Stereotypes Abroad, Part 2
Find Part 1 here.
In fact it’s hard to put into words the reception I received – and I do have a theory as to why I was perceived this way and other native English speakers were not. It may have been connected to the fact that I don’t dress like people presume Americans dress, or that I didn’t speak their language the way they thought an American would, and that when I didn’t understand so I said so in their language and didn’t resort to English. After a number of these experiences, I became much more inclined to resort to English quicky and less inclined to try the local language.
Could my impressions be wrong, or could I be too sensitive? I admit this is a possibility, but for a number of reasons, including the (somewhat limited) input of different people separately, I tend to think I’m right about at least some of it. I’ve travelled and worked in several countries, and I don’t have this feeling all the time. I should also point out that I don’t feel that these experiences characterized my experience in the country in question – most people did not treat me that way. But some did. And it wasn’t only that I didn’t like being treated in this way, it bothered me that some people felt that this was an appropriate way to treat someone – a foreigner, an immigrant, whatever. I also don’t mean to imply that immigrants elsewhere are necessarily treated better…just that this was probably my first first-hand experience of this.
I’ve travelled in a number of countries, and admit at times I am cautious because I’m American and I know many if not most people disagree with a lot of US politics. Still, it has been rare for me to be put on the spot because of this, and while I think this is eye-opening too…it’s not the same as above, or at least it’s something that many Americans experience or can imagine. Similarly, I’ve had people form pre-conceived notions of how I will think or act based on something superficial; I don’t like this either, but it’s somehow still qualitatively different. I may have been treated differently because of my nationality, but this has been the first time I’ve felt looked down on or treated as suspect because of my presumed nationality, and it essentially makes me agree with the author that native English speakers do receive a degree of special treatment or respect that we are generally not aware of.