WHAT? How Did They Know I Was an American?

I am proud to be an American. That is true whether I agree with all the political decisions and policies of the United States or not.

Also another qualifier is, yes… Latin America, Central America, and South America, I know you are Americans too.

I am talking about the United States of America, those who are most often envied, and revered as Americans. But along with that feeling can be outright anger and disgust of Americans. People are people, and sometimes someone before us has made the bad impression that is hard to change.

So, that being said, there may be reasons you want to downplay everything that screams AMERICAN.

One reason may be to blend in socially. Another reason is to not stand out as a target for crime. This is different in different countries to some degree. I did not feel a need to hide the fact that I am an American when I was an expat with my husband in Sweden for 9 months. But, I did learn some ways the Swedes could tell I was American, even before I spoke.

Here are some dead giveaways of an American.

1. T-SHIRTS or BASEBALL CAPS with American sports teams, or cities. However this is changing some. It is not unusual to meet someone who is native to the country you are visiting, and they have a shirt on with a US university emblem, but they have never been there.

2. SHORTS, especially gym shorts are frowned upon. Some of the young will wear shorts, but in most foreign countries they are not considered proper attire. Longer Bermuda type shorts, and capris are okay. In some countries it is okay for men to wear long shorts without being considered of ill repute, but not for women.

3. BOXER TYPE SWIM SHORTS will give you away as an American in many countries. Ironic as this is, the less modest Speedos for men is what will make you blend … in a foreign country on the beach. I guess you will have to decide on this one. How important is it to you? Oh and little girls up until puberty do not wear swimming tops. There are some places tops are optional for women, but it is not as common as it once was. Anyway, don’t stare.

4. Walking on the street in WHITE GYM SHOES, and white socks will give you away. In most foreign countries these are for the gym only. Citizens of the country will know you are American. No one else wears shoes like these on the street. Even special Gravity Defyer, Comfort Shoes, which are a must for comfortable walking are available in styles other than gym shoes.

5. DIAMOND RINGS, or other elaborate rings. In many foreign countries the receipt of a diamond as an engagement ring is not traditional. (In Sweden, and engagement ring looked like a wedding band.) This is nothing to do with income level, but with tradition. So, diamonds can set you up as known as an American, assumed rich and a target for theft.

6. “ALL DECKED OUT” with several cameras around your neck, a passport, and a tour name badge. Then pull out a tour book and map in the middle of the sidewalk and stop. What more of an invitation do you need to give a criminal. Travel as light as possible. Only bring the camera out when you are going to take a picture. If you need to consult a map or tour book try finding a public place, but out of the way of other people walking.

7. Peeling a BANANA the wrong way. US Americans are the only ones in the world that peel a banana from the stem section. The rest of the world peels a banana by pressing on the bottom with their thumb, and easily peeling the skin away. Those strings on the banana will come off better too. Let them guess if you are an American, peel your banana upside down. (At least upside down is what we Americans think.)

8. LOUDNESS in public. As Americans we are used to speaking loud and being in noisy places. I consider the Greeks and Italians loud, but in most other countries there is more of a quiet, peacefulness. This is especially true of Scandinavian countries. You really notice it in restaurants.

9. Most of us have to live with the give-away of LANGUAGE. Even if you know a few phrases of the country’s language, you will most likely be awkward. But be aware, even if you are very fluent in the foreign language, and you are American, you will most likely say “um” when you first begin to speak. Other countries and other languages don’t use “um”.

10. While American TV has brought many PHRASES, and SLANG to other countries. One expression that we overuse is “love”. Not in the sense of where love is really deserved, but we “love” everything. I “love” that color, I “love” that top, I “love” the sunset. Other cultures use the word more sparingly, and reserve it for most appropriate circumstances.

11. Our FASHIONS or lack of fashion consciousness can point us out as American. In 2012 when I was in Sweden, I found the Swedes to be very fashion conscious. So much so, that it was obvious if someone was from someplace else. I met two American women while I was there. They had lived there more than 10 years, and could speak the language fluently. When we got together one day we were all wearing jeans with wider legs than was the current trend. We overheard a couple young men say “look at those Americans”. We also had gym shoes on. Hmm...

12. WATER served at the beginning before ordering is not the norm. But when it is served, the standard is sparkling or with gas. If you want water we are most used to, don’t say plain water. It is “still” water. Also, give up on the ice. If you ask for lots of ice you may get 3 cubes.

13. There is no such thing as a QUICK MEAL at a restaurant. Leisure and slower service is the norm because meals are suppose to be leisurely. Don’t show your impatience. It is something hard to get used to, but they are not giving bad service in most cases. Just the normal way.

14. Don’t ask for your PIZZA to be CUT. If you do, they will come with a table knife and fork, and just cut it in small bite size pieces. AND be amazed at how lazy and entitled Americans are. Pizzas are usually served whole, and you cut it as you eat. Also a 14” pizza is usually the largest you can get. Most food portions are smaller than in the US.

15. TIPPING 15 to 20% can be offensive, and will certainly say you are an ignorant American. Servers get paid a higher wage and are not dependent on tips. If a tip is not left, often that is okay. But, if you want to show you are pleased with the food and service 10% is appropriate. Any more will say either you think the server is of a lower class than you, or that you are just ignorant.

There you have it! You know how I know this? I have made most of these mistakes.
Are you surprised by any of these? Can you add to this list?

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Until next time!
Globe Trottin Granny

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About Kathleen

Kathleen Couch is aka Globe Trottin' Granny. Sharing experiences of the people and places anywhere she trots in the world. The aim of the blog is not to just show travel pictures, but to share how the global community is alike, as well as different. Also, the blog is meant to encourage people to "move out of their comfort zone".

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