Are American Amateurs Different?

I’ve noticed two things in recent years, and I’m not sure if it’s just me or I’m really on to something different with American radio amateurs.  The first observation is that there seems to be more “homebrewing” or construction of equipment outside of the US.  This isn’t to say there isn’t homebrewing within the US, far from it.  Obviously there is an active and vibrant QRP community in the US.  But as a general trend, there seems to me to be more equipment construction and “rolling your own” in other countries.  I’ve noticed with the number of inquires and feedback emails I receive for my open source amateur radio hardware projects, foreign amateurs outnumber US amateurs by a ratio of 10 to 1.  Most are in Europe, however I’ve heard from amateurs in India, Japan, Australia, and other countries outside of Europe.  I think US amateurs spend a lot of money on the hobby, but there seems to be more of a buy it and operate mentality where DX amateurs tend to be more frugal and more apt to construct things.

My second observation is that US amateurs seem more down about the future of amateur radio, in general, than foreign counterparts.  US amateurs tend to complain about the state of the hobby, ARRL, the FCC, code tests, incentive licensing, young people, etc.  US amateurs tend to be more negative online.  They’re much more apt to bring up partisan politics in QSOs and online, and they often make mental leaps connecting the perceived decline of amateur radio and the social and political climate in the US.

These are just observations, and I have no scientific data to back this up.  I’m especially curious about what radio amateurs outside of the US observe with those in their countries. Is the US unique in some regard with attitudes about amateur radio?  Do you feel there’s more low-level technical experimentation outside the US?  Is this all just my perception and not reality?

5 thoughts on “Are American Amateurs Different?

  1. I do think US hams are lagging in kit building, but they are buying a lot of the non us kits. I am not sure what stops US hams from inventing DIY rigs. I think that after WWII those boys knew every trick in the book and now most have past on so we got a bit of catch up to do.

  2. Your observation is correct, I am a former German amateur, now retired engineer and now got license in the US after 30 pause and se the scene very similarly like you 73 KJ6UHN

    1. Yes, I can only second that. Also originally from Germany as a teenager involved in amateur radio in a local club (DK0PU). Already back then in the 80’s and 90’s the use of computers was a natural thing to make things easier etc. Packet Radio was big and people didn’t seem to mind that a computer is not a radio :). Also in Germany the club scene is much different with many clubs having their own stations. Fast forward to 20011 when I got back into the hobby here in the US it is indeed a different mentality. It appears that over here radio is more like the party line. The emphasis lies on talking with others but not necessarily knowing how this all works vs. from what I’ve seen in Germany where a lot more focus was on experimentation. I recently visited the old club and it was great to see that there was still activity and a good youth effort with weekly classes etc.
      The curmudgeons do exist of course as well elsewhere, that’s just a function of society but comparing for example one German amateur radio forum with this one big one hosted here in the US, it’s a big difference in tone.

      73 Mike K5TRI

  3. Operating as I do from France and the USA. I do have some observations.

    I find the license requirements for a class 1 ticket more demanding here.

    Serious home-brew projects undertaken, not just kits. Skill level higher, perhaps because of licensing requirements.

    Years ago the European economy was not at it’s present level. If you were a European amateur in the 1950’s to get on the air required home construction or scrounging for WW2 surplus.

    Today’s Euro shacks are the equal to anything in the USA. Sometimes even more elaborate.

    Amateur radio clubs here are friendly and active. No great ego trips.

    I think the source of most of the USA negativity comes from the internet. Two USA amateur radio sites, one particularly virulent. I am aware of only one over here. Comments on it tend to be less vicious.

    The internet has been a blessing and a curse.

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