Americans and Europeans Understand Socialism Differently

RJ Carr
4 min readAug 14, 2023
Photo Credit: CanvaPro

Music is a universal language and if you find yourself on a cruise, you will be among an international audience enjoying the artists. In January, a friend and I were enjoying the Blue Note® Jazz Cruise on the Celebrity Millenium in the Carribean Sea. After one of the shows, we went to the main dining room for supper.

The wait staff seated us next to two men from Belgium. My friend is from the US but is of Eastern European descent. He speaks his nationality’s language and goes to Europe occasionally. Me? I am a polyglot from the United States. I speak the English, Spanish and Portuguese used in the Americas. I only visited Europe once and that was Rome. Meanwhile, I visited Asia and the Americas as far South as Sao Paulo.

Would you know a socialist if you met one?

A writer, I often talk to people and learn from them. I asked these dinner mates what it was like to come from a socialist country.

“We’re not socialists!” They retorted and appeared offended by my words.

I remarked that many of the European countries are what Senator Bernie Sanders refers to when he talks about his brand of socialism.

Of course, they never heard of Senator Bernie Sanders. They appeared to be shocked and saddened as they said, calmly, “We are not North Korea.”

“I know that is what Bernie Sanders says,” I added.

Americans understand socialism more loosely than Europeans

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders explains that when people think of his brand of socialism, he is not referring to the Soviet Union, Cuba or North Korea but to those countries with high standards of living in Western Europe. What I did not realize is since he was speaking to an American audience, he was helping us to understand the European economic systems which we Americans call socialism. My Belgian shipmates illustrated to me that his teaching was unique to our national understanding. Europeans, I learned, understand the term socialism as we from the United States think of communism.

European countries may have high tax rates, government-run companies and enjoy such things as universal health…