Living or traveling abroad is an experience I can’t recommend highly enough. However, there are many misconceptions and stereotypes about Americans that you may face while abroad. Sometimes these can be funny. Others can be frustrating. The most important thing is to try to handle each one with diplomacy and respect, and maybe try to understand where the misconception comes from. So, if you are planning a trip abroad be prepared to answer some unexpected questions. I’ve compiled some of the strangest I’ve face to help prepare you for this adventure.
It’s only natural for people want to make comparisons between their home and yours. Sometimes the easiest way to do this is through the weather. Many people do not understand, however, just how big The United States really is. This leads to some interesting questions. For example: Does it rain/snow in America? Is it hot in America? Do you wear boots in America? (Yes someone has actually asked me this) When confronted with a situation like this I generally just explain how large America is and that the weather varies from state to state and even within different regions of a state. And with this variation, we can experience all imaginable variations in weather. Sometimes it is even fun to pull up a map that shows regular types of weather across the U.S.
Do you know (insert name here)?
Another drawback to being the third largest country in the world, both by population and area, is that people assume that you will know their friend/cousin/sister/grandma in the United States. My favorite situation is when you tell someone what state you’re from and they know someone in a entirely different state that you might know. Again this can be a great teaching moment and generally great for me too because I can learn about a place in the U.S. I’ve probably never been by asking follow-up questions about the friend. Also, if you’re from California, be expected to be asked about your personal connections to celebrities.
Americans are not bilingual
While this is true for the majority of Americans, according to the most recent census 21.6% of Americans speak more than one language. While this is still much lower than the worldwide average, it is pretty impressive. One thing I try to do when visiting a new country is learn at least “please” and “thank you” in the national language. This may not help you negotiate for the best price in a market, but people appreciate the effort!
Americans are rich
While we are on the topic of negotiating prices, be aware that Americans are often seen as wealthy when visiting other countries. Unfortunately this misconception can contribute to crime and people attempting to take advantage. It’s to be expected that if you are seen as a wealthy person it is only fair that you can pay a little more for an item than those who can’t afford it. My suggestion to combat this is to stand your ground and only pay a price you think is fair. Chances are the seller would rather make a fair deal than no deal at all.
Americans ruined the English language
English is crazy. That is all there is to it. For every rule there are a handful of exceptions to the rule. I am so happy to have learned English as my first language. This goes for all English, not just American. Also, according to linguistic studies, the way Americans pronounce words is closed to Old English than the rest of the world. That being said, American slang (words like “yeet” and “turnt”) tends to make less and less sense as it develops, even to Americans. Although, the same can be said for most English slang throughout the world.