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What People Abroad Really Think of Americans

November 28, 2014 in Blogs

By Bess Rattray, Salon

Living in a small Canadian town taught me the near-obsession of outsiders' scorn. Finally, I'm ready to push back.

We litter. We are loud. We are fat. We eat standing up. We drive aggressively. We don’t make eye contact. We don’t open doors for people. We rush. We are rude to wait staff in restaurants. We are prone to domestic violence. We are spoiling for a fight. We put our nose into others’ business. We are sanctimonious. We think we won the War of 1812. We manufacture bad cars, brew bad beer and eat flavorless potato chips. We won’t stop waving the flag. We are bad sports, especially during the Olympics. We think we are the center of the universe, and that money entitles us to everything. But the worst of our sins? We brag—nonstop.

These are just a few of the charms of Americans, according to my friends and neighbors just north of the border. It’s been five years since I married a boat builder and moved from New York City to a tiny, briny town on Nova Scotia’s lobster coast, and for five years I have gritted my teeth and smothered my indignation.

I hear these kinds of extempore critiques constantly—in jests and jibes, in casual conversations at the hair salon, the bookstore, the coffee shop, the day-care walkathon. My Nova Scotian friends and neighbors are not at all shy about sharing their observations and opinions with me, even though they know perfectly well that I am the devil that lives among them. They seem to enjoy it, in fact. They get a twinkle in their eye.

A few weeks ago, at a bachelorette party, I asked a few of my fellow townsfolk to share any further attributes they don’t like about Americans—“Come on! Don’t be shy”—and they were only too delighted to lengthen the list: Our schools are no good; we don’t know how to dress for cold weather; we are incapable of laughing at ourselves; our smiles look fake …

This is the boondocks—proudly so—and in the boondocks, if you want to know what’s on everyone’s mind, you go on …read more


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