Utrecht Travel: Facing US Stereotypes

October 1, 2010

Little by little, I’m adjusting to life in the Netherlands. I’ve mastered the most crucial Dutch phrases (“A large cone of fries, please”), can navigate the twisting, cobblestoned streets of Utrecht on my bike, and no longer look like a bewildered tourist everywhere I go (at least that’s what I tell myself). I’ve even made some Dutch friends. I’ve yet to acquire a taste for drop, an absurdly salty licorice candy that everyone here loves, but perhaps that will come with time. Or maybe I’ll learn to fake it. Because right now, the expression on my face whenever I swallow a piece is…not pleasant.

Overall, my experience here has been positive, and I’ve encountered little anti-American hostility. However, I have noted that people hold some interesting ideas about what Americans are like:

Utrecht Travel: Facing US Stereotypes

1) Americans know nothing about foreign affairs.

I won’t go into detail about my appalling lack of political and geographical knowledge, but it’s bad.

2) We’re informal.

We ask phatic questions like “How’s it going?” without expecting an answer. We speak loudly. We can be boisterous. Maybe “Jersey Shore” is contributing to this image? They broadcast it here, and it’s pretty terrifying to realize that Snookie is our foremost cultural ambassador.

3) All the buildings in the U.S. are new, towering skyscrapers. Girls wear skimpy clothes, we all drive Range Rovers and applaud ostentatious wealth.

This isn’t necessarily a negative preconception–I met a Dutch boy majoring in Economics who sees the U.S. in this way, thinks it’s great, and wants to move there when he graduates.

These stereotypes all concern surface appearance and cultural behavior. They might not seem serious. But I think that they belie a deeper mistrust about what American society represents. Consumerism, materialism, capitalism. On the positive side, America represents opportunity, newness, the future.

Little by little, I’m adjusting to life in the Netherlands. Here’s more importation information and tips for Urecht travel

I’ve learned a lot about myself over the past couple of months, and about the stereotypical “ignorant American” things that I do (not knowing where Guadeloupe is, making the occasional crass remark). But though I embody some of the negative stereotypes people have against Americans, at the end of the day, Americans are people. And people are people are people. The best I can do is to remain open. I can stop remarking upon how “quaint” everything is, for starters.

About Camille Goldin

Camille Goldin spent a semester studying abroad in Utretch, Netherlands.

5 thoughts on “Utrecht Travel: Facing US Stereotypes

  1. What brings you to Utrecht?

  2. Camille
    March 13, 2011

    Thank you, Patty! And JJ, you’re completely right. In my original post, I actually mentioned the distinction between the colloquial use of “America” in the states versus its use in Europe, but I cropped it for editing. But I’ve definitely grown more careful of referring to myself as being from “America” since coming here. However, we don’t have any other adjectives to describe ourselves. I kind of like “United Statesien” though!

  3. Patty
    March 13, 2011

    You are right, JJ! Thanks for correcting me.

  4. JJ
    March 13, 2011

    Those are not american stereotypes, but US ones. America is more than the USA!!

  5. Patty
    March 13, 2011

    I really like this post. I hate how Americans are often simultaneously resented and embraced abroad. I think your attitude towards simply remaining open is great. I wish you lots of luck!

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