Last week I wrote a little about a recent vacation to the England to visit family. I mentioned the way Americans are perceived by others and the dangers that stereotyping can bring about. While stereotypes are typically only true about a few people, rather than an entire group, they are developed for a reason. It is true that not all Americans are loud and rude, just as it is true that not all English people have bad teeth or get in bar fights about football results. However, I have personally witnessed negative stereotypes about Americans brought to life and felt that while I did my best last week to defend my countrymen, we don’t always deserve it.
A couple of years ago, I traveled to England with a soccer tour group, as my husband was coaching a team. This was not my favorite English adventure for a number of reasons. One, I was pregnant and had to live in a small, non air-conditioned dorm room, as well as share a twin bed with my husband. Nuf said. Also, I was surrounded by 13-year-old girls, who happen to be my least favorite group of humans. That is, they were my least favorite – until I met their parents. What an eye-opening experience! To do a little stereotyping of my own, I will mention that the majority of the families on this trip had quite a bit of money – they had to in order to afford the trip. One girl actually said these words “Ugh, it’s been 8 days since I had a Greek frappe!”
Throughout the trip, my husband and I gradually got more and more agitated at the entitled and rude behavior displayed by the American parents we were with. On a bus ride home from a game, through London at rush hour, the parents complained incessantly about the incompetence of our driver. They couldn’t understand why he couldn’t take our giant tour bus down a narrow, cobblestoned street in order to get us back to the dorm more quickly! When their daughters complained about the food that was provided for them with their trip fees, they had the bus driver make a stop at McDonald’s so their girls could eat something they enjoyed. And to top it all off, we had the wonderful opportunity to sit in the Kop at Anfield Stadium in Liverpool, for Steven Gerrard’s testimonial game and the families were nothing less than unbearable the entire time. They moved around to different seats, prompting the stewards to approach and scold the group (while the parents continued to argue with him). They complained about not being able to see (although we were sitting in the most famous and popular section of the stadium), and worst of all, they made fun of the local accent while sitting RIGHT NEXT TO LOCAL PEOPLE. I was distraught. I felt embarrassed and could not wait for the trip to end. It truly opened my eyes to the difference in the cultures and inspired me to make a change in myself, to become more accepting and generally kind, as that attitude will most certainly make me a happier person.
Rather than approach a situation with a defensive nature, ready for a fight, I have found that it’s much easier to assume that the other person is going to be understanding and helpful. It is true that you catch more flies with honey, but I think that people forget that and would prefer to complain and take the stance of the squeaky wheel, such as the parents on the bus. Entitlement is not a quality that anyone admires. So whether you are traveling, buying groceries or working at the counter of your retail store, remember that the person you are dealing with has feelings, and if you treat them with respect and kindness you will be much more likely to have a positive interaction.