The Face of America in the World

Heed them, HEthen (@heedthem) 8 years, 9 months ago

Hi HE, here to bring up a topic I’ve always been interested in.

(Well specifically my roommate just tipped me into “extreme rage mode” with some stupid bullshit, so this is to help diffuse my anger for now lol.)

As an American born and raised (I’m sure many HEthens can attest to a similar attitude), and not fitting quite into what I feel is the “American archetype” to the rest of the world, I’ve always been kinda apprehensive about going abroad. I wouldn’t feel this way in other English-speaking countries mostly, but for places like Egypt, India, Japan, and the Middle East (all places I want to go during my lifetime), I worry.

Many, many people, including foreigners, have advised me to say I’m Canadian when abroad in very culturally different and culturally sensitive countries for numerous reasons.

So HEthens who are specifically not American, how is YOUR view of the “American archetype”? Do you feel like this gives you a preconceived judgement when you learn someone is American (though you can probably tell they are anyway)? Do you feel like it’s true/to some extent?

What I mean by the American archetype is the general, “Americans are fat, stupid, and arrogant” and sometimes also incorrectly includes “has money” for places more like Africa and Middle East.

I have always wondered how to approach this when abroad (I haven’t left the country yet, sadly).

February 27, 2013 at 3:45 pm
Timm (12) (@tdowling) 8 years, 9 months ago ago

I know you want non-American perspectives but I thought I’d share my relevant experience after coming back from Europe.

I met some Libyans while in Rome and we could barely communicate, very broken English but we still treated each other with respect and we drank, smoked, and played FIFA together in the hotel, had a lot of fun.

I met people from all over while traveling and with those I talked to, like the Libyans, were all about my age (23). I have a pretty good feeling that most people in our generation (y, millienial, etc) are pretty open minded and know that a stereotype is not the truth

I wouldn’t recommend going to the Middle East by yourself but I’d have faith in the golden rule where ever you are in the world

treat others the way you want to be treated.
worked for me at least

E.C.F. Doyle (346) (@chekovchameleon) 8 years, 9 months ago ago

@heedthem, Why would you want to hide the fact that you are american. The money thing for africa and middle east applies pretty generally to all white people. People do have a poor view of americans, myself included. I have an intense dislike of America so naturally I am weary when I meet an American. However I always give them the benefit of the doubt and I meet a lot of cool americans. And even the ones I don’t like I get a great laugh out of. A stereotypical American is hilarious and we love them in Ireland because we generally just laugh at them. This may sound bad, but everyone just gets laughed at here.

Heed them, HEthen (91) (@heedthem) 8 years, 9 months ago ago

@chekovchameleon, I don’t WANT to hide the fact that I’m American. What I actually want to do is go abroad, meet people who think this, and change their minds about it by not being that archetype. For Egypt specifically, I would absolutely never say I’m American because it’s extremely dangerous for us there. There’s a lot of very violent hatred. It’s not uncommon for specifically Americans to get targeted for mugging and crimes (my sources are people who have gone, of many different nationalities).

Although I would like to note this is true for most white people in that area, to be targeted more.

I think that attitude is fabulous, and even if they’re slanted, I’d be like, “Eh, whatever” if they don’t mean ill by it. Basically if we’re still able to talk civilly and you don’t hate me, we’re all good.

Heed them, HEthen (91) (@heedthem) 8 years, 9 months ago ago

@tdowling, That’s actually nice to hear. I wouldn’t not go abroad, but it is something that has always nagged at me.
As for the Middle East, I’m also a woman, so yeah… definitely would be going with a buddy to that one.
I want to go to Jerusalem
oh the irony

Maria Antonia (2) (@mariaantonia) 8 years, 9 months ago ago

@heedthem, since you ask, I’ll be honest. I’m from New Zealand and have travelled a lot and American tourists are just considered to be a bit annoying. When in big groups they tend to talk very loudly (which is weird everywhere except in America), so I’d recommend being a bit quieter, especially on public transport. They also seem to have a tendency to over-explain things, and not assume any common knowledge or common sense of the person they are talking to. That can come across a but patronising for people who aren’t used to it or don’t realise Americans just talk to each other like that.

In saying that though, I’ve liked most American’s I’ve met, I think the ones that actually want to see the world are generally the nice ones. It is totally ok to be an American in New Zealand.

But, if you want to avoid looking like an American tourist, there are somethings that make you stand out like a sore thumb. Americans tend to wear white sneakers, baseball caps, bum bags or safety pocket things and carry massive bags around. They walk around talking really loudly and often assume that when they’re in a foreign country, everyone else is a foreigner and that no one speaks any english. Avoid doing those things and try to be polite and you’ll be fine.

Heed them, HEthen (91) (@heedthem) 8 years, 9 months ago ago

@mariaantonia, I really like hearing point-blank opinions like these. While some would argue that I can’t use the opinion of just one for an entire nation, it still helps.
What I noticed most was your “over-explanation” description. I had to laugh at that, since I consider myself kinda longwinded, and so that was an “uh oh, I’m in trouble abroad” moment for me just now. Could you explain the not assuming common knowledge part? I’m pretty sure I know what you mean, but would like an example.
What I think is also funny is I the “over-explaining” thing might be more of an upper-middle class white person tendency, which I assume to be a decent fraction of travelers form here.

I want to be able to be myself completely and enjoy the money I’ll have spent traveling. I want to be able to not miff the locals, though, and meet people and enjoy reveling in their culture.

Those are good tips. It’s really funny because I live within an hour of Disney World, and we can spot tourists from a mile away based on those same principles (tourists are mostly people from other states.) Locals where I am pretty much hate tourists. lol.
I can share the sentiment of disliking people talking loudly. Although to be fair, if it were a group of my friends at a cafe, we would probably be loud and enjoy ourselves like at home without realizing it.
What safety pocket things? Do you mean what people wear sometimes strapped close to their body to avoid getting mugged?

I will totally consciously blend now.

Maria Antonia (2) (@mariaantonia) 8 years, 9 months ago ago

@heedthem, I feel a bit mean bringing it up because it seems to be so common in Americans that I think explaining yourself with that level of clarity must be part of your education or something. It just gets annoying when it is so clear that it becomes a drawn out, mundane explanation that stops conversation flow for people who are more used to quickly swapping ideas. So, at risk of doing this myself, I’ll give you an example.

Foreigner: “Why is there high fructose corn syrup in American products?”

American: “Well, in the past, the United States government encouraged farmers to grow corn. They gave incentives to farmers to grow corn on massive farms as a massive monoculture. We don’t need so much corn anymore but there are laws that give money to these farmers to keep growing corn, and the American government does not want to put these people out of a job. So they have to do something with the corn so they make a sweetener out of it and put it into everything. It’s really bad for you because it has more calories than sugar. They even try to justify corn production by making ethanol fuel out of it but studies have shown that more energy is burned in the process of making ethanol, than the ethanol would produce.”

What the foreigner was expecting the American to say: The government subsidizes corn production so we make more than we know what to do with, so they have to put it somewhere.

Which could then allow the conversation to flow (in the way I’m used to), with the foreigner asking follow up questions like, why the government supports it and then what other things they could do with it etc.

I supposed I’m just used to more back and forth. But again, this is just something I find annoying and there is nothing intrinsically wrong with it.

Heed them, HEthen (91) (@heedthem) 8 years, 9 months ago ago

@mariaantonia, I can definitely appreciate why that is annoying if it’s very contradictory to your culture’s method of generally having a conversation.
For me, it’s hard to say why people would take on so many things to say. That’s largely because what I read, I don’t see much wrong with it.
I know for certain I’m longwinded, even here at home.

I imagine it’s something with how we learn how to intake information and how we sort it in our brains. We probably don’t learn to organize well internally. Instead of getting the main point across first and adding, we might use the explanation we already know to organize it verbally until we know how to say our main point.

Or maybe they like to hear themselves talk, there are always those kinds of people out there. (This is definitely not an “American thing” though, I can assure you.)

Also there is a certain type of people I’ve noticed that is in the middle-class that tend to think people are much, much more interested in hearing what they have to say than they actually do.

Ray Butler (1,423)M (@trek79) 8 years, 9 months ago ago

@heedthem, Don’t define yourself as American, instead define yourself as an individual human being that has a unique indentity that consists of many factors (including; culture, nationality, sex, sexuality, spiritual belief, class, race) but ultimately your identity can be broken down into the character you intend to reflect upon the world.
Your character is you, your intent is your focus for the actions you are capable of, the goal is to attempt conforming your actions to your character for a reasonable summation of your identity, as long as you do your best at your efforts in this goal then you find success and you can not be typecast.
If you are at the considerate end or the asshole end, these are just how your strength and weakness manifest in your intent and how your character is projected by your deeds.

Maria Antonia (2) (@mariaantonia) 8 years, 9 months ago ago

@heedthem, yeah that is totally fair enough. To each their own. I’ve been thinking that it is probably a stereotype I hold, but it certainly doesn’t make you or anyone who does it a bad person. I think I find it annoying because its a new way of communicating and I don’t know how to interact with it. I’d have to spend some time getting used to it and see Americans interacting with each other in this way in order to know what to do. I’d feel like I’d have to have an equally long speech to counter with (and to do that I’d have to change the topic out of nowhere), otherwise end up just saying ‘oh ok’ and feel a bit chastened.

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