Being a North American Abroad
Tourists from North America can sometimes be classified abroad
as demanding, wealthy, inconsiderate, individualistic, loud and not
willing to learn other languages. This label is something that you may
have to deal with during your time abroad. However, you will find that
people are often willing to be open to you as an individual.
The best way to dispel this myth is to:
Understand that stereotypes go both ways: North American culture is constantly portrayed in the global mass media.
Just as you see stereotypes about other cultures through the media, so
will people from your host country about the the place where you come
from. While addressing questions based on mass media and stereotypical
images, it is best to explain your daily life by finding common themes
between the life styles of the countries through a story format. It is
very important to not take these questions personally, but to use them
as a spring board to learn more about your host culture and
reflect on your own.
Do not advertise your nationality, but be open when asked: If they ask, you can generally be open to telling people about
where you are from. However, as a visitor in another country, it is a good idea not to draw attention to yourself, especially as a
foreign tourist (see "Safety Tips").
Understand different cultural standards of defining wealth: When studying overseas, you might be surprised to find that many people
will consider you to be rich, even if you don't think of yourself that
way back home. Although you may have had to work and save money for
months - or take out various student loans - in order to pay for your
study abroad, you may still be considered wealthy in some countries
because you have the opportunity to attend college or university and you have direct access to the job market in North America. This access to jobs and education can make you wealthy in the minds of those you might meet in your host country.
Remember the Golden Rule of Cultural Interaction: Do not judge a person because of cultural stereotypes if you do not want
them to be overly critical of you. Just be polite and friendly, and
they should begin to see you as an individual.