Since moving to the UK, my American ness has been mostly meet with amusement or curiosity. I explain to a lot of people that I’m from about halfway between New York and Boston, because no one has heard of Connecticut ( kind of like no one in the U.S. has heard of Cumbria. ) I tell them that I like it here (true) but I also miss home (also true) and that what I miss the most is warm towels from the dryer and mixer taps. I try to keep it light, especially with acquaintances or strangers at the pub. I guess I’d been lucky so far in not encountering anyone who really disliked America. Until this weekend.
The questions started off on the normal route (dryers, mixer taps) but then turned to politics, which is never a good idea at the pub, so I tried to avoid them and change the subject. I think I speak for most people when I say that no one agrees with 100% of the things their country does and all of their policies. The questioning culminated in him telling me I should be embarrassed to be an American and asking what part of it embarrassed me the most. I was furious, and who wouldn’t be. So I got up and left, as work colleagues were around (mostly Brits) and I didn’t want to make a scene, which is probably what would have happened if I’d started to defend myself.
I am proud to be an American. I believe in the principles the country was founded on, and the progress we have made and are continuing to make, but I don’t necessarily agree with everything that happens in government, or the entire foreign policy. No one does. And it is really insulting to tell someone they should be embarrassed about their nationality. And it’s not as though his country was perfect either, everyone has room to improve.
Yes, I believe there are meaningful conversations to be had but they don’t tend to start with insults directed at someone’s heritage.
Expats, or world travelers, does this ever happen to you? What have you found is the best way to respond?