If you talk to American people, they smell like freedom
June 14, 2015 11:41 AM   Subscribe

How do you distinguish Americans [from other nationalities]? Students from many different countries at Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University (Japan) talk about what makes Americans different. (SLYT)
posted by desjardins (127 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
I hear overweight and arrogant more than anything.
posted by Andrew Thewes at 12:05 PM on June 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


Really? This is how we start the thread?
posted by the lake is above, the water below at 12:07 PM on June 14, 2015 [25 favorites]


Don't forget schlubby clothing!
posted by aubilenon at 12:07 PM on June 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


Oooh oooh let's do Germans next!
posted by stargell at 12:09 PM on June 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's the Welsh that I hate the most
posted by the uncomplicated soups of my childhood at 12:10 PM on June 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


You can almost always identify North Americans in other countries by their shoes.
posted by srboisvert at 12:11 PM on June 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


Wow, I want to go to this university! Such a mix.
posted by dhruva at 12:14 PM on June 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


I've always felt I can identify Dutch people from their glasses. I have no idea why.
posted by pipeski at 12:18 PM on June 14, 2015


I'm glad they are lumping in Canadians, Brazilians, Panamanians, and so on with those of us fron the United States. I mean, we're not all like Chris Christie, are we?
posted by TedW at 12:18 PM on June 14, 2015


"They wear shorts" struck me as particularly true, of all the comments.
posted by obfuscation at 12:19 PM on June 14, 2015 [7 favorites]


...also apparently I suck at flags.
posted by obfuscation at 12:20 PM on June 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


My favorite is definitely the Koreans' observation that the Americans never carry an umbrella when it's raining and they always carry their (presumably water) bottles with them.

I never would have thought to note that and it is completely true.
posted by maryr at 12:26 PM on June 14, 2015 [18 favorites]


Its the white ankle socks that's the giveaway. #sincethisisturningintoapileon
posted by infini at 12:30 PM on June 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


Overweight, always eating, smoking, loud, jolly, confident, funny, playing drinking games.

Americans are from Hufflepuff.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:37 PM on June 14, 2015 [36 favorites]


The smoking comment was odd to me because I know so few Americans who smoke (tobacco).
posted by maryr at 12:39 PM on June 14, 2015 [15 favorites]


The dead giveaway a couple of years ago was leggings-as-pants.
posted by lollymccatburglar at 12:43 PM on June 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think it is oversize Mom jean shorts and shiny white basketball shoes. Even if you're 45.

I'm from Canada and I lived in Japan for a long time and had a lot of American coworkers, and Americans became some of my closest friends.

Brits can be a little caustic, Canadians a bit standoffish, sniffy and even sullen. But Americans are so easy to get along with. And Aussies.
posted by Nevin at 12:46 PM on June 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


That was a lot more positive than I would have expected. The Japanese girls' observation was that American guys are hot.
posted by riruro at 12:53 PM on June 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


So okay, how much of the "Americans wear puffy shoes and tacky clothes and are always loud" business is a perception error? When I worked abroad, no one except other native English speakers ever identified me, my partner or my immediate coworkers as American at first guess - and people would guess, all the time. Everyone thought that we were German or maybe Swedish. And even the other anglophones told us that we didn't "seem" American because we weren't loud, dressed in tees and sneakers, etc. Even here in the US, I've had several random interactions with recent immigrants from the Middle East where I've been asked if I'm from Europe. And yet I'm fat, have a lot of very "American"/Midwestern mannerisms and have actually gotten work abroad because of my extremely clear and "standard" American accent. I don't think I look non-American at all.
posted by Frowner at 12:53 PM on June 14, 2015 [24 favorites]


An American friend of mine (who lives in the Bay Area) says that he can tell whether someone is American or European by their appearance and gait. In his observations, if somebody looks/moves like they do a moderate amount of exercise (such as walking/cycling for transport), they're most probably from Europe. Americans, meanwhile, tend to be either out of shape or obsessively fit beyond what walking to the shops would get you.
posted by acb at 12:53 PM on June 14, 2015 [11 favorites]


I've always felt I can identify Dutch people from their glasses. I have no idea why.

Surely height is a more significant identifier? IIRC they have a national goal that everyone should be above 6.76 m in a few generations.
posted by effbot at 12:54 PM on June 14, 2015 [7 favorites]


As a person who's completely paranoid about her appearance/behavior broadcasting I AM AN AMERICAN whenever I'm abroad, I'm pretty much going to treat this as a cheat sheet.

The only thing I'm not able to do much about is the shoes issue -- I wear the nicest shoes I can, but when I'm traveling I'm often walking like ten miles a day, and I'm not going to do that in stylish strappy sandals.

(When I was in Japan last summer, I was driven to distraction by the fact that so many of the Japanese women I saw in Tokyo and Kyoto were wearing full-length sleeves at all times, and almost none of them wore anything even close to sleeveless. I'm a white lady so I'm going to stick out no matter what, but being a white lady AND the only women with bare arms made me feel like I had a blinking neon sign over my head, even if I was wearing my cutest most fashionable little sundress.)
posted by Narrative Priorities at 12:59 PM on June 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


IIRC [the Dutch] have a national goal that everyone should be above 6.76 m in a few generations.

So steroids in baby food and sleeping in gravity boots?
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 1:09 PM on June 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


I'm sure I stick out as American in ways I don't realize (I am currently living in Denmark, and I travel around a fair amount otherwise). But the way I *feel* my American-ness most is around holidays. Unlike the locals I don't have family nearby (and haven't been here long enough to have friends), so mostly I still go to work and then get confused and grouchy when the cafeteria is closed and everybody is gone.
I was a bit surprised not to see something about that here-- maybe because students aren't yet stuck in the work-all-the-time mode that the American workplace insists on? Or is it that Japan has a similar attitude, so it doesn't stick out?
posted by nat at 1:29 PM on June 14, 2015


There's a general thing where locals are probably always dressed better for the climate, wherever you are. Visitors are more likely to be over- or underdressed.

Some cultures seem to have this idea that travelling is when you dress like crap. Americans are prime offenders....but I've seen some awfully sloppy Germans and Dutch in my day, too.
posted by gimonca at 1:31 PM on June 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


Surefire way to spot an American: they can't say "déjà vu" without adding "all over again."
posted by fredludd at 1:35 PM on June 14, 2015 [7 favorites]


I was driven to distraction by the fact that so many of the Japanese women I saw in Tokyo and Kyoto were wearing full-length sleeves at all times

Many years ago I was associated with a local visiting family from Japan. The father was a university researcher, the mother a housewife, and there was a young son, they were in the area for six months.

One weekend, our group was talking about things to do on that Sunday afternoon. There was a pow-wow on that day, I suggested we go out and see some of it. (Actual Native American pow-wow, in the Minnesota countryside, seemed like a cultural event not to be missed--and you can't get more American than that.)

Starting out, it was great. Fancy dancers, kids in regalia, people selling turquoise jewelry and T-shirts, frybread, the whole works. After about 20 minutes, there's a problem. We have to go.

Why? The mom didn't have anything to cover her arms. If she were out in the sun much longer, her arms would get too tan. She was being nice about it (she didn't speak much English), but it was obvious that to her this was a *major crisis* that was causing her some significant distress.

They enjoyed their 20 minutes of Native America, at least.
posted by gimonca at 1:40 PM on June 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


The non-Americans were too kind to call Americans dumb but the American had to go ahead and provided an illustration. HURR DURR WE DON'T HAVE ACCENTS! AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM!
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 1:48 PM on June 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


If it's not off topic to address how to identify people besides Americans, I'd like to point out that Europeans are inordinately fond of Adidas branded clothing. Anyone in a full Adidas tracksuit is definitely European and probably (>80%) Romanian.

Germans, at least the men, dress fairly close to the American suburban dad style. T-shirt +shorts + long white socks. Long white socks are very German.

These are all based on a very limited sample ofpeople vacationing in Florida though.
posted by bracems at 1:53 PM on June 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


Also I'm actually really flattered by the prototypical American described by these students. They're confident, outgoing, enthusiastic, fond of food, and a heavy drinker. Definitely someone I'd hang out with.
posted by bracems at 1:57 PM on June 14, 2015 [12 favorites]


I can always identify American women here in chile because their shoes don't match their clothes. They might look like a standard upper class chilena, but there's no way they'd be wearing hiking boots with that outfit if they were locals.
posted by signal at 1:57 PM on June 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's always the shoes, which may explain why people kept starting conversations with me in Italian when I was in Berlin.
posted by The Whelk at 2:16 PM on June 14, 2015 [11 favorites]


U.S. clothing buyers and retailers take a lot of blame for the American look, too. The mentions in the video of clothes on Americans being too big are spot on. Men's clothes in the U.S. are XXXL by default, shirts are big rectangular boxes with no shape, pants have "comfort waists" and are too long for a decent proportion of the population. (No direct experience of what it's like on the female side, but I'd assume there are comparable problems.)

I can always identify American women here in chile because their shoes don't match their clothes.

I've always been impressed by the ability of French people to wear exactly the right thing at the right time. Not necessarily stuff that's expensive or high-fashion, but clothes that fit, that are right for the weather and the occasion....and that match somehow. It's like a superpower or something. Americans either just don't understand it at all, or they assume that paying a lot of attention to what you wear is a "stuck up" thing that's a waste of time, or a class marker, or something that's only done for weddings and funerals, if then.
posted by gimonca at 2:17 PM on June 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


Surefire way to spot an American: they can't say "déjà vu" without adding "all over again."

Judging from this and other observations in this thread, I'm clearly American. Which probably explains why everyone asks me for directions when I'm there.

(On the other hand, people always ask me for directions, no matter where I am, so that might be something else.)
posted by effbot at 2:24 PM on June 14, 2015


I found that in Paris, if you wear anything other than shorts/jeans and a t-shirt and speak at least 3 words of French, they don't peg you as American. I was mistaken for Belgian and Spanish. This was shortly after Iraq Invasion 2.0, so that was fine with me. I ran into a Canadian there and tried to strike up a conversation in English, and he positively sneered at me.
posted by desjardins at 2:26 PM on June 14, 2015 [7 favorites]


> T-shirt +shorts + long white socks. Long white socks are very German.

Germans spot me as a yank in a heartbeat. I wonder if it's those damned lederhosen.
posted by jfuller at 2:45 PM on June 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


I found that in Paris, if you wear anything other than shorts/jeans and a t-shirt and speak at least 3 words of French, they don't peg you as American.

It's changed a wee bit in the past 4-5 years or so. Believe it or not, what pegs people as American now is fitted sportswear – think North Face, Columbia, Patagonia, that sort of thing. I enjoy experimenting, and am pegged as Scandinavian (not far from the truth being 1/4 Norwegian and half Irish) if I wear nicer tennis shoes, jeans, and a fitted t-shirt, but the second I put on my fitted Marmot jacket (it has princess seams! squee!), bam, American.

...which I often do on purpose because there's nothing quite like evading the more annoying people with "SORRY! *SINCERE AMERICAN GRIN* I DON'T SPEAK FRENCH!" and being blissfully ignored as soon as they see That Smile that no true Parisienne would use in public + my clothes and accept that it must be true. I have only used my politely loud American candor for good, okay, never evil. *innocent eyes*

The smile thing is a big American marker too, at least in France. Decades now I've been told I should lose it, but no, nay, ne'er shall I abandon my easy smile. It puts off just the people I want to put off, and puts at ease just the people whose company I enjoy the most. (Much more to do with character than nationality there.)
posted by fraula at 2:47 PM on June 14, 2015 [23 favorites]


gimonca: I've seen some awfully sloppy Germans and Dutch in my day, too.

There's no denying that.
You can often pick out the cloggies because they wear zip-off trousers. I mean, trousers and shorts for the price of trousers... no Dutch(wo)man can resist that!

I saw a Caucasian guy in Ghana, riding a bicycle, wearing zip-offs and Teva sandals. Sure enough, he was as Dutch as I am.
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:48 PM on June 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


Whenever someone in the UK (where I've lived for nearly a decade) hears my accent and guesses Canadian first, I always thank them for the compliment before explaining that I grew up in the US.

I was once told that this is the most English answer I could give, under the circumstances.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 2:56 PM on June 14, 2015 [20 favorites]


Dutch men abroad-- oddly coloured khakis (red or blue), button down, and sweater thrown over their shoulders. Also the height.

Americans have (mostly) stopped wearing fanny packs as tourists, which is a good thing.
posted by frumiousb at 2:58 PM on June 14, 2015


My first time in Paris was a few years ago, and I was partly there on business. I ended up bringing nicer clothing than I'd usually pack for a vacation and wound up being mistaken for German most of the time. (Fair enough, my dad's side of the family is all German and I definitely inherited my overall peasant farmer build from that side of the family.) But really, I can never master the layered thing, because I get too warm too quickly. I saw a girl take off a bigger coat to reveal a cute cropped jacket she wore over a sweater over some sort of shirt and this was after unwinding a giant scarf that could have served as a shirt on its own. How did she not sweat to death in all that? It was pleasant fall weather! What is your secret to not sweating, tiny French girl?

I'm going to Italy in October and was hoping to again wear clothes that don't mark me out immediately as a tourist, but the fundamental problem still exists - when you're going to trudge all over a city and may or not have easy access to a washing machine and have a tendency to get sweaty and sorefooted and on public transportation or elbowing other tourists in queues, it's hard to bring out your cutest little outfits and not wear sneakers.
posted by PussKillian at 3:05 PM on June 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


I ran into a Canadian there and tried to strike up a conversation in English, and he positively sneered at me.

Lester Pearson, 14th prime minister of Canada, once said when people ask you the differences between Canadians and Americans, you should answer in French.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 3:16 PM on June 14, 2015 [13 favorites]


Doesn't some of this seem a little outdated? Like, really? Fat guys in sweat pants? I just don't see it.

Anyway whenever I'm working with people from other countries in always wondering what they're thinking like "Oh man this girl is sooooo American right now, lol." Especially because what they're saying in the video about being confident and positive is an act you have to put on, a certain loud smiling-ness so people don't think you're depressed and therefore "needy". So in my head I'm doing my standard "Nothing is wrong with me, fellow American" act and they're sitting there going "LOL Americans".
posted by bleep at 3:28 PM on June 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Do people in other countries worry about being pegged as foreigners? Do French people visiting Sweden think, "How should I dress to fit in here?"
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:32 PM on June 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


Germans spot me as a yank in a heartbeat. I wonder if it's those damned lederhosen.

Listen, I'm not saying that it's not an unfortunately common fashion in the States too, but this is the first image result when you search "German socks." I don't like it anymore than you do.
posted by bracems at 4:04 PM on June 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


In all sincerity, are people so ashamed of being identified as Americans? Honestly, who cares? I'm assuming most people on Metafilter are kind, thoughtful, conscientious people, so what's wrong with being who you are abroad, as long as you're not obnoxious? If anything, being an ambassador for the different facets of Americanness can be a thing of pride and very helpful to dispel our image when abroad.

I'm half American but grew up here and identify as culturally American. I lived several years abroad and in friendly conversations with internationals, they would exclaim how unlike I was of their perception of an American, in dress, behavior, and attitudes, and I was flattered because I used to be the person who would have been the first one to throw America under the bus. I attributed my differentness as being informed from my other culture and thought I was super special. But through these conversations also I found myself unexpectedly defending Americans and why we are the way we are, which lead to thinking deeper about perspectives on American culture. On further musing (and probably also because of my background in anthropology and archaeology), I came to the realization that, you know, for all our goofiness and many missteps and poor choices, Americans are generally nice, honest, friendly people who mean well, and I think overall, I'm glad to be from the U.S.

I like our hodgepodge of culture that contains multitudes and yes, has many, many of its own problems, but bear in mind we're also still a young social experiment very unique in the world and we're always in the process of learning and growing. Everyone's got history and we're all trying to become better, even if it's baby steps.

I've decided not to try to hide when I'm abroad, I'm going to dress and act in a way that's comfortable for me and respectful of the culture I'm in, but I'm not going to go out of my way to blend in or try to conceal my accent because I like who I am and I generally like where I'm from and I like to try to represent America in a good light. I made a lot of friends abroad and just as I learned about their nationalities, I think they understood that Americans too come in many flavors, just as you would expect the citizens of any country to do, and I think one shouldn't have to apologize for one's nationality because no one country is all a conglomerate of terrible, we're all just doing the best we can.
posted by Queen of Spreadable Fats at 4:07 PM on June 14, 2015 [32 favorites]


I ran into a Canadian there and tried to strike up a conversation in English, and he positively sneered at me.

You probably forgot to say "Sorry".
posted by srboisvert at 4:09 PM on June 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


Americans have (mostly) stopped wearing fanny packs as tourists, which is a good thing.

That's okay, German men make up for it by wearing as many as they can.
posted by srboisvert at 4:14 PM on June 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


I really liked the answer given by the guy from Kenya:
They can be jolly. Like, happy, jovial all the time, jumpy.
Yes.
Americans are a simple people.
They sing. They dance.
They are characterised by their cheerful attitude and love of life.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:18 PM on June 14, 2015 [24 favorites]


In all sincerity, are people so ashamed of being identified as Americans?

I'm not, but that's because I'm 'ethnic' and it's better to be seen as American than mistaken for Turkish, which is what happened last time I was in Paris. That was fun.
posted by betweenthebars at 4:19 PM on June 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


I think one shouldn't have to apologize for one's nationality because no one country is all a conglomerate of terrible, we're all just doing the best we can.

No, America has been pretty terrible to a lot of the rest of the world, far more so than, say, Sweden. It's not any of our individual faults but I can sure understand why people would be grumpy at us for allowing this stuff to happen in our names.
posted by desjardins at 4:20 PM on June 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


When we were traveling in Southeast Asia last year, my partner and I were frequently mistaken for New Zealanders. Every time this happened we felt extremely cool, and sort of had to resist the (very American) urge to high five.

Almost every time we met someone who we thought was a fellow American, they ended up being Canadian. We saw very, very few people from the US. Our only hypothesis (other than just dumb luck) is that is that United States bosses are better at keeping workers from going on vacation than Canadian bosses are.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 4:20 PM on June 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


I guess it's not that I'm ashamed to be an American, I just don't want to get lumped in with those Americans, the ones who vote for warmongers.
posted by desjardins at 4:21 PM on June 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


I've always felt I can identify Dutch people from their glasses. I have no idea why.

my dutch identification test is that if i think i hear americanesque english (or at least non-obviously-british english) from a group of people but it becomes more and more confusing the closer i get, they are always always speaking dutch.
posted by poffin boffin at 4:23 PM on June 14, 2015 [27 favorites]


my dutch identification test is that if i think i hear americanesque english (or at least non-obviously-british english) from a group of people but it becomes more and more confusing the closer i get, they are always always speaking dutch.

That's exactly my experience. A few years ago I was having dinner in a hotel bar in Madrid. There was a group of young men and women talking animatedly. I couldn't make out what they were saying, but the sounds and cadence sounded like they were speaking english. After I while I walked over and it turned out they were the flight crew from KLM on an overnight in Spain.
posted by nightwood at 4:27 PM on June 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


OMG. Seriously, you guys are unconsciously affirming an ancient proverb: Brea, bûter en griene tsiis is goed Ingelsk en goed Frysk. (Bread, butter, and green cheese, is good English and good Fries.)

"Fries" is Frisian, a dialect spoken in the north of the Netherlands. Old Friesian was very similar to Old English, although both languages have changed a lot. But, Frisian influenced modern Dutch, and that language was also influenced by French - just like modern English! So it's not surprising that you're picking up on similarities in sound and cadence: they're really real things, and probably not coincidental.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:55 PM on June 14, 2015 [10 favorites]


No, America has been pretty terrible to a lot of the rest of the world, far more so than, say, Sweden.

Disagree. IKEA. Volvos. A bikini team. People got to answer for that shit.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:58 PM on June 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


Yeah, the vikings were great tourists.
posted by maryr at 5:09 PM on June 14, 2015 [10 favorites]


I lived in the UK for two years and did the same "thanks for asking if I'm Canadian!" thing, until I eventually started being mistaken for Northern Irish on a regular basis, because apparently an American trying not to sound to American, incapable of imitating any sort of English accent, but still using the vocabulary and cadences of British English, sounds Northern Irish. (I watched The Fall recently and yeah, I guess I can kinda hear it) I also completely stopped wearing sneakers for anything but actual fitness activities, stopped buying white socks, and I don't wear leggings, so I imagine that all helped.

Was asked for directions more than once in Paris when walking around wearing fancy going-out clothes.

I am convinced these people talking about how Americans drink so much have never met an Australian. We have nothing on the Aussies. Maybe we have more regulated drinking games, but I'm sorry, the Aussies win drinking.

But going on almost four years out of the US now, holy crap, my fellow Americans, we are a LOUD PEOPLE. It's shocking to me when we hang out with American friends or business colleagues here. LOUD. SO LOUD. PEOPLE ARE LOOKING AT US PLEASE QUIET DOWN AAGGHGHHH.
posted by olinerd at 5:12 PM on June 14, 2015 [8 favorites]


No one has mentioned the tats.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 6:00 PM on June 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


LOUD. SO LOUD. PEOPLE ARE LOOKING AT US PLEASE QUIET DOWN AAGGHGHHH.

Sigh, I so need to become an expatriate, although I doubt anyone in the world will ever mistake me for anything other than 'merican.

Years ago on the coast of Chile I noticed I was quite stared at... until an aircraft carrier docked for a visit and behind and to the left of all the 6'6'' sailors of color I happily became invisible.
posted by sammyo at 6:30 PM on June 14, 2015


honest, kind and funny, that's not so bad!
posted by sammyo at 6:38 PM on June 14, 2015


I was born in the US to Korean parents, grew up in NY, then a bit south, and now live a bit further south. Depending on who I'm around, my accent might reflect any one of these locations, but based on speech alone I'm sure I'd be recognized as American.

Whenever I travel overseas, though, I hear the same damn thing from the locals calling out to tourists:
"NI HAO."
[...]
"KONNICHIWA?"
[...]
"JAPAN? JAPAN? CHINESE?"

To which I say, "NAW, man. I'm KOREAN."

And then they just shrug and shove off, because they don't know any Korean. But they know English, and don't put two and two together. Even when I'm wearing short pants. It was the easiest way to rid myself of "guides" in Morocco: Sorry, man. I'm Korean.

"FUCK."
posted by herrdoktor at 7:03 PM on June 14, 2015 [18 favorites]


Germans, at least the men, dress fairly close to the American suburban dad style. T-shirt +shorts + long white socks. Long white socks are very German.

These are all based on a very limited sample ofpeople vacationing in Florida though.


It's true that Americans in Germans dress similarly. When I in Berlin, I thought Berlin-casual was very close to American casual. I wasn't trying to blend in at all, but people still regularly spoke to me in German.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 7:43 PM on June 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


More interesting to me than the fashion crimes of Americans is what identifies the breed on the inside. I've given this a lot of thought as an American by birth / Canadian by choice. I've identified three things that, while still being generalizations, I think identify the American character at least in part:

1 - Americans love winners.
2 - Americans love straightforward plots and don't do nuance.
3 - Americans DO NOT understand tragedy. By which I mean, tragedy Russian and French style, with no triumph or resolution or victory at the end.

But since these things are hard to identify quickly on the street, here are some easier identifiers:

1 - Americans love first names, and will even sometimes shorten a first name at first meeting, for example being introduced to someone as David and immediately calling him Dave.

2 - Americans like giant t-shirts with really tacky things on them (this applies to Canadians as well. My example from today: "Tell your boobs to stop staring at my eyes". ??) You will wait a lifetime to see a French person wearing this shirt, even in French.

3 - Americans assume that other people like them.

These are all ridiculous generalizations. But it's a fun game. An interesting point about generalizations: I grew up in Vermont, where all the usual generalizations about Texans apply. The only two people I ever knew who were from Texas: a thin, long haired, card-carrying member of the Communist party named Lance, and a diminutive, alcoholic and somewhat depressed bagpipe player named Malcolm.
posted by crazylegs at 8:18 PM on June 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


These shoes with dark pants and button down shirts were enough to make my Americanisms disappear behind my genetic heritage. In Eastern Europe I fit in to crowds. Old ladies would stop to talk to me. Some failed to believe I was American and didn't speak Hungarian or Polish.
This was all pre-Bush II, so I didn't have to spend much time apologizing for my country.
Shoes and clothes are a huge indicator.

(I do find the idea that Americans can't dress as well as French people . . . or whomever . . . is pretty damn funny. Things like fit and style are culturally determined. There is no absolute correct for those. Of course Americans don't dress as well as French people when being judged by a French standard.)
posted by Seamus at 8:19 PM on June 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yeah but the French standard is better.
posted by The Whelk at 8:21 PM on June 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


Meh.
posted by Seamus at 8:24 PM on June 14, 2015


(says the man committing the cardinal sin of wearing a baseball as an adult not playing baseball. snicker.)
posted by Seamus at 8:24 PM on June 14, 2015


You can sit there thinking that, and I can sit here being right, and we can all enjoy this wine and cheese.
posted by The Whelk at 8:25 PM on June 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


I can tell assholes from almost any culture by the smug sureness with which they make essentialist generalizations about people they don't like.
posted by skewed at 8:36 PM on June 14, 2015 [9 favorites]


Beer and pickled fish. And I'm right! Neener.
posted by Seamus at 8:37 PM on June 14, 2015


One of the things my mom (Spanish) likes about America is that, unlike Spain, people don't (for the most part, some MeFites excluded) give you shit for not dressing in a way that matches their own personal standards and tastes.
posted by Bugbread at 9:05 PM on June 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


Despite being an American I spent some time studying travel guides before going to Paris. I made an effort to dress like a Frenchman by leaving my sneakers and shorts at home. Did not fool one native Parisian.

However one day I was at a popular tourist attraction and an American couple struggled in broken french to ask me to take a photo of them. I did so without saying much (although I did resist the urge to say "Fromage!" just before pressing the shutter). They never knew I was a fellow American. That made it all worth it.
posted by lester's sock puppet at 9:19 PM on June 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


The dead giveaway a couple of years ago was leggings-as-pants.

No, if you wear leggings, especially white ones, you're most likely to be a Dutch woman on her way to some office job where the ability to do your job is more important than how you look doing it. It's practically the uniform for > mid-thirty married office women over here.

(And annoys the wrong sort of bloke a lot too. Bonus!)
posted by MartinWisse at 10:31 PM on June 14, 2015


Joe in Australia: "Fries" is Frisian, a dialect spoken in the north of the Netherlands.

Whoa there, black eyes have been doled out for less than that.
Fries is a language, not a dialect. And any self-respecting Frisian will be more than happy to tell you so.
posted by Too-Ticky at 10:33 PM on June 14, 2015 [9 favorites]


Americans DO NOT understand tragedy. By which I mean, tragedy Russian and French style, with no triumph or resolution or victory at the end.

it sounds to me like you need to read a lot more Winter Soldier fanfic.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:38 PM on June 14, 2015 [13 favorites]


Americans talk at length, with unflagging interest, about themselves and what they're like.
posted by Segundus at 10:45 PM on June 14, 2015 [7 favorites]


So is there a guide for Canadians who don't want to be mistaken for an American while travelling Europe? >.>
posted by Canageek at 11:08 PM on June 14, 2015


I spent last weekend keeping a Canadian from hurling himself into chain fences ala in Trailer Park Boys.

A lot of these stereotypes I attribute to Canadians and Aussies, as well- especially the drinking.
posted by Monday at 11:56 PM on June 14, 2015


Canageek, most people use Canadian flags for that. A sticker or patch anywhere on your luggage or clothing will do the job.

(Your question was most likely rethorical but then I'm Dutch and my sense of irony isn't great.)
posted by Too-Ticky at 12:03 AM on June 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


It would be fun to try this at an American college - but to ask people on their opinions about Estonians, Bolivians and Sri-Lankans.
posted by rongorongo at 1:47 AM on June 15, 2015


rongorongo: "It would be fun to try this at an American college - but to ask people on their opinions about Estonians, Bolivians and Sri-Lankans."

Fun in the sense that "unlike the students in this video, who have frequently encountered Americans, the US students would likely only have encountered one or two Estonians, Bolivians, or Sri-Lankans in their lives, and would therefore be unable to answer, so then you could laugh and call them provincial"? That kinda fun?

I mean, honestly...you could just as well say "It would be fun to try this at Ritsumeikan, with the exact same students in this video, but to ask them on their opinions about Estonians, Bolivians and Sri-Lankans." You'd get the same results: a video of most people saying, "Um...I don't know"
posted by Bugbread at 2:18 AM on June 15, 2015 [6 favorites]


Maybe the thing about not standing out too much is also about having an "authentic" travel experience. When I was younger, I had a lot of discussions about that with friends and colleagues. People would insist on going to some "authentic" restaurant, and I'd look around and see no 25-year-old women like myself, but only grumpy old men. What is authentic then? Grumpy old men? Bad cheap wine? Sticky smelly food?
I've noticed that some people don't have authenticity as a parameter concerning the good voyage, and accordingly, they don't attempt to fit in - they eat where they can get the food they like, and they act as if they were at home. IMO, that is just cool.

Personally, I definitely wear urban clothes in European cities, regardless of the comfort (I can recommend Campers shoes, though). I was once stopped on the street in Oslo, for wearing a track-suit in town. It was at 6 in the morning, I was coming back from a wild party, and I think the person who stopped me was most of all berating me for walking around looking like I was just out of bed.
It wouldn't happen today, people are more tolerant of difference in appearance, but still I think most Europeans are more formal than most Americans. Wearing appropriate clothes also makes one less vulnerable to pick-pockets and scammers targeting tourists.

Blending in in Japan? I can't even start to imagine how to do that.. But like in Europe, I cover up. No inappropriate bare skin in cities. I don't want people to feel uncomfortable.

When I lived in the US, I was rather startled at the clothes available in shops. The casual/sports clothes are often very good quality and good value. But more formal wear including shoes from American brands are either very expensive or very bad value (in my European eyes). The fitting is bad, and the colors are all a bit off. If I were an American, I'd wear casual all the time as well, and specially, I'd wear sneakers rather than formal shoes. Incidentally, the colors are very similar to those Germans prefer - which might be why Americans are often mistaken for Germans.
posted by mumimor at 2:33 AM on June 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


at 5:40 that guy's head grows to enormous proportions
posted by telstar at 2:44 AM on June 15, 2015


Fun in the sense that "unlike the students in this video, who have frequently encountered Americans, the US students would likely only have encountered one or two Estonians, Bolivians, or Sri-Lankans in their lives, and would therefore be unable to answer, so then you could laugh and call them provincial"? That kinda fun?

No - the whole business of poking fun at Americans for not knowing much about geography is an even more tired game than mocking their apparent fondness for white socks. What I was trying to get at is saying that Americans can travel the planet safe in the knowledge that wherever they go people will have heard of their nation- in fact they will know masses about it: songs, history, different states, famous people and so on. Americans are cultural celebrities who are not always aware of being in that exhaled position or its non-reciprocity. Members of other nations simply don't get that experience: a Bolivian and a Sri-Lankan who meet in Japan would have to spend a whole lot of time explaining the basics about their country to each other.

In the end I was trying to make that point that - no matter how cliched you might think some of the responses are in the video - they would be even more narrow and cliched if asked about the residents of any other country.
posted by rongorongo at 3:03 AM on June 15, 2015 [5 favorites]


Yeah, to second Frowner, they're leaving out all the Americans who blend in abroad. So, obviously the Americans who stand out are easy to identify.
posted by persona au gratin at 3:05 AM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Americans are a multitude. Yes, we do have white loud, poorly-dressed rotund people. But there are 330 million of us. Most of us aren't that way. It's similar to the person who expects LA to be fake boobs and general shallowness. LA County alone has 10 million people in it. That's more than Sweden has. So, yeah, that LA exists. But it's not mostly like that.
posted by persona au gratin at 3:12 AM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


In all sincerity, are people so ashamed of being identified as Americans?

When George W. Bush was president, yes. Now, not so much.
posted by krinklyfig at 3:13 AM on June 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


Late to this party, but...

I'm an American expat living in Japan, and I can pretty much spot an American right away.

Baggy. Clothes.

Chunky, often black (ewww) sneakers, baggy T-shirts and baggy shorts in summer, baggy jeans and baggy tops in winter. Puffy, baggy coats. Baseball caps. Sunglasses.

And honestly I used to dress that way until I realized that people outside the U.S. actually wear clothes that *fit*. Clothes that show off actual body shape.
posted by zardoz at 3:24 AM on June 15, 2015


If anything, being an ambassador for the different facets of Americanness can be a thing of pride and very helpful to dispel our image when abroad.

But see, here's the thing: I don't want to be an ambassador. I've lived in Europe for nearly eight years, I was married here, my son was born here, I don't want to be an Ambassador for America, I want to be a local. I hate it when I meet someone new and they ask me where I'm from, usually right in the middle of a nice conversation because they were too curious to wait for a segue, becuase then we have to talk about America and Americans and what am I doing in Europe and blah blah blah. I try to eschew as many American stereotypes as possible so that people won't peg me as foreign, but of course everyone knows as soon as I open my goddamn mouth.

It has given me a lot of sympathy for non-white Americans who constantly get asked, "no, where are you really from."
posted by lollymccatburglar at 3:43 AM on June 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


zardoz: "And honestly I used to dress that way until I realized that people outside the U.S. actually wear clothes that *fit*. Clothes that show off actual body shape."

I'm an American in Japan. And "baggy" is how I still dress. And that part at the end? The "clothes that show off actual body shape" bit? That's why I still dress that way.
posted by Bugbread at 3:45 AM on June 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


Segundus: "Americans talk at length, with unflagging interest, about themselves and what they're like.
"

And their consumer choices: what they bought, what brand it is, how much it cost, why they bought it. One of the dumbest conversations I ever had was with a gringo on a boat crossing Lake Titicaca who wouldn't stop on how his on-brand flip-flops where so much better than my off-brand-but-otherwise-identical flip-flops because his had this little thingie here which made a huge difference to something.
posted by signal at 4:33 AM on June 15, 2015


signal: "And their consumer choices: what they bought, what brand it is, how much it cost, why they bought it."

Huh. I have never had a conversation like that with an expat American. Maybe it's a tourist thing?
posted by Bugbread at 4:35 AM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


my dutch identification test is that if i think i hear americanesque english (or at least non-obviously-british english) from a group of people but it becomes more and more confusing the closer i get, they are always always speaking dutch.
Are you sure that's not Italian?
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 5:58 AM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm in southwestern Cote d'Ivoire right now, where the majority of whitish people are Moroccan soldiers with the United Nations mission (ONUCI) outside of town. When we drive past, little kids yell "ONUC! ONUC!"at us. Generally, people assume that I am French until they hear me speak French (I speak it pretty well, but my pronunciation is ... unique). Then they think I must be German, or maybe Italian or Spanish. Once it is discovered that I am American, things get very exciting. "Ah, oui! La fille de Obama!"

Last year when I was flying home, I had been in Cote d'Ivoire for 11 months and ALL I WANTED when I transferred planes in Charles de Gaulle was cheese. God, I wanted cheese SO BADLY. But I couldn't find any, so I asked a few people, "Pardon, mais on vende fromage ici?" and everyone answered in English (which depressed me to begin with) some variation of "There is no cheese here," (which depressed me more) except for the monsieur at the duty free French Things store, who offered to sell me 60 Euros worth of fine French cheese. Alas, that was slightly more cheese than I could handle, so I left cheeseless and ashamed of my Americanness, so evident that even after 11 months speaking no English it was clear that I was Not French.
posted by ChuraChura at 6:18 AM on June 15, 2015 [6 favorites]


I've traveled pretty extensively in south america and India and I am not at all convinced that people are as good at 'spot the American' as they think they are. I think a lot of what people go on boils down to your hair color and skin tone. I'm dark haired and (with a tropical weather tan) olive skinned and short and people living in those countries think I'm french, Spanish, Israeli... Even south american in the less indigenous areas before they've heard me speak Spanish. Fellow tourists tend to be better at it but not by much.

And no, I'm not a snappy dresser. I'm a shlub most of the time. I also don't think I have mannerisms that mark me as not american.
posted by geegollygosh at 6:21 AM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


I was actually working abroad when September 11 happened - although I was in a place where I couldn't get a lot of media coverage and missed much of the immediate fuss. This was at a time when I was trying to decide whether I'd stay abroad and really try to make my life outside the US. I ended up coming back for a variety of reasons (which, in retrospect, was absolutely the right call - friends who stayed in that area ran into a whole bunch of economics and logistics problems that I would have hated) but at least one of them was that I realized that I am a US person, and in most ways I'm not especially ashamed of or bothered by that.

I don't go along with most US policies and indeed have spent a reasonable number of person-hours protesting, writing letters, making phone calls, raising money, etc in an attempt to change US policy for the better. If someone wants to tar me with the usual US-imperialist brush, that's on them (and frankly, it comes rather ill from the English, the French and - for fuck's sake - the Israelis.)

As to the other stuff - if I'm being loud or inconsiderate or blithely ignoring other cultures' norms, I definitely want to stop that, of course, but because I think those are bad ways to be, not because they make me look American. If the day comes when I, like my mother, have health concerns which reduce me to wearing stretchy, baggy clothes and puffy sneakers, by damn I'll wear them, and if any poncy European wants to insult, for instance, my mother's clothes, that European can come to our house and start helping with her care.

On another note, I got the shock of my life once I actually started working with large numbers of Europeans. (And this was in a situation where everyone had college degrees and came from at least middle class backgrounds, so everyone should have been up to what is normally said of Europeans.) I thought they'd all be well-dressed, smarter than Americans, better-mannered and of course left-wing by US standards. I went in feeling inferior and ready to acknowledge my American ignorance, political naivete, poor clothing choices, physically unappealingness, etc.

What I found in many (and what I've found to be true since in other encounters) was a simply incredible level of misogyny, a really casual attitude toward sexual assault (which played itself out, that first year, in actual physical violence against several of my woman friends who declined out of the blue propositions by older men), intense orientalism, boring acceptance of incredible class privilege....and a distinctly disappointing fashion sense*.

I will say that I've met a lot of Italians and the Italian taste in shoes really is everything it's cracked up to be.

My point being that all this "oh, look at the stupid Americans with their puffy shoes and imperialism, so gauche" has not been born out, for me, by actual encounters with Europeans. (And how often this comparison is between Americans and Western Europeans, not Americans and Malaysians or Uruguayans or even Slovaks or, god knows, Russians. There's this whole inbuilt white-western ideology to the entire discussion, too, especially around public behavior - when I've worked abroad, I've encountered lots of non-Western people whose norms around public behavior actually strike me as extremely loud and boisterous, and I'm American. But I would never say "hm, these people from this region are so badly behaved and noisy" - I just assume that different cultures have different ways of being polite in public.)


*I add that I have been perpetually disappointed by "French style" with the exception of breton shirts - all very well if you like that sort of thing, but rather fussy in its detail and not on the face of it inferior to the different sort of clothes that most city people wear on the east coast. Again, this wouldn't matter if I hadn't been brought up to believe that "French" was synonymous with "better" and "tasteful", when all it really seems to be synonymous with is "droopy linen scarves and surprisingly shapeless linen pants".
posted by Frowner at 6:57 AM on June 15, 2015 [13 favorites]


Lots of criticism of American fashion sense abroad, but at least our men aren't wearing capris.
posted by BurntHombre at 7:32 AM on June 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


Lots of criticism of American fashion sense abroad, but at least our men aren't wearing capris.


No, they're just wearing baggy cargo shorts as long as capris. (Or in Kevin Smith's case, baggy jorts as long as capris.)
posted by entropicamericana at 7:42 AM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Is there any country out there that doesn't judge people on the clothes they wear?
posted by JanetLand at 8:33 AM on June 15, 2015


I think that there are no countries in which people will not try to get information about other people from what they can see. Like clothes.
It's a thing that people, and other animals, do: use the information available to make informed guesses about who they're dealing with.
posted by Too-Ticky at 9:08 AM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


So is there a guide for Canadians who don't want to be mistaken for an American while travelling Europe? >.>

Just keep your volume set lower than 11, apologize constantly and say about every chance you get.
posted by srboisvert at 10:20 AM on June 15, 2015


Is there any country out there that doesn't judge people on the clothes they wear?

honestly, no. clothing-based social judgment goes back tens of thousands of years to the beginning of human civilization. decorations on clothing and clothing in general have always been an indicator of status; highly decorated clothing showed that your group had enough accumulated wealth to spend leisure time crafting beadwork or leatherwork or whatnot. it's something we've clung to for like 15,000 years and we're not giving it up any time soon. the fantasy future of everyone wearing unflattering starfleet unitards is highly unlikely.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:28 AM on June 15, 2015 [7 favorites]


Typical American fashion is pretty bad but I don't think European casual wear looks that great either. Their denim is cheesy-looking distressed crap with weird embellishments. Their sneakers are usually gaudy. And they wear tops that maybe fit well but are usually weird somehow. Maybe they're good at dressing up ... I don't know because they, like most of the rest of the world, dress down for everyday wear. There's not as much formal wear in general because it's not the 1950s anymore and American cultural influence has spread all across the world. The younger, hipper Americans aka hipsters are trend setters internationally as far as casual wear.

As for my experience as an American abroad, I'm usually treated and looked at as an Asian person, since I'm Asian American. Years ago, when I did a foreign exchange in Japan, the European students told me I didn't dress like an American, specifically my sneakers (I was wearing skateboard shoes). And my in-laws in Japan expected me to be all bubbly and gregarious because I'm American and I think I disappointed their expectations, and they more or less see me as Asian, I guess. I'm just naturally subdued and not very excitable. Yet, I felt really repressed in Japan, like society there was suffocating. I feel more comfortable around Americans in America, even if I don't dress or act like the typical American. And I actually wouldn't mind being perceived as an American, as long as I wasn't seen as one of the stereotypically boorish ones. Weird how that works, huh? I think whether I'm abroad or in America, I'm seen as an Asian person who happens to live in America.
posted by ChuckRamone at 11:29 AM on June 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


Decades now I've been told I should lose it, but no, nay, ne'er shall I abandon my easy smile. It puts off just the people I want to put off, and puts at ease just the people whose company I enjoy the most. (Much more to do with character than nationality there.)

This sounds incredibly narrow minded.
posted by ChuckRamone at 11:42 AM on June 15, 2015


Decades now I've been told I should lose it, but no, nay, ne'er shall I abandon my easy smile. It puts off just the people I want to put off, and puts at ease just the people whose company I enjoy the most. (Much more to do with character than nationality there.)

This sounds incredibly narrow minded.


So does that comment.
posted by leotrotsky at 11:45 AM on June 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


Well, how would you know if someone is being put off or put at ease by an "easy smile." Can you read their minds? There could be other things happening. It sounds like lots of assumptions are being made. Unless someone specifically said that about the easy smile.
posted by ChuckRamone at 12:01 PM on June 15, 2015


I'm a dual citizen (US/Canadian), but was mainly raised in the US and always self-identify as American. My dad has worked overseas (India, China, South Africa) for the last 15 years, so I've spent lots of time in different places visiting him. In India and China I stood out to the point of large groups of strangers regularly asking to take photos with me (a fairly standard-looking Caucasian woman), but seemed to blend fairly well in South Africa (people would regularly speak to me in Afrikaans, and then switch to English when I would apologize for not understanding). I also lived in Scotland for about a year in the mid-2000s, and was told this about Americans: We apologize a lot, and we smile a lot (these things are definitely specifically true about me).

I visited my dad in South Africa a few months ago, and upon landing back in the US, was so happy to be able to not feel weird about randomly smiling at people in the airport. I try to do it less in other places because I feel like it just doesn't really make sense to people when it's not their cultural norm, but god, it was such a relief to be able to do it again. I like that Americans tend to smile in acknowledgment of strangers; it feels pleasant and courteous to me.
posted by odayoday at 12:24 PM on June 15, 2015


ChuckRamone: Their denim is cheesy-looking distressed crap with weird embellishments.

That's true. It's pretty hard these days to buy non-bleached, plain and simple looking jeans here, unless you don't care how much it costs. Most jeans that you see in shops and on people look as if someone put them on and then sat their ass down in a tub of bleach.
Yesterday I saw a guy wearing jeans that had been bleached in such a manner that the part below his crotch was significantly darker... it looked as if he'd just peed himself.
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:16 PM on June 15, 2015


What the heck. Keep that on your side of the ocean, please.
posted by desjardins at 1:28 PM on June 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


The only two people I ever knew who were from Texas: a thin, long haired, card-carrying member of the Communist party named Lance, and a diminutive, alcoholic and somewhat depressed bagpipe player named Malcolm.

True Detective Season 3
posted by desjardins at 1:31 PM on June 15, 2015 [12 favorites]


When I was traveling in Malta many years ago, I hooked up with a tour group of assorted Europeans to visit one of the archaeological sites that was a bit difficult to get to. Afterwards the tour bus took us to a restaurant where we had a mediocre meal and where we were sat at long family style tables.

Anyways, at the end of the meal the wait staff were asking, in various languages, if we wanted espressos. I said "no thank you" in English and they moved on. A nearby Spanish woman said to her friend, in Spanish, "Isn't it awful that Americans don't know how to finish a meal with a coffee..." It went on and on. I wasn't really offended because I found it pretty funny as I am a multilingual Canadian (my first language is French) and being called an American because I didn't want an espresso seemed pretty ridiculous.
posted by Ashwagandha at 1:31 PM on June 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


ChuckRamone: Their denim is cheesy-looking distressed crap with weird embellishments.
I really don't get this. All too often, I have to go to Cheap Monday to buy jeans for my kids. They are dirt cheap and come in all forms and shapes. However, distressed crap with weird embellishments is not on offer. (Not an advertisement. Rather the tired observation of a mother of teens).
posted by mumimor at 1:34 PM on June 15, 2015


Typical American fashion is pretty bad but I don't think European casual wear looks that great either.

When you can actually see it, that is. I've spent a moderate amount of time in Mediterranean Europe (Portugal, Spain, France, and especially Italy) and it amazes me how resolutely, regardless of the actual ambient temperature*, locals stick to wearing puffy jackets (sometimes layered with heavy scarves) up until the first day of summer. I don't know how they do it without sweltering--I'm convinced they must have evolved bird bones.

*I was once in Lisbon in mid-January and due to a freak warming trend it was in the mid-70s one day; nonetheless, the concierge actually stopped me as I was leaving my hotel in a t-shirt (mark of an American: dressing for comfort), with the warning "Are you sure you want to go outside uncovered like this? It's very cold for us here."
posted by psoas at 1:34 PM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Normally, I am not a fan of Dowd, but this note on French style is relevant
posted by mumimor at 1:54 PM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


One thing I realized from living abroad is that I really like Americans in public spaces. I like the chattiness and the politeness. I guess I'm like odayoday in that.

Americans have long felt inferior to Western Europeans vis a vis fashion and culture. This is one reason we have great art collections at museums here: rich gilded-age types wanted to be cultured like they are in Europe, so they bought the culture. (Or in the case of Chicago, they wanted to be like NY, who wanted to be like Europe.). But to agree with Frowner again, the reality is more nuanced than that at best; and in fact many Western Europeans are not better dressers (different, yes) and don't have more appreciation for high culture than most Americans. Also, to reiterate my earlier point, when I was in Sweden during the Bush years I took many questions about the state of the American electorate. After commiserating with the Swede, I'd often say something like, "but remember. You have 5 million social democrats here. We have ten times that. More, probably. The US is a vast and varied place."
posted by persona au gratin at 3:27 PM on June 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


When I come to the US for a recurring annual gig the thing that always strikes me about the American men that I work with is that they seem like they are dressed as boys. Baseball caps, t-shirts with logos or their favourite band or whatever, shorts, sneakers. Even 40 or 50 year Olds. Nothing wrong with it, and of course not all Americans are like this, but I always notice it... where's your big boy clothes?
posted by Meatbomb at 2:41 AM on June 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Meatbomb: "Nothing wrong with it, and of course not all Americans are like this, but I always notice it... where's your big boy clothes?"

I suspect that it comes from Americans wearing what they like, as opposed to what they are supposed to like. This was a conversation I had with my wife (non-American), when we went out shopping:

Me: "What do you think of this shirt?" (I hold up a t-shirt with a design that I really like)
Wife: "No, that's too young. You should wear this." (She holds up a button-up shirt that I hate)
Me: "But I don't like that shirt."
Wife: "It doesn't matter if you like it. You're almost 40, this is the kind of clothing you should wear."

In the end we did what we always do when we shop together for clothing for me: buy nothing.
posted by Bugbread at 5:33 AM on June 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


When I come to the US for a recurring annual gig the thing that always strikes me about the American men that I work with is that they seem like they are dressed as boys.

That makes about as much sense as going to an alternate Scotland where all the men are wearing kilts and asserting that they seem to be dressed as women. If that's what all the men are wearing, that's what men look like there. It doesn't matter if that's t-shirts or cocktail dresses or togas or tuxedo tops with no pants and ball gags.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:21 AM on June 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


Like I said, no harm and no foul. I am just describing my lived experience.
posted by Meatbomb at 12:10 AM on June 17, 2015


Eh, no, asking people dressed in baseball caps and rock band t-shirts "where's your big boy clothes?" isn't your lived experience, anymore than asking why Sikhs decide to wear towels on their heads would be. You don't get to dodge your judgments by calling them lived experiences.
posted by skewed at 6:01 PM on June 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


> : If that's what all the men are wearing, that's what men look like there.

Sure. But certainly it's possible to observe that in certain areas of the world, the men dress similarly to the boys, while in others they dress more differently?
posted by Too-Ticky at 4:17 AM on June 18, 2015


Well, you can observe it - it might even be an interesting observation - but observing it in a finger-shaking "these men dress like boys [of their culture], why aren't they dressing like men [of my culture], clearly this has IMPLICATIONS" way turns the conversation from analysis into mere grumping, even when it's global north people talking about other global north people.

I think - based on my own ability to say dumb things about other places! - that it is super, super difficult to evaluate carefully what another place's dress standards even are, much less what they mean.

Some people don't like shorts; some people don't like ties; some people find men - especially after they start to bald a little - to start to get indistinguishable when they're all "correctly" dressed in sub fusc suiting. I mean, when I look at a room full of fifty-ish balding white men in similar suits, I don't think "what a dapper crowd", I think "now I have to be sure to remember that Dr. Smith is the one with the wire frames and Dr. Jones is the one with the red striped tie and Mr. Hall is the one with the slightly longer hair in back...and thank god, Dr. Clark is a woman so her clothes and hair mark her out a bit from the other besuited woman in the room, Dr. Stevens". I'm not saying that no one can like suits - I have a quite interest in suiting myself and definitely prefer more structured clothing even in the summer. But honestly, the idea that formally dressed men are necessarily giving a superior impression to the world is incorrect.
posted by Frowner at 5:39 AM on June 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Sure. But certainly it's possible to observe that in certain areas of the world, the men dress similarly to the boys, while in others they dress more differently?

Sure, in the same way that you could observe that in some cultures it's common for men and women to dress similarly (like where djellabas are common, maybe) while in other cultures dress is more segregated. I don't think it would say anything very interesting in either case.

some people find men - especially after they start to bald a little - to start to get indistinguishable when they're all "correctly" dressed in sub fusc suiting

That happens at any age with a crowd who tends to dress and groom similarly. I teach college and I've found it increasingly difficult to tell 18-22 year old white boys with short hair apart, though I am admittedly terrible with names and faces in general.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:17 AM on June 18, 2015


I really should just learn to walk away rather than try to argue on the Internet.

I could as easily say that the women here in Tajikistan, with their mumu-style kurtas and slippers and headscarves, look like they just stepped out of the shower. It is not some kind of massive condemnation, it is me trying to be chatty and fun here on Metafilter - so sorry if "where's your big boy clothes" seemed mean or dismissive, it was just a frigging joke, eh?

Rock on! I promise to let it drop no matter how many people explain that no, I really am an asshole - no biggie!
posted by Meatbomb at 7:59 AM on June 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


Glad to see you put on your big boy pants, Meatbomb ;-)
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 9:01 AM on June 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


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