Nicole Howell is a student at the University of Colorado – Boulder and is an ISA Featured Blogger. She is studying abroad with ISA in London, England.
A goal of mine whilst studying abroad was to inquire what foreigners thought of Americans. I had a pre-existing notion that many foreigners today view the United States in a mainly negative light, and for multiple reasons. I decided to do a little research before opening Pandora’s box in regards to how America compares to other nations and one of the first links to pop up was by U.S. News & World Report. They had an article ranking the different nations by power and the top-ranking country was the United States, citing our GDP being $18.6 trillion. With this statistic about the power-house that is America, I felt more prepared to discuss with others the place I call home.
Having an extroverted personality makes approaching strangers easier for me. Foreigners chalked up my ability to spark up a conversation with random people to being an American. I was staying in a hostel in Dublin and was put in a dormitory that two Danish girls were also placed in and decided to go out on a whim and ask one of girls what language her and her friend were speaking. She replied, “Danish,” and I went on to explain that hearing all these accents makes me want to expand my knowledge of different dialects, starting with the way they sound. I think that follow up comment got my foot in the door with her, and we continued asking each other questions in which her friend eventually joined in on the conversation. After conversing for another 20 minutes, I asked the million-dollar question of their view on Americans. They touched on how they knew I was an American not just from the way I spoke, but the fact I was the one to spark up a conversation with a stranger, which a Dane would never do. Our willingness to share facts about ourselves as well as ask personal questions was also something they mentioned to be a very American-characteristic.
A few weekends prior to meeting the Danish girls, I met a German gentleman in Vienna through a mutual friend and he had a hankering to discuss 9/11. I brought this on myself by proposing if he had anything he wanted to ask about America or discuss, now is the time. He mentioned one of the many conspiracy theories associated with that day and credited my lack of knowledge of all these theories due to my ignorance. He explained because he so rarely gets to discuss this topic with, of all, an American, he was excited and passionate throughout the conversation, yet at times came off as condescending and rude due to his cockiness of knowing more about that incident than me.
Americans are often labeled as obnoxious, ignorant, and self-centered, whilst may be true, does not overshadow the good stereotypes foreigners have. I also found they think we’re an open-minded, progressive nation attempting to use our means to better other nations. The United States may not be the most liked country in the world, but our movements are still watched under a microscope by everyone else, which must mean something, still making me proud to be an American.
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