feeling that seems to be similar throughout this discussion, if you have an area so vast and you dont need a passport why get one. True. However, I would say "history" the USA is very young in comparison and speaking truthfully it doesn't really have a history - there is nothing like travelling outside your boarder and seeing what the world has to offer.

Personally I hate the UK, it is drab and dull, but we dont have bad teeth - scurvy died out when we learnt to eat oranges - crikey Dick Van Dyke has a lot to answer for, I believe 80% of the USA (see I am trying not to say Americans) believe we all go round saying Chim Chim Cherou - luvley time guvnor.

I am not anti-USA, I lived and worked in New Jersey for 9 months and I loved it, both my wife and I would leave here and go back tomorrow. The country has loads to offer and the people are great. Besides the tax is cheaper - for example I pay per month:

Considering £1 = $1.74

Local Tax $208
National Insurance (Health Etc) $447
Income Tax $955
Water Rates $52
Electric & Gas $100
Car Tax $27
TV Licence $18

Petrol Costs around $6.5 per US Gallon roughly $1.72 per litre.

VAT is 17.5% and that is on just about anything and everything including rates although at a reduced level - 5%, even insurance carries IPT (Insuarance Premium Tax)

And god knows what else.

I get paid just over $5000 per month and after taking the basic deductions into account that only leaves $3193, out of that I have to pay a mortgage -$1554 feed my kids (and wife-she does alot and deserves feeding every now and again), put petrol in the car and insure my home and car - I have just realised, I dont earn enough to go on holiday.

Thank god for credit cards. I say lets all move to the USA and we can hop in the car and travel "the world" as one American Idol contestant put it - after saying she had travelled the world Simon asked where, she said Florida, Texas, New York - go figure!

To me the USA is a great place and if the general public in most countries were as nice as they were, my what a place we would live in.

Peace to all, the world needs it - I have not mentioned any stats after all there are lies, damned lies and statistics, besides there are enough up there, I think we all realise that the USA has a low requirement for Passports, it doesn't mean they are ignorant, simply not in need of one.

BTW I think the only reason us Brits have so many passports is it is the only way we can get off this god foresaken Island.

N.B. Love it really, Queen & Green country side, love paying all that money for it, well worth it!

Posted by Merlin on 9 February 2006, 3:56 am | Link

I have read the first half of the posts, and decided that I could wait no longer to say something. Since I have been in London... just over a month now. I have been bombarded with British people here constantly telling me that only 20% of Americans own passports. So the other day I explained it to the 1 millionth person, and I thought it should clear up some confusion. The real reason people cant travel abroad, and therefore do not own passports, is because they cannot afford to. Instead they will drive to a different nearby state, or perhaps cross country if they are lucky. If you were to find some statistics about higher income Americans, and by higher I mean well above the median income level(close to the $100,000/year and above level) there is no doubt that the percentage of passport owners will be significantly higher. But the main issue, is why are British people so obsessed with this fact. Are they using it to talk bad about Americans? I personally believe that that is possibly the most widely known fact by brits about americans... lets see some statistics on that.

Posted by Zach on 16 February 2006, 8:59 pm | Link

Zach speculates that the 20% statistic may be an obsession with British people based on his experience in London, but does not indicate if he has travelled more widely and had experiences elsewhere. I am a Brit and consider myself to be fairly well travelled in Europe, Asia, Australasia, and North and South America. I agree with Zach that the topic of the 20% passport ownership amongst Americans is much quoted, but I have to point out that this is universally brought up by non-Americans as a topic for discussion, and is in no way an obsession of the British (see my post of 2 April 2005 for an example for an American). On my backpacking travels around the globe I have stayed in many hostels, and the topic always seems to come up in discussions, but it is brought up by all nationalities. I have lived in the UK for 33 years, and in 2001 worked on an 18 month UK run project on which 20 Americans worked on, and I cannot remember this statistic being discussed once. In fact the first time I heard the statistic was on a recent 8 month 14 country world tour.

In fact you’ll see from that 2 April 2005 post in this discussion that it seems to be all European’s (not just Brits) and Canadians who seem to delight in bringing up this topic. In fact, I observed that Canadian’s also seem to like to disassociate themselves from Americans by putting Canadian flags on their backpacks so people do not think they are American.

Another point to note about the Brit’s and Anglo-Saxons in general is that we love to “take the p**s” out of everyone. Any Kiwi, Ozzie or South African will know that these cultures love gentle teasing – so with Brits make convict jokes about Australians, and Ozzie’s make jokes about British sporting prowess. Kiwi’s and Ozzie’s take the mick out of each other ceaselessly, but this is actually a term of endearment and down to mutual respect.

I agree with Zach that one of the reasons Americans don’t travel as much as is down to the expense of travelling, but do not agree that the 20% statistic is a British only obsession. As a final comment, I think British and Americans get on very well. While I am not a big fan of the so called political “special relationship” and the Blair/Bush alliance, in general I think Brits are very welcoming to our American cousins, and I have to say that of all the places in the globe I have visited it was in Texas where I found the people most friendly and welcoming.

I have one final comment on reasons why Americans seem to travel less. I have observed that the Americans I have met around the world are generally “well heeled” and older and tend to stay in the more expensive accommodation, so cost is a factor. But many European, Australasian and South African travellers are young and travel on really tight budgets (and work as they travel). But I see there is another factor at play that is a cultural phenomenon where young people are encouraged to “see the world” at a young age (usually between school and employment, or university and employment) whereas from speaking to American friends I think this is not the case and such time out is frowned upon. It would be interesting to hear the views of others on this.

Thanks to Phil for the discussion board.

Posted by Rich on 19 February 2006, 1:24 pm | Link

My own view.
I am a Brit who has travelled the world and seen which Nationalities seem to travel the most. British, Israeli, Canadian, Kiwi's, Aussies.
I have been living in the Caribbean for over 12 years.Americans are there the most plus i found them to go Mexico, Costa Rica.Like someone pointed out though some of these countries Americans do not need passports.

The reason i seem to think that they are not big travellers outside of their country is this.
I have experianced from many Americans that they know alot about history and geography within the US. Outside of the US they do not know much at all.
I have asked Americans about how they were taught at school and this seems to be the way.

Also the news and media spends a high percentage of the time talking about US news not what is going on outside of the country, unless it involves American troops for example.
You watch BBC and you get a taste of world news.

Now i know America is a beautiful country and it has alot to offer on many scales.
I do feel though that the Government would rather their citizens spend money within their own shores.
Americans are not ignorant to what is going on outside of their country nor are they ignorant of what other countries can offer in culture and enviroment. They are just not informed from a very young age and this is the way they are brought up.
I love American people because they are so open and friendly, much more than my own British citizens.
My findings are just on asking and observing and listening.

Posted by Chris on 20 February 2006, 3:07 am | Link

A couple things:

The DOS passport statistics page has moved here:

I'd like to update the statistics using the same rough methodology that Phil did at the top. The sum of passports issued from 1994 to 2004 is 72.8m. The approximate population as of 2004 is 295m. By division, we get an estimate that 24.6% of the population are passport holders.

This really seems like a statistic that should be available on the DOS's website.

Posted by Nick on 21 February 2006, 10:31 pm | Link

Many Americans travel to Europe after their last year of high school("senior trip") but these trips can be rather costly.

Posted by Janel on 22 February 2006, 4:04 pm | Link

I'm an American that began my worldly travels while in college. It's definitely not a cheap thing to do, but the ways I've changed personally have far outweighed the costs. I wish there was a way to compare those with passports to those without in terms of their tolerance for other cultures and different ideologies.

Posted by matt on 23 February 2006, 9:43 pm | Link

Dan Margetts' post of Jan 20 cited the US Office of Central Statistics for the statistic regarding disbursement of U.S. passport holders. I can find no such office, the "US Office of Central Statistics." If anyone has a link i would be grateful.

Posted by Avery on 26 February 2006, 9:11 pm | Link

I'm so low on this blog.. but I'll post anyways.

I love america. But I wish we didn't have to worry about Health Care. But even in europe, many of my friends and I had to wait weeks if not months for health service. Many times, we just went to the private doctor anyways because we weren't satisfied with the state doctors or their service. Another friend had to wait an entire year to have his operation for his hernia and this was in Finland. But I think all americans should have some form of accident/emergency insurance provided to us by our government. The little things like flu, dentist, vision.. should be taken care on our own.

I've lived in France, Germany and Finland. And its true, I had 4 weeks vacation time over there, but I also had 40% less wages and about 20% more expensive living expenses.

Yes, I went on vacation and traveled a lot! Because I didn't buy a car, I lived in an apartment the size of an american living room(538sq ft/ 50 sq m) with my wife! I never used the welfare money I could have collected but many of my friends did. Being on welfare is a way of life in europe.. we rarely ate out, rarely went to the movies... social life was playing board games at a friend's house or going fishing.

Now, I'm back in the US, making much more money, but have only 13 days of paid vacation, 9 holidays, big house, car, cellphones and wife and baby. Bills bills bills.. and hey, I actually like my job! But this damn housing market. If I had bought a house here in California 3 years ago, I could have bought my house for $200,000 instead of $400,000 (Temecula). That would have left me with $1350 extra money every month. Life isn't fair... but these housing bubbles are happening all over the world. Ask the Spaniards.

The public debt to GDP of many european nations is MUCH bigger than America's. And when their baby boomers retire, Europe will be a nightmare. What will all those welfare abusers do? As it is, France is turning into a slum, and they're supposed to be the great economy of europe!

Less than 15 years ago, traveling between countries in europe required passports. Now they don't. I'm sure there will be a drop in passport holders in europe now that they don't "need" them. Europe is also getting fat and will soon be like America and Canada.

Young Jerry may be a bit aggressive in his posts, but he is also absolutely right. Why should we be interested in the rest of the world? The average working man in most other countries of the world could give a rat's ass about any other part of the world outside of his town. Nobody should be judged as an idiot just because he doesn't have an interest in geography or anthropology. I know many europeans with no interest in any nation in Africa or Asia. If US news, Friend's, Seinfeld, Ally Mcbeal, OC, 24, Dark Angel, Stargate, Star Trek, Mad about you, Bill Cosby, Knight Rider, etc.. wasn wasn't on their television every single day, maybe they wouldn't care about the US either. I feel cheated, all we got was Pippi Longstocking!

Now that I've seen the world, I don't have much interest in leaving the americas anymore. I hate the long flights, I hate the superiority complex europeans have and there are many many things to see on this side of the world. Unfortunately, the travel channel and most media in the US is still ridiculously eurocentric and so too many people don't remember that the americas are also full of pyramids, ancient civilizations, natural wonders, diverse communities and fun places with unique culture and traditions. Most of this is under our very noses.

A good source is Westways magazine and

Traveling has been fantastic for my life, I loved wandering around so many countries in Europe, Mexico, South America, India, China... but now.. time to grow up.. work full time, support a family, buy the house and stuff. When you get to that point in life... America is the place to be. Unless of course you're a janitor or some low end job. Then its better to be living in Europe because being on welfare is... your right and not something to be ashamed of.

Posted by lebite on 3 March 2006, 7:38 pm | Link

Hahaha.. I loved Merlin's post!

Posted by lebite on 3 March 2006, 7:59 pm | Link

My "two cents" to all you Americans out there: speaking as a Brit, it pains me to see some of the comments emanating from this page by alleged British sophisticates. Much of the real reason for anti-Americanism of this type -- though it will be hotly denied -- is nothing more than envy. Truth be told, many an Englishman yearns for the day when we were the number one dog in town, with the world sitting obediently at the feet of hordes of short-back-and sides public school boys lording it over primitive tribes of Africans and Asians, whilst men such as Joseph Chamberlain and Winston Churchill sincerely speculated on the chances of the USA being welcomed back into the imperial bosom.

Americans, don't lose heart; you are the great power of the age. It is your lot to be envied and feared. Do not fall for the soft hearted illusion that this translates into moral superiority of any variety.

Posted by James on 13 March 2006, 8:04 pm | Link

I agree with James’ comments. Today the USA has the only global Empire in all but name. In fact for anyone interested in this topic I’d recommend the book Colossus: the Price of America's Empire by Niall Ferguson. In this book Niall argues that despite overwhelming military, economic and cultural dominance, the US has had a difficult time imposing its will on other nations, mostly because the country is uncomfortable with imperialism and thus unable to use this power most effectively and decisively. Ferguson contrasts this persistent anti-imperialistic urge with the attitude held by the British Empire and suggests that America has much to learn from that model if it is to achieve its stated foreign policy objectives of spreading social freedom, democracy, development and the free market to the world. He suggests that the US must be willing to send money, civilians and troops for a sustained period of time to troubled spots if there is to be real change, as in Japan and Germany after World War II--an idea that many American citizens and leaders now find repulsive. Rather than devoting limited resources and striving to get complex jobs done in a rush, Americans must be willing to integrate themselves into a foreign culture until a full Americanisation has occurred, he writes.

But the book also has a more sinister side. Ferguson goes on to suggest that America is now an empire running on empty, backing away from the crucial imperial commitments of time, money and manpower - and resting on perilous financial foundations. When the New Rome falls, its collapse may come from within.

An interesting read!

David from Oz

Posted by David on 16 March 2006, 12:56 pm | Link

Hi There

I am an American medical student currently studying in Ireland. I have lived a fifith of my life abroad both in Ireland and in UK. I have also travelled extensively in Europe and have been to the Middle East and South America.

I had not heard this passport statistic until last night when a Canadian used this "fact" as an argument of ignorance of the American people. I really don't think that that is a fair indictor of the mindset of a people.

I do think that travelling, but especially living outside the US has greatly expanded my horizons. I also worked in a bookstore where five staff members saved for months just to have enough money to visit family in the midwest and the prospect of a foreign vacation is just a longterm dream that often remains unfufilled though its not unwanted.

That being said, I also get frustrated by numerous anti-American slurs. I also been actually yelled at three times on the streets by people i don't know becuase of American foreign policy (despite the fact that i protested the war and didn't vote for Bush). People who know me make frequent insults and slurs without even recognizing that they are doing it, something I find very rude. I don't insult their countries or way of life though there is often much to critisize.

I think that there are ignorant people everywhere. I knew more European history then many of the people I met in the UK. I had to explain who the Duke of Edinburgh was and why he would be in a picture with the queen to a group of Scottish friends. I know that is not an important fact for people to know but it just indicates not all Americans are completely oblivious and not all Europeans are well educated about their own let alone other cultures.

I really get frustrated at Canadians who call Americans ignorant when three Canadians I know repeatly have referred to Africa as a country. One girl we know in medical school (so not stupid) constantly asks my friend what the national dialect of her country of Africa is despite the fact my friend is from Trinidad and Tobago. She also refuses to believe her when my friend says that people speak English in Trinidad. There is ignorance in very society and Canadians and Americans are alike in many ways so I find it unnecessary to insult your neighbors.

I also realize that there is an overwhelming amount of crap American movies. I also think however that the better local American media doesn't make it outside the US. i think it is often easier to look at and pigeon hole the US and Americans by what is protrayed in the bad (but always well attended) American movies then to recognize that many Americans are just people trying to work and support their families and that the country has its own problems with a problem ridden health care system and poverty of its own.

I also get really annoyed by people who consistently insult the American media, movies and tv mainly but are religious watchers of shows like smallville, desperate housewives or here in Ireland stargate (go figure). If you think the shows are terrible heres an idea, read a book or donate money to support growing a local media service.

I also have to say that i sometimes find the constant backhand comments and outright insults are enough for me to want to leave, so i can ony imagine how soul shattering it might be for someone who saves up for months or years to go abroad (and used a year's worth of vacation for a two week holiday) and then is constantly subjected to this treatment. I would not be suprised if those people journey to other parts of the world where they feel more welcome.

So in summary, ignorance is everywhere. There is definely ignorance in the US but equally i have encountered it in every country of my journeys. Just remember also that the Americans who are travelling abroad are often open to new experiences and engrossing themselves in new cultures but by making comments about these visitors to your countries that open-mindedness quickly turns to defensiveness.

Posted by ellie on 18 March 2006, 9:02 pm | Link

Thanks for this great analysis, which I refer to all the time. As an expat American in the UK I get confronted with the lowball figures all the time.

Posted by Michael Hoffman on 21 March 2006, 3:32 pm | Link

With all the slander going around here about this supposedly uniquely American trait of insularity, I'm surprised that nobody has mentioned the fact that, despite their claims of worldliness and sophistication, less than half of all EU citizens are able to communicate in a language other than their own. Exactly how provincial does that make them? I've been living in Germany for almost five years now (where, by the way, I am a translator, one of many Americans responsible for converting your old world backwater tongues into something we can all understand), and I find it HIGHLY unlikely, for instance, that your average Klaus and Claudia Schmidt from Oberscheißedorf in lower Bavaria are going to be capable of understanding ANYTHING about ANYBODY outside of their small cultural circle who can't speak German to them, which is pretty much the entire world minus a minority of Western Europeans. What most Americans don't realize is that Germany (much like the rest of Western Europe) has a snob contingent made up of about 1/3 of the population who've visited the higher university-prep schools and have any real education worth mentioning. The rest form the vast European proletariat and end up in what are virtually educational landfills. Most of these people don’t speak foreign languages at all, or they speak them poorly. They live in dinky little apartments, watch a lot of TV, drink a lot and are often unemployed. If they do decide to travel at all, it usually involves some kind of package hotel+flight deal (they never drive, they can't afford cars) to somewhere like Ibiza, where they drink, get in fistfights and try to screw anything that moves. If they do any reading at all, it's usually a translation of a popular American best-seller author. In light of this reality, it is safe to say that your average English person without his A-levels only has the US cultural dominance in Europe (funny how GOOD we are at it, considering we know so little about foreigners) to thank for the fact that he is not totally isolated linguistically from the rest of the world. As for your average Greek, Italian, Spaniard etc - you kind of have to pity these folks. They go on vacation and they can't even hold a basic conversation about the freaking weather with anyone but their own tour group! So much for greater cultural understanding when you're fumbling around with your Berlitz phrasebook while gesticulating wildly at your intended interlocutor. Put simply, we Americans have ONE large and wealthy country which stretches from Atlantic to Pacific with open borders to its immediate neighbors, and this is a wonderful thing. We have ONE common language, instead of one big insular tower of babel. This is a great strength, and it gives us a cohesion that the Euros can only dream of, or envy. Take the French, for instance. Their cultural/linguistic isolation is what led them to give a big fat NON to the EU last year, and it is also why they continuously shoot down all sound-minded attempts at structural reform. They know no better, since they know nothing but France, France, France and everything they read or hear about the outside world, such as evil Anglo-Saxon neoliberal warmongering hypercapitalism, has been conveniently filtered and pre-packaged for them in warm, familiar leftist colors by their social betters who rule them.

P.s. If this sounds a bit over the top, please console yourself that I've been putting up with polemic crap like this on a daily basis for almost half a decade. I came here as a John Kerry-supporting democrat who was opposed to the war, but now, after five years, I now feel perversely obligated to post these types of things all over the net in order to defend my country’s honor. In six weeks I’ll be leaving Old Europe, though, and I am confident that with a little hard work, I’ll will once again be able to care as little about this place as my fellow countrymen.

Posted by T_R on 5 April 2006, 5:34 pm | Link

@ellie "I also have to say that i sometimes find the constant backhand comments and outright insults are enough for me to want to leave, so i can ony imagine how soul shattering it might be for someone who saves up for months or years to go abroad (and used a year’s worth of vacation for a two week holiday) and then is constantly subjected to this treatment. I would not be suprised if those people journey to other parts of the world where they feel more welcome."

Very eloquently stated. You've pretty much described me to a T. I'm not even sure if I'm able to carry on a reasoned debate anymore, it seems like I have to totally run the other side into the ground just to level the playing field. I don't want to live this way anymore, never knowing when some jerkoff is just going to ruin my evening by saying something insulting about me, my beliefs, my country or my way of life.

Posted by T_R. on 5 April 2006, 6:47 pm | Link

T_R hits the nail on the head. It is no surprise that we (North) Americans are discouraged from travelling due to the ignorant behaviour they experience from other travellers. I am a well travelled American and have personally observed this numerous times on my world travels. It is unfair, and often done by those who should know better (e.g. well educated Europeans, Canadians, Australians, Kiwis and South Africans).

That said, I can understand why there is a negative perception of Americans generally and it is in part due to George Bush and the way people received Republican politics.
1. There is backlash against the so called MacDonaldisation of the world. American culture predominates in many parts of the world, due to the fact that many American companies are highly successful and world class in capitalism. Perhaps this is jealously?
2. The Iraq was (rightly or wrongly) is perceived by many as a US led war over oil interests rather than democracy. I won’t comment on this one!
3. The US has 4% of the world population and produces 25% of the world’s carbon emissions. As such George Bush and the Republicans are seen as arrogant in their rejection of global warming as a theory, and the US is the only major developed nation (other than Australia) that has not signed up to the Kyoto Treaty (although I understand the argument that unless the major polluters of China and India sign up there is little point in taking part).
4. American utility conglomerates in South America are seen as predatory in their take-overs of national companies and this has naturally caused resentment in poor countries such as Bolivia and Ecuador.

So these are some of the reasons that Americans get a bad press elsewhere in the world. The sad thing is that the people criticising Americans often to not give people a chance and listen to peoples views. In my experience those who do listed often become friends. I am not condoning the behaviour of these ignorant people, but merely discussing some of the reasons for this behaviour.

To American’s considering global travel I would say ‘Be prepared for this kind of backlash’ but try and work through it and you will make good friends and have a fantastic experience. Most travellers will listen to reasoned argument, and many will change their perceptions of you.



Posted by Brad on 13 April 2006, 8:12 pm | Link

All very interesting . As a Brit now living in Vancouver Canada with dual nationality , I see ( and unfortunately hear ) many US visitors here . The general consensus appears to be that passport ownership in the US is somewhere between 18% and 25% - I used to be surprised by this but frankly it is not all that worrisome a statistic . I once worked for a US company that was headquartered in Logan Utah , and a large proportion of the employees never left the valley they were born in let alone the State or the Country . Almost unbearably nice people but equally unbearably inward-looking and ill-informed - probably not atypical of the residents of the heartlands where passport ownership is probably averaged out at less than 5% ( just a guess ) . In view of current perceptions ( right or wrong ) about US foreign policy it might just be a good thing for America in general to stay home anyway and wait until W has moseyed off into the sunset whereupon the US could regain some respect with the REst of the World .

Posted by Peter on 23 April 2006, 4:58 am | Link

Another press update: The Metro (of all papers) covered this in its "Mythbusters" column yesterday. Said the official figure is 18%.

Posted by Laura Brown on 25 April 2006, 12:27 pm | Link

Interesting to see more press coverage of this topic in a UK newspaper that has widre readership (as it is given away free at transport interchanges). The URL for this newspaper is

But, given that the item confirms states that US passport ownership is only 18% what myth does this item bust? If it is a myth that US passport ownership is low, how does the 18% figure make this a myth? I’m confused. Did anyone read the article and can explain?

Posted by Rich on 26 April 2006, 11:53 am | Link

The myth was that only 5% of Americans owned passports.

Posted by Laura Brown on 27 April 2006, 4:42 pm | Link

One of the reasons that some Americans are reluctant to travel is that statistically anti-Americanism is growing, interestingly enough nowhere more so than in the US itself.

The rising anti-Americanism around the world is detailed in the book “America Against the World : How We Are Different and Why We Are Disliked” by Andrew Kohut and Bruce Stokes.… The book charts this global phenomenon country by country.

I’m from Great Britain, and the book explains that here the US now has a lower favourability rating than China, falling from 83% of Brits having a favourable view of the US in 2002, to 55% now. The numbers are worst amongst the young with 1 in 10 people under 30 disliking Americans in 2002 down to 1 in 5 in 2005. The book sights the re-election of George Bush as the primary reason for this, and other factors as ‘The Iraq War’, and ‘Global Warming’. Today 67% of Brits believe that ‘Britain’s future lies more with Europe than with America”. For other 50 other countries there are similar statistics as 91,000 people were polled.

But, the most successful anti-Americas, like Michael Moore, are home grown. Asked recently whether Americans were “greedy” 64% of Brits agreed. But 70% of Americans were in agreement. Some 26% of Brits believe that Americans are “immoral” but 39% of Americans agreed.

In my experience (and I am extremely well travelled) Americans are some of the most friendly and welcoming people in the world and the US is a truly great country and I personally think it is unfair that American’s get badly treated abroad (see my earlier posts) but no doubt this rising anti-American feeling around the world is a factor in the low passport statistics being discussed in this forum.


Posted by Rich on 11 May 2006, 10:25 pm | Link

Very interesting discussion, to which I only want to add three random points:

FOX News was founded by an Australian (now American for tax reasons, but still). Couldn't resist throwing that in.

The population of the United States is within hailing distance of 300 million--if "only" 13 percent travel internationally in any given year that's around 39 million people, twice the entire population of Australia, which even "spread around" the planet has to have an enormous environmental impact. Do you really want to see that number rise by four or five times? I can't say I do.

I also know too many people who are never more than tourists no matter where they go, perhaps picking up some "ethnic" souvenirs or dabbling in a few phrases of the language without ever thinking more self-critically about their relationship to their host countries--and this has included many or most of my fellow long-term academic expatriates (in Asia, Africa, and the Gulf), whether they be American, British, Irish, Australian, German, or Canadian, who in fact socialize with no one but fellow expatriates (if you don't count the rather condescending "friendships" they claim to have formed with their barbers, tailors, real estate agents, etc.) but are very quick to attack Americans for their "insularity." So there's travel, and then there's travel . . .

Posted by Lee on 21 May 2006, 9:17 am | Link

The following London Times article picks up on the same topic discussed above. In article “Britons begin to turn away from alliance with America” there are detailed statistics on what the British think of the United States.…

It seems there has been a strong shift towards Europe. But “while President Bush and his Administration remain unpopular in Britain, Americans as a people remain popular.”. Full details of the polling are at

Posted by Rich on 8 June 2006, 1:29 pm | Link

Americans do not travel overseas for multiple reasons.
Growing up in America a majoity of the population is taught that we are the only country that matters and the other countries around the world are not worth visiting.
Our press gives the impression that we are the only wealthy country and Europe for example is poor and a very violent place. Reality is Europe has less poor people than the states(Gini-index approaching 50), Free or cheap Higher Education for it's citizens, Free Healthcare,etc.
They also receive over 5 weeks of vacation time per year and many recieve more time off than that. They have cheaper airfares on average than Americans flying overseas.
Our media does not mention other countries in favorable terms usually, only negative references to foreign countries. World Cup Soccer for example, the Front page "Neo-Nazis on the Rise in Germany". Germany has a crime rate much lower than our and 6 times less murders per population a year but you would not know that by the story.
They have 9 times less people in their prison system per capita than the states, that is also an example of the Freedom we have in the States with the Patriot Act, War on Drugs, War on Terrorism, War on the Working Class,8 million Americans in the Correctional System and rising rapidly!
We have over 50 Trillion Dollars in Debt throughout the economy and we also owe interest on these debts! An 804 billion Current Account Deficit for 2005, An 781 billion Governmental Deficit for the year in 2005.
One who would open their minds up and think would realize that the American public or 80% Of the Public is having economic problems. They are worried about Healthcare costs, Extremely High College Costs, Extremely High Land Taxes,Extrememly high house Insurance costs(for a moderate house $6000 per year in Florida),Extremely high heating and cooling costs for their homes,also they must pay their home mortgages off which are very high because the housing prices went through the roof!
We are the most indebted nation on earth and all the people can complain about what I say but the Truth hurts and all the facts back what I say, for the folks who live overseas these are the real reasons why only 18 or 20% Have passports, Economically we are in bad shape and our Freedoms are also on the decline as stated above.

Posted by thomas riccardo on 12 June 2006, 2:05 pm | Link

Here is some facts to back what I said:

Total U.S. Debts:…

U.S. Correctional Population Soaring:…

U.S. Trade Debts:


Uncompetitive Economy, Like Britain's:

Is our Gasoline Cheaper Than Europe's:

Iraq War could cost over 2 trillion Dollars!…

Not to mention the poor health and environmental standards the U.S. currently has. The Kyoto Treaty would have made our economy much more efficient, cleaner, create 8 to 10 million new high paying jobs but our Government did not sign.
Japan uses 5.4 percent of their GDP to purchase Energy, The U.S. uses 13 percent of GDP to purchases Energy.
As you see we are a very wasteful country.
Over half of our oil,natural gas usuage is waste and a Crime!
Start Switching to Renewable Energy, that's the ticket!!!

Posted by thomas riccardo on 12 June 2006, 2:37 pm | Link

I'm Italian and was extremely surprised when I found out how few Americans had a passport, just around 20%. I have many American friends, and this doesn't apply to them, but, what I notice when I'm in the US is that there's not much interest or knowledge of what goes on in the rest of the world. It's like if other countries were not important enough to be considered. I spent some time in the US, when I was a teenager, with an exchange program and I was surprised of how little my school mates knew of world geography. They had trouble placing countries around the world. When I told them that I was coming from a city relatively close to Venice everyone thought Venice California. As I said, I think that most of the Americans revolve only around themselves and their life in the US and they don't feel the need to know what's like somewhere else. Hence, no need of passports. But, if I may say, they're missing a lot settling just for a piece of sky simply because this is what they get from the media.

Posted by Rachele on 12 July 2006, 4:41 pm | Link

So what have we learned from this debate? That the good old US of A is still the greatest country in the world, except it is unable to provide wages and holiday entitlement as other first world countries do, so Yanks don't get to compare it with anywhere else. That Americans do not need to visit the other countries in the world as they have the whole of the US to explore first, and they have coka-cokey and Hollywood sate their cultural needs. That Americans desperately want to see the rest of the world, except they want the rest of us to shut up about the tendency of the US to start wars "out there".


Never met a Yank I didn't like. (However, as I met all the Yanks I've ever met outside of the US, they are probably not representative of the masses.)

Posted by Taff Thomas on 24 August 2006, 9:52 am | Link

I recently went to the Philippines on vacation. I noticed that many of the visitors in the Philippines were from Australia, parts of Europe, and Japan. I saw very few actual "American" tourists. Now an American could be any skin color. So what do we mean when we say "American". People around the world naturally assume a person with white skin. This is how people in many asian countries perceive americans to be. I am a asian american who owns a passport. But when I visited the Philippines, they thought that I was not american, but a citizen from another asian country. Pretty weird. I believe that many "americans" do not own a passport, is because they are just plain scared, a fear of the unknown. It is more than a lack of money, vacation time etc. People have the money, but lack the interest in exploring other lands. It could be a mild form of racism, or zenophobia. Why go to Thailand, when I could go to Las Vegas?, is the question asked by many Americans. Something familiar is better than something unknown, almost like visiting another country is like visiting an alien territory. Ignorance is the number one factor for a lack of interest in obtaining a U.S passport. People in America think that visiting the local taco stand is like visiting Mexico, or ordering that chinese carryout is like visiting China. Pure idiotic ignorance. Sure going to Canada is a different country, but lets face it, how different is Canada than America. So face it, people have the money and time, but have no interest, because they are scared.

Posted by John Lango on 28 August 2006, 10:06 am | Link

I think that George Bush is definitely a major factor in the continued low travel statistics for US citizens. Unfortunately the U.S. is even more unpopular abroad now than before 9/11 due in part to the Republican administration response to that event as reported by Associated Press and reported in Australia here:…

This (in my view) must influence the decision making process for citizens considering foreign travel.


Posted by Steve Jacobs on 6 September 2006, 4:34 pm | Link

Reading the last post from Steve I have to say I agree and disagree somewhat. America is not popular abroad in some countries by some people, but I believe the tide is turning and as time passes things will change for the better. You have to remember that in countries around the world not every single person in that respective foreign country dislikes Americans. Actually many people in other countries have deep respect, and in some countries desperately find ways to come to America even if it is illegally, to hopefully eventually become American. McDonalds, Burger King, MTV, 7-Eleven are present in many countries. Movies that are made in America, are shown all across the globe. Actually American movies are among the favorites for a lot of people in other countries. Styles of clothing that are worn here in America by people are also very popular in countries like Japan, Israel, Philippines, Thailand, some parts of South America, Canada, Taiwan, Europe and even China. I am an American who owns a passport and have traveled abroad to many, many countries including the countries I named above, but not China. I believe that the media might distort things, and make it seem that all the citizens of foreign countries dislike America. In turn this strikes fear into normal ordinary American citizens. People get scared, and believe that they will not be welcomed abroad. Sure their are a few countries that this might be true, but in general most countries around the globe are receptive and welcoming to Americans. Assuming that all people in foreign nations do not like Americans, is the same as saying that all Americans do not like citizens from other countries. This is nonsense. You have to look at each individual. So why do many Americans lack the interest in obtaining passports. I believe it is ignorance. Just plain ignorance. But at the same time, many Americans do want to travel abroad, and many are. What the heck, their are many American citizens that are even living abroad.

Posted by Bill Murry on 7 September 2006, 5:06 am | Link

To correct a previous poster, Americans are not taught to think they are the only country that matters and that other countries are not worth visiting. That is the kind of misinformation that makes others form invalid opinions. I am American, and that is plain wrong.

I love to travel the world, when I can save up enough for it, and I always think people are missing somethhing if they don't. I call them "force-fielders"...meaning that when they take off in a plane, the force-field activates, and send them back to their own country, US or otherwise.

As for why I think some Americans don't get passports/travel, think about this. Bad news travels faster and better than good news. If you eat at a great restaurant, will you tell anyone about it? If you have a terrible experience, you'll tell everyone you know. So when Mr Whitesocks and Mrs Baseball Cap meet nine extremely nice, American friendly foreigners....they'll say they had a good time. But when they come across one that is anti-American and assumes they are Bush-backers.....they'll tell everyone that the whole country hates Americans. Is that the kind of image people want to portray?

Perhaps if more Americans start to feel this way, the 20% that have passports will let them expire, the US can close shop (military or otherwise) around the world, and the US can again become isolationist. Hopefully they won't, as the last time they did, they let a few years go by before they decided to help end Hitler's career ( and I do mean help as everyone else did).

Posted by Angus on 11 September 2006, 7:16 pm | Link

Maybe not all Americans think the U.S. is the only country that matters but from my experience here in Florida I would say the majority do not think the rest of the world matters much, certain parts of the country may have more of a tendency to travel but overall I will stand by what I said, economically we are in serious trouble and when a country produces 6 dollars of debt for every one dollar of new GDP yearly we have very,very severe problems!
I will change my Statements about the country when:
A) Our Gini-index declines from the 50 range where it currently resides.
B. We do not have 8 million people in the correctional system and the death penalty.
c. We do not have a 900 billion dollar Current Account Deficit and a Huge Governmental deficit.
d. Our constitutional rights are restored and the patriot act is destroyed.
e. We reduce our Trade, Government and Private sector deficits.
f. Have lower healthcare and Higher educational costs so all our people can attend college and afford healthcare.
g. Start becoming serious about the Environment and energy use.
h. Actually have a democracy and vote on things that matter such as some of the above mentioned items.
I. Don't start F..king wars.
j. Have a free media not monopolized by the mega-rich
k. Start controlling the runaway inflation in the country and rebuild the economy into a productive unit as it once was before 1982.

All the above statements are true and if anyone wants to debate me on the above issues I'm willing.
Don't tell me how great it is here, I've lived here all my life and I have seen over the past 20 years or so how things have deteriorated for the majority of the people and for those top 10% who tend to be on these boards who live in gated communites and so forth, open your eyes up and see how the rest of the folks live here.
Because if you don't, when the backlash or blowback comes your butts will be on the line.
I know which Americans travel internationally and for the most part let me inform anyone who does not know, most are in the upper income brackets.
We can not have a concentration of Wealth/Power and a Democracy at the same time.
Choose a Dictatorship with the Rich Running the show or Choose a Democracy with the Wealth/Power Spread around.
For anyone with a open mind some of the mentioned problems above should be shocking to you and you can verify the stats I gave you if you choose, it's not secret information.

Posted by thomas riccardo on 22 September 2006, 4:07 am | Link

Boy Thomas, that sounds like a miserable place to live. Why do you stay? And why is it that if it's so bad so many people want to get in? I'd think you and them would be more comfortable someplace like Venezuela.
As an American living in Australia I can say that your comments are pure nonsense. Most if not all of the Americans I meet here are not rich. They generally fall into a couple of categories. There are students studying abroad, a huge group, retired people who now have the time to travel, businessmen and just regular tourists on vacation with the family, by far the least. That's just simple economics. Ever try to fly a family of four from Chicago to Australia during your 2 weeks of vacation. It's far cheaper and easier to get in your car and drive across the US. And if you don't own a car and have to rely on planes and trains and have months where you don't have to work, well that probably explains why other countries have higher percentages of passports.
Now, even if only 20% of Americans have passports, that's still 3 times the population of Australia, which is really concentrated in 6 or 7 areas on the coast depending on how you look at it, 90% of the people close to the coast and usually very close to an international airport. Contrast that to me who had to drive 3 hours to a commuter airport and make 3 connections to LAX. While Australia is about the same size as the continental US, most of that is totally uninhabited. The vast majority of Australians I know haven't been to Western Australia, the equivilant of the western half of the US. Perth is an absolutely beautiful city that is relatively unknown in its own country. Oddly enough alot of people in Brisbane will fly to New Zealand to ski rather than go to the Aussie Alps. I do know that my vacation time quadrupled when I got here, but the companies here accomplish far less than their American counterparts. Ask any American living here about customer service.
By the way, for what it's worth US military personnel are not required to have passports, I'm not sure about their dependants though. None of my friends in the military have passports, their military id's and travel orders suffice. It's not much of a reference, but I'll point to the Chuck Norris Delta Force movie where the navy divers didn't have passports but navy id's on the plane being taken over by the Arab terrorists. I know, I know, that's terribly politically incorrect, who could imagine Arab terrorists, be more realistic if it was those unruly Swedes. That's enough rambling, I'll just end by saying that most Americans I know would love to travel abroad, but the single biggest deterant is time off, not lack of money or fears of rude Frenchmen.

Posted by michael anderson on 26 September 2006, 9:03 am | Link

i am staggerd by the percentage of US citizens who do not own a passport. But i do live in the EU (UK). and hope this figure is a misleading stat (taking into account other variables) . I presumed about 40% owned a passport.

Posted by greeneking on 29 September 2006, 10:46 pm | Link

I read an interesting article by the New York Times on possible delays in getting US passports due to the requirements to have passports when traveling out of the US.

"For years, an American adult needed only a valid driver’s license and birth certificate to go back and forth between the States and Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, Panama and most Caribbean islands. Children needed just birth certificates. But as of Jan. 8, passports will be required for almost everyone entering the United States through airports and seaports, no matter where they are coming from. The same requirement will go into effect for land crossings from Canada or Mexico on Jan. 1, 2008."

"Demand for passports could increase to 16 million in the 2007 fiscal year, beginning today, from about 12.3 million in the year that ended Sept. 30."…

It will be intesting to see if this has much of an impact on the number of Americans that have passports.

Posted by Keith on 6 October 2006, 10:39 am | Link

Passport ownership is easy--but how many people actively use thier passports? I'm nearly out of space in mine and will soon be going to US embassy to have more pages added. I wonder how many people request that service every year.

Posted by Max Watson on 9 October 2006, 7:59 am | Link

Bill Murry,
> many people in other countries have deep respect (for the US and US citizens)

Absolutely true. But the Clinton era (and, for older chaps like me, the Carter era) was a period when the US were way more popular than now, in Europe. Generally speaking, any US government that starts a war without the full backing of the UN is considered a warmonger, and anecdotal evidence is used to confirm negative stereotypes (it is used less often, unfortunately, to confirm positive stereotypes): "The bombing (of Russia) begins in five minutes", said by Ronald Reagan in 1984 to test a microphone, is considered a perfect example of the US (and, mostly, of the Republican party) approach to foreign policy. The current US administration is often believed - even by those foreigners supporting it - to be under complete control of oil lobbies, and its foreign policy is often considered to be the foreign policy of the highest earning citizens of Houston and Dallas.

Negative comments on how US citizens know the world have not started in recent times: If anyone can find 1960s/1970s stats on how many US soldiers knew where is Vietnam, the country were they were sent to fight, I'd be interested in reading them.

Back to "old Europe", now.

Surprise: foreigners, even when living in their own countries, are interested in the US, and not necessarily because they plan to move there or because they oppose / support / give a damn about the current US administration. I remember that, as a way to avoid falling asleep during the nightshift, a colleague of mine and I (both blue collars) used to try to remember and list all US states in alphabetical order. Bear in mind that such a list is not comparable to "France, Germany, Italy, Spain" and so on, since these are countries while the US states are internal subdivisions of one country: the closest analogy would be to have two US factory workers producing a list like "Lombardy, Marche, Piedmont, Sicily, Tuscany" (Italian regions), or "Hampshire, Herefordshire, Hertfordshire, Huntingdonshire" (English counties).

There are more internal variations within each European country than in the USA. For instance, take the languages used in Italy: in several cases, local languages in Italy are not dialects, but langauges completely different from Italian (see… ). As an example, the Italian word "artichoke" is "carciofo", but the Piedmontese (north-Western Italy) word for it is "articioc". People whose parents are from Veneto and from Piedmont will learn that the Italian word for "rat" is "topo" or "ratto", and that their Venetian mum will say instead "pantegana" and their Piedmontese father will say "giari". Different enough? These are random examples.

> in some countries desperately find ways
> to come to America even if it is illegally,
> to hopefully eventually become American.

Maybe many want to emigrate to the US, many don't want to set foot in this country at all. I've been trying to convince relatives from Italy and friends from Italy, England and Germany to visit me in Atlanta, where I moved in January 2006. Free food and accomodation included, of course. No thanks, has invariably been the answer. The explanations varied from "too much bureaucracy (to travel to the US)" to "Too expensive", and included a few comments on the fact that there's no point in visiting a country that one does not keep in high regard.

> Less than 15 years ago, traveling between countries
> in europe required passports

Incorrect. Never had to have a passport to travel across Europe. As an Italian, only a low cost ID was required. The same ID that is required to STAY in Italy (you can have it at 15 if you want, you must have it at 18).

> I also been actually yelled at three times on the streets by
> people i don't know becuase of American foreign policy

I sympathize with you, and I personally apologize on behalf of the half-brained people that behaved like that. But I cannot but wonder how is that different from, say, being an Italian and being called a "goombah" and a "mafioso" while in the States, or being a German and having people doing impersonations of Hitler or reminding you that you've lost the war. All forms of stereotyping ("you are from the US therefore you are an imperialist", "You are an Italian and therefore a mafioso", "You are an Englishman and you surely have rotten teeth", "You are German therefore you are a Nazi") make us dumber. It is like choosing not to think.

The bottom line, to me, is that travelling usually opens our eyes on these stereotypes. This is why I'd like to see more people from every country travelling abroad. To believe that our own little garden is better than anybody else's is dumb, even if our little garden has an area of 9,631,420 square kilometers (like the US) and even though wherever we throw a stone we find remains of a 2000 years old town (as in Italy).

Posted by Claudio on 9 October 2006, 3:17 pm | Link

Great string.

I live in Australia, which ironically is very big, about the size of the contiguous USA, but is way under populated. Result = cheap housing, heaps of room, less strife/murders/guns/nutters-shooting-kids-at-school. Of course you can brave the shark infested waters off our northern coast, and could sneak in and end up at a desert detainment centre. Or stop your whingeing and APPLY to live here. It's great, apart from the sharks/snakes/blue ringers/rays/no water. Surf is awesome though man and when we play in a World Series (sic), there's usually more than one country involved too! Great for tv.

PS. Is there a relationship between gun ownership and passport ownership? Do more people in the USA own guns than passports?

Cheers guys.

Posted by Johnnny C on 17 October 2006, 4:06 am | Link

America is a large country that has the most diverse geography. We have mountains that are over 14,000 ft tall, some 50 of them in Colorado alone. We have rivers that rival the best longest in the world. We have marsh and swamps and we have high steppes. We have huge metropolotian areas and we have deserted lands. We also have the largest, oldest canyon in the world. We have lakes that are cold and deep and we have lakes that are larger than come European countries. We have the rich and we have the poor.

We got it all, I don't need to go over to any other country and be threatened with having my head cut off because someone who doesn't know me wishes to do so because they don't like our government.

I'll stay in my own country without a passport, why? Because I don't need one to drive from Main to California, from California to Florida, from Florida to Washington and everywhere inbetween. I might even visit Earth...Earth, Texas that is. I hope all you educated people over there in the EU knows where that is, being so educated and all in geography.

Posted by kenwwood on 20 October 2006, 9:45 pm | Link

Wow! Some really fascinating dialogue and perspective on the entire issue of cultural relations. This topic fascinates me as in my years of travel (been to at least 25 countries, 5 continents, and counting) and have had the chance to expose my family to the wonders of travel. I am a proud American and believe that our nation is neither better or worse than others, just different.

My son't travels around the world have helped mold his perspective on other cultures and bring him a better understanding, and respect, for people with different appearances, cultural backgrounds, etc. It has also helped bring to him a better understanding of pivotal moments in our (and the world's) historical dramas, including World War II. Taking him to Berlin two years ago and showing him the remnants of The Wall, touring the museums, etc. helped him better appreciate what it means to be an American and the sacrifices made by so many people to ensure our safety and identity.

Posted by Terry Selk on 1 November 2006, 7:36 pm | Link

This is a unique site, as over the past six months I have been traveling in Northern and Eastern Europe, India (Rajasthan only, its a big country) and Nepal, and finishing up in Thailand, Laos, and Japan. That's a mouthful, so take a deep breath. Passports, American travelers, etc. were on my mind often while I was gone! What have I learned that I can share with you?

USA Travelers Abroad - After 6 months of traveling, I came across 20 americans in these various countries with the exception of US citizens in Germany for World Cup. The major people that I met on this trip were from Germany, England, Holland, Italy, France, Japan, Austalia, and Ireland. If you want to read about my experiences, go to… I have been abroad before to Europe about seven years ago and did not see any correlation between the two trips. I have always thought that the majority of Americans do not travel to Europe, Asia, Australia, and South America. I would love to have this statistic to back this thought.

Foreign Opinions of a US Traveler - In all of the places that I traveled, I found that most people are really friendly to visitors and when they find out that you are from America (I use America here, as when I would say "United States" it created confusion for some) the locals would ask questions or state facts of what they knew about America. I had a total positive experience in all of these countries.

I was questioned by many other travelers and locals about my opinion of the Oil War, the US foreign policy, and our President. I always offered my opinion of these issues, but also provided an overview of the laziness of US citizens when it comes to voting. In the last election, the US had about 60 percent turnout of the eligible voters and of this, only 55 percent supported Bush. This meant that only about 30 percent of the total eligible voters came out and supported Bush. This is just peer laziness on the part of the US voters. Come out and vote on November 8. Take action, it is your right or don't complain about the decisions made from the top!

Travel Safety - This is a general statement, but I felt more safe in these countries than walking on my 20 minute walk to work each day. People were friendly and inviting to me and showed so much hospitality that at times I felt we actually all lived together in a peacful world.

Travel Costs - I do not think that traveling to other countries is a cost issue. It is quite feasible for an American to travel to Asia, Eastern Europe, and South America and spend under $1,000 for about two months. High school kids make this working a part-time summer job!

US Issues Leading - We are an obese nation with a necessity for consumerism and pop culture! We like what we have, even if its destroying us. Parents should have their kids obtain passports when they complete high school, so that its done and their kids could go travel right than! Another element relates to what are your priorities? A career (that can start any time, but can you take time off to go travel); A family (that can be delayed, but once you have one now you have 18 years to make sure its successful); A house (that can wait to); LIVE YOUR LIFE EACH SECOND, DON'T WAIT UNTIL YOUR 65 AND RETIRED TO TRAVEL......:)

Please share the following if you can find it:

1) Of the 300 million people, how many Americans and what percentage travel abroad per year?

2) Of this total number, what percentage is to Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean?

3) What percentage of Australians or Japanese travel abroad each year?

Your help would be appreciated! Thanks, Andy

Posted by Andy Daleiden on 3 November 2006, 11:14 pm | Link

"You complain about FOX News, but you are obviously a liberal, and therefore get your news from any other source of News in the United States that is not FOX News, and therefor has a left wing bias."

This has just blown my mind, and sadly when Americans post such comments it doesn't really help us Europeans to change our views.

"News" happens all over the world, therefore it is quite acceptable to receive and digest this news from wherever you like on the planet (for example I know a lot of US folk read the BBC news website as a genuine alternative to the biased US networks), even from entirely neutral broadcasters.

Kind of linked to the passport debate, I would love to know what percentage of news reports broadcast on all US stations actually involve the entire world (and not just the Iraq conflict), certainly when we have visited parts of the US we have been amazed at how little coverage world events get on the television.

Posted by Chris Harrison on 4 November 2006, 2:14 pm | Link

Hey Jerry,

I must say you do a superb job of voicing an opinion which chooses to ignore anything that is not remotley tied to the U.S. or Texas. As a fellow American, I can tell you that many Amricans DO care what happens in the rest of the world, be it Europe or 3rd world countries. Hopefully when you meet people from outside Texas, you politely keep your mouth shut. And given your opinions, I think we are all glad you have chosen to no longer travel abroad. With your mindset, I'd hate to think of you acting as representative of America while traveling the world. Our image is tarnished enough because of that moronic mouthpiece George W. Where is he from again? Oh yeah, Texas..... go figure

Posted by John on 5 November 2006, 5:31 pm | Link

I think it's amazing how many people have taken an interest in this topic, really why do you care. One thing you can almost count on from American's is that we will never be caught sitting around a table criticizing Europeans,or anyone else for that matter, on their amount of travelling. We won't be talking about the prime ministers of your countries becasue we have our own moron to worry about. We won't be critcizing your diets because, as the world seems to have taken notice, we have problems of our own. In fact the only people you'll most likely ever hear Americans criticize or insult are other Americans. We're a gigantic immigrant country with over 337 spoken languages, and endless cultural clashes and conflict. enough to keep us busy for a lifetime. Are there many geographically illiterate Americans? Of course, just as there are many educated and experienced ones, but one doesn't have to travel outside this country to gain the experience of cultural diversity, anyone who really knows the U.S. knows that our diversity is what best defines us. We are not all the same and we, for the most part, embrace that. And regardless if you own a passport or not the ignorant tend to be the majority, by a landslide, all over the world.

Posted by Ricky Z on 6 November 2006, 8:18 pm | Link

Found the link to passport statistics:…

Not very detailed but at least it's a start.

Posted by Marc A. on 20 November 2006, 8:54 pm | Link

This is interesting discussion, not simply because of the topic, but because of what it reveals about the biases of the posters and the ways in which statistics can be used (and misused) to support those preconcieved biases.

Let me begin by saying that there is a fundamental, logical flaw in trying to draw conclusions about a national culture from passport statistics, namely that it ignores local variations which significantly impact usage patterns. As noted by many previous posters, American passport statistics are unquestionably impacted by a wide variety of factors, including: (1) no passports are needed for travel in North America and the Caribbean; and (2) millions of Americans are either permanent resident aliens or dual citizens, and can thus travel on the passports of other countries.

Similarly, comparing the frequency of "international" travel is misleading without further clarification. The simple fact is that travel by car or rail is far cheaper and simpler and cheaper than travel by air, and thus the size of a country and its proximity to other countries will inevitably affect travel patterns. Thus comparing, for example, the percentage of Americans who travel to another country to the percentage of Belgians who do so is just silly. Belgium is approximately the size of Maryland, one of the smallest states in the U.S. I strongly suspect, though cannot prove, that the percentage of Marylanders who travel outside their state in a given year is probably far higher than the percentage of Belgians who leave their country.

For purposes of this discussion, the more relevant question would be to compare the number of Americans who visit Europe with the number of Europeans who visit America, which controls for the difficulty and cost of travel and the idiosyncracies of passport issuance. The answer to that question is somewhat surprising.

In 2004, 27,351,000 Americans traveled abroad and 43% of them, or 11,760,930, visited Europe. See:…

Please note that total is for tourists, and thus would not necessarily include the hundreds of thousands of U.S. military personnel who not only visit, but reside, in the countries in which they are stationed.

That number may seem quite small, until one compares the number of Europeans who visit America. I haven't been able to find an exact figure, but this link provides the totals for the numbers of visitors from 10 European countries which have a combined population of 349,912,232, approximately 17% more than the total U.S. population. Those countries sent only 9,141,227 visitors to the U.S. in 2005. See:….

While I am skeptical that any truly meaningful conclusions can be drawn from any of this data (or this discussion), let me offer a few tentative thoughts. First, it appears that Americans are at least as familiar with Europe as Europeans are with the U.S. If one of the goals of foreign travel is to increase cultural awareness, perhaps BOTH Europeans and Americans should make an effort to learn more about the other.

Second, in looking at these and a variety of other travel statistics, it seems clear that Americans do not travel abroad as frequently as the British and, most impressively, Australians, but they travel at least as much, if not more so, than other Europeans.

Third, travel patterns appear to be dramatically influenced by geography, climate and culture, all of which would combine to explain the British fondness for international travel.

Finally, and perhaps most important, Tony Blair may be far better-travelled and much more sophisticated than George Bush, but unfortunately that doesn't seem to have made any material difference in their worldview or their foreign policy.

Posted by Scott D on 22 November 2006, 4:16 pm | Link

Whilst I must say that's its concerning that a country (or should I say government) which has so much interest and involvement in international affairs was elected by a population which seems to have little interest in travelling abroad; really what more can you expect? When the rest of western society binges on American culture daily, their movies, their celebrities, their fast food, their music, how can you blame them for not wanting to experience new cultures and horizons? We are constantly scratching at their front door begging for more of their "culture", its only natural for them to assume that there is obviously nothing better in the world than what they have.
I feel for the American people, I have grown up learning "America is the most powerful country, but these countries have the most fascinating and colourful histories and cultures" where as Americans have merely grown up learning "America is the most powerful country, have no fear!" What will happen to the collective psyche when their time at the top is over? History shows that the rise and fall of empires/super powers is one of the few constants through time. How much of their patriotism hangs on the fact that they are currently the most powerful country? I don't mean that to be an inflammatory statement, I just think its an interesting point to consider.

Posted by Michael Hil on 3 December 2006, 12:14 am | Link

(1) no passports are needed for travel in North America and the Caribbean;

No passports are required by Europeans to travel within Europe.

(2) millions of Americans are either permanent resident aliens or dual citizens, and can thus travel on the passports of other countries.

As are millions of those living in Europe.

That number may seem quite small, until one compares the number of Europeans who visit America.

The numbers visiting America have been in steep decline due to your visa requirements and checks

"With security much tightened since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the visa and entry processes are so unpopular that the country was ranked as the world's most unfriendly to visitors in a survey last month of travelers from 16 nations"…

By a 2-to-1 margin, 2,011 foreign respondents ranked the USA worst among 10 broad travel destinations for the overall difficulty of its entry procedures. More than half said U.S. immigration officials are rude. Two-thirds said they feared being detained for making a simple error. Fear of U.S. government officials outranked fear of encountering terrorism or crime during their visit. And 36% said U.S. entry policies would keep them from visiting.…

Posted by Taff Thomas on 8 December 2006, 5:47 am | Link

In 2007 I will have been traveling to Europe for 10 years, at least once a year and recently for the last 3 years, at least 5 weeks each time to 5 countries where I have friends. The British Pound and the Euro have gone up each year and the anti-American sentiment has gone up more. Many times I have been confronted about being American and how much Bush is a bad president, American's all have guns, and lots of other untruths from people who have never stepped foot in America! The Europeans I have met who have been to America all speak well of their experience. What kills me is that America is so diverse that nobody should heap everyone into one pile!

Posted by Laura on 12 December 2006, 11:01 am | Link

The U.S. WAS diverse but unfortunately this whole country has made a monomumental shift to the right and it is evidence everywhere for someone like me who has lived in several states rather than confining myself to one area of the country. Even California (where I currently live) has taken a dramatic shift to the right which is exactly why our current "president" has been voted 2 TIMES.

So for anyone who thinks this country is so "diverse" look at the election statistics rather than making a generalization!

And open your eyes and stop living in the typical American fantasyland about everything here is so good and so great and so diverse! And continually no NOTHING ABOUT THE REST OF THE WORLD!

Posted by Mary on 27 December 2006, 11:36 pm | Link


You remind me of those people who say "I'm not racist BUT...." And then they say something incredibly racist.(Because you say "I don't hate Americans..." and then you precede to stereotype all of America based on gross misinformation and plain ignorance. Which funny enough, you accused someone else of.)

First of all, what does the U.S. medical system (or movies for that matter) have to do with passports? Second, the U.S. unemp rate is at par with or LOWER than the "western democracies."

Oh and Chris Harrison, I can't tell you how many times I have read something outrageously stupid and ignorant come out of a European's mouth. But yet, I try to not let the influence my opinion of Europeans.(Can we maybe agree that people are stupid everywhere and that Europe, or Australia as Jenny has so wisely shown us, have their fair share?)

Some of you seem to think you know so much about us, and that you are vastly more informed on our own culture/politics than ourselves. I wouldn't dare lecture someone from Europe like I have seen some do to Americans over and over again on the web.

I'm really flabbergasted at to why others would even care about the U.S. passport rate. I know I don't care how many people travel from other countries. (And it's REALLY amazing that some from the U.K would pull out this statistic and throw it in an American traveler's face! How rude...But I know how in vogue it's to be snobbish towards anything American.) What do you even think this statistic proves?

Furthermore, +/- 18% of the population with passports still means that around 50 mil Americans have them. (Which is about the population of many European countries.) So one could say that there are as many Americans traveling as there are English.

Posted by liz on 18 January 2007, 3:34 am | Link…

The guide offers a series of "simple suggestions" under the slogan, "Help your country while you travel for your company".

The advice targets a series of common American traits and includes:
• Think as big as you like but talk and act smaller. (In many countries, any form of boasting is considered very rude. Talking about wealth, power or status - corporate or personal - can create resentment.)
• Listen at least as much as you talk. (By all means, talk about America and your life in our country. But also ask people you're visiting about themselves and their way of life.)
• Save the lectures for your kids. (Whatever your subject of discussion, let it be a discussion not a lecture. Justified or not, the US is seen as imposing its will on the world.)
• Think a little locally. (Try to find a few topics that are important in the local popular culture. Remember, most people in the world have little or no interest in the World Series or the Super Bowl. What we call "soccer" is football everywhere else. And it's the most popular sport on the planet.)
• Slow down. (We talk fast, eat fast, move fast, live fast. Many cultures do not.)
• Speak lower and slower. (A loud voice is often perceived as bragging. A fast talker can be seen as aggressive and threatening.)
• Your religion is your religion and not necessarily theirs. (Religion is usually considered deeply personal, not a subject for public discussions.)
• If you talk politics, talk - don't argue. (Steer clear of arguments about American politics, even if someone is attacking US politicians or policies. Agree to disagree.)

Keith Reinhard, one of New York's top advertising executives, who heads BDA, said: "Surveys consistently show that Americans are viewed as arrogant, insensitive, over-materialistic and ignorant about local values. That, in short, is the image of the Ugly American abroad and we want to change it."

Posted by Taff Thomas on 22 January 2007, 7:59 am | Link

I thought others might be interested in a piece on the NY time webpage. They say that the passport offices are having problems keeping up with the demand for passports since the changes in 2007. In 2007 people traveling by air outside of the US will require a passport.

I would have liked to see the increase in passports if they would have kept the change to anyone traveling outside the US rather than making it just by air.

The following is from the NY times.
"According to the State Department, an estimated 27 percent of Americans currently carry a valid passport; it expects to issue 16 million to 18 million passports in its fiscal year 2007, ending Sept. 30, compared with 12.1 million in fiscal year 2006. In addition, department officials say, demand for passport processing was up 52 percent in the last quarter of 2006 from the period in 2005."

Posted by Keith on 24 January 2007, 5:33 pm | Link

I saw a recent TV report on the INS and the passport office, they were afraid that they'd have to process up to 100 million new/renewed US passports to comply with all the DHS and other travel requirements.

This number seems high, but even that represents just 33% of the population.

Posted by David Taber on 8 February 2007, 1:58 am | Link

i think that every person in th eu should have to own a passpot it is a great way to help show your identy and it is nice to know that you can leave at any time where as some people cannot

Posted by cololena on 16 February 2007, 12:57 am | Link

The number of Americans who own a valid passport are probably around 25 percent. But the actual number of Americans who travel abroad are probably less than 5 percent. Most travel agencies in the US say that only about 5 percent of the tickets they sell are for international destinations.

Posted by Mike on 17 March 2007, 1:22 am | Link

I'm no expert about America or it's people. But i do know one thing. There's alot of fat people in USA judging from this statement from Wikipedia.

From 2003-2004, "children and adolescents aged 2 to 19 years, 17.1% were overweight...and 32.2% of adults aged 20 years or older were obese.

So, would an obese person fly on a plane on one of those economy class seats for 12 hours or more? NO. Would they walk around all day checking out museums, clubs, and other sight seeing areas? a good chance they wouldn't.

Not only is there alot of obese people in America who will end up spending $1000's on medical bills, there's alot of ignorant people to add to the problem. They are conditioned thoroughly to think USA is the whole world and don't feel the need to travel because 'they have everything'.

well let me ask a few questions. Does America have: bullfighting, quality beer, a city of freedom like Amsterdam, beautiful islands with rooms for $6 a night including breakfast, tribal dances, safari tours, a city on water like Venice, places like ibiza where it's just a party island, the warmth and humour of a real Irish pub?

the answer is NO. Not every country has these things, that's why people with a sense of adventure like to visit other countries and live for a moment in that culture, they don't get satisfaction from just seeing it on television, they would rather be there and experience it for themselves.

Posted by James on 18 March 2007, 6:26 pm | Link

I do have to say to the last comment, that is a typical non-American viewpoint. As a citizen of 2 countries living in the US at this time, there are many variations and cultures within the US. While they are geared to see their own country as the best, this is no differnt from any other nation's tourism board. Also, traveling within counties in EU is easier when you are not facing a $2,000 airline ticket, hours at an international airport, and hours in the sky. Topple that with the 2-3 weeks Americans get per year for vacation (holiday) and you will begin to see that saying "All American's are Ignorant", is nothing more that a easily applied label.

Posted by Rae on 21 March 2007, 5:26 pm | Link

Interesting conversation folks, and something I spend a lot of time thinking about as an American who travels frequently and has friends and aquaintances in many nations. For years I have heard the argument that Americans are insular and selfish among other criticisms. Occasionally I have been tempted to buy into that as it is repeated to me so often by people from other places. Then I take the time to realise that I am not, and never have been surrounded by people who are ignorant or meanspirited. Most people I know are highly educated and compassionate and caring and generous. We are multi-cultural and have available to us a plethora of educational and sightseeing options. This country is huge and it is beautiful. We have mountains and oceans and deserts and cities that are unique to other places in this beautiful world. My children travel internationally with me quite often, and each time we go we actually see the country we visit. We go to museums, we venture into the communities, and we eat the food. We do not lie on the beach all day, or spend the evenings in the bars. We respect all cultures and realise that we are one planet. Far and away the majority of us are not the boors that we are portrayed. I could never deny that there is an element that is insular and ignorant, and have done a terrible injustice to other Americans and the whole world, and that we are ALL paying for it, but as my husband and I were just discussing last night, we've met a share of these types everywhere. I see some of them posting on this discussion, and I'd never assume that they are indicative of the native population of that place. Very respectfully yours.

Posted by Sharon on 24 March 2007, 9:13 pm | Link

The Citizens of the U.S. on average do not travel to Europe,Asia or other far away destinations. The number of passports is an indicator but if you have a passport or not it still does not indicate if it is used or not.
Many U.S. citizens have little vacation time and they tend to stay closer to home. Another Reason most Citizens do not travel far from the U.S. is the constant brain-washing from the media(magazines,T.V.,Newspapers)how the rest of the world is crap and the U.S. is number 1.
Most Citizens here in the U.S. are not educated from a World view, only from a U.S.-centric view.
Many Citizens are having a tough time financially, they worry about healthcare costs,Higher education costs,house Insurance costs,etc so they cannot afford to go on a vacation to Paris or elsewhere.
The gini-index is approaching 50, most other western countries are around 30(some less) meaning the rich/poor gap is off the chart.
The Ticket prices and vacation packages are cheaper in Europe compared to the U.S.(usually half the price)It is not uncommon for a German Citizen to vacation in Turkey(for example) for 10 days for $300 Euros-Hotel(sometimes meals) and plane ticket included in a resort area.
20% of the population in the U.S. keeps the entire economy going, the rest of the population does not have the money to splurge.
With the Euro now 1.34 it should come as no shock.
Someone also said we do not have 8 million of our citizens in Prison,on parole,probation or house arrest-Yes we do!!!!! That's over 30% of world totals!
If you live in San Francisco or some other international city, yes you would say I'm wrong but that is not the entire country but a minority. You are educated on a much higher level then most of the country and your economy is stronger then the average because of the progressive people in these areas.
Genuine progress indicators are the standard to measure a community or country. Since 1979 the U.S. GPI has been declining on average. In most other Western Countries it has improved.
Rich/Poor gaps,debts(Trade,Governmental,Consumer,etc),Incarceration rates,Pollution levels and Environmental standards,number of hours worked per year,vacation time,cost of Healthcare,Cost of Higher Education,Average life -Expectency(48th for the U.S.)Quality of jobs,Safety nets,etc.

Posted by thomas riccardo on 28 March 2007, 2:32 pm | Link

I have been trying to find this statistic for months, seems I am not the only one having trouble getting a clear answer. And like a previous post I would be curious to a breakdown of what demographics are represented. For example, Do more young people have passports? Do they have more now than before? How often do those with passports use them? Are most only used onced? I get asked these types of questions a lot when I travel.

I wanted to be able to compare it to statistics in gun ownership.

Posted by palabra on 18 April 2007, 6:04 pm | Link

" I have been trying to find this statistic for months, seems I am not the only one having trouble getting a clear answer. And like a previous post I would be curious to a breakdown of what demographics are represented."

True, never trust a statistic you haven't done yourself. There is also the minor issue of how many people travel with second passports such as offered by www.diplomaticsecondpa… among others. Not many people like to bear the brunch of our foreign politics, after all we don't travel with security detachmant, don't we? Statistics is something to make people think in a way the issuer would like them to.


Posted by wapper on 28 April 2007, 4:25 pm | Link

I am not an American but I am not anti-American (US). I have lived most of my life in Canada but I have also lived in the US and traveled to many places in the world.

I have observed (no stats only my opinion) that Americans are very sensitive to critisism and usually have good intentions to others. A problem for a country that has so much influence in the world is that Americans are generally not well informed or particularly interested in things outside the US.
The claim that your President doesn't represent the US seems disengenuous when the fact is about half of American voters voted for Bush twice.

Posted by Phil R on 2 May 2007, 3:13 pm | Link

I am amazed to see how quickly people make generalizations about people from the US. I am truly astounded at the fact that someone can label 300 million people ignorant at the drop of a hat. The United States is very much like every other country in the world with respect to having both well educated and ignorant citizens. Saying that people from the US are uniformed and uninterested in the world is yet another hasty generalization.

As for the charge that people for the US are sensitive to criticism about our country, it is probably true. However, I am not sure that it is necessarily a bad thing. You might find Democracy in America by Alexis DeTocqueville interesting. Tocqueville makes some brilliant observations about people in the US that are still true today.

Posted by Liz on 3 May 2007, 1:08 pm | Link

You're right Liz every country has informed and uninformed citizens. However, the US has a great deal of influence in the world and it is noticeable when some (in my observation a lot of) US citizens are uninformed about the rest of the world. This perception even though the US usually has good intentions is seen as arrogant.

As an aside it seems to me, from living in many places in the US, that quite a few Americans don't know about and have little interest in other parts of the US.
Phil R

Posted by Philip Raitz on 4 May 2007, 6:01 am | Link

What a fascinating and informative page - or to be more accurate, 81 pages.
I'm English, been lucky enough to travel widely and visited or lived in the USA since the early 80's. I know the West coast better than the East, but like so many other Europeans, much of the middle is virgin territory apart from a drive from Fort Lauderdale to San Diego.
I've seen Americans arriving off the cruise ships in the Caribbean, visiting Hampton Court and the Tower of London and most of the previous 80 pages reflects their perception over here.

As I travel through Europe, there are an increasing number of countries and places where I would hate to be seen as a Brit. Our "ambassadors" leave a trail of violence, vomit and bad behaviour behind them.

On balance, I have had more enlightening experiences with 'Yanks Abroad' than the worst examples of the country.

When you only have short vacations, and the country is so large, and you have a RV or boat, then the rest of the world is for retirement - If then !

Don't berate yourself - the Americans abroad probably form the same ratios as the Europeans on holiday in Europe. When you see drunken Germans, Swedes and Brits brawling the in the streets of Majorca - loud voices, shirts and trousers seem tame.

Thanks everyone above for a great read and considered flame free debate - and all I wanted to know was the percentage of Americans with a passport.


Posted by Dave Raven on 4 May 2007, 5:21 pm | Link

Good post Dave.

This forum has strayed significantly from "the prercentage of Americans with passports" but the posts have been very intresting and for the most part civil.

The fact that the discussions have been largely rational is particularly noteable since we are talking about politics and national identities.


Posted by Philip Raitz on 5 May 2007, 6:00 am | Link

Back to the statistics: people might like to look at the 2006 update to the US Bureau of Transportation Statistics survey of International Travel and Transportation Trends. This gives figures for outbound overseas overnight visits from the US as 27.4 million for 2004, up 1.9% from 2000 (there was a severe dip to 23.4 million in 2002, presumably as a post 9/11 event). The amount of travel to Canada and Mexico is considerably far higher, with 34 million outbound overnight visits and 92 million outbound same day. See… for the data.

By comparison, 2007 visits abroad by UK residents totalled 68.4 million (see… ).

More detailed but older (2005) figures are on…
These show 66.4 million visits abroad, of which 52.8 million are to Europe. The majority of these are holiday (44.2 million), with 10.6 million being to visit family and 8.6 million being business.

Given the relative population sizes, any way you look at it, external travel from the UK is a lot higher, and it's mostly driven by holidays (as opposed to visits home by immigrants or visits to emigrant family members).

By comparison, in 2006, there were 20 million overseas visits by French citizens (see…
if you read French), of which 67% were in Europe. This amounted to 10.8% of travel, which tells you that the French are far more likely to go on holiday in France.

Given that both France and the US have popular beach and winter sports destinations, and that the UK has no skiing and iffy beach weather, I'm not sure what else this tells you!

Posted by David Karlin on 8 June 2007, 9:20 am | Link

No one here is touching on the subjects I listed before, Why?
The Gini-index has increased and now is above 48 at present while the European average is close to 30 and some countries in the mid-20's.
Don't you think that has an effect on who can afford overseas vacations or not?

What about Americans working many more hours than most other Western Countries?
Do you think they injoy working so many hours?
They are forced, we don't have many Unions or work Concils in the states like France or Germany!
The average U.S. citizen take less then two weeks off per year and many still work while on vacation thanks to the Internet and cell phone.

U.S. Healthcare is the world's most expensive.
U.S. Higher Education is the World's most expensive.
In Germany, many landers(states still have free tuition)and also students receive 600 years monthly to live one plus health insurance along with 2 Euro meals and 170 Euro per month apartments to live.
Some can take additional interest free loans if needed for living expenses.
Germans are Universally covered with Health Insurance.

If the folks here what to ignore me, good it shows me that they are the ones who are closed minded on the reasons why many Americans don't travel or have a passport.

The U.S. Genuine Progress Indicators peaked in the 1970's and has declined since, look ut up!

The Amerian Dollar as declined since the early 1970's against mosts currencies and the Euro-dollar is 34 cents higher then the U.S. at present, Weak Economy perhaps?

American inflation rates versus other mainland European Countries has been higher for 25 years now and this pattern continues, why?

Why does the average American Life Expectency rank 47th in the world?
Why is our Healthcare system ranked 37th?

Could some of these little know facts indicate why we don't travel overseas as much?

And it really,really pisses me off when a few Rich Americans write on this and many other forums about how great everything is while they live in their multi-million dollar houses in San Francisco or New York and are so removed from the average reality of the citizens here they don't check the facts or know what is going on.

Naturally the folks in San Francisco will travel more then the rest of the nation-they have more money and higher educations.
Also an international city with many foreign nationals which influence native Americans.

We are the world's Greatest Debtor nation and it continues to decline and anyone that comes from Britain-your economy is no-better!
I've been to England and I've seen the cost of living versus the rest of Europe and your wages.
London versus Berlin-you can buy a house in Eastern Germany for 5 or 10 times less then what you pay for it in London and the wages in the two cities are almost the same so who has the higher standard?
The folks who are unemployed in Berlin still receive Government Benefits and work in the Underground Economy and yes I've met several that do this-the German Government is subsidizing low wage workers really.

Also 2 trillion dollars have been invested in the east side of Germany-for anyone that has not been there it is ultramodern and many companies are moving operations into the area.

Germany land Taxes are cheaper, Car Insurance is cheaper, House Insurance is cheaper,High Educational costs are free or cheap,the Food is cheaper then here in Florida,Electrical costs are cheaper in Germany versus Florida(airconditioning),etc,etc.

The only thing more expensive in Germany was the petrol and most Germans now use Diesal Cars so that has reduced costs for drivers.

Many U.S. states have Income taxes,local taxes and federal taxes when you add this up the taxes are high(40% in New York) and we do not get the benefits the Germans recieve usually.

And for all those you say most Europeans are unemployed-Europe has Created more jobs then the U.S. since 1998 and in 2006 the Eurozone Created 2.8 million new jobs.
The population to Employment Ratio in the E.U. is actually slightly higher then the states-10 years ago no but it is now!

Many things affect Vacations and Passports, No?

Posted by thomas riccardo on 12 June 2007, 2:10 pm | Link

The correct figure for U.S. passports currently held as of early this year was 74 million. That's about 25% of the total population, or about 34% of the over-18 population. The number of passport holders is rising rapidly because of the new passport requirements for travel to neighboring countries. Because of this historical pattern of travel to countries where a passport is not or has not been required, the percentages may be lower than for countries in places such as Europe.

It is expected that as many as 17 million passports will be issued this year.…

Posted by ph on 18 June 2007, 4:09 pm | Link

Can a member of the U.S. Army National Guard use a military ID in lieu of a passort?

Posted by RS on 4 July 2007, 4:46 pm | Link

# of US travelers to Europe every year: 11,761,000
# of European travelers to US every year: 10,095,000

% of US citizens that visit Europe in a given year: 3.9%
% of Europeans that visit US in a given year: 2.0%

I'd be very interested to know how many EU citizens travel outside of the EU in a given year, and what effect the recent changes to visa requirements for intra-EU travel are having on EU passport ownership. By the way, some 25 million Americans travel overseas (i.e., outside North America) every year. That's around 8.5% of the US population. I'd be surprised if the percentage of Europeans travelling outside Europe were significantly higher than that.

Posted by ED on 4 July 2007, 5:54 pm | Link

I find this discussion interesting. I've read comments from 2003-04.

I am a 28 year old American born citizen who does own a passport, but have only used it once (to go to Mexico for 4 days) and can understand why many Americans doesn't even own one:

Just speaking of my own experience, but does reflect the majority of the country:

-2 week vacations a year; if you get vacation time at all! To travel to Europe, for instance, you need at least 2-3 days of travel time on both ends of the trip to account for the actual flight, time difference and jet lag. I live in California so this is especially true. In California we cannot roll over vacation, so its not like we can save it for the next year. Most companies have a "use it or loose it" policy. Taking a leave without pay was not an option at my last two companies--short of quitting or getting fired. Heck, I haven't even taken a vacation longer than 4 days at a time since 1999 let alone has the time and resources to travel abroad. Thankfully, I can take small trips to places like Yosemite and Big Sur, but even that is rare.

-Sure I can take a financial risk and not work, but with my cost of health insurance being close to $400/mo, its in my best interest to keep working **full time** for the group health insurance. I know entire families that have to pay over $1000 a month for health insurance. Its not cheap or free here.

-With the cost of education, lack of employer benefits - many companies are just hiring "contractors" so they don't have to give paid time off or health insurance, the cost of health and dental care (I still have $2000 worth of dental work to do despite insurance), no standard time off, long work hours (not by choice!) its difficult to think about having any time away for any length of time.

There are just some examples, but wanted to point out that not all Americans are living in McMansions and driving new cars.

Posted by rosraw on 11 July 2007, 10:24 pm | Link

Wow...for all the good debate there is an equal amount of jingoism and anti-Americanism...

Dan Margets: I regretfully didn't read your entire post though many from the UK seemed to think it was informative. My reason for not reading the whole thing? You equate possible 'insularity' to a waitresses not recognizing that you were saying you were from "the United Kingdom" If you had studied the culture of Kansas, you'd know that The University of Kansas is essentially the end all be all in a great portion of that state, and it is known colloquially as "The UK". (think of what your football clubs mean to your smaller towns) There is no doubt she thought you were saying you were from the University. She probably didn't assume you meant The UK because, believe it or not, most people here don't want to be presumptuous, because sometimes the similarities between some Aussie and some Brit accents are very close to an ear that hasn't heard it for a while (or at all)

Thomas Riccardo: wow. I haven't seen some one cook the books quite like you. Misinformed, but I appreciate your doggedness.

There is also a big lack of understanding of the US education system. In most big cities and their surrounding suburbs, all kids learn US history for a semester and world history for the next semester every year. It doesn't seem SO outrageous to want people to understand where their own country came from and how it works does it? We do learn quite a bit of WORLD history. In fact, we probably spend more time learning about ancient Rome, Greece, Holy Roman Empire, British Empire the 20th century in Europe (mostly WWI and WWII) than we do the revolutionary or civil war.

Additionally, to people going on about the unavailability of higher education, nothing could be further from the truth. You can do your first 2 years of school at community college for around $21/credit and I have yet to see a school that demands all of it upfront. Add to that the FAFSA loans that are available to everyone, you can get money to pay for school, interest free while you are in school with no requirement to pay until you graduate and have a job. The FAFSA loans are available to EVERYONE. Grants to the underprivileged go even further to lessen any hardship financially. It is available if you are willing to spend a few hours filling out a form or two, which most aren't.

In the bulk of my travels, which haven't been as considerable as I'd like due to lack of time and to a lesser extent a lack of money, I've found that the "jerks" are far outnumbered by the interesting people who are interested in what we are like and generally interested in the culture. It's my experience that many friends have a similar interest when we meet people from other parts of the world.

One last note, I've seen the "you should come to Europe because America is young and thus very little history"

This is as uneducated a comment as any by the "ugly Americans" We have native American cities in the deserts here that date back to before the Egyptians that take a week to fully explore and absorb. In Mexico (a popular destination for Americans) there are similar things left over from the Mayans. Much of Europe had to get rid of their early monuments and such simply because of lack of space. So while Rome may be 2000 years old, there are ancient Anazazi and Mayan cities that are nearly 3500 years old. So while White European Immigrant history in the US is not very long, there is still plenty of very ancient historical sites to appreciate and love.

Let's try to stop the stereotyping and knee jerk hate. Perhaps if we can learn to not judge people by the crap politicians who come to power (by whatever means) and embrace and engage them to learn and understand their experiences and how they may relate to our own and maybe find something in how they live that may be a better alternative to our own way we might actually be better off. If at the end of the conversation you think "well I think my country is better" that's fine, at least you took the time with an open mind to embrace and engage someone and their experiences and see how they might relate to our own.

Posted by papa bear on 18 July 2007, 7:21 am | Link

Papa bear, I don't think "well I think my country is better" is open minded.

You should consider that if something is not American it does not mean it is anti-American and that Americans are held to a higher standard becauce the US is the super power.

Posted by Philip Raitz on 19 July 2007, 10:47 am | Link

RS: if you are landing at a military airport in a NATO country, and returning from a military airport in a NATO country, your military ID may be enough. But a passport would provide you with flexibility to change your plans. To avoid ruined plans, check with the embassy of the country you wish to visit.

Posted by M on 22 July 2007, 11:15 pm | Link

Does anyone know how many U.S. politicians have passports?

Posted by jeb on 25 July 2007, 1:30 pm | Link

Does anyone know how many millions of hours Europeans waste each year on trying to rationalize their anti-American bigotry?

Posted by ED on 8 August 2007, 1:01 am | Link

Absolutely zero. Those sorts of comments are the source of Americas problems. Why Americans believe we all care about who they are is symptomatic of their belief that they are disproportionately relevant to the world. They will start to feel the effects of increasing industrialization by India and Chine over the coming decades as they see there belief systems disregarded by the rest of the world. Its mantra of "Might is right" will only hold true while the world tolerates it in its self appointed "world policeman" role. The world is a constantly changing place and just as we Brits found with the dissolution of Empire so will America. God bless America but saints preserve the rest of us from its ambitions.

Posted by Petros on 8 August 2007, 11:50 am | Link

Yeah, nothing says "I don't spend time obsessing about America" like posting an incoherent diatribe prophesizing the downfall of American power to an obscure message board.

Or was your point simply that you don't feel the need to rationalize your bigotry?

Also, the British Empire is a poor rhetorical tool for use on Americans, for a variety of reasons which should be obvious. If I recall correctly, someone already said it better much earlier in this thread.

Lastly, I must protest the violence you do to the word "mantra" by misusing it in such a way.

Posted by ED on 8 August 2007, 8:55 pm | Link

Ed, there are of course differences between the British Empire and the American Hegemony but there are some similarities. Petros' comparison has validity.

Posted by Philip Raitz on 9 August 2007, 12:05 pm | Link

I didn't say the comparison was invalid (although there are very fundamental differences between an actual empire and America's place in the world). What I said was that the British Empire is a poor rhetorical tool for use on Americans. This is true for a number of reasons:

1) America used to be part of said empire, leading to:
2) America was founded on the rejection of said empire, leading to:
3) America played an important role in bringing down said empire (ban on colonial expansion during WWII, role in Suez Crisis, funding of the IRA, etc.)

So you can see how tone-deaf it is when some self-righteous Brit tries to lecture Americans on the lessons of empire, as if we'd never heard of the thing. Our whole approach to the world is based on the rejection of empire. That many Europeans are apparently unable to conceive of a powerful Western nation relating to the rest of the world through any means other than imperialism says more about Europe than it does about America.

Posted by ED on 9 August 2007, 6:05 pm | Link

Ed, it is naive not to accept the fact that there are similarities between how Britain was perceived in the world when the British Empire existed and how the US is perceived now. For example the British belief (often altruistic) that it was Britain's duty to civilise and improve the rest of the world resulted in much of the world resenting Britain. Today Americans, which usually have good motives, sometimes find it hard to accept that the "American way" may not be "right" in another country and often view any alternatives as anti-American.

Phil R

Posted by Philip Raitz on 10 August 2007, 7:16 am | Link

Philip, do you really not understand the difference between a criticism of rhetoric and a criticism of content? I haven't rejected the substance of the comparison with the British Empire, just pointed out how rhetorically useless it is on Americans. To take another example, imagine a Frenchman lecturing an Algerian on the dangers of empire. Even if his point was totally cogent, the only thing the Algerian is going to glean from his comment is that he's a presumptuous ass. His obliviousness to Algeria's suffering at the hands of said empire would say much more than whatever point he might have been trying to make. Same goes for using the British Empire as a tool for criticizing America: the only reaction it's going to produce in Americans is a desire to hold a bigger, better 4th of July celebration the next time around.

Also, you (like many others) seem to be deeply confused about how Americans as a whole relate to other peoples. The truth is that the vast majority of Americans have no particular interest in exporting what you refer to as "the American way," assuming you mean by that term anything more than self-determination, human rights and personal liberty. There may well be a more cohesive program whithin the governing and policy elite, but it's a mistake to impute that onto the American psyche as a whole. America is a very big, very diverse country, one which produces much more cogent criticisms of American intentions, beliefs and policy than any I've ever heard from abroad.

As far as viewing "alternatives" as anti-American, you're assigning motive here, which is one of the oldest fallacies in the book. Beyond that, I'd complain that this criticism (which I hear a lot lately) is awfully vague. You're going to have to give me at least one example of a "right" "alternative" which, furthermore, is only anti-American in the minds of Americans if you want me to buy into your blanket characterization of Americans as naive, insecure imperialists.

Posted by ED on 10 August 2007, 6:18 pm | Link

Ed, I am trying to say that the US is the super power and has a great deal of influence on other countries. The US has not been seriously thought of by most of the world as a former British colony for a long time. The US has not been a British colony for over two hundred years and should be aware how other countries view the US. The Algerian type analogy may be how Americans view themseves but it is sure not a world view.

I can see that Americans are turned off by comparing the American position in the world today with the British Empire of the past. I understand that if Americans think of the US as an oppressed former colony and the rest of the world doesn't there is a problem.

Your statement is correct "The truth is that the vast majority of Americans have no particular interest in exporting what you refer to as "the American way," assuming you mean by that term anything more than self-determination, human rights and personal liberty.". The problem is that Americans look at these matters as absolutes defined by the American experience. This view is seen by others as insensitive to the sovereignty of foreign countries.

For example a lot of the world views the fact that US has a high proportions of its population incarcerated as a human rights violation. The US view on imprisonment does not agree with that interpretation and most Americans would strongly resist any foreign attempts to fix what foreigners (and some Americans) see as a problem. Similar differences exist with health care, gun control, capital punishment, discrimination, press freedom, voting irregularities, ect.

Posted by Philip Raitz on 12 August 2007, 9:40 am | Link

Woah, woah, I'm not saying Americans consider themselves as an oppressed colony in general. It's just when some arrogrant Brit starts in with the usual "we know a lot more about Empire than you Yanks" line, as if we'd never heard of the British Empire. The point is that the founding elements of American government and national identity were all a product of opposition to the British Empire. If a Frenchman or a Dutchman wants to bloviate about the lessons of Empire, Americans are a lot more receptive (even though both of those states had colonies in what is now the United States). On the other hand, you'll also find that many Americans look up to the British Empire (or at least the 1800s version of it) as a model for America. Suffice it to say that America has a very complicated relationship with Britain.

Anyway, there's a reason I put self-determination first in my list of principles for export. Americans are generally happy to let other people define what they want for themselves (almost nobody gives a damn if Japan has strict gun control laws, or Australia doesn't have the death penalty, or Canada has universal health care). Even in areas where Americans are truly bothered by practices in other countries, said concerns often take a back seat to considerations of sovereignty (China, various Middle Eastern states, etc.). Moreover, I'm struggling to come up with an example of America violating the sovereignty of a nation over health care, gun control, capital punishment, discrimination, press freedoms or voting irregularities. The term "insensitive to sovereignty" is pretty vague, and I'm having trouble seeing how it applies to America any more than most other nations...

You must realize, though, that America is in an almost impossible position with respect to these issues: if we take a conservative approach and don't push other countries for changes in these areas, we're accused of backing oppressive dictatorships. On the other hand, if we DO press for changes, we're accused of causing instability and meddling in the affairs of others. It's a fine balance, and one that external critics do not often appreciate. Americans, in turn, understand this and so are apt to disregard said criticisms.

Posted by ED on 13 August 2007, 10:55 pm | Link

I have been trying to say that a super power has to expect that it is going to get a lot of criticism and some of it is jealousy. The US has a responsibility to consider all input and not dismiss everything that hurts their feelings.

The world does not accept the "we are former colony" line from the big dog. Part of accepting the responsibility of being the most powerful nation on earth is not being thin skinned and realising it is a "fine balance". I disagree that the rest of the world does not appreciate the US position and I believe the US should be more open to criticism.

The invasion of Iraq, Panama, the backing of "contra" rebels in Nicaragua, meddling in Central American politics, failure to react to the Rwanda genocide, ect. are examples of insensitivity and the "fine balance" you speak of.

Posted by Philip Raitz on 14 August 2007, 3:12 pm | Link

Oh, so you speak on behalf of "the world" now, huh?

Anyway, you've gotten to the heart of the matter: America is very powerful, and everyone else resents this, no matter what America does. Any time America does (or does not do) anything, every other nation in the world evaluates it in terms of their own interests and influence, and usually most of them are disappointed. You can probably see why this situation leads Americans to listen less to outsiders, rather than more. Also, there's a difference between not considering input, and deciding not to heed it. It's amusing that critics are so often convinced of their own correctness that they'll insist that the reason America did (or didn't) do whatever it is they're worried about is because they ignored their point of view. In fact, it's usually that America heard their point of view, disagreed, and decided on a different course of action. The critic in question then insists that this happened because America is stupid, not because their argument wasn't so compelling after all.

The interventions (and one non-intervention) you cite were all driven by security conserns (rightly or wrongly). None of them was undertaken in order to spread "the American Way," although various human rights and democracy issues were of course mentioned in support of them. But America certainly doesn't go around invading other countries over issues like gun control or health care. it takes a threat (real or perceived) to get that kind of response.

Also, support for the Contras was undertaken in secret, in express violation of American law and the will of the American people. People were convicted of high crimes for that one. So you can see that it's not only the voices of outside critics that are ignored by American policy: often the views of Americans and even Congress are disregarded. I mention this to illustrate how fallacious it is to impute characteristics onto Americans as a whole from the foreign policy of the United States.

Posted by ED on 14 August 2007, 5:18 pm | Link

Seems like I provoked an interesting exchange of views.

ED, my apologies for posting such an "incoherent diatribe" but it was only a fleeting visit to the site in search of information on the number of Americans holding a passport. It is obvious that you are an educated individual who also happens to be an idiot - I have met many clever idiots in my time (of various nationalities).

You lambast Philip Raitz in your various replies in a style that classically defines a bully, thankfully Philip is much more skilled than I at taking your various arguments apart.

I consider myself a 21st century Brit who recognizes the failings of our forbear's and am prepared to acknowledge their involvement in slavery, racial oppression and all manner of other devious actions but what I cannot and will not do is take the sort of comments as "Or was your point simply that you don't feel the need to rationalize your bigotry?" unchallenged. Schoolyard bullies the world over are inevitably cowards, fearful that their position must be maintained by exerting power over lesser people or nation states.

Whilst individual american's, in my experience, are honest, upstanding individuals, as a nation you continue to support policies at home and abroad that typify the "might is right" philosophy. Your involvement in Vietnam and Korea taught you nothing because you believe you have nothing to learn. To then dress up the actions you take as concern for security "rightly or wrongly", "real or perceived" is almost laughable. America's interest in security is manifestly important as was our when we where being bombed in our towns and cities by the IRA, yet the American administration did nothing to stop the funding, or to surrender known terrorists to justice.

In short if you want to be the big kid on the block then stick to your block. The rest of us can get by without you, we did for centuries past and we will for the centuries to come.

Posted by Petros on 15 August 2007, 4:18 pm | Link

Wow, you sure showed me. Between the total uncomprehension of my posts, reliance on tired cliches, haughty self-righteousness and vapid chest-thumping, you've really made an air-tight case. Truly, there's nothing like a second diatribe full of childish ad-hominems to put those beastly Yanks in their place.

Anyhow, regarding the one point buried in your screed (IRA terrorism): I thought it would have been clear that the security concerns I was referring to pertain to American security. Which isn't to say that America isn't also interested in collective security, but that interest tends to be derived from interest in our own security (as is the case with every other nation invested in collective security arrangements).

That aside, American policy towards the IRA makes for an enlightening case study. First off, what is (or was) America's policy towards the IRA? Since Sept. 11, it's been pretty harsh towards the IRA, but prior to that it was a mixed bag. On the one hand, the government officially disapproved of them, but on the other, the Irish diaspora in the US was the main foreign supporter of the IRA, smuggling in lots of funding and weaponry. There are also allegations that the CIA approved and even coordinated some of this. So, how was it that America was supporting (or at least tolerating support for) an organization that was terrorizing a treaty ally? The answer is obvious: the Irish-American constituency is much more important to American politicians than the UK is. The British Empire oppressed the Irish people for God-only-knows how long (which is one of the factors resulting in such a large Irish-American population), and then you expect America to help you clamp down on them when they strike back? Do you have the faintest idea how deeply embedded the Irish are in the American population, culture and polity? The presidents whose inaction you are so shocked at were all descended from Irish immigrants. And do I really have to bring up the American Revolution and War of 1812 yet again?

This illustrates one of the primary mechanisms through which foreigners influence American policy: immigration. If it seems like we're ignoring you, it's probably because we've already heard the story from the million or so foreigners that become Americans every year, and are more inclined to trust them. Sometimes this gets us into trouble (Cuba, Iraq, etc.), and sometimes it gets the immigrants into trouble (Iran, Cuba again, etc.), but that's how it's done. We're an entire nation of people who got fed up with the bullshit in the old world. You say you "recognize the failings of your forbear's [sic]", and I respond: easy for you to say. It's America that ended up with all the slaves and refugees your empire churned out, and America that came to your rescue when your power failed. I suggest that your childish attitude towards America demonstrates exactly how unready you really are to come to grips with the failings of your forbears.

Posted by ED on 15 August 2007, 6:37 pm | Link

Ed, I guess I should have been clearer and said "in my opinion" the world looks at the US as a super power not a former colony. I have never heard of a non-American seriously considering the past colonial background of the US when evaluating the actions of the US today. However, you say this is a prevalent view in the US today and I have to admit that I hadn't thought such a wide variance existed.

I think that when you say "It's a fine balance, and one that external critics do not often appreciate. Americans, in turn, understand this and so are apt to disregard said criticisms." sounds pretty dismissive to me especially when most "external critics" understand fully the difficult position that the US has in the world. I don't believe it is reasonable to dismiss critism because you have decided (wrongly in my opinion) critics do not understand you.

"Security concerns" is pretty vague and can be used to justify almost any action. However, what was the "threat" used to justify the congressional investigation of the killing of a rebel leader in Guatemala or other types of meddling the US did in Central America? Maybe you can help me understand how Granada was a danger and threat to the US?

By the way the sanctions against Nicaragua were specifically authorized by your Congress and were not done in secret.

I don't think it reasonable to excuse all the wrongs of US foreign policy by saying that there is opposition to US foreign policy in the US and foreigners should butt out. I think foreigners find this disingenuous since there has been and still is a lot of support for US foreign policy in the US.

Your disrespect for Petros's comments is not educated and is a little silly.

Posted by Philip Raitz on 16 August 2007, 7:53 am | Link

Man, what is with you guys and reading comprehension? Do you really think you're fooling anyone when you put words in my mouth like this? At no point did I "excuse all of the wrongs of US foreign policy" (in fact, I don't recall excusing *any* of them, or even saying which ones I support). Nor did I ever say "foreigners should butt out" (in fact, I thought I was striking a rather proud note when I touted the large number of foreigners that Americans welcome into their soceity every year). I've simply tried to explain some of the mechanisms that drive the situation, in order to illustrate how your attribution of personality traits to Americans in general is inaccurate. But, hey, projecting stereotypes onto me must be real cathartic for you guys or something, so who cares what I say or think...

Again, the point about former-colony consciousness had to do not so much with evaluation of current policy but with reaction to criticism from arrogant Brits. Although, yeah, the whole revolutionary-era thing is a pretty deep part of the US national identity. That was the time when American identity was forged, the Fouding Fathers' faces are on all of our money, etc. etc.

That's great that you think foreigners understand America well enough to criticize her, but it would be even better if you provided some support for that position rather than simply repeating it over and over again. Particularly in the midst of a thread which so saliently demonstrates how little most of said critics understand about Americans.

All of the American actions in central and south America and the Caribbean (and just about everywhere else) during the Cold War were motivated by a fear of communism. It wasn't that any particular state was a threat on its own, but that they represented encroachment by a hostile superpower. You may recall the USSR stationing nuclear missiles in Cuba, for example. Let me emphasize that explaining what motivated a policy is not equivalent to approving of said policy. The only point I'm making here is that these policies were driven by security concerns.

Not sure why you keep sticking up for Petros. His posts are nothing more than a jumble of tired stereotypes, off-base ad-hominems and masturbatory self-righteousness, peppered with the occasional "individual Americans are okay, but..." and "sure, my ancestors were cold-blooded imperialists, but..." in a pathetic attempt to make himself sound reasonable and even-handed. My policy is that a disrespectful, silly post deserves a disrespectful, silly response. Call that "not educated" if you want, but I'm not at all insecure about my level of education. And the fact remains that Petros is doing more than I ever could to undermine your statement that people have a sufficiently deep, nuanced view of Americans for us to value their criticism.

In fact, he's provided a great answer to your question of why Americans seem to perceive so much criticism as anti-American, and to ignore it. It's because so much of the criticism we receive is so obviously nothing more than shallow anti-Americanism with a thin veneer of high-handed moral outrage. Americans have no problem with legitimate disagreements and criticism, but they also have no trouble recognizing ignorant bigotry. Exactly what would we gain by taking Petros' sentiments to heart? I suppose there might be some procedural benefits, in that it would make us look thoughtful and sincere to be seen taking all points of view into account (although it might also make us look insecure and naive), but what can we actually learn from the substance of his posts that would improve actual policies?

Posted by ED on 16 August 2007, 6:23 pm | Link

Ed, you bring up reading comprehension and I apologize for using generalizations.

I have been trying to say that I believe:

1) It is not a surprised that foreigners hold Americans responsible for US foreign policy.

2)"Security concerns" can be seen as unsophisticated or secretive foreign policy.

3) The US does not have a choice but the fact is the US has a great deal of influence on many countries in the world and is subject to a lot of criticism.

4) The rest of the world does not think it relevant that the world's super power was a colony over two hundred years ago.

5) I have to generalize here; Americans seem to me to be awfully sensitive to criticism from non-Americans. You said "Americans have no problem with legitimate disagreements and criticism". It is true there are a lot of varying points of view, disagreements, and criticisms among Americans and I believe this is good for American society. However, foreign criticism is not received well. The posts on this forum are illustrations of this and it is very telling as to how "legitimate" is defined

You defined my use of "the American way," to include self-determination, human rights and personal liberty and stated that security concerns and "various human rights and democracy issues were of course mentioned in support of them (interventions I cited)". I mentioned that "The problem is that Americans look at these matters (various human rights and democracy issues) as absolutes defined by the American experience". I think you can understand that "security concerns" can be seen as code for the "American way". The invasions I cited are examples of the US using force to enforce the "American way" (security concerns).

I mentioned health care, gun control, capital punishment, discrimination, press freedom, voting irregularities ect. as illustrations. You would know better than I but I think most Americans would appose a foreign power imposing universal health care, abolishing capital punishment, and reorganizing the penal system in the US even if the foreign power believed human rights were being violated. I believe there would be fairly wide spread resentment in the US if a foreign power were to do on site monitoring of press freedom, discrimination, voting procedures, and recommend that proportional representation be introduced as well as the Electoral College be abolished to provide democracy. The fact that some Americans believe some of these things need to be done is not the issue, foreign meddling is.

You asked "what can we actually learn from the substance of his (Petros's) posts that would improve actual policies?". The answer is I think that much of the world believes that "as a nation you (US) continue to support policies at home and abroad that typify the "might is right" philosophy." and "you (US) believe you have nothing to learn." You (Ed) have stated that you (I assume you mean the majority of Americans) don't see the US as a bully. The fact that there is such a large difference between what many Americans think and what many foreigners think is a policy concern for the world's super power.

When I said "foreigners should butt out" I was referring to the perception that Americans do not deal with foreign criticism well. I believe that the US should be commended and should be proud that Americans welcome a large number of foreigners into their society every year. That said sovereignty issues (vague?) I think dictate that immigrants even if they become citizens are not eligible for all elected positions in the US.

Posted by Philip Raitz on 17 August 2007, 11:31 am | Link

Well, if you're determined to see all American actions as driven by a desire to export the so-called American Way, there's not much I can say to dissaude you. Except maybe to point out, again, that America has never invaded another country over human rights concerns. As the Rwanda (and Darfur, and many other) example illustrates, America tends to do very little when human rights concerns don't align with security concerns. There was some blurring of the two categories during the Cold War, in that security issues tended to be intertwined with issues relating to internal development and governance, but that era is over. So I'm not sure what you're trying to prove with this example. Of course Americans would strenuously oppose a foreign intervention aimed at ending capital punishment. But they wouldn't support the invasion of a foreign country solely on human rights grounds, so what's your point?

I think you're giving Petros too much credit when you say he represents a majority of the world. I also don't recall me (or anyone else) saying anything about America being a bully. But anyway, what we're supposed to learn from his opinions is: 1) he disagrees with some (unspecified) policies and 2) he has a different image of America than Americans tend to. Great. You could pick any country in the world, and ask any person who is not a citizen of that country what they thought of it, and you'd get the same "insights."

However, I notice that you said this was a policy concern "for the world's super power," which implies to me that it may not be a problem for countries which do not fall into that category. Which is fair enough; I accept that with great power comes great responsibility. But the flipside of that point is that the double-standard undermines the credibility of foreign criticism. That is, when confronted by some kind of disagreement, Americans first have to evaluate whether they're being criticized because they're actually in the wrong, or just because they're powerful. And usually its the latter (can you name a single country in history that, when in a position of power in international affairs, behaved any better?). The corollary to all of this is that it's not so much the substance of policy that matters, but the style. For example, there's very little material difference in the foreign policies of the Bush and Clinton administrations, but the level of foreign animus towards them is markedly different. This comes down to a difference of style: Clinton was good at making others feel as though they had a fair say in decisions, while Bush is good at making others feel ignored and marginalized. The point being that when criticism is overly broad and conforms to a double-standard, it ceases to have any specific relevance to policy. The only insight we gain from it is that others are not as powerful as they would like to be, and that we should massage their egos if we want to avoid criticism.

The only positions that naturalized citizens cannot attain are President and Vice President of the United States. They can be elected to either house of Congress, the Supreme Court, serve in the President's Cabinet, become state Governors, etc. There has been talk of allowing naturalized citizens to run for President, particularly when Schwarzenegger won the Governership of California, but it's unlikely to happen any time soon.

Posted by ED on 17 August 2007, 5:58 pm | Link

Ed, it is not true when you say "America has never invaded another country over human rights concerns" and you are being pretty unreasonable in saying "But they wouldn't support the invasion of a foreign country solely on human rights grounds, so what's your point?". No nation has ever invaded another for solely one expressed reason; war is much more complex than that. My point is that the US has invaded other nations for many reasons including the claim that regime change would be beneficial to "human rights". These invasions took place long after the cold war was over. For example included among the reasons given for invading Iraq was the need for regime change.

I don't think I am alone in believing that "security concerns" is a pretty vague term and that the term has been used to explain a wide variety of actions.

You mentioned that you thought "sovereignty concerns" was kind of vague. Your example "Of course Americans would strenuously oppose a foreign intervention aimed at ending capital punishment" is a good clarification of the term. I didn't think it was being that subtle but in any case that is the answer to your question "So I'm not sure what you're trying to prove with this example.".

I was kind of shocked when you said "can you name a single country in history that, when in a position of power in international affairs, behaved any better" not trying to be better now than those in the past is aiming pretty low and I really think the US is better than that. I believe that Petros was trying to say (maybe not that articulately) that the US could learn from the mistakes the British made when Britain was a world power.

I felt badly that I did not provide a solid example of "Americans seem to me to be awfully sensitive to criticism from non-Americans". However your post provides a good example of foreign criticism not being received well. You are right in saying the US can never expect to avoid criticism and I don't think it is something to try for. However, viewing criticism in black and white terms and not appreciating that subtlety exists is not productive. For example "Americans first have to evaluate whether they're being criticized because they're actually in the wrong, or just because they're powerful. And usually its the latter" implies that criticism usually does not have a mixture of motives. Simply put one piece of criticism will usually be because it is believed that the US is doing something wrong AND the foreign critic is jealous of the power and influence the US has. To decide that the criticism has no value because it is partly (and maybe mainly) motivated by jealousy is naive and simplistic.

Posted by Philip Raitz on 18 August 2007, 9:32 am | Link

Dear GOD, It's so tiring reading on every site I visit the CONSTANT cry-baby WHINING of the Europeans about America! GET OVER YOURSELF. If Europe and America were two people, we'd have to get a RESTRAINING ORDER against you for your unhealthy PREOCCUPATION with us!!! GET A LIFE!!!

Posted by Americana on 18 August 2007, 2:19 pm | Link

There's no need to explicitly state that US actions abroad are bullying; that is self-evident. From Granada to Panama to the current conflict to the vilification of France for electing to not join the latest incursion in Iraq, the track record is extensive and consistently arrogant.
Furthermore, persisistent insistence on trumped-up security threats as validation for aggression overseas (and draconian policing at home, I must add) sets a dangerous precedent and a very bad example that only encourages people to act in a similar belligerent fashion - be they nations, organisations or individuals.

Much of the bristling and pigeon-holing retorts by americans to criticisms of the US come with an assumption of jealousy. As if there is no other viable motivation for someone from elsewhere to be seriously concerned about american foreign policy.
The high horse stance of defending freedom gives way to "you wish you were us" and "you couldn't do it bettter" defensive proclamations for want of anything more enlightened.
In a show of farce, the "price of freedom" has been mortgaged to the hilt and is teetering on the brink of collapse like a fatally flawed hedge fund; and now nuclear capabilities have become the more pressing goal of many countries as a deterent to american invasion thanks in large part to the unlawful invasion of Iraq.

I contend that as long as the American Way of self-determination includes the right to own hand guns for self-defense there is little chance that the deep-seated insecurity behind the bravado and bullying will give way to reasonable discourse any time soon.

Me? I've had my US passport for 30 years. That only about 18% - 20% have a passport is understandable primarily as a result of geography but also as a symptom of two other things: 1. available holiday time 2. lack of a national ID.

The average working american is lucky to get more than 3 weeks unpaid vacation time during any given year. This curtails somewhat the incentive to travel more extensively I believe.
The common official form of identification in the US is a state driving license. There is no required ID of national citizenship. This not only creates confusion and distrust when presented (because there are 50 state variations in style and appearance) but also encourages forgery.
What does driving a vehicle have to do with citizenship?

If there was a federally ID program such inconsistencies would be resolvable and - when the ID is a passport or available as an option in conjunction with such a program - more people would probably have passports.

Posted by Hugh on 18 August 2007, 3:59 pm | Link

3 weeks of PAID vacation, c'est à dire.

Posted by Hugh on 18 August 2007, 7:19 pm | Link

Americana, I believe it is reasonable and not at all unhealthy for people (even Europeans) to be concerned about what the most powerful nation on earth does.

Do you really think that US actions do not affect the rest of the world?

I think you have to grow up and look at the matter more maturely and realistically.

Posted by Philip Raitz on 19 August 2007, 8:21 am | Link

Hugh, my guess is you are an American who has, at the very least, spent sometime in Europe and therefore acquainted yourself with attitudes "on the ground" as opposed to the heinous rhetoric proffered by politicians of all countries and persuasions.

ED, my initial reason for seeking out the truth about passport ownership amongst Americans was simply to educate me as the the level of informed knowledge amongst the population, for surely you cannot truly understand a nation or culture until you have been exposed to its cultural diversity at first hand. It follows that opinions offered by the ill informed and unexperienced are as worthy of merit as those whose stance is driven home, with such vigour, for reasons of political or financial power or both.

I have traveled to many European countries (admittedly some in my youth for the purposes of sun, sand and sex) and to a lesser extent Canada and North and South America. In all that time I have taken it as my duty to understand the local rationale (why the French have such problems with America, why the Poles dislike the Germans only marginally less than the Russians and so on). For the life of me I cannot see how people like ED and Americana would proffer such opinions if they had also taken the time and effort to immerse themselves in other cultures.

As a nation I believe America had an enormous role to play in world affairs but sadly through its crude policies of overt and covert meddling in other countries affairs it has weakened, possibly fatally, its ability to act as a benevolent force for the good of mankind. It is patently obvious from ED's various comments that he has absolutely no interest in America taking this role and as a consequence the lessons of the British Empire will be lost to him and others of a similar ilk.

I stand by my comments - God bless America, but saints preserve the rest of us if it doesn't change its ways.

Posted by Petros on 19 August 2007, 7:16 pm | Link

Well said Petros.

I was kind of intimidated by Ed but you and Hugh have helped me look at things in a more realistic manner.

My opinion with regard to passports is that it is pretty difficult to come up with accurate statistics and whatever the numbers are there seems to be a lot of reasons to explain them.

I don't think traveling necessarily broadens ones outlook but it is pretty hard to relate to a foreign view points without respecting and being aware of foreign cultures.

Posted by Philip Raitz on 20 August 2007, 4:41 am | Link

Phillip, I think if you look at how the invasion of Iraq was sold to the American people, you'll find there was very little mention of human rights concerns until long after the invasion was over, and it became clear that no weapons of mass destruction were going to be found. It was all "mushroom cloud this" and "VX gas that" when Bush was trying to drum up support. There was mention of human rights issues, but it was an afterthought (possibly that aspect was emphasized more in international forums?). Furthermore, look what has happened to American support for the Iraq project since the rationale was switched from security to democracy: it's plummeted.

And, yes, I agree that "security" is a broard term that is subject to misuse. Indeed, the category is often abused by presidents and other elite policy-makers to bolster support for projects that aren't really security-related. But this proves my point: what motivates American popular support for these kind of actions is security, not human rights. If Americans supported those kinds of actions primarily on human rights grounds, you'd have seen invasions of Rwanda, Sudan, Burma, etc. long ago.

If you have an example of Americans supporting the invasion of a foreign country over an issue comparable to capital punishment (in the presence of a transparent legal system with rights to due process, capable representation and appeal, of course), I'd love to hear it. But to say that Americans, as a whole, wanted to invade Iraq primarily in order to bring democracy and human rights to the country is to mistake Bush administration propaganda for reality. Most Americans would rather ignore the rest of the world than try to redeem it.

Of course I agree that America shoud aim to improve on previous world powers; my point, however, is that a useful standard of good conduct should be set relative to other comparable powers. The level of criticism received from citizens of other non-comparable powers is problematic as a way of judging one's performance; as you say, Americans are going to get lots of criticism no matter what we do.

I still think you're giving Petros too much credit (to the extent that he was suggesting America has something to learn from Britain, it was that our power would ultimately collapse. Great, real useful.) Moreover, even your charitable reading of it offers nothing Americans don't already know anyway (that one can learn from history), so there's little harm in dismissing it. I don't recall saying that any and all critiques from hostile sources should be rejected, but even well-meant critiques can be quite useless if they don't tell us something we don't already know. This brings me back to my earlier point about Americans having a much better idea about what is and is not working well in American policy than most foreign critics, who are usually too busy calling us names to even mention any specific policies or practices. If Petros wants to post an essay detailing relevant aspects of, say, Arab-Kurd relations under the British Mandate of Iraq, I'll be all ears, even if it is peppered with invective. But I have no trouble calling vapid rage what it is. There are too many serious historians, analysts and scholars willing to provide useful ciritques for us to waste time trying to find some meaning in the vast tides of shallow anti-Americanism that wash ashore every day. This whole insistence that every crumb of foreign opinion, no matter how shallow or malicious, needs to be gratefully treasured by Americans seems pathological to me.

Posted by ED on 20 August 2007, 9:53 pm | Link

Hey Petros-

Nice to see your posts becoming more coherent, although it's still troubling how you keep assigning motivations and positions to others. I suppose it's an improvement that it's only my mind you're claiming to know, rather than those of Americans in general. I can assure you, however, that you are very far off the mark in your assumptions about my travels and experiences with other cultures. It's equal parts pathetic and predictable that you'd attempt to paint yourself as the open-minded international traveller, and me as the closeted American isolationist. Yet for all of your supposed sensitivity, you're apparently oblivious to how Americans relate to the British Empire. Not that figuring out why the Poles have problems with the Germans, or the French with America, requires anything beyond a basic grasp of history.

As far as how I'd voice "such opinions" (which I'm forced to assume refers to rejection of anti-Americanism from European critics; the only opinion that Americana proferred), the answer should be very obvious: having spent time in your country and many others, I know exactly how unrespresentative your attitude is. So I have no compunction about telling you to stuff it. There are plenty of polite, well-spoken, well-informed British people out there who are actually capable of holding a useful conversation with Americans. Not only that, many of them are permanent residents of the United States, and number among my friends. And they probably detest being represented by you as much as I detest being told that my impatience for your tripe is somehow responsible for all of America and the world's problems.

Also, without knowing what you would define as a "benevolent force" (oxymoron?) or "the good of mankind", it's difficult for me to assess how far off you are on your assignment of positions to myself. Do you really think that my aspiration is for America to be a malevolent force for the destruction of mankind? Moreover, regarding your comment on the "lessons of British Empire," I can't decide which aspect is more galling:

1) The suggestion that Americans haven't already learned quite a bit from said empire (Hello? Declaration of Independence? Constitution? Suez Crisis?)
2) The implication that the lessons Petros associates with said empire are the only valid ones to be drawn (even though he has yet to tell us what they are).
3) The inherent chauvinism in implying that it's the British Empire that carries the important lessons, as opposed to any of the myriad other world powers that one might draw parallels with.

Posted by ED on 20 August 2007, 10:59 pm | Link

Ed, you did categorically and without qualification say that "America has never invaded another country over human rights concerns" and that statement is without question false. Even you say "you'll find there was very little mention of human rights concerns" which means there was some mention about human rights even in the US. Maybe you don't want to admit it but war is a complex issue and the statement "America has never invaded another country over human rights concerns" is an arrogant, self righteous, and silly thing to say especially since you say that there was mention of human rights concerns in the US. You may be right, possibly the human rights aspect was emphasized more in international forums since WMD and "security concerns" seemed pretty far fetched and it was difficult to imagine anyone taking them seriously.

You ask "If you have an example of Americans supporting the invasion of a foreign country over an issue comparable to capital punishment (in the presence of a transparent legal system with rights to due process, capable representation and appeal, of course), I'd love to hear it." I think it is pretty obvious that capital punishment is a human rights issue with a lot of people or don't you think capital punishment is a human rights issue with anybody? Most invasions in history involved some aspect of human rights and was often one nation enforcing their values on another nation. Maybe you are just being obtuse and I am taking you too seriously?

You seem to argue that something is wrong even if I didn't say something. For example "But to say that Americans, as a whole, wanted to invade Iraq primarily in order to bring democracy and human rights to the country is to mistake Bush administration propaganda for reality." sorry I didn't say that. I did say that war is complex but that concept appears to be too subtle for you to fathom.

Maybe you are not aware how much you pushed my buttons Ed. I think it best if I return to my original opinions, a lot of which you clarified and might be able to help me further understand:

1) - It is not a surprised that foreigners hold Americans responsible for US foreign policy - . You don't seem to have addressed this and I am kind of confused since a lot of Americans say American actions are not what America is about, Americans have a much better idea about what is and is not working well in American policy than most foreign critics, ect. . However, since the US is a more or less democratic nation who is responsible for US actions?

2) - "Security concerns" can be seen as unsophisticated or secretive foreign policy - . You seem in agreement with this thought.

3) - The US does not have a choice but the fact is the US has a great deal of influence on many countries in the world and is subject to a lot of criticism - . You appear to be in agreement. I believe that this fact should be important to the US but you have told me that most Americans just think criticism is inevitable and do not think the criticism is useful or means anything.

4) - The rest of the world does not think it relevant that the world's super power was a colony over two hundred years ago - . You have mentioned that it is something that Americans are very sensitive about.

5) - I have to generalize here; Americans seem to me to be awfully sensitive to criticism from non-Americans - . You have been pretty clear where you stand on this and say "The only insight we gain from it is that others are not as powerful as they would like to be" ; "even well-meant critiques can be quite useless if they don't tell us something we don't already know. This brings me back to my earlier point about Americans having a much better idea about what is and is not working well in American policy than most foreign critics" ; "so there's little harm in dismissing it ; ect.

Posted by Philip Raitz on 21 August 2007, 11:09 am | Link

You know Philip, some of your earlier posts were fairly reasoned and cogent, but you've really degenerated in the last few. Do you really think it proves anything to keep rehashing your old statements, while trying to put words in my mouth? I'm satisfied that my points were made clearly enough in the original posts (I did have to make each of them 3-4 times, after all). If you're determined not to understand me, there's little I can do.

As far as the points you do actually raise: I don't think Americans are particularly sensitive to criticism. If you haven't observed other nationalities being bothered by criticism as much, it's probably because nobody cares enough about said nations enough to criticize them. Moreover, it's not so much criticism itself that Americans are bothered by, but the blatant bigotry that much of it comes wrapped in. Anyway, if the requirement is for every American everywhere to be receptive and grateful towards every diatribe that some witless foreigner deigns to vomit onto an internet message board, then go ahead and call us sensitive ro dismissive or whatever. I prefer the term "discerning."

Anyway, the interesting point: since America is the world's oldest, most successful democracy, why can't we hold Americans responsible for foreign policy? Well, of course we can and should. I never said Americans weren't responsible for their country's actions. I said that you can't go and assign personality traits and motivations to Americans as a whole based on foreign policy. Just because a particular president is an arrogant bully and Americans don't take to the streets to impeach him doesn't mean that all Americans are arrogant bullies, or even that most Americans approve of said behavior. Secondly, if you're going to try to discern the national character from the policy of a nation, you need to look at all of its policies, not just foreign policy. And certainly not just that portion of the foreign policy you happen to be bothered by. If you want to know why Americans would continue to support an administration whose foreign policy they disagree with, the answer is obvious: they like the domestic policy, and that is (obviously) more important to them. Finally: while Americans are ultimately responsible for the conduct of their nation, it's important to remember that America is a democratic republic, not a democracy in the Platonic sense. Americans don't directly make the decisions in question. Rather, every few years, they have the choice of keeping the current policy or replacing it with a single, predetermined alternative. It's a process of prioritizing the myriad issues, and then choosing the lesser of two evils, so you can't generally interpret the overall outcome as being particularly emblematic of Americans.

To put it more concrete terms, I could suggest you ask Petros the same question. His country is a democracy which has fought side by side with America at almost every turn. But it would obviously be erroneous to infer from that fact that Petros supports said actions. In fact, it would probably infuriate him if you did so. Likewise, Americans find it frustrating to have strangers dump all of their preconceptions about American policy onto them. It's generally a sign that the critic doesn't have a very good grasp on America, or issues in general. All nations have many faces and America, being bigger than most, has more faces than most.

This very thread provides the ultimate demonstration of this irony: Europeans come here to make sure they have the latest statistics on how insular and unappreciative of foreign diversity Americans are, and end up advertizing their lack of understanding of American society and culture. Maybe if Europeans were to use their passports to visit America half as often as Americans use their passports to visit Europe, y'all would come up with some more meaningful criticisms.

Posted by ED on 21 August 2007, 6:02 pm | Link

Ed, you will have to tell me where I put words in your month. Did you not say "America has never invaded another country over human rights concerns"? I see you as not willing to take responsibility for your statements not me making things up. That does, however, bring up a point that we view very differently. You said "I don't think Americans are particularly sensitive to (foreign) criticism" and I think they are sensitive to foreign criticism. I added the word foreign in brackets because you did put impossible to meet requirements on any foreign criticism. I believe that most people think a strong (and in my opinion irrational) sensitivity to foreign criticism exists in America. I have had Americans tell me there is nothing wrong with Americans not paying attention to foreign criticism.

You are correct that you 3-4 times stated how important it is to appreciate how much America was shaped by its experience being a British colony over two hundred years ago. I should have acknowledged this point more directly. I do believe, however, that most of the world looks at this preoccupation, that the US has, much as they do the ubiquitous "security concerns" that the US often uses. The US is after all a super power and is expected to be sensitive to how the rest of the world sees things.

I think it is clear to everyone how you feel about America's actions and attitudes. Your statement (I am not making this up you just said it) "the answer is obvious: they like the domestic policy, and that is (obviously) more important to them" is very telling.

I think most non-Americans understand that most Americans are not as uninformed and silly as Americana but the fact that a lot of Americans often think in the non-critical simplistic black and white terms that you do is not a good thing for the world. The bazaar and mutant xenophobia is particularly disturbing.

I feel satisfied that I have developed some reasoned thoughts that others may find useful.

Posted by Philip Raitz on 22 August 2007, 11:35 am | Link

Phillip, anyone can read my (numerous, lengthy) posts on the topic of how human rights figures into American policy and perception. They're archived on this very page. You don't have to agree with my position, but it would be nice if you'd base your responses on some sort of understanding of my position, rather than trying to pigeonhole me. I've already told you I'm not going to respond to attempts to encapsulate my statements in misrepresentative summaries. Call that evasive if you want, but you're just being argumentative at this point.

Also, I don't think it's at all clear how I feel about my country's actions and attitudes. I've said very little on that subject. What I have tried to clarify are the mechanisms and circumstances that underpin Americans' reactions to foreign criticism. My underlying point has been that it's erroneous and, furthermore, bigoted to make the sorts of broad character attributions that you (and countless others) are so fond of. However, you seem to be unable to engage in any discourse on the subject of my country outside of the juvenile "America good vs. America bad" paradigm. Which is just as well, as you end up proving my point when you label us "bazaar [sic] and mutant" xenophobes. Why is it so hard to accept that Americans might be reasonable, open-minded people and still disagree with you? Do you really think that denying the humanity of an entire nation makes you look reasonable and nuanced?

Also, a cursory examination of how immigrants are treated in various countries of the world should be sufficient to disqualify Americans from the xenophobe label.

Posted by ED on 22 August 2007, 5:44 pm | Link

Well Ed, if you're determined to see foreign comments as driven by a desire to "dis" the US, there's not much I can say to dissuade you. It is clear you are evasive; I categorically have not misrepresented you. The fact that you do not take responsibility for your statements even when the statements are quoted to you showcases your evasiveness. What do you mean by "pigeonhole"? I believe that it is worthwhile to acknowledge that foreigners often have useful POV. You said "It's a fine balance, and one that external (foreign) critics do not often appreciate. Americans, in turn, understand this and so are apt to disregard said criticisms".

My underlying point has been that it's erroneous and, furthermore, bigoted to make the sorts of broad character attributions that you (and countless others) are so fond of. However, you seem to be unable to engage in any discourse on the subject of foreign views outside of the juvenile "America good vs. Foreigner bad" paradigm. You said "Americans have a much better idea about what is and is not working well in American policy than most foreign critics".

You may not have been all that clear about how you felt about US actions but I don't think there is any question about how you feel about foreign views. You did say "Americans first have to evaluate whether they're being criticized because they're actually in the wrong, or just because they're powerful. And usually its the latter"

Your statement "The only insight we gain from it is that others are not as powerful as they would like to be" sounds pretty xenophobic to me but maybe this is not a common view in the US.

My point about xenophobia in the US being bazaar (hard to understand) and mutant (like xenophobia but not exactly) is that the US commendably welcomes a large number of foreign immigrants into its society every year. In addition different points of view and criticisms within the society seem to be encouraged making for a good vibrant society. On the other hand a lot of Americans seem awfully defensive about foreign points of view (criticism).

By the way and I don't imagine anybody much cares but I am Canadian. The reason I mention this to use it as an excuse to bring up this quote by a former Canadian Prime Minister. "The US is our best friend whether we want them to be or not." Truthfully Canada and the US are friends but realistically Canada doesn't have much choice about the friendship. Canadians sometimes take themselves too seriously and can be very defensive, often irrationally so, about being taken for granted by our powerful neighbour to the south. It is hard for Canadians to accept the truth that other countries don't think about Canada much and often people quite honestly don't see Canadians all that distinctly from Americans.

Posted by Philip Raitz on 23 August 2007, 7:42 am | Link

Philip, I take vehement exception to your last post.

In my experience people certainly do recognize the individual identity of Canada and I have yet to hear serious comments alluding to Canada being a little sister of the US. Your country obviously has a special place in the hearts and minds of Britain and as a fellow member of the Commonwealth we always reflect on the history that has passed between our two nations. One of the major differences between the US and Canada is that you (Canada) have focused on the issues of nationhood as opposed to the "meddling in others affairs", which I alluded to in previous posts, by your larger neighbour.

Canada fought bravely alongside all those nations opposing fascism in the second World War yet claimed no "prize" for its involvement, unlike the US who staked a strategic claim for itself around the world. At the time it could have been seen (and indeed was) as a calming hand on the worlds tiller but by any rationale in this day and age it serves no purpose other than to reinforce Americas hold on what they perceive as "acceptable" behaviour by foreign nations.

Our correspondence with ED merely serves to illustrate the points that we have tried to make namely, that America has to recognize the "cause and effect" that a superpowers foreign policy has with regard to other nations, especially those whose values and culture are so very different from Americas. Just as the Great Roman Empire fell through its attempt to influence far beyond its shores, as did the British Empire and the French style of paternalistic colonalism, so will America. Not directly because of the proletariat but because of the elected decision makers.

Posted by Petros on 23 August 2007, 11:18 am | Link

"My point about xenophobia in the US being bazaar (hard to understand) and mutant (like xenophobia but not exactly) is that the US commendably welcomes a large number of foreign immigrants into its society every year. In addition different points of view and criticisms within the society seem to be encouraged making for a good vibrant society. On the other hand a lot of Americans seem awfully defensive about foreign points of view (criticism)."

Has it occured to you that this seeming inconsistency is evidence that said foreign points of view are actually offensive? Not that I endorse the characterization of Americans as defensive, but surely there's a more rational explanation for the phenomenon than "mutant xenophobia." How would you respond if some stranger from another country came up to you face and said "Canadians are decadent and weak-willed"? Can you begin to see how that is no longer legitimate criticism, but simply an insult directed at an entire nation?

"It is hard for Canadians to accept the truth that other countries don't think about Canada much and often people quite honestly don't see Canadians all that distinctly from Americans."

I submit that Canadians are not all that distinct from Americans. Fench Canada, perhaps, is a bigger departure, but to suggest that the average American is significantly different from the Average Canadian in areas like attitudes to foreigners/immigrants strikes me as being pretty silly.

Posted by ED on 23 August 2007, 4:14 pm | Link

"Our correspondence with ED merely serves to illustrate the points that we have tried to make namely, that America has to recognize the "cause and effect" that a superpowers foreign policy has with regard to other nations, especially those whose values and culture are so very different from Americas."

And yet, almost all of the criticism we receive comes from nations with values and cultures that are almost identical to America (I.e., Canada, UK, Australia). It's hard to think of any countries in the world who have been more consistently supportive of American foreign policy, or who posses cultures more similar to America. And yet that's where the lion's share of the discontent directed at America comes from. Oh well, you know what Freud said about the narcissism of small differences...

"Just as the Great Roman Empire fell through its attempt to influence far beyond its shores, as did the British Empire and the French style of paternalistic colonalism, so will America. Not directly because of the proletariat but because of the elected decision makers."

Ooh... scary! Of course, none of those empires were brought down by overreach, and America isn't an empire, but why let a little thing like history get in the way of a good doomsday pronouncement?

Posted by ED on 23 August 2007, 8:15 pm | Link

"And yet, almost all of the criticism we receive comes from nations with values and cultures that are almost identical to America" try telling that to the Iraqi's, Algerian's, Iranian's, the vast majority of eastern Asia and so on and so on...

To say these empires did not fall because of over-reach only indicates your thin knowledge of detailed European history.

But then again why let fact get in the way of a rousing defense of BS

Posted by Petros on 23 August 2007, 8:52 pm | Link

"try telling that to the Iraqi's, Algerian's, Iranian's, the vast majority of eastern Asia and so on and so on..."

Ah, but we barely receive any criticism at all from those countries! They may well object more strenuously, but there is little cultural interface to transmit it. And I think you're overdoing it by throwing "the vast majority of eastern Asia" in there...

Also, since when did the Algerians hate us?

I don't really want to get into a detailed debate about the fates of various empires, so I'll just say point out that none of them is particularly comparable to the United States. America is pretty much unprecedented.

Posted by ED on 24 August 2007, 1:24 am | Link

Petros, Canadians generally and me in particular, believe that comments that come from a foreign perspective have value, whether they hurt our feelings or not. Part of their value is that they are based on a different experiences and POV.

Ed, it appears to be difficult for you to accept but I believe foreign comments are mostly useful (I think the US as a world power should get over its petty hurt feelings). To be defensive about comments because there may be some ulterior motives is not expected of a super power. Things are not simplistic and black and white.

Do most Americans think, "Canadians are not all that distinct from Americans." as well as "And yet, almost all of the criticism we receive comes from nations with values and cultures that are almost identical to America (I.e., Canada, UK, Australia). It's hard to think of any countries in the world who have been more consistently supportive of American foreign policy, or who posses cultures more similar to America. And yet that's where the lion's share of the discontent directed at America comes from." I do think those comments are unfortunately fairly representative of American thought and that attitude is an example of the insensitivity to foreigners that I and many others have been commenting about. I believe the differences between the attitudes of the average person in the countries you mention and the attitude of average American are profound. For example:

1) The average Canadian does not think about foreign comments and criticism at all like the average American. It seems like foreign comments are considered by a lot of Americans to be an attack on America and impugning all 300 million Americans. To say that Canadians and Americans think about foreigners in the same way is very wrong.

2) You mention immigration and you are right both Canada and the US welcome a lot of immigrants every year. The American concept appears to be that different cultures are melted into one society. This (melting pot) system seems to be the American way but it is not the way it is done everywhere. Immigrants in Canada tend to keep more of their home culture and this nonassimulation can be kind of messy but this mosaic is part of the makeup of Canadian society. The concept started with French Canada and distinctness of cultures is included in our constitution. A cursory of look at the historical differences in the treatment of First Nations people in each country is indicative of the significant conceptual differences that exist between the two countries.

3) The average attitude to universal health care in Canada is more than slightly different than the average American attitude to universal health care. To put it in to perspective the average Canadian feels as strongly about the right to universal health care as the average Texan feels about the right to bear arms.

4) On the subject of gun control, the right to bear arms is in the US constitution and the right to bear arms is an important part of the American experience but the right to bear arms is not in Canada's constitution or part of Canada's experience.

The experiences and the position in the world of Canada and the US are different so it is reasonable that the attitude of the average American is significantly different from the attitude of the average Canadian in areas like how foreigners/immigrants are considered.

It appears to me, and I believe a lot of people, that the US is very sensitive about the sovereignty of the US but very insensitive about the sovereignty of other countries.

I don't think I am alone in thinking that Americans tend to be defensive.

A trivial thing that I believe is telling is that although Canada and the US mostly speak sort of the same language there are differences in spelling and word usage/meanings and the recognition of the differences seem to be a one way street. For example I think it would be difficult to find one Canadian (even in French Canada) who did not know what a "zee" was but over half of Americans don't seem to know what a "zed" is.

Posted by Philip Raitz on 25 August 2007, 3:26 pm | Link

I would suggest that the difference you raise, even if taken at face value, are still far smaller than the differences between either country and, say, countries in Asia, Africa or Latin America.

"1) The average Canadian does not think about foreign comments and criticism at all like the average American. It seems like foreign comments are considered by a lot of Americans to be an attack on America and impugning all 300 million Americans. To say that Canadians and Americans think about foreigners in the same way is very wrong."

I submit that much of the foreign comments and criticisms that Americans receive substantially differ from what Canadians receive. This very thread contains many comments that are indeed attacks on America and impugning of Americans in general. I have a hard time believing the average Canadian would react any differently in the face of these types of comments.

"2) You mention immigration and you are right both Canada and the US welcome a lot of immigrants every year. The American concept appears to be that different cultures are melted into one society. This (melting pot) system seems to be the American way but it is not the way it is done everywhere. Immigrants in Canada tend to keep more of their home culture and this nonassimulation can be kind of messy but this mosaic is part of the makeup of Canadian society. "

It's true that there is this idea of a melting pot in American history and discourse, but you'll find that it's as often criticized as unrepresentative and unworkable as it is held up as an ideal. The fact is that immigrant communities in the US are, if anything, more vibrant than north of the border for the simple reason that they are much larger and receive much greater infusions of new immigrants from the countries of origin.

"A cursory of look at the historical differences in the treatment of First Nations people in each country is indicative of the significant conceptual differences that exist between the two countries. "

Well, my cursory examination doesn't support such a view. From… :

-As far back as the late 18th century, First Nations have believed they have been targeted for assimilation into what they call European/Canadian culture. These attempts reached a climax with the establishment of the Canadian residential school system, the prohibition of Indigenous cultural practices, and the Indian Acts of the late 19th and early 20th century.

-The situation for Indigenous people in the prairies grew very grave, very quickly. Between 1875 and 1885, the American Bison were hunted to extinction; the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway brought large numbers of white settlers west; governments, police forces, and courts of law were established; and various epidemics continued to devastate Indigenous communities. All of these factors had a profound effect on Indigenous people, particularly those from the plains who relied on the return of the bison every year.

-As Canadian ideas of progress evolved at the turn of the century, the federal Indian policy pushed harder to remove Indigenous people from their lands and to encourage assimilation. Amendments to the Indian Act in 1905 and 1911 made it easier to expropriate reserve lands from First Nations. Nearly half of the Blackfoot reserve in Alberta was sold, and when the Kainai (Blood) Nation refused to accept the sale of their lands in 1916 and 17, the Department of Indian Affairs held back funding necessary for farming until they relented. In British Columbia, the McKenna-McBride Royal Commission was created in 1912 to settle disputes over reserve lands in the province. The claims of Indigenous people were ignored, and the commission allocated new, less valuable lands for many First Nations.

-Following the end of the Second World War, laws concerning First Nations in Canada began to change, albeit slowly. The federal prohibition of potlatch and sun dance ceremonies ended in 1951, and provinces began to accept the right of Indigenous people to vote. All first Nations people were granted the right to vote in federal elections in 1960. By comparison, Native Americans in the United States had been allowed to vote since the 1920s.

-In his 1969 White Paper, Minister of Indian Affairs, the Hon. Jean Chrétien, proposed the abolition of the Indian Act of Canada, the rejection of Aboriginal land claims, and the assimilation of First Nations people into the Canadian population with the status of "other ethnic minorities" rather than a distinct group.

-In 1970, severe mercury poisoning called Ontario Minamata disease was discovered at Asubpeeschoseewagong First Nation, Wabaseemoong Independent Nation, and Aamjiwnaang First Nation, all near Dryden, Ontario where there was extensive mercury pollution from Dryden Chemicals Company. The Ontario provincial government closed the commercial fisheries run by the First Nation people and ordered them to stop eating local fish, which made up the majority of their diet.

-As of 2006, over 75 First Nations communities exist in boil-water advisory conditions. In late 2005, the drinking water crisis of the Kashechewan First Nation received national media attention when E. coli was discovered in their water supply system, following two years of living under a boil-water advisory. The drinking water was supplied by a relatively new treatment plant built in March 1998. The cause of the tainted water was a plugged chlorine injector that was not discovered by local operators, who were not qualified to be running the treatment plant. When officials arrived and fixed the problem, chlorine levels were around 1.7 mg/l, which was blamed for chronic skin disorders such as impetigo and scabies. An investigation led by Health Canada revealed that the skin disorder were likely due to living in squalor. The evacuation of Kashechewan is largely viewed by Canadians as a cry for help for other underlying social and economic issues which Aboriginal people in Canada face.

"3) The average attitude to universal health care in Canada is more than slightly different than the average American attitude to universal health care."

This is difference in policy, not attitude. A recent poll showed that a majority of Americans favor universal health care:…

"On the subject of gun control, the right to bear arms is in the US constitution and the right to bear arms is an important part of the American experience but the right to bear arms is not in Canada's constitution or part of Canada's experience. "

Again, you're confusing the sentiments of a minority of the US population with the average American. Polls consistently show that a majority of Americans favor stronger gun control, and 80% of Americans do not own guns. It's understandable that you'd confuse the sentiments of a vocal minority for Americans in general, given how apt they are to wrap their arguments in the flag (and how successful they've been at thwarting the majority's will for stricter controls). But the fact remains that guns are not a big part of the American experience for the vast majority of people. I've only known a small handful of people who own guns, and those were exclusively hunting rifles that were kept under lock and key except for an occasional hunting trip or trip to the practice range. Nobody brought them out at dinner parties or anything.

"For example I think it would be difficult to find one Canadian (even in French Canada) who did not know what a "zee" was but over half of Americans don't seem to know what a "zed" is."

Now this is really the narcissism of small differences. Having a different name for one of the least-used letters of the alphabet is a tiny distinction when you consider that the vast majority of people in the world don't know what either a "zee" or a "zed" is in the first place. If you want a significant difference, I'd point out that you guys still have the queen of England on your currency, whereas US dollars feature a bunch of guys that waged a war to defy the British monarchy.

While it's clear to me that your conception of what Canada represents is significantly different than what America represents, it's also clear that both conceptions are as different from reality as they are from one another. Specifically, you've exaggerated the particular areas that you think make Canada look good, and ignored that vast majority of aspects in which the two are similar or identical.

Posted by ED on 25 August 2007, 9:43 pm | Link

Ed, you seem to be missing my point. I am not trying to say that Canada is better than the US but that Canada is and other foreign countries are different from the US. It is real obvious to most everyone that the US is a powerful and influential nation. A lot of foreigners believe that the US could be a threat to the identity of just about any foreign nation without even being aware of it. Canada on the other hand is not powerful enough to be a threat to anyone. The US is faced with the problem of unknowingly stepping on toes and Canada isn't. Your statement that "the narcissism of small differences" has some truth but the ultimate narcissism is deciding that the differences that others believe to be significant are really small differences. I and most foreigners believe that the US does not have the right to decide what is and is not significant to foreigners. Saying that "nations with values and cultures that are almost identical to America (I.e., Canada, UK, Australia)" is seen as pretty arrogant and is a significant reason why Americans are sometimes disliked.

You said that "I submit that much of the foreign comments and criticisms that Americans receive substantially differ from what Canadians receive." and you're right. The US is the most powerful country in the world today and arguably the most powerful country that has ever been and Canada isn't. Your statement "I have a hard time believing the average Canadian would react any differently in the face of these types of comments." is pretty juvenile. The we's just folks and gots feelings too shtick sounds kind of disingenuous coming from the big dog talking to the little dogs.

I wanted to point out that the American concept of "melting pot" is different from the Canadian concept of "mosaic" and that these differences affect attitudes to immigration and immigrants and not to comment on the advantages and disadvantages of one or the other. I mentioned First Nations because proportionally First Nations people are much more prevalent in Canada than in the US. Whatever the reason for the difference the difference results in different attitudes (ways of thinking). To say that the American experience and the Canadian experience in this matter are almost identical is, as you point out in your discussion, not true. This is much like the fact that there are many more African Americans than African Canadians both numerically and proportionally for whatever reason and I imagine this fact affects attitudes. The civil rights of black Americans is certainly not part of the Canadian experience.

I don't buy the concept that attitude is not related to policy because if it is not cause and effect there is no responsibility. Someone is responsible for foreign and domestic policy. Even in the information you provided "Robert Blendon, an expert at Harvard on public opinion and health, said politicians have to find some compromise between these philosophical divisions on the role of government, which are deep-seated in American culture" it appears to me that Americans generally are not willing to accept the socialism that is part of the Canadian system. The fact a system exists in Canada and doesn't in the US certainly changes what people think about (attitudes).

The fact that the US constitution contains the "Right to Bear Arms" and the Canadian constitution doesn't I believe affects attitudes. It doesn't seem reasonable that the different constitutions would not influence how people think. There is a big difference in getting a hand gun permit in the US as apposed to trying to get one in Canada. There is a significant difference in attitude which I believe is how policy comes about.

The thing about "zed" and "zee" is trivial, as I said, but it does demonstrate the unintended arrogance that seems to be common American behavior. I think a lot of foreigners understand this. I used "zed" because my name ends in a "zed" and I often have to spell it. I notice that when I deal with Call Centres based in the US or in the former US colony of the Philippines my use of "zed" causes no end of confusion. However, since one never knows where the Call Centre is going to be when you call an 800 number I have taken to using "zee" and never have any problems with Call Centres based in Canada, the US, the Philippines, or the former British colony of India. As an aside I noticed when I lived in the US and would forget and use terms like "zed", washroom, or toque I would get some 10,000 yard stares.

There are more similarities between Americans and Canadians than Canadians like to admit. However, the quintessential Canadian answer to the question "What is a Canadian?" is "Not an American!". I think it is significant that it appears to be a common attitude among Americans that there is little difference between a Canadian and an American. It is sad that Americans seem to think saying you are just like us is a complement and Canadians find it necessary to define themselves with a negative.

You mentioned that the US is between a rock and a hard place as far as what the rest of the world thinks of the US and the US can never be right. To some extent that is true but you also said that with great power comes great responsabity. I believe the US can be up to the challenge. To foreigners it seems like Americans sometimes unfairly view differences from America as anti-American.

Posted by Philip Raitz on 27 August 2007, 5:10 pm | Link

"Canada on the other hand is not powerful enough to be a threat to anyone. "

Um, Canada's military spending ranks 13th (out of 170 listed nations), placing you guys easily in the top 10% of military spenders in the world. Then there's your deployments in the Balkans, Afghanistan and Iraq (yes!), as well as your recent sabre-rattling directed at Russia in the north. You may also recall invading Iraq back in the early 1990's.

Moreover, Canada had one of the foremost militaries in the world back at the end of WWII. You guys were able to dismantle it (and redirect the money to social programs like universal healthcare) in the 1970's exactly because you have only one neighbor, who also happens to be a close ally and the world's largest military spender. You all made your choice on your own; if you really feel so threatened by the United States, I suggest you start paying for your own security.

"I and most foreigners believe that the US does not have the right to decide what is and is not significant to foreigners. "

Yeah, okay. I don't know how you go from me voicing my opinion to America "deciding what is and is not significant to foreigners." If you can't handle hearing an American tell you what he thinks about you without screaming "imperialism!! arrogance!!" then that's your problem. It would behoove you to become more secure about your national identity before you go around challenging other peoples'.

"I don't buy the concept that attitude is not related to policy because if it is not cause and effect there is no responsibility. "

Dude, where do you get this stuff? I never said there was no relationship between policy and attitude. That would be ludicrous. They are, however, not always the same, and in particular there are divisive issues where the policy is not representative of attitude. Moreover, there are many issues where there is no single dominant attitude in the population (abortion, guns, health care, Iraq, etc.), and in those cases you'll go severely astray is you try to equate policy with attitude. This has been my point throughout this thread but, hey, why listen to me when you can throw tired stereotypes at me while simultaneously complaining that *I'm* insensitive to *your* national identity.

"The thing about "zed" and "zee" is trivial, as I said, but it does demonstrate the unintended arrogance that seems to be common American behavior."

How is it arrogant for people not to know what you're talking about? That's ignorant, sure, but not arrogant. Arrogant is when you go to a foreign country and get offended when they don't understand *your* language (like American tourists are always stereotyped as doing). If you were to visit Mexico and find that people didn't understand a word you were saying, would you call them arrogant?

"However, the quintessential Canadian answer to the question "What is a Canadian?" is "Not an American!". I think it is significant that it appears to be a common attitude among Americans that there is little difference between a Canadian and an American."

This is probably because Canada borders only one country, and so is necessarily forced to define their national identity in relation to it. America, on the other hand, actually borders a country where people don't speak English, ski or eat French Fries. The attitude that Canadians are very similar to Americans is grounded in the fact that the differences between the two are so much smaller than between either of them and pretty much any other country in the world. Ask a random guy from, say, Indonesia which people are most similar to Americans, and I'll bet you dollars to donuts he'll say "Canadians" every time. When Canadians come to visit or live here, we only find out they're not Americans when they explicitly tell us; pretty much anyone else stands out right away (even Brits and Aussies are given away by their accents). Just because Canadians fixate on the very minor differences doesn't make those differences any less minor, and badgering Americans about their (accurate) view of the situation doesn't prove anything except how insecure you are.

Posted by ED on 27 August 2007, 6:36 pm | Link

Ed, I think you have reinforced pretty well all the impressions of Americans that foreigners have. I haven't decided whether you know you are being obtuse or you really are not aware of how you come across.

How can you reconcile your listing all the differences between the US and a foreign country, point out the weaknesses in these differences and then say the foreign country and the US are really the same? Perhaps I am missing something but what did you mean by saying ""nations with values and cultures that are almost identical to America (I.e., Canada, UK, Australia)"".

I said "Canada on the other hand is not powerful enough to be a threat to anyone". You commented on how Canada is a military power but did say that Canada relies on the US to look after its security. I think pretty well everybody knows that the US is many times more powerful than Canada. By the way your statement about Canada's invasion of Iraq in the 1990's is kind of ridiculous. The only Canadian military land personnel to participate in the US led (the vast majority of those doing the fighting were American) invasions (both) of Iraq were a few isolated soldiers who had been on loan for training and friendship purposes to the US military.

You said "I don't know how you go from me voicing my opinion to America "deciding what is and is not significant to foreigners."" Again what did you mean by "nations with values and cultures that are almost identical to America (I.e., Canada, UK, Australia)"?

You did say "This is difference in policy, not attitude" and "Dude, where do you get this stuff? I never said there was no relationship between policy and attitude. That would be ludicrous.". However, I notice you did not address the health care article you referred to. The article detailed how US policy is dictated by attitudes inherent to US culture. Specifically "politicians have to find some compromise between these philosophical divisions on the role of government, which are deep-seated in American culture". The article states that the attitude exists in the US that "socialized" medicine (like exists in Canada) would not be acceptable to many Americans. I believe this is an example of how attitudes in the US are different than those in the US. I don't think many people really believe this is a minor difference.

You asked "How is it arrogant for people not to know what you're talking about?" and said "It's a fine balance, and one that external (foreign) critics do not often appreciate. Americans, in turn, understand this and so are apt to disregard said criticisms" ; "Particularly in the midst of a thread which so saliently demonstrates how little most of said critics understand about Americans." and "That's great that you think foreigners understand America well enough to criticize her" which seems to indicate that you believe that foreigners don't understand America. I think foreigners feel that they make a lot of effort to understand America but foreigners don't feel this effort is recognized and America does not seem to make much effort to understand others. The trivial example of the "zee" thing illustrates to foreigners even if an effort is made to be aware of the American way of saying things Americans don't seem to be aware that a different way exists. I want to emphasize that this "zee" thing is not in anyway as serious as "nations with values and cultures that are almost identical to America (I.e., Canada, UK, Australia)". I see that you would prefer the word "ignorant" rather than the word "arrogant" but whatever it does seem that you are not aware how this kind of behavior comes across to foreigners.

You said "Ask a random guy from, say, Indonesia which people are most similar to Americans, and I'll bet you dollars to donuts he'll say "Canadians" every time." I have to disagree with that because I doubt very much that the random guy in say Indonesia would know that Canada existed.

Posted by Philip Raitz on 28 August 2007, 7:54 am | Link

Wow, it's almost like I'm reading my own posts over again. Oh, wait, that's because this is nothing but a bunch of quotes of my previous posts thrown together without any attempt at making a coherent point. On that note, I think I'm done here. Have fun fuming about America without me.

Posted by ED on 28 August 2007, 5:52 pm | Link

I have rented the farfetched movie "Canadian Bacon" a couple of times when I felt I have been taking myself too seriously.

In the movie there is a war between Canada and the US and the really ridiculous part is that Canada wins the war. All the silly stereotypes are played to the hilt. Most Canadians are depicted as wimpy and sycophantic dweebs who are somewhat dim witted Dudley Doright characters. Most Americans are depicted as loud and pushy bullies who are Machiavellian General Patton characters.

Ed, seriously, I see that you have decided to take a couple of unfair shots and not communicate with me anymore. However, I think it reasonable to point out that you are not correct in implying that there is fuming about America in my post. In addition it is, of course, not possible for you to determine that I did not ATTEMPT to make a coherent point. The fact is I believe I made several points, using your words as you have requested, but you apparently did not understand the meanings.

I am pretty confident that people reading our posts will be able to understand what is going on.

Posted by Philip Raitz on 29 August 2007, 8:18 am | Link

well Kieth ,
It is my opion that every citizen in every country should have the right one with out payment , Americans get thir ssn at birth , and Candains get thier sin number at bith for free , Passports should be the same, and you should get them at the same time , i think its just another way for goverments to make money

Posted by Karl on 12 September 2007, 11:17 pm | Link

I don't know the reason why other Americans choose not to get a passport, but speaking for myself, I don't make enough money to travel abroad. The wages here (in the U.S.)are absolutely appalling. My husband is from Ireland and tells me that the wages are far more superior over there versus here. For example, the minimum wage in the United States right now is $5.85 per hour (…). In Ireland that translates to 4.15 euro per hour and in the UK to 2.88 pounds. And what is the minimum wage in Ireland these days? Last we checked it was something like 8.65 euro (source:…) or 12.19 American dollars. And thanks to Bushey boy's politics and his "war on terror", our south-of-the-border amigos" have come in like locusts and have taken over most of the low-paying jobs. And if you think that by having a college degree gets you places these days, you're still out of luck, a lot of local area jobs are willing to pay a whopping $8.00 per hour for those with bachelor's degrees. But this is just one person's perspective, like I stated previously, I'm only speaking for myself.

Posted by Katrina on 4 October 2007, 5:35 am | Link

I LOL'ed at the jealousy towards Americans by non-Americans. They are simply obsessed with everything american, including how many american own passport , how many american own insurance etc LoL. It is so funny because they surely have more things to worry than talking about passport ha ha! these people who cannot live for one second without something american should be taken with a grain of salt. They want to be american, rich and powerful and rule the world but they cant. They are frustrated and the only thing they can do is ranting against americans. PATHETIC!

Posted by Aryan on 17 October 2007, 1:35 pm | Link

Aryan, things are more complex than that. Black and white thinking is not valid in this case and looking at the world view of the US in that manner is not true.

Posted by Philip Raitz on 19 October 2007, 5:57 am | Link

Why, oh why can't we Americans be like the vast mobs of French, German and Italian tourists who throng here en masse every year to scour heartland states like Ohio and Nebraska in search of the genuine Americana to sample the cultural diversity that they hold in such high esteem?

I have traveled to Europe 7 times and I have yet to find a European who can find any state other than California, Texas, Florida, or New York on a map.

What hypocrites.

Posted by Gabrielle on 30 October 2007, 9:47 pm | Link

Take it from an American, the North American continent is larger then Europe and Australia with different climate zones, attractions and things to do...unlike the UK which is typically cold, cloudy and rainy, etc. New York to Los Angeles is roughly the same distance as New York to London, but travel within the North American continent does not require a passport. The majority of americans choose to travel to US/Canada/Mexico/Carribean where passports (at times) are not required. We have some of the best beaches in the world, rainforests, desert terrain, wildlife, cultures, languages, customs, etc. all within our backyard. and besides, since it's become fashionable for the world to be anti-american, we've decided to spend our hard earned money on places and people who like us. I recently traveled to Australia and aside from the kangaroo and koala, it's very much like north america. Look at the skies any day above the US and you'll see more US airliners then most countries have people.

Posted by Frank on 2 November 2007, 7:38 pm | Link

I recently just spent the summer in England working for a company. I hold dual citizenship with America and Ireland and today I was actually wondering about the actual statistics of Americans who have passports/dual citizenship.

When I was in England, I went all over the place. I went from zone 3 London to Stonehenge and even further! The museums were absolutely incredible and well layed out. I actually got lost a few times in the British Museum (excellent, if your going to england, deffinately check it out.) I have also been to Ireland as well, (father is from Dublin)and I must say that the cultures between American/British/Irish is pretty much the same. Either way, I felt at home in either country.

Iv Done my fair bit of traveling in the North East region of the US, I am currently living in Boston. Iv stayed and vacationed in all of the New England states and branched out into New York City, Jersey, Philladelphia and Washington DC. I mean there is sooo much to see in America alone that it can sometime seem daunting, I would love to roadtrip the contintental US someday!

I dont really agree with the whole "anti-american" sentiment, I think the correct wording would be "anti-western" it would be a bit egotistical to single out Americans. I worked with people from South Africa, Zimbabwe, Australia, New Zealand and Canada! None of them ever said anything against America, and when they did it was playful. Its pretty much prepping minds for propoganda and what not. By making people "afraid" its easier to persuade them to your perspective. But in a nut shell,I think the whole "anti-american" thing is just ego/paranoia.

My school actually encouraged traveling and since some of our trips were international (Europe Bound) they required us to get passports. I had no problem getting mine, it was an easy step, but what I dont understand is how can you *not* have one. Its probably the most important document you can ever have. (I have two, so Im all set!! haha)

Anyways, Good topic!!!

Posted by Crowley on 6 November 2007, 11:31 pm | Link

Even at the percentage increases of the recent past the American ex-patriotism is quite bleak. I have traveled extensively and have come to believe Americans can not understand the world at large if they can not find some way to live/vacation abroad as citizens of other countries do routinely. Due to our culture, economics and or politics we just do not have the availability of such travel. Without such interaction we can not possibly make informed choices when it comes to our leadership. It truly saddens me to think this will someday become our ends. As for me, I have already bought land in a country that agrees with me.

Posted by Scott parks on 10 November 2007, 11:29 am | Link

> the North American continent is larger then (sic) Europe
> and Australia with different climate zones, attractions
> and things to do…

> We have some of the best beaches in the world,
> rainforests, desert terrain, wildlife, cultures,
> languages, customs, etc. all within our backyard

I live in Atlanta and I recently drove to Monument Valley, Utah. The old cliche' "Europe is so little, the USA are so vast and diverse" does not hold true, if you consider how far you have to go to see anything interesting. During my journey, I saw nothing between Atlanta and Texas that is worth a second visit. Arkansas, Oklahoma ... between these states the differences are less than those between Castilla and Catalonia (Spanish regions not far from each other).

Language diversification? The differences between English spoken in Alabama and in Oregon are minimal, compared to what happens in Europe within single countries. For instance, local languages (no, not dialects) spoken in the various Italian regions use different words, often different structure of sentences, and employ different sounds. And that's what happen in just ONE European country...

Again, on the density of interesting places: drive from Atlanta to Savannah (considered an "old city" here), and you will see nothing worth noting for hours. Travel the same distance anywhere in Europe, and you will find probably find half a dozen cathedrals built centuries ago, towns, museums, ancient battlefields. Where are American cities? Apart from the big ones, US cities tend to be made of a Wal-Mart next to a CircuitCity next to a few Wendy's, McDonald's, Waffle House, plus two 'gas' stations. Residents live away. Churches are all next to each other.
The average European city? You will have a central square with the town hall, a church, the banks, many little shops, probably a street market. And houses in between. People going around. Life.

Georgia, apart from Atlanta, has Dahlonega, and that's all. Helen is a 1960s copy of the Hollywood version of what is supposed to be a Bavarian town. Savannah is an overrated not-so-old town where every wall's crack is welcomed as a proof of its age and illuminated with spotlights.

Posted by Claudio on 21 December 2007, 4:15 pm | Link

A point I'd like to inject into the dialogue: just as passport ownership does not imply actual overseas travel, overseas travel does not imply actual cultural awareness or education. A large percentage of Western European overseas travel (particularly to developing countries) consists of trips to enclosed resorts like Club Med, which are run entirely by expatriates, and where the only interaction you'll have with the locals is being served drinks. While there's nothing wrong with such resorts per se, they're hardly the sort of credentials that would justify the attitudes of European superiority you see on display here.

Posted by redr on 2 January 2008, 10:53 pm | Link

It has been very entertaining reading all these entries and the conclusion I have made are that:-
People who have passports:-
Want to visit other countries as a tourist
Have relatives in other countries they want to visit
Live in countries contiguous with others that
that make it inexpensive to visit them

People who do not have passports:-
Do not want to visit othe countries as a tourist
Do not have relatives in other countries
Live in a country that is isolated and expensive
to visit other countries

So...who cares?

Posted by Unkle Cyril on 4 January 2008, 11:32 am | Link

To Whom It May Concern,

I see America spending 1 trillion dollars yearly on the Military-intelligence Complex.

What Other Country spends so much?

Why is America's Healthcare and Higher Education the Most expensive in the World?

Why is the average Americans life Expectency only ranked 42nd when in the early 1980's it was ranked in the Top 5?

Why does America have a Current Account Deficit approaching 1 Trillion?

Why does America have a deficit in Manufactured Products, High-Tech Products, Farm Products and Oil Products?

Why do we have such high Government Deficits?

Why is America Adding 3.5 Trillion dollars yearly to it's already 50 Trillion Deficit?(Government, Private, Trade, State, Consumers,etc)
Not including S.S. or Medicare!!

Why does America have the Death Penalty when no other Modern Country uses it?

Why does America have 8 Million Citizens in it's Correctional Institutions(Probation, prison, Jail, Parole)when in 1980 it was close to 1 Million?

Why is there no Mandatory Vacation by Law in the States and 25% did not have a Vacation in 2007?

Why does the Average American have 7 Days of Vacation or took 7 days in 2007?

Why is the Gini-index almost 50, in Europe it averages 32 and in Northern Europe it is in the 20's?

Why is the Eurodollar almost $1.50 now compared to the US dollar?

Why is Canada's Dollar worth more then America's now?

Why is America falling behind Europe in the Renewable Energy Economy so badly when this will be the World's largest Industry in 10 Years?

Why does America only have 2 Political parties when other Western Countries have more?

Why has America's inflation compared to Japan,Germany,Switzerand,Canada,etc. been higher since the 1970's?

That's why the US Dollar has lost much of it's purchasing power since 1971!

Why has America's Genuine Progress Indicator declined since the 1970's when other Western Countries have improved?

Why is America's Roads, Bridges, Dams, Water Systems,etc starting to fail and received a D- in 2006 from the American Engineering Society when in the 1970's it was ranked B+?

Why are Americans Students Consistently ranked at the bottom when Compared to other students on International tests?

It's the Economy Stupid!!!!!

Posted by thomasriccardo on 6 January 2008, 4:59 pm | Link

The links to statistics on passports issued per year and US population are both broken. Current links are:…


There are some interesting developments in the years since the last updates of the OP. The surge in passport issuance has continued, totalling over 12 million in 2006 (the latest year data are available). The total population is now just above 300 million. Using the same methodology as the OP, this works out to a generous estimate of 40% of the population, or something in the high 30's after factoring out 5-year passports.

It seems probable that passport issuance will continue to increase, as many of the new laws adding passport requirements are still being phased-in. For example, until February 2008, Americans can still travel to and from Mexico by land or sea without a passport. So in the long run, one could expect American passport ownership rates above 40%, and maybe considerably higher.

Also, the newer statistics break down passport issuance by state, allowing similar projections of passport ownership rates by state (using the state populations from:… )

AK 50%
AL 18%
AZ 34%
CA 50%
CO 45%
CT 54%
DE 37%
FL 48%
GA 30%
HI 22%
IA 28%
ID 32%
IL 40%
IN 24%
KS 27%
KY 18%
LA 19%
MA 56%
MD 49%
ME 35%
MI 33%
MN 44%
MO 36%
MS 13%
MT 35%
NC 27%
ND 28%
NE 25%
NH 51%
NJ 63%
NM 25%
NV 40%
NY 55%
OH 26%
OK 21%
OR 40%
PA 36%
PR 39%
RI 48%
SC 24%
SD 27%
TN 21%
TX 28%
UT 34%
VA 44%
VT 49%
WA 49%
WI 35%
WV 14%
WY 33%

It would be great if someone would make a red state/blue state map out of those numbers (and double-check them). There was no passport issuance data listed for Arkansas (not sure why), PR is Puerto Rico, and I excluded DC because the the number of passports issued was more than 1/10 of the population.

Posted by edre on 9 January 2008, 4:50 am | Link

I think given the attitudes and behaviour of americans abroad the more of them that stay at home and implode with their country the better, give the world a break.

Posted by Jerry on 14 February 2008, 8:15 pm | Link

I believe there is one factor that bears on the likelihood of an American applying for a passport that has not been mentioned yet.

(At least I think it hasn't been mentioned - this thread might possibly qualify as one of the longest in internet history so I haven't read all of the posts for the past few years(!) with care.)

As a Canadian, I have seen several references in U.S. print and television journalism to a deep distrust on the part of some Americans (I can't provide references) of their federal govenment - not Democrat vs Republican - just "big government" in general. It seems to me to be possibly related to the "rugged individualism" that does seem to be an aspect of U.S. culture. If there is anything to that, then I would expect such people to be very unwilling to provide federal officials with all of the information required in a passport application. They would be only too aware that "the Feds" already have a lot of their personal information and may be loathe to add any more to their files. Not applying for a passport might seem like a small price to pay for protecting their privacy. I have no idea as to numbers.

Just a thought. I would be interested to hear comments on this from U.S. citizens.

Posted by K. Lord on 28 February 2008, 1:08 am | Link

Yeah, come to think of it, the government paranoids probably do exhibit very low rates of passport ownership. They tend to be more interested in stockpiling guns and evading taxes out in the middle of the Dakotas than international travel... On the other hand, they might want to hold passports so they can flee Big Brother. Either way, I'd be surprised if there's enough of these nutcases to show up on the total passport ownership rates. We're not exactly talking about millions of people here...

Here's another thought: the high incarceration rate exhibited by the United States could put downward pressure on passport ownership. Although convicts can still get passports (provided they've finished their sentences and aren't on probation or parole), it's supposed to be very difficult to get entry visas for foreign countries with a felony conviction on your record. Which is to say the passport wouldn't do you much good anyway. On the other hand, how many convicted felons would have gotten passports in the first place, had they not been convicted? Probably not many...

Posted by edre on 28 February 2008, 2:25 am | Link

I only browsed through the first part of this blog so maybe the following note might already be addressed. One argument I met was that europeans need a passport to travel within EU. ID is required, but no passport, except maybe to some "new" EU countries. I don't know if all countries issue ID cards for their citizens, so passports might still be required for some countries (can someone confirm that?). This may blur a little the discussion as to whether passports are a measure for the amount of international travel.
Also, as the traditional holiday in France (I'm Belgian) is more and more replaced with package deals in Egypt, Thailand, South Africa and the like, more people might get passports and still limit their cultural immersion to some pictures of the pyramids. Holidays usually give one limited access to other cultures. We might do good to embrace internet and see how news sources in other countries see themselves and us. Already in a small country like Belgium, people seem to be ignorant of what lives on the other side of the language barrier because of separate news sources. And I apologize to US-people if they feel offended by smart-talk of european lefties. We just get this picture of a gun-waving country with too much spending on military and too few on health care and it scares us.

Posted by Karel on 24 March 2008, 6:04 pm | Link

Hi Karel-

It's true that passports are no longer required for intra-EU travel, but this is a rather recent change (much more recent than when this blog began), and so it's doubtful that the "passport culture" has had a chance to catch up with this fact. On the flipside, passport requirements for Americans have been increasing lately, and so if you check the statistics in another generation (after all of the changes have "sunk in"), you may well find that the rates of passport ownership are very different than a few years ago.

More generally, I have the impression that passports are more widely used as identification documents in Europe, and so people tend to have them whether they intend to travel or not? In the United States, by comparison, nobody owns a passport unless they are absolutely sure they are going to travel internationally. Which is to say that a difference in passport ownership does not necessarily indicate a comparable difference in overseas travel.

Your point that international travel does not necessarily equate to cultural knowledge or interaction bears emphasizing, particularly in an age of package tours and all-encompassing resorts. Spending a week or two being served drinks by the locals in an enclosed resort may mean that you have more money and free time than Americans, but it doesn't do much for your internationalist credentials.

Also, my impression is that what bothers Americans about this discourse is not so much the views of the culture per se, but rather the condescending, bigoted attitudes. Many (not all) of the posters here come off as insecure chauvinists who are desperately looking for some statistic to validate them, rather than engaging in any kind of productive, open-minded dialogue. That they do this in the context of lecturing Americans on cultural openness and international cosmopolitanism is particularly infuriating. I suggest that people keep that sort of thing where it belongs: in the pubs.

Also, with regards to defense and health spending: American defense spending is so high (and European defense spending comparatively low) precisely because America is largely paying for the defense of Europe (and other places). This is a big reason why European countries can afford extensive welfare states, while the United States cannot. As to health care spending, our problem is not that we don't spend enough, but rather that we don't get enough bang for our buck. We spend far more on health care per person than any other country in the world, but we're not getting the same results that certain other countries are. The problem is one of how the system is managed and its resources allocated, not how much money is put into it. Again, in terms of spending, we're way, way ahead of anybody.

Posted by redr on 24 March 2008, 8:44 pm | Link

not entirely true (about passport control): Belgium, Netherlands and Luxemburg opened borders in 1958. the Schengen agreement for opening the borders, was signed between Belgium, Netherlands, Luxemburg, France and Germany in 1985 and it became effective between 15 european countries in 1995. Already before that, I don't recall needing passport to visit neighbouring countries or even Switzerland (still not in EU).

Posted by karel on 25 March 2008, 4:10 pm | Link

I agree with Redr. I also just scanned the blog, but as and AMERICAN who has lived in Europe for over 21 years, and England for the last 14 I have heard all of those unproven stats time and time again. Usually comming from a Brit {90% ot the time English} who seems to have an inferiority complex, and love to "slag off" Americans. However even if every Brit had a passport it would still equal 1/5th of the US total population. So just because you have a passport, it does not make you a world traveler. Just look at the British lager louts is Spain!!LOL. As for the original question, don't know but evertime I travel, I seem to hear alot of "American" English spoken. If Europeans are traveling to the USA for holiday, why should Americans leave when there is still so much to see at home. There would be more Americans traveling if they all got more than 2 weeks vacation a year. It sure is nice to have 4 to 6 weeks here in Europe. Just remember we are all foreigners, when we are traveling, so be nice and have fun.

Posted by Jack666 on 25 March 2008, 4:24 pm | Link

Hi Karel-

Yeah, I knew I was fudging the passport requirements when I wrote that, but didn't want to get into a digression on the details. As it happens, I travelled in Europe several years ago without showing my passport except to enter the continent, go to/from the Czech Republic, and to get back into the United States. My reason for discounting this earlier trend was that the EU passport-free area was, until very recently, quite a bit smaller than the passport-free area available to Americans (which until recently included Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean), so I didn't think it was a very apt comparison.

Anyway, the point is that the EU passport-free are has been growing dramatically in recent years, while the American passport-free area has been shrinking dramatically in the same time span, and it will be some years before these facts are settled into the passport ownership statistics. In the United States, at least, we already know that there's been a corresponding surge in passport requests, which suggests that the older passport statistics probably understated the amount of international travel Americans were doing (to Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean, that is). Likewise, if we see a drop in EU passport ownership, it would imply that many passport holders were not travelling overseas, but only within the EU (although I think such a drop is unlikely, either because people are indeed travelling outside the EU, or they want to hold passports regardless).

On the other hand, the weak dollar is probably going to put a damper on American plans for overseas travel for a while, at least to countries that don't link their currency to the dollar.

Posted by redr on 25 March 2008, 6:46 pm | Link

As an American living abroad in Germany, I find this particular subject interesting and quite agree with the statistics. However, I do not feel that ignorance has anything whatsoever to do with reasons for not traveling internationally. I agree that travel costs, fewer vacation days, and high debt contribute significantly to the statistics. However, I would also add that these days a fear of terrorism is also to play. For example, at the American military bases here in Germany, many families are afraid to leave their military installation for fear of terrorism in the surrounding area--which is rediculous, as you all know as well as I that terrorism in Germany is very low. Further, I would also add a fear of flying also comes into play. Perhaps someone could find statistics on frequency of flights within the continental United States? (Alas, I am not that research savvy.) Many of my friends and acquaintances in the USA prefer to drive rather than fly, even within the lower 48 states--and additionally, have remarked that they think people like me are "nuts" for traveling internationally. Regardless of the size of the United States, and the varied geographical areas from mountain ranges to savannahs, I disagree that travel from state to state counts as "seeing the world." Also, a surprising few of the Americans I know have even visited Canada and Mexico, border control issues or not. Very strange indeed.

Posted by BW on 30 April 2008, 6:00 pm | Link

I did find this Yale University article, titled "Americans are Tuning out the World." The author, Alkman Granitsas, states the following: "Why are Americans progressively tuning out the rest of the world? The reason is twofold. But both confirm the cherished belief of most Americans: that their country is a 'shining city on the hill.' And the rest of the world has relatively little to offer."
Here is the link:…

Posted by BW on 30 April 2008, 6:06 pm | Link

As early as January 1, 2009, ALL persons, including U.S. citizens, traveling between the U.S. and Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Bermuda by land or sea (including ferries), may be required to present a valid passport or other documents as determined by the Department of Homeland Security. While recent legislative changes permit a later deadline, the Departments of State and Homeland Security are working to meet all requirements as soon as possible. Ample advance notice will be provided to enable the public to obtain passports or passport cards for land/sea entries.
This policy change will increase the demand for US passports. To apply for a US Passport, visit

Posted by Karim on 11 May 2008, 4:56 pm | Link

Statistics: Everyone wanted stats, so here are some. In 2004, 27.35 million U.S. residents traveled outside their borders, about 22 of those for leisure, the rest for business. Assuming the U.S. population was about 290 million in 2004, that would be a little bit over 9.3% of the population. Now, the kicker is, this might not actually include Mexico/Canada. Here is the source:…

Note that in the breakdown, it doesn't list Canada or Mexico, and all the percentages add up to 100, so I'm sort of assuming this doesn't include visits to Canada and/or Mexico.

Another article I found mentions that 63 million U.S. residents travel to foreign countries per year, about half of them to Mexico/Canada... I believe this is a recent statistic since the article is recent, and 63/300 population would be 21%... Half would be 10.5%, and would seem to fall in line with the 9% estimate from 2004 mentioned above... Anyways, remember, the stat is actually 21%, 10.5% is only the overseas travel.

Either way, for such a large country with so much variety, I would say the fact (seemingly) that 21% travel abroad (and 10.5% overseas) is pretty impressive! I wonder what the statistics are compared to other countries.

Posted by Dmitry on 28 May 2008, 12:52 am | Link

You guys miss the point - Americans done NEED passports to enjoy a wonderfull fulfilled life. We've got an incredibly diverse (and huge) country. We can visit world class winter destinations and tropical destinations without leaving the security of our own country. Don't be jelous! We simply don't NEED to country jump to enjoy ourselves.

Now I'm not speaking for myself - as I am actually an exceptionally well traveled person that loves exploring other cultures. But I believe it's hard for someone from GB or Spain to understand the diversity in desinations we have in our OWN country. It may contribute to a lesser appreciation of the diversity of cultures, but it certainly doesn't automatically mean we're stupid or myopic...

Posted by Aaron on 8 June 2008, 5:30 pm | Link

Aaron, you're right Americans do seem kind of intolerant of non-American views but it certainly doesn't mean that Americans are stupid or myopic.

However, sometimes the unthinking jingoism does increase the criticism the US gets though.

Phil R

Posted by Philip Raitz on 14 June 2008, 8:40 am | Link

Well, after reading this I'm not going to bother renewing my passport this year. With the dollar tanking and the hostile attitudes abroad, the best choice is to keep to ourselves here in the states, which obviously will make quite a few non-USians happy.

The ONLY legitimate dealings other nations involve trade and defense (which does not include unwarranted invasions). Thankfully since things are such a mess domestically it appears that local priorities will rightfully eclipse foreign policy. All the while I'll be watching Japan and the EU with amusement since they seem to have lost the ability to reproduce. Yes, we're taking our lumps economically, but if you think we're in trouble, just wait until you don't have enough kids paying taxes for all of those rich social benefits. It is curious that many third worlders inhabiting your nations are reproducing like rabbits though... this could get interesting.

Posted by MTS on 25 June 2008, 3:31 am | Link

To comment on Ted's 2003 citation of the US Office of Central Statistics, there IS NO US Office of Central Statistics. So I'm curious what he was citing exactly.

Posted by Ian on 26 June 2008, 8:56 pm | Link

I am Canadian, and was curious to see if the statistics on US passports reflected my experiences. I recently traveled through 14 countries in western and eastern europe and to the edge of the muslim world, Turkey. In over 2 and a half months of traveling, I met at least 10 canadians for every american I encountered, and when you factor in the american population is over 9 times the pop. of canada, this is a very telling statistic. The only places where I found larger amounts of americans, was at destinations frequented by cruise ships. If you look at this US state dept site,… , you will find some accurate statistics, but keep in mind, these don't tell you where, or even if, these passports were used. I understand the economical logic of encouraging people to spend their tourism dollars in their own country, but this has a detremental effect on the image of americans abroad, (as if that one needed any further help) and has lead to a general ignorance of what the rest of the world is really like. For Australians and New Zealanders is almost a rite of passage to travel the world, and its tough to find many people that have hate for those populations. I find it very sad that my countries closest ally has more of it's citizens traveleing with rifles than passports. You need to understand the world if you want to change it for the better. For you Americans reading this, please consider skipping Vegas, Daytona Beach, and Hawaii next time you travel; Cancun, Tijuana, and Niagra Falls don't count either. Get you buts out of North America, and see what your government has been trying to hide from you. Come back home and tell your friends about your experiences, and assure them that people aren't waiting to kill or kidnap you everywhere you go. See what others are doing better than you, and realize its not unpatriotic to acknowledge that there are things you can learn from them. See how people are more or less the same everywhere you go, and this may start to extinguish the growing hate that goes in both directions. Represent your county better than your officials are, and reap the benefits.

Posted by Doug on 3 July 2008, 5:29 pm | Link

"over 2 and a half months of traveling, I met at least 10 canadians for every american I encountered, and when you factor in the american population is over 9 times the pop. of canada, this is a very telling statistic."

Indeed: we Americans go out of our way to avoid Canadians. It also tells me that you don't have the first clue about the concept of "statistical signifigance." What you provided was an anecdote, not a statistic.

Posted by redr on 17 July 2008, 11:25 pm | Link

I works both ways.

This is not a statistic but anecdotal "Indeed: we Americans go out of our way to avoid Canadians."

Phil R

Posted by Phil Raitz on 20 July 2008, 5:35 am | Link

Actually, Phil, that is neither an anecdote nor a statistic. It is a joke. But don't let that stop you from trying to score cheap debate points.

Anyway, if you want an actual statistic, how about this: the number of Americans that visited Europe in 2007 was just over 13,250,000, by far the largest of any nation outside of Europe. Notice that this works out to about 40% of the population of Canada. Thus, it should be obvious that Doug's experience, even if it is true, is grossly misrepresentative. Although, one can't really blame him for noticing Canadians more frequently than Americans (or anyone else), as Canadians are known to literally wear their flags on their shoulders when abroad. After all, they wouldn't want to be confused for Americans, and there's really no other difference between us besides the designs of our flags.

Posted by redr on 31 July 2008, 4:48 pm | Link

Actually, redr, my comment was meant as a joke. But don't let that stop you from taking cheap shots.

Thems fighten words "there's really no other difference between us besides the designs of our flags".

Phil R

Posted by Phil Raitz on 1 August 2008, 3:28 pm | Link

Americans don't have passports? You probably want to read this.

That should answer any questions you have. :)

Posted by Virgomonkey on 15 August 2008, 8:13 pm | Link

Virgomonkey, I found the writer's statement confusing:

"All you Anti-Americans have proven to me so far is one thing: you’re no different from us."

The writer has correctly pointed out that the US is an influential superpower and different than most of the other 192 or so countries in the world. Furthermore the writer has correctly, in my mind, shown that by any objective measure the US approach is not as bad as the approach has been by other preeminent powers in the past. The writer carefully outlines the unique identity Americans have but then says “you’re no different from us”?

Non-American is not anti-American.

I think "you are just like us" type statements are often seen as complements by many Americans. However, to many non-Americans the generalization is nonsensical at best or arrogant and presumptuous at worst.

I believe it is difficult for non-Americans to understand how the predictable, to me, reactions to "just like us" statements are viewed as unprovoked anti-Americanism.

Phil R

Posted by Phil Raitz on 16 August 2008, 5:09 am | Link

Virgomonkey, I found the writer's statement confusing:

"All you Anti-Americans have proven to me so far is one thing: you’re no different from us."

The writer has correctly pointed out that the US is an influential superpower and different than most of the other 192 or so countries in the world. Furthermore the writer has correctly, in my mind, shown that by any objective measure the US approach is not as bad as the approach has been by other preeminent powers in the past. The writer carefully outlines the unique identity Americans have but then says “you’re no different from us”?

Non-American is not anti-American.

I think "you are just like us" type statements are often seen as complements by many Americans. However, to many non-Americans the generalization is nonsensical at best or arrogant and presumptuous at worst.

I believe it is difficult for non-Americans to understand how the predictable, to me, reactions to "just like us" statements are viewed as unprovoked anti-Americanism.

Phil R

Posted by Phil Raitz on 16 August 2008, 8:02 am | Link

Dear Phil, I answered your comment on my blog already. Leave it up to the knee-jerk reactionary Anti-American Canadians to totally miss my point and filter the words to suit their own agenda! Congratulations!

What's even sadder is that you don't even know what "Anti-American" means. And the definition was right in front of your face. Selective reading, might I add?

This is exactly what I meant in my comment. People in other countries have proven time and time again that they are no better than the Americans they speak of.

More info on that here:


Posted by virgomonkey on 23 August 2008, 8:31 pm | Link

I tried to post this on your blog but was not successful.

I don't think you got the intent of my first post virgomonkey. It was not meant as put down but as one explanation of the situation that exists. You did outlined the way things are in your blog and mentioned you didn’t think it was fair. The reaction to my post certainly points out how intentions can be misunderstood.

You did say the US is a superpower. I did add that most other countries never have been.

I think that many non-Americans find the "you are just like us statements'" to be confrontational. I believe that is one reason why Americans are sometimes unfairly criticized.

You did ask:

"Isn’t it interesting how exclusively and carefully America is watched under the microscope while other nations are ignored all together?"

I was attempting to offer an objective comment as you requested when you complained “What ever happened to asking questions, critical thinking, objectivity, and open-mindedness?".

In my second post I did complain about the poor way I thought (and still think) the US Administration managed the war in Afghanistan. I only mentioned it because you asked "Did I read correctly on Canadianfermentation’s blog that you (meaning Canada)were in Afghanistan?" and I thought you might like a fuller explanation.

Phil R

Posted by Philip Raitz on 24 August 2008, 1:10 pm | Link

As an American ex-pat living and working in the UK, the issue has to do with a changing world, a changing economy and whether or not one has a "global perspective" or prefers to be more of an "isolationist."
If you care about global issues - climate change, wars, poverty, hunger, and health, then you might take a keen interest regardless where you live or which country you happen to live in. Whether or not one recognizes the inter-connectedness of all people and countries is beside the point. What is happening in the world right now is affecting the USA and vice-versa. The U.S. sneezes and the rest of the world catches a cold! Anyone at all concerned?
I spoke recently with the Canadian ambassador to Afghanistan. Things are not going well there and there's much that needs to be fixed. Look what Iraq has cost the US (and a few others). Want to talk about the Mid-East. Is it all about oil? Really? Honestly, everyone should be concerned about fossil fuels and alternative sources of energy if care about your grandchildren and the future of the planet.

Posted by Gary on 18 October 2008, 5:31 am | Link

"You did say the US is a superpower. I did add that most other countries never have been. "

I would suggest you consider the possibility that a difference between America and other countries does not necessarily imply a difference between Americans and other people.

"I think that many non-Americans find the “you are just like us statements'” to be confrontational. "

Anyone who find a statement of perceived commonality to be confrontational is quite obviously looking for confrontation, which is entirely their problem. I.e., the only way to read that as confrontational is if the person hearing it is already committed to a negative view of Americans, in which case it's pretty ridiculous to point to an American expressing commonality with someone as the root of the conflict.

Also, Phil, much of the material in your posts is scarcely comprehensible. I'm guessing English is not your first language?

Posted by redr on 30 October 2008, 11:43 pm | Link

You missed the point redr.

Virgomonkey did ask "Isn’t it interesting how exclusively and carefully America is watched under the microscope while other nations are ignored all together?”. She thought it was unfair that the USA is picked on.

I mentioned that this happens partly because:

1) There is some jealousy of the superpower.

2) Dismissing differences and not acknowledging them can be resented.

I didn't say it was fair but offered these as possible answers to her question. However, if you don't wish to consider these reasons and it is all the foreigners’ problem anyway so be it.

BTW English (not the American dialect) is my first language.

Phil R

Posted by Philip Raitz on 5 November 2008, 4:16 pm | Link

Phil I agree with the fact that it is more confrontational to people with an anti-American view already but I disagree with Red in the fact that the tone of the paper itself can GIVE people an anti-American view. Also I understood you quite alright. :) I really enjoyed your presentation and defense and thought it was very thoughtful. I would love to see your point of view on Americans in general and not just on passports...

As an American I'd like to throw my hat in the ring. As a 19 year old student who lives off of $16,000 yearly, I barely have enough to live off of while providing for myself and my child. I hope to one day travel across EurAsia, Africa, South America, and Australia to see what the world has to offer. However, I will take more than helf my life saving when I could spend $300 and travel somewhere within a few hours drive. I have been told since 9/11 that the rest of the world hates me for no fact other than my being born an American citizen, and the thought of having my son and I murdered to send a political message scares me. That doesn't make me stupid, it makes me weary. I do not want to visit ANY arrogant country that's going to look down on me just to end up feeling like I wasted years worth of hard-earned money just to visit that country for it's "culture." For people in EurAsia to visit another country is easier than for an American to visit that same country. We just call ours states. If every state spoke a different language we might be required to learn 4 or 5 languages but the closest we come is Spanish for Mexico or possibly French for parts of Canada. So Excuse me for being too poor to be 'cultured' and for living on a continent where most people speak the same language, or atleast having enough knowledge to communicate and I'm sorry that the American government has lied to us and spoonfed us hatred through the guise of freedom but not everyone believes this BS.

Now for my defense... To call ALL Americans ignorant would in fact prove your own ignorance and lack of culture. I'm pretty sure there are as many ignorant people across the world and I'm sure the ratio is about the same. I don't believe America is the greatest country, i don't believe the perfect country exists. I don't agree with the wars but I support the troops, I vote pro-choice because I'm pro-life, I believe everyone has the right to marry, I support immigration since my family is full of 1st and 2nd generation immigrants, and I believe that everyone deserves and equal start and an equal right to pursue their dreams. I'm neither ignorant nor biased, and I don't have a hateful bone in my body. I do however have a hope in my heart that the America I live in will someday soon become the America I believe in. My country will become a beacon of change and we have a unity not seen since 9/11 but this unity is different because I know that, for me atleast, that sense of community is never going away.

Sorry for the rant but I feel like there are people posting here that reinforce the mindset of Anti-Americanism, and I understan the non-American doesn't mean anti-American but as a citizen of this tattered divided country I've had FOX news shoving fear and hatred down my throat. I don't believe a word of it but some people do, and for that I apologize on behalf of my country.

OBAMA: Hope WON! Yes we DID!

Posted by AverageAmerican on 6 November 2008, 7:17 am | Link

"You missed the point redr"

Given that half of my complaint was that it's impossible to discern what your point is in the first place, I think your statement is misdirected. I didn't so much "miss" the point as complain that it was *missing*.

Virgomonkey's site is kind of silly. There's a few good points made and some interesting information, but it's mostly uncritical propaganda with a noteable right-wing tilt. Supposing the whole "why is America watched so closely" question wasn't rhetorical in the first place, it doesn't even bear responding to. The interesting question is not "why are people captivated by America?" but rather "why do people think that their views on America have any value?" Or maybe "why are people blind to the irony of revealing total ignorance about America in the context of a complaint about American ignorance of other cultures?"

And you should stop speaking in generalities. Clearly, it bothers *you* to be told that the differences between Americans and yourself are much smaller than the similarities. But that doesn't mean that such a dynamic is at all relevant to any issues other than your own, and you have not presented any evidence that it is. Indeed, nothing I have experienced leads me to believe that American expressions of commonality with foreigners play any significant role in the state of relations (other than with Canada, perhaps), let alone a causal one. Usually it's exactly the opposite: isn't this entire thread motivated by the perception that we're insular and frightened of outsiders?

Posted by redr on 8 November 2008, 12:38 am | Link

I am sorry my comments have not come up to your standards redr.

The fact is on Virgomonkey's question (rhetorical or not) stimulated my comment. I chose not to dismiss her comment/question.

BTW we both seem to agree that jealousy of success and the failure to recognize differences can be factors involved with anti-American sentiment. You explained that you have experienced this difference thing with me and Canadians. My experience has shown that this factor is more wide spread than that. The important thing is that while jealousy is a factor there are other dynamics at play.

You proposed several alternate questions (rhetorical?) and I assume that you are looking for my reaction.

1) “why are people captivated by America?” The USA is very influential in the world and it is reasonable that those influenced (which is just about everybody in the world) would be "captivated" by the USA. Some foreigners have opinions on things that affect their lives and that includes what and how the USA does things. Most foreigners understand that Americans decide what and how the USA does things.

2) “why do people think that their views on America have any value?” Reasonable people think there comments have value. Most foreigners realize that Americans will determine the value of their views to Americans.

3) “why are people blind to the irony of revealing total ignorance about America in the context of a complaint about American ignorance of other cultures?” That is a pretty general statement and difficult to comment on. "People" is a pretty all inclusive set and includes everyone. Everyone is not "blind to the irony". "American ignorance" is a stereotype that exists but a lot of people (including foreigners) understand that there are very knowledgeable Americans.

4)"isn't this entire thread motivated by the perception that we're insular and frightened of outsiders?" I am part of this thread and I can say with certainty I am not motivated by that. When you say entire thread the objective answer is no.

You posed some questions and I posted some comments which I believe have value but it is ultimately up to you to decide how much value my comments have to you.

Phil R

Posted by Philip Raitz on 9 November 2008, 6:56 am | Link

I appreciate your input AverageAmerican and I'm glad you considered my comments. I disagree with your use of the term "defense" I prefer the less confrontational word "comment".

My comments were meant to be about the USA's place in the world and perhaps this is the wrong thread for that but it seems to me that this thread has veered from just commenting on passport use.

Phil R

Posted by Philip Raitz on 9 November 2008, 7:26 am | Link

Hi Interesting topic and one that stretches back many years on this thread. After reading through most of it it looks rather like an anthropological study.

Too much info to comment on in one post anyway.. so just a few ideas and impressions based on a double quote from about, eh maybe 15 posts above:

“I think that many non-Americans find the “you are just like us statements'” to be confrontational. “ -Phil R

"Anyone who find a statement of perceived commonality to be confrontational is quite obviously looking for confrontation, which is entirely their problem. I.e., the only way to read that as confrontational is if the person hearing it is already committed to a negative view of Americans, in which case it's pretty ridiculous to point to an American expressing commonality with someone as the root of the conflict." -Redr


I would like to say I find this to be a common misunderstanding and one that can be very hard to clear up. And please pardon my generalities for the point. A fair many of Americans (and perhaps others) often assume people want to be the same or that it is valuable and important to be similar. Maybe it's from the "melting pot" origins of the US.. or perhaps Zenophobia gone friendly/helpful.

Here is an example: "That's okay. Luca doesn't understand to say Grace before a meal, he isn't From America. But he is a good ________(fill in the blank), just like us."

Now on one level this statement demonstrates understanding or at least forgiveness and acceptance of differences.. But only, because of the qualified sameness. It may be true kindness in "explaining" to others Luca's differences, so they may better understand.

On another level, this statement is very condescending and superior. It also assumes that Luca would be bad if he wasn't in some way (likely social or economic, not merely that he is a human) the same or similar. Or at least perceived as so. In this way, it expresses a general arrogance and ignorance. And in particular that customs are so rigid, someone needs an excuse but if a similarity can be pointed others may let them "join the club." (This is also assuming Luca wants to "join the club" and not just be fed as a guest.)

I find both views hit me equally. And at some point, it rather then depends on the situation as to how the intention of the speaker plays out. Arrogant or sweet. But to many it is already conveyed arrogance.. and perhaps it has.

This same type of behavior often divides Yanks vs. Southerners. As assumptive talk can easily backfire, especially regarding identity being boiled down to one trait.

I say this as an American who had several foreign exchange students stay with us when I was young child. I felt badly, because while many Americans are attempting going the extra mile to be friendly, when so often this style of communication is alienating and insulting.

People is many places respect differences as much or more than the stereotypical touristy American seems to find comfort in sameness.

Personally I don't like it when others believe they can speak for me or ALL of any group I'm in.. unless I've been consulted and agree. I also find it insulting when people downplay my differences as if they were awful,.. simply because they don't care to learn about anyone different than their own "perfect" self.

I've read some interesting ideas on why American's are often guilty of this (particularly noted when traveling abroad).. one idea I've read is the class system is less defined in the US. Of course there are rich vs poor, pillar of society vs runaway, educated at university vs dropped out of the 6th grade, family has power and wealth vs parents in jail, ect..

Since it isn't apparent or at least universally apparent what class/ranking/manner/behavior to expect from someone there is a sense of never knowing who you are dealing with. And likely for many other reasons besides class (relocation within US is common and even frequent, sheer size and general diversity of population, cultural customs, race, geographic, knowledge/comprehension of language, and even questionable morally even among people of the same faith) A virtual tower of babel. ;P Okay, joking. But my point is in this type of environment, for whatever reason stressing sameness many times seems to be a way to "break the ice" within America.

Outside of the US (and frankly, even within the US, it can be arrogant and rude) this implied attitude of valuing being same/similar, when is not always shared. When bandied about superficially (like upon meeting someone) it can be total rudeness because to say such a thing would imply to many people a deep and nuanced understanding and connection. Otherwise why go on about sameness, we are all human afterall, must we be same/similar in socio-economic terms to recognize value in another person. Why must they be the similar or perceived as such? And why is the egotistical combing through of shallow similarities considered friendly behavior?

All the best,

Posted by Sam on 15 November 2008, 12:21 pm | Link

Wondering why all the interest in solely US passport percentages? I mean it is interesting, particularly the state by state breakdown someone posted, such variance among states. But I will say, it could be a spot more interesting to compare with other countries as well.

I'd like to point out as no one has mentioned specifically (though it's been alluded to), that there is a good deal of poverty within the United States. Even Hollywood depicts a version of this. But there are many kinds of poverty within the US. Even within Abject poverty: there are people who live under the freeway overpasses, marginalized by society, there are those who live out of their car or on friends couches or motels, some raising children having to move from community to community in temporary work positions, those who live in rural areas who don't have plumbing (yes, in some areas this is still true).

Maybe because American politicians project America's image as a "SuperPower" this is easily forgotten. There are many more in poverty or working poor. If anyone has numbers(with documentation) on that I'd be interested. Then there are people not in poverty, but they watch every penny they spend or at least every dollar.. because they absolutely must. Sometimes people get 'fast food deals' like 5 Arby's Roast Beef sandwiches for $6 and eat those every meal for two days. I a kitchen (or hot water) is available, many people live on cheap crappy processed cups of freeze-dried food where you just add hot water. Not because they love it.. but because they have no money. Most countries who consider themselves to be "first world" would find the high numbers in poverty in the US staggering. It seems that poverty and the poor is greatly underplayed both domestically and abroad. And many others who were poor live in denial with help from Credit cards/ but are enslaved to acquire debt to survive. I'd say while in many ways the US is a rich country, it is extremely divided.

On another note, until recently (Spring 2008) Americans could travel anywhere within North America (one exception not permitted to Cuba) without a passport (with a valid state issued drivers license).

So it might be more analogous to this scenario: imagine Europeans could travel anywhere on the European continent, without a passport (say except Portugal). Would as many Europeans have them? What if they cost a fair bit of money and you didn't leave your continent anyways? How many would bother to have passports then?

People love to laugh with mockery and scorn on that topic but it's a rather ridiculous idea to assume that America is so very comparable (and alike) with regards to holding passports as the dynamics for having them in European countries.

Another point.. One guess to partially explain for the surge in passport applications in the US in 2003, is that is the year the US sent troops to Iraq. Many in the military probably getting their first US passport (two nurse friends-of-mine got passports in 2003 and moved to Iraq). Many objected to the President, and particularly of him breaking the balance of powers and his unrepresented /unlawful decision to take our Nation to war. At the time there was much talk of moving to Canada and I imagine many would have wanted the option to travel. Might there be other related reasons as well?

Posted by Sam on 15 November 2008, 1:09 pm | Link

Pretty good posts Sam.

Posted by Philip Raitz on 15 November 2008, 1:29 pm | Link

"BTW we both seem to agree that jealousy of success and the failure to recognize differences can be factors involved with anti-American sentiment."

No, I have explicitly disagreed with that second proposition several times in a row now. It seems that a lack of comprehension of others' ideas may be a big part of why your responses are so repetitive and incoherent.

"1) “why are people captivated by America?” "

That was not even rhetorical: I explicitly said it was NOT an interesting question, because the answer is obvious (power).

"2) “why do people think that their views on America have any value?” Reasonable people think there comments have value."

No, reasonable people assess their knowledge of a given subject and then make a determination about how valuable their thoughts on the topic are. Only narcissists believe that ALL of their comments have value. The point is that many foreigners feel more qualified than they are to express opinions on the United States, owing to exposure to Hollywood movies or the presence of a McDonald's in their town. The further irony is that it is exactly this type of uncritical arrogance that drives the same critics to mad when it emanates from Americans.

"3) “why are people blind to the irony of revealing total ignorance about America in the context of a complaint about American ignorance of other cultures?” "

This one was rhetorical. It was follow-up to the previous one, the point being that said critics can't perceive the irony because they erroneously consider themselves to be knowledgeable about the United States.

"You posed some questions and I posted some comments which I believe have value but it is ultimately up to you to decide how much value my comments have to you."

Indeed, and I have repeatedly informed you of my determination and suggested ways to improve it.

Posted by redr on 24 November 2008, 9:00 pm | Link

A person is not a narcissist because they have opinions or make comments, redr.

It is reasonable for you to determine that comments that you believe to be based on erroneous information have no value to you. But, it is unreasonable and narcissistic to decide that those comments are of no value to me. Simply put you have the right (reasonable) to dismiss my comments as they apply to you but you do not have the right (unreasonable)to dismiss my comments as they apply to me.

Paranoia is the belief that other people’s comments are necessarily threats to you. Xenophobia includes the belief that comments by foreigners are necessarily threats to you.

BTW it is ironic that you are bothered by and resent what you see as my attempts to dismiss differences and not acknowledge them.

Phil R

Posted by Philip Raitz on 27 November 2008, 10:42 pm | Link

Wow. Someone called me a "right-winger". That's got to be the funniest thing that I've heard all day. Coming from one who has reviewed my site and all 350 posts mostly geared at complaining about my own government and the extremists, I find that simply amazing. Yes, that's right. 85% of my blog is loaded with rants about the Bush administration and Republican hypocrisy and extremism.

Redr, the US IS viewed under the microscope. We call that a "figure of speech".

If I really am a right-winger, than I must be the only Republican that voted for Obama.

On my "silly site", I am called an "Anti-American" at least once a weak for my liberal views.

You people need to be careful about making assumptions.

The bit between Phil and I was resolved literally months ago in my blog.

To Average American: I feel the exact same way you do. I guess we both must be thought of as "right-wingers" for having the same beliefs?

Posted by virgomonkey on 3 December 2008, 1:43 am | Link

To everybody:

The bit between Phil and I was resolved on my blog, but in any event I'll explain it here. It was regarding a statement I had made in my blog. What I had meant is that ignorance exists everywhere and that it just wasn't an "American phenomenon".

That is what I had meant. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Posted by virgomonkey on 3 December 2008, 2:02 am | Link

Thank you for the statistical breakdown. I have an assumption that most people that have traveled or lived outside of the US, not military related have a different outlook on the world than those with no passport. Knowledge is the key to most things so my question is, "Is there a statistic for how passport holders vote?"

Posted by Mark on 3 December 2008, 2:34 pm | Link

I'm just going to say it simply. I've always wanted to travel, but I can't afford it. I'm 23 now and I'm focusing on somehow paying off my college loans. I want to travel now, you know in my prime years. But this is seeming less and less like a plausibility.

I don't know what else to say.

Posted by Erika on 5 December 2008, 12:09 am | Link

"A person is not a narcissist because they have opinions or make comments, redr."

Indeed, and that's why I never said 'anyone who has an opinion is a narcissist.' Again, what makes someone a narcissist is an exaggerated sense of self-worth. On a related note, your inability to respond to anyone without putting grossly inaccurate (even inverted) words into their mouths is a strong indicator that your opinions on the subject have no value.

"It is reasonable for you to determine that comments that you believe to be based on erroneous information have no value to you. But, it is unreasonable and narcissistic to decide that those comments are of no value to me. Simply put you have the right (reasonable) to dismiss my comments as they apply to you but you do not have the right (unreasonable)to dismiss my comments as they apply to me."

Sorry, was this bit of incoherence supposed to convince me to place MORE value on your comments?

"Paranoia is the belief that other people’s comments are necessarily threats to you. Xenophobia includes the belief that comments by foreigners are necessarily threats to you."

No, paranoia is the belief that other people are out to get you, and xenophobia is the fear of people who are different from you. I do not think that anyone is out to get me, nor am I afraid of different people, so neither of these terms apply to me. I am beginning to wonder if you are afflicted by one of these ailments, however.

"BTW it is ironic that you are bothered by and resent what you see as my attempts to dismiss differences and not acknowledge them. "

Again, that is exactly the opposite of the contents of our interaction. It is ME that is dismissing differences between Americans and Canadians, and YOU getting bothered by that. To the extent that anything has bothered me, it is your continued misrepresentation of my statements. The question at this point is whether said misrepresentations are intentional, or simply a symptom of your own inability to keep track of the conversation.

Posted by redr on 9 December 2008, 2:41 am | Link


What did you mean by "The point is that many foreigners feel more qualified than they are to express opinions on the United States, owing to exposure to Hollywood movies or the presence of a McDonald's in their town."? I ask for the clarification because it seems like your point is that foreigners are not qualified to express opinions from a foreign perspective. However, the statement is incomplete ie. "more qualified than?".

You do not agree with my opinion that one of the significant reasons anti-American attitudes exist is because differences from the US are trivialized. You have in fact stated that only I and apparently other Canadians have this problem and I have stated that the phenomenon is more wide spread than that. I have repeatedly stated that you can dismiss my opinion if you want. It is xenophobic to be somehow be threatened by foreign opinions and resort to insults.

Another point you may want to think about how statements like "Indeed, and I have repeatedly informed you of my determination and suggested ways to improve it" influence anti-American attitudes.

Phil R

Posted by Phil Raitz on 11 December 2008, 1:51 am | Link

"What did you mean by “The point is that many foreigners feel more qualified than they are to express opinions on the United States, owing to exposure to Hollywood movies or the presence of a McDonald's in their town.”? "

I mean exactly what I said. Many people have an inflated sense of their own knowledge of the United States, usually owing to their exposure to certain specific cultural exports (movies and fast food being the big ones). This phenomenon is ironic in the context of a thread about how Americans don't understand other cultures because they don't come to visit often enough.

"You do not agree with my opinion that one of the significant reasons anti-American attitudes exist is because differences from the US are trivialized."

Correct. Excepting Canadians, I've never heard anyone complain about that. Canada is an obvious exception in these situations due to its unique circumstances vis-a-vis the United States.

"You have in fact stated that only I and apparently other Canadians have this problem and I have stated that the phenomenon is more wide spread than that. I have repeatedly stated that you can dismiss my opinion if you want."

Yes, and I have repeatedly dismissed your opinion. Why, then, do you keep restating it, without any new evidence or observations, as if doing so advances some kind of argument?

"It is xenophobic to be somehow be threatened by foreign opinions and resort to insults."

And it is inane to keep suggesting that someone is "threatened" and "xenophobic" without any substantiation. Although I am certainly getting the impression that you feel threatened by my "foreign opinions," and by America generally. Does this make you a xenophobe?

"Another point you may want to think about how statements like “Indeed, and I have repeatedly informed you of my determination and suggested ways to improve it” influence anti-American attitudes."

Uh... what? My statement may well have influenced YOUR attitude towards an INDIVIDUAL American, but I don't see what that has to do with anything larger.

Posted by redr on 11 December 2008, 3:00 am | Link

Also, to virgomonkey: sorry about the right-wing comment. I'd mixed up your blog with the America in the World blog that was linked around the same time.

Posted by redr on 11 December 2008, 3:02 am | Link

Redr, you seem to have taken offence to my repeating that my comments are for consideration and only if you want.

I have taken offence to you repeated and condescending insults. You have stated that it is narcissistic for one to be insulted when issues important to them are trivialized. You have clarified that you do not believe non-Americans should have opinions about how the US chooses to do things even if the actions affect the non-Americans. You do not seem to be aware that that attitude is xenophobic. The US is very influential in the world but there is a lot more to it than movies and fast food.

I am not surprised by your admission that you are unaware how trivializing differences comes across. You seem oblivious to the fact that this very thing has been commented by others on this forum. For example "Outside of the US (and frankly, even within the US, it can be arrogant and rude) this implied attitude of valuing being same/similar, when is not always shared".

Posted by Phil Raitz on 14 December 2008, 1:29 pm | Link

Redr, no problem. I am often mistook for a lot of things. :)

Everyone - please have a Happy New Year. May 2009 bring joy to all!

Posted by virgomonkey on 31 December 2008, 5:45 pm | Link

Thanks for the statistic. My husband recently told me that it was 10%. I knew it was low, but somehow, that seemed too low. Of course, that percentage doesn't explain how many people actually travel outside the US, and how many of them travel somewhere besides Cancun. As a foreign-born, naturalized citizen living in Texas, I can tell you that I've met many people here who have never left the state. I get odd looks when I tell people where I've been. An acquaintance of mine left the country for the very first time recently and has told me that she appreciates the US much more - that somehow we have it better here. And this is someone with foreign-born parents. So that mentality is not just limited to white Americans. I try to avoid Americans like the plague when I travel abroad, and when I hear an American complain about how everything is different and they miss the comforts of home, I want to cringe. But I wouldn't say that ignorance is the only factor, rather one of them. There is no law on the books that requires an employer to provide paid vacation time. Many employers only give 2 weeks. My father has worked for the same company for 17 years and gets 3 weeks. Even those companies that provide decent vacation time do not allow their employees to take it all at once or carry it over to subsequent years. We spend a lot of money on cars - most of us don't have the luxury of good public transportation. We spend a lot of money on health insurance premiums and still pay ridiculous co-pays and deductibles. Leaving the country is expensive because of its size. A non-stop, roundtrip flight to Amsterdam cost $1700 per person this past summer. Some people have compared the US to Europe trying to prove that Europeans don't travel outside of Europe much. I don't think that's a fair comparison. In Europe, you cross a national border, you're confronted with a different culture, a different language, different people, etc. In the States, you cross into another state and you see the same strip malls, fast-food chains, and picture-perfect suburban neighborhoods. Yes, we have our China Towns and Little Italies, but culture goes beyond food. I want to see the sites, I want to experience history, I want to hear the language.

Posted by Anya on 4 January 2009, 8:42 am | Link

Hey--thanks for the info. . .I'm doing a project-based-learning class and I decided to do it on the "importance of traveling abroad." The imformation about the passport stats was really quite interesting to me.
For whatever reason. . .be it money or interest, very few americans have a passport and less travel abroad.
I am not saying that other countries travel more frequently but I do know that we have a whole world and many only see a minute part of it.

Posted by Shea on 5 January 2009, 4:44 pm | Link

So, did anybody come up with stats for other countries. Like the UK, Australia or New Zealand?

Posted by Steve on 10 January 2009, 8:25 am | Link

What an interesting thread!
I've spent most of this afternoon reading through it all and just wanted to say how much I enjoyed reading some of the very cogent and intelligent arguments and counter-arguments.

As a Brit, I am guilty of a tendency towards overly generalised anti-American thinking and I am trying to rectify that by finding out more about the US in general - my knowledge of US history is woeful, I agree with the point raised somewhere above that accusations of Americans not knowing where other countries are could just as well be levelled at Europeans who can't locate many US states on a map.

I Googled the question of how many Americans own passports to try and find actual statistics - what I hadn't expected was a thread in which many Americans have clearly presented many excellent reasons for that statistic - so thank you for making me think about it more deeply.

Posted by Debra on 21 January 2009, 4:32 pm | Link

It was interesting to find this discussion as it seems to come up quite often in discussions with fellow travelers at hostels. Personally I have not really noticed a huge difference in the number of American, Canadian, or British backpackers. But I have seen a very large amount of Germans and Israelis. I base this on trips through over 20 countries. But thats anecdotal, lets get to some hard evidence.

Both Australia and New Zealand keep detailed stats on backpackers from hostels:
In Australia (www.tourism.australia.…

In thousands of visitors in 2004:

UK 129 (27%)
Germany 49 (10%)
Other Europe 122 (25%)
Japan 32 (7%)
Other Asia 23 (5%)
Korea 16 (3%)
USA 40 (8%)
Canada 18 (4%)
Other Countries 54 (11%)
Total 482 (100%)

In New Zealand (…

UK 22.5%
Australia 20.1%
USA 10.5%
Germany 6.8%
Japan 6.1%
Korea 4.6%
Canada 3.1%
Taiwan 1%
Singapore 0.8%
China 0.6%
Other 24%

What conclusions can we reach from these stats? Very few I would argue. I think it would be a big mistake to compare these with total populations. Given that most backpackers are in their 20s, I would say the biggest factor on the relative percentages is the cost of education in the particular countries. In general the tuition fees in Europe are much lower then in the States or Canada. This leaves a larger proportion of people in a financial position to go travel.

Posted by CC on 23 January 2009, 9:00 pm | Link

Most American do not own a passport, and for those who own a passport are people with immigrant background. Their parents had it in order to come to US and thus, their children would have one whether they were born in here or overseas because someday they would more liekly visit their home countries for at least once, otherwise they would be still forced to own a passport by the wishes of their parents.

People who became a naturalized citizen would also likely to own a passport because they know the hassle to travel without a US passport. Unlike other passport issued by a foreign country, owning a US passport is one of the most convinient way to travel to another countries because of our diplomatic power, except traveling to a country like Iran.

People who are immigrant knows this very well, and thus they all have a passport even they don't plan on going on a trip to another country anytime soon. It is not that their foreign passport is not good enough to travel, but still less convinient to use.

Sometimes being a greencard holder doesn't necessarily make one's life more difficult to live in this country than those who are natural-born U.S citizens because there is no such a benefit in most cases, except that it costs lots of money to get a citizenship even though he or she is already qualified to apply for it. They still get a citizenship, so they can get a US passport. It is just as simple as that. The only benefit for an adult to become a naturalied citizen is that he or she gets to vote, but in a reality, they do truly feel like they became an equally-respected individual as a U.S citizen when they do hold, and carry the US passport. Their driver license or their social security card doesn't often say or do much but as long as they have a US passport, it simply changes the whole experience for them, especially at the Airport here and everywhere they go.

Now, back to the original topic here, it is fair to say that most, typical 2nd generation of true, all-American in any racial group who were naturally born in here would not necessarily want to travel overseas for their first time. The top 10% of rich people who controls our economy including all sports stars, hollywood cellebrities, and top professionals in business would likely own a passport and other 10% are those naturalized US citizen. The rest 80% of those are, what we called, the average ameircan, and they do not own a password or they won't get it until they really need it to go someplace overseas. I don't think we, the average american, are ignorant. Unlike those rich Japanese, or Korean people who send thier kids to here for a study, the average american family can not simply afford to do such a thing for their kids or for themselves.

As one person mentioned here, I live in Colorado, and I know so many people who have never gone skiing. The chances of them going to Europe or to any other countires is less likely going to happenn before they get to see what we have here first. Now if you apply the same logic to the rest of the states for people in our contry, it kinda makes sense. Foreigners would be dying to come and check out the las vegas for an example, so why would a typical Amerian be less excited about going to las vegas for their 1st time and then, choose to go to Europe instead? We have a lot of good stuffs here that many ppl visit for every year, so i think it would be more ignorant for American people not to check those out first before thinking of going to another countries. Why the hell would you go check out the British Parliment for an example when you haven't even been to Washington D.C without mentioning to go see the white house? It is not about being patriotic. British people all have seen the British Parliment and Queen's palace, but not many American can't even afford travel from state to state. We are just being realistic but never ignorant.

Posted by Patrick on 14 February 2009, 2:24 am | Link

I was channel surfing a few weeks ago and came across a program called “Wife Swapping” in which two families switch wife/mothers for two weeks. In the episode I saw the switch was between an upper middle class couple, whose husband was originally from Britain, and a working class pair from the country-side whose wife apparently did not have much of an education. Rather than taking a mentor/teacher kind approach, the British man took on a mean spirited, “I am better than you” attitude towards his new “wife”. The poor woman was of course miserable, and in tears. In one of the many put downs by her new British “husband” he mentions that only 10% of Americans own a passport, and that is part of the reason why Americans are so ignorant of other countries. I was quite surprised to hear him say this, and wondered what the truth was, since I have traveled to approximately 25 countries in 4 continents, and everywhere I’ve been to I have seen or met North Americans. By way of illustration, I was in Colombia some years ago, went to a rather secluded in a park that was reached by going over a high pass, and when we finally reached it, to my surprise, we found ourselves close to a whole group of Americans! So I did a Google search to find out some facts and found this site. It seems that hard stats are hard to get, but from my personal experience, the 10% stat just does not seem realistic. I have met Americans who not only have been to more countries than I have, but who also speak other languages, particularly Spanish, which is my native tongue.

A few years ago I read a book, The Roads to Sata: A 2000-Mile Walk Through Japan, by Alan Booth, a Brit who has live in Japan for several years, and speaks fluent Japanese, and he found many Japanese who were surprised that he spoke their language, who were ignorant of the difference between Brits and Americans, who made fun of him, and who were generally ignorant of the world outside the islands of Japan. Which illustrates the point that in any part of the world there are those who are sophisticated, speak at least two languages, have traveled extensively, and there are those who seem contend to live an insulated life, or have had no choice because of life’s circumstances. You simply can not generalized about any culture or nation, all have divisions according to class, education, geography, and opportunity. I have found xenophobic people, who simply did not like me because of the color of my skin (I have brown skin), and those who have invited me into their homes, or shown me their city (in Berlin). In Monaco a post office official refused to write for me the cost of sending a post card (I do not speak French), but in London a theater attendant gave a front and center place, although I could only afford a student seat in the back. All cultures are complex, and one of the goals of travel is to understand those differences.

Posted by MrG on 17 February 2009, 2:32 am | Link

Trust me, if I lived on an island with crappy weather all the time (Britain), I would be wanting to get the hell out and visit other places too and see what else is out there.

Why don't we Americans get out of the country more? There's a bunch of reasons. We live in a HUGE country. Some of our states are the size of some of Europe's countries. Almost any kind of climate/landscape can be found here. If I want a tropical vacation, I can go to Florida. I could go to a picture-perfect paradise in Hawaii. Or the Grand Canyon, or Yellowstone. I could also go to Puerto Rico and not need a passport because the US government technically owns them. (It's a secret US territory!) I could go to the mountains, see snow, see the desert, the great plains, volcanoes, the worlds biggest trees in what looks like an enchanted forest (the redwoods) etc...all in one country.

Culture? Pick one....I bet I could tell you a city where to be in their domain and among their people in this country.

Fun and entertainment? Name it, you can find it here. I garauntee it.
So you see, depending on where you travel to outside the US, it can be boring after living here and being able to travel for MUCH cheaper, and have more to do and see.

What the European's don't get, is that they can hop a train or boat and travel to another European country affordably and relatively quickly. Can we do that? No. Our traveling costs FAR more because we have to fly everywhere. We could drive to Canada, but Canada is honestly, BORING. We could drive to Mexico, but who want's to risk having their car stolen with everything in it by drug cartels? You have to stick to the tourist traps in Mexico, otherwise it can be very dangerous. Let's not forget their extremely corrupt cops who will not hesitate to put you in jail for nothing, unless you pay them off.

If Europe was one big country, then they would have a small amount of people with passports too. They like to say how they are so cultured and well-traveled......yeah, the worldly travels are mostly in neighboring Euro countries. That's like the equivalent of me traveling 1 or 2 states away once a year.
I go to different destinations in the US every summer, for the last 10 years, and I still haven't seen all there is to offer in the US. How many countries over there can you say the same about? I'm in no way trying to sound better than anyone else, simply trying to illustrate reasons why we don't always need a passport to go traveling. I am friends with a guy from England, he's lived here for 7 years now, and has not gone back to England once since he's been here. One time I asked him why, his answer was that he can do all of his traveling here, and see more, and not go broke doing it.

Posted by mat on 27 February 2009, 5:57 pm | Link

I'm just rolling my eyes right now at the sheer ignorance of so many of these comments.

In my eyes I see it as a good thing they don't travel because the Americans I met on my trip to New Zealand were horrible, loud and rude. I've never been so disgusted in all my life.

But thats not to say all are twats I know a some very nice Americans who don't have a arrogant bone in their bodies.

Posted by Isabelle on 30 March 2009, 9:26 am | Link

The Brits believe a comedian that Americans have a 10% passport rate while they have a 90% rate. The fact is that they believe anything they are told, but Americans have close to 30% rate. But the relevant fact is that 90% of the inbred island dwelers must leave the island anually to get propper health care and dental care. Have you seen the results of the NHS dental care?? Obama will bring these teeth to the US next year!!!

Posted by Mitch on 17 April 2009, 10:30 pm | Link

Also, the entitlement culture in the UK makes them lazy and always expecting the government or the company to take care of them. They have been conditioned by the government not to complain. So the government taxes them into socialist oblivion. They are forced to drive go cars for cars, can't affort to eat and are a VERY rude culture. They are hand ringers and God only knows how these folks ever ruled the world! Socialism is a disease!

Posted by Mitch on 18 April 2009, 7:29 pm | Link

The persistence of this thread is enough to make me write my Congressman to demand that the Federal Government immediately issue passports to every living American citizen. Not so that Americans will travel more or whatever, but solely to thwart this confounding meme.

Posted by ff on 4 May 2009, 11:44 pm | Link

Mitch, you generalise. American gun law, how intelligent is that?

Posted by Colin Watts on 19 May 2009, 5:51 am | Link

The fact is, most nations are fairly ignorant. Most of us obtain our culturally education from a television screen, and, apart from the internet, hardly humble ourselves to read an abstract about different ways of living. As far as us Americans are concerned, fear rules us. Dictates our decisions. Governs our moves. I have lived in another country, but traveled to over fifty. America isn't the only culturally ignorant nation by far. Even the countries that judge us fail to see a dim reflection of "Americanism" in them.

Posted by ss on 19 May 2009, 9:36 am | Link

Colin, I live in the UK. I do not generalize, and you know it. UK gun law, how intelligent is that? Your government controls all aspects of your life and thought. But sadly, you accept this and like it. The "queen mum" is not a quaint saying. It is the actual fact that the government is the brain controlling you socialist robots. Tell the readers why it takes months to get phone or cable services established, or why you "green and global warming" people have recycling trucks go thru the council but only collect glass, paper and cans, but disallow cardboard and plastic in the "rubish" (fine will follow)but then require every household to drive their car to the recycle point for plastic and cardboard???? You're mad, but SOOOOO self-rightous!! And you have the gaul to dis the US at every turn. I used to be a big fan of the UK, but my eyes are open. If Americans only knew how much you hate us, they would wish we left you to be German! ( Even though your men fought valiantly without us for so long) Bugger off!

Posted by Mitch on 28 May 2009, 8:48 pm | Link

ss, you have a point about people being ignorant of other cultures. I live an work in Europe as an American. At first, I was bombarded with "facts" of how ignorant Americans (US citizens, the Canadians don't like being classed with us as they are Commonwealth British soicialists as well) are of the world. But let me tell you, the BBC is a travesty of truth. I can't watch or read the media here any more. They are either extremely ignorant or produce pure propoganda about the US. They feed the robots a daily diet of lies about us. Take my challenge. Read the Times (Not the London Times, that doesn't exsist)… and find a positive story about the US. You will find many negative and untrue stories about the US. The medaia in the UK are as lazy and dodgy as the general population. So Americans reading these bogus anti-American blogs, rest assured, they are SOOOO jealous that they parrot the propoganda they are fed by their government and it's media. We're not the odd ones, they are. Trust me on that!!

Posted by Mitch on 28 May 2009, 9:06 pm | Link


I agree with you. I was surprised at first (now numb to it) to discover that the media in this country will twist or manipulate a fact about the US in order to prove a biased point that suits it. It is done with immature petty and caddy sneers that often steer off the real issue. The boring and habitual over the top generalizations made here about 300 million people goes without saying too. As far as travel is concerned, it is no surprise they hold "more" passports. As pretty as England is, it does not have a very diverse landscape. London may be multicultural but outside its environs is a different matter. I too, would get on a short and cheap flight to Spain or France to escape "the same old thing". And how lucky that these places are so close and convenient to get to! Many people love and receive tremendous pleasure when criticizing and tearing apart Americans for being "ignorant". However, being ignorant or "not worldly" is not an American phenomenon. Many here suffer the same affliction. Believe me, I have spent enough time here and have met many people to reach this conclusion. My environment back in the US was ideal. My friends were multi lingual and traveled often. They were open minded, kind and progressive. How I miss them here.

Posted by lorraine robinson on 2 June 2009, 9:58 am | Link


Spot on!!!

Posted by Mitch on 19 June 2009, 12:47 pm | Link

I believe the statistics reflect the way Americans see themselves. I am Brazilian and live in US. My husband's relatives said many times they don't feel like going abroad because there's too much here to be seen. My argument is that there's a lot to be seen out there as well. I think most Americans don't want to leave their comfort zone. They don't want to explore what's new for them because they are afraid. They are spoiled in the sense that the world speaks English and they don't need to make an effort. Traveling is a great way to learn new things. I am raising my son differently. Embracing differences is part of the American speech, but there's dichotomy between what they say and what they do.

Posted by Elisabeth on 22 June 2009, 12:32 am | Link

If 18% of Americans own passports, that is a high figure, considering that those who own them must do so in order to travel long haul. I am from the UK where most people regularly travel abroad. You can fly for one hour and be in Paris or Amsterdam, two hours gets you to Spain. We have four weeks paid holiday per year minimum and often more than that. Flights to the continent cost around £60 and the cost of living in other countries is normally lower than the UK. So we have the time and opportunities to leave the UK.

On the other hand many of us travel extensively around Europe, but I'm not sure that 18% of us are traveling long haul

Posted by michael fitz on 13 July 2009, 12:41 am | Link

The latest statistics I've found indicate that something like 30% of Americans own passports. Roughly 18 million passports were issued in 2008, so if that pace keeps up, something like 55% of Americans will own passports in ten years' time.

But recently I've become convinced that differences in passport ownership and long-haul travel reflect only geographic and financial factors, and not cultural issues. I say this because my employer recently hired some workers from Europe, and their disposition towards long-haul travel changed markedly once they started working in the US. I.e., it takes well over 20 hours travel time to get from California to Europe, and another day or two to recover from jetlag (the time difference is like 9 hours). So, you need around 3 days on each end of the trip just for travel and recovery. It's simply not worth doing unless you can go for at least 2 weeks; otherwise you spend the entire vacation sitting on planes and suffering through jetlag.

But since we only get 3 weeks of vacation per year (and that being 1 week more than most Americans get), the only way to make it work is to save all of your vacation time for the entire year for one trip. And that means no long ski weekends, or time off between Christmas and New Year's, or anything else, all year. Which is a pretty strong disincentive; enough to transform travel-happy Europeans into "insular" Americans, nearly overnight.

Likewise, if you're the type of person who likes to spend their vacations skiing or camping or doing other outdoorsy things (as opposed to "cultural" tourism) there's absolutely no reason to spend all that time and money leaving the US in the first place.

Posted by ff on 14 July 2009, 12:09 am | Link

Wow. What a thread, and running for so many years!! It started off so reasonably but has now deteriorated into name calling and "my country is better than your country so there nur"!! Shame really. I'm European but also lived in the US for many years and can say I recognise so many of the stereotypes listed here. The reality is that generalisations are always dangerous (including perhaps this one). People living in Paris, London or Istanbul have more in common in their daily lives with people living in New York or San Fransisco than communities living in the countryside of their own countries and someone living in New York has little in common with some farmer living in a small town in Texas for instance! I think the reason why people in Europe go on about this kind of thing so much is through fear. If someone with little understanding of the complexity of the world lives in some small town in Finland they are unlikely to have any impact on the world whereas someone living in the most powerful nation on the planet may have. There is a feeling that with power comes some kind of responsibility of the population to be more educated about world affairs and to be more travelled. It is a forelorn hope I'm afraid. I doubt if it were true of other world powers during their times. While most Americans I know are 'just like me' there is still a little frustration like when I met that lady in Texas. When I told her I was English, she said how much she loved Europe and asked me what language do they speak in England?? I think that's the kind of thing we find a little worrying and why this Americans and passport thing continues to be an issue in Europe. It's fair to say that the rise of the importance of Religion in the US, GW Bush and Fox TV didn't help to allay any of these fears. It's often quoted that GW didn't have a passport when he came into office although I don't know whether that actually true. Wouldn't be surprised though. So come on Europeans get off the backs of the Americans. While you might want them to live up to unrealistic responsibilities at the end of the day, just like you and me, they're far too busy just getting on with life.

Posted by Steve on 15 July 2009, 2:20 pm | Link

Europe compared to the USA is roughly the same size, remember there is over 40 countries throughout Europe and the Western part of Russia is also Considered European.

Traveling around Western Europe(My Personel Experiences) you need a Passport when entering the UK and Ireland because Northern Ireland is still a part of the United Kingdom. Most other countries in the area you do not need a passport, it is like travel from New York to Florida they really do not have any borders now. Even the Swiss do not usually check passports. Icelanders and even people from Greenland have a Right to move and work throughout the EU and in many cases do not show passports, yes your supposed to have them when Entering from Iceland or Greenland but they consider them European, the only differece is the Customs part where Goods are inspected when entering from these 2 countries.
The Eurozone,Switzerland, Norway,Sweden,Denmark,etc you do not need a passport while traveling from one country to another, they don't even check identification usually. Traveling to the new EU countries like Poland, Romania,Czech Republic,etc yes you still need travel Documents or Passports but each country is moving toward removing all barriers and so within 7 or 8 years most Eastern European Travel from Western Europe will also be Passport Free and will not have borders.

The new Eastern members are still building their economies so they are regulating how many people can move and live in the Western European Countries, I forget the exact year but like I said agreements have been made and within a short period of time they will have total Free movement of Goods and People because in essence they are becoming a single country, single currency,single government where rules and regulations are standardized across Europe.
This is the biggest Political and Economic Project in modern history and it continues since Europe Continues to Expand into countries like Turkey and beyond.

Concerning Americans and their passports and How much international Traveling they do it comes down to this.

The average American now is lucky to get any Vacation time, many don't and the ones that do usually get 1 or 2 weeks off.
In Europe they receive 50 days or more off a year including Vacations and Holidays and their Vacation time is Paid for by the Employer(they receive extra money for Travel) it's like a 13th month of pay.

Many Europeans, places like Germany,Switzerland,Norway,Sweden,etc on average have much higher wages and benefits then the average American-Much higher! The Mercer Survey in 2006 indicated that the USA was not even in the Top 20 for after Tax pay and benefits(take-home pay)and cost of living was included. This company helps people Relocate to other countries and is an international Headhunting corporation that helps companies find workers around the world. The Survey included everyone from laborers to CEO's.

The USA has a falling standard of living and it's been falling for a long time, the Euro is now $1.43 and most other world Currencies have gained over the past 25 years against the US dollar.
The US DOllar peaked in the early 1970's and again in the mid-1980's it also rose somewhat but over the past 22 year the dollar has been declining-meaning the standard of living has been falling at a rapid pace, no jobs have been created over the past 10 years, incomes are now lower then 8 years ago,benefits have been cut across the board,etc.

When you have a service economy and many of your citizens are flipping hamburgers, working in stores,restaurants,etc or cleaning Pools this does not give a country a first world standard.
Many Babyboomers and their parents had a great standard but the ones after them do not even come close to their wages and benefits from the 1940's-mid 1980's.

In actuality when adding the cost of living and wages along with the diminished production of the country(Manufacturing, Farm/Food Production output, oil production,etc)the real wealth producers the USA has not produced any new wealth since the late 1970's.
And the average worker now made about 5 times less then what an American worker would have made in the early 1970's.
Someone who works for Walmart for example now versus their parents who worked in a Steel mill, Car factory, maybe they worked for IBM as a Professioal before downsizing is not doing to have a First world standard.

In 1971 for every $1.00 of GDP Growth the USA added $1.79 in new debt.

In 2006 for every $1.00 of GDP Growth the USA added $7.20 in new debt.

in 2008 for every $1.00 of GDP Growth the USA added $8.00 on new debts.

In 2009 the USA will add $16.00 of debt versus the total economic output of the Country.

Before last September the average Citizen had a standard of living about 4 1/2 times less then the prior Generations.

In the year 2009 the economy is 16 times weaker then in the early 1970's-understand?

America does not Produce much anymore and even in Services(high end) Europe Exports more then the USA-much more meaning they have a more educated workforce(professional) and Europe also has a large manufacturing base which allows their citizens to have a high standard or some of the European Countries like Germany.

Germany is a Huge Creditor Nation, America is the largest Debtor!

Also Travel is much cheaper in Germany, for example you can travel to Australia and stay for 24 days, meals included, Hotel/Resort included, plane ticket included,rental car included for $900.00 Euros!

Germans can Travel and stay in Turkey or Tunisia for a week-hotel,meals,plane ticket included for $250.00 Euros.

They have package deals in Europe that are so much cheaper then the USA and they have 50 days off a year, Germany has the second highest wages in the world so of course they have more of a chance to travel and have a good life.

The UK is actually one of the weakest countries in Europe-a huge debtor but even so they do have benefits we do not have here in the states such as long vacations,etc.

Posted by thomas on 4 August 2009, 1:23 pm | Link

Why does it matter how many "Americans" do or do not have passports?

Posted by Jon on 18 August 2009, 12:03 am | Link

The more Americans that have passports that are used for international travel the better America will become. When we travel we learn how to better compete on a global scale. We come home with new fresh ideas and a more open mind to change. The health care debate is a great example. More American's would realize just how expensive and inefficient the US healthcare system is if they experienced healthcare in France or Singapore as I have.

Posted by tom on 19 August 2009, 6:08 am | Link


The answer is, it doesn't matter how many 'Americans' do or do not have passports. It's a ridiculous, asinine, and misguided question to be asking to begin with.

Yes, the more people (be they American, Chinese, Italian, Columbian, etc.) travel the better they become as a person. Nobody disagrees with that.

I beg of you to reread your statement and I hope you will find the irony. If not, may god, an open mind, and some travelling help you. Because I can assure you, as an American (you know, someone who has actually lived in America, has many American friends, and doesn't know 1 (not 1) person who hasn't owned and used a passport, as opposed to someone who maybe visited America, maybe met a few 'Americans' here and there, and gets most of their information about 'Americans' from other people reporting about 'Americans') your statement is the absolute EPITOME of irony.

Travel on brother, travel on! And may YOU some day embody that which you want 'Americans' to embody.

Posted by Jon on 20 August 2009, 2:57 am | Link

I believe that one's surroundings also contribute to the low percentage of Americans who own a passport. For example, I'm 18 and I just received my passport. This is a big deal in my family because my parents and extended family have never owned one. So in my mind, it was "normal" to believe that you don't need one and, therefore, it's better to just stay in your country. Plus, many American's are just middle class citizens who work hard to maintain the life they live and any extra expenses i.e. "vacations" are hard to come by. The middle class constitutes anywhere from 25%-66% (75-198 million) households (…) and therefore, the vacation time and wages don't add up to be enough to afford any travel time. It's not that American's DO NOT want to travel the world and see what is out there; it is the fact that they cannot afford time or money to do so, especially in this slow economy. So why would one need a passport if they feel they cannot travel? Especially if they have their own country to explore. To American's, traveling from state to state seems equivalent to Europeans traveling from country to country. If you think about it, you get the different culture, different climate, different sights and history, different ethnicities, the only thing we lack is a foreign language in each state. I feel that it really doesn't matter if you have a passport or not as long as you understand that the world isn't just about your homeland, but about those that share the earth we all live.

Posted by Brooke on 25 August 2009, 1:29 am | Link

That nonsense about how americans can't afford to travel overseas,and dont have enough vacation time is so ridiculous. Go to Paris or London - you will see tourists from India, Phillipines, China - imagine every one of your dollars is worth 5 cents anywhere else then complain about being too poor to travel.

The other stoopid excuse: why travel to other countries when america has it all anyway? This perfectly demonstrates why you need to get out more. the idea that Americans believe a long weekend in Las Vegas equals a 2 day trip down the Mekong or the Nile is sad and scary.

The interesting comparison would be to compare the international travel of australians to americans - Australia is even further away from Europe than America - I read somewhere that the ratio of Int travel was 6:1 in favour of Australians

Final advice: Americans get out there and see the world while you are stil allowed to use $USD

Posted by Noblinkers on 29 August 2009, 2:36 am | Link

This site still Googles high in 2009.
I thought I'd look at numbers released to 2009 on passports issued.

From the USA Department of State website…

U.S. Passports Issued per Fiscal Year (2008 - 1996):
2008 - 16,208,003 (including 523,706 passport cards)
2007 - 18,382,798
2006 - 12,133,537
2005 - 10,123,424
2004 - 8,825,410
2003 - 7,300,667
2002 - 7,001,482
2001 - 7,119,506
2000 - 7,292,182
1999 - 6,722,198
1998 - 6,539,864
1997 - 6,295,003
1996 - 5,547,693
1995 say 5,200,000
1994 say 5,200,000

Total issued in the 10 years 1994 to 2003 64,218,595
Passports valid for 10 years, except if under 16 years then 5 years

Population of USA in 2003 290,809,777

This would give a rate of 22.1%, a little high because there is no information about passports issued to children, replacement of lost passports, revoked passports, etc. So the 18% is supportable.

As a Canadian, seeing strong US dollars even now, that the purchasing power of the USD is a big help for Americans traveling abroad. Esp compared to the relative weakness of say the Canadian and Aussie dollars until recently.

Posted by David Canada on 30 August 2009, 6:41 pm | Link


It's more important that a person worry about what they have to do to make themselves better than to worry about what others need to do.

Posted by Jon on 31 August 2009, 2:48 pm | Link

What a can of worms....I am not an internet geeky, chatty person...I simply was curious to know how many US citizens had passports....10,000 comments later....I have concluded a few things.....I have worked my way around the world.... as a travel agent in the 90's and a recent Habitat for Humanity team member in Malaysia being at least my 41st country....

Totally long story short....from 2000 until 2008, I was taking care of my elderly parents....and did not want to travel....

Just as well....because with the Bush/Cheney "regime"....I was first embarrassed and then horrified with the conduct of the US policies worldwide....

I feel better about my country now and am ready to continue on my journey around the world....not only helping families with Habitat For Humanity, but helping to protect the endangered animals....

I could say a whole lot more.....I'll just leave it at that !!!!!

Posted by ruby adams on 4 September 2009, 4:00 am | Link

It's me again.....I have concluded that many (most) of us in the US have Disney World/Land/Las Vegas mentalities.....In my opinion(imo)..even if people had the TIME and the MONEY, they ain't going nowhere !!!!! If it is not an entertaining "amusement park ride", count me out !!!!

If it is about learning and growing and exchanging......COUNT ME OUT !!!! I'd rather stay home with the same ol' same ol'.....Sad and exascerbated with the non-intellectual Bush/Cheney debacle......

Posted by ruby adams on 4 September 2009, 4:34 am | Link

John said:
"Yes, the more people travel the better they become as a person. Nobody disagrees with that. "

I do. Travel can be counter-productive (many of the history's vilest monsters have had their bigotry hardened and catalyzed by foreign travel), or neutral.

There's a sort of elitist implication in this thread that the well-travelled are intellectually and morally superior to others, which is pretty silly.

The putative correlation between open-mindedness and travel probably gets the causation backwards: people travel because they are open-minded, not the other way around.

Or were you being sarcastic?

Noblinkers said:
"That nonsense about how americans can’t afford to travel overseas,and dont have enough vacation time is so ridiculous. Go to Paris or London - you will see tourists from India, Phillipines, China"

And you will also see many, many more tourists from the United States, despite the populations of India, Phillipines and China outstripping that of the US by roughly an order of magnitude.

The United States is - by far - the largest source of visitors to Europe.

Noblinkers said:
"the idea that Americans believe a long weekend in Las Vegas equals a 2 day trip down the Mekong or the Nile is sad and scary."

Good thing it's also false, then.

A long weekend in Las Vegas equals a long weekend in Monte Carlo or Ibiza or Macau.

A 2 day trip down the Mekong or the Nile equals a 2 day trip down the Mississippi or Colorado (not that you can see much of any of those rivers in 2 days).

What's sad and scary is bigoted ideations like the bile Noblinkers here.

Posted by ff on 9 September 2009, 12:40 am | Link

Alright, so after reading the billions of comments on this blog, I can really understand both sides of why Americans don't travel abroad as much and why so many Europeans, Canadians, Australians, etc. believe it's America's own ignorance and "superiority" which prevents them to see the rest of the world.

I've been fortunate enough to be raised by immigrant parents and to have studied abroad in Europe for almost a year and talk to different people, explore different cultures and ideas. Here's my observation about why Americans don't travel as much to other countries. Now, from what I've read a lot of Americans are classified as freakin workaholics who only cares about getting lots of money, buying the big houses and fancy cars, etc. and unfortunately, that is true! American workers work so many hours, get paid squat depending on your job to buy a place of our own in a nice neighborhood or save up for a "rainy day."

Statistically, the average American work week is 50-60 hours a week compared to a lot of European countries whose work week is only 30-40 hours per week even less than that on top of the average American worker only gets 2 weeks per year of paid vacation when they first start working and you don't automatically get your vacation days right away. When I worked for a sales company, I only got 16 vacation days and that included sick days! I only got half of my vacation days when I completed the first 6 months and then I'd get the rest when I complete my first year there. I wouldn't be eligible for an additional vacation week until I was reaching my mid to upper 30's! My friend's dad who is 55 years old has never had more than 20 vacations days per year in his life! From what I've been hearing, many countries such as Australia receive minimum 25 days paid vacation and that is not including sick days or personal days too and you get them as soon as you are employed. None of that accumulation crap!

From where I stand, when most Americans do have the time to take that vacation, realistically speaking you only have 1 week straight to take a vacation! That really doesn't leave much time to take a great holiday to Europe or Australia unfortunately since it's very expensive to book flights, hotels, go sightseeing, and so forth. Americans compromise by taking vacations that'll be worth it to them financially.

A lot of my friends who have never even left the state or the country tell me numerous times, "I really wish I did what you did! I really wish I could just visit Europe, see Asia! That would be so much fun!" It's not that we're too ignorant or stubborn to see the world! Americans really focus a lot on finances instead of just going with the flow and just doing it! They like to be precautious, they like to do all those things without going broke. With the troubled economy, people are spending less unfortunately, and with it comes the excuse of not taking holidays overseas because the economy is bad and finances are in a crunch! Sure, if they really wanted to see the world, they can save enough money, quit their job, see the world, and find another job by the time they're done. But even in a good economy, so many American companies frown upon potential employers who don't have long commitments with one company or who are not serious about their careers. I'm 24 and for heaven's sake I'm treated like a scumbag when I tell them I haven't held a job for no more than 1 year because I wanted to move someplace else. "That really isn't a good reason!" said one interviewer!

So, in a nutshell, Americans do tend to focus more on their money and careers first before taking of themselves such as traveling to other parts of the world. Unfortunately, that's part of our society and I'm not sure that will ever change. I think if more Americans were willing to do what felt right and made themselves more happy instead of what society expects them to do, we can see more Americans being less ignorant and, who knows, see the world.

Posted by Edward on 11 October 2009, 6:45 am | Link

You won't get any statistics from the US government as they have no idea what's even happening at their borders let alone inside the country. There was a thing the other day about US immigration saying that half the 10 million visitors entering on tourist visas haven't officially left the country and there is no way of tracing them.

Once inside america you don't need a passport, it's a planet of its own, I can believe the statistics, after all some 20 million illegals are inside and quite happy to never travel again.

Posted by Niall Rice on 29 October 2009, 4:03 pm | Link

Fascinating. I wanted the statistic to make a point and it was confirmed in spades. Thank you.

I think one of the reasons for the acrimony expressed above is that Americans seem to believe with almost religious fervour that the American way of life is the best and only way. Many of us non-Americans who live in the developed world look at the American way of life with considerable dismay and want no part of it. When we make a comment to this effect we are accused of attacking America.

I for one am not, but having visited America many times, I have no desire to live there. The self-righteousness and the blinkered faith in god is most off-putting.

Posted by Old Coaster on 11 November 2009, 5:03 pm | Link

I can't believe I'm contributing to this thread which I long since wrote off as a place for people to argue the same old things over and over again. But...

If you think all of America is self-righteous and has a blinkered faith in god, then you have just as much "almost religious fervour" as an American who thinks the American way of life is the best and only way.

Some Americans may think that. Some non-Americans think the American way of life is terrible. Both ways of life have their good and bad points.

Posted by Phil Gyford on 11 November 2009, 5:10 pm | Link

I'm British and I live happily in Liverpool, and have been for all my life. I've read most of the comments on this (took me a long time!) and personally I'm not that surprised most Americans don't own passports.

The thing is this: Look at the United States of America on a map. See how big it is? Now look at the UK. A tiny, tiny island across the Atlantic. Even the whole of Europe isn't as big as the USA. I'm not that experienced as I've never travelled anywhere but to France and Egypt, but I think you would find that most Americans have never been outside their borders. They have no idea what it's like in the outside world, in a place where it's not called America. Their country's so big, they don't need to know about anything that's outside the US of A.

And personally I don't blame them. For example, an American wants a holiday in the sun. They go to Florida, and see the lovely sandy beaches. They want a holiday in a city that never sleeps. They go to New York, and see the Statue of Liberty. They want a holiday where they can go climbing and hiking. They go to Colorado, and see the Grand Canyon.

And so on. All I'm saying is, why get a passport if you can travel far, far away... within the same country?

Us Brits, I'd say we travel the most. We've got the money, and we've got the time. I love England, but Scotland and Wales are as far as you can get within the UK. That's why, because although it's a nice country, the whole of the UK's more or less the same.

For instance... Scotland: Mountains. London: City. That's it. I'm not saying Britain's a boring country... it's not. We just love our country because it's normal. But we travel a lot because... well, I guess you could say we're curious people ;)

Posted by Julia on 20 November 2009, 9:20 pm | Link

So in summary, Americans are ignorant, Brits are ignorant. Tell me something I don't know.I've lived in both countries and the insular nature of Americans and the extreme feeling from the UK that "all Americans are ignorant" still bubbles away under the surface of the "allied banner". Of course many people buck this trend. The ratio of nice and not nice , in my experience is pretty similar and I dare say you will find that true of any area on earth. Of course the arguments given for the low rate of passport possession in the States are valid - the size of the place and cultural attitudes to vacation time, however - my interest in this subject is fueled more by the effects of what happens when you don't venture away from the umbrella. America is a vast country , and the way its run is truly amazing.Having that vast area and population controlled the way it is , (not to mention that if you keep your people within its borders , it keeps the money there too), is a remarkable feat. Consider this - whatever the figure is % wise - its more about the fact people choose not to get one just in case. Having a passport is the ultimate sense of personal freedom , I had one at least two years before I ever used it.You might not be planning to use it , but why not aim to get one? Its the lack of that spirit that worries me more than the facts and figures. Land of the free? Well i'm not so sure. No offence intended.

Posted by tallywhacker on 14 January 2010, 11:16 am | Link

Thank you for your thorough article. It seems that somewhere there is a concept of 100 million passports issued in the past 10 years, 300 million US residents, so 33% ownership. Let's build bridges and encourage the majority who don't have passports to at least connect with people overseas via Facebook or skype. I am a teacher of English and I encourage you to connect with one of my students -- they benefit by practicing English with you -- and you learn about their cultures...

Posted by Steve McCrea on 25 January 2010, 7:52 pm | Link

Look on the European Map and See How Big Europe is also like the USA.
Europe and The USA are about the Same size and most of Europe's Borders are now open since the EU has formed while other countries like Turkey are waiting to join the EU. The EU has open borders, people can work, live, travel and retire within the EU countries because they are become as one more or less-like a Hybrid Country.
About 25% of all American's Took No Vacation this past year while over 50% of Americans did not use all of their alloted Vacation Days.
Millions of Americans do not have Vacation Time because the USA does not have a Mandated Vacation Law.
Unlike Countries in Europe where people there have 50 days a year off wit Vacations and Holidays-Paid Americans do not have the same Rights. Also we Do not have Sick Days here either in America, only a minority of workers-Some Government, Union Workers basically have the Right to Vacation/Sick Days and other Benefits.
50 Million People here have No Health Insurance, another 150 million people here only have partial Healthcare Coverage which leads to a large amount of Bankruptcy's(people losing their homes,etc)even when they "Offically" have Insurance. My Mother who owns her own business has not taken a Vacation for years because she cannot afford to leave. She was also paying $1,000 a month for Medical Coverage with a $5,000 deductable and with 80% Medical Coverage. Dental costs were 25% covered. If she were to have German System Healthcare which covers 100% Medical, with all of their benefits and their Dental Benefits she would pay around $2000 a month.
The USA is not in the Top 20 when it comes to Pay and Benefits from Top to Bottom ( Mercer Corporation 2006) so the wages versus the cost of living, lack of benefits and taxes included are not in the Top tier of countries.
Northern Europe, Canada, Japan, Australia and New Zealand where the top areas for pay/benefits-after tax, benefits included and costs of living included. the UK was not in the Top 10 by the way but the Swiss, Germans and Hong Kong Were the Top 3 in the World.
When a German goes on Vacation also they receive not only their wage but a 13th month vacation benefit which helps pay for their vacations, also many receive Christmas Money/Bonuses.
German's have Free University Tuition for the most part along with extensive Vocational/Technical School which are Free of charge and they pay Students a wage as they learn their trade which is not common in the USA and the USA University system is very expensive, it is not uncommon for students to have $100,000 in debts or more when interests on the loans are included and in most cases they start off at a very low salary or many cannot find a job in their Chosen Fields because of the Economic Meltdown. The USA has not Created a Net Increase in Jobs since 1999! And we continue to lose jobs monthly so we are about 30-35 million jobs short of Population Growth and Job losses since 1999! Airline Pilots out of school with huge tuition debts start off at about $20,000 a year! They also have long Commutes to work and wait in the Airports for their next flight Duty so their hours sometimes are around 80 hours a week. The Airlines have been caught falsifying thier flight logs forcing the pilots to fly over the alloted time allowed by law! Many of these young pilots stay in Crash houses where 10 or 15 other pilots sleep in bunk beds and share the cost of living because they cannot afford apartment on their salary not to mention the $200,000 in debts many have from flight training for example.
Doctors in the USA have huge Tuition Debts also unless they come from a Rich family and they start around $70,000 or so a year but the are working 80 hour weeks! They also must carry very expensive Liability Insurance and pay back the huge College debts which may take them 15 years to pay back!!! Some folks here are so far in College debts that they leave the country to escape the bondage. Their wages versus debts are terrible.
People here speak as if America as if it is a Rich Democracy.
It is not a Democracy- 40% of the World's Correctional Population(Jail, Prison, Probation, Parole, etc)8 million people and rising with the Death Penalty also! Along with the FBI, CIA, NSA, Homeland Security, local Cops and other Spying on, Imprisoning, Controlling and sometimes Killing the local populations!
Along with 60 Trillion in Debts (Trade, Government, Consumer, Corporate Debts) and rising 3 trillion more each year along with a 60 Trillion projected shortfall for Medicare, S.S. and other Social Programs over the next 30 years it would seem to me we are in deep trouble. And this is owed to Europe and Asia!!! Along with much of US Assets such as land, Factories, Corporations, etc and the buying up of our Government by Foreign and Domestic Entities!
Are Infrastructure is falling apart and need s trillions in investments-Roads, Airports, Ports, Sewage Systems, Power SYstems, Dams, Etc. while our K-12 Education is ranked substandard. 70% of the US workforce cannot compete Globally with other Modern Nations.
One adds these things Up and the USA is taking the profile of a Third World Country. Because the US was a very Rich, Powerful, Industrial Country it has taken years for the America to get to this point but not it has arrived and the situation worsens yearly.
OUr Oil Production peaked in 1971 and declined while the USA refuses to go to a Sustainable/Renewable Economy like Europe and others are doing.
Germany and Japan equaled the USA in Technology and Economy back 30-35 years ago and now pulled ahead becoming huge Creditor Nations in the process.
Our University System have become Spokepersons for the Rich and powerful teaching only what the Elite want taught(subserviance) for the most part and the Tuition has Risen almost a 1000% since the 1970's. If you go to Harvard yes one learns about the Keys to the system but this is for the Rich Kids.
The Vocational/Technical System is given no Respect and they are only a shadow of what once was here.
Infrastructure is falling apart and we fight 3 wars- Iraq, Afganistan and the War on the American People themselves!!!!
The Patriot Act along other Congressional, Supreme Court, Presidental actions have gutted the Bill of Right, Our Economy and what was left of our Democracy in the Name of Terrorism, Free Market/Free Trade Capitalism while the American Public and Country is Destroyed from within.
Are these some Good reasons why American's Don't Travel as much as they used too? When the US Dollar was King and worth 4 times more then the Japanese Yen, Swiss Franc, German D-Mark and others up to the early 1970's!
The baby boomer and World War 2 Generation had a Great Ride but those who have come after are getting a Royal Screwing to put in Mild!

Posted by Thomas on 10 February 2010, 2:17 pm | Link

So for whatever valid or invalid reasons that there are less american having a passport as compared to the whole american population is not an issue. The question is how much does an average american knows about the worldin general outside the USA ?

Posted by Jimmy Sim on 15 February 2010, 6:25 pm | Link

Hardly anyone is worldly in reality. People think they are because they read such and such a newspaper or watch the BBC, but that's just misleading.

My friend took a job in the gulf. He thought he was oh-so-educated because he had a Rough Guide, Googled a few things and regularly read the Independent/Guardian etc.

When he actually got there, away from the traditions and culture he grew up with, even the relatively Western atmosphere of Dubai basically freaked him out. He's by no means small minded or poorly educated, but it was just... alien.

I think this strand of self-lacerating criticism isn't particularly helpful. Ultimately, is it that big a deal if we don't know that much about Whatever Country? You can hardly blame someone struggling with debt, or from a poor educational background if they don't have time to think about and explore another culture. By treating them as mere boors, we do them a disservice.

I notice a recurring theme in the criticism of "Americans" for this attitude, but I suspect it's more of a trope attacking Middle Americans in a fashionable, slightly elitist way.

Posted by Martin Ivens on 24 February 2010, 5:07 pm | Link

I live in America and know from personal experience that there is no difference between "good" and "bad" to simplify it. The real issue for me is the bigger picture, the fact that the powers that reside in this country want the wallets and more importantly , the minds of its citizens firmly within the umbrella. This enables them to do what they are doing outside its borders without a real voice of consciousness evaluating and calling them out for what they are actually doing.It is often called by its own people "the land of the free" and this is where my interest in the subject led me to this forum. The insular lifestyle that seems to be apparent enables those with an agenda to operate with much more freedom, so I am arguing that in a physical sense , and in the hearts and minds , the notion of real freedom , is only a notion and not much of a reality for the vast majority. The statistics that are shown here to bring the argument back to relevance is a huge factor that contributes to this , in my opinion.

Posted by tallywhacker on 27 February 2010, 1:49 am | Link

So I'm an my nearly 30 years, I've been to Canada, Mexico, England, Germany, Austria, Kenya, and Turkey. I would agree that there are few Americans that have travelled as much as I have (and my experience is relatively meager, I know). But I would venture to guess that this inexperience is not borne out of a lack of desire on their part, but rather a lack of opportunity. I say opportunity because for me, as I imagine it is for most Americans, there are a number of barriers that preclude the kind of frequent jet-setting enjoyed by most Europeans. To name a few:

Proximity and Cost: Airfare is often oppressively high and not conducive to frequent trips abroad. Europeans are in a very strategic position when it comes to travelling. A trip for a U.K. resident to Spain would be nominal. For an American, it might be a small fortune. Comparitively, a trip from Washington, D.C. to Florida would be affordable for many Americans, but cost prohibitive for many Europeans.

U.S. cost of living: Even before the economic downturn, living in a urban or suburban area (which most U.S. citizens do), is also oppressively expensive. This, coupled with the cost of food, clothing, and other basic essentials, does not leave a whole lot to play with.

Vacation time: While much of the world enjoys considerable vacation time from work (Germany comes to mind), most American businesses have yet to grasp the idea of increasing employee vacation time above two weeks a year, which is the standard. When you only have two weeks a year to take a trip, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to spend 3 or more days travelling somewhere, then another day or two overcoming jet-lag. Thus, many people stay closer to home.

Posted by Dave on 20 March 2010, 7:23 am | Link

Most people from Canada, Australia, England, Ireland and Germany are from Anglo-Celt-Viking backgrounds that (perhaps) contain a wandering-roaming-seafaring strain or gene within their bloodstreams. The English, Irish and German stock make-up about 20% to 30% of the American population. I wonder if they're the Americans with the passports and the ones who ramble overseas. Eastern & Southern Europeans, Africans and Asians have never been noted for having the travel bug. Since 80% of Americans are of Eastern & Southern European, Asian and African American backgrounds, it could stand to reason that they don't care to travel like their ancestors. These folks only moved to the United States for economical reasons and once they planted themselves here they lost any interest in wandering again. Besides, why compare Americans to the four or five traveling nations instead of comparing them with the rest of the country. Americans probably travel more than people from China, Brazil and Poland.

Posted by Cooley on 24 March 2010, 11:30 am | Link

Someone said further up that because the U.S. is so large, it lessens the need to travel, which although somewhat understandable is such an exercise in self-denial.

Would you really want to convince yourself that the world ended at the borders of the USA and that U.S. culture was the all the world had?

Posted by Elizabeth on 20 June 2010, 5:10 am | Link

I love that this thread is over 7 and a half years old.Its got to be one of the oldest on the internet hehe.

Posted by tallywhacker on 21 July 2010, 6:21 am | Link

As an American that has spent some time outside of that country may I suggest that Americans are more reluctant to fraternize in the cosmopolitan sense with others and have an inculcated attitudinal obstacle that prevents or impairs receptivity to other cultures. The impairment ranges from aggressive xenophobia to mild distrust but if you were raised in America, the land of the free, you would be a rare bird indeed to be free of it.

Posted by richard on 19 August 2010, 4:01 pm | Link

Hi all, we got into a disscussion about how many senators have ever been out of the USA? Any numbers? thanks its a quiz question. One for you. Where did the word quiz come from, nice to talk.

Posted by Keith on 28 August 2010, 1:27 am | Link

Back to the stats: according the the govt stats, "35%" appears to be correct. (Counted one way.)

Looking at year-by-year issuance, I did a back-of-the-envelope reckoning, factoring a -2% lost/stolen per annum AND 9.7% expiring after 5Yrs (minors/diplomatic corp) to estimate there are 95,210,000 valid passports (as of 1/1/2010.)

That number seems way too high for an Individual count (the single-use No-Fee pps are lumped in; diplomatic corp & family members typically also have regular passports too, etc.) But assuming a total population was 308,000,000 and 88.3% is native/naturalized "American" (ex-non-residents: Table 1.1 Population by Sex, Age, and U.S. Citizenship Status: 2003), then the percentage of Americans w/passports should indeed be ~35% of the citizenry.

The bigger question is WHICH Americans own passports and why they travel. I would exclude the diplomatic corp & their families altogether; that's Uncle Sam. I seem to recall ~57% of US Residents' "overseas travel" was "to visit friends/family" - although muddling the question somewhat (not all Residents are Citizens) this suggests a very large percentage of US passport holders are "naturalized citizens." There are nearly 16 million naturalized citizens (PLUS their American children) and they are the most likely to travel abroad to "visit friends/family." These traveling "Americans" are expats from other countries.

If we estimate that 75% of naturalized (foreign-born) hold a US passport and exclude those (possibly dual citizens) the number of "native" Americans owning a passport appears to be ~33%. (Not sure how many Americans own BOTH a passport & passport card, either.)

Personally, I don't believe the State Dept. stats: there's no way that 1 in 3 "regular" native-born US citizens owns a passport.

Somebody needs to file a FOIA request to see who's receiving all these passports. A huge number, mailed to black box addresses in DC/Foggy Bottom?

Posted by Analyst on 13 September 2010, 8:56 pm | Link

The USA does not have Vacation Time by Law there is no Statute stating that Americans most receive time off and many Millions of Americans do not receive any Vacation.
The Americans that do travel are usually the higher income folks who have the time and money..This is known in Germany.
You have a German Citizens working at BMW or Siemens or the many small and medium companies that excel at exporting and high end services you have a huge portion of Americans who work at Walmarts, Mcdonalds, Retail Stores or low end White Coller Paper Pushers who also are paid low. This is not against Americans I'm defending their Butts and how they are being treated like crap!!!
Look these Words up:
Codetermination, Work Councils, Unions, Worker Cooperatives, Proportional elections/No winner take all(many political parties),
Social Democracy...and get back to me.
Many Creditor Countries in Europe and Huge Exporters...I Guess they have been Successful..Those who made deals with Wallstreet like Greece and Ireland are paying a price for dealing with thugs or like in Greece's case their thugs made deals with USA thugs to screw the people. Wallstreet Brokerage Houses and other Financial Firms broke many laws and stole Trillions not the bailouts more then that they have been stealing for a long time!! And this is Why Germany is Reforming things or Regulating these countries under their Rules to prevent this from happening again..they Call that Socialism here in America when you actually throw people in Prison and or Regulate Criminals..The Europeans just let it be(the politics of the USA) because it does not affect them when they come here or have homes here it is our problem so to them no big deal except for Greece and a couple others including the UK. They still are Citizens of Europe even when they leave for other places and still have all the rights and benefits so if they live in America or Africa they are covered unlike the natives of those places it makes for a two tiered society.
And in many cases because the USA owes money to places like Germany And Japan and many others our Government kisses their butts and treats them like Royalty and also these Creditors not only own our Government they own Trillions in Assets here( Companies, Land, Resources, etc). Cheap Wages..Little Benefits..No Taxes nor Regulations they can use the Chattel here like they please.

Posted by Thomas Riccardo on 23 November 2010, 12:22 am | Link

State Department says that 22% Hold a Passport...Many of them are Immigrants and some are Military Personnel.
Take those 2 groups out and probably less then 10% of Native Born non military Folks have a Passport!!!

Posted by Thomas Riccardo on 23 November 2010, 12:34 am | Link

I am currently writing a book on the USA and am looking for a statistic on US travel overseas. If anyone can tell me the numbers of Americans that travel overseas a) for business purposes and b) on vacation in a year (preferably either 2007, 08, 09 or 10)I would be most appreciative.


Posted by John Ashley on 23 November 2010, 2:45 pm | Link

A more interesting and enlightening figure would be to exclude Americans who have traveled to countries other than Mexico Canada or The Bahamas.
Also if passports issued to military personnel were excluded from total issued what % would be deducted from overall numbers?
Would the total number of passports used outside this comfort zone be as high as 5%?(excluding military)
Most Americans dont venture far from the USA,mores the pity.

Posted by Larry Wilkins on 2 December 2010, 8:28 am | Link

The category "overseas" travel already excludes travel inside of North America (even where such does technically require travelling over a sea).

It would likewise be very interesting to see stats on European overseas travel. I have the suspicion that much of the vaunted European jet-setting (which is frequently invoked here, but never substantiated) actually consists of people going on holidays/business inside of Europe. Americans who make comparable trips have never needed a passport.

I also object to the posts above which attempt to exclude naturalized citizens and their children from consideration. This is offensive: those citizens are as American as anyone. They are not "irregulars" or "ex-pats" or otherwise justifiably excluded from such considerations as these. To argue otherwise is to betray a profound (and offensive) ignorance of American society - which is rather ironic, given the context.

Finally, I object to the implication found throughout this thread that travel is synonymous with worldiness and open-mindedness. That someone hasn't been able to travel extensively does not mean that they are some boor who despises/rejects the rest of the world. Likewise, just because someone has travelled doesn't mean that they aren't an insufferable boor who does nothing but get drunk in the company of other ex-pats (and compensate by comparing himself favorably to some imagined American redneck).

Posted by ff on 21 December 2010, 1:37 am | Link

Hi all. I came upon this site when searching for info regarding opinion on the need for a global context when considering how we can move forward without being "destructive". I contribute to a site called Ask 500 which invites people to pose questions/statements for world wide opinion. The site's contributors are predominately US citizens hence my interest in passport ownership. It's been fascinating reading the posts over the years on this site. Many thoughts I hadn't considered.
Give the Ask 500 site a go to see what I mean. Thanks for the input.
Norm from Melbourne

Posted by Maureen on 3 January 2011, 8:44 am | Link

It's amazing that this thread has been going for 8 years. Equally interesting to see how it has developed from a simple question to an international debate over the years. However, it's a bit boring to read the same crap over and over again.
As Phil Gyford wrote:
I can’t believe I’m contributing to this thread which I long since wrote off as a place for people to argue the same old things over and over again. But…
That'll do.

Posted by Tim Crawshaw on 14 January 2011, 12:37 pm | Link

Why is everyone so gosh darned concerned whether or not Americans travel? In fact, why is everyone so gosh darned concerned about all the things (all negative though, I've never heard a Canadian or European mention how much Americans donate locally and abroad, especially for disasters) that Americans do. If you think people should travel more.. cool.. follow that bumper sticker on your car that says "be the change you want to see in the world" and quit whining about the Americans.

Posted by Cralls on 3 February 2011, 5:40 am | Link

My question is; Is there a good side for a US citizen to have a passport? I mean what are the conveniences for a US citizen to have a passport?

I need to have a solid respond for this question other then the normal answer "that is easier to go out side the US with out much trouble".

Posted by Joan on 19 February 2011, 5:51 pm | Link

Nick's comment about being able to travel your entire life without leaving the states.

Passport ownership is a bad indicator of how insular a country is.

Most of us in Canada (90%) live within a hundred miles of the American border, therefore it is surprising that more of us don't have passports.

Now that the passport rules have change, passport ownership in Canada is up to about 57%.

Posted by Paul Shepley on 9 March 2011, 1:28 pm | Link

The 2010 numbers are out, and apparently 37% of Americans now hold passports (up from about 20% 5 years ago):…

If the rate of applications in recent years holds up, we look set to stabilize at about 50% of the population holding a passport.

So, how about we switch to complaining about the fact that only 1.5% of Chinese hold passports?

To Joan: there is no other reason whatsoever.

Posted by ff on 25 March 2011, 11:02 pm | Link

I for one do not have a passport, although I really would love to travel abroad. In the present climate I think many folks reconsider the travel as well as the expenses, unfortunately. I have book marked your site and Thank you it was very informative.

Posted by sunrisedata1 on 9 April 2011, 2:52 pm | Link

Hi, im a seventeen year old american/australian who has spent the last two years living in Sydney, and I am currently half way through year 12 at Highschool. I'm doing an extensive reasearch project for my society and culture course, and students are able to choose their topic, as long as it relates to what we've studied for the past year. I started off by basing my Personal Interest Project (PIP) around why American's travel overseas less than other countries, and this blog has some extremely useful information and opinions which have alot to do with my topic. I was hoping i could use some of it in my PIP, but i dont know who to ask specifically for this permission. Do you, phil, have the right to say i can quote anyone from this blog? or do i specifically have to ask the individuals that im interesting in quoting?
thanks :)

Posted by Jess on 7 May 2011, 4:39 am | Link

Hi Jess, It's generally fine to quote from blog posts, so long as you're not using the entire thing, and you credit the author. So quote away! Include the URL of this page and, if you're quoting people who have comments, attribute the quote to whatever name they gave on this page. Good luck!

Posted by Phil Gyford on 7 May 2011, 10:50 am | Link

Jess said:

"I started off by basing my Personal Interest Project (PIP) around why American’s travel overseas less than other countries,"

First off, that should be "less than Europeans/Australians," rather than "other countries." I'm fairly positive that the USA ranks rather highly in a list of all countries in the world by travel habits, if for no reason other than the level of affluence.

Secondly, has this actually been established? I have been trying to find data on overseas travel for different countries, to little avail. Point is that it is not clear to me that Europeans are using those passports to travel overseas, per se, and not just around Europe (which would be the equivalent of Americans travelling around North America - something that didn't require a passport until a few years back).

Posted by ff on 10 June 2011, 12:17 am | Link

Hey ff :)

i realize that me saying 'other coutries' is too broad, and honestly, i quickly wrote that post because i just wanted to know if i was able to quote this site -since my first post, i've decided to focus on Australians vs Americans, simply because i live in sydney and i grew up in the states, only moved here a year and half ago and because i have little to no european contacts and it would be very difficult for me to do surveys and case studies on them when i have so little time left to complete this. I think before i came to this decision, i was wanting to focus on 'other western nations' rather than other coutries, but as i said, in haste i made myself sound naive, obviously citizens of the united states are much more worldly travellers than those living in afghanistan or uganda for example. Also, the establishment of my topic/question is exactly why i'm researching it. Once again, i shouldve phrased myself differently, for my personal interest project, my question is: Why do americans travel overseas less than australians? However, im not necessarily meant to know my answer, i might find the opposite in my research-that americans don't actually travel less than australians, and all of that is included in my pip as valid. If i come to the conclusion that the question itself wasnt correct, thats all part of the process. I have to write quite a bit about reflecting on my findings, how i found information, what i learned from it, if i think others opinions are valid etc etc. Its really interesting, and i'm actually enjoying it alot :) I hope i've answered your questions properly and havent worded myself wrongly in any way again, but feel free to ask away about anything, im more than happy to talk about my pip to anyone and hear any of their opinions or questions about my topic :)

Posted by jess on 10 June 2011, 8:03 am | Link

I also wanted to give my 2 cents (wooo, this is exciting, i've never done this before ^_^) about an earlier comment, which said this:

"There is also a big lack of understanding of the US education system. In most big cities and their surrounding suburbs, all kids learn US history for a semester and world history for the next semester every year. It doesn’t seem SO outrageous to want people to understand where their own country came from and how it works does it? We do learn quite a bit of WORLD history. In fact, we probably spend more time learning about ancient Rome, Greece, Holy Roman Empire, British Empire the 20th century in Europe (mostly WWI and WWII) than we do the revolutionary or civil war."

I lived about 40 minutes outside orlando growing up, so im not sure if that qualifies for 'surrounding suburbs' but in 8th grade, i studied american history, in 9th grade i studied AP human geography, which, i will admit, i did learn alot about other parts of the world in BUT, there were only a few AP classes and the general geography or even advanced class didnt go into as much depth as we did. And it was more about their beleif systems and globalisation, not really the history. Having said that, I did learn alot about the rest of the world, and it was in a boderline rural area, so maybe people in other western nations are being too presumptious? Then, in 10th grade, i did World History, advanced, and it was a crash course from the mesopotamia era, right up to pre WWI. I lovedlovedloved that class and my teacher, she was one of the best teachers ive ever had and will probably ever have, but i did feel that we moved through things too fast and wanted to spend more time on certain time periods. I mean, that over 2,000 years history in one year! i think its a bit intense, no? I retained a decent amount of the information, but not half as much as i wish i couldve, because there was so much. And then, although i didnt do my junior year (11th grade) in the states because i moved to sydney, i know that we weree meant to take American History for 11th grade, once again! And i love America, america is a beautiful, wonderful country, and im proud to be a citizen, but i long so much to learn more about the rest of the world. I mean, untill i read 'The Geography of Bliss' i didnt even know Bhutan was a country! Great book btws, if anybodys interested. Eric Weiner's the author :)

Posted by jess on 10 June 2011, 9:08 am | Link

Hi Jess-

If you're interested in Australians specifically, I'd suggest that Australia's isolated location and small population mean that pretty much any travel an Australian might want to do is necessarily going to be overseas. Another factor is the exchange rate - apparently there's been a surge in Australians travelling overseas in recent years, as the Aussia currency has risen.

The most striking aspect of Australian tourism, to me, is not so much the numbers, as the very long trips they seem to take. I've heard this explained in terms of the very long (and expensive) flights required to get from Australia to places like, say, Europe, so when Australians go there they tend to stay a long time under the assumption that they'll never be able to return.

My own travels tend to be shorter, but undertaken from the assumption that I will make many more such trips in the future. We'll see how that pans out :]

Posted by ff on 10 June 2011, 10:27 pm | Link

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