In the fall of 2006, I embarked my very first flight to US. I had two reasons for choosing United States for furthering my education. I was disheartened with the Indian education system and I wanted to explore the world. US seemed like the perfect milieu for both academic excellence and ethnic diversity, I so coveted. I picked Boston as my city of choice and rightly so (I will never get over the beauty, multicultural vibe and quaintness that this city offers).
So, a doe-eyed fresh out of college student started her journey to a whole new world. I wasn’t coming alone, I was bringing my baggage with me, which consisted of anticipation, anxiety and more importantly preconceived notions that years of television, books and media had ingrained in my mind. I came here thinking that it’s a country of Budweiser drinking, beer belly couch dwelling slob who drives with a shotgun under his seat.
Four years flew in a jiffy and left me with nostalgia and new impressions based on my very own experiences. It is easy to give in to the stereotypes as we homo-sapiens derive this perverted pleasure in seeing through some one elses glass house. From what I have seen, stereotypes tend to be over simplification of people and situations. When I contemplate about the common American stereotypes and my experiences with them the following comes to mind:
People have right to be stupid, some people abuse that privilege
Americans are ridiculed globally for being stupid. I didn’t think any differently. I came here thinking that Chinese students will be my only academic competition. I couldn’t be more wrong, American students were equally intelligent, diligent and passionate about their work as every one else. Same applies for people at different places I have worked. I might have seen some dumb wits here and there but, aren’t they every where else too? The world isn’t exactly dumb proof.
The Wild Wild West
Whenever I plan a trip to India, I am presented with a list containing pricey electronics and not so pricey chocolates a.k.a gifts for my relatives and friends. The shining star of this list is always the iphone but, this time I was shocked or rather amused to see a semi automatic lingering some where in that list. The person requesting it said, “Can’t you buy it in the supermarket for cheap?. That’s not true. Well, not exactly. Every one here does not sleep with a gun under their pillow. We all have watched way too many Clint Eastwood movies. Interestingly enough, I did happen to see the cowboys and girls when I was traversing Wyoming, they were a bunch of teenagers watching their cattle on a summer break. As far as I am concerned, I couldn’t feel any more safer. It might look like an over simplification but really none of the people I know own guns!.
From Cars to Houses to Breast Implants
We all believe that Americans believe in bigger the better. I can not entirely deny this. But, again not every one is same. Many people just drive the cute Minis, actively recycle and stay away from cosmetologists.
It is only the superficial qualities that last (Oscar Wilde)
Another common stereotype is Americans being superficial. Well, money does speak it’s own language and riches every where behave in more or less the same manner(also most of the Americans traveling abroad are either rich or are businessmen). The common folk here seems to indulge in simple pleasures. I was surprised when I heard for the first time people boasting about cheapness of something they bought. It’s a recurring phenomenon. So many of my friends work in non -profits by choice. Again, do not judge the book by it’s cover.
Sarah Palin Believes Humans and Dinosaurs Coexisted
Well, this one happens to be true.
I do not find it funny when Tina Fey makes fun of Indian accent and when people think that we have monkeys running around every where in India. I am sure, a Chinese person wouldn’t be thrilled when it is assumed that they are good at computers just because they are Chinese and I am pretty sure that French do not appreciate being perceived as rude. In the end it boils down to the fact that every one has their own idiosyncrasies, it’s not prudent to take things at their face value. As my not so favorite writer Paul Coelho said “We can never judge the lives of others, because each person knows only their own pain and renunciation. It’s one thing to feel that you are on the right path, but it’s another to think that yours is the only path.”