In honor of the hilarious experience of visiting the Leaning Tower of Pisa and being as enthralled by the crazy tourists as the tower, we decided to share a few of our answers to questions about being an American and traveling.
What stereotypes have you heard about America during your travels?
In Southeast Asia they were just awesome, so kind and helpful. But unfortunately, there’s always that feeling that you are white and you have money. They know you are the main source of their income; so it feels too often like servant/master, no matter how hard you try to make it not that way. Always makes me feel bad. The aggressive nature of the tourist industry to get your business can be really aggravating and scary sometimes. You have to work hard not to become callus and act like you don’t even see people. I really tried always to treat everyone as another human being, but smiling and saying “No thank you” seems more likely interpreted as, “Maybe, keep driving me crazy just in case.” It is also an incredibly common experience in SE Asia for someone to be very kind and helpful to you; and then before you know it, they have taken you to a restaurant or shop that they get a cut of money just for bringing you. If you tell them you are not interested, they can get a little ugly. Most of the time, they just look disappointed. Luckily they still get a cut if you don’t buy anything. I understand, gotta make a living. Also, most of the time this trip, when they find out you’re from the States, they say something about Trump – usually with a smirk on their face and a laugh.
In New Zealand the only negative stereotypes we experienced were that Americans don’t know anything about the rest of the world and that we only speak English, while the rest of the travelers we meet have a working knowledge of the world and several languages – unfortunately this is often more true than not. You are also impressed with how they have worked with the Maori in their culture to respect their first presence on the island and right to their lands. No one said anything particularly, but you are aware of the world’s knowledge of how poorly our nation treated Native Americans.
Biking the city walls of Lucca
In India and Nepal, there is a combination of both of the former. More like NZ if they were very educated, almost like they had a chip on their shoulder about us. But I get it, American travelers can act very superior. And actually, Europeans may have had the same experience, I don’t know. Many Indians did not feel like this, just some. You have to be very careful of judgements and assumptions you make, especially out loud. You can be offensive before you realize what you’ve done. Otherwise, India was more like Thailand. I don’t know if you’ve seen One Hundred Foot Journey, but it seemed an accurate depiction of the differences in Indian culture. Many things we would consider rude in America are just part of their culture and clearly not intended to be rude. They are more aggressive salesmen even compared to SE Asia. They will amaze you the lengths they will go to make sure you have a good experience at their establishment and then they encourage you to post a review on tripadvisor. Nepalese are very kind and usually smiling, but also very shy in our experience. We did have one Nepalese salesman share with us that Europeans and Americans are known to be more “giving” than the Chinese, who they say bargain them to death, lol.
Eastern Europe just seemed without judgement on us, they were much more accepting. The only problem is if you walk into a pub looking for a quick, easy meal and you are near the bar. They don’t like non-locals with kids in these areas and often give you a foul look. American stereotypes in France have been that we are just uncouth and not very polite or formal. Eating is an event here, and we just don’t know a lot of the unspoken social graces involved. We are also more likely to walk in to a store and get down to business, when they expect a greeting and small talk and then business – which I really like actually, seems more kind and treats the employee like a human being more. Italy, I didn’t really notice anything.
We ate with a South Korean couple that thought we mostly eat hamburgers. We said we haven’t had many on the trip. He said haven’t you been to McDonald’s? We responded, “We have been a few times, but we’re not really fans?” And he said, “The hamburgers must not be big enough for you.” Really? Now that just seemed ugly, but he really didn’t seem to mean to be. And, of course, we shared our earlier our “you are not immense?” like most Americans from the dear lady in Holland. This is a common expectation for sure.
Can people tell by your accent that you’re from the South in America or that you’re just American?
Humorously, you’re right, people don’t recognize the difference between the north and south dialects from the US most of the time. You either speak British English, African, Indian, American, or European – which all have their different accents. The Southern stereotypes are unknown here, so we are just lumped in with all Americans. We did have one really funny experience in New Zealand. I was ordering for everyone at Cookie Time, our favorite. The staff there are always a lot of fun. It’s part of their brand, dancing around and cutting up with people. When all the sudden, I said “ya’ll” in my interaction. The young clerk stopped dead in her tracks, and smiled down at me. “Did you just say ‘ya’ll’?” I turned 2 shades of red and Ella giggled. “Please, will you say it again? I love Brittany Spears. Do you love her?”
What? Oh yeh, she’s from Mississippi. This continued with me using it for her 2 more times to her delight and my complete and utter embarrassment. But she loved it, and tried it herself several times before we left.