Not Everyone Likes Americans

A short and concise guide to stereotypes.

Photos from the We Are One Rally in solidarity with labor protests in Wisconsin and in support of public employees in Iowa. It was held on the steps of the Iowa State Capitol on February 22, 2011. (photo: Phil Roeder)

In case you just got here, not everyone you meet will like you.

In fact, if you want and expect every person you meet to like you, this desire probably comes more from a need to manipulate other people- even their thoughts and opinions, at least at it pertains to you- for the sake of self-esteem than out of a genuine desire for more friends and more meaningful connections.

But if you are a fully grown, comparatively well adjusted human over the age of reason, you’ve probably met someone who didn’t like you already. Maybe even more than one.

Maybe it was a co-worker, a friend of a friend, your first college roommate; for whatever reason, this person- or probably people- just didn’t take to you for whatever reason.

They thought you were fake, they found you rude, you reminded them unpleasantly of their third-grade teacher who humiliated students with terrible cursive handwriting.

Whatever it was or is, and most times you never know the reason, this person, and other unreasonable types immune to your obvious charms, took one look at you and crossed the street.

It doesn’t feel great.

In our society, by virtue of social conditioning or out of a deeply ingrained survival mechanism, getting people to like us feels important. And most people like us well enough. But when people don’t like us- even we well adjusted types- it hurts.

A writer I admire just wrote a revealing piece about how the writer he admires most blocked him on social media with no explanation ever given.

It hurts; but you move on.

It’s the modern day social snub, whereupon to cut someone dead means to block them to within an inch of their lives and never acknowledge their existence in public. Ever again.

You may have tried- without success, needless to say- to win this person over. It may have even become a point of pride for you to prove to this person what an all-around superb human being you are. Let’s say you bent over backwards to befriend this person. If they would just get to know you better…

Didn’t work.

In spite of all your hard work, this stubborn malcontent remained, resolutely, anti-you in every way. They judged your book by its cover and the rejection still rankles.

So unfair, isn’t it?

Some people don’t need a good reason to dislike you; any reason will do. But genuinely unpleasant people have to live with themselves all the time and are their own worst punishment anyway, so those people don’t trouble the well-adjusted.

It is the otherwise normal people who just don’t like you personally- for some reason- that irks. People who judge you based on false assumptions are the worst. For instance:

People you’ve never met in other countries don’t like you.

Some of them don’t think much of Americans, period. Some of them think we smile too much and assume us to be foolish and/or untrustworthy because of this. They don’t like the way we dress, the way we walk, the kind of shoes we wear. They think having ice in your drink is the stupidest thing they’ve ever heard of in their lives.

People living in rural Afghanistan- and probably a great many other places- think Americans are drunk all the time, when then think of us at all. Their stereotypes come from the same place we get ours incidentally: tv. Dallas and Baywatch.

People in Morocco grew up watching old re-runs of the Bold and the Beautiful; they think that’s what Americans are like. Until they actually meet some, that is.

There are more than a few cultural differences between people raised in the U.S. and people raised in South Asian countries. Cultural literacy is something multi-national companies have grappled with for decades as the global economy has expanded.

For instance, a banking executive booking hotel rooms for U.S. employees attending a company event would most certainly give each person their own hotel room. In America, we value personal privacy very highly.

A banking executive booking hotel rooms for employees from Taiwan would book multiple people in the same room. In Taiwan, community and togetherness is more highly valued than personal privacy.

Some people in other countries think Americans are all fat and lazy. If you want a good laugh, take a look at some Chinese reactions to photos of some common American foods.

It isn’t fair. Not only is it untrue, it is a weightist attitude even if it were.

Judging others doesn’t say much about the judged; it only says you are the type of person who feels the need, and justification, to judge others. Definitely not a good look.

Judging entire swaths of people based on arbitrary factors and incomplete information, mostly from television and other unreliable sources, is really ugly, but here we all are.

We all have our little set of prejudices and stereotypes and, if we’re lucky, we get the chance to confront and dismantle a few of those before we humiliate ourselves and/or cheat ourselves out of meaningful human connections with people who will surprise the heck out of you all the time.

If you let them.

(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)