It’s no secret that American tourists have a bad reputation abroad. We are seen in stereotypes of being loud, obnoxious, culturally insensitive, paranoid, overweight conservatives who expect everyone to speak English, etc. I’ve often to been tempted to claim another nationality while travelling, especially when you experience outright bias or hostility toward America. But here’s why I will never do that:
It takes a rare person to actually denounce your homeland. Even though I don’t shoot guns off my front porch with American flags blazing, I consider myself a patriot and am proud of my country. I tear up at the National Anthem, and am thankful for the liberties my citizenship allows me. For me, American patriotism simply means that I agree on a certain set of ideas or “truths” to be self-evident…
This doesn’t mean I am proud of every decision that my leaders make. There are definitely things I disagree with and parts of my government that I’m not proud of. But, I’d like to think that most citizens of other countries can agree with that statement and aren’t blind followers either. Instead of rejecting my country, I’d rather open up a conversation with foreigners to compare political opinions.
“Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.” – Mark Twain
As a traveler, we are each ambassadors for our country. I want to lead by example and show foreigners that not all of us are obnoxious rednecks; many of us are friendly, open-minded, and respectful. This could be the first American that this person has encountered and my actions will forever taint how they think of Americans. It’s an opportunity to shine and make a good first impression. So, act accordingly and represent your country well.
An aside: While your attitude is on watch, this also extends to how you dress. Back in the day, people always dressed professionally when traveling (hence why I was forced to wear that god-awful blazer). These days, I’ve seen people in things they wouldn’t normally wear at home. Let’s get real: calling yourself a cutesy synonym for ‘homeless’ (nomad, lost, vagabond, gypsy, wanderer, etc.) doesn’t mean you have to dress the part. I’ve seen too many hostel rats that have become the next generation of dirty hippies. And, I’m not even going to write about half-naked girls struggling to hold the paper shawl around their shoulders in temples/cathedrals. Dress appropriately, respectfully and for god’s sake, maintain proper hygiene. Correction: Actually, if you dress like this, I’m going to encourage you to say you’re not from America.
“Citizen of the World” I’ve heard this excuse to reject national boundaries and call yourself a citizen of the world. I love the inclusive nature behind this sentiment, but I don’t agree using it to condone bashing of any one country. Being proud of your country shouldn’t be mutually exclusive with a global perspective, just like I consider myself both a Californian and an American.
Am I perfect? No. In particular, I have a tendency to be loud and outgoing. That’s my personality and I do try to check it at the door when needed. I hope that I am able to come across to all people as genuine and curious, without offense. I don’t tote around an American flag everywhere I go, but I will never hide the front of my passport or deny my nationality.