Exploring stereotypes toward Americans

Theresa Kiernan


Did you know that Henry Ford didn’t invent the car? I was quite surprised when I found out that Karl Benz, not Henry Ford, is credited with the invention of the automobile. Is this me living the “dumb American” stereotype?

Speaking of the “dumb American” stereotype, there are a few other stereotypes that I encountered during my time abroad in Europe. To begin with, there is the “dumb American” stereotype, which I modeled in my confusion of the car’s invention.

In contrast with this stereotype is the “amazing education system” we have. I met many students who want to study in the U.S. because of our great programs and universities.

One of the funniest stereotypes I encountered was about Miami, big cities on the beach and our famed spring breaks.  Apparently, the U.S. is “The Land of Perpetual Spring Break” and contains the biggest and best parties. A group of Europeans who asked me about spring break were shocked that I spent my time traveling and visiting family, rather than taking advantage of this “American Dream.”

Another stereotype is that everything is bigger in the U.S. We have bigger stores, bigger roads, bigger cars and bigger everything. Everything is bigger here, not just in Texas.

But overall, the most profound comment I heard about the U.S. was that “in America failure is not final.” In many places, failure is viewed as a shameful end, instead of a new opportunity. But in the U.S., things are different, and epic failures become steppingstones, not final defeats.

Our country is so young. There are walls and buildings in Europe that are ages older than this country. Yet, the U.S. stands out as the land of dreams and opportunities, hope and infinite possibility.

This is something about the U.S. that I took for granted, but I greatly appreciate it now. Even in failure, there is hope for the future, for better and brighter days.

So there you have it, a few stereotypes about the U.S., from another dumb, educated, partying, big and unstoppable American.

Theresa Kiernan is a senior communication major from Bedford, New Hampshire.

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