Challenge: Being Judgmental of All People Equally

On more than one occasion when I was living in Japan, people would be surprised when they found out I’m American and say to me, “But you’re so nice I thought you were Canadian!”

Yes, they did, guys. They actually said that. I was always like, Um? Thank you? Or not? What?

Five and a half years after I left Japan, I still have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I think, Hooray! Validation! That person thought I was nice! I always thought I was nice, too!

On the other hand, I think, Wait a second. That doesn’t sound like a compliment.

 

Canadian or American? You decide.

 

And another story:

After I quit my job in Japan, I traveled to Cambodia and Vietnam with a Canadian friend and a British friend, and one night in Vietnam we were at a bar talking to an Australian guy. My friends introduced themselves as Canadian and British and before I could say I was American, the jackass extremely friendly guy belted out to all of us, “Oh, thank god you’re not Americans!”

I waved and said, friendly-like, “Hi! I’m American!”

I did not add, “And I want to punch you in the face right now.” I’m a master of self-restraint, people.  Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.

The guy then spent the rest of the evening telling me how he actually really liked Americans–loved them, even!–and detailing all the American books and films he adored. He loved America! And Americans! U-S-A! U-S-A! Because I’M SO NICE I COULD BE CANADIAN, I did not blow him off, but patiently endured his bumbling attempts at apologies.

And then I punched him in the face.

Kidding! I’m American, so of course I shot him.

(For those of you in the humor-impaired category of people: I DID NOT ACTUALLY SHOOT HIM. I HAVE ONLY SHOT A GUN ONCE IN MY LIFE AND THAT WAS SKEET SHOOTING WHEN I WAS 10 AND AT A SPORTS CAMP ONE SUMMER. NO, I DON’T UNDERSTAND WHY THEY GAVE 10-YEAR-OLDS GUNS, EITHER. IT SEEMS LIKE A RECIPE FOR DISASTER BUT NOBODY GOT HURT, SO I GUESS THEY KNEW WHAT THEY WERE DOING. ALSO: SPORTS CAMP, MOM AND DAD? FOR ME? REALLY?)

 

People who want to insult you are lurking everywhere in this beautiful and amazing country!

 

I know that by writing about being an American abroad I’m not being very original, but I got annoyed over the weekend when I felt I was being accused of being American, by an American, as if that is the worst insult ever.

I never know how I should respond to being called “so American.”

“Oh yeah? If I’m SO American, why do I hate McDonald’s, huh? HUH?!” Eh, not enough bite to it.

“Nuh-uh! I’m not American! I’m a citizen of the world!” Obnoxious. I would want to punch my own self in the face if I said this. Plus, I don’t have dreadlocks, so I don’t think I’m even technically allowed to say it.

The most ironic thing about the whole situation (Alanis Morissete-type irony?) is that I was going to my neighborhood market to speak Thai with the vendors and buy Thai ingredients to make a Thai dish. Because I live in Thailand. Which I love. It’s not like I’m not trying here, people.

You can tell how indignant I am by my use of italics, right?

 

This curry KICKED ASS. Recipe from BrockEats!

This curry KICKED ASS. Recipe from BrockEats!

 

Okay. Let’s just get this out of the way: I really am proud to be an American. I love my home country. I’m not ashamed, as many Americans abroad are, to be from the United States, but I also don’t appreciate when I’m called “American” as an insult.

You know what’s funny? Because I’ve said I actually love the United States, I’m worried people are going to think I’m some crazed patriotic Republican right-wing conservative who worships Sarah Palin as a god, longs for Bush to be president again, and sleeps wrapped up in an American flag.

 

This is my Aunt Olga's phone. She doesn't have to burn it if she drops it. I know because I asked.

 

I mean, I do sleep wrapped up in an American flag, but that’s because it’s so hot here and flags are lightweight, but other than that, I’m pretty much the complete opposite of what I just described. I’m a bleeding heart liberal and I’m perfectly aware of my country’s flaws. I threaten to move to Canada or Europe because they have socialized health care and that just makes sense, people. I lived in the Washington, D.C. area for a long time, so I know the policies that are despised worldwide. I get it.

I also judge Americans abroad when they refuse to eat the local food, yell at local people and are their general loud-mouthed selves. But I don’t stop at judging Americans. I judge all nationalities equally. I’m an equal opportunity Judgey McJudgerson. Everybody, from every country, gets evaluated based on the same set of ridiculous criteria that I have set forth in my mind.

 

A prime example of an Ugly American abroad in Guatemala. She probably thought she was going to die during this boat ride because the boat was so overloaded with bags and people that it was terrifying. Americans and their stringent rules about not dying! Jerks!

 

I’m just saying that no one country has the monopoly on jerks, or jerk politicians, or bad foreign policies. So, instead of persuading you to stop judging Americans–because, frankly, I know that’s not going to happen–I want to ask: Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we were judgmental of all people equally? Don’t stop with Americans! There are plenty of loud, obnoxious, poorly-dressed people in the world!

I’ll start: Why are Canadians so nice? Like, hey, Canadians, you think you’re better than the rest of us? What’s up with that?!

Being Judgmental of All People Equally: That’s my new motto. Make it yours, too!

Final Score

Being Judgmental of All People Equally: 0     Megan: 1

What can I say? I’m really good at being judgmental.

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37 Comments

Filed under Daily Challenge, Living Abroad, NOT FOR REAL, Thailand

37 responses to “Challenge: Being Judgmental of All People Equally

  1. Hi Megan, I think all nationalities have to put up with a lot of stereotyping. Imagine how a Thai woman must feel when they visit western countries. It must also be hard being a Muslim tourist at the moment in western countries.

    I’m Irish and there is a lot of stereotyping associated with that; the nice thing about living in Thailand is that most people don’t know anything about Ireland. I worked in a bar in England during my early twenties. One night the boss admitted that he liked having Irish working in the bar because he thought we were less likely to bomb the place; he assumed we were all terrorists. The vast majority of English people aren’t like that but there will always be people who are more attached to stereotypes.

    • You’re right, Paul. I can think of a hundred different examples. Back home, I taught ESL to kids who were mostly from Central America, and they would tell me the horrible things they’d heard about Central Americans. It broke my heart every time.

      Also, my dad’s family is Ukrainian and came to the U.S. in 1950. The Ukrainians in that community (where I grew up) had to endure terrible teasing and worse.

      I always feel like there are great people and there are jerks in every city, in every country. Sigh.

  2. z

    that curry looks amazing- like tom cruise and katie holmes “amay-zing!”
    equal opportunity judgy mcjudgerson is very democratic of you and we are the greatest democracy in the world (for now until the idiots muck it up).

  3. Very funny blog Megan, I’d feel a little bad for you if it wasn’t for the number of times people on my travels around the US have exclaimed, “OMG you’re, like, totally the most English person I’ve ever met… pip pip.”

  4. Firstly, I apologise on behalf of my fellow countryman. Clearly, somewhere, a village is missing an idiot.

    I climb aboard a hotel shuttle bus in Vietnam. There is a couple, Nordic I think, already seated. I smile and greet them with ‘Good morning, how are you this morning? etc. etc.’

    They ask ‘Where are you from?’ I say, ‘Australia’ and they reply, ‘Oh…but you’re so polite.’ What????? They still look a little confused as my husband enters the bus. I say ‘this nice couple was just asking where I was from’. He, who looks as Australian as you can get, says, ‘She’s half Russian.’

    To which they reply, with a that explains it, ‘Aaaahhhh!!!’

    I agree, let’s judge and misjudge all people equally.

    • Oh my gosh, don’t apologize for your fellow countryman! If I had to apologize every time an American did something stupid, I would never stop apologizing.

      Isn’t it weird what people will say? I just can’t imagine randomly saying something that rude to anybody!

  5. Francesca

    Very funny post!

    Because I was born and raised in England but moved to Australia when I was 15 and thus have a British accent with an Aussie twang, I have to put up with assumptions wherever I am, even at home in Oz or the UK – sometimes it drives me mental.

    Thanks for stopping by Maybe Next Week!

  6. Mmmm that curry does look delicious.

    Stupidity knows no nationality and every nationality has it’s stupid people. I’ve seen a lot of rude people in Thailand and I often wonder if it comes down to the fact that they might be less traveled or not.

    • Yeah, I think that’s true, from my experience. Also, some people seem to travel just to travel, and that sometimes doesn’t really make them super culturally sensitive.

  7. i don’t even know where to begin, this post was SO FUNNY. am laughing but trying to disguise it as coughing at work at this very moment. how did your aunt react when you asked if she had to burn her phone when she dropped it?

  8. Yes, I’m afraid it’s everywhere, and for most countries. But I have noticed that Americans get more than their fair share, as they would. And when England held all the pink bits, I’m sure they did as well. But hey, with America on the slide down, the world will have a new country to diss (but I seriously doubt they’d give America a miss regardless).

    The man of the house is English and we resided in Scotland for a year. When we were packing to move back to SE Asia, the movers and I got on very well. Nice and chummy. It was great fun until they found out that the man was English. I became such a disappointment to them.

    As far as the countrymen overseas thing goes – there is nothing more embarrassing than watching your own on holiday. Or realising that YOU have just done something typical -insert cultural what’s it here-

    • When my mom and aunt visited me in Japan, I had kind of an “ah-ha” moment, where I realized that what other people interpret as obnoxious American behavior was just them being friendly the only way they know how. It kind of made me look at things differently…

  9. Funny Funny Funny. Although we all know that the ONLY reason us Americans are perceived to be so obnoxious abroad is because we are SOOOOOOO much better than everyone else. WhooAA! *bang bang shooting guns, eat a burger, ride some horses*

    Really loved the part about the flag phone. The case should come with instructions to honorably burn and dispose of the ashes. And a bullet to shoot yourself with afterwards.

  10. Heather

    I’m with Stephanie-you are so funny! I don’t know what else to say, except that I must hang my head in shame. Wherever we go, we’re never asked where we are from, so it must be obvious. I am *gasp* an obnoxious american.

    • Thanks! :) I think a lot of times abroad when people hear native English speakers-or even non-native speakers–they assume they’re from the U.S. without even bothering to ask. Sometimes people put Canadian flags on their backpacks–have you seen that? Ugh.

  11. Hey Megan,

    I think this is my favorite post (so far ;). When I was teaching in Ecuador, these other teachers (from Canada and UK) were always bashing US. I think they thought I was excluded company but I thought it was immature and it got really old (like some of the men I’ve dated).

    I’m not ashamed of being from the US (I’m ashamed of what I had for dinner tho’). Obviously we know that if someone wants to put US down then they have self-esteem (or smaller country) issues. Now if you excuse me I have target practice to attend to. . .

    • Yeah, I don’t mind a little bit of US-bashing; I do it myself. Still, when it’s constant it gets to be so off-putting. Okay, I get it, America sucks. That’s right, whatever country you’re from has no problems at all, I’m sure.

      Good luck with that target practice!

  12. Jen

    Just stumbled onto your blog and it’s hilarious! Great sense of humor and love the funny products and stories about living in Thailand. Used to work there a few years back, singing in hotels in Bkk. Loved it!

    Up in the middle of the night here in Philadelphia and couldn’t fall back to sleep. Thanks for the laughs!

    • Oh, I bet singing in hotels was fun…

      Just checked out your site–your pictures are awesome and your little girl is beautiful!

      Thanks for the compliments! :)

  13. I hear you… I never know what I should say when people tell me I am so not the typical German… Why not? Are all Germans rude and cold and I am not? In that case, thanks, I guess (and also, not really thanks, because it’s not true in the first place). Are all Germans punctual and super efficient and I am not? Hmmm…. people are weird with their perceptions. I guess I don’t mind stereotypes and, let’s be honest, who doesn’t use them from time to time, but… at least be open to change your opinion about Germans when you meet me instead of saying I am NOT German because i don’t fit your stereotype. By the way, that “you” in the previous sentence is not you, it’s the imaginary person that pissed me off by saying I am not German :)

    • Ugh, people saying you’re not German just because you don’t fit the stereotype–that would piss me off!

      I worked in an English school a long time ago where our boss would say that certain stereotypes helped. He was talking about understanding cultural norms, like time or attitudes toward women, but I understood what he–and you!–meant. But when you take those things as irrefutable truth that can never be changed…well, that’s not the way it works, is it?

  14. I got the Canadian thing ALL the time in Oz. Canadians and a few Aussies explained, “they just didn’t want to offend you by asking if you’re American. But *that* offended me — like I should feel horrible about being American.

    We’re not perfect, but who is? And by traveling and living in another country, am I not displaying that I have an open mind and desire to learn about another culture (well, you’d hope so)?

    Sometimes I appreciated that people didn’t assume I was American because I wasn’t acting or speaking in a stereotypical way, BUT I wanted people to embrace me as an American and not pretend to be polite by asking if I’m Canadian. “I would have never guessed you’re AMERICAN.” :-P

    Judge on, sister.

    • I KNOW! I’m supposed to be offended or embarrassed about being American? No way!

      Like you said, nobody is perfect. Like, for example, those groups of Aussie and British young boys who roam the world drinking copious amounts of alcohol, being really loud, and passing out in the streets. FOR EXAMPLE.

      I mean, what is a stereotypical way to act American? I have to say, a few years ago, I saw my mom and my aunt in Japan and I realized that the “stereotypical” way to act American was to be *overly* friendly. I just can’t see that as a bad thing, I really can’t.

      I could go on, but I won’t! USA! USA!

  15. i was telling my sister about this post the other day. she lived in australia for a year and just got back. I went there in 06. so i brought this subject up to her and she was like “i know!” it really is jarring to instantly be the guy everyone hates. and it’s like we’re in a catch 22; they say “oh you’re american?! *blech!” and if we stand up for ourselves and get ignorant like them then it’s all “you see? typical american.” my sister brought up the point that american-haters are just jealous, and i think there’s some validity to that statement. so screw all of them.

    • Ha! So true–anything you do becomes “typical American”. Drives me crazy!

      Your sister sounds wise. Haters! All of them! Especially the Canadians, ya know?

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