I have landed in a beautiful European metropolis, which is not in my country of birth. I have about 30 min before I have to rush to some talks.
After getting a cab at the airport, the cabby and I first spoke in German, then in English; eventually he asked where in the US I was from, to which I responded, but he didn’t have the slightest idea where that was, so I told him where I was originally from, and — lo and behold — we are from the same country.
We switched to our native tongue, at which point the cabby proceeded to teach me how Americans really are, because obviously I have no idea, having lived in the US for 15+ years. Of course, he does, because he drives Americans to and from the airport all the time (his words). *eyeroll*
I heard how he could never live in the US, because Americans are stupid and uneducated and gullible (they are likely exceedingly polite listening to him ramble during the ride). But then he also had some choice words for the natives of the country I’m currently in — cold, distant, and apparently “too gay” (?!) — so he seems to be a broad-spectrum basher.
There is a bit of a sport in Europe and elsewhere, and I am ashamed to admit I used to engage in that sport once upon a time, which is “Let’s all talk about how stupid Americans are.” There is a variant reserved for meeting an American in person, which goes like “Let me tell you how your people are stupid, uneducated, how your history is only a few centuries long; how your educational system produces only idiots.” I have seen many of my American friends endure this self-righteous badgering with surprisingly good humor.
I don’t play that game any more and I feel quite offended when people try to engage me. First of all, the US is my country now; my kids are Americans, they don’t have any other identity. Second, Americans are far from stupid and they work insanely hard. They are at a disadvantage because of poor funding for education and the rampant unregulated capitalism that makes everyone constantly $hit their pants with anxiety over where the next paycheck is coming from.
But this little incident also reminded me of one of my least favorite traits of my people: a tiny country of no consequence but with an outsize national ego, with every citizen thinking they are an intellectual giant and a god’s gift to mankind, not realizing that people view them as ridiculous petulant children.
I tipped the cabby well nonetheless. ‘Cause that’s what we stupid Americans do.