My history of travel spans years and continents, but one thing has remained constant: my personal discovery of my own Americanisms.
Americanisms are what I consider to be characteristics, sayings, phrases, and other eccentricities that we, as Americans, are not even aware we exhibit. Some are person-specific, like accents, idioms, and certain regional vocabulary, while others seem to be culture- and nationwide.
These hints of expression clue others into where we are from and what our cultures value. Americanisms are slightly more subtle and are brought to my attention on an ongoing basis by people from other cultures. Here are just a few that have caused me to question my seemingly innate behavior.
I have been told (and this article from The Atlantic has explained) that Americans smile. A lot. Why are we so happy? Why is everyone else so sad/mean/in a bad mood? As the article states, and as is commonly know, the U.S. is a mix of cultures. Despite the feeble attempts of the current administration to alter the foundation on which our nation was built, we are a country of immigrants from all over the world. Because of the different languages and cultures mixed into the masses, smiling is a way to non-verbally communicate among cultures who don't share the same language. Citizens of the country who cannot exchange ideas verbally can put each other at ease with a simple smile, an expression that has transcended centuries and generations.
Using either of these words automatically stamps you as an American. I have been openly mocked by French people who utter "awesome!" in jest, clearly conveying that only an American would say such a thing. Hollywood has done us no favors in this regard, and somehow other cultures assume we all speak like we are from the valleys of L.A. I have even been told by a Catalan woman that I sound like I am from the movies. Which movie she is referring to would determine whether this is a compliment.
The first time I realized that high-fiving was an American practice was at my first netball training. Netball is a fairly popular women's sport in the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and a few other nations, but definitely not in the U.S. Upon Googling the sport before my first training, I learned that it was somewhat similar to basketball, but without backboards and dribbling. I decided to give it a shot (pun intended).
Once the scrimmage began, I found that I caught on quite quickly thanks to my background in basketball. After the first basket was scored, I jogged over to the scorer and raised my hand for a congratulatory high five, while smiling, of course. I was met with a confused look and a few light chuckles from some of the other players. "That's so American!" I heard one of them say from behind a cheeky grin. Note taken: Netballers do not high-five, and since this moment, high-fiving has become a longstanding joke among my teammates.
If you have traveled outside of the United States, what Americanisms have you discovered that you subconsciously demonstrate? Feel free to share in the comments section below.
Lead photo: View of Barcelona from my friend's terrace.