Well this is embarrassing: Global perspectives on the government shutdown

(Photo by Cool Revolution / DC Media Group)

Here in the U.S. it may feel like the sky is falling. But many people in the rest of the world are reacting to the government shutdown with a shrug of the shoulders and a chuckle at our expense.

With close to a million workers furloughed, government services halted, and no compromise in sight, most Americans are pretty frustrated with our politicians.

But what does the government shutdown mean for the rest of the world? For a country that fancies itself a global superpower, how has this dysfunction impacted our reputation abroad?

We asked people on four continents what they thought of the shutdown and how it impacted their opinion of our country:

Hennessy Ng, Hong Kong
It’s ridiculous. When I first saw it I didn’t think it was true, with everything like all the public parks being closed. I saw the news in Chinese and I thought it was a joke until I realized it was a formal news report.

My impression of the U.S. is not affected from having heard this. It’s old news to see this sort of thing; in Hong Kong the government plays games all the time, and now I see in the U.S. they play political games too.

Zamir Hussain Laghari, Pakistan
I see the shutdown as a fallout of U.S.-created wars, which were fought illegitimately in Afghanistan, Iraq, (and perhaps now in Syria). I see the shutdown also as a global fall of capitalism, which is under stress for its survival not only in Washington and New York but in Europe too.

I think after the shutdown (if it hits the economy hard) the U.S. will be no more a ‘heaven’ for its citizens. Thousands of job-seekers would be spending their days desperately waiting in long queues outside private companies. On one hand, the U.S. citizens enjoys health care plan, and on the other hand, the government lays off millions of workers!

Also, it’s quite worrisome for the migrants in the U.S. and visa-seekers as tough conditions for them are ahead.

Zamir Laghari
Mikko Seppinen, Finland
I don’t know what to think and I didn’t find immediately any relevant articles in the Finnish media and newspaper about it. So far (looking out the window), it looks as though the sun is still shining and life goes on.

It hasn’t had a dramatic effect on my opinion or impression of the U.S. It seems like it is a continuation of what has been building up over a length of time since the discussions over public debt that occurred some time ago.

Jonas Carneiro, Brazil
I think it’s a good idea, for the healthcare. Caring for other people who aren’t in the social condition to care for themselves is a good thing. So I think stopping the government is good, if they follow through with their promise.

My opinion of the U.S. hasn’t changed. I think they’re very individualistic and only care for themselves.

Kevin Samuel, Kenya
This has more than just local implications within the U.S. With up to 70 percent of intelligence-agency employees being furloughed, it doesn’t bode well for security on the international front, especially at a time when terrorism has just struck in a politically and economically strategic part of the world (see: Nairobi mall attacks).

Surprisingly though, global markets have remained relatively stable, insinuating that the perspective of most markets is that this is fundamentally a homeland issue.

That being said, the real need to resolve this impasse lies in  the possibility of a U.S. default. There is, at least, a precedent for how the U.S. government has dealt with a shutdown, having had the last during the Clinton administration. If the debt limit extension — which is in less than two weeks — were to go south, and the U.S. defaults on its loans for the first time in its 237-year history, the effect around the globe would be both immediate and severe.


Eva CohenAdnan Ali Syed, Wambui Njuguna, Nicholas Wong and Abby Higgins contributed reporting for this post. 


  1. “We asked people on four continents what they thought of the shutdown and how it impacted their opinion of our country”

    Here, let me fix that for you:

    “We asked men on four continents what they thought of the shutdown and how it impacted their opinion of our country”

    1. Glad you pointed that out Erin,

      We asked four of our contributors abroad, two men and three women, to do quick interviews on the subject and this is what they came back with, so it certainly wasn’t intentional for it to be exclusively men. But you’re probably right that it’s more than just a coincidence.

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