Those Americans

So I’ve been super busy recently, thus I’m not meeting my weekly posting, sorry about that! Recently, I’ve run around like a chicken with its head cut off- I’ve been working, cleaning, going to meetings for work and outside commitments (when did I get so busy? I used to call sitting in front of the TV watching Gilmore Girls a productive day). Not to mention cooking and planning our trip back to my home country in two months. Phew.

But I did get to go see Girl With A Dragon Tattoo which I thought rocked. However, while I was there and watching it in English, I couldn’t help but notice that nearly everyone else in the movie theater besides my G-Man was American. At first I was delighted to be surrounded by fellow Americans, but then I get this weird feeling. Now this post is not meant to offend my American friends, but when I’m around Americans in a foreign country, I always kinda get anxious that they are going to do something stupid that amplifies our bad reputation. And sometimes it’s unfounded and unnecessary, they can be just as normal as I am. Alright well I’m not that normal but in public I am. If I weren’t of the darker persuasion maybe they wouldn’t pinpoint me automatically as an American, and of course when I start talking I’m a dead giveaway. Regardless, I get this slight anxiety about big groups of Americans abroad. They are stereotypically the people with big cameras, loud voices, American flag or sports t-shirts or sweaters, and overly jovial. I don’t mind these things, I mean these are my fellow countrymen.

Yet, there I was in the lobby outside the theater and there they were talking and I thought oh how nice! They were talking about not knowing where our particular theater was and I overheard and said, hey I think our theater is right down those stairs. They looked at me dumbfounded and then went back to ignoring me. So much for the niceness. So eventually we went downstairs and they followed suit, and of course they sat in our row. Right as we found our seats, the movie theater guy came in to tell us (in German) that we have to leave the theater for the staff to clean. G-Man translates this automatically for me and the Americans just sit there ignoring the guy and slurping from their oversized drinks and talking loudly about I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT. So I told them the news and they got all complain-y about how they just got comfortable. They got up and no they didn’t say thank you. They spoke loudly through all the trailers, and on the way out, the girls left their gloves in the bathroom. I looked at the gloves and went to say hey, you left these, but then I thought, nahhh I’ve told them stuff all night.

I was once on a train with the G-Man to his family’s house and there was a group of American teenagers that were talking loudly, insulting people, had their iPods on so that you could hear the music without having them in their ears, and took over 8 seats for only 4 of them. I could barely read or listen to my music because they were so damn loud. And then I could see that the Germans were upset by this as well, but what could they do. I was disgusted. I mean come on! Try to be respectful not only and especially abroad but in general. I now realize that if you meet fellow Americans, they are not necessarily going to be friendly to you, regardless if you grew up a town away from them, but I’d like to believe that our similarities should make us at least respect each other. Has anyone else ran across this, or does anyone else feel anxious about your countrymen abroad?

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8 thoughts on “Those Americans

  1. I completely agree with you, but instead of being near them I see them and run in the opposite direction for fear of appearing like I am a part of them. Whenever I have gone abroad I have tried to blend in with the local culture rather than look like the douchie tourist from America.

    And this post couldn’t possibly offend anyone, unless they too were a douche. In which case I hope they have taken notes 🙂 love you, love your posts!

  2. Actually, yes. Especially in clubs or restaurants. I open my mouth a lot less, especially with other Americans around because in the back of my mind I’m like, “Oh God, I hope don’t sound/look like that”. It doesn’t help that I just so happen to live next to a military base so a lot of boys with frat boy syndrome throw their weight around at the wrong people, and this really pisses me off. But then again, I have my moments were I will be at H&M, and a shirt will have a sign right above it for one price and it rings up as something else, and I complain to the clerk about false advertisement. And then she just looks at me and tells me, “Yes, there is a sign, but it is for a different style (even though there are only two piles of shirts and two signs, there was apparently some mysterious third pile I was meant to know about) and it rings up as 14.95 so that’s what I will charge you.” What can you do…

  3. I’ve seen both types of Americans – the ones who when they spot me out as a fellow Ami and from whom I run away very quickly, and the ones who are fairly normal (like me!) and who I directly go to and start a conversation with. I think it isn’t necessarily a matter that all Americans are loud and unruly (although I admit that there are a fair share of those types). Basically there are dousch-y type people from all over. Perhaps the Americans are a bit louder, I’ll give you that, but I’m betting that most expats feel very similar when meeting others from their home countries. Kind of like when I was still in the States and met people out from my hometown….in a way, that hometown defines me and I don’t want it to define me in a bad way, so I’m particularly cognizant of anything that person may do that will shine a bad light on me. I think it’s the same with expats. 🙂

  4. What a great post! I have experienced this too recently on the train with loud American teenagers. I just kind of cringed. On another note, I was so disappointed when I started my Deutschkurs and found I was the only American until one of the girls in the class came up to me one day and said “I don’t normally like Americans, but you’re really nice.” How sad is that? From that moment on I realized that how I act over here really reflects on how Germans perceive Americans in general. btw, I am so glad I found your blog 🙂

    1. That is so sad! I’m glad you found my blog too! I start a Deutschkurs soon, and I’m hoping to meet some friends there. I’m sorry I took so long to respond but I do hope you know I keep on your blog as well. I just don’t always comment so much on things, I’ll be better about it!

  5. I have been living here in Erlangen, Germany for over 20 years now and I have often encountered the kind of loud and obnoxious Americans you speak of. As a matter of fact, I would guess that I probably even could hold that against myself at one time (when I think back on the first few years as I was still just another GI stationed over here). As Commander of Erlangens Veterans Of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post I am required to frequently travel to the various military bases here in Europe and I witness that same phenomenon wherever I go.
    I don’t however think it is a particular trait of Americans though. I think that is partly due to being nervous about not understanding anything being spoken around you (overcompensation) and perhaps in part as a form of calling the attention of other English speakers to ones self in the hopes of meeting someone new to communicate with. Whatever the reason, it happens a lot, but certainly not only to Americans. I think you will likely find that the exact same pattern also applies to groups of people of other nationalities as well and the reason Americans seem to stick out like a sore thumb is probably only because you understand them. Just ride the bus or streetcar around Nuremberg and you will see that groups of Italians, Turks, Africans, etc… also act similarly, but that gets subconsciously “shut-out” by our brains as background noise because we don’t understand them.
    I agree with Marianne that our actions help determine the way those around us feel about America. Each one of us Expats is an ambassador and we can really make a positive difference in the way Americans are perceived in our community if we apply ourselves. Of course a negative influence is just as easily possible. Still we have only limited control over that perception as became very apparent to me during the last decade. After 9-11 American sentiment here in Germany was at an all-time high. Sometimes I’d be standing somewhere talking to my kids or a friend in English and someone would actually come running across a room to say they are sorry about the attack on the WTC. At parties and dinners people would flock around us to hear stories of back home and life in general in America. 2001 – 2002 was an excellent time to be an Expat in Europe, but then came that whole show leading up to the Iraq war where our President told a story of WMDs while the rest of the world was saying “those claims are absolutely false”. We, as a people, lost a lot of credibility when the war actually started and during the years that followed it was much better to blend in than to be recognized as an American. After the 2004 election scandal people made fun of us for allowing the “elite” to buy our government and we were all “puppets” of the almighty dollar. When “The Patriot Act” was signed into law I often heard things like “Now America will see for themselves what pre-WW II Germany was like”. Then in 2008 we elected a new President and suddenly life over here was good again.
    What I am trying to say is this … I think it is very important to make a good impression on the people you meet each day in your host country, but don’t get too discouraged when others don’t seem to appreciate it as much as you would like. There are many factors that determine our popularity over here and we only have control over a very small amount of those factors.
    I hope you enjoy your stay in Germany as much as I have been enjoying mine and if you ever feel the need to spend time with fellow Americans please feel free to send me an email … I live practically down the street.

    1. Thank you so much for your response! I appreciate your perspective, and I’m always in need of spending time with another fellow American! Let me know if you ever want to meet up as well!

      1. On Thursday the Bergkirchweih (known to many Americans as the Strawberry Hill Fest) begins.in Erlangen and it is definitely something you should experience while you are here in the area. During those 2 weeks there are more “visitors” than actual residents in Erlangen and a good portion of them are lands-men and -women. Thousands of Americans flock to the city (many are in-country as soldiers, guest-workers and some even come extra on vacation) to enjoy a relaxing beer under chestnut trees. It is famous as Germanys 3rd largest “Volksfest” and Europes largest Biergarten with well over 1 million visitors during the 11 day run from May 24 – June 4, 2012. If you would like to (or perhaps already planning to) come up for the fest, let me know and we can meet. You should have my email address so send a message if you are interested and I will reply with my cell number.

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