American travelers are all used to encountering stereotypes while abroad. We’re all fat, loud, gun-slinging, ignorant racists. Right? While many people choose to focus on the negative aspects of the USA, there are plenty of positive (or hilarious) generalizations that you may encounter abroad.
1. We smile a lot.
It’s true, Americans cheese way harder than many of our friends around the globe. While Thailand beat us to the title of “Land of Smiles,” many foreigners are confused by our perpetual happiness. While some criticize this habit as being disingenuous, it’s really just a cultural phenomenon. A smile is seen as polite and signals to its recipient that you are probably not going to shove them into a trashcan at any second. I’ve found the lack of smiling abroad to be confusing at times. Is this waiter about to spit in my food, or is he having a perfectly normal day? Nobody knows.
2. They’ll think you want Ketchup on everything.
Yes, Americans love Ketchup (no not “tomato sauce” or any other not-so-identical substitute). But just because we like the stuff doesn’t mean we want it on your delicious local cuisine! We love to eat…we come to Thailand for a good Pad Thai, not a ketchup covered butchering of a quality dish. True story: I ordered a Kebap in Austria…the cook asked me where I was from while preparing the döner deliciousness. After responding that I was American, he immediately looked up and asked if I would like ketchup on my Kebap. Not in a condescending way, he genuinely believed he was being helpful and that I would surely want ketchup.
3. We’re expected to be gods at drinking games.
Blame it on Hollywood–Animal House, Project X, Beerfest, etc. Sure, Americans love drinking games, but we also love football. Is every American good at football? No. If you don’t sink your first cup in a game of Beer Pong against some Brits, be prepared for the trash talking. America’s honor is resting on your shoulders, make us proud!
4. We tip extremely generously.
The US has a very different tipping culture than the rest of the world. Somewhere along the line, we decided it was OK to pay our waiters and waitresses next to nothing, but make an unwritten rule that you have to tip to make up the difference. Under standard circumstances, not leaving a tip (or even leaving a tip below 15%) is akin to shouting obscenities at a little old lady or knocking down a kid’s sandcastle at the beach…you just don’t do that. Because of this, we tend to overtip abroad (from either a lack of knowledge of local tipping practices or a compulsion to leave extra money based on our habits at home).
5. We REALLY love our country.
The rest of the world just doesn’t get why we fly American flags everywhere and wear the stars and stripes at any possible opportunity. Well, America is a great country with a lot going for it. We should be proud of that! But that’s not to say the US is perfect or that your country isn’t great too. I’ve found that most people have pride for their homeland, they just express it in different ways. Whether it’s food, traditions, flags, or songs, we all tend to cheer for the home team.