We’ve all heard the stereotypes. Americans are fat, lazy, ignorant, materialistic, money hungry – pretty much any negative adjective you can conjure up. It’s gotten to the point where people who dislike Americans don’t even try to hide their disgust. In fact, I’ll often be sitting with other backpackers on a trip, listening to them bad-mouth travelers from the United States, not caring a bit that I can hear everything they’re saying.
Dealing With American Stereotypes
“Jessie, I’m sure you want to stop in there,” he laughed, pointing to the eatery. When I continued to stare blankly, wondering when I mentioned I liked McDonald’s he continued, “Americans are fat and obsessed with fast food.”
Another time in a hostel in Brazil, I asked an Australian traveler if she knew what time it was. Rolling her eyes, she pointed to a large clock on the wall and retorted, “Can’t you see the giant clock on the wall? Wow, you really are American.”
Often times, I’ll actually get a backhanded compliment like, “You’re from America? You don’t seem like it. You’re actually cool.”
While the people making these statements may think they’ll receive a “why, thank you!” from me, my usual reply is something like, “I actually do seem like I’m from America. My friends and family are just as nice and down-to-Earth as I am.”
Bad-Mouthing Your Own Country
What’s even worse to me than having foreigners hate on Americans, is having Americans hate on Americans. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve sat and listened to travelers from the United States talk about how terrible Americans are. They backup the stereotype by talking about how fat and disgusting we are, how we’re stupid and don’t know anything, how our president sucks and how nobody cares about anything but power and money. While some of this may be true about certain people in America, I’m sure I can also find some rude, ignorant, overweight and money-hungry people in other parts of the world, as well.
As Americans traveling, we are given a very important opportunity to dispel these stereotypes. Travelers, for the most part, are naturally curious, open-minded people who love learning about different cultures and ways of doing things. We also get to meet many different people from all walks of life, and showing them how not all Americans fit the unfavorable stereotype is something we should be taking advantage of. While the world may never be able to live in complete unity, we can still strive to make progress to get rid of hate and negativity where we can.
Where Does The Hate Come From?
I think there are a few reasons this negative stereotype exists. For one, many people hate individual Americans for our country’s foreign policies. While it’s okay to not agree with all the laws of the U.S., you also need to remember the country is a system and the laws we have in place are usually there for a reason. And, it’s the government putting these rules in place, not specific individuals. For example, when I was in Brazil, I was complaining about how I had to pay $180 for a visa. One backpacker from Amsterdam turned to me angrily and said, “How can you complain? You charge other nationalities money to get into your country!”
Another reason I think this stereotype exists is because it has become pretty trendy to talk badly about American culture. When you badmouth Americans, you fit in. Everyone’s doing it. It’s the new black. However, instead of jumping on the bandwagon, these people should be thinking for themselves. If you dislike a specific person and they are American, that’s fine. But, you can’t possibly hate an entire nation of people you haven’t met, can you?
And in the hopes of not sounding conceited, I think it sometimes stems from resentment. As much as people like to hate on the U.S., they are a global superpower. Sure, we aren’t perfect, and there are many other countries doing certain things better than we are. However, on the whole, America is one of the top.
This point can be exemplified by an encounter I had at a language exchange in Mendoza. The program meets once a week and brings together English speakers and Spanish speakers to help them exchange language knowledge. When the host announced we would be speaking English for the first hour, one Argentine scoffed and said (in Spanish), “I will not speak English. I hate Americans. They want to take over the world.” Now, I’m not quite sure why someone with this outlook would attend an English-Spanish language exchange, but for the rest of the session he sat there in angry silence.
The Truth About Americans
Sure, there are some rude, ignorant, materialistic Americans out there. But, how rude are the other travelers badmouthing people from the U.S. right in front of me? And, how ignorant to make such a blanket statement about the 311, 591,917 people living in the United States.
The truth is, there are many Americans doing great things to help the world. Smart, funny, caring people with morals and goals making a positive impact on the world. We’ve got people starting charities, volunteering abroad, raising money for communities in need, implementing programming to save the Earth and rallying for equal rights around the world. Making blanket statements like the ones mentioned above really do nothing more than show how ignorant some people are about the American culture and people.