It has been just over two weeks since I arrived in Australia. I have made friends with people of so many different nationalities – Swedish, Dutch, French, German, quite a few Canadians, and people from many different Asian countries.
In talking to all of these people I have realized now more than ever what a bad name America and Americans have in most other countries. Everyone that I’ve met has told me that America is pretty much a big joke in their respective country. Or, if not a joke, we’re thought of as bullies, egocentric, or just not-too-bright when it comes to world news. One Canadian girl told me that in Canada they have a television show where the host will go up to random Americans on the street and ask them questions which they should know, but the vast majority of the Americans asked do not know the correct answer. The show had a real ”are you smarter than an American” feel to it.
I also hear that many Americans who travel abroad will tell the people they meet that they are actually from Canada, and they’ll wear a Canadian flag on their backpack so people don’t assume that they’re American and harass them. I personally think that is silly, and I wouldn’t do it – I’m not going to lie about where I’m from. I haven’t really had anyone bother me for being American, but they have looked at me with pity or remarked with a hint of disgust “Oh, you’re from America huh?”
So I can’t help asking, why is this the case? Why do Americans have such a bad name outside of America? Ok, we definitely do like to throw our weight around in the world, and many Americans don’t know as much about what’s going on in the world as they do about whom Jennifer Aniston currently is dating. In fact, even though I try to stay pretty informed with world politics, I still don’t seem to know as much as the people here do.
I am proud to be an American, but I feel like we need to work on our image in the world. I don’t think Americans who travel abroad should have to feel ashamed to tell people that they are from America. Maybe what we really need are for more Americans to travel abroad – to help give our country a better name. I have still only met one American since I’ve arrived here… Unless all the Canadians I’ve met are lying.