It’s interesting to consider that labels and stereotypes lead society, even if we claim their negativity. In truth no matter where you live you grow up in a society where you are judged by who you are, what you wear, how you speak, and discriminated by the idiosyncrasies that make you an individual. Even now temporarily living in a different country does not change this fact. If anything it makes one aware of the views of different people on another’s nationality and the concept of foreigners. Overall, it only seems fair to try to discourage this behavior as it only breeds hatred toward its target and even nations. In order to create unity we need to enlighten people of their misconceptions of those that they not of. Acceptance, instead, is what we should spread. This is what it means to be part of the global community to express the change you want to see in the world, you must first practice it.
Since arriving in Cardiff, I can’t say that I’ve been immune from the stereotypes of Americans, but it’s not something that actually offends me. I’m well aware of the stereotypes and as such deal with them accordingly when faced with them, whether they are true or false. I think the most trivial so far have been ranged on a very extreme scale. First is Americans are rich snobs that have anything and everything they desire. The other Americans are lazy and obnoxious. Personal favorite all Americans are the same, and we act like we own everything and have a disregard towards self-preservation. In other words we are wild and crazy. Clearly “Americans” have quite the reputation, we apparently are partiers and have no regard for anything that doesn’t benefit us. Now obviously the majority if not all, are not true, at least they don’t represent the majority of the nation. However, it is the actions of those set few that create such stereotypes that en-capture all Americans that visit other nations.
To be very honest since being here I’ve been told more times than not that I don’t seem “American” at all because of notions held by people here of how an “American” should act, which makes me laugh. I mean in the time that I’ve been here I think I cleared away previous notions and answered nagging questions that the people here in Wales have been dying to know the answers to. Just the other day one of my Welsh flat mates asked about Thanksgiving and what the background story for the holiday was. In all seriousness, stereotypes are created in the basis of what people don’t know, it stems from their curiosity and not being able/ being to proud to ask for answers. Again the other day my entire floor got into a heated debate with how to pronounce “Nike” and “Nutella” it was the most obscured thing you could imagine. You can guess of course how it was split up “The Americans” vs. “The Welsh/British”. Needless to say regardless of the jabs about how we say “tomatoes” and what not, I think we handled it rather efficiently. Instead of preaching how “our” way (American) was the correct way, I searched up the pronunciations and presented them to the group, thus the heated debate was settled. Although settled it doesn’t mean to say that throughout the debate there was no mentions of wars or certain sides always wanting to be right. There were comments like “ that’s Americans for you.” Or “ just because you won the war doesn’t make everything you do right”. Clearly these were all in jest but it still stands to be seen that stereotypes and past history still runs deep.
I personally had not stereotypes in which to place on the people of Wales. I think I came here pretty open-minded. Then again it also could have been the fact that I considered Wales as a possibly part of my family lineage that I did not want anything to sway my response to it and its people. Everyday I learn something new about Wales, its people, and its culture and I hope to continue to do so whether it be in a positive or negative light.
In our generation I think that because we are more exposed to the world via social media and the like the stereotypes have somewhat died down although not gone. In my experience there is more of a yearning to know about another’s country than to dirty its name. I’m not saying that, that is true of every country a student/person may visit. I am merely stating that, that has been my experience thus far in Wales. As Clifton Fadiman wrote, “ When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable.” Don’t expect to be at home in every country you go to. Some more than others may view you completely through these stereotypes and others will know enough to ask you questions about how you actually live. Have I faced stereotypes, yes. Were they as negative as they could have been, No. A study Abroad students job is not to become misguided by anger, but rather to enlighten those who think of their home country (the study abroad student’s) in a negative light. This is all in the spirit of learning of becoming responsible citizen within the global community, to carry the torch of enlightenment throughout your journey.
To be quite honest I’m not really sure what stereotypes of what Americans think about Wales. All I can come up with is that they probably think that when someone says UK, they think England.
However, the UK is comprises of many different countries. Maybe they even think that because of the different dialects that we speak it too hard to understand or even that the way they say things makes no sense. I couldn’t really tell you because the sad fact remains that I don’t think many American people know a whole lot Wales to give them a stereotype. Regardless of whether or not they do I think it would be better to communicate your curiosity in a better way. As the saying goes “people fear what they don’t know” unfortunately even people may deny it but that is the premise of stereotyping. I think that this picture is a good representative of the things we should be teaching and communicating to the world. These are all people, they are not the actions of an extreme group, they are not their country’s past crimes, they are not any different from you and I.