Before going abroad I didn’t really concern myself with the stereotypes of my host country because I knew that it would do me no good, what did worry me were the stereotypes associated with Americans. The main image I was so afraid of being classified as, was the “pampered twenty-somethings who leave home with little preparation, arrive at the program site largely clueless, and rarely break away from the exclusive company of other foreigners..” (Simbach, p. 35-36). I was so afraid that I would be passed off as an ignorant and spoiled American, who could be taken advantage of. But once in Ireland, I never felt any animosity or did I feel like I was being categorized into an American stereotype. They genuinely were fascinated and amused by Americans. They viewed us as light-hearted, open people, and they genuinely wanted to know who we were and what brought us to Ireland. The only time I ever do feel as though I am being stereotyped, is when Trump is brought up and when I say I am from new jersey. For some reason, Irish people, especially the younger generation, are very informed on American politics and they all assume that we are Trump supporters, or know everything about politics and what the future holds for America. I guess in that sense I do meet the “ignorant American” stereotype. Another stereotype that not only haunts me in Ireland, but also haunts me in America, is that whenever I say I am from New Jersey, and when I don’t express a so-called “Jersey” accent, I am always called out on it and am mocked in a “Jersey” accent. I know they do this in a joking manner and that it only exists from movies and they do it as a means to form some kind of association to new jersey, but it still drives me a little crazy, especially when I know that I get it back home just as often as I get it here in Ireland.
Although I didn’t go into Ireland with stereotypes about the people, I quickly realized that I definitely lived in a world of stereotypes about the country. In my mind I expected Ireland to be a little more rural and traditional than it actually was. I definitely used my biased-knowledge acquired from movies as a foundation for my expectations. I expected that there would be nothing in Ireland that would remind me of America. I pictured dirt roads, rock walls, castles, and farms everywhere, with traditional Irish shops and pubs, surrounded by Irish accents. Yet one of the first things I saw when coming to Ireland, was a McDonalds and a Starbucks. I was stunned to see how wrong I was and how commercialized and international the cities were. I was surrounded by fashion and electronic stores as well as people of all cultural backgrounds. In some ways I actually feel like Irish cities were more evolved and successful than the American ones. Yes, if you go outside the city you still get the “traditional Ireland” but even so they’re still extremely modern and accommodating to all cultures, especially to Americans. One thing I did realize while studying aboard is that the media isn’t entirely to blame for these stereotypes, in fact the country seeks to maintain these stereotypes because all that is associated with “traditional” Ireland helps emphasize the difference between Ireland and England. To Ireland, England is associated with all things modern, so to them, they must be associated with all things traditional.
The picture below is of what Galway city actually looks like, which is developed and commercialized, yet still with hints of traditional Irish character, as depicted through the stone walls and roads. The pictures above, are of what I expected all of Ireland to look like, when in actuality you have to drive a fair distance to find the farmlands and castles.
Slimbach, Richard. Becoming World Wise: A Guide to Global Learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus Pub. LLC., 2010. Print.