Stereotypes are a fact of life in the world today. Everyone has them and they are often inaccurate about the majority of the people they concern, but that fact does not stop them from forming. People from the United States are very easy to form stereotypes about because our culture has expanded around most of the world, but very few times is it accompanied with any sort of explanation. It forms misconceptions about Americans, including that we are all overweight, lazy, and promiscuous.
I was not very surprised hearing about the stereotypes other people have towards the United States; I had heard them all before. What did surprise me was how direct the people of other countries could be about approaching the topic. Walking up to young American women on a train and asking why American women are so “easy” was not the sort of thing I would expect, no matter where in the world I was. I understand that stereotypes make life easier for the vast majority of the world, but they also make international travel more exasperating for those confronted about their countries stereotypes.
Hearing about the experiences of other students helped me understand that, while American stereotypes are just funny stories or jokes in the U.S., they are regarded as truths most other places in the world. My biggest problem regarding the presumptions people will make about me while I am abroad will be my own reaction. When I am offended, often I will say the first thing that comes to mind and not think about how the other person may take it. I understand that, for some people, this would only reinforce whatever stereotype they have presented me with. I will have to teach myself to think before I speak and not lash out at someone just because they only have a single story of the United States.