May 11, 2006

Walking On Eggshells

Now there's an organization to teach Americans how to act around the world. It's based in San Francisco, no surprise there, and provides companies with a "World Citizens Guide" to distribute to their employees who travel internationally. The goal is to counter the "Ugly American" stereotype in the face of a growing anti-Americanism in other countries. And what kind of advice does this "Guide" offer?

*** Think as big as you like but talk and act smaller. In many countries, any form of boasting is considered rude. Talking about wealth, power or status -- corporate or personal -- can create resentment.

*** Speak lower and slower. In conversation, match your voice level and tonality to the environment and other people. A loud voice is often perceived as bragging. A fast talker can be seen as aggressive and threatening

*** Dress up. You can always dress down. In some countries, casual dress is a sign of disrespect. Check out what is expected and when in doubt, err on the side of the more formal and less casual attire. You can remove a jacket and tie if you are overdressed. But you can't make up for being too casual.

***Listen at least as much as you talk. By all means, talk about America and your life in the country. But also ask people you're visiting about themselves and their way of life. Listen, and show your interest in how they compare their experiences to yours.

You've got to be kidding me.

The problem with Americans is not that we’re loud, rude or arrogant. The problem is that so many of us seem to suffer from some kind of ridiculous inferiority-complex. We’re a little too oversensitive to global peer pressure. What is this? High School? We have to change our behavior so we can be accepted by the “cool kids”?

No thanks. That flies in the face of what it means to be an American. In the United States, we value the uniqueness of the individual and we donÂ’t apologize for it.

This "Guide" is geared specifically for business travelers who act as representatives of their employers as well as their country. But there are a lot of Americans who travel for pleasure that would favor this approach.

Well, I have some better advice for Americans who travel outside of the U.S. (and it applies to foreign travelers who come here as well):

1) If you are a guest in someoneÂ’s country, be as respectful to the host as you would if you were a guest in someoneÂ’s home.

2) Be yourself. ItÂ’s idiotic to try and act like somebody that youÂ’re not to meet someone elseÂ’s standards. If someone doesnÂ’t like you as you are, thatÂ’s his problem. And some people won't like you no matter how you act. You just can't win with them.

3) DonÂ’t take any crap. If someone doesnÂ’t like your country it doesnÂ’t give him the right to insult you and you donÂ’t have to accept it. DonÂ’t fight about it. Simply express your disappointment that they feel that way and remove yourself from the situation. Just walk away.

4) DonÂ’t apologize for your country, even if you personally disagree with some of its policies. The fact that you have the right to openly disagree with your government is what makes the United States such a great nation.

5) Avoid visiting countries with cultures that are openly hostile to yours. WhatÂ’s the point?

Stick with these basic guidelines and you should be fine.

Posted by: Gary at 01:50 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment
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