Friday, September 22, 2006

Practical Advice for (Ugly) Americans Traveling Abroad!

The Business for Diplomatic Action - a business group of communications, marketing, political science, global development and media professionals aimed at improving America’s image abroad, as we were talking in the previous post – that we were talking about in our previous post has a "World Citizens Guide" which is basically some practical advice for Americans traveling abroad, with a few simple suggestions.

It is interesting inasmuch a it also reveals some things, not necessarily about how Americans are "really" perceived abroad but rather how they think they are perceived and how they see themselves!

Look. Listen. Learn. New places mean new cultures and new experiences. Don’t just shop. See the sights, hear the sounds and try to understand the lives people live.

Think big. Act small. Be humble. In many countries, boasting is considered very rude. It’s easy to resent big, powerful people. Assume resentment as a default and play down your wealth, power and status. When Americans meet each other for the first time, our job (and implied status) is a key part of “who” we are, and how we introduce ourselves. This is less important elsewhere, and can be perceived as braggadocio.

Be patient. We talk fast. Eat fast. Move fast. Live fast. Many cultures do not. In fact, time is understood very differently around the world. In the short term, speed and instant satisfaction are less important than enjoying a new culture.

Be proud, not arrogant. People around the world are fascinated by the U.S. and the lives we Americans live. They admire our openness, our optimism, our creativity and our “can-do” spirit. But that doesn’t mean they feel less proud of their country and culture. Be proud of being an American, but resist any temptation to present our way as the best way or the only way.

Keep religion private. Globally speaking, religion is not something you wear on your sleeve. Often it is considered deeply personal -- not public. Some may have no knowledge of the Bible, nor is it appropriate to tell them about it unless you are a professional missionary identifi ed as such.

Show your best side. Americans are a kind and generous people. You can help dispel the stereotype of the Ugly American; impress people with your kindness, curiosity and fair nature.

Try the language.Try to speak some of the language even if the only thing you can say is “Hello.” And “Thank you.” It’s okay to sound like a child. Making the effort is more endearing than off putting. Refrain from lecturing. Whether on pollution, energy usage or the environment, it’s not a polite stance. Nobody likes a know-itall, and nobody likes a whole nation of them. Rightly or wrongly the
U.S. is seen as appointing itself as policeman, judge and jury to the world. Be aware of this perception and try to understand other viewpoints.

Check the atlas. You may not believe anyone could confuse “Australia” with “Austria,” but it happens. Everyone’s home is important to them. It’s helpful if you familiarize yourself with local geography.

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