Tuesday, February 24, 2015

European Perspectives: What Do You Think of Americans?

She sat across from me, her eyes towards the ceiling as she collected her thoughts before answering my question.

"What do we think of Americans?" she asked through her thick accent. She laughed, reaching for another piece of pizza. "Wow, where do I start?"

Giorgette, who I had met through a Lorenzo de'Medici function a few weeks earlier, was from Holland. She spoke fluent English and Dutch, and had traveled all over the globe. She, too, was a study abroad student in Florence--one of the only ones who was not from America.

I had asked her this question after hearing her complain all through dinner about her American roommates. She was an honest person, and I knew I would get a good answer from her.

"You're all loud. And obnoxious. And, let's face it, all you guys want to do is get drunk off cheap liquor before you're 21, which we think is absolutely ridiculous. Like, if you're going to drink, pay for the good stuff and enjoy it in a social situation, don't just knock it back like it's nothing!"

I laughed as she continued describing European perspectives on Americans.

"You all think you are so safe and protected, and that your country is the best thing since white bread. You tend to live in a bubble, and expect that everyone else will bow down and worship your music, your democracy, your fashion, everything. When really, we're all laughing at your arrogance."

I nodded, and commented that I noticed a lot of the American students walked around with a sense of invincibility, not thinking of any consequences for irresponsible behavior because we felt we were protected.

"And entitled!" she chimed in. You all think you are entitled. And I hate your accents!"

"Oh, American accents?" I asked, subconsciously listening to how I formed the words and trying to monitor so as to not sound too American.

"No, not yours," she laughed, noticing my adjustment. "Not that American accent. I'm talking about the whiny complaining one a lot of American girls have."

"Oh, like valley girl?" I asked, doing the accent for her.

She laughed, sitting back in her chair. "YES! That's the one! It's like, are they all just so unhappy about everything that they have to complain? And why do they talk through their nose like that and draw out the syllables and end every sentence as if it were a question? It seriously makes you all sound so stupid!"

The conversation went on for around 2 hours. We sat and laughed, commenting on each other's languages, sayings, and cultural behaviors.

While not all Europeans feel this way towards Americans, it is certainly true that a majority here do believe we are entitled, arrogant, loud, and irresponsible and closed-minded. An interesting perspective to hear directly from a European!


  1. Lindsey,

    Hi! I've been catching up on your blog and I found your conversation with Giorgette to be very interesting. I was just wondering if you could give any more examples of similar encounters like this in Italy or anywhere else that you've traveled in Europe? Have your own perspectives on Americans changed in any way based on these experiences? Enjoy your stay in Italy!

    -Marissa Merriman

  2. Hi Marissa!
    I was intrigued after this conversation with Giorgette, and I decided to ask others what they thought of Americans. It seems like their perceptions are similar across the board. I have definitely become more observant of American behaviors, and I definitely see how they are louder. The reason for this is quite interesting: In Italy, space is not as personal, meaning that it is expected to talk closely to someone. So, speaking loudly is not necessary. This in some way contributed to an evolution of sorts, where people in Italy naturally talk quieter because they are used to being in close quarters. However, in America, we have a difference conception of proxemics, and stand further away from each other, demanding that we talk louder. It makes sense when we break it down!