Thursday, January 24, 2008

I have a pet peeve about some Americans abroad. I will admit that I am also guilty of this annoying habit so this is really a post to myself. Americans in Paris want to be accepted by the Parisians. We all understand this need to be loved; maybe Americans have this need more than other as I have heard suggested- I don’t know. The next time you are in Paris watch an expat or a tourist when they are first introduced to a Parisian. The conversation will begin politely enough- general conversation- “I love your city!”- “Wow, that is some tower you got there” “Is it true that there is a place in France where the ladies wear no pants?” You know, the usual icebreakers. As soon as there is a lull in the conversation watch the American. He begins to twitch and get excited. He wants to say something but he doesn’t know if it’s too soon. He’s trying to hold back the comment but he can’t. He’s going to burst- he must say it…. can’t….hold….out…much…longer…

“I didn’t vote for Bush!”

It spews from his mouth like projectile vomit splattering everyone within earshot.

Unable to restrain the flood the American will go on and on about how he doesn’t like Bush he doesn’t know anyone that voted for Bush, certainly none of his friends- the election was rigged. He will then roll into American racism, slavery, and freedom fries. He will have a new thought that politician's extra-marital affairs should not only be ignored but encouraged*. As the American discusses these woes they will laugh- a short “please love me” laugh. “American’s are so stupid. ha ha ha Aren’t they? ha ha ha”

It’s painful to witness. I cringe when I hear this- I cringe even more when I’m guilty of it. We can pretend that we are discussing politics but I think all we are trying to do is convince a complete stranger that we aren’t like all those “other” redneck, provincial Americans who don’t know diddly about squat. It’s a rather pathetic attempt to fit in. We assume that the Frenchman hates America or Bush and that they devote most of their day to thinking about this hatred. Essentially we are buying into a stereotype so that we wont be stereotyped by a person that may or may not stereotype Americans in that way. I can’t say that I am a particularly good or proud American but Jesus have a little loyalty for your homeland- don’t be so quick to sell out your country and perpetuate stereotypes so that you can be liked by a guy that probably supported Sarkosy.

*My thought regarding politicians that cheat on their spouses- If a person cheats on their spouse with whom they love and have made a solemn vow how long will it take before they screw over a complete stranger (you)- other than that I don't really need to know about who's sleeping with whom.


LDP said...

Very interesting post. I always think I'd feel more like a patriot if I lived abroad than I do living here, because I'd get so sick of hearing people say these kinds of things. I think Americans tend to romanticize things when they move abroad, as if everything is wrong about the U.S. and everything is right about wherever they've happened to move. It can't be that simple, can it?

On the other hand, I can (unfortunately) see myself as one of those people. The temptation must be so great, the suspicion that everyone hates Americans must be so strong, that the idea to fit in this way must have real pull, even if it's not really fitting in.

As an aside, I disagree issue of married politicians having affairs. I don't think cheating should be encouraged, but I don't believe an adulterer will necessarily be a bad leader. I'd take Bill Clinton back in a heartbeat.

Anyway, good post.

Tin Foiled said...

It's almost a case of self-selection: if you're going to cross the globe in order to have a meaningful conversation with the French, you're probably not the "backwater redneck" grumbling about Freedom Fries and those damned snooty frogs.

That being said, I certainly didn't vote for Harper.

Panic in New York said...

Whoa ldp, are your comments billable?
Who would fool around with W anyway?

Marge Schott said...

Half the reason I'm voting for Hillary is so that she has the same chance as Bill to get a little action from a young aide.

sarala said...

I confess to having made the "I didn't vote for Bush" comment. It's the truth but your point is very well taken. But I feel that some of our bad rep in Europe is well deserved and we do owe the world an apology. Well, another day, another lousy politician. The French, Germans, Italians and so forth have their crosses to bear too.

Anonymous said...

Of the 3 months of expat blogs that I've been reading this one has to be the silliest. Are you 12 years old? Why do you want to fit in or want the French to love you? As I'd react here, I'd be interested in the French person I was talking to and would ask her questions. I wouldn't have to fit in in London nor would I care rather Londoners loved me. Please stay there.

american in paris said...

It's true.. horribly true. My boyfriend, who is French, sent an e-mail to one of his friends on my computer, saying that.. "My girlfriend is american, which is hillarious when she meets my friends, for her fear of them detesting her country's politics propells her to warn them that not only did she not vote for Bush, but her mother is a communist".
As for the comment that not ALL americans in Paris have come to eschew their country's politics and naturally, should they be in Paris would have not voted for Bush - false, false false. Take any number of the giggly sorrority-girl types studying abroad, or the wannabe Hemingways.. a lot of these people have decidedly right-leaning politics, but come to Paris for the glamour, the history, the idea of meeting european nobility and marrying into it, or what have you.
In any case... You have a point. I'm guilty of it myself and I'm certain it sounds somewhat vulgar and pathetic to french ears... next time I'll be mindful :) Thanks!

Karyn said...

I'd like to think I could defend the parts of my country and its constitution which exemplify the ideals on which it is based. I'd like to think I would not cave to societal peer pressure and that I would stand firm in my resolve to be myself. I would like to think that I am not an Ugly American and can respect other societies and cultures without selling out my own.

But I don't know, cos I haven't been anywhere yet.

I can let you know after next month, though.

(And I would be quick to point out that the only person really responsible for George W Bush is George W Bush. Also, I would definitely try to be on my best behavior without amping it up so much that it automatically plunks me down in U.A. territory. Oh dear, the pressure, the pressure.)

Karyn said...

Oh, and the adulterer-as-president thing.

It's said that 50%+ of all married men cheat, and 40%+ of all married women do. That said... if it's true, it leaves a pretty small pool of people from whom to pick a candidate, and looking at what we have to pick from at the moment, I say we better not try to narrow down the field too much more. I shudder to think who would be left. (Can you hear the dueling banjos?)

LDP said...

anonymous 11:46 p.m. = George Bush.

Hi, Mr. President!

Anonymous said...

Regarding adultery, I guess I'm very French in that, I could care less if the president was getting blowjobs in the oval office. I just care about job performance.

I don't do it myself, but there is a reason why a lot of Americans are perceived as moronic, so I guess that is why a lot feel the need to explain there political beliefs.

Me, I don't particularly like America or Americans. After 6 years in Paris, I am in the process of moving back to New York City, and I am not happy about it. I can't afford to live in the Euro zone anymore.

hh said...

You may be right that we shouldn't need to justify ourselves or align ourselves with the "anti-Bush" side, but really it's a difficult topic to avoid. Often in conversations with Europeans in Paris, I haven't had the slightest interest in discussing American politics, and they've brought up the George W. Bush question or other conversational minefields. And it's frustrating. So really, I don't think the "I hate George Bush" motto is completely unfounded. Which is why it's nice to meet people who give you room to be your own person as opposed to a walking American stereotype (which many people do, thankfully).

but if anyone asks... I hate George Bush. And I love Paris.

Karyn said...

"I don't do it myself, but there is a reason why a lot of Americans are perceived as moronic, so I guess that is why a lot feel the need to explain there political beliefs.

Me, I don't particularly like America or Americans. After 6 years in Paris, I am in the process of moving back to New York City, and I am not happy about it. I can't afford to live in the Euro zone anymore."

Can I just say... Americans may be perceived as moronic, but I am proud to be able to differentiate between, suss out the spelling of , and correctly apply the words "there" and "their". Also, there is very little one can do about the way others choose to perceive things. AND, as a final thought on this somewhat disturbing comment, I'm just DELIGHTED to learn that this individual does not like Americans or America, but is returning to our shores for their own economic convenience. It gives me such a nice warm feeling inside. Oh wait - that's nausea.

Karyn said...

Change of plans - I missed Sarala's comment.

I am in direct opposition to the notion that we as a people or as a country, owe the world an apology. Next time a dictator wants tries committing mass executions based on his own petty tyrannical whims, we should just remain apathetically uninvolved, and just let him. Maybe he'll annex a few countries for kicks and liven things up a bit.

I mean, that worked out well for Europe in the first half of the 20th century, didn't it?

Oh wait. Wait. No, it bloody didn't.

LDP said...

I don't particularly like America or Americans.

This strikes me as remarkably narrow-minded. The U.S. is a huge country, hundreds of millions of people, all kinds of backgrounds, beliefs, interests and so on, and you "don't particularly like America or Americans"? I suggest you grow up.

Anonymous, 11:46 said...

LDP, you've missed my point...
intentionally? Please read carefully: Americans have no need to share their politics, or to apologize for American policy or action anywhere in the world. Many of us are working here in the US to make changes. Expats ingratiating themselves to the French makes me cringe. If you don't have a stake in the US's present or future, please remain abroad for there's too much serious work to be done here.

Misplaced said...

Anonymous 11:46- are you Alice Purdie of Charlotte? For someone who isn't going to read blogs that aren't anti-French anymore you certainly seem to spend a lot of time on them.

I think you missed the point of the post. Intentionally? Take a deep breath. Think happy thoughts like the WMD probably still hidden somewhere in Iraq- don't worry we'll find them. OK? Feeling better? Good. Now re-read the post- Read what it says, not what you want it to say- Don't be afraid to sign your name to a comment- Don't give into the fear- Sarkozy isn't monitoring your communications -Say something nice about Bush- he might be.

Anonymous said...

Misplaced: I've made my point. I'm not anti-French, where did that come from? I agreed with the French position back in 2003 that war and occupation wasn't the way to handle Iraq. It wouldn't occur to me to apologize to the French for anything, however! I'll continue to read French blogs, but have had enough of the politics. If you allow "Anonymous" signings you should honor them.

Bbethany7 said...

It's not easy to tell the French much of anything since 90% of them, at least here in Nice, are on a cell phone from dawn'til dusk. After that
they hang out with their family or
whoever they met in grade school and
prattle stupefying banalities until
bedtime...Why, then, you ask, are you
living here? Because I am, that's why. And I rather like it...BB