When I was considering and applying to come abroad, I told everyone that I knew that I was planning on studying in London and the one question that everyone always asked me was why London, it rains all the time there. It was either put in the form of a question or people would joke about it saying I hope you like rain because you are going to be seeing a lot of it. I would have to say that that was the first stereotype that was dispelled very quickly. Sure it rains here, but I would say it doesn’t rain here any more than it does in Connecticut and if it does rain on a given day the rain doesn’t stay for very long. Most days it will sprinkle or you will take a tube and come out on the other side and it had just rained. If there is a downpour, it will only be brief; it isn’t the type of thing that would last an entire day. (As I sit here typing this post watching the pouring rain against my window.)
Something else that I personally thought that I would encounter was a lack of diversity when coming to England, but that was definitely contrary to what I thought. Even just riding on the tube or sitting in a coffee shop, you will here a plethora of languages being spoken at the same time. People at home told me that London was a lot like New York City, except it was a lot cleaner and I have to say they were right. This city is a metropolis in every aspect; there are a number of different districts that you might find yourself in in the city and each of those districts are defined by a different aspect or culture.
In spending time with not only my flat mates, but also my classmates, and just the general public a stereotype that I have come to notice that someone might not see or hear about as a short-term visitor or someone who had limited knowledge of the host culture is that hipsters are viewed as a lesser individual in society. I am not sure about the reason why this “culture” is different from anyone else, they may be seen as lazy, living an alternative lifestyle or people might think that they’re just weird, but the proper English people that I have met see hipsters differently than we might in the United States.
One thing that is quite popular here in the United Kingdom is that when a party is thrown, there is always a theme to said party. One of the themes that I had heard of that made me listen closer and quite honestly laugh was an American themed party. It interested me to hear of the stereotypes that people associate with Americans and how they would typically party. That involved wearing flannel shirts, drinking from red solo cups, playing beer pong and listening to country music. It made me laugh and kind of question why it was somewhat of a southern/ country point of view that we are associated with and I guess its because that is a lot of the things that people might see on social media, especially from a university student and someone who is likely to go out and party or consume alcohol. I think this is only one standpoint that people see.
Another stereotype that I have heard from people is that Americans are typically overweight and that I think came about with the obesity rates and the sharing of knowledge. We as Americans are viewed as having an unhealthy diet especially because of the foods that we consume on a regular basis and the amount of sugar and processed foods that we consume as a nation as a whole. I think there are valid reasons for the stereotypes that have been created towards Americans and I also think that some of the stereotypes that might exist are due to a void that has been created because there are so many different types of people in the United States and the nation as a whole has been put into a set of standards.
On the flip side of things, when I was coming to the United Kingdom, I was expecting to be made fun of for the way that I say some things and that has obviously happened but I wasn’t expecting to hear British people tell me that they preferred the accent that I had and the way that I pronounced some things. Something else that I was not expecting was for people to be so approachable and nice to foreigners. When I arrived in the country, I walked up to people asking for directions and they were more than happy to point me in the right direction. I was expecting people to look at me as a “stupid American” and send me on their way but I quickly found that it was the complete opposite.
In order to get an image of the way that Americans are viewed to the rest of the world I decided to use this one to represent what most people think about the people that they might encounter if they were to leave their home country and come to the United States. Besides the fact that these children are overweight, I have seen that here in the United Kingdom people take so much better care of themselves, in the things that they eat, the way that they live their lives as well as the way that they treat the environment that they live in. I know the a lot of the same things happen at home, but I think its to a more serious degree here in the United Kingdom. One thing that I see so much more now that I am living away from home in a different country is the fact that we consume so much fast food in our country and I am not only talking about literal fact food from places like McDonalds, but also frozen foods that we simply put in the oven and heat up because we don’t have the time to go to the market and get fresh ingredients. Here in the United Kingdom, most people go to the market every single day to get the ingredients that they need for the day and then repeat the next day.
By choosing to study abroad in the United Kingdom, I am able to help dispel the views that people might have about the United States and the so-called “ugly American”. Just as Slimbach noted in his book by carrying knowledge “Not only will we be better prepared to interact intelligently with residents, we will more naturally act in ways that dispel the stereotype of the clueless and self-absorbed ‘Ugly American’” by carrying the knowledge that I have, I am able to show the rest of the world that Americans are not what everyone thinks them to be and that may only be a small portion of the country that they believe it to be. By learning from the world, the world learns from us.