Dealing with American Stereotypes as an American Abroad

When you go abroad, you’re bound to meet other people, whether that be at your hostel, at a restaurant, at a park, or wherever else you meet people. And when you go abroad as someone from the United States, there are some American stereotypes that will follow you.

One of the most frequently asked questions I get is “what do you think about Trump?” and during my first few months in Spain, I gave a polite and honest answer. Now, after getting that question so much, I have realized that the question asker doesn’t really care about what I think; they just want to open the door so that they can criticize my home country’s government.

Unfortunately, a common American stereotype is that since Trump was elected by the people, most Americans agree with his policies (which is very false). People outside the United States also really like criticizing Trump and have pretty strong opinions about him and what’s happening in the country.

Guns! Trucks! Unsafe and crazy “hold my beer” activities! That’s America in the eyes of some foreigners. I’ve been asked a lot about my stance on gun control and why the United States has been so slow to adapt some of its laws and regulations after all of the mass shootings. While I have been to the shooting range before, not everyone is as gun obsessed as the stereotype makes us seem. And not everyone has a pick up truck (which is a very rare vehicle to see in places like Europe).

american stereotypes

Food in the United States is a big deal, emphasis on big. The portions in the US are huge, and people who have visited the US love to tell me that. People also think that Americans are overweight from a combination of food that’s fried and pumped with chemicals and our dependence on cars.

I once said that I tried fried Oreos at the state fair and the person I was talking to gave me the most disgusted look ever (he was French). I like fried goodies as much as the next person, but I will agree with the Europeans who tell me that their food is healthier because of all the agricultural regulations.

I hear this one a lot: Americans are always on the go and we never take time to enjoy anything. We’re hard workers and are attached to our devices in case work calls or emails. The European life is more relaxed, especially in Spain. Europeans go out to long lunches and enjoy life and are actually less stressed than Americans.

According to my professor, the most uncivilized thing a person can do is walk and eat at the same time. As someone who likes to eat their croissant on the way to this professor’s class, I was offended. And while I’m not totally taking time to savor the croissant, my main purpose is to eat because I’m hungry.

american stereotypes
We never take the time to relax as Americans according to foreigners.

People will always have ideas and assumptions about how people from other cultures are, but the important thing is to remember that you can never judge someone based off of where they are from. While some of these stereotypes annoy me, I have to remember that the best way to deal with them is to change how people perceive Americans through my actions. Go out and meet people from different cultures and start squashing the stereotypes.

Also published on Medium.