Sunday, September 15, 2013

In Which I Become American

All the American characteristics I’ve acquired over a lifetime have suddenly became visible by contrast here in the Netherlands. Some of these characteristics follow. Of course, the luxury you have as a foreigner is deciding all your quirks are cultural, while in fact it’s just you being weird. Apologies for that.

Exaggeration: In America, we say things are awesome when they are good, good when they are okay, and okay when they are terrible. The respondent knows to down-play the comment down to its literal level. Most Americans, for example, will register the insult when told that their presentation was okay. Here, I still overstate things, which results in a lot of people thinking I’m terribly insincere or sarcastic.

Being Open: It’s not that unusual to hear the whole life story of someone you’ve just met in America. In Europe, however, you could know someone for years without learning anything more personal than the fact they have parents. With all the oversharing on my part, and rectitude on theirs, my interactions start resembling therapy sessions more than actual conversations.

Patriotism: The way I understand pride of own country is that it’s a bit like pride in oneself. You don’t need to go around stating that you’re better than everyone else, even if you secretly belief it. So I never really had much use for the “We’re the best country in the world!” brand of patriotism. I don’t know enough about other countries to judge.

But while I have no problem complaining about certain aspects of America (the Tea Party aspect), when others go on and on and on about the myriad things that are wrong with America, I get defensive. It’s probably similar to how you can complain about your own family all you like, because you know that you love them deep down, but, somewhat irrationally, it’s offensive when someone else agrees with you.

This may just be me: Eating food in the right order is of great importance here. People reacted to my chips being on the same plate as my cake like I was eating chocolate with spaghetti. Which I later did to make a point. I’m not sure what this point was, but it was definitely made.


  1. Is the exaggeration opposite with when things go bad? When it's absolutely horrible, often it's just a embarrassing moment or something that'll pass. But when it's "bad"'s real bad, like dark, bad O.O

    1. oh hey, that's true! "this is bad" scares me a lot more than "this is the worst thing that has ever happened"