Americans Abroad

Jackson was telling me about the party he had been to. “I think I pissed off an American girl tonight.” He stated.

“How so?”

“I said that Americans don’t travel very much and I think she took offense to that.”

“Well, I think you’re right.”

“Yeah. She said that wasn’t true, that Americans travel in America. Then I told her about how few Americans have passports. She said that it was because it was expensive to travel to Europe and the rest of the world is so far away. I was like: are you kidding me? I’m from New Zealand. Do you have any idea how expensive it is to travel from that country? We have to fly over Australia and that alone takes ten hours to get anywhere, yet we travel more than Americans! That’s not a good excuse.”

“What an idiot.”

Yet, I think that American girl was voicing what many Americans believe. She’s not wrong, it is expensive to travel to Europe especially in these days when a round trip ticket to London can cost a thousand bucks and the pound dwarfs the dollar in value. Plus, there are the hinderances caused by a lack of vacation time (2 weeks a year for most people) and a lack of any foreign language skill. Let’s also not forget the amazing job the media has done to portray poorer countries as bastions of evil, spawning nasty blank-faced foreigners whose only desire is to kidnap and rob rich tourists. I know many Americans who have never left the country, but have traveled over a thousand miles to end up in New York City, can I call them close-minded when if one were to travel a thousand miles in Europe they’d be going from Scotland to the Mediterranean?

I’ve started to begin my training as an ESL teacher. I’m going to learn how to teach English and maybe take those skills and use them abroad. Since getting back from New ¬†Zealand my mind has been alive with the possibilities of moving to another place for a while (not for years, but maybe a few months at a time) and learning about another culture while teaching mine. However, I’m struggling to understand what my culture really is. If I were to mold my American mind around what the media tells me I’d be talking about how the French President, Francois Hollande, showed up at a state dinner flying solo (Oh, the drama!) or how Speaker of the House, John Beohner, has pissed off everyone everywhere forevermore. Maybe I’d be able to talk in depth about how stupid our new Mayor DeBlasio looked as he cut into a slice of pizza rather than eating it with his hands? Is that what my culture is? The hit song of the week is about a bleached blonde woman singing how she’s going to dance dance dance and yell “Timber!” every other sentence before jumping up on a bar and shaking her sweet sweaty butt in the camera (don’t get me wrong, I know all the words to that 15 word song, and I dance dance dance to it like any red-blooded American female should on a Friday night).

But, outside our borders, what’s really going on? I find the world to be a HUGE place full of interesting people with completely different ways of seeing life and I want to be out there among them. I want to be the American abroad where I feel exotic, my politics discussed with curiosity, jealousy and, dare I say, disgust. I’d be a warrior out there in the big world ready to defend the super-giant that my country is. It’s amazing how invigorating it feels to be the only American in the room, the only one who comes from a gun wielding country where there is no universal health care and whose education system is 17th in the world. I think all Americans should experience that feeling, maybe it’ll help ground us more in a reality where we’re¬†not numero uno.

The American girl at that party had a right to be pissed, I guess. Jackson had a right to be defensive and annoyed as well. From my angle, had I been there, I would have pressed her to talk about her experiences, maybe swapped notes before calling her an idiot. Americans aren’t idiots, just naive at times. And for my part, I wish everyone could travel and see how different we all are and how similar we are, too. Until that Utopian society happens, I’ll be studying my Nouns, Pronouns, and Verbs in an effort to bring English to those wishing to learn it and keep seeking more experience with a world not wrapped around the hinderances of international travel.

February 12, 2014 at 5:59 pm by Natalie Allen