Overcoming the American Stereotype

16 Oct

There are many characteristics about
Americans that make us stick out when traveling to another country. Our values, traditions, manner of dressing and communicating, set us apart. Although this is to be expected, there are some negative  stereotypes that can make it hard for students to integrate themselves into their study abroad country’s community.

Common American Stereotypes:

  • Our daily attire consists of sweatpants and t-shirts a.k.a we don’t know how to dress (with the exception of New York).
  • We are ignorant.
  • We are loud.
  • We think our country is the best – this goes a long with not wanting to speak anything, but English when we arrive in another country.

You may or may not agree with some of these stereotypes, but one way or another, they exist. Studying abroad is an opportunity to prove people wrong about us, or at least attempt to.


I’m not going to suggest students go out and get a whole new wardrobe for abroad because that’s a) unrealistic, and b) very unnecessary. I think it’s important to keep in mind though that most teachers value professionalism, and with that, they expect students to dress appropriately for class (I’m sure our teachers in the States do too!). It is more customary in the States, however, for students to dress comfortably and casually. While going to class at a foreign university can seem intimidating, even worse (in my opinion) is being the only one wearing a neon cut-up t-shirt. Use your judgement. Students don’t need to dress uncomfortably and elegant to look “appropriate for class.” If you want style tips on what clothing to pack for abroad, check out this Pinterest or this blogger’s style.


Americans are Ignorant Informed

Before arriving in your host country, do some research on their political, historical and economical state. Not only will you be able to understand the people and country better, but you will be able to start conversation with locals. Knowing what’s going on can also be vital to your safety in the case of protests and rallies.


I’ll admit that some of us are loud, but there is a place and time for people to be loud. On the metro in Denmark, where there are quiet zones, one cannot be loud. From my abroad experience in Barcelona, I noticed that students often spoke across the metro to each other in English. Not only was it obnoxious, but it was disrespectful. Students should be more mindful of their surroundings.

Americans are the Best

I love America, I really do, but Catalans love Barcelona, Italians love Italy, and the French love France. When we’re in another country, it’s important to realize that we are guests. Students who want to criticize foreigners should reconsider going abroad. I’ve heard form several students that one of the biggest adjustments they had to make was not having all of the American luxuries. For example, hang drying your clothes, little customer service and paying for “extras” (condiments, bread, etc.). Students should keep an open mind and be willing to comply with their host country’s culture.

Click here to view another blogger’s  list of common stereotypes about Americans.


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