Friday, November 30, 2007

ZOMG!! All Coke Drinkers Are American!!!!!11

J. at Germany Doesn't Suck recently made a great find: a list of behaviors Americans should avoid while in other countries because these behaviors signal that they are from the US, provided by a university's study abroad department. Be sure to check out the full list on his blog. Below I highlight a few that don't really apply in Germany:

1. Some clothing choices signal one as being a US citizen.
* Dressing informally instead of more formally, (ie. wearing sneakers, t-shirts, jeans, or shorts instead of slacks or skirts with shirts or blouses)

My big stereotype about all of Europe was that everyone dressed up more than in the US. Consequently I spent a lot of days at first feeling really freaking overdressed. Don't be scared to wear your jeans in Germany. EVERYONE else is. Your BOSS is.

2. A number of food related habits signal that someone might be from the US.
* Avoid walking down the street while eating food.

The number of German-speakers I've seen walking down the street gnawing on a little Ditsch pizza, eating a little paper coneful of Pommes with a tiny wooden fork, or enjoying some Eis far outweighs the number of English-speakers I've seen doing this. No need to fear the potential dire consequences of walking-and-eating here.

* Don't insist on drinking “Coke” with every meal.

You mean Cola Light, that thing Germans can't seem to live without? Coca-Cola, immortalized in more Bollywood than American songs? Yeah, that really signals that you're American.

* Avoid visiting US chain restaurants for every meal.

I've eaten in US chains 2 or 3 times since being here. I don't remember ever encountering fellow Americans in them. Lots and lots of German teenagers, though.

3. Be conscious of your behavior in public places. Here are some examples that could signal you are a US citizen:
* Be careful about folding and unfolding city maps in public spaces. Move out of the way to consult maps. It is best to plan your routes in advance of leaving your hotel and have the maps pre-folded so they may be easily accessed and read.
* If you must use a dictionary to translate a sign or menu, be discrete. For example, copy down the words of the sign and move aside to a less public place to work out the translation.

The overall tone goes from funny to what-the-fuck at this point. Hide your map! Hide your dictionary! Don't you know everyone hates your ass? Don't you know you could get stabbed for needing a map or a dictionary? Good Lord. I can't speak for other countries, but taking out a map or a dictionary in my corner of Germany is more likely to get you some help from a stranger rather than shunned. Keine Sorgen, people. The big wide world isn't always so bad.


  1. I wonder what Papa Scott would say about the advice to "Avoid visiting US chain restaurants for every meal."

  2. I've heard the map advice for US tourism too. As you say, it's a clear signal you're from out of town, which may attract scammers etc. (3 card monte, anyone?) I agree, however, that it seems extremely unlikely to attract physical danger.

  3. And what, precisely, am I supposed to do about the fact that I LOOK American? In Russia we all stood out just because of our facial features. I have a sneaking suspicion this would be even more true in, oh, India or China.


  4. That post of J's was a pretty funny read. How many of us can say we haven't done at least half of them - in one day?

  5. Most likely what is going to give any American away in Europe are table manners - eating with a fork in the right hand while keeping the left hand in your lap. Typically, Germans eat with knife and fork, even when the food can be cut with just a fork. But both hands remain on the table at all times.

  6. Adam: "With possible exception of this one particular McCafe...."

    Mary: It seems like a good rule of advise to keep people from knowing you're a tourist...but I don't understand the article's insinuation that using a map marks you as an American. Only dumb Americans need maps?

    Dru: Yeah, trying to look local in some countries just isn't going to happen!

    Ian: Huh? I have no idea what you're talking about. ;)

    Bad Homburg: I love how they are grossed out at the idea of where your other hand might be if it's not on the table. Was there a big problem with this at some point in Germany history, I wonder??

  7. And whatever you do, avoid speaking english as that is surely a give-away!


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