Admit It, You’re American
What’s the first thing someone asks you when you go abroad, if it isn’t already blatantly obvious from staring at your clothes or your face? Most people ask, “Where are you from?” Or even better, “What are you?” Now, when we’re home in the States and people ask us that question, how many of us say, “I’m Italian.” Or “I’m Jewish.” Or, “Well, I’m American, but my parents come from Ecuador, so I’m Ecuadorian.” We are all guilty of this, and so what? After all, the U.S is just a giant ‘melting pot,’ right? Or a ‘salad bowl’ depending on whom you ask. We all know this…we are Americans; we are all different races, religions, ethnicities, cultures, ages, genders, etc., and it’s all so wonderful.
If we can’t say it when we are in our country, then why, when we go abroad and someone asks us where we are from, we are suddenly so eager to blurt out, “I’m American!” or depending on where we’re from, “I’m from New York; Chicago; California…!” Well, why else? Five minutes ago you might have been saying that you never want to move back, but then suddenly you’re showing off your hometown?
We use America as a way to get what we want or to pick up that cute guy at the bar like it’s nothing. Why is it then so difficult for Americans just to say, “I’m American!” when someone asks and not when we want to get attention for being from the ‘Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave’ (and Lady Gaga)? After all, the Danish tell us they are from Denmark; the Germans say they are from Germany, the Chileans say they are from Chili. So, why are we so special? After all, we aren’t the first country in the world to have immigrants.
After all, the Danish tell us they are from Denmark; the Germans say they are from Germany, the Chileans say they are from Chili. So, why are we so special?
Well, after being abroad for so long and now living in Mexico, you might think I have an answer to the question. SPOILER ALERT: I don’t. Maybe the reason we don’t like to say we are American is because we don’t like our government. Obama makes us mad. The economy is down. There are no jobs. The rent is too damn high. I can’t save any money. There are hormones in our food. Healthcare is too expensive. We are lacking in education. Taxes, taxes, taxes–all of these things.
Even though you might be wearing your American Eagle shorts and your Forever 21 tank top and your hair might be platinum blond and you’re wearing shoes that even have the American flag plastered on them, you just don’t want to admit that you come from this country. Because people have stereotypes against us, so you might say, “Yes, we are American, but we just aren’t like other Americans.” Or, “I live there, but I’m not from there”. Or, “Yes, I’m American, but that’s just where my passport is from.” All of us might have said something like this at one point to a fellow traveler. But, as soon as you get to a foreign country, are you not the first one to scream at a party, “I’m from (insert city here)”?
Where Are You From? Admit It, You’re American
Okay, so you’re not really American. But I bet you could really go for that bacon cheeseburger right now. I bet you could really use a trip to Trader Joe’s.
I bet that these local stores really don’t have the hair dye or the makeup you like. And that the pizza at that restaurant is not quite like you are used to ( how can they even call that pizza?). And cheese…I mean come on, really, how can you call that cheese? And how am I supposed to watch TV when it’s not in English? I mean, does ANYONE speak English here? And the Cheetos don’t even taste like Cheetos. And I can’t believe they gave me a haircut that looks like that…I said MEDIUM! And haven’t they ever heard of customer service around here? If this was America I would just…! And I can’t access Netflix — ‘isn’t available in my country yet?’ How can this happen?!
Because people have stereotypes against us, so you might say, “Yes, we are American, but we just aren’t like other Americans.” Or, “I live there, but I’m not from there”.
The point is, you aren’t in America and things aren’t like they were back at home. You miss it and suddenly America isn’t so bad. You start to feel bad for using America like that time your ex used you at college. And maybe you start to blast country songs in your house even though you never liked country music just because it reminds you of the U.S.
These are all things that I have heard others say and I have said myself. Since being in Mexico, I’ve noticed that things are certainly a little more similar to the U.S than in other places, but that being said, there still are quite a few differences, too.
For example, the first time I ate a taco, I was very confused. I thought tacos came in hard shells, and that if you ate it with a soft shell, you were weird. It turns out that we were the weird ones. According to one of my students, “A taco is always eaten in a soft shell.”
The point is, you aren’t in America and things aren’t like they were back at home.
Also, the thing I couldn’t wait to eat here was a burrito, and in Central Mexico, burritos are just not really a thing. The grocery store sells chili pepper only with lime, and if I want potato chips then I better get used to putting Valentina on it. In fact, just put hot sauce and chili on everything while you’re at it, even popcorn. The water is not always hot, you have to pay for clean water all the time, and the internet and power isn’t always reliable. Things are twice the price here, and sometimes I just wish I could take a trip over the border to get what I need at the ‘correct’ price.
In fact, when I think about it, there are so many things people miss about the U.S when they aren’t there. Of course, there are things we can live without, too.
But the more I’m gone, the more I realize that America is good for a lot of things. There aren’t many places in the world where you can have any type of food at any time you want or where you can go to a bookstore and actually fully understand the titles. There aren’t many other places where you can almost guarantee you will have a hot shower, where water is given to you for FREE at restaurants, and let’s face it, where you can understand everything that goes on! Home is where the heart is.
So for all of those Americans out there, who might be Black, White, Asian, Muslim, Mexican, Ukrainian, or adopted, guess what, you are still AMERICAN. So, now in Mexico when someone asks me, “What are you?” I have to think.
I am a Jewish, Irish, French, Russian, Polish American living in Mexico, and I am sure damn proud of it.”
If I’m craving a trip to Buffalo Wild Wings or to 711 for a Slurpee, which I am 100% of the time, then you can bet on your stars and stripes that I am going to say,“I’m American. I am a Jewish, Irish, French, Russian, Polish American living in Mexico, and I am sure damn proud of it.”
God Bless bacon cheeseburgers. God Bless America.
Where Are You From? Admit It, You’re American photo credits by Jessica Shen.