I can’t really go a day without thinking if I look American or not. Every time I go on the subway I wonder if everyone knows that I am American. Since my time here, I have learned that there are some key stereotypes that I do fall under, and some that I don’t.
A couple days ago I was at this bar talking to a student from Australia. He had soe comments on a American stereotype that I did not know of. He said Americans tend to wear a lot of brands on their clothing. I had no idea. I looked down to see what I was wearing… A Ferrari jacket and an Oakley tee shirt under it – it says Oakley right across the front. Interesting. He said in Australia it is uncommon to wear brands on their clothing so when they see an individual with brands plastered everywhere – they assume he or she is an American.
I took this stereotype and applied it to Spain. I noticed that I don’t see a lot of the brands I wear on people in Barcelona. While I see people wearing brands, I do not see them wearing my brands. For instance, I do not see Oakley clothing or J-Crew stores. Maybe when they see me wearing clothing not available in Spain they assume I am American.
But what about the stereotypes that I have about people. After reading this sentence: “Living abroad taught me that stereotypes endure because they provide a comfortable shortcut to understanding complex matters” (Abroad View, Spring 2009, Volume 11, Issue 2, page 26-28.), couldn’t agree more. This was a concept I did not consciously think about, but after reading realized that I agree with that statement subconsciously – if that makes sense. It is just easy to use a stereotype to use as an explanation for someone’s actions then to use the effort to think about it rationally. For example, I could assume that the Chinese student in my class is naturally good at math, but what if I said he went to a Russian math school three times a week since the age of five? No one would know. They would just use the stereotype that Asians are good at math to justify his skill – not that he’s been studying math since he could talk. Maybe I am starting to ramble now.
This picture below shows an American stereotype conveyed by Spaniards. My friend to the right of me is wearing a baseball cap. Baseball caps are a common symbol of being an American because baseball… well is an American sport. Not only is it a baseball cap, but it also is a golf hat – another popular sport by Americans. In regards to deeper meanings, I noticed that whenever a friend or myself wears a baseball cap, everyone speaks English to us. We try to speak Spanish when starting a conversation, but they instantly know we are American so they speak English. It is a little frustrating at times. I never knew how much one dresses could affect how you interact with people.