The other day my husband showed me some videos where people from other countries were interviewed about what they think about Americans, America, and what they think American stereotypes are.
It was so interesting to see what people would actually say. We noticed after watching the videos featuring people from several different countries that a lot of people said the same things, but that they also see Americans in relation to their own culture and character traits. For example, the Germans, who are a little more reserved and not super open (they admitted this), thought Americans were really open and even obnoxious. While a few Japanese people said Americans were outgoing while they were admittedly shy.
I thought it would be fun tell you some of the stereotypes that came up multiple times by people from several different countries, and respond to the stereotypes, and also see what any of my international readers have to say! American or not, I’d love to hear your thoughts about this topic and some of these specific stereotypes.
So what were the common things that people from other countries said about Americans and what they thought stereotypes were about Americans?
1 // Americans are overweight.
So many people said that we eat a lot of hamburgers specifically, which I thought was funny. It was interesting to see how much of an influence McDonald’s has had on what people think all Americans eat. I can’t even remember the last time I had a hamburger (probably Shake Shack a few months ago, but now I’m craving it). Also I’ve probably only been to McDonald’s twice in the past 5 years — for a vanilla cone.
A lot of people said that we eat a lot of fatty foods and fast food. They also said they think our portion sizes are huge. That’s true.
What I was surprised by was that no one mentioned anything about coffee considering there are Starbucks all over the world.
Also, in my mind, there are so many super healthy American eaters. When I think of all the healthy food blogs, and all of the things that I think of when I think of food — paleo, vegan, smoothies, green juice, kale, the spiralizer! I feel like we have a lot of healthy-obsessed, fitness-obsessed people. Maybe this is something that isn’t really shown globally?
2 // Americans are dumb.
This one hit me a little hard. Many people said they don’t think Americans are smart or intelligent. That we are dumb and stupid. It just makes me sad that this is what foreigners think the majority of Americans are like. Yes, we have people that aren’t smart, people that are naive, people that don’t think much beyond their town, state, country (as I’m sure every country has people like this) — but instead of foreigners associating Americans with all of the super smart people we have, their immediate reaction was that we are stupid.
3 // Americans are nice, open, and friendly, easy to talk to, but also fake and self-centered.
I definitely think that a lot of Americans are nice, open, and friendly. I’m from the Midwest — almost everyone is nice there! The people who said open seemed to say it in the way that we share our feelings, our thoughts, and we are just more open in general. And then some people said that while Americans are open and friendly, it’s only surface level. That it feels fake. That there isn’t anything deeper than that surface level.
I mean, I think there are fake and self-centered people probably in every culture, maybe America has more, I’m not sure. Or maybe since we’re so open, more people that are like that talk more often so it seems more prevalent? But being fake and self-centered to be a stereotype for Americans makes me sad. I think some people realize the difference between fake and self-centered, but that sometimes they are lumped into the same thing. While I wouldn’t consider myself fake at all, I can admit to being self-centered.
I do wonder if the self-centered thing is generational, like how many of us growing up were told we could be whatever we wanted to be. And the whole helicopter parent stereotype where children are raised as the center of the world.
4 // Americans love sports.
Well this is definitely true!
5 // Americans are very patriotic.
This seemed to be positive and negative. I think being patriotic is great, but some people also said it in a way that seemed negative. One person pointed out that Americans always call their president the leader of the free world and they thought that was ridiculous.
6 // Everything in America is big. Tall buildings, tall people.
This was just funny. I think for countries in Europe it has to do with space and our cities being newer. We don’t have a lot of super old small buildings and cobblestone streets everywhere. We have giant strip malls and Costco and parking lots and highways and SUVs.
And Americans do tend to be on the tall side. I wonder if this has to do with milk and other hormones in our food?
7 // Americans don’t know much about other countries, don’t know geography, and only care about themselves and their own country. They don’t think globally.
I guess I can see how other people might think this. I think a lot of Americans just don’t really care to think outside of their own lives. We only border two countries unlike Europe. If your job or business has nothing to do with the global economy or learning about it isn’t a hobby I can see how some people wouldn’t know or care too much about it.
For me, the difference of living in the Midwest to now living in DC — the news here is just more global, everyone works in politics, government, or something that has to do with other countries. So it’s just immediately a topic of conversation where I live now. I know so much more about the world, and other countries in general. I think it has to do with age and where I live.
8 // Americans are loud and obnoxious.
Compared to other cultures, I can see how people could think this. Many other cultures are much more reserved. But then some aren’t. It makes me think about how when I was in Spain on a train from Barcelona to Malaga, we were sitting in a car that was super quiet, lots of tourists. And when I walked toward the cafe car, it was a party. Tons of locals drinking, talking, laughing, dancing. I mean it was loud and crazy. You would NEVER find that on an Amtrak here in the states!
9 // Freedom.
It was funny but people just said the word freedom. I thought it was great that they associate us with freedom. Goes back to the patriotic thing.
People were also asked if they’d been to America, and if so if they liked it, and if they wanted to come back. A lot of people who were interviewed said yes they had been to the US and that they loved it and had so much fun. Vegas came up a few times and I was like, oh no no, there are so many better places to go in the US!
Another question that was asked was if people knew the capital of the US, and everyone knew it was Washington DC. I thought to myself, I have no idea what city is the capital in other countries.
Did any of these stereotypes surprise you? If you aren’t American, what assumptions do you have about Americans?