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.