Murrrica! The greatest country on the planet there ever was or ever will be in the history of forever, right?
I often find myself apologizing for the stereotypes of the USA while living and traveling overseas. As a global super power, it is inevitable that not everyone agrees with the way we carry ourselves as a nation. While it can be downright embarrassing that the media’s portrayal of us can be so negative and a select few tourists ruin our perception, we can’t define our entire nation in a few generalizations.
Today I share the most common questions I get as a Yank abroad and my sassy responses.
Q: Why don’t Americans ever travel?
A: Well I am living it up across the world right now, aren’t I?
As a travel blogger, I like to think I shatter this stereotype. I spent my first two years after graduation on literally the opposite end of the globe working in Australia. Admittedly, growing up, our family vacations would be to all-inclusive resorts in Mexico or islands in the Caribbean. But ever since leaving the nest, I have been to 16 countries, with plans to visit 18 on my Eurotrip this Spring!
Americans just don’t see a reason to leave when they feel they have all they need right in front of them. Each state is strikingly diverse: “From the mountains, to the prairies, to the oceans, white with foam,” as God Bless America proclaims. Interested in skiing? Head to Colorado. Beaches? Florida. Tropics? Hawaii. Desert? Arizona. The arctic tundra? Alaska. National Parks? Wyoming. Farms and cornfields? Ohio.
With only 5-10 days of leave a year, it is also logistically difficult to take extended trips abroad, whereas European countries are granted 6-8 weeks in comparison! Taking a “gap year”off between college and entering the workforce would seem ludicrous in American culture. Employers in the US would see this gap in your resume and question your commitment to the company and dub you a potential flight risk. So we (wrongly) choose money and material items over experiences.
Why they ask: Despite the climbing number of US passports in circulation in recent years, 38% is staggeringly low compared to Canada’s 60% and the UK and Australia’s 75%. And traveling to Mexico and Canada didn’t require a passport for us until 2007! I am the first to admit, I always meet a Canadian, Brit, and an Aussie before ever meeting a fellow Yank, so this is assertion is somewhat valid.
Q: Are you Canadian?
A: What are you talking aboot, eh? Are you British? No? Australian?
Why they ask: We sound about as similar as Brits and Aussies in my opinion. I get asked this 90% of the time when people first hear my accent. This question confused me until I realized that TV shows like How I Met Your Mother give off the vibe that Americans think Canadians are stupid or inferior. So no wonder they think Canadians are offended to be mistaken for Americans and we in turn pretend to be Canadian to be accepted abroad. Hey at least y’all have friendliness, hockey and maple syrup going for you 😉
Q: Do you own a gun?
Related: Why is America so violent? How do you feel about the Iraq War?
A: No, I don’t, but I have shot once at the shooting range for fun. My dad owns eight handguns and my stepdad uses shotguns for hunting. But keeps them securely locked up!
Why they ask: It seems every other week a mass school shooting is reported on international news, leaving the public terrified. With the constant threat of terrorism and our troops frequently being deployed in war zones, it’s no wonder we are seen as a violent nation. While we do have the right to bear arms in the States, these horrific events mean gun control legislation is not working. The fact that you can buy a 12-guage shotgun in Walmart next to the Coke is downright terrifying, I admit. And yet Americans think other countries are dangerous to travel to. Oh, the irony.
Q: Is university (college) one big party like we see in the movies?
Related: Do you really drink from red cups and play beer pong? Why is your university tuition so high? Do you really move away from your parents at 18? Is high school like the movies with lockers and run by an evil gang of cheerleaders smitten with their jock boyfriends?
A: Yes, fraternities and sororities do exist. And my university was very work hard, play hard. So yes, I did find myself at those wild parties with open jungle juice a few days of the week.
I can’t imagine living at home with my parents once I went away to college. I guess our rent prices aren’t as high as in Europe and Australia and we make college into an entire “experience” away from home rather than just an education.
Why they ask: Most of what people know about the US comes from movies and TV, but the same goes for much of our understanding of the rest of the world. Australia has kangaroos hopping down the street, koalas hanging from the trees, and blonde, tanned surfers with sexy accents roaming around, right?
Q: Why aren’t you fat?
A: Because everything I eat isn’t deep-fried and wrapped in bacon?
Why they ask: Our portion sizes are totally out of control, with bottomless, refills, and buffets the norm. With 1/3 of the population obese, they think we literally take the cake and eat it too. But when it comes to world’s fattest countries, Mexico has recently overtaken us! Supersize me, maybe?
Q: Why are Americans so culturally unaware?
A: I agree, there is an entire world out there just waiting for us to explore and it’s sad that our educational system doesn’t emphasize learning more beyond our borders.
Ever since 9/11, airport security is super strict and tedious to get through. My mom doesn’t like the idea of me solo traveling, thinking most countries are unsafe for women. And my friend’s reaction when I said I was traveling to Nicaragua for spring break… For charity work? No for leisure…
Why they ask: Constantly bombarded by negative news coverage that paint the picture of a dangerous and hateful world, the world can seem a scary place. We’re more skeptical of the world because we just don’t know about it. Some get so comfortable with the idea of “home” and are afraid to venture into the unknown.
Q: Did you vote for Obama?
Related: What’s with this Trump asshole? Hillary Clinton is the alternative? Why do you take politics so seriously? Why don’t you have public healthcare?
A: Why yes I did, in my very first ability to vote at 18. Was I particularly well informed? Perhaps not. If Trump gets elected, I vow to flee the country indefinitely.
Why they ask: Once again, the media provides a convoluted look at the circus of our politics. We are so polarly divided between Democrats and Republicans which seems strange to other countries.
Q: Are you a patriot?
A: Of course I’m proud to be an American, it’s my roots. But I have found many other countries I would love to (and have) called home!
Why they ask: You see American flags waving across every other suburban porch. Remember in growing up when we had to pledge our allegiance to the flag every morning at school? How about singing the National Anthem before every major sporting event?
Q: How close is your city to New York or LA?
A: About an eight hour drive from Columbus.
Wait you’d drive there not fly? Yes…
I tell people I’m from Ohio [Insert blank stare] That’s where potatoes are grown? No… Lebron? Drew Carey Show? Ohio’s in the midwest, so like cowboys and Indians? You went to Miami University, so you’re used to warm weather and beaches? Nope….
Why they ask: The typical tourist journey is up the West coast, Las Vegas, NYC, Chicago, all the major metropolis’. I don’t blame them for not being able to keep track of a whopping 50 states!
Q: Why are Americans so loud/arrogant/rude/uptight/easily offended/opinionated (insert negative personality trait here)?
A: I like to call it passionate.
Yes, you have a point, our conversation levels are generally louder than our European counterparts, especially out at the bars. And we do like to make our presence known. Those Aussies though… 😉 And rude? We answer “Thank you” with a polite “You’re welcome.”
Fellow brethren, if we want to turn around global perception of our wonderful nation and shine ourselves in a positive light, we must present ourselves honorably and respectfully no matter where our travels may take us!
Now I want to know, what are the most common questions you get asked abroad about your home country and how do you respond?