Leonidas and family had the pleasure of entertaining for the last few days family members from Sweden. Like most modern Swedes, their english is quite good but their preconceptions of the US and Americans torture the definition of "stereotyping". After visiting several museums and attractions in the local area they wanted to know the name of the "Minister of Culture". When they were advised that the US has no Minister of Culture they were aghast. "How does "art" get funded here without government support?" I advised them of the NEA (National endowment of the Arts) and they were somewhat mollified but at the same time chagrined at the pittance ponied up by the US taxpayers for such works of "art " as "Piss Christ". They were adamant that Denmark did not go far enough in assuaging Muslim angst over the "cartoon" flap. We wrote much of this off to the traditional rivalry between Sweden and Denmark.
Another shocker for them was the lack of a commitment to saving the "environment" on the part of most Americans. The Swedes are taught that their country's coastal areas will be submerged in the next 20 years due to George Bush not signing the Kyoto Treaty and dismissed any position which attributed part of climate change to natural forces.
Swedes, like most Americans are totally committed to the religion of "recycling" and charged Leonidas with heresy for questioning the economic returns on the practice.
It would appear that the gulf between the attitudes of most Europeans and Americans is enormous. Sweden has had a government of the Social Democratic (socialist) party for better part of the last 60 years. A discussion of the deteriorating health care system there (colonoscopies are conducted without benefit of anesthetic) must be left for a later post.
In sum, it appears that many Swedes view Americans as more or less barbarians in spite of the likelihood that were it not for us "barbarians" the official language in Stockholm today would be Russian.