Americans Abroad

Discussion in 'Et Cetera, Et Cetera' started by db03, Feb 20, 2005.

  1. db03

    db03 Member

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    Was just wondering, that from an amercian point of view (im irish) do you feel less safe travelling internationally, and for those of you that do, do you feel that anti american sentiment is strong, especially in Europe?
     
  2. Altairion

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    I've never really travelled abroad, but I would really like to. As for anti-American sentiments, of course. I don't blame anyone for hating the leadership of our country, especially since I see Bush pointing the propaganda machine at Iran. I'd feel comfortable in most places in western Europe (which is where I'd really like to go), so unless something major comes up, I doubt I would ever change my plans to make it over someday.
     
  3. Dr Rock

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    last time I was in france (about 18 months or so ago) I did see a couple of instances of people behaving in an unforgivable, obviously politically-inspired, manner towards american visitors. on the whole it's the exception rather than the rule though. it's terribly trendy these days among the insecure and parochially-minded in europe to hate america and sneer at americans, but if it wasn't america they'd find something else to hate. those folks always do.
     
  4. Max

    Max New Member

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    I don't think Americans thinking of travelling need fear having a hard time in Western Europe; although these days there seem to be hardly any of them anywhere — the anxieties about security, I suppose, but maybe even more the weak dollar.

    People can usually distinguish between individuals and the governments they elect.

    Dr Rock: On the other side of this question, on my last trip to the US (in 2004, to the Midwest) I found myself in a heated debate with a 20 stone (280lb) local who had never been to France but claimed to know everything about it and damned the nation and all its inhabitants vociferously. I wasn't going to let that pass. An Englishman defending the French ... whatever next.
     
  5. SpeedoGuy

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    Just back home to the US from a couple of weeks in Germany, the UK and Switzerland.

    I was careful never to advertise my nationality but inevitably it became obvious at times. Even then, I was never personally treated rudely by my European hosts or their friends and family and such. Still, there were a couple of times when the Europeans didn't shy away from voicing dismay to me about about the direction America seems to be going politically, culturally, economically, militarily, etc.

    I chose not to take these criticisms personally and never became upset or defensive. Although my hosts were gracious, I can't deny it bothered me that the magazines on their coffee tables sometimes depicted images of Abu Ghraib or a callous Uncle Sam waging cruel war across the globe in pursuit of cheap pertroleum. I don't like it when the perception of America is that of arrogant and self centered bully.

    SG
     
  6. Altairion

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    While some people do not accept it speedo, that's really what it looks like from an outside view. To tell the truth, I supported Bush back in 2000. Now, however, I am actually afraid of what he has done with the power of the presidency. He has done serious damage to our country, our reputation, and to the countries of Iraq and Afghanistan.

    I'd be an idiot to say that terrorism should not be stopped, but Bush has gone around it swinging a plastic club like a 5 year old and tried to bully everyone into thinking that his ideas are the only correct ones out there. I would not be happy if someone tried to force me into his position, and I'm surprised that there are still countries that try to help support us.
     
  7. Dr Rock

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    yep. just goes to show than an asshole is an asshole whatever language they speak ^_^
     
  8. jonb

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    Yeah, but it's like drunk driving. Chirac tried to take the keys from Bush. Of course, we all know what happens when you take keys from a drunk.

    Quite frankly, when my friends do self-destructive things and push me away when I try to stop them, I'm pissed too.
     
  9. KinkGuy

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    We were in Europe last February for my big 50 birthday. The only really strong, open hostility was from a Brit in the bar of the gay hotel in Amsterdam where we were staying at the time. He wanted us to die horrible, painful, lingering deaths right there in front of him. He got so loud and aggressive that the hotel Mgr. threatened to throw him out if he persisted. We didn't start the conversation; he heard us talking to the bartender and launched his diatribe. We have traveled a lot and always work very hard to never be "ugly Americans" which has stood us in good stead in many countries and situations.

    The minute people we encountered in France, the UK, and Netherlands realized we were Americans (and you can't hide it) they brought up Iraq, bush & co., always in none to glowing terms. We learned a lot from them as they seemed, almost to a fault to know a whole lot more about what is going on in the world and the U.S. and the state of American politics (and history) than we do! They universally appreciated the discussion and our willingness to listen and they generally make a very clear distinction between the administration and the citizens.

    I can't imagine that it is any different now.

    Other than my partner getting mugged (also in Amsterdam) it was a glorious trip. Note to self....do not go to the Netherlands in February. Took 3 days for my balls to descend. Ice cubes fell out of the sky it was so fucking cold.
     
  10. SpeedoGuy

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    jon that's a very good analogy.

    SG
     
  11. Pene_Negro_Grande

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    I use to travel in Europe for work several years ago...I don't fear traveling there but definitely cautious not to offend anyone especially because of the language barriers...I have been lucky to have alot of international friends - and we travel together so I do feel safe w/someone who understands the culture and language...Actually trying to get to London and Spain this year...And I am of Carribean decent and a lot of people don't think I look American but definitely identify w/more American but love my island peeps...
     
  12. jay_too

    jay_too New Member

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    My British/American cousin has been visiting. His opinion of America, "My God, we think Blair is out of touch with reality. Bloody hell, that Bush is a danger to the world."

    Apparently, Americans traveling in Europe today are not as brash; they are trying to blend and are a little dressier than the American tourist icon, ya know, the guy in shorts, sandals, and a tee proclaiming "I Got Crabs at _______."

    I have not been to Europe in about 18 months...at the height of the Freedon Fries War. On a personal level, the French were always friendly and helpful. They did bemoan the national insults to America's traditional European allies as being passe and "Old Europe" and the unwise Iraq invasion. But then, I did too.

    jay
     
  13. Pene_Negro_Grande

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    Yeah - I definitely try to blend in the way I dress in Europe...Recently someone came up to me and said I looked like I was from Paris...I do like the Euro-Trash style look sometimes (LOL)...I really like Europeans though - they are way less uptight w/sexuality than Americans and cultural differences...Almost moved to Spain last year and still thinking about relocating to Europe in about a year or LA (I can't decide)...
     
  14. Imported

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    Banjax: I don't want to sound like a sour note here, but anyways...

    I live very close to a small coastal town called St Andrews, maybe you've heard of it? It really can show the worst of Americans abroad, I'm afraid. First they came for the golf, then came Wills...

    The most annoying aspect was the cultural ignorance that I personally encountered. Of course I know that this only applies to those people not all Americans, but people do love to generalise on the worst, so off we go...

    Firstly was the frankly odd belief that they could walk into any shop and pay in American Dollars. I did once enounter a gent carrying near $3000 with him on holiday. In cash. The most Pounds Sterling I've removed from these fair shores was a fiver that was change from buying my lunch on the Eurostar...

    Second was the blatant disregard for pavement etiquette. For the non-British out there this is the simple concept that two groups of people walking towards each other on a pavement not wide enough for them to pass as they are should form into two single-file columns and pass that way. The number of times I had to walk out into oncoming traffic! Britain is not America, we behave very differently... Sorry, the etiquette situation is a big thing for me. I feel I have a slight bit of social anthropologist in me... Just don't get me started on positive and negative politeness...

    On a more positive note (I don't want to come across as an American-basher) when I went to Paris just before starting uni, I ended up hanging about with a few Americans. Apart from a few totally stupid comments and concepts (Comment: "Should I go to Gare du Nord for trains to Italy?" Concept: "Let's find somewhere cheap to eat round the opera house area...") which I suppose anyone could make, they were perfectly nice people to talk to. Although I did share a moment of pan-European exasperation with a young girl at a crepe stall when one of the Americans asked for a ham and cheese crepe as well as a chocolate crepe. Just not done...

    So basically it boils down to this for Americans coming to Europe:
    1. Be prepared to find that most Europeans will have a wildly different world view than your government and media.
    2. The culture is different. This is especially important to note if visting Britain.
    3. Please don't use the word quaint.
    4. Yes, we have buildings that are much, much older than your country. Lots of them still have people in them.
    5. Dollars are not the currency.
    6. Looking like a stereotypical American tourist will cause aggrivation of the locals.
    7. Remember, in Britain we do not have "restrooms" or "bathrooms" in public buildings. They are called toilets. Bathrooms contain baths.
    8. Humour is all pervasive in British culture. If you're not British, you might not pick it up because we don't flag it up that we're being humourous.
    9. Scotland is not in England. London is not England. Edinburgh is not Scotland. Scotland is one third of the land mass of the UK, not a small village where everybody knows everybody else. Britain is not a picture postcard land of small cottages. Wales is a country attached to the west of England.
    10. I'm going to get pilloried for this post, probably...
    11. Or completely ignored.

    Apologies to all those that may have found this post either offensive or just plain confusing. It's not meant to be either...
     
  15. BobLeeSwagger

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    The only time I've been abroad recently was a business trip I took to the United Arab Emirates in April 2002, about six months after 9/11. We were already fighting in Afghanistan, but the Bush administration was only making loud noises about Iraq at that point. This was shortly after Arafat was basically put under siege by the Israelis, so this was the ongoing news story in the region at the time.

    The major cities in UAE -- Dubai and Abu Dhabi -- are very cosmopolitan and have many foreign workers, so I met numerous people from other parts of the region. Several of the employees at the company I was visiting were Palestinians, and they were eager to know what I thought about the situation there. I told them that I thought a Palestinian state would happen someday, but that Bush, Arafat and Sharon were not the people who would make it happen. They agreed. One explained that his family lived in Gaza and was in a pretty desperate situation. He was working in the UAE to send money home because there's no work there. On the other hand, he also recited the typical line about people turning to terrorism because they had no other alternative, and I rejected that as an easy mantra for those who prefer violence. One young man was from Syria, and the others introduced him jokingly (I think) as Hizbollah, a terrorist group based on Lebanon. They all laughed and he looked uncomfortable about it. I laughed with them and it seemed forgotten.

    Several of them were Lebanese expatriates that were also sending money home. One complained constantly about how hot it was in the Gulf and that Lebanon was far more comfortable. I asked him how things were back home, since the only news we ever get about that country is when there's a bombing. He said that since the civil war ended in 1990, things have gotten a lot better and he felt like they'd turned the corner. (Unfortunately I've lost contact with him, so I don't know what he thinks of the recent events in Beirut, or if he is living there now.) He and the Gazan were eager to talk about the Israel/Palestine situation with me and I obliged. They were under no illusions that Arafat would succeed; both considered him a crook, but he was the only leader they had. The Lebanese man was really into cars and was fascinated with my explanations of the cars we had vs. the cars there, the different names, etc. His girlfriend was living in Canada at the time and he was eager to visit here there. I told him to buy a heavy coat because it's colder there than any place he's been before.

    In one office I was briefly accosted by an Iranian man who wanted to make sure I knew where he was from and that no American could tell him what to do. (This was about ten weeks after the "axis of evil" speech.) Through my translator I told him that I had no quarrel with him personally, that I ate an Iranian meal for dinner the night before and that my mother has gone to an Iranian-born hairdresser for more than 20 years. I then told him that often our leaders don't speak for us, a concept he was very familiar with. He didn't become friendly, but he seemed satisfied that he'd gotten his point across.

    The most fascinating conversation was with one of the local bureaucrats, who had visited the U.S. as a foreign exchange student in his youth. He was very disappointed in Bush at the time because he said the hope there had been that he would put pressure on Israel like his father did. I told him that he should forget about that happening because, for better or worse, Bush was the anti-Clinton. Anything Clinton cared about, Bush would ignore. At one point he said that Americans would understand their side better if the U.S. media wasn't controlled by the Jews. Rather than respond to that, I quickly changed the subject. He was highly amused by the whole Clinton/Lewinsky scandal. "So he fucks a girl? What man does not do this?"

    Overall, I was treated very well there and the famous Arab hospitality lived up to its reputation. Some were more eager to discuss politics than others, but I was welcomed everywhere I went. There was no overt hostility from anyone and many of them were more curious than anything else. The biggest difficulty for me was that I don't like coffee or tea, drinks that are served to every visitor at every office or home in the region and of course it's rude to refuse it. I drank it anyway. I admit that I would not be as optimistic about visiting that part of the world right now though, what with the whole Iraq situation going on.
     
  16. jonb

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    jon that's a very good analogy.
    [post=284915]Quoted post[/post]​
    [/b][/quote]
    That's what the Europe and the U.S. essentially are. It's ironic that, in my case, I'm considered the more conservative of the group by trying to take away their keys. I guess things are more Orwellian on a geopolitical scale.
     
  17. Max

    Max New Member

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    Banjax,

    It sounds as if you must be from the Kingdom of Fife; my grandfather was born there, but apart from various forays to the north-east of England in each generation by now we are all soft southerners in this family, I am afraid. Though we have one son currently braving the rigours of a winter in Canada.

    I have experienced some of what you say, but many Americans are very keen indeed to blend in, and put a lot of hard work into so doing, almost too much. Even to the extent of not saying "Edinburrow". And I think being Brits with our unique talent for self-denigration we have to acknowledge that our own compatriots en masse in certain places abroad do not come across very well. And what a typically British understatement that is. But maybe it applies much more to us south of the border than to you, hence all the "Ecosse" car plates.
     
  18. zzorus

    zzorus New Member

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    My take on this ( big generalization looming) is that I have met three types of Americans ( from the USA) abroad:
    1) those who have not have not had much experience of life outside their lives in the USA. They may have been to x number of countries on tours, but they have always had a USA type experience there: they ( and this is speaking generally throughout this post) find wherever it is " quaint" " or" not like home": ie this is much worse than I expected/am used to. Usually this comes across as a totally negative put down of wherever they are.

    2) those who appreciate the social/cultural differences of wherever they are

    3) those who totally throw themselves into the local culture

    So three gross stereotypes, but this is what I have observed as a non-American in Sri Lanka, Australia, India, Malayasia, Indonesia, Thailand.

    I do have absolutely delightful, wonderful American friends.They do tend to agree with me that Americans who have not travelled outside their ( however defined) cultural comfort zones are fairly insular.

    No offence intended.

    zzorus
     
  19. ponybilt

    ponybilt Member

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    I've done a lot of international travel both before and after 11 Sep 2001.

    A comment above stating something to the effect that, an asshole is an asshole, regardless of neationality is so true.

    An incident in Greece in '97 made this very clear to me. A Greek woman in Athens made a very rude attempt to cut in front of a long queue of people waiting for taxis. When I pointed out, politely, that the end of the line was several steps back, she began shouting and used the infamous, "ugly American." I try to be sensitive to local cultures and customs, but she was simply rude. Otherwise, I haven't been to Europe since then.

    I travel as adventure, to learn about other cultures and people. I'm not conspicuously American (you can tell Americans by their shoes :D ) and have often been mistaken for French, which I speak nearly fluently, or German, but I have a much better sense of humor ;)

    As far as the fear factor, I guess I'd say that for me it's more of a realistic amount of caution rather than fear. I don't expose my passport until I'm at the desk/window of the customs agent; I remain very aware of my surroundings; I don't frequent typical local sites, rather opting for out-of-the-way destinations, etc.

    Even if I go to countries that may have issues with Americans, or peripheral fallout from civil strife, I'm rather low key: I'm there as a tourist and a guest.

    I was in Rio de Janeiro in Aug 2002, and the tourism -- even for the low season -- was incredibly depressed. Brazil generally has no problems with Americans or the US, but the local crime and political problems were something I was hyper-aware of as a someone travelling alone with only a limited Portuguese vocabulary to get me by.

    In Nov 2003, I was in Singapore and Bali. Singapore has a large number of Muslims and sentiment seems to be mixed toward the US and Americans. I felt not only safe, but a bit "under the microscope" in that the government is even more Orwellian than our own administration. Bali was still reeling from the bombings and tourism was still down more than 50 percent. Friends and I stayed in a completely different part of the island and security was incredibly tight everywhere. Bali was targeted primarily because of its Hindu majority in a Muslim-dominated nation and it just so happened that a large number of foreigners were there as easy, drunken targets.

    On Sunday, I'm headed to Singapore (I have American friends working there, a gay couple), and we're going to travel through Cambodia and Viet Nam. I don't anticipate any problems. I'm a sightseer and guest, and I act appropriately.

    Of course there's always a bit of concern, but should I be more worried about avian flu or anthrax? Street crime or a suicide bomber? Jet lag or politcal communism? Montezuma's revenge or Islamic jihad? It's all relative, and while I'm cautious about it all, it's really no different than living life in my own city.

    There are lots of other places I want to visit, including Iceland, the Scandinavian countries, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Scotland, India, Costa Rica, etc. And when I do, I won't be afraid but I will be cautious.
     
  20. Imported

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    Banjax:


    Indeed I am. The furthest north part of it no less!

    <!--QuoteBegin-Max
    @Feb 22 2005, 06:33 AM
    And I think being Brits with our unique talent for self-denigration we have to acknowledge that our own compatriots en masse in certain places abroad do not come across very well.
    [post=285250]Quoted post[/post]​
    [/quote]

    Yes. Large gangs of lager louts roaming the Costas and Balearics are a disgusting sight, and the Scots are just as bad as the English... Hence why I go to places like Holland, northern France and someday Scandinavia...
     
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