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I’m an American.

It was a simple enough answer to the gentleman’s simple question. Despite my limited French I was able to respond to his friendly inquiry.

It was the young father's response that got me confused, angered and even defensive.
“Oh, uh, uugh!”, he grunted. Three sounds which formed his reaction told a story worth telling.

It was a funny old train station in Vernazza, Italy. The platform was very short and long tunnels at each end made it futile to consider extending the platform. The station was squeezed into this tiny village which was squeezed into the steep granite rock of the picturesque Mediterranean coastline of Cinque Terre.

It was getting chilly at the station so we had squeezed into a tiny, enclosed seating area. It seems everything in this country is tiny; the streets, the stations and even the people. Sitting right next to us (you could say on my lap) was a French couple with a small child. Friendly folk and soon enough my French-speaking wife struck up a conversation with the papa. As far as I could tell they were parlaying about children, vacation and food. But to tell the truth as far as I know they could have been talking about chisels, vaccines and stock options on Wall Street.

At some point the papa looked up at me and asked the infamous question of “d'ou est-ce-que tu viens?” (“Where are you from?”) After I stuttered out my heavily accented answer and heard his not so surprising answer I was relieved to hear the cracks, pangs and clangs of the arriving train.

For the rest of the evening, while enjoying vino rosso and overlooking the waters of the Med, I kept contemplating about his “oh, uh, uugh” grunts.

What did he mean? What does it have to do with me? Why am I defensive and annoyed at the same time?

I think I know pretty exactly what he meant. It’s not that different from the reactions to my Americanness I have been hearing for the last 20 years while residing in Germany. His initial reaction, accented by the “oh…” meant, “cool, America. My dream land”. Then, within a split second, his intellectual id caught up and his “…uh, uuhg” expressed his skepticism, his anger, his sense that American cultural, moral and financial hegemony has run amok.

It’s even worse in Germany. I live there in the midst of a nation still coming to terms with itself. My friends and peers are sons and daughters of 'war children' and grew up under a veil of shame for what their grandfathers did to the world. They grew up seeing America as their knight in shining armor and as the guarantor for stability in the Cold War era.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, strangely enough coinciding with my first landing on German soil, they began to awaken from their hibernation.

Then came George Bush, Iraq, Abu Ghraib, and to top it all off came Edward Snowden informing the world that the naked emperor was listening in on every single phone call, email and WhatsApp message. After having just overcome the guilt of the Third Reich and having lived through the police state of East Germany it was just too much for them to take.

So that leaves me with all the “uughs” and almost no more “ahs”.

The second part of the question I posed a while ago was what it has to do with me and why it bugs me. Perhaps it’s not too hard to imagine where the problem lies. It is a complex issue, however.  Even though I am an ex pat and opposed to the financial, military and economic power my country expends on Europe, I'm still an American and glad to be one. I do not, though, like to be the 'ugly American'. I don't like hearing countless comments about overweight, loud, uneducated Yankees. At some point it’s hard not to take it personally.

So what should I do about it? I could take the recent advice of the US diplomat Victoria Nuland to heart and “fuck the Europeans”. That doesn't work for me though, being that my family is full of Europeans. How about that wise old saying 'Europeans, can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em'. And the next time some French dude at an Italian train station asks me where I'm from I tell him I'm a beach kid from Pretoria with a Polish mother and a Swedish father.

Originally posted to Gus Hagelberg on Fri May 09, 2014 at 12:23 AM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  stand by your title and say it with pride (12+ / 0-)

    like a German or Frenchman could shame you with history?  I have spent countless days in the UK and Europe, and never have I been made to feel ashamed of my national origin.  I think most that feel ashamed are the weaker links, looking for a reason to apologize.  I don't think that of you by the way.  I focus on the important things, wine, women,and song.  When in doubt, your individuality will win them over.  

    The only time someone confronted me was a Brit retiree in Spain.  She said during the Bush years, "Nice president you've got there".  I said "yes, we think so", and that was the end of that.  I guess she felt no shame at all for Blair.  

    The Brits are led by a conservative and moving to the far right wing UKIP.  The Germans are led by a conservative, the French right crushed in the last election.  My point is Americans should stop  worrying about their "Americaness" as a problem while in Europe.  Seize the day and experience another culture, don't worry about where you come from, the Europeans are interesting people, but they have no leg to stand on if it comes to judging nationalities and politics.  If they had one political theme it would be to take us down a few pegs. We could apologize enough to fix that.  But if you avoid the boring issue of politics, you will get on well with the majority of Europeans as they care more about joie de vive at least  most of them.  

  •  I had similar reactions in England, Norway, and (11+ / 0-)

    South Africa.

    Since most Americans live in our own little insulated bubble, we have no idea at all how universally reviled the US is across the world. Deservedly so.

    I found myself explaining everywhere that while "America" is a global bully who wastes her vast wealth on idiocy while allowing her own people to go hungry, not all "Americans" are like that, and some of us are indeed trying to turn the US into a civilized country.

    In the end, reality always wins.

    by Lenny Flank on Fri May 09, 2014 at 04:56:06 AM PDT

    •  plaudits you will gain here (9+ / 0-)

      but profundity is notably absent.  We are "reviled""deservedly so", does that include under Clinton and Obama?  So you feel ashamed in South Africa, Norway and England?   Hmm, maybe a history book on South Africa and England would be in order.  Maybe an understanding of Norway's homogeneous and provincial reality would help out.  Comparing Norway to the USA is pointless.

      But like I said before, some always want to apologize, always want defame themselves and their nation.

      You say we are a rightly reviled, I say, grow up.  Not that I expect such growth.   I only offer truth as I see it, people can take it or leave it.

      •  yes, that includes under Clinton and Obama (6+ / 0-)

        Yes, I feel ashamed in South Africa, Norway and England. America, even under Democratic Presidents, has done plenty of things it SHOULD be ashamed of.

        Norway's homogeneous and provincial reality
        I assume this translates into "but Norway doesn't have Black people !!!". PS--your ignorance about Norway is showing.
        Comparing Norway to the USA is pointless
        Who do you propose we compare the USA to, then.  Or do you just assume that the USA is exceptionally wonderfully self-evidently better than everyone, and cannot be compared to anyone.
        some always want to apologize, always want defame themselves and their nation
        And some always want to wave the flag and cheer for nationalism and patriotism--the most idiotic of all human ideologies.

        In the end, reality always wins.

        by Lenny Flank on Fri May 09, 2014 at 06:41:23 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I've never run into any of that (6+ / 0-)

          ...and I lived in Europe during the Dubya years. I will say people often got a bit friendlier with me when I explained how much I hated him, but no one ever gave me the "ugly American" treatment to begin with. I've heard all sorts of stories like yours - "Yankee go home!", refusing service in restaurants, and the way every Canadian who's ever been overseas seems to have been treated like shit by someone who then apologized profusely once they learned s/he wasn't American. But in a decade of living overseas (I currently live in Singapore), I've never run into the sort of hate your posts imply.

          A few examples of what I have run into:

          1. Numerous cases of French people thinking I was British (I apparently speak French with an English accent, though I have no idea why), and then getting somewhat friendlier with me when they learned where I really was from. At first I chalked this up to the novelty of an American who actually spoke a second language, but others have suggested it may have more to do with a trend towards resenting the British at the moment because they're buying up the south of France.

          2. Too many cases of "Vous parlez tres bien francais" to even count (this is one category where Canadians most certainly are NOT more highly regarded...you don't want to get the French started on what the Quebecois have done to their language!)

          3. Remarkably polite service among foodservice workers, hotel staff, etc., in countries where I don't speak the language (including Germany). When they didn't speak English, they found a colleague who did.

          4. In a hotel elevator in London, I reflexively made a point of telling a local (or at least English) couple I'd been small-talking with that I had never voted for Bush. Their reaction was a mixture of amusement and sympathy that I had felt the need to bring it up at all.

          3. At least three visits to a bar where a local insisted on paying my tab as thanks for some enjoyable conversation: once in Paris, once in a small town in Taiwan where I was teaching English, once in Amsterdam. In the latter case, the conversation had begun when the guy overheard me telling someone else I was American and "not very proud of that these days," and on our parting later that night he told me I should never be ashamed of where I come from, no matter where that is.

          4. On a night train from Paris to Madrid, my roommate in the sleeper car barely spoke English (I think he was from Francophone Africa), but as I was getting off the train he said "God bless America!"

          And a story my parents love to tell: Dad was stationed in Germany back in the early seventies (the height of the Ugly American era, not to mention resentment over Vietnam), and one day he and Mom were driving through France. They were following a car with German plates, and both cars ran a stop sign. A French motorcycle cop pulled both cars over, and accosted the German in the other car like he was paying him back singlehandedly for World War II: he made him get out of the car, patted him down, yelled at him, you get the idea. Midway through his tirade, he glanced back at my parents' car, saw the license plate reading "USA" on the front, and waved them through without even a warning.

          Honestly, this whole idea that the world hates us? Vastly overstated at best. I will say I saw Americans being treated rudely in other countries on occasion, but they usually did something to deserve it (i.e. trying to pay for their souvenirs in American money, expecting people who don't speak English to understand them if they speak slower and louder, etc.)

          Or maybe I (and my parents before me) am just lucky. But I doubt it.

          Certaines personnes disent qu'il y a une femme à blâmer, Mais je sais que c'est ma faute sacrément.

          by RamblinDave on Fri May 09, 2014 at 10:06:18 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  And I forgot the time... (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Powell, on the cusp, Rashaverak

            ...when I was out to lunch in Paris, and the owner of the cafe told me she was working on an American-style cheesecake for the dessert menu. In the interest of getting the seal of approval from an American, she gave me a slice for free! (It wasn't really very good, but of course I didn't tell her that!)

            Certaines personnes disent qu'il y a une femme à blâmer, Mais je sais que c'est ma faute sacrément.

            by RamblinDave on Fri May 09, 2014 at 10:14:30 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  The French can get really annoying (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Powell, RamblinDave, Rashaverak

            with their disdain for Québécois.  Sure, heavy joual can be hard for anyone to understand.  So can Marseillais.  

            But contrary to what one might think, the French employ far more anglicisms than the Québécois.  More irritatingly, instead of using literal translations, they just pronounce the English word with a French accent.  Instead of "croustilles", their word for potato chips sounds like "sheeps".

            Even when one makes an effort to sound as neutral as possible, they can feign incomprehension if you fail to twist your lips into a grimace over-pronouncing the guttural sounds.  Oh, and nowhere does the Académie de la langue française advocate ending a sentence with "... , quoi?"

            Sorry, a bit off-topic I know.  Felt the need to vent.

            First they came for the slippery-slope fallacists, and I said nothing. The End.

            by Cream Puff on Fri May 09, 2014 at 02:08:28 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Blame Canada (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            stagemom, thanatokephaloides

            If I were from the country that produced Justin Beiber and Terrence et Philippe, I wouldn't be too proud, although you guys did also offer the world Rush and Gordon Lightfoot (BTO) Okay... never mind

  •  Here's a solution! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    atana, Powell

    "Je suis canadien(ne)," or "je viens de la canada".

    TX-17 (Bill Flores-R), TX Sen-14 (Kirk Watson-D), TX HD-50 (Celia Israel-D). Senate ratings map (as of 3/10/14)

    by Le Champignon on Fri May 09, 2014 at 05:11:05 AM PDT

  •  I was a student in Germany from Dec 1971 to (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TurkeyCreek

    July 1972. Germans were just coming to grips with the Holocaust at the same time the US was trying to extricate itself from Vietnam. For the most part, the adults with whom I interacted were still appreciative of what the US had done for them after WW2, but my classmates were more dismissive of the US. I remember one friend (he was quite a jokester and liked to push my buttons) handed me a piece of paper on which was written:

                S   A  U
                A   U   S
                U   S   A

    which was "going viral" among German youth. It can be read right to left and top to bottom. A clever way to sum up their feelings about a lot of the Americans they ran into. I am pleased that they considered me one of them, though, and I routinely heard from my dorm mother reports from the villagers about how polite "those American exchange students were" (there were four of us).

    A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit. - Greek proverb

    by marleycat on Fri May 09, 2014 at 05:59:10 AM PDT

  •  fuck that! So Pretoria-born is better than (6+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Debby, JBL55, MHB, TomP, RamblinDave, Rashaverak

    American-born? Ouch!  You wanna hear something funny?  I know a bunch of foreign attorneys and they practice here and they have that same attitude about how fucked up this country is.  You know where they're from?  NIGERIA!  Yep, they should be so proud, right?

    Wear your American-hoodie with pride!

    Seriously, all countries are fucked up!!  That French guy's country helped colonize the world and fucked up plenty! (Southeast Asia, West Africa).  Even the countries that haven't had the resources or the opportunity to fuck up other countries fuck up their own people.  We're all fucking human! Fuck him!  Fuck everybody!  Us too!  Nobody is morally superior.

    Please know I am not rude. I cannot rec anything from this browser. When I rec or post diaries I am a guest at some exotic locale's computer. Ayn is the bane!

    by Floyd Blue on Fri May 09, 2014 at 08:01:31 AM PDT

  •  Respect, all around (10+ / 0-)

    It worked like magic when I was stationed at NATO HDQT's in Belgium.  I perfected my French & some Dutch.  I have a German surname.  I loved the people of Europe and they knew it.  They treated me with utmost dignity and respect as I spoke their languages (sometimes with help) and they appreciated that equality and respect (an entire Belgian village helped me learn the names of goods in all the small shops while I was recuperating from an illness in that country). I was embraced by the Belgians and the French.  I regret not having returned to that beautiful culture (Belgium is too cold - The South of France is perfect).

    Don't apologize for your heritage/ethnicity/background.  

    Practice respect and Love and they return to you more than tenfold.

    Peace & Love

    A Bientot

  •  Or perhaps one can take the opportunity... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JBL55, VTCC73, on the cusp, Rashaverak

    ... after listening to what Europeans you meet say, to let them know that not all Americans support the more obnoxious activities undertaken by our government.  Face the fact, some of our governments's behavior is often frightening and appalling (though it might not seem that way when we are in the American media's cone of silence).  Acting haughty and aggrieved -- or even overly defensive -- will not create deeper understanding in people you meet.  Listen carefully -- and respond sincerely -- accepting some "blame" where appropriate and unagressively providing nuanced explanations on issues where people have sterotypical ideas.

    •  Listening is key, for sure. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Powell, on the cusp

      Just being willing to listen will dispel much of the initial antipathy.  At least, that's been my experience, limited though it may be.

      •  In trips to.... (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JBL55, lunacat, Lucy West, Whamadoodle

        ... Kyoto, Paris and London -- my wife and I have been treated with nothing but kindness -- even after people learn we are Americans. Of course, we have also (sadly) been told on several occasions, "I have never met Americans like you before".  Too many Americans, I fear, do not recognize that they are not "consumers" of what foreign places have to offer, but rather essentially "guests" in someone else's "home".

        •  Mr. L & I have been told the same thing. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Radiowalla, RamblinDave, Rashaverak

          But I sometimes wonder, how many of the Americans to whom they refer are face-to-face and how many are on TV?

          •  Some of the times.... (5+ / 0-)

            ... this has been said by people whose job involves interacting with foreigners.  

            I wonder what percentage of tourists (American or otherwise) view visiting other countries a precious privilege in which you get the benefits (almost for free) of all the many treasures those countries have to offer.  Yes one pays for lodging, and meals, and museum admissions, etc. -- but there is so much that is just ... there (no one charges you to walk along the Seine and cross its bridges, or to walk the streets of Rome (or visit most of its churches, etc).  

            A sense of gratitude really takes one a long way when one is visiting ... whether one's relatives or another country.

            •  Boy--what a beautiful post (3+ / 0-)

              I could have written every word. The greatest experiences were either free (sitting on a bench in the Place de la Concorde or by the Eiffel Tower, watching the sun set or the lighting of the Tower), or nearly-free (the hot chocolate at Angelina's and the greatest opera I've ever seen for 9 euros in Berlin).  

              A sense of gratitude, and really opening your eyes to your encounters with your fellow human beings there--best of all.

        •  I've noticed this (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Whamadoodle, Rashaverak

          I've been told in Europe that "You're not like most Americans I know.  You seem very well informed."

          I have not really encountered any professionally rude French, except at car rental desks.

          •  Never rented a car in France.... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            lunacat

            ... we did all traveling by train, bus and feet.  We did rtent cars in Austria (centuries ago) and were stunned by how helpful and accommodating the rental folks there were.

            I think the problem in Europe is that noisy, demanding (and complaining) American tourists are impossible to ignore -- so even if they make up a minority of American travelers, they make a disproportionately negative impression. ;~{

            •  impossible to ignore... and easy to spot (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              RamblinDave

              I haven't travelled that much--Italy and France--and it can be pretty obvious when there's an entitled American tourist in the vicinity, and some of them can be pretty rude to other Americans, too.

              A pleasant expression and a simple good day sir or madam, please, thanks, and excuse me in the language of the country you're in goes a very long way in how people respond. Even if the rest of the conversation is mostly in English.

              •  Usually when I start speaking in French... (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                lunacat, Rashaverak

                ... whether in Quebec or France, the other party switches immediately to English (but very good naturedly).  On the other hand, they tell my how wonderfully she speaks -- and keep speaking in French. (I understand enough French to understand when they talk about my rudimentary French). ;~}

                According to my wife -- Bonjour (bon soir), madame (monsieur) is the "civilized" way to do greetings -- a mere "bon jour" is a bit too familiar.  Also, when you visit people's house in France, ALWAYS take flowers.  (I can attest, by personal observation, that when you arrive with an armful of flowers, your host is definitely re-assured as to your high lovel of civilization).

                •  Now if someone would invite me... (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Rashaverak

                  I fell very hard for Paris on my first trip there last fall, so maybe I'll get an invite when I can go back again. A few times people assumed I knew more French than I did, so we had to backtrack into English. I honestly missed that little formality of greeting people when I got back.

                  As for bringing flowers, same applies in Italy, though I've read carnations are a bad choice since they're associated with funerals!

                  •  We managed to get invited ... (3+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    lunacat, RamblinDave, Rashaverak

                    ... to vist a nice lady and her husband after meeting her at a jazz concert at a neighborhood bistro.  She quite clearly was worried when we called to make arrangements to actually drop by.  But when she saw we arrived armed with flowers, all fears evaporated (and our visit lasted much longer than planned).

                    We also bought flowers for our bed-and-breakfast hostesses in both Paris and Rome -- and they practically adopted us as relatives (it didn't hurt that I spent lots of time playing with the lovely dogs of our Roman hostess).  Paris was wonderful, but I really kind of fell in love with Rome. ;~}

          •  Yes, the "rude French" thing is a myth (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            RamblinDave, thanatokephaloides

            Paris is like LA--if you only go to Paris, you might meet a rude person (though there are many great, great people there too).  Outside of Paris, though? After 7 or 8 trips, some lasting weeks, I have almost NEVER met a rude French person there. Go to the Dordogne, Provence, Brittany--wonderful, friendly people.

        •  Jackson: we don't "get" that (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          thanatokephaloides

          even in the national parks. (No, I don't mean the sportsplexes.)

          LBJ, Van Cliburn, Ike, Wendy Davis, Lady Bird, Ann Richards, Barbara Jordan, Molly Ivins, Sully Sullenburger, Drew Brees: Texas is NO Bush League!

          by BlackSheep1 on Sat May 10, 2014 at 02:25:03 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  I don't fall for stereotypes of the French (5+ / 0-)

    If they do of Americans they are just as ignorant.

    “Conservation… is a positive exercise of skill and insight, not merely a negative exercise of abstinence and caution…” Aldo Leopold

    by ban nock on Fri May 09, 2014 at 08:29:48 AM PDT

  •  You are Gus Hagelberg, and you are from the USA, (3+ / 0-)

    the ethnic melting pot of the world, and there's nothing wrong with that.

    “My soul is from elsewhere, I'm sure of that, and I intend to end up there." - Rumi

    by LamontCranston on Fri May 09, 2014 at 08:53:46 AM PDT

  •  "Je suis Allemande", but not in France, there (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Powell, on the cusp

    it worked better to say "Je suis Swedoise". Actually I liked it being swedish. People were so kind to me when they found out I was swedisch and not german.

    Today I am world citizen. That always is met by confused silence. I like that too, I mean the silence...

  •  Je suis americain (9+ / 0-)

    I've lived in France for 15 years, and  I speak fluent French, but with some kind of vaguely "northern" or "anglo-saxon" accent. My accent regularly arouses people's curiosity.
    Conventionally,  people ask me with a frown  if I'm British. (The French do NOT like  the Brits!)
     The instant I say that I'm American, their faces are wreathed in smiles.  If they are older, they want to tell me where they were when they were  liberated by the Americans; if they are younger, they want to tell me about some music group, or movie star, or Michael Jackson.
    Did they hate George Bush, and are they disappointed by Obama, a man whose election they found thrilling, a proof of America's greatness? ("We could never elect an Algerian," one friend told me.  "America has once again shown us the way.")?  Yes and yes.
    Do they hate American people or American culture?  NO and no.
    Couldn't we say more or less the same thing about everyone who reads this site?  It's certainly true for me -- and I'll bet is is for you too.

  •  I've been around France enough since I was a (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lunacat, Powell, RamblinDave, Rashaverak

    kid to say that French people generally have no issue with Americans. I never hear them. However, Americans have no shortage of issues with the French and the language barrier is one of them. Americans seem to expect disapproval from the French and some easily find confirmation of it.

    A few months ago the EU released the results of its annual public opinion poll. Participants were asked to match certain characteristics with the European nationality they associate most with each one. In the results, only the French selected negative traits to describe themselves and positive ones for others. Citizens of every other country associated negatives with other nationalities.

    I write about mass surveillance from the EU perspective. Last January, as a draft resolution to end it was put to a vote, Jan Albrecht, a German MEP with the Greens gave a fiery speech criticizing American intelligence practices. (Albrecht is a committed leftist on the Civil Liberties committee and one of my favorite MEPs.) When he was finished speaking, the chair of the session chided him for singling out the Americans when 14 member states were also expected to cease their own mass surveillance practices, and an expert from Russia had recently testified about its intelligence operations, too.

    Do real people anywhere ever worry about their country losing its moral authority? It's laughable to think of Germans today mourning the loss of their moral authority, out loud, in public, because of their past. Or Italians for that matter. The Spanish may regret the civil war of the 1930s and the rightwing repression under Franco that endured until 1975 but I can't imagine them going on about the loss of their moral authority.

    The only people who might refer to anything like moral authority in the EU are rightwing nationalists. Even in the US, moral authority was a cover the rightwing used when it was convenient. The American left never recognized it so it's puzzling to hear the left refer to it now as if it were a real thing.

    •  the Germans take their past very seriously (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      thanatokephaloides
      It's laughable to think of Germans today mourning the loss of their moral authority, out loud, in public, because of their past.
      There's a story about how the only time it's appropriate to display patriotism is when Germany wins the World Cup.

      Domestic politics is the continuation of civil war by other means.

      by Visceral on Sat May 10, 2014 at 03:11:18 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  So? I'm a Washingtonian, and I don't (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Powell, on the cusp, RamblinDave

    take responsibility for those nutjobs East of the mountains.

    Neither am I responsible for Abu Ghraib.  Yes, the Empire sucks, and I'm a citizen of the Empire.  Doesn't mean I endorse all our pretty fucking horrible behaviour.

  •  Was in France a few years ago (4+ / 0-)

    On an extended trip. Went to a small (~5 tables plus a bar) restaurant near the German border. My wife and I had a wonderful dinner. After we finished, it was late and the owner/chef came over with a bottle and three glasses.  He asked where we were from and proceeded to pour sparkling wine.

    "Champagne?" I asked.

    "Non non!" replied.

    It was a friend's sparking wine, which couldn't be called champagne because of French labeling laws. We did our best to work through the language barrier as he struggled to understand the geography of North America's west coast and why we were in his little town.

    Very nice guy, and didn't charge us a centime for the wine. It seemed that he was just pleased to talk to some Americans in his tiny little establishment.

  •  I understand where you're coming from (4+ / 0-)

    For the past 26 years I have lived in both Germany and New Zealand. I've experienced both sides of the reality that I am an American living in a foreign country. I have experienced having to defend Americans by pointing out that 3/4 of the voting population didn't vote for Bush (only 50% of eligible voters voted in the first place, and half of them didn't vote for Bush). Since then it has become increasingly difficult to justify or feel proud of America, even though I know it's still only the minority that support the ever increasing insanity of many political and social policies. Fortunately, I've also had the opposite experience, a genuine sense of curiosity and desire to interact, from the native population. I'll bet you have to.

    'A civilization flourishes when people plant trees under whose shade they will never sit' Greek Proverb

    by janis b on Fri May 09, 2014 at 05:45:46 PM PDT

  •  My wife and I have never lived in Europe but (4+ / 0-)

    we've traveled there extensively.  The warmest reception we received was in Greece.  We took small boxes of southern sweet cookies...Benne Wafers...to use as gifts or tokens of appreciation....but cookies, or no, they were lovely to us when they learned we were Americans...Particularly in Paros and in Rhodes.  We never had a problem in France.   We speak Italian.  We did experience some problems in Rome...but I don't think it was because we are American...just recognizably tourists...even though we take care to never wear a "ball cap" or "tennis shoes" or have cameras hanging everywhere or the dumb things people wear that makes them stand out like neon lights.   Mostly, however, when a waiter would come to our table and ask in English for our wishes and we answered in Italian, there was an immediate change in attitude and usually good humor and friendliness flowed.  We were just seated in a small restaurante in Venice and my wife asked the waiter, in English, where the restroom was.  He replied, deadpan, in St. Marks Square.  My wife replied in Italian with a common slang phrase and he burst out laughing and ran to tell the others that there were Americans who spoke their language.  We had a delightful experience that afternoon.

    I would have no trouble telling any European who gave me an "ugh" that he could kiss my ass because if it weren't for America (and other allies) they'd be speaking german and walking the goose step.  

    The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis. - Dante Alighieri

    by Persiflage on Fri May 09, 2014 at 06:16:55 PM PDT

  •  Probably will never get to Europe, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Rashaverak, thanatokephaloides

    but if I encountered someone who didn't particularly like Americans, I'd just tell them that one can't choose where one is born and that there are a lot of assholes in America, but then again there are a lot of assholes here too.

  •  My experience over this side of the pond (3+ / 0-)

    is usually I'm asked for more precision, they assume I'm Canadian at the start because I speak French with a French Canadian accent.

    "I decided it is better to scream. Silence is the real crime against humanity." Nadezhda Mandelstam

    by LaFeminista on Fri May 09, 2014 at 11:49:25 PM PDT

    •  I was once walking through a jungle in Mexico (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      thanatokephaloides

      looking for bananas while smoking a cigarette (long story) when two guys stumble upon me. A bit of a surprise for all of us. We were not particularly close to anything resembling civilization. They start quizzing me in French. In English I inform them that I speak German, a bit of Spanish, but no French. This threw them for a loop, and they told me in English that they just assumed I was French because no one but a Frenchman would be walking through the middle of a jungle smoking a cigarette.

      After explaining I was just looking for some bananas, they told me they had just come from Guatemala and the government was using machine guns fired from helicopters to gun down Mayan farmers. I did not press them on the subject because in the 80's things were a bit dicey in Chiapas, and I didn't really want to know why they were crossing back and forth over the Usumacinta river. I was just there for the Mayan ruins.

      A few days later the State Police visited our campground. They tell Pathfinder and Wildflower that the mushrooms they have drying are illegal. Wildflower agrees, 'Yes it is just a little. '

      'No ILLEGAL!'

      'Yes, just a little.'

      At that point they realized we really were just stupid pot-smoking-mushroom-eating American tourist exploring Mayan ruins and left shaking their heads.

      Any way, my experience of being an American in somebody else conflict wasn't so much anger as it was bewildered contempt for the spoiled Americans that had no idea what was going on around them.

      Later in Guanajuato it was different. I talked politics quite a bit with the locals, and we mostly agreed. I think they basically thought I was a hostage in my own country. They did not hold American policies against me personally.

      “We can always count on the Americans to do the right thing, after they have exhausted all the other possibilities.” - Winston Chuchill

      by se portland on Sat May 10, 2014 at 09:17:05 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Never had this problem (4+ / 0-)

    I did once have an Italian waiter rather curtly inform me that he spoke English - presumably so I would stop my wanton destruction of the Italian language.

    If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

    by Major Kong on Sat May 10, 2014 at 12:04:50 AM PDT

  •  C'est clair (0+ / 0-)

    Suis-je aussi (I am too). 25 years ago when I arrived in France answering with "Je suis Americain" solicited oohs and ahhs. It is quite understandable that nowadays the rest of the world holds America in contempt.
    Is it right to group us all together with the Obese Bible Thumping Gun Nut dupes that the Republican party exploits... certainement pas (certainly not). Hélas (Alas) we are all paying for the likes of Darrel Issa, Linsday Sashay Graham, Rush Limbaugh and Fox News.
    The America and Americans that we see in the news and on TV just no longer have the persona to elicit oohs and ahhs.
    Just as an example, while France has a lot of bad points as do all countries, the health care system is second to none. Only America resists what all the other world powers have done. Not only have the ignorant (Republican Tea Party base) , been duped into voting and speaking out against their own self interest (ACA par example), but they actually want to repeal the very beginning of a system that allows for all of a country's people to access healthcare.
    What else could they say other than Uughh  

  •  You have an easy way out ... you could have said (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    se portland, Visceral

    je suis de New York ...

    That's often very ok.  A colleague of mine from Egypt and Armenia recently exclaimed after a visit to LA:  "New York City really is different."  I don't think it's a free pass, but ...

    Dirigiste vs Free Mkt -6.25/ Libertarian vs Authoritarian -4.72

    by bob in ny on Sat May 10, 2014 at 05:39:59 AM PDT

    •  When Connie Chug went to Afghanistan (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      varro

      in the late 1990's, she was told by her driver, if she was asked were she was from to tell them she was from California, because the locals would knew what the U.S. was, but would have no idea where California was.

      “We can always count on the Americans to do the right thing, after they have exhausted all the other possibilities.” - Winston Chuchill

      by se portland on Sat May 10, 2014 at 10:22:02 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  say which state you're from. (0+ / 0-)

    when i say, "california" it melts the animosity.

    I am tired of laughing at the irony of their stupidity.

    by stagemom on Sat May 10, 2014 at 04:25:24 PM PDT

  •  Identity (0+ / 0-)

    It's been fun and interesting reading the comments to my post. At first I was concerned that the topic might not fit in to the more political DailyKos scene.

    I got lots of tips like I should say I'm from California to avoid the negative reactions I may get. That doesn't really help because I am not interested in hiding my identity.

    Generally it can be hard to be a foreigner in Germany and being from the U.S. may make it harder. There is a lot of animosity around towards the US but I know that it's not directed at my as an individual.

    For me George Bush, Rush Limbaugh, Donald Trump or even Donald Duck do not represent America. America is my true home (even after 25 years abroad) and full of wonderful diversity, ingenuity, creativity and lots of very cool people. That is what I want to celebrate and nourish.

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