Saturday, October 16, 2010

Day 47 - Welcome to America, Land of Red Plastic Cups

Whether or not I like it, I am a representative of the United States. The way I look, talk, and act is a product of American culture to a certain extent. Now, I don't think I necessarily do such a bad job at this. I'm certainly trying my hardest not to feed into the European stereotype of a typical American. Thus far I have avoided the following stereotypical behaviors:

  • Speaking loudly in English regardless if people understand me or not
  • Wearing a fanny pack
  • Eating at McDonald's
  • Drinking myself silly in a bar
  • Starting all my sentences with "Well, back in the States we do it like this"
  • Calling things "quaint" or exclaiming how small everything is
  • Having a "my way or the highway" attitude
  • Being morbidly obese
It's not that I'm ashamed to be American. I love my country, but I'm also mindful of our bad reputation overseas. Thus, I do not feel the need to march around waving the flag while singing the Star Spangled Banner.  But I also can't hide it either.  Let's be honest: my entire wardrobe is from Gap, Ann Taylor Loft, and Old Navy.  Even if I were head to toe in H&M and Zara, the minute I open my mouth everyone knows that is not real French coming out.

Fortunately the Swiss are kind, accommodating people. The moments where I've felt silently condemned for my citizenship have been limited to one interaction with a really grouchy waitress.  But I'm pretty sure she was just having a bad day.

In general I don't get asked very many questions about what it's like back home because, let's be real, everyone gets an idea from turning on a TV.  I have only met one person who was eager to talk to me when he found out I was from the U.S. Here's how it went.

My French class is a mixture of Swiss Germans, Portugese, Scots, and then there's me. One of the Swiss Germans is a teenage guy who, like every teenage guy, spends the whole class cracking up at what he thinks are double entendres that the instructor is saying.  (Clearly needs to pay more attention to what she's actually saying...) Well on the first day we were introducing ourselves and his eyes lit up when he heard me say I was from the U.S. The instructor stepped out of class for a minute and he comes right over.

Him: "You are American?"
Me: "....yes."
Him: "I have a question I have always want to ask an American!"
Me: "ok, what is it?"
Here I get excited thinking, what sort of political/economical/social conundrum does he want to discuss? It's my first international meeting of the minds! Alert the U.N.!
Him: "When you have the house parties, do you really have your drinks in red plastic cups?"
Me: "...what?"
Him: "You know, the cups, for the game of drinking and with the small balls? I see this in the movies and on TV!"
Me: "Are you asking me about red plastic cups? and BEER PONG?"
Him: " Yes, yes!"
Me: ".......yes. that's uh...that's a real thing."

Glad to know the youth of Switzerland are concerned with top international issues. Thanks, MTV Europe. What a disappointment. I doubt there is anyone is less qualified to discuss the college party scene than me. If this is what they're looking for in an American well I should just pack my bags now.  
Otherwise, if you have any other questions, I'll be over here in my bright blue wind-breaker pretending to like sausage.

God Bless America.


  1. Uh oh.. we use those at conv here in OR for the workers... you got a "laugh out loud" from me on that one (I lurk on your blog a lot.. love it! found it from Anita B's. Oh and thanks for the intro to VSQ, they are awesome!!)

  2. I seriously LAUGHED OUT LOUD. It was funnier than LOL... so I had to tell you. xoxoxo

  3. congrats for avoiding being a typical American overseas- the loud voice totally gives a person away. I've sometimes wondered if some of my fellow countrymen just don't have volume adjustments in their voice or what... ;)
    I'll try to avoid red plastic cups from now on!


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