Putting aside my feelings for President Bush and the current state of our government, when I saw this picture, I felt hopeful. It is no secret that our relationship with Europe has been strained, especially since Bush took office. When we were in Italy, though we were treated kindly, we saw tons of anti-Bush graffiti. I constantly see comments or hear people commenting on how French people hate Americans. Many are afraid to travel to France because they think the French are rude, or will treat them badly because they are American. Some even go to extremes and tell people they are Canadian, just to avoid poor treatment from the French.
This is all rubbish if you ask me! So untrue! Such generalizations are harmful to society as a whole. I would never denounce the fact that I am American. And though our country may not be favorable in the eyes of Europeans, it is really the government that they have a problem with, not us as individuals. The French and Italians are smart enough to know and understand the difference. I have never been treated rudely, or not welcomed because I am American. My guess is that most of the people that are treated rudely have done something to insult someone, or have just come across someone that is rude to everyone in general or just having a bad day.
To avoid being treated ‘badly’, learn a few customs and a little about the culture that you will be visiting. Don’t expect Europeans to automatically speak English to you. This is rude in and of itself. Learn a few words of their language and make an attempt. Most will appreciate this effort, see you struggling, and then speak to you in English(if they are fluent). Also, most Americans are loud, opinionated and demanding. I can be all of those things sometimes and I am also very gregarious. However, I must remember where I am, and as a good traveler, I must adjust my behavior. Snapping your fingers at a waiter, being loud and drunk in public or asking someone 20 questions, may not be appreciated in France, where they are more quiet and reserved and are very private people…until they get to know you. It is not that they won’t like you because you are American…it is that they won’t like your behavior..no matter what nationality you are. It is a sign of disrespect.
So, if Bush and Sarkozy can enjoy a friendly picnic lunch in Kennebunkport, Maine on a glorious weekend, maybe we can all learn a lesson. People are people. We can all have different ideals, goals, jobs, classes and political views….but we can all get along, respect one another and love one another..regardless of where you live. Now, if only Bush and Sarkozy could work on the value of the US dollar over in Europe, I’d be happy. My trip is in 5 weeks…and I am praying for a miracle!
So, what are your thoughts? What have been your experiences as an American in Europe? As a European, what are your impressions of Americans when they travel to your country?