Proud to be an American?- Part 2

american flagIf you haven’t already, check out Part 1. Continuing the discussion of stereotypes other cultures have of Americans…

We are self-centered.
We are used to being a world power. We’re used to having our voice heard. We’re used to having a massive portion of the world’s wealth. So it seems reasonable that people should get on board with our ideas. It even seems reasonable that we should be able to talk to anyone anywhere in our own language. Which leads to the next stereotype…

We are monolingual.
Again, the stereotype is only a stereotype, but perhaps it’s based on a grain of truth. If an American is not growing up in a multi-cultural home, or didn’t grow up overseas, there’s a good chance that they made it through their high school Spanish and haven’t looked back. Why? Well, English is one of the most useful languages to know. Therefore, many people know it all over the world. So we begin to expect that others know it, and use it when they’re around us, not considering how much more challenging it is to operate in a 2nd, 3rd, 4th, or 5th (etc.) language. In our defense, it’s hardly fair to compare Americans to Europeans for example. America was colonized by the British and we kept a version (albeit an altered version) of that language. And in this mass of land, most everyone speaks English. In the Midwest, we can drive hours and hours in any direction and be surrounded by English speakers. In Europe, on the other hand, one might drive an hour or two and find a country or region that operates in another language. In short, the worlds are much closer and therefore the necessity of learning more than one language is greater than in America.

We are fat.
Restaurants serve massive portions. We eat too much. Maybe because we’re used to having so much.

We are rich. (Mostly from third world cultures)
Many this there is no poverty in America. Being an American automatically speaks of great wealth which you should be willing to share with those who have less than you.

It is hard to stereotype a monstrous country of diverse people. And I’ve only listed a handful of the stereotypes that are out there. Do any of these define me? You?

Most of these stereotypes are pretty negative. What are some positive points of being an American? Because, despite all of these negative stereotypes, I’m still glad to be an American…

Stay tuned for Part 3!

Proud to be an American?- Part 1

american flag

Living overseas among various nationalities exposed me to some of American stereotypes. Some of the stereotypes made me wonder whether or not I’m proud to be an American after all.

Never in my life had I felt so boxed in by American culture, so labeled. Sometimes people told me that I wasn’t like “that,” insinuating that “that” was the essence of American error.

Want to hear what other people think of Americans? Well, here are a few things…

We are impulsive.
We make quick decisions without weighing the pros and cons or how our decisions affect other people. This probably has a lot to do with personality, but there is a trend in favor of this stereotype. Why? Is it because we’re used to having things easy? Do we always give ourselves the option to give up when things get harder than we had anticipated?

We are loud.
This is another stereotype that depends on personality. I did notice a trend with Americans overseas. We were usually the loud ones, laughing, talking, unafraid that the everyone within shouting distance knew our business.

We are scared to be real.
We hold surface conversations and act like our lives are going smoothly. (Personally, I think this trend is starting to change with a generation that values authenticity.)

We are violent. (And everyone owns a gun.)
Hmm. Well? Look at the video games we have access to, even children. Look at Hollywood. We might freak out at nudity (reinforcing another stereotype), but without flinching, we watch people’s heads being blown off. There’s a lot more behind this idea, but I’ll let you unpack this one for yourself.

Stay tuned for Part 2!

Culture shock in my own country

A few ways I’ve been shocked by my own culture in the last months:

  • Other kinds of foreign language. I approached some people in Aldi, excited that they were speaking another language… only to discover it was a butchered version of my mother tongue.
  • The politeness of complete strangers, even if they’re not trying to sell you something!
  • Efficiency.
  • The constant busyness. Without lifting a finger to plan, one can manage to walk into a new week with a full schedule.
  • The availability of, well, everything. If I can’t find it on a garage sale, I’ll pick it up at Wal-Mart or simply order it from Amazon.
  • The quietness. No noisy neighbors at night.
  • Menu prices. They’ve already made my eyes pop out more than once.
  • Not needing to carry tp with me everywhere I go.
  • The evasion of temperature extremes. Cold? No problem! Turn on the heat! Hot? Easy peasy. Turn on the air conditioning!

Little by little, I’m acclimating to my own culture… A journey that will probably continue until I leave it again.