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Orionite Abroad: Stay calm and discourage stereotypes

Michelle Manera

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Michelle Manera walks the famous Abbey Road crossing. Courtesy of Michelle Manera.


Defeating the American stereotype can’t be done with just one act.

It’s a daily task that involves choosing not to lose control, or at the very least, losing control silently. Americans have a reputation of being loud and obnoxious, and since being abroad, I see that.

But I have also seen British people act the same.

Outbursts seem better tolerated if you have an accent; like it’s all right because it’s “less typical.” Though that’s kind of a prejudiced system, I have been meditating on how to combat it.

A few people and I went to London to see the Tower of London, the Churchill War Rooms, Abbey Road and the Sherlock Holmes Museum. Toward the end of the day, my two companions and I tried to meet our friend to travel back to Brighton, England together.

After over an hour of walking and rereading street maps to find a Tube station, we finally found one and there was a collapsible barrier across the entrance. In my tired desperation, I kicked the fence like a toddler and said, “Who closes a Tube station!”

My friends laughed, but they weren’t the only ones who heard me. I was so loud that a man 20 feet away walked past us saying, “The entrance is on the other side.”

I was so embarrassed that I waited until the man turned the corner to walk to the other entrance. I was astounded that I could be the very stereotype I swore not to contribute to. However, that experience made me aware of what fuels the European perception of Americans.

When you’re tired, try to be quieter than you think you are. Don’t give in to emotional outbursts because you’re lost or frustrated. Ask directions respectfully and quietly. There’s no problem in repeating yourself because someone couldn’t hear, but being too loud can offend others and contribute to that stereotype.

Everyone slips up and yells, but part of embracing the British culture is adopting their tone. Read the situation you’re in and emulate the people around you. If you’re on a street at night with only seven people on it, don’t yell about a closed Tube station entrance. There’s always another way.

Michelle Manera can be reached at [email protected] or @michelle_manera on Twitter.

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Orionite Abroad: Stay calm and discourage stereotypes