Nationality Identification

Jan 8th, 2007, 03:38 PM
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 11,754
Only twice has anyone given me a hard time for being American, both in London. Once (long ago) in my salad days, a perfectly strange man stopped me on the street and asked me, "Why do you American girls all look alike?" I was stunned.

The other time occurred in 2001, at a newstand when I was trying to buy a newspaper without the picture of the bosomy woman on the third page. (I don't know, maybe that was offensive.) I picked "The Guardian," and when I asked the newsman how much it cost, a bystander said, "10 pounds. All you Americans are rich, aren't you?"

Pretty strange, since I'm a retired school teacher and am able to travel only by skimping on other things.

I don't dislike being identified as American. I think there are stereotypes about how Americans act, and I've seldom seen Americans or any other specific nationality act out those stereotypes.
Pegontheroad is offline  
Jan 8th, 2007, 03:42 PM
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Not all. I am a citizen of the US, but my accent is Russian. When asked, I always say I'm from San Francisco.

What is there to hide? You don't like the US politics? I don't care. I am a mother, let's talk about children
FainaAgain is offline  
Jan 8th, 2007, 03:51 PM
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I don't pretend I'm not an American but I remember back in my college days (early 1990s) I was warned about the high anti-American sentiments in foreign countries. I've never encountered any but then again, I've never pretended to be not American (or maybe because I'm Asian by heritage, and don't "look" American whatever that is).
Kealoha is offline  
Jan 8th, 2007, 04:39 PM
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The attempt at masquerade is largely limited to girlie-men.

I disagree, tomboy. I think a lot of it stems from the females who desire to "look European", or try to fit in and look like a native born Italian French woman. You see so much on these threads about how to dress and what do the European women wear.
I am an American, I don't try to blend in, I'm on vacation and I enjoy it. I have never had a single problem with anyone in Italy; they have always treated us warmly and very well.
2Italy is offline  
Jan 8th, 2007, 04:54 PM
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Interesting question. I don't try to hide that I'm an American but then I also don't try to highlight it either.

Part of it may be my military background and the fact that I was stationed in Germany 90-93 and travelled a lot for my job especially to Turkey. We were cautioned not to call attention to ourselves and weren't even allowed to wear uniforms off base in Turkey at the time. And there were cases of American military personnel being attacked and one even killed. So, I still don't try to call attention to myself and I leave my US and TX flags at home when I travel.

I've frequently been mistaken for German....but only until I open my mouth and then there is no denying where I'm from. I suspect no matter what we do to try to "fit in", this is probably the case for most of us.

I have seldom encountered real rudeness in my travels....but maybe that's because I don't interpret people acting differently than they do at home as rude. I try to be polite and as bad as my French is, always use the basic pleasantries and never start speaking English until I at least try "pardonne, je ne parle pas le francais. Parlez vous l'anglais?"

I guess the bottom line is I don't mind being identified as an American but I don't want to be identified as rude or insensitive to the country I'm in.
carrolldf is offline  
Jan 8th, 2007, 05:05 PM
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I, unfortunately, have had an experience with an American pretending to be a Canadian. We were in the lineup at a museum in Rome waiting to check our bags (we weren't allowed to bring them inside) - the woman behind us noticed the Canadian flag on our backpack and asked us where in the States we were from. We explained that we were, in fact, Canadian. She proudly showed us the Canadian flag she'd pinned to her bag and said that she always tells people she's Canadian when she's traveling...
BikerScott is offline  
Jan 8th, 2007, 05:30 PM
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I actually can understand someone wanting to disguise the fact of being American given all the hatred of Americans right now due to the dislike of our current president and the war in Iraq. After all, it was New York that was attacked, not Ottawa.

Similarly, although I am Jewish, I never mention that fact abroad and I never carry religious jewelry overseas even hidden in luggage. We all remember the hijacked flight that ended in Entebbe, Uganda, where the Ugandans separated the Israelis (all Jews) and were going to dish out "special treatment" for them. With all the hatred in the Middle East, I am not pinning an American flag to my clothes or declaiming loudly that I am Jewish. No sense inviting trouble. My last name is sort of a dead give away as to religious identity but there are people of nonJewish background who have the same last name (Kahn).

I also recall that almost all my Eastern European family was erased in the Holocaust and the hatred of Jews--and blaming them for all the world's problems--does not seem to have diminished in some sectors.

At the same time, I have never told anyone I was Canadian and understand that Canadians may resent Americans doing that. Also, at the same time I do understand why someone would do it.
FauxSteMarie is offline  
Jan 8th, 2007, 05:36 PM
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And, another thing: I try to avoid political discussions when I am abroad. Actually, I try to avoid them at home because they change no one's mind and often end otherwish amiable relations, say, at work.

If someone starts the old "I hate Bush" discussion, I tell them I don't like him much either, but I am on vacation and really do not want to discuss politics. That sort of ends the discussion. I have to say, I have not had this experience much, but occasionally.

Same goes for religion. Less said, the better. You can always talk about the place you are in, the fact that you like sports, theater, music, etc., and have a nice discussion.
FauxSteMarie is offline  
Jan 8th, 2007, 05:41 PM
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I could not care less what/where/why/how people think of me, including (specially!) when I am on travel.

There is an American lady on this forum who posted a while back about always pretending to be a Canadian when on travel. To me, that's a disgusting American, loud or not....
Viajero2 is offline  
Jan 8th, 2007, 05:53 PM
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I think that all too often, people overseas are encountering THOSE tourists on a daily basis and it gives a bad impression of Americans. I try to make sure that people I meet in my travels know that I'm an American so that they don't think we're all just loud and obnoxious.

actually, except for a few exceptions, americans do not make for a large percentage of tourists in europe. most of this talk harkens back decades ago when europeans were more insular and americans were the only large numbers who had money to travel to europe. this made for somewhat of a culture clash. most tourists in europe were americans. far from the case today. there are many eastern europeans and others that now get the notice in western europe. americans are more like europeans than some of the other tourists here from india, bangladesh, africa, china, etc.

now, americans are not so exotic, other nationalities are travelling more and basically the world is converging.

nobody really notices foreigners in europe. for some reason americans love to think that they will either be loved or hated. maybe some people's egos can't face the truth that they will be met with indifference.

as for walking around with an agenda to teach europeans what americans are really like...that's a waste of time and quite patronising. just be yourself rather than trying to be an ambassador trying to dispel myths that have largely already been dispelled decades ago.
walkinaround is offline  
Jan 8th, 2007, 06:00 PM
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I have been asked three separate times to provide Canadian lapel pins for US travelers to Europe, A fruitless exercise I am afraid because the jig would be up as soon as they asked them the 3 standard questions:
1. How many states in Canada?
2. Who is the president of Canada?
3. What is a double-double?
robjame is offline  
Jan 8th, 2007, 06:11 PM
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A double-double? Is that like a Big Mac?

I have no problem being an American in Europe. I find the people to be very friendly, helpful, and they certainly do appreciate my "dollars."
Budman is offline  
Jan 8th, 2007, 06:31 PM
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This is one funny thread. I'm very happy to be an American, and when asked where exactly, I'm happy to say "Texas". Sure, there's plenty of stereotypes (we don't all wear cowboy hats or ride horses to work, really!) no matter where you're from. And no matter where you go, if you simply use the commonsense politeness you would employ at a dinner party you will be fine. Don't declaim on politics, religion, or sex; don't behave in a loud or obnoxious manner or comment audibly on your surroundings, the food, or other's clothing. I don't mind being identified as an American and when some folks are rude enough to start in on politics I just say, well, I may not like your leaders, either, but I like Italians/Germans/British. And then propose a tost to the local drink of choice. No problem. People will always raise a glass with you!

My last time in Italy we noticed a large American woman. She attracted our attention not so much because of the colorful print on her matching leggings and oversized T-shirt but because she very vocally insisted on a bottle of Diet Coke with her dinner instead of the wine and she didn't want the lamb that was the featured meal for that evening (it was a very small locanda).
I'll admit, I cringed a little. Why people travel to other places and then want everything to be exactly the same as at home, I just don't understand.

Presumably we travel to enjoy new experiences (and better appreciate what we come home to) and common courtesy should be practiced everywhere.
cupid1 is offline  
Jan 8th, 2007, 06:58 PM
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Don't mess around with Texas!
PalenqueBob is offline  
Jan 8th, 2007, 07:04 PM
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Justified or not, assumptions are made about every nationality. And religion. And political affiliation. Even about one's alma mater.

One of the joys of travel for me is being reminded that in the big picture, those things aren't the most important parts of our identities.
LucieV is offline  
Jan 8th, 2007, 07:19 PM
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I don't care for our current president, but I'm not ashamed to be an American. I never pretend to be anything other than what I am. That said, I do try to travel under the radar. I'll never look like a European -- too tall, not slender, and clearly a caucasian ethnic mutt. I just try to dress in an unobtrusive manner so as not to call undue attention to myself and work on being polite and considerate so that when I inevitably get "outed", I make a pleasant impression. I've been treated rudely about twice in all my travels, at least that I knew about, and who cares about the times I don't know about (if they were laughing about me behind my back, or in front of my back in their own language)? I figure I must be doing something right.
RoadCrazy is offline  
Jan 9th, 2007, 02:29 AM
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"I'll never look like a European -- too tall, not slender, and clearly a caucasian ethnic mutt."

Is there a certain way Europeans look like? And what on earth is "a caucasian ethnic mutt"?
elina is offline  
Jan 9th, 2007, 02:51 AM
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"We all remember the hijacked flight that ended in Entebbe, Uganda, where the Ugandans separated the Israelis (all Jews) and were going to dish out 'special treatment' for them."

- On a point of detail, while the hijackers were supported by Uganda's president Idi Amin, they were actually Germans from the Baader-Meinhof Gang and members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

I also remember the bravery of the French captain and crew who, when the hijackers gave them the chance to be evacuated, refused to desert their passengers.
Neil_Oz is offline  
Jan 9th, 2007, 03:37 AM
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You could always ask the "Canadian" what is the last letter of the alphabet ;-)

We have all cringed at the antics of some of our fellow countrymen. The trouble is that the obnoxious ones are the ones you notice.
MissPrism is offline  
Jan 9th, 2007, 04:00 AM
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Hi BS,

>.... the woman behind us noticed the Canadian flag on our backpack and asked us where in the States we were from.<

That is terrific.

ira is offline  

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