Tellus: (tel’us), n. 1. [Latin] earth, soil, and the land; a country; the world. 2. a collection of Willamette University student’s insights, stories, photos and thoughts from their experiences studying abroad.

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Swedes’ perceptions of the USA

So here is my second answer to the blog while abroad assignment. I decided to do a blog about Swedes’ perceptions of Americans because I think it’s extremely interesting, especially after all of our talks while preparing for our study abroad experience about foreign perceptions of the USA. So here it goes!

Question 5. Describe the perceptions of the U.S. in your host country. Are there a range of perceptions or are they general? Are they what you expected? Do host-nationals ask you about the U.S.? What do they ask? What do you think creates these perceptions?

So of course Swedes do believe a lot of the stereotypes about Americans (that we are lazy, we do not make an effort to learn any other languages, that we are all crazy and party all the time, that American girls are easy, that we do not have any idea about what is going on in the world, etc) because that’s all that they really know. They pretty much only know about American culture from American tv shows, so either everyone plays football or is a cheerleader, or they’re band nerds who don’t have any friends. So it’s pretty funny to hear those perceptions of America. I don’t really fit in to either one of those two stereotypes (I am more in the middle of those two extremes and so are most of the people I know), so it’s always funny to see their expressions and hear their reactions to this news. The other ones about Americans being ignorant kind of make me mad and also plain sad because that IS the truth for some people. I like to keep myself informed about world news and American news (I try to read the NYT online daily, check CNN at least twice a week and pick up newspapers when I can, especially if they are in English). I also am a HUGE language nerd, so it’s always insulting when someone here is shocked that I know another language (especially when I say I know not only one but TWO other languages and working on a third). One person even said to my face “Well, you’re American. I mean it’s not like you probably actually WANTED to learn a different language.” I always get a pleasure from seeing their shock when I say that I took Russian last year, especially when I met someone from Russia and we spoke for about 20 minutes in Russian much to the amazement of everyone in the room.

Overall however these perceptions of America are ones that I expected to encounter. Let’s be honest, most of the tourists from the US are not that well informed in regards to other nations, tend to be rude and are slightly unwilling to adapt to local cultures (I have seen a lot of that here from other Americans that I have encountered in Stockholm and also when I travel around Europe). This makes me so sad because most of the people I know from the US are really nice and funny and genuine (although that could be because Indiana is known for it’s “Hoosier Hospitality” so I might be spoiled in that regard).

My friends from around the globe here are SUPER interested in the US, especially Swedes (mainly guys. That I meet at parties…). When someone learns I’m American I normally have a swarm of about 6 different people asking me questions, making me say slang or just speak in general because they love my accent. The attention makes me slightly uncomfortable (more than a little uncomfortable in the case of some people) but overall I think it’s humorous that they find me so interesting, especially when I think that THEY’RE interesting because they’re from various European nations. Normal questions are “So, is high school really like Mean Girls?” or “Do all Americans carry guns?” both of which I think are hilarious when someone asks me them.

Like I mentioned before I definitely feel like our media and the way people from our nation present themselves while traveling abroad create the perceptions that are so prevalent in people’s minds. I guess the only way to change those perceptions is to try to teach other Americans that while traveling abroad they need to be mindful of the fact that they are not in the USA therefore there will be different languages being spoken, there will be different customs and a different way of living. I think if we are able to improve on that our reputation to other nations will improve drastically, although I know it’s pretty much impossible to coordinate a way to improve our tourist relations in various nations (I feel like that sentence did not make sense at all).

Anyway, there you have it, what Swedes (and people from other nations) think of Americans.

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