On looking "American"

Jul 10th, 2001, 10:16 AM
  #1  
noname
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On looking "American"

There have been a couple of threads lately about people worried about looking like an unsophisticated American when traveling in Europe, as if that were something to be ashamed of. I had an interesting conversation recently with my next door neighbor, who is originally from France. I have always been somewhat in awe of him, being from the land of my fantasies, until he brought me down to Earth when I asked why he would leave paradise to live in Suburbia, U.S.A. What followed was a half hour rant about plumbing, telephones, service, groceries, roads, drivers, hygiene and a few other things in French that I didn't catch. He ended up with something to the effect of "it's paradise allright, fool's paradise." I guess I won't worry about my white tennies anymore!
 
Jul 10th, 2001, 10:22 AM
  #2  
Ess
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The grass is always greener on the other side - I wouldn't worry about the white tennies one way or the other.
 
Jul 10th, 2001, 10:46 AM
  #3  
xxx
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Same story from my transplanted French friend. While Americans complain about having no (vacation) time, he said the French have plenty of it -- but no money to do anything. He was able to come to the U.S. and earn the money he wanted, then complain about having no time, like the rest of us!
 
Jul 10th, 2001, 10:58 AM
  #4  
Sjoerd
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It is all about personal preferences. I have Dutch friends who went to the US and are happy there, and I have American friends who live here in Amsterdam and are happier here.
Let's forget about the stereotypes. Wear what you want as long as you respect local cultures. Be nice to the people at home and abroad. Be open to people who do things differently.
 
Jul 10th, 2001, 10:59 AM
  #5  
Judy
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noname: to each his own, I always say! Isn't it wonderful! Ess: I
agree with the grass is always greener motto......ya never know?
Judy ;-)
 
Jul 10th, 2001, 11:04 AM
  #6  
mark
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Many of the threads about "looking American" were really more about fear of being robbed / pickpockted / accosted. I'm sure some posters will say that those are legitmate concerns - and they are - but so many of the posts border are paranoid I wonder how these people enjoy their trip while on it. No wonder they have to take pictures to look at when they get home because they're being ever vigilant against that roving group of gypsie children.
Of course there are also the fashionistas - AKA: the fashion police. They want to appear sophistcated - read elitest. They go on their 2 week vacation throwing airs of being of so sophicticated (I never wear jeans! Tennis shoes? What are those?) then go back to their middle class suburban life. I don''t have a problem with suburban life - what I have a problem with are people who put on airs. I've been around crass crude well-to-do educated people and I have been around poor dignified people - I've also been around dignified well-to-do people and appalling trash ( who are quite interesting in a peverse sort of way )
As numerous posters have said - politeness will work its magic whether you're wearing Prada or white tennis shoes.
 
Jul 10th, 2001, 11:34 AM
  #7  
wes fowler
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Found this wonderful quote of John Adams in David McCullough's brilliant new biography. In response to a young man's query as to what sort of manners he should cultivate prior to a European trip, Adams said:

"..permit me to take the liberty of advising you to cultivate the manners of your own country, not those of Europe. ...the more decisively you adhere to a manly simplicity in your dress, equipage, and behavior, the more you devote yourself to business and study, and the less to dissipation and pleasure, the more you will recommend yourself to every man and women..whose friendship or acquaintance is worth your having or wishing. There is an urbanity without ostentation or extravagance which will succeed everywhere and at all times. ...I know that some younger gentlemen have come to Europe with different sentiments and have consequently injured the character of their country as well as their own."
 
Jul 10th, 2001, 11:41 AM
  #8  
Bob Brown
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Short of growing a beard, shaving my head, and dressing up like a man from Saudi Arabia, I don't know what I could do to disguise my national origins.
Also, I don't know what my wife could do short of similar extreme measures.
One day we were hiking in the Swiss Alps. During a breathing pause we were standing off to the side of the trail. Another hiker passed us from behind. As we walked past, he said in English to my wife, "Your pack is unfastened." I don't think he could have heard us talking because he was moving right along.
But somehow he knew without much doubt that she was an American.
She had on hiking boots, hiking slacks made of a quick drying material that is commonly seen in hiking centers, an ordinary blue shirt, and a black Seattle Sombrero that she got from LL Bean. Her pack is a standard black day pack. Was it the hat?
In build, my wife is 5'9" and around 140 pounds. So I don't know.
 
Jul 10th, 2001, 12:21 PM
  #9  
phil
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If you want to look like a European just wear one of those riduculous "Banana Hammock" bathing suits. Fat guys in bikini briefs - a truely European look!
 
Jul 10th, 2001, 12:40 PM
  #10  
mikeycora
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What is looking American? My rule of thumb is wear what I wear to work on dress down Friday's. I love Europe and respect the culture of every country but we read so much on this thread of dressing American. Would you wear tennis shoes, black socks, shorts and a t-shirt to the mall? If you do wear it in Europe and you'll be a dumb --- in both countries.
 
Jul 10th, 2001, 12:45 PM
  #11  
chuck
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Hey Mikeycora,

Boy that was close! But for my white socks instead of black, I guess I'd be just another dumb*ss (although I rarely go to a mall--guess I'm not ready for that heightened level of intellectual endeavor yet).
 
Jul 10th, 2001, 12:57 PM
  #12  
YS
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I think it's not about American, it's about tasteless. Americans have a greater degree to tolerance for this then Europeans, though...
 
Jul 10th, 2001, 01:09 PM
  #13  
chuck
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YS,

Is there a universal handbook of tastefulness? If so, I must have missed that. When fashion becomes a value, I think we're all in trouble.
 
Jul 10th, 2001, 01:45 PM
  #14  
YS
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Chuck,

Tastefullness can not be tought; it has to be sensed. It also depends on one's perseption, culture and background, but there are some more or less common things... for example, you may not want to wear blue bright pants and and bright green sweater. Simplest exmplanation - it just doesn't look good, but theoretically we can talk about the harmony of colors and the implications that they have on one's ability to recognize and distict colors and hot this ability affects the brain...
 
Jul 10th, 2001, 02:17 PM
  #15  
xxxxx
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THIS tired old CRAP again !!!!!
Wear whatever you like, others don't like it ? Tough Shit.
 
Jul 10th, 2001, 02:34 PM
  #16  
xxx
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I don't think the original poster intended fashion to be the gist of this thread- It seems to be more about the more sophisticated than thou attitude copped by some Europeans.
 
Jul 10th, 2001, 03:03 PM
  #17  
Capo
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noname, to be sure, many people from various European countries choose to move to the United States. (But I'm equally sure that quite a few U.S. citizens choose to move to various European countries.) Just because your French neighbor prefers the U.S. to his homeland hardly means that's the prevailing attitude among French people. We all value different things in different ways.

Personally, I'm not ashamed of looking like an American. I just prefer to *try* to look as least like a tourist as possible in order to, hopefully, not be such an obvious target for pickpockets.
 
Jul 10th, 2001, 05:45 PM
  #18  
nospam
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Noname- That reminds me of a conversation I had once with a colleague from India. He was well educated, spoke several languages, and could have lived anywhere in the world he chose. When I asked him why he lived in the rude, crude, violent U.S. instead of the land of my lust (Europe) he looked at me like I just sprouted another head. He told me something like "it's important and interesting to study the past, but I don't want to live there. The future is in the Americas and the East." When you think about it, isn't that why most Americans go to Europe? If it wasn't for the history, it would lose a lot of it's appeal, for me anyway. I guess the moral of the story is, don't worry about what those snooty ol' Europeans think, they're not exactly playa's on the world scene anymore anyway.
 
Jul 10th, 2001, 08:38 PM
  #19  
wanderlust
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Just as I wouldn't bring a box of Nutrigrain bars to eat for breakfast in Paris, I wouldn't bring my trainers to wear in Milan. Just because it's familiar and comfortable, doesn't mean it's inherently better. If we choose to spend our hard earned American dollars to eat and live for just a few weeks as a European, why not dress like one and truly try to blend in? It doesn't mean you're embarassed by your homeland. It's just another way to enjoy your holiday. None of should have to apologize for immersing ourselves in the host country's culture in how we eat, drink, or dress.(And be still, those of you ready to jump on the 'camera and language' argument. If you just walk quiety down the street and soak up the city, you can blend in as much as you like.) If you dress like you do at home, that's your choice. But hold your tongue rather than mocking those travellers who put some thought into their appearance. It's just one more facet of their memorable trip.
 
Jul 10th, 2001, 10:43 PM
  #20  
no spam
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One thing is that when Americans travel, they want everything to be "American" -- the false friendliness, the gulped down dinners and lunches, the casual attitudes, and the prevailing idea that "everyone speaks English, they just don't WANT to." Americans look at Europe as a huge Epcot Center, and treat it as such.

Is life better in the US? Yes and no -- sometimes it's nice going out in sweats, but it's also nice to get a little "dressed". Sometimes all you want is a quick meal, but sometimes it's nice to sit down and enjoy the food (but then again, not all American food is all that enjoyable, so the faster you gulp it down, the less you notice how bad it is). Service wise? Gee, in France your prescription is filled when you hand in your request (no "when do you want to pick it up?", or "it'll take an hour"). A pharmacist applied bandages to my blisters (didn't just take my money and tell me to have a nice day). Stores have been turned upside down to find the right color, size, etc.

And if you're h*ll bent on being "American" wherever you go, you miss out on some of what makes other countries great -- tourist menus are always more expensive and the food is tailored to "American tastes." Though I will grant you, there are some "local" dishes that aren't making it past these eyes... :-0

And Americans are seen as stomping anyone that gets in their way -- from the political people down to the tourists. Most European countries have been invaded at one time or another (and many times) and are fierce about protecting their identities and cultures -- Americans are so diluted now (everyone's a "something-American"), Americans have to fall back on being the "biggest", "richest", etc. And tourists' attitudes reflect that.

Ashamed to be American? No, but I am ashamed of the stereotypes that American tourists perpetuate.
 

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