The American interpretation: American stereotypes abroad

The intriguing perpetuations of stereotypes: not all of them are bad, but certainly not all of them are good.

Growing up in the United States, most of us are introduced to people of many backgrounds, cultures and ethnicities, but we are also introduced to just as many stereotypes about different people from around the world.

Where I am from, Italians are looked at as strong, work-driven people who tend to be found on the louder side of a room when in conversations. Of course with every good stereotype, a bad one is just beside it. In my personal experiences, I noticed that some associate Italians with gang/mafia violence while others consider them uneducated一a stereotype only further expanded upon after the hit MTV show, “Jersey Shore”一and one stereotype I have more commonly heard, prone to aggression or violence.

After spending two months living amongst Italians from Tuscany, I can safely say I have been a witness to examples of American stereotyping in Italian media and corporations.

One Italian stereotype, that most are aware of, is their love for their local cuisine. With each region in Italy showcasing their own unique spin on traditional cuisines, many are proud to represent their people through their food. This same luxury is not given to American cuisine abroad.

Within my time here, I have noticed two unsurprising themes when discovering different restaurants claiming to have genuine “American” styled dishes: diner food and the old wild west.

Beginning with the diner themed restaurants, the specialty food here consists of eggs and bacon for breakfast, and sandwiches or burgers for lunch. The food here is the closest I’ve discovered to the stereotypical food from America, but it tends to miss a key component. No, I’m not talking about chemical preservatives. I’m talking about the atmosphere. While eating at these restaurants, the walls will be filled with American “merch,” usually consisting of street signs, flags and –– yes, I’m being serious –– cars. The decor is so overdone that it’s all someone can focus on, and it distracts from the food in front of you. After trying dishes from multiple diner themed restaurants, I can safely say nobody has bagels that are better than those from the tristate.

The restaurants that are as frequent as the diners are the “Wild West” themed ones. These are inherently problematic, not only due to their interior decor consisting of tepees and wagons, but also the blatant stereotype that is plastered all over the establishments. As of this moment, I have not eaten at one of these restaurants but after a quick glance at their online menu, the dishes they offer are everything you would expect from a restaurant claiming to have American cuisine. Burgers, fries, chicken (and tex-mex).

Discovering the different customs and ways of life while abroad has revealed more about instinctual human nature. Stereotypes exist all over, some shape one’s identity in the eyes of others, while others generate misinformation about the people who are victims to these rumors.

Stereotypes are common practice around the globe, and although our stereotypes and perceptions of others may differ from country to country, region by region or even town by town, we possess more similarities with each other than we might expect.