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The Xenophobe's Guide to the Americans (Xenophobe's Guides - Oval Books) Paperback – March 1, 1999

4.0 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"Xenophobia--an irrational fear of foreigners, probably justified, always understandable."

"Xenophobe's Guides--an irreverent look at the beliefs and foibles of nations, almost guaranteed to cure Xenophobia."

The Xenophobe's motto is "Forewarned is forearmed," and this guide series gives travelers to foreign lands as much ammunition as possible. In The Xenophobe's Guide to the Americans, Stephanie Faul (herself an American) takes readers on a perceptive, ironic, frequently hilarious tour of the American psyche, from its basic traits to its attitudes about sex, drugs, and gun control. Discussing the American character, for example, Faul states "Americans believe themselves to be the only nation that is truly capable of winning.... Having God on your side in a fight is good. Having the United States on your side is better. To an American, they're the same thing." On obsessions she writes: "There are a few, a very few things that Americans condemn as being beyond the pale. They include: Growing Old ... Being Fat ... Dying."

Perhaps Americans themselves are in the best position to appreciate Faul's barbed commentary, but foreign visitors will surely find plenty to inform as well as amuse in this slim volume. American readers, take heart: there are 18 other Xenophobe titles taking equally irreverent potshots at everyone else, from the Australians to the Icelanders. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"An enlightened new series, good natured, witty and useful. The Xenophobe's Guides to different nations deserves a real cheer. "
--The European

"Each book is an entertaining essay on the failings, foibles and good points of their subjects. Their humour is relaxed and gentle and it would be a sour, churlish native of a subject country who would object seriously. "
--The Northern Times
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Product Details

  • Series: Xenophobe's Guides - Oval Books
  • Paperback: 64 pages
  • Publisher: Oval Books; 1st edition (March 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1902825160
  • ISBN-13: 978-1902825168
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 4.7 x 0.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.5 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,429,666 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This is a great gift to give to someone coming to American or to a foreigner living in the US. This little book irreverently captures what is unique about American life -- a topic that others have struggled with, starting with de Toqueville in the 1800s.
I just wish the author would now do one just specializing in Southerners!
I have read two other books in this series -- one about the Swiss, one about the Germans -- and they are just as accurate and funny.
These little books take no more than an hour or two to read.
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Format: Paperback
I just finished reading the Xenophobe's Guide to the Americans. It was a very funny little book, took less than an hour to read. As long as I remained undefensive (I am an American), I enjoyed it. However, I would say that the book is more meant for humor than for actually understanding the culture. Several times the author mentioned atypical examples, or outrageous happenings, to get a point across (e.g. ordering frozen vegetables online). However, some of the examples, despite their absurdity, were dead on! Like I said, it is a very funny book, and I'd recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good laugh. However, to get a less-stereotypical, more accurate view of any culture, I would recommend the Culture Shock! Series instead.
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Format: Paperback
It's risky of the publishers to put out a series of books based on sterotypes, yet they seem to have done their homework. While in London I got the one on both the English and the French, so it seemed only fair to see what they had to say about the Americans. Although I'd like to think of myself "a cut above" the average, reading this slim volume gave me several laugh outloud moments of personal recognition. It's a fun read.
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By AE on December 20, 2004
Format: Paperback
I'm recently spent a year living abroad in the UK. My two English girlfriends bought me this book as a joke, and I love it.

But I don't take it seriously! I'm an American, and most of this stuff is certainly not true for me. But I laughed my ass off reading it (which took a whopping 2 hours).

Ex: "...most Americans aren't fully aware that Canada is a separate nation."

Not a serious gift, or a serious approach to Americans. But funny, and more true than I'd like to admit.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This thin book has quick bits of information about American habits and attitudes. It had me rolling on the floor, not wanting to admit how much of it is dead on.
Case in point--a few days ago I read an Amazon review where an American wrote, "As most Americans are quite ignorant (I'm one of the few who isn't, and it's quite annoying, like seeing people trying to use sticks as wheels)..." I started laughing right away--Xenophobe has a section detailing how every American wants to distance themselves from every other American by saying that they are unlike the "average American." The author got it dead on!
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By A Customer on June 26, 2000
Format: Paperback
I teach a course at a local business school on the environment for doing business in the United States. All 23 of my students are citizens of other countries and they are hungry for insights and guidance not found in standard texts and properly "politically correct" lectures. I had just submitted my book order for the summer trimester when I learned, to my great dismay, that the book was no longer published. I've since considered every possible (legal & ethical) way of getting this material into my students' hands, only fantasizing about Xeroxing the whole darned thing and then evading the Copyright Police for the rest of my life. I now find that the book is, in fact, still available. Good news for this crop of students and the next!
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By YoMo on September 5, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I initially got this book to use as a judge for all the other books in the Xenophobe Guide series. Final verdict? Not worth the money. While this is a funny book and well worth the hour it takes to read, it is a description of Clinton-era American culture, and ultimately fails at capturing the last 15-20 years of cultural development since publication. The most obvious example would be where they say "no American truly believes that anyone can grow up to be president." This is clearly false: take for example the current president. Other examples include the long discussion on America being the biggest driving culture in the world (we actually have fewer cars per capita than any other developed Western country), the failure to include more information on American Hispanic culture, failure to address the culture wars; the list goes on. None of that was a fault of the book; it was a good representation of the country in 1994, when the book was written. It was theoretically updated, but its repeated references to Clinton clearly indicate the author's frame of reference, and the book never really moves on from that perspective.

It's an interesting and funny book, but I would not recommend it as a guide to American culture. I would buy another Xenophobe's Guide to try it out, but unfortunately the publication date listed in the Amazon info is the date of "updating" rather than when the books in the series were actually written. The actual publication date is only listed on the copyright page in the book itself, and not available for online purchasing.
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