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.
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?)
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?
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.
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.
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!
Being Judgmental of All People Equally: 0 Megan: 1
What can I say? I’m really good at being judgmental.