Observations of being an American

ireland-travel-blogger-republic-of-ireland-northern-ireland-castle-tour-tips-photos053“To travel is to live.” – Hans Christian Anderson

I still have travel photos and posts to share with you into next week, so the fun isn’t over yet.  I would be lying though if I told you I was incredibly thrilled to be home.  I really am sad being back – which Mr. Wonderful doesn’t like to hear, but that’s how memorable and great the trip was.  I’m trying to show him as many photos and videos I can to convince him to return with me.

10 days in Ireland and London gave me a lot of new perspective, one that especially showed me a lot of things about how the rest of the world views us and how we are as a culture. Now I’m completely aware that I went to beautiful English speaking countries so this isn’t a deep post like I would have coming from a mission trip.

Here are a few things I’ve learned.

  1. We are a bit uneducated.  A joke we were told: What do you call someone who speaks three languages?  (answer)  What do you call someone who speaks two languages? (answer).  What do you call someone who speaks one language?  An American.  Ouch.  I could probably create even more jokes like how we don’t know other countries histories, when other countries could crack jokes about our Watergate scandal, to even naming Phoenix as a city when I said I was from Arizona.  While we live in the States and are a great melting pot of cultures and ethnicities and we respect one another with no discrimination, we fail to educate ourselves beyond, well, ourselves.  We know very little about the world – except for my husband who loves world news and reads it every day.  Then there’s the rest of us.  There were several times that Melayne and I were almost embarrassed at our lack of knowledge and surprised by the knowledge of others when it came to our country and politics.  But I won’t get down on our country  or education because I am proud to be an American and there’s no other place I’d rather be.  Well, except perhaps dual citizenship with Ireland.  Can I get a work sponsor please?
  2. We put too much emphasis on work.  The stores closed by 6 p.m. in Ireland and it was pretty much the same in London unless it was one of those crazy popular shopping areas – mainly tourist stores.  I realized that their priorities especially in Ireland anyway, are different.  I asked what they all did if they didn’t work (see my mindset?) and I was told well, typically they either head to a pub or home.  At least they weren’t working their butts off into the night just so I could just spend more of my US dollars.  I did complain this to my friend James, an Irishman living in London and he said that Americans live to work and other countries aren’t like that – work is done, no 24 hour availability, get done with work and go enjoy life.  We convince ourselves that our success is dependent upon the success of our career.  I’ve been there – completely career, resume driven, and very burnt out until I found something I was truly passionate about – photography.  We are also a very materialistic culture, the reason we work so hard is to maintain all the things we must have, own, lease, or rent or what puts us in debt.  I’m convinced more so than ever that the key to happiness is simplicity.  To live with less and to be content will provide us with less stress on how hard we have to work to maintain the things that maybe we just shouldn’t have or convince ourselves we can’t live without.
  3. We demand excellent customer service.  And this, is what I’m incredibly proud of being an American!  Let me tell you a story that happened in Dunboyne, Republic of Ireland, just one hour away from Dublin.  I ran to a bus and the driver was on his cell phone, this was where his first stop started before heading into Dublin.  He wasn’t in a hurry to take off until I showed up and asked him in my very American accent how much it was for two passengers.  Then he immediately did not want me on his bus for whatever reason.  He asked where my other friend was, I said parking the car.  He said he had to go soon and I said, “It’s only 3:12, you leave at 3:15,” in which he replied, “Not according to my clock!” and so I took a step back to check on her and she was crossing the road.  Suddenly, the driver says, “Sorry, gotta go!” and closed the door.  He closed the door and drove away!!!!!!!!!  I stood there in the rain with my umbrella with a dumbfounded look, mouth open, angry eyes, which made Melayne can only describe my silent look saying, I cannot believe he did that to me, no one has ever done that to me!  In which case she was correct.  Furious I looked at the paper bus schedule in my hand and saw a complaint number for customer service.  Oh yes I did.  I walked to the nearest pub and asked them to call the number in which I told the man who picked up, He was the only rude person I met in all of Ireland and that he left me behind early!  We had to wait another hour for the next bus therefore cramping our plans.  When I told this story to my friend James (Irish boy living in London) he said, “That is so American of you to call and complain!” You know what, I am glad we have excellent customer service in America, that’s how it should be!  James said they probably had to dust off the phone to pick up my call.  Well, good!  You don’t list a complaint line unless you plan on hearing some.  I also believe we strive for excellence – cleanliness, being kind to one another and proper.
  4. Americans stick out.  We weren’t mistaken as English when we weren’t talking, nor Canadian when we traveled.  They just knew we were American.  I asked them how they knew.  Apparently we are a “well-manicured” culture, I was told.  We stand out because we have straight white teeth (proud of it) and our nails are clean and our hair is perfectly groomed.  We look “put together.”  There’s something about us Americans that the world notices we take pride in how we look and present ourselves.  Keep it up America!

I could go deeper but I’ll leave it at these few simple observations.  The best part of traveling is seeing new places, meeting new people and learning, expanding and stretching your mindset in ways you could only understand if you traveled.  Have you learned anything through traveling?   I sure hope to be able to continue learning and exploring. I wonder where I should go next… any suggestions?

Diana Elizabeth says the traveling bug hit her later in life because unfortunately she realized at 27 she could travel without getting kidnapped.  She wished in her early 20’s she could have done it more often!

Diana Elizabeth is an author, photographer, and obsessive thrift shopper. You can typically find her in the garden wrist deep in dirt, at a local estate sale or planning her next epic party. She continues to blog weekly.

12 Comments

  • Shar

    Yes, I would definitely suggest it! Japan is a great place to experience a new culture and learn about their rich history, as well as see their modern developments in technology and architecture. Tokyo is a must-visit, but I’d also recommend visiting somewhere outside of that metropolitan area as well.

  • angel swanson

    Loved this post — so many fascinating and true insights. And in response to your note above, YES you must go to Japan! And take me with you. I miss Tokyo like crazy; one of my top trips ever. xo

    • Diana Elizabeth

      I was also so moved by your New Zealand pics! It’s so dreamy! Benjamin asked if I would be open to moving there – a position at his company opened up. This was before you went and I saw how gorgeous it was. But, still unsure if I could really be away from family!

  • Shar

    Interesting post – thanks for sharing! I lived abroad in Japan for two years and it definitely gave me another perspective – not just of Japan, because I only knew what I had learned while in the US, but it definitely taught me to look at my own country as an outsider. I may have to do a post like this myself one day!

    • Diana Elizabeth

      Hi Shar, I want to visit Japan one day – would you suggest it? I am sure I’d be so amazed by the lights, technology and their quarky and cute things! My husband is interested in going too, perhaps we need a short stop in Hawaii before we go :) I think so highly of the Japanese and their culture, I hope I get to experience it one day!

  • Mailinh

    Love this post, girl! It’s so eye opening on how we are so different and similar when comparing to other cultures. I am always learning new things from my students who come from all over the world.

  • Regan Carter

    I’ve been waiting anxiously for this post when you mentioned it a few days ago! I’ve been so excited to hear your thoughts on culture comparisons! And I have to echo pretty much everything you shared!

    One thing that stood out to me above everything else when we were over there was how no one is on their phone in Ireland. I think I counted 5 or 6 people the entire week we were there (and we were in many of the major cities each day!). When we returned to the States through JFK and then a bus ride to Albany, NY, I decided I would count the amount of people who were on their phones for the first 15 minutes of the drive. Drum roll please: 64. In just 15 minutes! I’m so guilty of burying my face in my iPhone myself, but this was a HUGE eye opener to me and has helped me change my habits!

    From our observations, the people of Ireland are relationship driven. Whether it’s strangers or friends – their eyes are on the road, directed at you, helping someone out etc – anywhere but on their electronic gadgets!

    • Diana Elizabeth

      Oh my goodness Regan, you are so right!! No one was attached to their phones. Sometimes I love leaving my phone at home or when the battery shuts off. I think that because we are expected to be connected to it all the time it puts this expectation on us to have it and be checking it constantly. Being unavailable is a good thing – boundaries are a healthy thing! I’m going to be changing my habits too :) I like having the “Do Not Disturb” option set so I am not bothered by a specific time at night :) I LOVE that the Irish are very relationship driven, friendly and always willing to help anyone out. Oh shoot, put me on a plane back!

  • krystalc

    Neat observations you made, Diana.
    So interesting how Americans stick out everywhere…not just for being different, but being American specifically. Too funny!
    Being a Military child, moving around every few years lost its luster for me. Of course seeing foreign and exotic places is cool and I’m sure I’ll go somewhere out of America (or AZ!) again one day, but I am so content staying put! Too much travel for me growing up maybe!? Haha!
    I did learn a little when I was in Egypt for 3 months. I probably would have learned a TON more if I was there when I was older and able to appreciate more. I was 12, but I did recognize how materialistic our culture is compared to most places in the world…especially Egypt. And you know, most of all their faces (definitely all the kids) are happy and smiling. I like how you mentioned simplicity really is happier than materialism and “success”. And we stuck out like sore thumbs, obviously. Everyone always asked (or didn’t even bother to!) to touch our white blonde hair!

    • Diana Elizabeth

      Hi Krystal! I’m sure that if you do it enough as a child, there’s a part that just wants to stay home for whatever personal reasons. There’s a yearn for things in different stages of life! My parents used to take my brother and I places all the time when we were younger, but with the mindset and perspective I have now, I know revisiting will be so much more enriching.

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