13.1.08

American?

I stayed in Basel this weekend since M. is in the US and I have a week of hell coming up and wanted to cut back on the travel and rest. The Frenchman is on vacation, 5 new team members are joining us this week and 50 end users are arriving on Monday for their first attempts to test the new system. One of my client team members was stranded in town this weekend too, so we decided to go to dinner on Saturday night and do a little bar hopping afterwards.

Dinner was great. We ate at Bodega zum Strauss, an Italian restaurant on Barfüsserplatz, although I had sesame coated seared tuna with avocado wasabi sauce, which doesn't seem very Italian. Delish!

My colleague is from Finland so we had some great conversations about Finland, Finnish attitudes, culture, history, sports, etc. We were the last two in the restaurant, giggly and laughing at the end in part due to our nearly empty bottle of Sicilian wine but also just girls being girls.

We even agreed to pull a prank on the Project Romeo and this had the stiff Swiss waitress glaring at our peals of laughter for a good 20 minutes. (Side note on the Project Romeo - every project is guaranteed to have at least one Project Romeo, a guy who trys to woo all the ladies secretly but who ends up being the project laughing stock when it comes out that he applies the same sad tricks indiscriminately to all. Typically the Romeo's outing occurs at a social gathering of the ladies, after they have too much wine, when someone decides to tell the story of what Romeo has tried recently to seduce her and about 10 women in the room pipe up - he said/did that to me too! At this point he has no chance but serves him right anway.)

Anyhow, we headed out and after passing on a few bars, settled into one of the Irish pubs in town for a couple of ciders. We were chit chatting away when the inevitable happened. The statement that comes sooner or later in one form or another with most Europeans I get to know.

You aren't really American.

Last I checked I have an American passport, a loud mouth and occasionally still revert to wearing a baseball cap in public on a bad hair day when running errands. I never know how to take this statement or any of its kin that imply I just don't fit the 'American profile'.

On the one hand it is a sign that whatever prejudices the person who uttered it had originally, the barrier is now down. It is a sign of acceptance. Maybe I am somehow different from most Americans or maybe the American stereotype is just that. On the other hand, I feel like I am betraying my country somehow, or am not authentic, or that even if I am ok to hang out with, this person clearly does not like my countrymen or country as a whole and I am just an exception to their rule.

I hope one of these days I know what the right response is to that statement.

Posted from Basel

8 comments:

Expat Traveler said...

Lol - that is funny. I was always asked where I was from and people were stunned as well.

I just left it to saying that where I was living was where I was from. It's much easier and nobody tends to care that much most of the time..

J said...

I get that all the time. 'Real Americans, not people like you'. I do believe that it's because we don't live up to the stereotypes that they have of 'Americans' as a whole, not that they don't like our fellow countrymen.

Global Librarian said...

I get that all the time as well. I usually say, "The United States is a huge and extremely diverse country. There are many, many kinds of Americans."

Most Europeans recognize the extremely annoying ones who fit all of the stereotypes. Not the regular ones, who make up the bulk of Americans living and traveling in Europe, and tend to blend in to the local population.

Anonymous said...

Assimilation into a different culture is a natural and basic process. As with any culture one learns how to adapt. It is instinctual.

Rositta said...

The sad thing is that there are some really obnoxious Americans and unfortunately that ruins it for the majority that are great. I have met both types on my travels, fortunately for me more like you. My husband is American but when we travel he always uses his Canadian passport and I have met Americans who pin the Canadian flag on their backpacks...ciao

Gardner said...

very nice story, with that amazing twist at the end.

Many Germans think that I must be from England at our first meeting. I always take it as a compliment. My accent is atypical for Americans, but still from an English speaker; and I am living in the day to day life in Germany. Must be from this side of the pond.

It's fun to shock them and tell them that I'm from America, with 5 children, living in Germany, speaking German. Keeps things interesting.

Also, playing the "where in the sam hill is Madison, Wisconsin" game is very fun. Because the next question is what state are you from.

Somewhere near Chicago for all of you geography buffs out there.

Claire said...

I am not sure the response to that either. It is about as wierd as when someone says, "You are not a real foreigner here in Germany." Huh?

Cathy said...

Clearly you're just not trying hard enough at being American - you must stop venturing out without your cowgirl hat and boots! LOL