Growing up in the South, American pride rang loud and proud 365 days a year, not just on the 4th of July. I considered myself to have grown up with a little broader worldly perspective, but I don’t often take into consideration what other countries think of the average American. That being said, I gained a new perspective of how foreigners might views the good ole U.S. while in Europe. In Germany for the most part, it felt as though they disliked Americans for their obnoxious accents and loud conversations. In Rome, we asked our tour guide, Olga, for her opinion. I was surprised to hear that people actually didn’t hate us as much as we had come to think they did while traveling. Olga commented that most people generally viewed Americans as friendly and happy people, unaware of all the problems in the world. She mentioned that Americans are the ones who smile at others on the side of the road and the ones who tip the best. As a tour guide, she also comments that Americans are the most polite and appreciative in comparison to Italians and a few other nationalities.
Now that I am back in the United States and have had time to reflect on Olga’s words, I wonder how accurate the European portrayal of Americans is. In order to evaluate it, we must consider that the typical American which Europeans encounter is a tourist. Tourists represent Americans on vacation living their best lives abroad. Stressful thoughts such as jobs don’t cross their minds while traveling. How could they not be happy and friendly when their only concerns include navigating a map and using a camera? In regards to the idea that Americans live life unaware of the world’s problems, I see truth to that statement, but I also find a few flaws. Yes, many Americans probably do only concern themselves with their own issues, but I guess I consider myself lucky to be surrounded by people always challenging themselves to be globally aware. I realize that my age puts me at a greater chance of having friends who post about global news almost daily on Facebook, but simultaneously, social media allows Americans to stay up to date on the world occurrences. Even at TCU, a global community plays an important role in our mission statement. While I fully understand where Olga’s comments come from, I’m grateful that I get to be surrounded by Americans, myself included, who challenge themselves by becoming more globally aware.