The Trump jokes don't quit: American in Europe finds politics, stereotypes follow you wherever you go
It was in the Chicago airport that my dad got his first taste of how the United States is discussed among foreigners.
A Dutch woman was talking about the U.S., and it was clear she didn't have any respect for the current state of American politics. My dear father, who had not been to Europe for a while, was a little shook. The discourse on American politics has shifted in the international eye, and though it wasn't a surprise to me, it might be a bit much to take in if you haven't experienced it before.
I have been abroad in Europe for 18 months—since two months before the last presidential election. When I first arrived, there were Trump references, but it wasn't the automatic joke to make about Americans. At that time, I could still naively say I highly doubted Trump was going to be elected.
After he got elected, I learned that having a populist candidate in the running for office and having one in office are two different things, and that the European perspective on the U.S. had been deeply tainted.
Even before Trump was elected, a lot of stereotypes existed about Americans. Apparently, Americans can be quite ignorant about cultures and political situations that are not their own. There are also many stereotypes formed from what is seen on film, such as the belief that Americans eat mainly fast food. Like it or not, this is what Europe sees, even if there is only partial truth to it.
I am different than the typical American stereotype. I look more like, and wear clothes closer to, the average Danish girl than the average American, and much to some Europeans' shock, eat food that doesn't contain bacon and cheese. I have also made a strong effort to learn Danish and German and educate myself on current events — including the ones that don't portray my country in a positive light.
I still continue to be my outgoing American self and my accent is detected by many. My smile outed me as a non-European to a friend despite her original thoughts that I was Danish. However, most people say I do not come across as what they pictured as American.
I am not free from hearing about the U.S. political situation. You would think the Trump jokes would get old, but everyone else seems to find them endlessly hilarious. When I am among Northern Europeans, nothing positive is ever said about anything the U.S. does. There is a lot of pent up anger about what the U.S. is doing on the world stage, and meeting an American gives Europeans a chance to express that.
Despite the constant reminders, I haven't met many people who actually judge me by my country's politics. Most are sensible enough to realize that the U.S. is a pretty big place, and that not everyone there is the same. The negative discourse and Trump jokes are more annoyances than anything else.
If you choose to go abroad, you will most likely receive the same treatment I have. It may get tiring, but don't let that stop you. Now more than ever, there is a need for Americans abroad who represent the positive ideals of the place we come from. Minnesota is a great place to live, and from our clear lakes to friendliness, we have a lot to be proud of.