Tuesday, 27 January 2015

How Not to Annoy - The World Citizens Guide for Americans

The war-time line "overpaid, oversexed and over here", used to describe Americans in Europe has in later years been rewritten to "overweight, oversexed and overthrow whomever". Admittedly, Americans struggle with some public image issues beyond their heartland even to the extent that they are the object of their own phobia, amerophobia or columbophobia. Amerophobes shudder at American overestimation of their powers of comparison through the word "like", their inability to pronounce t-sounds inside words, their volume and their initial ignorance, subsequent ceaseless fascination and merciless appropriation of anything Non-American. However, the fear is more of this stereotype than of the Americans themselves, who often put this stereotype to shame by being sociable, polite and altruistic.

However, in 2014, 8,8% of all Americans took an overseas trip, according to numbers from the Office of Travel and Tourism Industries and the US Census Bureau, a number relatively similar to those of previous years. The cultural challenges facing these Americans abroad prompted "Business for Diplomatic Action", an American organisation worried about the declining standing of Americans abroad, to commission the compilation of the "World Citizens Guide". This guide provides the American tourist with the necessary knowledge to not get on the nerves of the natives of their country of choice.

Here is a collection of pearls from the guide:


Look. Listen. Learn.
Don't just shop. See the sights, hear the sounds and try to understand the lives people live.

Think big. Act small. Be humble.
It's easy to resent big, powerful people. Assume resentment as a default and play down your wealth, power and status.

Live, eat and play local.
Once you get to know other Americans, don't start ignoring locals you knew before.

Refrain from lecturing.
Nobody likes a know-it-all, and nobody likes a whole nation of them. Rightly or wrongly, the I.S. is seen as appointing itself as policeman, judge and jury to the world. Be aware of this perception and try to understand other viewpoints.

Dialogue instead of monologue.
[...] ask people you're visiting how what you've said compares to what they do and how they live in their country.

Be proud, not arrogant.
People around the world are fascinated by the U.S. and the lives we Americans live. They admire our openness, our optimism, our creativity and our "can-do" spirit. Be proud of being an American, but resist any temptation to present our way as the best way or the only way.

Keep religion private.
Some may have no knowledge of the Bible, nor is it appropriate to tell them about it unless you are a professional missionary identified as such.

Be quiet.
In conversation match your voice level to the environment and other speakers. Casual profanity is almost always considered unacceptable.

Check the atlas.
Everyone's home is important to them.

Agree to disagree respectfully.
Surely, there are people who object to actions or activities of our government, our industries and our culture.

Talk about something besides politics.
Listen first. Then speak. And leave politics alone if you can. Speak of culture, art, food or family if you need another topic.

Show your best side.
Americans are a kind and generous people. You can help dispel the stereotype of the Ugly American; impress people with your kindness, curiosity and fair nature.

Sources: Adapted from [1], otherwise as indicated, 

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