Thoughtful European Reactions

to Travels with Samantha

I would like to comment on your observations of Americans vs. "Others"
and Ronen, the Israeli in Chapter IV.

I went to Israel at the age of 18 and spent seven years there, including
5.5 in the Air Force, and I hope that this has given me a unique 
perspective on the Middle East and United States.  Ronen mentioned that
Americans are shallow and lack substance, yet you mentioned that 
the Australian women you met seemed shallow and lacked the 'inherited'
American trait of self-betterment.  After spending seven years in Israel,
I felt the same as Ronen did, and it took me a long time to decided 
that I could 'make it' in the States (this from someone who grew up
in California!), mainly because of the human factor.  I do believe
that, on the average (stress the 'average'), a conversation or relationship
with an American (friends, lovers, family, whatever) will usually not
have the same depth and significance as it will for many other cultures.

Not all of this is bad, however, as many people are content with a
certain level of shallowness and some even shrink from any closeness.
All this being said, I have found that if you are content to be average,
these are the people you are likely to meet, but that if you keep your
standards high, and encourage those surrounding you to do likewise,
you can find people of a high moral, social and whatnot fiber.  I would
not be as brave as you to label Americans as a people bent on intellectual
development, don't forget that as a PhD candidate in this nation's best
technical institution (my opinion, and my own hope to be there someday)
you have been surrounded by the best.  There are plenty of U.S. citizens
complacent with their blue-collar beer-drinking lead-to-nowhere life,
and plenty of violent, dissatisfied, MTV youth who emulate the lower-class,
anti-intellectual heroes of the 90's.  Unfortunately, this is the usual
picture exported by the United States to the world in movies, news etc.
Like you mentioned the international news only portraying neo-Nazis in
Germany, what do you think people overseas see and hear about the U.S.?

I have found (1.5 years after returning to the States) that the 'self-
betterment' theme of the U.S. is in a struggle for survival, and while
it is not losing the battle, it desperately needs support from each and
every person who is willing to formulate opinions, thoughts and communicate
them with other people.  Such is one of the consequences of your
putting 'Travels with Samantha' on-line, and I applaud you for it.

Andy Woods (

I had the chance just ones to visit the United States. It was in the Northweast the Seattle area. Then I found your E-Book on the net. And now I tend to tell people that I have seen a lot more of the America through your eyes.... Thank you. Uwe Hauck (
I was caught by the book. I've recommended it to most of my friends: "at best, fascinating; at worst, offensively opinionated." Now, after finishing, I'd soften the latter. You have your foibles: for example, Germans seemed to get a dependable grilling. However, you do not spare yourself the pressuring gaze you turn on others. I enjoyed the copious references to authors and literature. I hope to read Kerouac, Thoreau, and Wilde after seeing how they fit in to the process of seeking the worthwhile. The pictures were worth all the effort. After years of schooling with dry text, through grad school even, I have not shaken the desire to read a book that's easy on the eyes, that lets you exercise something other than your verbal skills when that poor part of your lump of grey matter gets tired. I would've liked to hear more about the actual process you used to get to know people a little, to be presumptuous enough to ask personal questions and take personal pictures. I'm wildly joyous that there is one more person at MIT who realizes that good exists outside of MIT. The kind of snobbishness I hear from many Californians, New Yorkers, DC-ers, MIT-ers, CalTech-ers, and other such places increasingly revolts me. Anyway, thanks for your book. It is another eddy in an ocean of refreshing altruism and spirit on the net. Dan Frankowski until June 1994
The English girl's comments using Chomsky as a source made a link with me. My boss here at Sodalia (an Italian American with dual citizenship and a sheepskin from the Institute) cannot understand American's predjudice against "intellectuals" and "liberals". I had to think about this (since by European lights I AM an intellectual!). I finally told him that the meaning of these words has become perverted. An "intellectual" is someone like Chomsky, who strikes me as an intolerant condescending bigot. Anyone who doesn't agree with him is by definition *not* an intellectual. Liberal has come to mean statist in our lexicon. Since I'm a radical anti-statist (though decidedly not a revolutionary) I cannot be that either. My views are quite close to those of classic liberals. To the extent that so-called intellectuals look down their noses at the typical person I cannot class myself with them. My tastes run to reading Schumpeter, Drucker, WWW, and travel. I don't see how that makes me superior to a Simpson's or Married with Children fan. I do what I like and they do what they like. I also can't agree with the stock phrases about the vacuousness of american culture. I think North America is THE place to live in this era of world history. Look at the waves of change sweeping the globe, things like cheap telecoms, W3, Gui's, cheap computers, and multimedia. All originate in North America. Most self-styled intellectuals bore me to tears. They tend to parrot the same thoughts. Parlor Pinks who faint at the thought of an honest day's work. Puts me in mind of the observation during the sixties: "Millions of people non-conforming, and all non-conforming in the same way!" Don Stadler (