6 Biggest Misconceptions About America

Have you ever gone overseas and realized that you’ve been stereotyped? Sometimes with something simple or funny. I actually laughed out loud the first time one of my Spanish students said to me, “What do you like better, Spanish food or American food?” Quite seriously, I said, “What’s American food?” And her quite serious reply was, “Cheeseburgers.” Then it occurred to me things like the 4th of July (Independence Day), Budweiser, cheeseburgers, and baseball are actually considered “All-American” stereotypes. I want to take my last post, Which Nationality Do You Identify With, a step further and talk about misconceptions about America and its people.

1. American Food is Cheeseburgers

< Cheeseburger and Fries Cake >
A cheeseburger, fries, and ketchup cake for 4th of July

I didn’t realize this until only a few years ago, but one of the big misconceptions about America is that Americans eat cheeseburgers all the time. Just like Americans think people in Italy eat pizza and pasta all the time. Personally, I eat about one cheeseburger a year because I’m not a red-meat person. I can think of a handful of times I’ve been out to lunch or dinner and someone ordered a burger. At a bar-b-cue, there are definitely hot dogs and cheeseburgers! But I only go to about one of those a year too, sadly. Should I start eating more cheeseburgers?

2. Americans are Fat

< Kickboxing >Well, I can’t deny this 100%. America has a lot of McDonalds, Burger Kings, Wendy’s, and other fast food restaurants that are thousands of calories per meal. There are super grocery stores where you can buy food that lasts for weeks, probably due to all kinds of preservatives and hormones and whatever else they put in the food to make it last a while. There are commercials on TV that show big steaks, lots of French fries, stacks of onion rings, endless ice cream, and tons of other food, and there’s always a superfluous amount of food on the table at a restaurant. Soda, milkshakes, alcohol, fried foods, and other fatty foods are only a drive away. It’s easy to get fat quick.

BUT…not all Americans are fat. In fact, the trend right now in America is working out, joining a gym or cross fit, eating healthy, and being fit. More and more I’m seeing lean, muscular, or physically fit people. Being in shape is also a subtle sign of wealth; it shows that you can afford higher quality food, you can afford an expensive gym membership, you have self-discipline not to eat all the food at your disposal, and you take pride in your appearance.

3. Americans are American

< Misconception: Americans are all the same, and that is American >
Can you name the nationalities?

What’s American? Piggybacking off my last post, Which Nationality Do You Identify With, Americans don’t always consider themselves American. There’s not one underlying and unifying nationality because America is a country founded on immigrants. Due to famine, poverty, disease, religious persecution, genocide, opportunity, the American Dream, or a number of other reasons, cultures from all over the world flocked to America. Today, over 9 million people in America consider themselves two or more races. Everyone wants to keep their culture’s traditions and beliefs, so it’s hard to unite over 3.24 billion people in the most diverse country in the world. On one hand, Americans are American. On the other hand, Americans are their heritage. It just depends who you ask.

4. Americans are Rude

Again, this is hard to deny 100%, but it’s a “yes and no” answer. America is a huge country and different parts of the country have different stereotypes. The Midwest is known for being “lady-like/gentlemanly,” “polite,” and “well-mannered.” The South is known for being “hospitable,” “warm,” and “welcoming” to everyone. The Northeast is considered “fast-paced,” “go-getters,” and “aggressive.” The West is known for “laid-back,” “easy-going,” and “uninhibited.”

As you can see, most of the U.S. has a positive stereotype, but because New York City is such an international destination, many people think the entire country is like NYC. And because it’s such an international destination, there is more crime there, so people are more suspicious of others, causing a worrisome and mean stereotype. If you’re visiting the U.S., try more than just international big cities and you’ll find that people in general are welcoming of everyone.

5. Americans are Lazy

America is the land of opportunity for a reason, and it’s not laziness. The sky is the limit for anyone in America, and people work hard to achieve that. Corporate jobs in America usually offer a job starting with only five vacation days per year. It can take years to earn one extra vacation day. Service jobs don’t give employees an hourly salary, so those employees only bring home what they make in tips, so they work whether they’re sick, pregnant, old, or young. People take whatever job they can to make money and pay the bills. They work their way into a high-paying job where they put their health, happiness, and families on the line to continue making that money.

Of course, some kids graduate college and expect to start at $100,000 per year. Maybe its these kids who ruin the reputation for all Americans? Either way, Americans and other people who work in America work hard to make the money they make, no matter how little or how much money that is.

6. Americans are Drunks

Thank you college spring break and week-long vacations for these misconceptions. Americans work hard and play hard. The harder they work, the harder they play. When college students have a week off in March, they might drink too much and go crazy. They can easily forget that other people have to cater to them and see this ugly side of them. When business men and women go on their one week vacation per year, they tend to let go and have too much fun, creating the same perception as the college students. This isn’t an everyday occurrence for all Americans. Though Americans do like their alcohol, it’s not as bad as spring break and vacations would have the rest of the world believe.

Know any other misconceptions about America? Do you get stereotyped? Do you stereotype others? Leave me a comment and tell me your misconceptions!

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6 Biggest Misconceptions About America

P.S. You might also love Which Nationality Do You Identify With? and Lost In Translation: Humorous Anecdotes About Mistranslations

5 thoughts on “6 Biggest Misconceptions About America

  1. Loved this post! I think some of the stereotypes come about for exactly the reason you mentioned — that the country is really big so if you see just one part or pay attention to only what the media shows, it’s easy to think we’re all homogenous fat, lazy, rude creatures. Sometimes it’s hard to truly know a place until you’ve been there.

    I live in France and people don’t really vocalize their American stereotypes but the kids I taught when I was a teaching assistant sure did. They asked if I knew celebrities, if I lived in Hollywood and other questions that came from mainstream media.

    I love that you mentioned that Americans are really into the fitness trend. I’m so envious of all the boutique studios that have popped up — something that doesn’t exist in suburban France.
    P.S. I’m originally from NJ too 😉

    1. It’s always interesting to know how people in other countries view us! I’m jealous that you’re living in France…it must be amazing living all the French stereotypes haha

  2. you definitely hear about the Americans being loud and obnoxious, and maybe alcohol is just closely linked with that. =)

  3. This is the first I’ve heard of Americans being linked to a drunk stereotype. You often hear that about the Australians or the Irish. 🙂

    1. This is true, but there are a lot of people with Irish ancestry in America. I’ve heard from some of my Mexican and Spanish friends that this stereotype does exist although you’re right, I hear it most often about the Irish!

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