5 Biggest Stereotypes About Americans Traveling Abroad
Being a Brazilian, I'm familiar with a lot of stereotypes about Americans that prevail down here. Mostly it's plain ol' xenophobia and projection bias. Americans are not that different from us, but since they're richer, we want to latch onto the notion that they're somehow inferior in other areas to feel better about the fact that we don't do dick about our corrupt politicians that steal our money like it's “International Steal My Dumb Ass Day.” Here are some of the most common preconceptions on our northern brothers that abound in these regions:
1. They're fat
This is the pink overweight elephant in the room. Everyone around here pictures Americans with a burger clutched in one hand, a hot dog in the other, and a slice of pizza in an extraneous third hand developed solely for that purpose, shoving all three of them down their bulging gullet at the same time, choking on the grease and coughing a heart attack away before preening up for a second round.
Is that a fair image? Well, while it's true that the U.S. has a larger percentage of obese people than Brazil (35% of all adults in the U.S., vs. 15% in Brazil), we still have FAR more overweight people here (50% of the Brazilian population is overweight, whereas in the U.S. that number is only 33%). That means that, while Americans may be more likely to overindulge, they don't indulge as much as we do.
And while American food is notorious for being greasy, we here aren't innocent of the same sin. A plate of feijoada, one of the most traditional and internationally-known Brazilian dishes, can go for about 1400 calories a plate. And no Brazilian with any self-respect has just one plate. I mean, if you're going to be such a wimp, better to not even bother. Go sit on the kiddie's table so we can clear up more space for the heaps of real men food waiting to be served.
I come from Minas Gerais, which has arguably the most popular cuisine in the whole country. You can go to an undiscovered village of natives living in a cave under the Amazon river and you'll find a Mineiro restaurant in a mall. Some of the most common dishes include pork rinds, vaca atolada (cow ribs cooked in cassava), feijão tropeiro (meat, bacon, pork rinds, sausages and anything else you can find cooked in flour and beans), and my absolute favorite of all time: Frango ao Molho Pardo (chicken cooked in its own blood!!! It's not that greasy, I'm just including it because of how Metal it is).
Speaking from experience, every single American I've ever met in my life is thinner than me, and I'm not obese. I'm just a normal fat bastard.
2. They're rude
This one's far less quantifiable. What is rude? Burping at the table? Cutting someone off in traffic? Talking over other people? Stiffing your hand inside your pants to untangle your crotch hairs from your leg hairs in public? I, and a lot of Brazilians I know, are guilty of all of those crimes. The big problem is that people only notice it when a foreigner does it. I mean, where does this stranger get off going nuts in his pants like that in my country?
I think maybe some of that comes from the fact that some Americans won't say “sorry,” or “thank you,” or whatever when it's appropriate, but I wager that's merely because why you're going to bother saying that if the person you just bumped into most likely doesn't understand what you're going to say anyway? For all they know, you could be saying “watch where you're going, numbskull!”, so you might as well keep your gob shut lest you end up making things worse.
But again, speaking from my anecdotal end, I've never seen it. I haven't met a single American who is more impolite than me. That may be because achieving that is pretty hard (no one will take my place at the podium), but also because they aren't any more likely to be douchebags than anyone else. Sure, they may have a different way to carry conversation or express emotions that may send the wrong signals if you're not used to it, and they slam the car doors sometimes, because our car doors are made of chewed up toilet paper, but none of that means rudeness per se. So I guess what I'm saying is that you should cut a hole in your pants pocket so you can undo your lower region knots more discreetly next time.
3. They have a sense of superiority
Again, this one is mostly derived from hearsay. It's likely that anything an American does here may be seen as having a hint of arrogance by some people because hating on them is so fashionable. It's pure xenophobia. Since we're mostly mixed-race around here, it's normally easy to spot a foreigner. You won't have an easy time finding an Irish nose in Brazil, so some people start judging the moment they notice someone's origins. Nothing you do or say to those people will ever endear yourself to them, and since they're major assholes, you shouldn't care either way.
There's also a fair amount of folks who will talk trash about people from the U.S. but they themselves never met an American that fits their prejudices, and they immediately melt when they meet one.
Maybe it's true that some tourists may be disrespectful, but that doesn't apply just to Americans. It goes to everyone, including Brazilians visiting different regions of Brazil. The amount of condescension a Brazilian is able to show to someone from a poorer state is so thick that it gets hard to breathe around them.
In the end, it's a pot calling the kettle black thing.
4. They're suckers
This also applies mostly to tourists, but, then again, all tourists are suckers, and it's not their fault. How can you know you're being hoodwinked when you've never even been to a place before? The price you're paying for those stupid good-luck bracelets may be a rip-off but you'll only find out when you see them sold cheaper somewhere else, and since you're likely being done dirty by the tour guides in the first place, you may remain in the dark forever.
Personally, I think any price you pay for good-luck bracelets is a rip-off, because come on! What are you, a kid? Go buy some blood-cooked chicken and you'll get a better value for your dollar. But since the dollar is worth double here anyway, you may be beyond giving a rat's ass.
Speaking of rats, there's some news doing the rounds about foreigners who come here to buy toy poodles and end up buying roided up ferrets instead, with the fur fluffed up to look like a poodle. They call these modified weasels “Brazilian Rats.” I have one thing to say: if you are able to mistake a ferret for a dog, you've probably mistaken a frying pan for your all-purpose helmet too, so it might not be safe to go outside before you double-check in the mirror. Especially if it's a place with lots of sharp corners. Which leads me to.
5. They're stupid
This one makes me laugh. I think it's fair to say that you can reliably gauge a country's average level of intelligence by its pop culture, and if that's true, then we're in trouble. Watch any Brazilian soap opera. You may not be able to understand the dialogues, but you'll understand the underlying message alright, and that message is “Help!!! I've just went for a swim with my dunce cap on and now I can't find it!!!”.
These soap operas are enormously popular here. It's what most people have scheduled to do from 7 to 10 p.m., and I swear to God, if you can watch an episode end to end and still know basic algebra you might just be Stephen Hawking. And that's not all. “Funk Carioca” is one of the most ubiquitous musical genres anywhere you go in this country, and it's usually just a couple of words repeated until they lose all of their meaning, which wasn't that much to begin with. Case in point, here's a famous one:
I'm not going to translate it because I don't want to further disappoint Jesus after he went to some much trouble putting me on this Earth, but I can guarantee that it's no William Blake.
All that, of course, is not to say that Brazilians are stupider than Americans. It's to say that we're just as stupid as they are.
But we still have bigger asses.