10 Things You’ll Discover as an American Abroad

Being an American abroad can be difficult and frustrating at times but it can also be very interesting and fun. I’ve lived 2 countries aside from the USA and both had differing opinions. In Korea, they loved us but in England, not so much.

People from all over the world have varying opinions on what Americans are like based on what they hear in the news and see on TV. There are also a slew of documentaries which pick out issues in America ranging from gun violence to our prescription pill addiction to our cults and serial killers. It’s easy for people in other countries to watch these and assume we’re all gun toting drug addicts who hate black people. As an American, I know this is not the case and I even find it hard to relate to these claims because where I come from is very suburban, safe and normal. What I try to tell people when they claim Americans are the worst people on Earth is that there’s 300 million of us, so you cannot generalize an entire nation based on a handful of news stories. People love to throw out the comment about Walmart selling guns. Well, maybe some do but the one near my house doesn’t. So right there, I’m able to help clear our name. I’ve put together a little list of 10 things I’ve discovered about being an American abroad.

1. People assume you are stupid and will mock you.

This one annoys me the most. They saw that clip of that beauty queen years ago answering the question about maps and just think we’re a country full of morons. Yes, there’s a lot of unintelligent people in America but there’s a lot of unintelligent people all over the world. Most countries (aside from Australia, Russia, etc) are smaller than most of our states. So while 2 countries can have the same percentage of people under a certain IQ, in America it will equate to a much larger number of people.
The mocking of the accent I find to be rude too. It’s how we talk, deal with it. If you don’t like it, don’t talk to us!

2. People are fascinated by you.

A couple years ago, while living in London, I attended a meet up for Americans who lived here. Weirdly, there were a good amount of British people who turned up. Their reason was that they love Americans. They liked how open, opinionated and blunt we are. They also admired our friendliness and had the assumption that we are all go-getters.

Since then, I’ve developed a love for a certain group of people as well (Kiwis). But at the time of attending this event, I thought it was very strange that people would be interested in Americans and be seeking them out to make friends.

Koreans were slightly more interested in Americans, but mostly to get help with their English. But in Africa is where I found the biggest fascination with us.

Upon an enjoying an evening out in Zanzibar Old Town, we had chatted with some of the local youth. We wanted to get a sense of what their lives were like here and what sort of things they aspired to be when they grew up. They all asked to be taken back to America with us under the assumption that they would be able to be millionaires and famous instantly. Even after trying to explain that this probably wouldn’t happen, they didn’t actually believe us.

I also have a Polish friend who told me how she has always loved Americans really likes how confident we are and is really interested in our upbringings. She also mentioned that Americans are just ‘cooler’ than everyone else.

We are pretty fucking cool, aren’t we?

3. It’s hard to make friends.

You would think with Americans’ friendly nature it would be easy to make friends but it’s actually the opposite. You tend to come across as overbearing and intrusive when you try to get to know people. Often times I find myself treading lightly as to not ask a potential friend anything too personal for fear they may terminate the friendship before it even begins. We’re a lot more vocal with our feelings and that puts people off. We also are more upfront and outspoken which people tend to shy away from.

And Americans don’t inherently flock to each other either in the way Kiwis and Irish people do. I think it may be because we’re a bit territorial. I like being the only American around. In fact, I work with 2 other Americans in London and I disliked them almost instantly. It could also be because there’s a certain type of American abroad which I find immensely irritating. It’s the type of American who travels or moves away from home and has this sense of snobbery about them and everything American is beneath them. Like gimme a fucking break, you grew up on Easy Cheese so how dare you turn your nose up and only eat ‘fromage’ now?

4. You are constantly defending your country.

This especially holds true now with the currently election aftermath. But politics aside, I’m constantly bombarded with comments like ‘all Americans have rifles’, ‘all Americans are racist’, ‘all Americans have good teeth’. I take the last comment as a compliment but it’s still not true. Initially I felt like I was on a crusade to prove people wrong about Americans but after a while it’s just exhausting. Yes, Donald Trump is awful, so is Hillary. Yes, we have loose gun laws. Yes, cops have been killing black people. I just nod and say yes to all their gripes in hopes they will just shut up and leave me alone. I can’t defend America and it’s not my job to. So just leave me alone, will ya?

5. You have to deal with stupidity from home.

Sadly, most Americans have never left America. They don’t even have passports. For that reason, they don’t have a realistic idea of the world. They just go by what stereotypes they see on TV.

I had gone back to America after being in Korea for about 4 months to change my visa. I was invited to a friend’s party where I was blasted with possibly the stupidest questions on the planet. ‘How’s China?’ ‘Do you live on a rice field?’ and I had people asking me daily what I was eating while I was there. Of course they assumed I was eating dogs and cats because that’s what they do in Asia, right? I became so frustrated with the nonsense that I found it very difficult to maintain friendships with morons.
Now when I get asked questions like that, I just roll my eyes and walk away.

6. It enables you to experience social things which America would benefit from.

Growing up in America you assume that everything there is the best. You don’t even question the way things are. So imagine my surprise when I went to the doctor’s for the first time in Seoul and the visit cost me $3 and the medication cost me $5. I found myself seeing the doctor almost monthly so I could take advantage of a good bargain!

I was also shocked when I found out that healthcare in a lot of other countries was free and that you can get a year off of work if you had a baby. Some countries even gave you 30 days off a year for vacation and you didn’t have to use those days if you were ill or had a doctor’s appointment.

Why is America so behind??

7. You become more humble.

In America, you can have anything you want. A new iPhone, new shoes, enough food in one sitting to feed a small village, you name it. That’s not so much the case in some parts of the world, particularly the less developed nations. But weirdly these people seem to be a lot happier than us.

In Africa I witnessed families with small children who had incredibly happy lives but all they had was a roof over their head and each other. This made me realize how silly a lot of the things I stress about are. It doesn’t matter if someone doesn’t accept my friend request or how many likes I get on Instagram. As long as you’re healthy and happy, that’s all that should matter.

8. You have to learn to adjust to other cultures.

Never have I ever experienced a bigger culture shock than when I moved to the UK. On my first day in London, I was acting as much usual American self, speaking to cashiers, saying ‘good morning’ to people I passed on my walks, etc. This is normal in suburban south Florida, but not so much here. People were actually shocked that I was speaking to them, although some seemed pretty happy that a complete stranger was asking them about their day.

I slowly learned that Londoners do not speak to each other. So much so that they will actually sit in a very uncomfortable situation rather than speak up. They don’t want to cause a scene. They don’t even asking the waiter to modify their food order. They will simply just take the tomato off their sandwich and let it go to waste rather than ask for their meal without it. This is what British people consider to be a ‘scene’, asking the server for a modification.

I struggle with this the most, especially at work. It can be very difficult to keep your mouth shut when you find yourself stuck at a bad situation. I have gotten in trouble many times due to my outspokenness. And it’s frustrating as fuck! But I try my best as I am in their country so it’s only polite that I adhere to their customs and culture.

There’s other little things like in Korea, you have to take your shoes off before entering the house (which is so fucking annoying because it’s a pain to take off your shoes when you’re just popping in for a min), or in Egypt, as a woman, it’s probably best you wear a hijab so that you don’t stick out or attract unwanted attention.

9. It can be very frustrating.

Having grown up in any place will make you somewhat set in your ways. So while the excitement of visiting a new place is often interesting and refreshing, after a while it can be very frustrating.

I’ll give you a couple examples. As I mentioned earlier, British people don’t like talking to each other. And sometimes, it can be the most irritating thing in the world. One time, my British boyfriend offered to pick up some McDonald’s on the way home for me. As I cannot stand ketchup, I had asked for him to order me a cheeseburger without any. He then asked if I would have a chicken sandwich instead. His reasoning is that he wanted to order on the kiosk (which annoyingly doesn’t allow modifications) rather than speak to someone at the counter and ask for no ketchup on my burger. And as the chicken sandwich doesn’t come with ketchup, there was no need to cause a ‘scene’. I eventually gave in and got the sandwich but I was pissed as fuck. This example is exactly what British people are like and it is so fucking frustrating.

Another example of frustration abroad would be at the weekend when I went to the supermarket hoping to purchase all the groceries one would need for the week. I get to the store and not only is it so packed and busy that I felt I might injure myself, but they were also out of food. Not all of it, but things like broccoli, leeks, and other common vegetables. How are supermarkets not stocked with enough of these things?! Usually on weekdays around 6-6:30pm it’s like a free for all and a mad dash to grab the last pineapple or else you’ll starve. We do not have this problem in America. We have plenty of food, which may be why we are all so fat.

I also really can’t stand taking my shoes off before entering someone’s house which is common practice in most places. Not sure if I mentioned that?

10. You lose weight.

Because the portion sizes are smaller and the food just isn’t as good!

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