Saturday, December 4, 2010

Do people really hate Americans?

Note: this blog is for anyone wanting to live and work in another country. It's not specifically targeting Americans, but since I'm an American and almost half of my traffic is from the US (currently 47%), I will deal with "US-specific" issues from time to time.

Sooner or later, most Americans travelling abroad hear about the idea of sewing a Canadian flag to their backpack. After all, Americans are so despised around the world that it's safe to pretend to be a Canadian, right?

You'll be happy to know that this is a myth. To be fair, if you're in Iran and in a Revolutionary Guard recruiting rally, it might not be the best time for wearing your "America, Fuck Yeah!" t-shirt. Aside from that, don't sweat it; you're simply not going to have that much of a problem. That being said, there are sometimes problems. What follows is going to be a touch political, but frankly, you can't discuss "do people hate Americans" without this topic arising.

Traveller Essentials
Essential Travel Accessory?
Photo by mattkiazyk
When I first moved to Europe in 2001, the general consensus, even in a pre-9/11 world, was "we hate your government, but we love Americans." When I moved back to Europe in 2006, the tone had changed: "we hate your government and you voted for them." And this was in the UK, one of the closest allies to the US! Things have toned down a bit. With the election of Obama, Europe was elated and people hearing my US accent would stop and thank me, as if I were somehow personally responsible for this. The enthusiasm for Obama has died down considerably, but the hostility towards Americans hasn't really returned. In fact, out of all of my years abroad, I've only met one extremely hostile individual. We were colleagues and he claimed to hate Americans and he always switched the language away from English when he could. Fortunately, that was the only serious problem I had.

Gary Arndt, on the other hand, has been travelling around the planet for years and he hasn't encountered a single case of anti-Americanism. He talks of people being fascinated by Americans and our lives here and that's mostly been my experience too. Talking to my other expat friends and reading through other blogs on the topic all serves to reinforce this: people understand the difference between a people and their government. Ditch that Canadian flag, you won't need it.
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