Thursday, March 12, 2009

I just discovered that my post about text messaging has been mentioned on a website called Silicon Republic in their Blog Digest, which then also made it to The Independent's web site. And they mentioned my blog favorably! What a pleasant surprise!

They also feature other Americans blogging about living in Ireland, particularly one that describes five American women who get together to commiserate. The article points out, "More importantly, they’re aware of American stereotypes (loud, brash, etc). Do we still make all Americans feel this way?" I know that technically this was a rhetorical question, but in my mind I'd like to pretend that it wasn't. Thank you for asking!

It is so hard to answer this question. Because on one hand, I can't say that anyone has necessarily *done* anything to make me feel that way since I've arrived. However, I have been in situations where it has definitely crossed my mind that people have thought I was the "loud, brash" American. I should say here, for the record, that I have said since before I came over that I would not soften my accent. I do not want to be one of those people who travel to a different part of the world and then suddenly change the way they have spoken their entire lives. My sister moved to Alabama from New England and I swear she had a southern accent when she got off the plane, and I'm sorry sis, I love you but I always thought it was weird and wrong sounding. So when I open my mouth, it's my advertisement that I'm American (unless I happen to come across that rare open-minded individual who might consider me a Canadian). And when that happens, and I mean every time, I do so with a bit of apprehension.

If you're wondering why, here's an example. I was locking up my bike one day, and this man came up to me. "That's a nice bike!" he said, "Is it a single speed?" I said that it was, and he commented on how fast it must be, and asked me if it was very expensive. I said that it was surprisingly cheap, as I had bought it in the States and taken it over on the plane with me. "Oh, so you're American," he said. Then he asked me where from. I said Boston. He said where in Boston, I rattled off about six neighborhoods. Then he asked, "Does America still treat their Vietnam Vets like scum?"

At some point, I think every American in Europe is expected to be a spokesman for the country. And it feels like a lot of pressure, even if your audience is only one, because that one person could walk away thinking you and the US are a bunch of morons, or could walk away with a new perspective and understanding, depending on the eloquence of your response. (But as it happens, I don't happen to agree with the way the US treats its Veterans, but I also, admittedly, don't know much about it. All I do know is that I have two uncles who stayed on in service after the war, and they were treated very very well. So I told the man that my unfortunate estimation was that if you stayed on, you got a good pension and were treated well, but if you left the service after Vietnam, then you probably got the short end of the stick. Then he said something about the US being run by big business, and I shrugged a LOT because I in my head I started to have a lot to say, but was in no mood for debate, so I said nothing, and he walked away, having merely confirmed his ideas about America.)

America is tyrannical in so many ways, and it's disgusting what Bush has done to alienate the International community in eight years. But there are many "American values" that I used to laugh at that I sure would like to see around the streets of Dublin. More smiling, for one. Sometimes when I'm walking down the street, I play a little game. I smile at everyone I walk past to see who will smile back. Nine times out of ten, the other person will not even make eye contact with me, let alone greet me with a smile. People said that Dubliners were friendly, but what they meant were people drunk in the pubs. I'm looking for friendly folks in daylight hours, if it isn't too much to ask.

Yesterday I went into the bike shop to get some fenders for my bike. The sales guy was actually trying to talk me out of getting nice ones. "This is Dublin," he said, "They're either going to get stolen, or vandalized. I don't know if you've noticed, but people will mess with your bike just because they can." Mark's been saying this since I got here, and of course I believed him, but it was odd to hear it from another source. I understand theft. But vandalism? Messing with my wheels, just for fun? And it's so widespread, that it's a well-known fact. I wonder, which country is more tyrannical when it comes to the individual?

But back to the question at hand: I think it's a hang-up that everyone needs to get over. You can't label the citizens of a country with one attribute, no matter how big or how small that country is. We've got soft-spoken people and brash people in scores. Just like every other place. The difference is that when Americans act loudly, or assertively, it seems to represent something. As if no one from any other part of the world is assertive, or brash, or too loud. It's as if we feel we have to constantly apologize for where we come from, or the sins of our country. And how much each individual takes this guilt on is a very personal decision.


  1. So... I think it's "wicked cool" that your blog gets mentioned in other sources. (How do you know when it happens??)

    And I do also remember fondly Tina's sudden southern accent. I love her line (with southern drawl, about 6 day after arriving in AL), "All this time I thought I was slow... turns out, I was just born in the wrong part of the country." LOL!

  2. If you reread what you wrote you will maybe recall comments made by people, like yourself, but in the US and it's the same the world over. We are all living in an international world. There are multi millions of people who left their country to get work somewhere. This caused a reduction in competition in their old world. But, none the less. they took jobs away from the locals. Is that really true? I don't know for sure. I do know that in New Hampshire, in order to bring the harvest of apples, they have to import workers from some Caribbean island. The local workers are either NOT available or do NOT
    want to pick apples. Education, special talents, knowledge levels and the such do not exist in the same amounts in all countries. Instead of moving on to some more opportune place in their own country (Probably nonexistent), they move somewhere else in their international world. There is not always a one to one replacements in the working community. Foreigners,(Quote, etc) earning money abroad most times send the money to family at home. Some countries rely on that money to keep their own economy from falling apart. Foreigners may someday disappear and just become people from another international city.
    Having been born, as were my 7 siblings, of those
    "foreigner" types who left home and family for sure work and money to raise a family feel that we, me, and my parents and my siblings, helped a great deal to better the USA.

    Sorry about that. I got carried away!!

    Anyway, Ang, HAPPY BIRTHDAY

  3. I forgot to mention that the quote from Tina when she first got to Alabama is very high on my list of quotable "quotes"

  4. Dad, you make good points, of course. As time goes on, the "foreigners" are no longer foreign. And being part of the EU means that citizens here enjoy the luxury of exploring and working in other countries of Europe. A luxury I am not privy to as a non-EU, I should say! But people who complain about these issues are usually not educated about them, I'm afraid.

  5. for the record, the independent newspaper is a neoliberal paper which has historically served the interests of the business class whilst eliding other strands in irish culture