Americans abroad

I’m back from Europe!  And I’ve got a lot to talk about.  Today, two things I’ve learned over the past couple of weeks:

  1. I am immune to jet lag.
  2. Americans abroad can be terrible people.

To the latter point, I’m not generalizing to all Americans abroad–just a very specific situation I encountered while standing in a 2 1/2 hour line with a couple thousand other people.

Here’s the thing: I remember what it was like traveling abroad in the early 2000’s.  Bush was president, and the Iraq War had just started.  It was a weird time to be an American in general, but it was distressing to be an American abroad.  The rest of the world did not like our government, and young Americans (with very little interest in politics in general) such as myself had to play a game where we either pretended to be Canadian or pretty much agree with every dumb thing people said about our country just to have meaningful interactions with other people.  At hostels, restaurants, beer halls and gardens, anywhere: if it came out that we were Americans, it was always make exceedingly clear from the get-go that we never voted for Bush and that we were horribly apologetic about what he’s done to our country and the rest of the world.

So it was decided that, going forward, anything that could be done to convince the locals of wherever we were that Americans just weren’t the loud, obnoxious, fat, rude people they saw on TV, that thing that could be done is what we would do.  We whispered on trains.  We didn’t jaywalk.  We heavily researched local transit so that we wouldn’t have to irritate locals with ridiculous questions.  We came prepared, and we stayed out of the way.

Which is why, when there’s a line of about 2,000 people that stretches about 400 meters, wrapping from the entrance Vatican Museums almost to Via di Porta Angelica, that’s been inching along for 2 1/2 hours, if you’re an American, the last thing you should do is cut into the front when you bump into a bunch of your buddies.  Look, the rest of the world already thinks we’re assholes.  Whether that’s true or not, you shouldn’t give them more ammunition for that stereotype.  And when another American you just cut in front of steps to you to tell you that what you’ve just done is bullshit, telling him to “just chill out, man” only makes it worst for us as a whole.

In other words, when traveling abroad, don’t be a dick.  I mean, don’t be a dick in general, but especially when you’re abroad.  Because, as an American, you’re representing us all.  So don’t fuck it up any more than it already is for the rest of us.

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