It makes total sense that:
- Penny is the blonde aspiring actress and Amy is the brunette neuroscientist on The Big Bang Theory
- Homer Simpson’s and Peter Griffin’s bellies precede them
- Masseuse and odd-job-doer Phoebe Buffay can afford to stay in Manhattan’s West Village
Unfortunately, American pop culture is full of stereotypes. Worse, by virtue of repeated exposure, it has probably led you to perceive every American in the same light.
It is time to set the record straight.
1. Myth: They’re unintelligent
Since we’ve already broached the topic, let’s start with how the fair-haired are perceived: Shallow and unintellectual, among other things.
The judgment doesn’t stop at tresses. You might have doubted the intellectual capabilities of Americans for political choices, or even the way the country runs certain things.
Reality: The shade of the dead protein that adorns the skull is unrelated to the intelligence caged within. The gender of the body beneath matters even less.
Hillary Clinton, Meg Whitman, Martha Stewart, Madonna. Need any more names to destroy your patriarchal preconceptions?
As for political biases, it has as much to do with the IQ of a person as their EQ. The outcome of voting is a game of sentiments and numbers. Plenty of Americans are apolitical Ph.D. holders.
2. Myth: They’re entitled
Arrogant, selfish, condescending, rude – Americans have been called it all.
Reality: It’s fair to say that many Americans are used to a little something called privilege.
While most Americans have access to crystal-clear water, occupants of some other countries have to leg it barefoot for miles to quench their thirst. When Americans anticipate getting clean tap water while traveling, but don’t, they question it.
All that to say, their expectations of how things happen don’t stem from a place of malice. Unawareness? Maybe.
3. Myth: They’re disrespectful
“I think you’re wrong,” declares the associate to his boss. “How can he be so blunt?” you wonder, appalled. Your shock is misplaced.
Reality: Unlike cultures where age or seniority demand respect, Americans believe respect is earned. It’s give and take.
Moreover, disrespect is in the eye of the beholder. What seems rude to you isn’t so to them. You’d never dream of tweaking your restaurant order, or sending an unsatisfactory dish back. That’s nothing out of the ordinary in the U.S.
Capturing the American demeanor in Nora Roberts’ words: “If you don’t go after what you want, you’ll never have it. If you don’t ask, the answer is always no.” Ergo, they ask.
4. Myth: They’re loud
Their straightforwardness has earned Americans the reputation of being loudmouths.
Reality: Westerners’ upbringing and environment mold them to be individualistic by nature.
“Stand out from the crowd.”
”The loudest voice wins.”
”Fortune favors the bold.”
These are all drivers of the American mindset.
They’re never one to shy away from striking up a conversation or speaking their mind. It’s what makes them the friendliest tourists and warmest hosts. Equally, they conserve their energy to be chatty only when required.
5. Myth: They’re obese
Americans shovel in cheeseburgers and pies for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Fries fill snack gaps for good measure.
Reality: It can’t be denied that the American diet is notoriously riddled with brown and white. Bread, sugar, butter; you name it.
Yet, they’re trudging slowly but surely towards a diet that’s more balanced with the good stuff. A Harvard Health study indicated a noticeable increase in quality carbs, unsaturated fats, and protein intake. Paired with physical activity, Americans are prioritizing health in the 21st century.
6. Myth: They’re gun fanatics
Are Americans as horrifyingly trigger-happy as Hollywood and the media make them out to be?
Reality: Every American can legally own a gun. That doesn’t mean they do.
At 32%, just over a third of U.S. inhabitants are gun-owners (based on Gallup data from 2019).
There’s a heavy ounce of truth to gun-fueled crimes and xenophobia in the nation. 72% of Americans themselves view these as substantial issues. That makes it important to separate the sadistic deeds of a few extremists from the larger section of goodhearted individuals.
7. Myth: They’re unilingual
The next common misconception to make the list – Americans’ grammatical abilities start and end with English.
Reality: Over 67 million of the U.S. population speak a different language at home. At least 16.9% of American citizens are multilingual, as of 2018.
Spanish is the second-most frequented tongue, followed by Indo-European, Asian, and Pacific Island languages. They’re spoken as fluently as English if not more, owing to the high immigrant concentration of the melting pot that is the U.S.
8. Myth: They’re loaded
We covered being locked and loaded. This is the other kind.
Americans walk on clouds with wads of cash. They sip bubbly and throw yacht parties on the daily. They make every problem in sight disappear with money.
Or do they?
Reality: The number of Americans who work two or more jobs is on a steady incline. For most, the revenue from the alternative job accounts for nearly a third of their total income. Millions are surviving paycheck to paycheck.
Plus, the cost of living is subjective. If you compare spending in dollars to less-dominant currencies, everything in the U.S. is far pricier than you’d imagine. Its apples to oranges.
9. Myth: They’re wasteful
Terms like “materialistic” and “oblivious” have been used to describe American consumption. In turn, they’re accused of contributing to environmental damage and climate change.
Reality: The U.S. is home to over 36,000 protected areas as of 2020. These consist of areas at federal, state, and local territories, encompassing land as well as sea.
Further, the country has decreased its greenhouse gas emissions by 12% in 14 years.
The folks of the West aren’t tantamount to tree-huggers, but they’re not propagators of illegal logging, i.e., chopping down woodlands illicitly. Many, including the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and American Forest & Paper Association, oppose it.
We’ve pointed out these myths specifically because they’re not true of all Americans. That’s the intrinsic issue with stereotypes; they detrimentally label a whole community based on the actions of its parts. Not to deny that Americans could never embody one or more of these behaviors, but so could your neighbor back home.
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