United States of Awesome: The American Stereotype Overseas

United States of Awesome: The American Stereotype Overseas

 All politics aside, Americans as fat, loud, cocky, gun-loving idiots is an image more readily accepted around the world than Mastercard. While the rest of the world is by no means safe from its own stereotypes, America tends to dig its own hole by broadcasting to the world endless clips of its citizens failing to find entire continents on a map or fighting over their babydaddy in ill-fitting lycra with all the poise and aesthetics of sumo wrestlers attempting to figure skate while being pelted with live chickens.

Even the American accent itself has lost its luster, assuming it really had it to begin with. In the buildup for my relocation to Australia, I was often told my accent would be not only warmly received, but considered excitingly unusual. Men would want to talk to me, women would throw themselves at me, all just from ordering a drink like some ad for trendy alcohol where people are overwhelmed near to tears by my choice of vodka. This, as it turned out, was a complete lie. My accent was greeted with complete indifference, and this scenario has repeated itself everywhere else I’ve gone by everyone not eager to sell me souvenir paperweights. I was instantly branded “unremarkable”.

Those of us from the US know better, but nonetheless it plagues us wherever we go. We travel to new and exciting countries, hoping to mingle unobtrusively with the locals, but the damage is done before we ever arrive. Some simply hide from it by pretending to be one of our Canadian neighbors, something the Canadians are probably tired of but are too polite to complain about. Some simply wade on blissfully unaware, searching for postcards and a Denny’s. And some, like myself, prefer to show that Americans can also be, in a word, awesome.

To say that languages are not my strong suit would be to say that Tibet can be a bit hilly. Even when being drilled into me, phrases in a foreign language have such a short lifespan in my brain I’d swear they were going back in time. Nonetheless, I make a point of trying to know a few choice words in any language I encounter, starting with “yes”, “no”, “please”, and most useful of all, “I’m sorry”. Given the fact that Americans are habitually mono-linguistic, and that the rest of the first world has essentially accounted for this, just a few words to acknowledge that I don’t think everyone’s babbling nonsense goes a long way.

The downside of being proud of your homeland, one I’m just as guilty of as the rest, is that you often can’t shut up about it, particularly by comparing everything else to it. More than a few times, I’ve found myself uttering the doomed phrase, “Really? In AMERICA, we…” This is all fine and good when genuine curiosity has been expressed by your impromptu foreign ambassadors, but when you keep repeating it, people tend to start finding someone else to talk to / look at / sleep with. And of course it goes without saying that using the USA as a shining example by which to mock the local culture, food, politics, what have you, is not going to win you any friends even when it’s true.

Overall, most people overseas have nothing against Americans, it’s just the stereotype that nobody likes. And really, this is fairly true of most other countries’ stereotypes except for the Irish and Australians, which invariably involve drinking and singing, and the Swedish, which involves being hot and blonde. I’ve found that, for Americans, the real key is not to avoid the stereotype, at least not completely. It is simply to make the stereotype FUN. As Americans, we can be brash, overweight, and not too bright, but we can still be pretty damn entertaining so long as we’re not trying to be taken too seriously. People are aware we’re kind of a big deal. There’s not really a reason to make sure everyone gets that. Better rather to let people know that ya, we have lots of guns and don’t really “get” the whole eating in moderation thing, but we’re still pretty awesome when you get to know us.

2 Responses

  1. Seriously – awesome. You’ve just summed up all americans – what else is there to write about now??

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