Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Americans Abroad Anonymous - 12 Step program?

My name is Brian, and I'm an American. I live with it every day. It is not something I'm altogether proud of, but like Alcoholism, it is an immutable trait -- disease is just too strong here, because being who I am is an amalgum including elements of my American roots. I do, however, have issues with 'being american'. Especially now that I'm abroad, it seems more important. I've made a silly list of things I catch myself doing all the time ... perhaps I can mold it into a prefunctory 12 step program?!? :)

1. Loud and verbose. I've always kind of mumbled. It just works out well when I'm abroad to speak in an even keeled tone. It suits my personality, but I know most people do assume americans are loud and outspoken.

2. Speaking your mind. Americans tend to be decent listeners, but for the most part it is selfish. Americans like to listen because they like to participate and speak their minds. I personally hate to repeat something that's already been said, so I always look for the addition. I am also not afraid to tell someone I disagree.

3. Be Agressive, be, be agressive. Probably the biggest clencher. You can usually pick out an American by persistance in a losing battle, siding with the underdog, or really pushing an issue. With 2 and 3, Americans tend to dominate a conversation.

4. Talk to anyone. Americans so are willing to talk to anyone, with exception. Of course I try to tone it down, "when in Rome." The interesting thing is that I have more swedes and utlanders ask me for directions than any swede. I've one of THOSE faces I think. Interesting ... maybe this one works both ways, how very karmic.

5. Smiling fools. Americans love to smile. Oh yes, we have those ones who have stone faces, but in general, Americans are "smiling, happy people." Though, the happy is questionable. We do smile in a heartbeat though. I am one of the quick to smile. Then again I have a very personal nature about me ... it's an essential element of my allure I promise >:)

6. Personal space issues. We like our personal space. Americans like a happy medium between connection with people and being in my personal space. For an american personal space is about arm's length. Anything closer when you first meet someone is intimate, aka one nighter. Ha, well, otherwise we will cross arms and make other body signals to create evident space. I tend to let this one slide.

7. Quick friends. Americans can be exceptionally quick friends. We look for commonality everywhere. It is akin to assymilate or be cast out. Hmm, how very Conserva-MacCarthy of us ... I look for common connections all the time. Then again, I also believe what I learned in peer counseling in undergrad, "We are more alike than we are different." It is true.

8. Quick Enemies. I think 7 and 8 couple in terms of being judgmental. Americans are judgmental, but who isn't. As tolerant as everyone swears they are, there is always an underside. I think this also contributes to the american fakeness rampant in our pop culture ... oh, I know you know what I'm talking about; melrose, 90210, OC, reality TV ... need I go on?

9. Eaters. Americans will eat at the drop of a hat. As a whole americans will try anything. I think there are a few flavors on this topic: (1) latcher, (2) traditionalist, (3) explorer, (4) conservative. The Latcher will try stuff, but likes to get small things then sticks to them for the entire course through a country. Traditionalist won't deviate from their experiential norms and rarely try anything new (meat and potatoes type). Explorer is always looking for new things, and will try just about anything. They are also the ones who are caught up on all their shots and know what on the menu can kill you. Conservatives like to try new things within a margin of "I'v heard this is good I shoudl try it just for the experience."

10. Sharers. Americans LIKE To share. Omg whether it is dinner or our personal lives, everything is fair game. Are you going to eat that french fry? These are the best mushrooms I've ever tasted, want to try? OMG this is terrible, want to taste? Have you ever done THAT with the rabbit? This one time at band camp ...

11. Dress Americane. So not our fault. We grew up with a certain style, and it is completely dependent on where you grew up and who you hung out with. I think that is relatively true of cultures in general. We do have our staples though: Jeans, ball caps, flip flops, shorts, sneakers (white esp.), and track suits (esp. on international flights b/c they are so darn comfy).

12. Pop culture. We are the embodiment of pop culture. On some level and american has a complete saturation. I, for example, am a big kid: (1) video games, (2) movies, (3) anime, (4) sports, (5) TV. I'm ADD, possibly ADHD, so I've an excuse for being 'so well rounded' but an american by fault has some pop culture exposure.

Hmm, this went longer than I thought, and dinner is ready. I'll fingure out a creative 12 step program later. It is clear though, that Americans are a marked people. We don't necessary stick out, but we really are everywhere. It is not necessarily a bad thing to be notes as an American, but it usual a prejudicial point. Talk soon


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