Monday, May 26, 2008

And Those Obnoxious Americans...

It's been a while since I've ranted about the anti-American sentiment in Australia, and if you ask some people, they may not feel it at all. But live here for a while, and I don't think you can deny it exists.

Last week my cousin asked me if I had met any Americans in Sydney through my blog, and I said no... then thought to myself, "how nice would that be?". The next day, through my blog, I hooked up with a girl who has recently moved here from Utah-- with two toddlers! Law of attraction at work again-- it's like magic.

Today I read new friend's blog, it made my feelings and perceptions about being here feel valid, because often, I'm not sure they are.

My Situation:
My husband spends his days in an office, working with people who have to be nice to him. He has been incredibly supportive to me, and done everything humanly possible to try and make me happier here, but he's just not really feelin' my pain. He likes it here, he'd probably chuck everything left in the U.S. and turn all Australian on me. He already calls everyone "mate".

But I'm having a very different experience here. Sitting in a restaurant, hearing the people next to me say terrible things about Americans. Or while at the register in a nice department store (thanks David Jones for the great shopping experience) having the clerk tell me (and my American friend) how obnoxious Americans are and how ridiculous everything from the U.S. is. Um, I guess our ploy of telling her we were from Canada backfired... we got it even worse.

Bottom line is, it's a two-fold balancing act- I want to try and enjoy the time we will be in Sydney, vs. wanting to feel accepted by a country that seemingly does not want you (nor your fast food and reality television shows) here. And secondly, trying to stay positive when talking to friends and family, while often feeling isolated and ready to pack it in.

Taken from my friend's blog--
How the international community thinks Americans view the world:

Bitch session over.



Tors said...


Anyone who tells you there's no anti-American sentiment in Australia is either still in that joyous honeymoon period or is in denial. That said, I think the degree you experience depends on where you are. When I lived in Sydney, I felt much more than I do in my current location. I think it may be Sydneysiders themselves... and this is NOT a slam on Sydneysiders (after all, my husband and his family are from there *wink*), but I really feel they tend to be losed-off. Most people have made all their friends in elementary school and don't feel the need to widen their social circles.


I think your feelings are absolutely valid and probably what most people experience in their first year abroad. (and again, anyone who says that everything was always just woooonderful is either still honeymooning or experiencing selective memory) Goodness knows I've been subjected to my share of rudeness - I mean, seriously, who walks up to someone and tells them that their country of origin SUCKS??

Like I was telling your new friend (who also has a great blog *g*), wallowing in negativity is not good, but on the other hand please don't be afraid to give yourself permission to feel the way you do. Moving to a new country, uprooting your whole life, trying to adjust to a new place and new way of doing things is a HUGE thing. You're absolutely entitled to feel upset and hurt and stressed out and critical and -dare I say- homesick! And what that clerk said to you was incredibly rude and you should be angry.

BTW, are you going to the Sydney YDU Meetup next month? I think the Sydney members are trying to organise one. If you're interested in meeting other Yanks Down Under. ;)

Take care!

floridagirlinsydney said...

Thanks Tors- it's so nice to have you out there in internetland. It's so nice to have someone on my side who spends most of her days helping others feel comfortable about being in a foreign place.

By the way- I had Natalie (new blog friend) over today with her kids, and we had a great time. And I definitely will plan on going to the next YDU Sydney meet up.
See I can turn that frown upside down!

SuperMindy said...

I know what you mean... I was at a birthday party and some guy found out I was from the states and completely bashed the country. Everything that came out of his mouth was negative. I felt extremely uncomfortable and ended up leaving my nieces birthday party because the way this man was making me feel about my home.

madhousewife said...

That map is pretty funny, but I sympathize with you--it's hard enough to be so far away from home, but with rude people bashing your country of origin, that hurts. So much easier to just stay here in America and be American with impunity. :)

Barbara said...

I'm sorry you have suffered some anti American abuse. I can't imagine anyone I know abusing anyone from another country. I am Australian and lived in NZ for 35 years and noticed anti Australian sentiments. Now I'm back in Australia I feel an anti NZ attitude. We hear about the Canadian/American rivalry which is perhaps similar to the NZ/Australian situation. I think many people tend to blame America for much of what is wrong with the world. It is sad when that blame is directed at individuals. I had an email from a blogging friend recently who expressed sadness at how she (an Indonesian) had been ignored by the mothers at her children's playgroup in New Zealand. I guess all over the world people are just plain rude and don't understand how difficult it can be to be in a new place and trying to fit in. I do hope things improve and your Australian experience will be a happy memory.

floridagirlinsydney said...

Thanks for the note Barbara. I wouldn't say I have felt abused, there's just a sense of dislike for Americans and American culture that constantly makes me feel I don't fit in or just awkward.

Thanks for the supportive note, and most of the time I don't anyone is purposefully trying to make me uncomfortable, I think they just don't realize it's not nice.

Mats said...

Hi Floridagirl! I found it really interesting to read through your blog. As an expat living in Sydney on the 3rd year now I get the same feeling from Australians as you do - only I'm not American, but Norwegian. And while I don't feel much anti-Norwegianism, I blame that mostly on them not knowing much about Norway. I get the feeling of disrespect from other things that may be tagged on me, like being a student or slightly dark-skinned, but it seems really similar to what you experience as anti-Americanism.

I found my way of dealing with living here to be to think of Sydneysiders not as generally bad, but that the percentage of rude and thoughtless people here may be a tad higher than in other places - still leaving some room for the fact that I have actually met some fantastically nice people here.

So what I'm saying is that don't think of it as anti-americanism. If you were from somewhere else, they would find something else. Or so I think..

And I was just wondering if I could post your map on my blog. I found it hilarious! :D


Karrine said...

Argh this makes me so mad because im an Australian who has no issues with America or Americans actually im a huge fan of them (except Bush but meh i can overlook that, for all the good things i see in America).
Stupid Australians should just shut their mouths and stop bitching about America all the time, especially to people who are from the states, i mean who does that?
I dont know why some Australians have such a problem with America? They are probably the same Australians who enjoy watching the American Sitcoms and eating McDonalds and other imported American goods!
Please understand that not all Australians dislike America!

floridagirlinsydney said...

Hey Karrine,
I know it's not all Australians-- I think it's just added difficulty when you are already homesick and feeling isolated and you no one seems to try and make nice with you.. ha, ha.
I am more situated since I wrote this posting-- and have made some friends for my kids thru preschool.
Thanks so much for the genuine empathy-- cause I totally agree with you!

Anonymous said...

Oh dear - I found this blog as I was googling 'why are Americans so arrogant?' lol! I'm a Sydneysider too. Hmmmm this is not good eh? Ok you sound like a decent person, and obviously not the stereotypical loud arrogant 'American abroad' which most people here think of when they think of Americans. I'm actually gay and I completely relate to you in the 'fish out of water' situation, I've had people bag gays in front of me, not realising I am one myself so I feel for you.

I really don't know what the answer is to your issue though, I think Australian's were raised to be humble whereas American's are raised to be patriotic and proud, but Australian's see pride (too much of it) as arrogance and we get irritated by it. I think Australian's feel they live in a good country but don't bang on about it the way American's do. It's the usual thing of if someone from America is in our country saying how great America is (which unfortunately Americans are prone to doing) then we fire back with "Well go BACK there then!". Also American pop culture is taking over our country and a lot of Australian's are getting aggravated by it, even though it's other Australian's who are watching the shows, buying the rap and pop music and eating and drinking at the fast food outlets and coffee houses.

My advice - and I'll bring back the gay thing - to assimilate (and change perceptions) I myself make sure to carry myself in a down to earth, happy and reasonably intelligent and considerate manner, I ingratiate myself with people, then eventually it comes out I'm gay, I've had people say they had a preconceived notion of gay people are like (generally very stereotypical and negative) and they were surprised that I was so 'normal' (in their eyes). And I go away knowing I've changed their perception from negative to positive just a little.

You don't seem like the 'typical' (what I've experienced when travelling) American at all, you seem quite down to earth and smart and I think if you do stick it out and indulge in conversations and make friends you'll change some Australian's opinions of American's. You'll change them one person at a time, like I tend to do with the sexuality thing and eventually you'll win people over. It's a hard slog, I know the feeling, but hang in there and you'll make friends and change a few people's minds.

Look at me - I came on here googling to try and understand why American's seemed so arrogant and rude and horrid, and I'm leaving having read your blog and thinking "Oh American's aren't ALL like that" and I'm leaving in a better frame of mind. So you've already changed one Sydneysider's perspective a little just with this blog.


Bree said...

Amen!!! I TOTALLY understand your feelings, the Anti-American sentiment is still strong and noticable 5 years on for me. I don't think I'm one of THOSE American's who is loud, obnoxious or overly patriotic. Yes, I love my home country. Yes, I miss a lot of things about America. Yes, there are some things about America that I view as "better" than what we can have in Australia. This is mostly relating to the limited consumer market (due to a smaller population) and the resulting extremely high cost of living and lack of certain luxeries that I simply took for granted back home.

But on the other hand, I love Australia, there is alot that this country is doing right and I wish America would take a page from the policy here in regards to availability of tertiary education, HECS, encouragement to travel the world, etc. And no doubt Aussies claim to be laid back but they are some of the most fiercely patriotic people I've ever met, which can be great, but can also be downright rude (especially when they comment oh how obnoxious and rude Americans are, to their faces).

Florida Girl In Sydney said...

Anonymous- Well my dad is gay so I have no issues with gay people-- so now we need to work on your American thing. Because we can be pretty cool-- I must say. :) You can probably consider that most Americans are not what you consider as the stereoptypical image-- just as with most gay people. Cheers mate.

Bree- Totally agree with you. There are so many things the U.S. could learn from Australia-- but unfortunately many of them get shot down as "socialist" or whatever. It's sad, because many of the programs (health care, advanced education) which all Aussies can use would be so good if done in the U.S. I love it here too, but I think both countries have enough positives that I could see being happy in either place-- you sound like you probably have a similar outlook on that ;).

Anonymous said...

To give you a completely honest answer, it is absolutley nothing personal, we just really, really don't like your accents, or how loudly we have to listen to them. Having said that once I have gotten to know an American I usually find them very friendly and interesting people. I cannot however, say the same for poms, whose along with their accents, are never welcome in Australia.

Anonymous said...

From my observations American teenagers and young adults are much more polite than the average teenager, young adult in Sydney and much of Australia. I don't know what is happening here but we definitely could learn something about how American kids are socialized in school and their communities and apply it here. 30 or 40 years of underfunded and neglected schools probably has a lot to do with this epidemic of a lack of civility. However, born and bred in Australia and lived here for half a century I have to say Sydney and much of Australia is not what it used to be. Where have all the Australians gone anyway? If you visit Sydney from overseas you're chances of meeting people born and raised here are getting slimmer every year. Any Australian with any common sense has left and lives in California where life resembles how it used to be here in Sydney.

Anonymous said...

hang in there! as a fellow american in sydney, i feel your pain. we "almost" fit in until you open your mouth and suddenly the aussies cock their heads and look at you slightly differently. i married an australian and left all of my friends and family on the east coast, and it's never easy being away from home - even if you are a world traveler. just try to take the best you can from it and remember, she'll be right mate :).