Friday, August 21, 2009

Beautiful Vulnerability

Why do Americans tend to be portrayed as idiots in other countries? I mean there is more than just one characteristic than which is about to be unraveled, but this one concept is the one glued to my mind presently here in Chile:

We as a culture tend to be very trusting, friendly, and open. I live in a country where I would feel comfortable trusting most of the strangers I come across. Therefore, that same beautiful vulnerability can make us look like idiots when we enter through a cross-cultural door. For example, I walk down a street here, see a prim-looking and presentable person, and give them my camera to merely take a picture of me and the city life. With enough distance between us, this seemingly respectable person runs off with the camera. Thus, sometimes onlookers assume we have no brain. Think about it though … in the USA you could ask a person to take a picture on the street, in a garden, or in a restaurant. You can leave your stuff in most places while you go to the bathroom (or ask a friendly-looking stranger to watch it), instead of having to pack up every object. Heck, if you are studying in the library on campus, you can grab some lunch and chat with friends with an almost 100% guarantee that your laptop, wires, books, and even your pencil will all be in the exact place you left them. That is a treasure!

So honestly, Americans are not 100% idiots; we just need to accumulate the “USA button” and the “outside the USA button" to be aware of our cultural surroundings and norms. Maybe a little training here and there. There are other reasons why we look like idiots abroad, and that, my dear friend, cannot be explained through the venue of cultural anthropology...


  1. I shall await further word about how we can REALLY be idiots!! Meanwhile, don't give your wonderful camera to ANYONE!!

  2. Oh dear, at first I thought you meant your camera had really been stolen! Yeah, when we were in Italy it was emphasized how closely we had to watch our purses as such. The other day in Wal-mart, I thought someone was looking shady and coming towards me, so I held my purse close to me. No, he just wanted in the freezer section. Haha.