Thursday, March 24, 2011

My country, my label

During last Summer's visit to Paris, I admitted to kind of pretending not to be American. Not actively lying, but -- since I was visiting from Switzerland -- just kind of letting people assume I'm Swiss.

And since then, I've asked myself Why? Is it so terrible to be American?

Here in Switzerland, I've been told many times that the foreigners that the Swiss really don't like are the Germans. The Swiss don't seem to have all that strong an opinion either way about Americans. It's actually kind of a relaxing change from living in France -- France and the US apparently have the most unbelievably passionate mutual love-hate relationship, whereas US and Switzerland have kind of a "friendly acquaintances" kind of relationship (as in "Who did you say you were again? Sweeden?").

Upon reflection, though, I don't think my problem is that people's assumptions about Americans are terribly negative (certainly not compared to their assumptions about people from various other countries). It's more that I'd rather not have people mentally lumping me with all the other Americans right off the bat. Let me be the "mystery foreigner" for a little while! ;^)

This is also why I enjoy telling people I was raised Mormon than telling people I was raised American. Growing up Mormon is exotic -- especially here in Europe. People I meet don't generally have any mental stereotypes about Mormons because they've never met any Mormons. All they have is wild stories they've heard (which they only half-believe) -- and that is so much more fun than a solid, garden-variety stereotype.

These musings partially inspired by Andrew's post on labels.


Stake Pres. said...

I commend you for letting people know you are Mormon. If only all members could be such a good example of missionary work.

President Paternoster

Andrew S said...

After being typecast as "exotic" quite a few times...I'm not sure if I like that over boring.

C. L. Hanson said...

Thanks Pres. Paternoster!!!

Hey Andrew!!!

Good point. It probably makes a difference that it's something I can bring up or not at will.

Pablo said...

Great post. And I agree that wild stories are WAY more fun than garden-variety stereotypes. :)