Friday, August 6, 2010

Ameropeans and Other Strange Breeds

The longer Writer Abroad lives in Europe, the more Ameropean she becomes. Ameropeans are a unique breed of Americans that can see the United States from a distinctive viewpoint. For example, even though Ameropeans are Americans, upon visiting the USA, Ameropeans realize they are different. Here's why:

Ameropeans in America:

1. Do a double take when they realize they can understand conversations around them.
2. Order a small Coke and exclaim that it's way too big.
3. Suck on ice. It's so good.
4. Complain that both American coffee and American beer is watery.
5. Confuse the first and second floor at a department store.
6. Forget that tax is not included.
7. Forgo attending a writing conference because it's not easily accessible by public transport.
8. Get depressed in restaurants that don't have any windows.
9. Get depressed in restaurants that do have windows but have views of parking lots.
10. Freeze in air conditioning.
11. Rail against stores that are wasting energy by blasting A/C and leaving their doors open.
12. Dress up to go to the grocery store. Then regret it when Americans in sweats stare at them.
13. Notice how fat people are.
14. Wonder what the waitress is so happy about.
15. Wonder what everyone is so happy about.
16. Then realize it must be the root beer floats.
17. Feel overwhelmed by choice.
18. Feel overwhelmed by fast food.
19. Feel overwhelmed by white socks.
20. Feel overwhelmed that they will never be normal again.

Are you an Ameropean? Or Amersian? Or something else equally strange?


  1. Oh man, am I ever. I went back from living in The Netherlands since age 8 to go to college in the states...I'm still in culture shock, and it's been four years. I look and sound like I should know what's going on...but I have no idea!

    "6. Forget that tax is not included."

    Every time. Every. Time.

  2. Glad to hear someone can relate! I'm always shocked with the tax thing--in Illinois they add 10% at the cash register to all the prices!

  3. How about Ameri-Asians?
    1. Laugh loudly when southern Californians complain about "traffic".
    2. Marvel at the cleanliness of gas station bathrooms.
    3. Get annoyed at having to tip anyone for anything.
    4. Can't go clothes shopping without stating that they could get 3 of any item in the mall--tailor made-- for half the price.
    5. Notice how fat people are :) I'm definitely with you on that one!

  4. The tip stuff one I can relate to as well! Thanks for sharing the Amersian point of view!

  5. When I'm back in the States, I forget to be polite for the first two days since even smiling in public in Denmark can signal that you're crazy or drunk. Of course, it's also the thing I like most about being home—the random outgoing nature of so many people—so you'd think I'd latch on immediately.

    I don't do a lot of this other stuff, but it makes me an unassimilated freak in Denmark: I wear grubby clothes to the market and always want larger portion sizes. I don't know what people around me are saying but I'm even more likely to forget that they can understand me. That can get tricky if I don't keep my voice down... :)

  6. I just got back to the States on Friday night after spending a year's sabbatical in Lisbon, and am experiencing all these things and more. I haven't yet ventured back to the grocery store, but am always struck when I return here by the size of both the cars and the houses. So wide! So gangly! So unnecessary!

    Thanks for posting this today... glad to see I'm not the only one with culture shock.

  7. Not to mention the size of the chip aisle(s). I was shopping at Jewel recently and couldn't believe the number of chips. But then my mother-in-law told me, "you're not in the real chip aisle." There was another aisle that was even bigger...

  8. I found your blog through your essay on Skirt, and this list made me giggle all too knowingly. Visiting the US from Italy always puts my head into a weird state of half hilarity and half confusion. How can self-respecting adults wear flip-flops to the grocery store? Which language do I answer in again? You mean that speed limit is enforced? What is 80 degrees in Celsius? WHY does everyone complain about the price of gas? Is anyone going to notice if I hyperventilate from an influx of choices on the third snack aisle? Did this really use to be my home? Thankfully, root beer floats are always guaranteed to help though!

    ( - OpenID is not my friend today)

    1. Not to mention the size of the chip aisle(s). I was shopping at Jewel recently and couldn't believe the number of chips. But then my mother-in-law told me, "you're not in the real chip aisle." There was another aisle that was even bigger... antique earrings designs , diamond head pieces , glass jewelry box , mens winter scarf

  9. Hi Bethany,

    Thanks for your visit and for reading my essay on Skirt. It always takes me a few days with the language--to remember I don't have to think so hard about everything!

    For sure about the price of gas. Some Americans don't realize just how expensive gas is in the rest of the world! We were paying the equivalent $7-8 dollars a gallon on our trip in France last year. And the tolls were another story...

  10. Hello Chantal,
    as a French expat currently living in the US, I completely agree with everything you wrote. What stroke me the most when I was back in France are :
    - why my compatriots are so rude with each other and with me. Incivility is increasing in France.
    - it is a relief to be understood by anyone and to understand everybody anywhere. You feel isolated when one make you repeat systematically what you say while you think your English is correct.
    - why my country is so dirty, especially in the South of France. Tags are everywhere on the walls. You do not see that very often in Chicago for instance where I currently live.

    As you can notice, it also obviously works in the other way.

  11. For sure. I think living abroad makes you realize no place is perfect.

  12. Yes, definitely agree with you: no place is perfect! I'm french, and I've lived as an exchange student in the US, Spain, Denmark and have finally settled in Sweden. The only way to thrive in a new country & culture is by adapting to your environemment- look at the good things, and stop being nostalgic about what makes the grass greener on the other side.

  13. I expect to be returning to live in the US in a few years after about 15 years in England. I'm expecting to feel like a stranger in my own homeland and to have to learn things all over again, as much will have changed. It is an odd feeling when I go home and so much has changed - some for the better, some not. I agree, you take what you find where you find it; pointless to moan about it!

  14. Ooh, I completely agree with you. Although considering the heat in Chicago right now, I'm glad for the a/c!
    I lived in Sweden for many years, then Wales, and now I'm in England. It never fails to shock me how big Americans are compared to Europeans (though the British are starting to catch up). I know I'm back in the US when I'm standing in line at customs at the airport, and everyone is two or three times my size, and babbling on their cell phones.
    Traffic is also exhausting in the US, and getting worse all the time. It used to take 15 minutes for me to drive to my grandparents' place from my parents' home, and now 35 minutes is the norm. And meanwhile, all the other drivers are chatting on their phones and not paying attention to the road. And why do they all drive SUVs? Who needs such a big car in a city? It's just obnoxious.
    Also, I get tired of defending the US when I'm abroad, and tired of explaining the UK/Europe when I'm in the US. I can't be alone in that, right?
    Best wishes,
    BJ (another Chicagoan, and in fact, I'm visiting my relatives in Chicago now and can't wait to have my Edwardo's spinach deep dish on Monday!)

  15. Don't know if this is true for other Ameropeans, but as a GermAmeropean when I'm back in the States I get nervous Saturday afternoon if I haven't done food shopping because... oh wait! Stores are open in Wisconsin on Sunday.

    Nice post. Glad to have found the blog!

  16. Paula,

    I had the same thing happen to me when I was in the US. It was Sunday and I wanted to go buy something and was about to realize I'd have to wait until Monday, when I suddenly realized, wait, no I don't!

  17. Wow! These are the things that I would always talk about with my international friends...while overseas. I might add from my experience..."Get frustrated when there is too much ice./Wonder why the chocolate is so sweet./Wonder why I am the only person walking a mile to downtown, doesn't everyone walk?"
    Thanks for sharing!

  18. Ha, ha, that's funny about the walking. My mom used to teach ESL and some of her students would come to class wondering why Americans would pull over while they were walking along the road and ask if they needed help.

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