Americans are Americans are Americans......

Discussion in 'Et Cetera, Et Cetera' started by Drifterwood, Aug 6, 2007.

  1. Drifterwood

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    How important is the ethnic prefix to you - African-American etc etc?

    I ask because as a European travelling around Europe for the last month or so, I have seen many American tourists. I realised that my attitude has changed. I used to think that European-Americans were less foreign as it were in Europe than say Asians or Africans. Now I don't think so, I think that the American element is so overwhelming that your ethnic background is no longer relevant to how foreign you are when you travel to Europe.
     
  2. invisibleman

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    I like the labels...but then, the labels are not limits. I am still my own person. I want to be myself and not limited.
     
  3. B_NineInchCock_160IQ

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    Labels make me horny. The more the better.
     
  4. Drifterwood

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    I had you down as a fashion victim.
     
  5. tripod

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    Americans have no manners, no culture and are barbaric... is that what separates European Americans and Americans? I can't help but think of all of the flippin' toothless, drunk English people that brawl all over Europe over soccer games. The German people that have the WORST senses of humor known to man!!! The French people with their heads stuck so far up their own asses that they can't see the light of day, the lazy Italians... I could go on...

    These are nothing but stereotypes... and don't really exist...

    Tell me about my "Americanism"... I am curious as to what you think the American element is, seeing as how you left that part out of your original post...
     
  6. Drifterwood

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    Twenty years ago I would have considered an American of predominantly European appearance less foreign in Europe than say someone visiting from Japan.

    Now I don't and I don't look at Americans of different racial backgrounds as being different from each other - simply American - that is, just your nationality.

    Edit :- I am not going to generalise about behaviour because the vast majority of your citizens don't travel anyway. But Americans and Europeans have a broadening cultural difference.
     
  7. Oilslickcowboy

    Oilslickcowboy New Member

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    W.E.B. Du Bois argued that by creating a duel sense of self one fails to fully include themselves in society. A hyphenated name for any ethnic group has the habit of lessening their importance to the group in which they participate in, call yourself what ever you want just don't let that tag alter the extent in which you participate in your given scoiety.

    I grew up in a predominantly black area and very few of the people I knew liked the term African-American, in middle school it was used as an insult between the black students.
     
  8. tripod

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    Jeeze... tell me about it... I don't go anywhere but to Georgia to see my mom and to Michigan to see my Grandpa!!!!!! I've NEVER been on a vacation!!!!!
     
  9. D_Gunther Snotpole

    D_Gunther Snotpole Account Disabled

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    But surely an African-American, a white American, a Chinese-American, even a Japanese-American are less foregn in Europe than a true Japanese.

    I mean, they speak English, one of the European languages ... and they're occidental, meaning less distant in culture and social tone.

    Japan is number one on my list of places I would like to visit ... for several reasons, not least that going there would be a far greater remove, socially, than heading to California or London or Montpellier for a week.
     
  10. Principessa

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    HUH? :confused: I understood your first question, but not the 2nd paragraph. Are you saying that most Europeans see Americans as kinda the same and not the many subsets that we Americans see?

    BINGO!
     
  11. HotBulge

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    I am uncertain if I understand your OP fully. I'll assume you are asking the question, "How relevant is one's hyphenated American identity when an American travels abroad?" That's an interesting, probing question that sparks a lot of self-reflection.

    The hyphenated identity, as in African-American or Asian-American, makes the most sense only within the context of the United States. The American obsession with race and its inclination to separate mainstream Americans - i.e. British/French/Germanic people from everyone else - is what fuels this sense of not being fully American. Once a hyphenated American citizen travels abroad, though, the American political distinctions among its citizens drops. You realize that it's one's cultural attitude that makes one American. Regardless of their skin color, Americans typically think that:

    • Human rights apply everywhere -- a bad assumption for Americans abroad. Sadly, human rights are not an automatic given. Many issues are not open for discussion and are often determined by a few people on behalf of the many.
    • A consumerist attitude is also common with Americans, regardless of skin color.
    • An over-identification with certain brands - Mc Donalds, Coca Cola, Nike - is also too common with the American mentality abroad.
    The only time being a "hyphenated" American has been helpful, is when it's convenient to distance yourself from the negative perceptions of Americans. For example, I was in Bali Indonesia 3 years ago, and before leaving, many people asked, "Aren't you worried about being targeted as an American tourist". I often replied that I didn't fit the profile of the typical American whom terrorists would want to bomb. It's a well known observation that Americans of color tend not to be in control of the government .... In fact, Americans of color are viewed as being oppressed by the US government/power structure - images from Hurricane Katrina reinforced that opinion. So, when I don't want to identify with "George Bush's America", it's been helpful to be assume the identity of a hyphenated American abroad
     
  12. HazelGod

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    I agree with your feelings on the (mis)use of the African-American PC euphemism to generally refer to black people.

    It's stupid for many reasons, but the most categorical problem is that it inherently presupposes a condition that might very well not be the case:

    1. It implies that all black people are African
    2. It implies that all black people are American

    For any given black person in the world, either or both of these presumptions might be entirely false. So while it might be the PC-appropriate label of the moment, that doesn't stop it from being innately stupid.


    With respect to the OP, many have pointed out that there are stereotypes that may or may not apply to any given person travelling abroad. While modes of behavior here at home run the gamut, those of Americans travelling in Europe will probably fall along a different distribution, mostly due to economic distinctions. The simple fact is that a large segment of the lower-income people in the USA cannot afford to travel abroad, and so they won't factor into the picture...and as un-PC as it may sound, many of the stereotypical ignorant and idiotic behaviors associated with Americans find their poster models in these classes (I'm so punny) of people. This is not to say that such behaviors are the exclusive purview of the poor, nor that these behaviors are absent from the more monied classes...nor that those who do possess the means to travel are without their own set of obnoxious foibles.

    What it boils down to are that people are people, and will act individually regardless of any label you attempt to pin on them. A friend of my wife's from her MBA program hated Paris...she told us of five separate occasions during her trip where she was openly called a "stupid American" or something similar. It should be noted that she's a dyed-in-the-wool neo-conservative, something of a prima donna, and speaks nothing but English. My wife and I, although in the same economic class and educational level, tend to be a bit left of center socially speaking, can read/understand/speak enough broken French and German to get around major cities, and try not to carry an enthocentric viewpoint on our travels. In complete contrast to her friend, we fell in love with Paris during our time there...the rudest person we encountered was a harried cab driver as we were trying to leave from CDG, and even he wasn't rude by NYC standards.
     
  13. Bbucko

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    I lived in Paris for several years in the early 90s. The cultural differences were both profound and exaggerated.

    The profound differences were not lifestyle-driven. I am from Boston and had spent time living in New York, so I was used to daily shopping and finding my recreation out of the apartment. But from just about every perspective, people acted and reacted in ways I'd never have been able to anticipate, and it was really disconcerting until I got the hang of things.

    But as divergent as we were, I found my biggest difficulty was in overcoming the American stereotype (which never really applied much to me) that most of the people I'd met had in their minds. I was a sort of ambassador where even the most casual of acquaintances demanded explanations for minutia of American domestic and foreign policies they found distasteful.

    As for being a hyphenated-American, I don't qualify. My ancestors arrived from England and France to New England and Canada in the 17th century. When describing my heritage I usually say I'm a "Swamp Yankee". They jumped off the boat and ran into the woods.
     
  14. chico8

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    I think it really depends upon how closely an American identifies with his european heritage.

    I'm 1/8 english, 3/8 german and half finnish. I've traveled quite a bit in Germany and speak German but don't call myself a German-American. If I'm forced to define myself, I'll say I'm an American with northern European ancestors.

    It seems that very few black Americans have any real connection with Africa although I've met many Asian-Americans who have extensive ties with their homelands. Where it gets interesting is those from Latin and South America. Are they South American-American?

    I do see your point and have to agree that American-ness more or less transcends one's ethnic and cultural origin. It's definitely shadowed by where our ancestors came from but not enough to make a difference for most people. Unless of course, they just got off the boat!
     
  15. MH07

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    I've always thought it interesting that we are called "Americans" and our country "Americans", not only by Europeans but by Canadians and Mexicans (both of whom live in America, either North or Central).

    As to the way we're percieved abroad, I recently returned from London and can say we were treated very well there. If anybody thought poorly of us, they certainly were too polite to say so to our faces.

    I just hate being stereotyped.
     
  16. whatireallywant

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    I can't be hyphenated. My heritage is mostly German, some Scottish, some French, some Cherokee and some Cheyenne, with maybe some others in the mix as well. I guess I'm a "Heinz 57"! :smile:

    And I think many, if not most, Americans are - in differing percentages and combinations of heritages, of course. But that's part of the beauty...Unfortunately we have far too many racists who think only ONE ethnicity is above all the others. :mad:

    And also, of course I don't think the US is the only place where there is a mix of different ethnicities. Pretty much every country in the world has a mix. I have unfortunately not been out of the US yet, though. I would love to travel to different places, both in and out of the US, but finances will not allow at this time.
     
  17. SpeedoGuy

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    Ambassador. I like the term and view myself as that during my travels abroad.

    Once identified as a Yankee, I found some (not all) Europeans and Australians eager to vent their frustrations about America at me. I choose not to get defensive or take this venting personally. Rather than engage in verbal combat I usually just listen patiently to their complaints and sometimes diplomatically point out a few cultural differences that may explain why things are the way they are. I like to think of myself as being a low key ambassador of good will and good taste and avoid fitting the stereotypes Americans are so often tagged with.
     
  18. b.c.

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    Hmmmm...interesting observation, Cowboy. I'll have to sleep on that first paragraph. As for the term African-American, to me its a "nom de plume (du jour)", probably spawned from someone's idea of a politically correct equivalent to Irish-American, Native-American, and all the other p.c. racial labels.

    Most identify with one racial description. For me it's Black. Truth is though, any term we devise would fail to define the true multi-ethnic makeup of most of us, wouldn't it?

    A rose (by any other name...)
     
  19. B_spiker067

    B_spiker067 New Member

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    @ OP:

    Are you saying that if you close your eyes all Americans are alike, whether African-American, Asian-American, ...

    Is that a good thing? That regardless of race an American is an American.

    More so than a Turk-Kraut is German or a Morocco-Froggy is French or a Jamaican-Limey is English?

    No offense intended just a food themed analysis.
     
  20. Drifterwood

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    Thank you for getting this on track.

    The thread is not about other people's perception of Americans, good or bad. It is about foreign peoples seeing you as Americans irrespective of your ultimate racial make up, and the reasons perhaps for this potential change in perception.

    Of course we have stereotypes or expectations of what different peoples are like, I think the brain categorises things to make the world easier to understand on an immediate level. Black and yellow animals tend to be dangerous etc etc

    I have an Australian friend who is racially Chinese. When I first met him (in Asia) my eye made me presume that he was Chinese, though within minutes of meeting him, it was apparent that he was as Australian as Merv Hughes.

    I think that the emergence of Colin Powell, Ms. Rice, Oprah and many others, together with positive TV is eroding the concept that blacker people are second class citizens in the US. Having said that, New Orleans didn't help.
     
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