I am from the United States of America.
I was born in St. Louis, Missouri, raised in a suburb outside the city then moved back to the city to attend university and live my life after college.
I am not ashamed of that, but I know plenty of people who would be.
Americans get a terrible name in other countries for a lot of reasons. Sometimes it’s due to our government, other times it’s due to racists, bigots or even just annoying tourist. The point is, sometimes people lie about where they are from and I find that, more often than not, these people are Americans.
Two conversations I had this weekend really got me thinking about this. They each highlighted a type of American that I have serious problems with:
- The first reminded me of the arrogant travelers who are somehow too good to explore their own country.
- The second forced me to think about Americans who want stamps in their passport but also want room service and Starbucks on every corner.
The first conversation was with a Canadian, a fellow North American, but not quite what one thinks of when you hear the vague term “American”. He and I were talking about traveling, where we had been and where we still wanted to go.
I made a point to say I was ashamed I had not seen more of the United States and would love to.
I stressed that many Americans get way too snobby about the term “abroad” and turn their noses up at any traveling that happens stateside. Even though each state is the size of a European country, people seem to think less of a 15 hour road trip to see a new state than they think of a 2 hour train ride to a new European country.
Last summer I took a trip to Alaska. It took several hours and a connecting flight to get to the land of strange sun activity. I was thrilled to see the gorgeous mountains, amazing views and especially pleased to enjoy about 15 hours of sunlight each day.
That description would make for a great story if it didn’t include “Alaska”, right?
I joked with the Canadian that if Alaska happened to be a Canadian territory it would automatically earn me twice the traveler’s cred.
This Canadian guy took the time to tell me it was refreshing to hear an American talk about the United States that way. He told me that almost all the Americans he had met abroad seemed very unpatriotic and almost disdainful towards their home country.
I wish he was wrong, but I’ve met more Americans with that mindset than ones who can relate to mine. I find that these types often shy away from other Americans and try to dissociate themselves from their country as much as possible. They want to be country-less nomads or at least from the UK.
I find that incredibly annoying and despicable.
The second conversation I had was with an Argentine. We conversed in Spanish about everyday things such as music, hobbies and work. Eventually, the fact that I was foreign came up and he was quite surprised.
I brushed this off, thinking it had more to do with my strange accent which is notably un-American. However, later in the conversation he interrupted me to ask “Can I tell you something?”
I assumed I had made a grammar mistake that he wanted to correct but instead he said “You are very nice. You are American and very nice, I’m surprised.”
I wanted to be offended, I really did, but I wasn’t. I knew exactly what he meant.
This poor guy worked in a hotel and encountered nothing but the worst of American tourists, people who are all too patriotic and look down on everyone who isn’t born in the United States.
I’m not saying all these people are racist jerks, but many of them have this quiet pity, as if they are looking at foreigners and thinking “poor guy was born in the wrong country.”
Why is it so hard for some Americans to believe that not everyone wants to live in the United States? Some people are happy right where they are; they do not want or need your pity. These types of Americans are why less-snobby Americans feel the need to lie about their origins, just to avoid being viewed as an asshole.
These types of Americans embarrass me.
I don’t like that these conversations were not the first time I heard these sentiments.
Why do snobby travelers have to hate on the US as if it’s not an amazingly huge and interesting place? Why do others see the United States as the only suitable place to live?
I am from the United States and I am proud of it. I will never lie and say I am from somewhere else just to save face, but some extremist such as these two types really force me to be on the defensive most of the time.
What do you think? Do Americans lie about their nationality more than others? Why do you think that is? Would you? Have you?
Things have changed a lot over the last few years. I never lied about where I was from (USA! USA!) but I always said it with kind of a groan and never got any flack about it. I noticed a sudden change when Obama was elected, everyone wanted to hear my opinion! So strange.
And I have to admit, I used to be one of those people that turned their noses up at Americans who didn’t have passports and it took to traveling overseas to fully appreciate my country and how lucky we are to have so much going on, from ski to surf and mountains and deserts and no passport needed! How many countries can say that? Heck, lots of places need passports just to see the sun in winter!
I’ve traveled to 40 countries and 6 continents. I used to try and hide my American-ness and agree with people when they said “Oh you’re American? I’m sorry.” Then while backpacking across Africa with an Argentinian and German I met locals who would say “Oh you’re from America! I want to go there someday!” No one said that to the Argentinian and German. I started thinking about how to them it really was the land of opportunity. I could talk all day about how great our country is, but I only realized it after traveling so much. It used to be that all I wanted to do was escape. Of course, I’d still love to have a home in every continent, but that’s because I’m obsessed with traveling. I love our country and I’m totally proud to say it-now! 🙂