Living overseas can be a series of awkward, uncomfortable, amusing mishaps. It will shape how you both consider yourself and your country. Being an American in Germany, I experience the good, the bad and the ugly every day.
- "Can I see your gun???". We don't own guns, guns are difficult to obtain in Germany man. Just because my husband is a soldier doesn't mean he carries a fire arm... A tried and true tactic we employ here is humor, "no, we don't have guns here. But my 92 year old great aunt owns a semi-automatic named the hulk" (this is true, sigh).
- Europeans think all Americans are from New York City or Los Angeles. They then ask "do you know Ashton Kutcher". No, I'm sorry, I don't know Ashton Kutcher. Yes, I know a few celebrities but that isn't through a link to LA or NYC. I'm from a very small town in Washington State, not nearly as exciting as what Europeans expect.
- McDonalds is not a daily or even a monthly thing in my household. We do not eat McDonalds unless on travel, lacking options. Europeans seem to think Americans go to McDonalds daily. We don't. We eat home cooked food, just as they do.
- Be prepared for the hairy discussion on politics. Inevitably, our European neighbors want to criticize X president (former or current), followed by "can you let him know that Germans didn't like that". Sorry, I don't have a direct line to any former or current president.
- Spanking is a part of parenting for all Americans. This is just not true. Not every American spanks, we're as diverse as Europeans are in our child-rearing techniques. However, since spanking was outlawed in most European nations, they are curious to know if their American neighbors and friends do so.
- They assume we watch copious amounts of television, and then ask us "do you know how NCIS ended last season". Sorry, I don't watch NCIS. In fact, we don't have cable in our house. WHAT? We don't. We decided to try this European thing, and we're digging it: walking or traveling rather than watching television.
- Americans don't recycle. Not true. Although we aren't nearly as good at it as our German buddies, that doesn't equate to not doing it. I remember the excitement in my household at 9 when those blue bins arrived from the garbage man. We collected cans and paper for recycling. My brother and I thoughtfully (this was a thoroughly disgusting act) picked through the garbage of our elderly neighbors to ensure all recycling was properly sorted.
- We drive gas guzzling trucks. Ok, yes, some do. But, I've seen quite a few gas guzzlers here in Europe. By in large, Americans do get larger vehicle that consume more petrol. I don't know exact stats here, but you can see it at any parking lot. However, America is changing. Hybrid cars and electric cars are shooting off the "shelves" and gaining popularity fast. Give us time, we'll get there.
- There isn't a culture in America. Um, I beg to differ. I've lived in the South, in the North, in the Rockies, the Mid-West and the West. Each area had it's own flavor. Just because it's not 400+ years old doesn't mean it lacks culture. There were fests galore in the south, sporting events in the mid-west and pub-crawls/progressive dinners in the North.