Misconceptions about America(ns)
While traveling abroad, these are the questions I got asked a lot as soon as people (usually, very quickly) realized I’m an American.
1. “You don’t own a gun?”
This was by far the most common and (to me) the most surprising response I got. Apparently, a lot of people think every single person in America owns a gun. I guess when you look at the news it’s understandable, but it still shocked me. While I know that plenty of Americans are gun-owners, I personally am not and don’t plan on ever being one. I can also only think of about one or two people I know who do own a gun. I’m sure this isn’t representative of America as a whole, but because of where I live and the company I keep, I hardly know anyone who owns a gun.
2. “You’re American, but you’re not fat?”
Alright, so I know most people in the world know that there are plenty of skinny people in America. I also know that obesity is a huge problem in the states, and it is a common stereotype that Americans are fat. But, I actually had a guy come up to me and say, “I’m really confused – you’re American, but you’re not fat.” Could’ve been a joke, but he seemed pretty sincere about not wanting to offend me. I thought it was pretty funny at the time.
3. “You don’t get sarcasm, right?”
To which I would respond, “No…what’s sarcasm?” (Obviously, trying to prove my thorough understanding of the concept.) Unfortunately, I was usually taken seriously and just caused further confusion. This wasn’t an extremely common occurrence, but it sure did bug me when it came up.
4. “Oh, you’re from America. Hawaii?”
Okay, I get it, I look like I could possibly be Hawaiian. But America is diverse! And that means there are people everywhere that look like they could be from anywhere. It’s one of the reasons why I do love this country, and I think some people around the world (namely those who haven’t been to the states) don’t realize how diverse America really is.
5. “I don’t like American beer”
“What American beer have you had?”
This one would make me a little angry. I don’t like Budweiser either (although I was a bit partial to Bud Light in college). I’m clearly no expert, but I do know America has delicious beer and a ton of awesome microbreweries. Someone once told me to respond (at least in Australia) by explaining, “That’s like me saying I don’t like Australian beer because I don’t like Foster’s.” In fact, I never even saw a Foster’s in Australia. Sure, people drink Budweiser in America, but it is in no way representative of all American beer, and especially American craft beer.
A truth about Americans: We are loud
Again, this obviously doesn’t apply to all Americans. But it seems we really do get very excited and loud about a lot of things. I definitely don’t see what’s wrong with being excited. But man, you can hear an American coming a mile down the road. In every place I worked while I was abroad, there were times when I was sitting in the back of a busy shop, or putting dishes away in a loud kitchen, and I could still hear an American come in the front door. The day I landed in San Francisco on my way home, hearing so many loud American accents in one place was a little overwhelming. Of course, I’m already used to it again, and it’s hardly noticeable when you’re always surrounded by other Americans, but we really can stick out like sore thumbs overseas.