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26 June 2005

Stella Fernbottom is talking shit about your country. I hate your President! I hate your country!
post by: dg at: 23:14 | 46 comments
Hmm. I see it's still not time to travel.

Seriously, this is distressing. I, individually, do not represent the entire U.S. of A., and I certainly agree with most, if not all, of what people around the world are upset about. However, I have heard of this in other instances and it does make me very leery of travelling at the moment - I don't want to be accosted for simply being an American, and I'm also afraid that if I "protest too much" that I'm really an okay guy (even though I happen to be an American) that it would backfire on me.

Damn. I really did want to see Australia at some point, and to go back to England and Ireland as well. Maybe during the next administration.
posted by yhbc 26 June | 23:36
"I hate your President!"

Pffft. Join the club.

"I hate your country!"

I hear people talkin' bad,
About the way we have to live here in this country,
Harpin' on the wars we fight,
An' gripin' 'bout the way things oughta be.
An' I don't mind 'em switchin' sides,
An' standin' up for things they believe in.
But when they're runnin' down my country, man,
They're walkin' on the fightin' side of me.
posted by mr_crash_davis 26 June | 23:59
Jeez, consider how I must feel -- I'm from Texas.

Call me an honorary Dixie Chick.
posted by mudpuppie 27 June | 00:04
Actually, this attitude is, in my experience, nothing like that expressed by the people here in general. This article deals with a couple of isolated cases in a university setting. This means that those who are carrying out the 'racial villification" (and their "victims") are young (= stupid know-it-alls) and students (= know nothing). The average people here really don't give a rat's arse where you come from or what your accent is, except for during various international sporting events, when it becomes of prime importance. Also, outside an academic setting, the real people here generally support Australia having strong ties with the US, regardless of what they think of the idiot that YOU elected President.

Trust me, you can travel here safely and without fear of being taunted because of your president. The terms "seppo", "septic tank", "yank" etc are more terms of endearment than anything. This is, quite simply, a bunch of pussies getting upset because someone called them a name combined with a bunch of public servants bringing out the PC stick.
posted by dg 27 June | 00:12
Also, yhbc - you could just pretend to be Canadian and nobody would know the difference. In fact, most would not even know that there is a difference.
posted by dg 27 June | 00:14
I haven't been personally abused here in Greece, but people are often asking me "Do people in the U.S. know how other countries feel about them?". They can't believe how little this seems to matter to Americans.

And of course they ask "How could you (collective 'you') elect Bush?", but isn't everybody asking that?
posted by taz 27 June | 00:20
As a personal input: Folks from the U.S.A. are among the nicest and most trusting folks I have ever met in any nation. As someone from Canada I am always amazed by how much Americans will trust others (Canadians, while nice, trust no one).

That said, “they” (Americans, in the broadest sweep) have a very poor sense of how they appear to outsiders. Many of them just do not understand how they can seem to be bullies to others.
posted by arse_hat 27 June | 00:41
Yeah, I have to say that in my travels (just England, Scotland, France, and Canada), most people are prefectly nice, despite my being American. If people do bring up the stupid things some Americans do, I just give a general, "Yeah, I agree with you. And I have to share a country with those dillholes and deal with them all the time. Be glad you're just watching." The only people that hasn't satisfied, oddly enough, have been Canadians. But they're extra bitter, being so close and all. (Despite the affection the arse evinces.)
posted by dame 27 June | 01:51
I used to hate America when I was young. But that was out of ignorance. It's just plainly stupid to hate a whole country.
Individually I've only come across a few Americans that I didn't like (hate is just redundant in this) and even then, it was mostly on tv.

When I was on an overnight train in Vietnam in '03, I shared a 6-bunk room with 5 Americans from Colorado. They were the nicest bunch of fellows you could wish to meet (not that their nationality has much to do with that - they just happened to be real fun, nice bunch).
Anyway, there was this Irish guy who came and sat with us for a while who got really drunk and started harassing the Americans about GWB.

It was freakin' embarrassing. He was holding each of them (left leaning environmentalists - the usual types traipsing around asia of course) personally responsible. He was poking his finger in their chests and ranting on. Now I'm a pacifist but the outrageousness of this guy's behaviour was nearly enough for me (who was not receiving any abuse of course) to thwump him on the occiput with a large stick.

But these guys were ultra-cool about it. They engaged him in talking a little bit and basically apologized for the political realities etc.

In fact, asia is the best place to go if you want to formulate good opinions about most countries. You generally find a better class of tourist off the usual western trail.

Those Aussies in Qld are dickheads. dg's right about the name calling thing as being likely just joking but still it's pretty offensive to harass people about their country's politics/policies.

You're all welcome to come. Just forward your $20 entrance tax to me and I'll make sure you're well looked after.
posted by peacay 27 June | 02:04
Yeah, I have to say that in my travels (just England, Scotland, France, and Canada), most people are prefectly nice, despite my being American. If people do bring up the stupid things some Americans do, I just give a general, "Yeah, I agree with you. And I have to share a country with those dillholes and deal with them all the time. Be glad you're just watching." The only people that hasn't satisfied, oddly enough, have been Canadians. But they're extra bitter, being so close and all. (Despite the affection the arse evinces.)
posted by dame 27 June | 02:09
And of course they ask "How could you (collective 'you') elect Bush?", but isn't everybody asking that?

well, since last November, in my experience, it's mostly Americans who still ask themselves the question. most furriners have simply figured out the (sad) answer (ie, that Diebold or not, a nice big fat chunk of the USA just likes Bush's policies).
it's a quite clear fact now, and obviously less painful to digest for non-Americans.
posted by matteo 27 June | 02:37
I think (based on no valid information at all) that Bush is what you get when you don't have compulsory voting. Because only people who really care voted, more of the people that really care supported Bush, perhaps because he tends to attract rabid strong support, where his opponent, whoese name slips my mind at present, attracts the sort of support that may have voted him in if people were forced to vote. Maybe you should think yourselves lucky there are limits on the number of terms your President can vote, or you will be stuck with him for a long, long time.
posted by dg 27 June | 02:42
Don't worry. Australians hate any country larger or richer or more famous than themselves. ::personal bandwagon time:: If asked, they'll put it down to "Tall Poppy Syndrome" or having a laugh, but I've yet to meet an Aussie that doesn't think Australia isn't the greatest place on the earth, and damn any Yank or Pom who disagrees. I'm generalising of course, but what the heh. I'm not the person running kids out of university.

It's been an interesting 20 or so years. I think personally that America has really started to struggle with its status as an Empire. I'm starting to see in Americans and in American Culture the same apologetic attitude that you see from some Brits. It's like "Yeah we're really evil and we've got/had an evil empire, and yes, sorry."

Welcome to the club Our American Overlords. Equally loved and hated by the rest of the world, and people wonder why we have a special relationship.
posted by seanyboy 27 June | 03:53
She said some students suffered culture shock because of the belief that everyone loved Americans. "We are giving them the heads up that it is a bit more heated because of the war in Iraq," Ms Houston said.

I can't speak for Australia but American's certainly haven't been automatically loved over here, even before the Iraq war. And we've had a tendancy to call Americans septics for a long, long time - we think it's funny.

A few years ago my favorite local pub was an Aussie/Kiwi/SA pub and it was a great boozer - it was however best not to go in when England was playing rugby, or at least best to keep a low profile. Not that you'd get beaten up or anything, but they just wouldn't bloody shut up about how great they were. I remember one guy was wearing a t-shirt that said something like "I support New Zealand and anyone playing against England."

To be honest I thought it was pretty funny.
posted by dodgygeezer 27 June | 04:44
Australian students had repeatedly called him a "sepo" short for septic tank. "It is so disrespectful. It's not exactly the most welcoming atmosphere here," he said.

The Queensland Anti-Discrimination Commission has described the abuse as "horrible" and says it could be classed as racial vilification.

do what now? "seppo" is pretty far removed from horrible vilification. i use the term to describe american friends and strangers alike. you'd think he was a canadian who'd just been asked if he was american.

talk about hypersensitive. if he's concerned about that, wait until he sees a dropbear...
posted by soi-disant 27 June | 06:14
Actually, I've learned something, because I wasn't aware of either of the terms "sepos" or "septics". There isn't any special significance, right? It's just the place the shit goes? Is it only for Americans?
posted by taz 27 June | 06:32
It's just rhyming slang:
septic tank = yank

Much like:
plates of meat = feet
china plate = mate
brad pitt = shit

So you might call your friend "my old china", or after a long walk you might say "my plates are killing me". Anyway I'm off for a brad - don't wait up.
posted by dodgygeezer 27 June | 06:49
Aah. I love that stuff... but I can't imagine how you keep it all straight in your head. Anyway, it seems very "Clockwork Orange" in a cool sort of way.
posted by taz 27 June | 06:55
Don't worry. Australians hate any country larger or richer or more famous than themselves.

Maybe it's just the riff-raff you've come across. Have you ever been/lived here Seanyboy? Just curious.
I'm not going to disagree reaaaaalllllly except to say that I would think if there's a universal theme in thought among Aussies when comparing themselves with other western countries (particularly USA & UK) it's more of an inferiority complex if anything.

Culturelessness makes for selfconcious navel gazing.

But it still comes down to individuals. There's fuckwit Americans,Aussies, Brits, Jamaicans, Nurses, Garbologists, redhaired, lefthanded etc etc.
posted by peacay 27 June | 06:56
It was a gross generalisation, and I apologise for tarring individuals with my continental Brush of Disliking. I have been there, and georgous as the country is, it drove me mad.

Stuff that annoyed me:
- Ozzie Battlers
- Tall Poppy Syndrome
- Going on about Gallipoli.
- This Film (Surely the worst film in the world)
- Oz Voting. (It may be better, but just shut up about it)
- Hating the English.
- Being constantly racially insensitive.
- Ignoring problems in the hope they'll go away.
- No sense of humour.

Things I liked about Australia.
- Tim Tams.
posted by seanyboy 27 June | 07:20
how long were you here in Australia, seanyboy?
posted by dhruva 27 June | 07:32
Tim Tams huh? Well that's balanced out well I see.
I probably agree with you on a lot of counts - depending on who the twat involved is, of course.
But I think that Gallipoli (a WWI famous episode in Turkey in which many Aussies and NZers were killed on the beach for anyone who doesn't know) is a bit touchy though. Not that I would ever go on about it or that it wouldn't bore me stupid if it was raised too often, but I can, for the cultureless reasons noted above, understand completely why there is a strong evocation of that time. It's one of our only romantic legacies if you like. I'd keep returning to that sense of lack of heritage as I think it's possibly an explanation for many of the things you've listed. And I just comment on the national psyche here, rather than in the case of individuals.

But as for loving the place, apart from the Tim Tams of course, it's pretty hard, especially after going overseas to get some perspective, to not realize how beautiful the country is in terms of natural features. I'm happy to laud it when I'm travelling .... err, well, at least you know - tell people about the bits that I particularly like anyway.

Maybe you just met jerks for the main part. Fuck knows we've got our fair share. But you've got a bit of a gripe and I think that's probably unusual so I think you must have picked a bad ticket or something or you were a total cockhead in another life and god sprung dickheads on you.

But then again, I hated England for the mostpart. Heh. And it was because of the people. But that was when the last remnants of Thatcherism still glowed so I think a lot of people were a bit depressed kind of thing. But of course I had some wonderful English friends as well. Bastards everywhere.
posted by peacay 27 June | 07:41
Only a month.
I know I'm not being fair, so don't take it personally.

Anecdote: The first Day I got into Oz, I decided to grab a sandwich and coffee. The first funky coffee place I found near my hotel seemed great, so I ordered what I needed and asked for an ashtray. They said that I wasn't allowed to smoke inside because that was the law, but I could smoke outside. So far, so good. I then said something like "Oh, that's annoying." (with a depracating smile) meaning nothing more than it'd be nice to smoke inside, I understood that I couldn't but yeah, it'd be nice to smoke inside. If anything annoyed me, it's the situation, and anyway I'm not actually annoyed (look at the smile) but am instead joking.

The woman took it completely the wrong way and glared at me for the duration of my coffee. I put it down to a misunderstanding (I can be an annoying twat) and left it at that. In various forms over then next 4 weeks I had the same conversation several times. There were so many times I said things that were misconstrued to have the worst possible motive that I lost count.

In Australia, I found that I couldn't take the mickey out of anyone in any way; I couldn't say anything bad about anything Home Grown. (I saw this awful play about Ireland called "The Dog Somethings", and when I told people that it wasn't very good, they got all defensive). Eventually I just slipped into a mode where I said everything was brilliant and left it at that.

The worst part of the whole trip for me was in Alice Springs. Some homeless Guy was wandering around trying (quite forcibly) to show people his umbrella. Pretty much everyone he tried to talk to visibly turned away from the guy. No conversation, no telling the guy that they'd already seen his umbrella and could he go away, no signs of emotion or visual recognition. They all, to a man just turned away from him, pretended he didn't exist.
posted by seanyboy 27 June | 08:04
I hate your President! I hate your country!

That's not abuse, it's political opinion. Whiner needs to get out more.
posted by biffa 27 June | 08:45
Seanyboy, I think your down-under experiences are not that surprising. Cultural differences (even seemingly slight ones) can really get you discombobulated, and it takes time to adjust. I remember when I first moved to Greece, I thought the people were, for the most part, hideously rude, and I dreaded doing almost anything - from going to the bank to shopping for groceries. This was simply because of a disconnect between our different suppositions of what constitutes a basic level of courtesy, and it seemed to me that every shopworker/shop owner hated my guts, just for having the temerity to want to buy something from them.

It took quite a while for me fall into place, but now things here seem completely natural. Now I know that guy in the kiosk who looks as though he'd just as soon slit my throat is going to soften up. Once he begins to know me a bit, he's going to be telling me that me and my husband should come visit his family at his seaside vacation home sometime. And I won't be surrpised if he brings me some wine he made himself, from grapes in his garden... etc.

I'm a great favorite of all our regular shop/restaurant people, and it's hard for me to believe how estranged I felt back then. A month is nothing; it took at least a year for me to really get the drift of things. It's just that when the small niceties and exchanges are even a little bit different, it's quite jarring for everybody.

(btw: if any of you have been to the islands, and want to tell me how polite everyone is - yes, I know. But frankly, this is almost always just a tourism-related phenomenon, and not common everyday life. People from here who've travelled/lived in other countries, also are usually different in this regard, but I'm just talking about "typical".)
posted by taz 27 June | 08:56
I saw a bit of American-harassing in Asia, but it was always the stereotypical American, losing it because a boat won't take him to the island -- just him -- off schedule, or dealing with any of the ten thousand other inconveniences which makes Asia an interesting place to travel.

She said some students suffered culture shock because of the belief that everyone loved Americans.

The more Americans who bring home how untrue this is the better, because it's the ones who never leave home who feel rock-solid in their belief about the "greatest country in the world" hoorah nonsense. That said, true abuse would be unconscionable. This sounds the cumulative airing of opinions which, of course, could get to be a bit much after awhile.

In Australia, I found that I couldn't take the mickey out of anyone in any way

Well, not to put a new negative spin on the thread, but many consider the Aussies to be Americans down under (regarding nationalism, personal aggression, etc) with a very similar relationship to NZ as the U.S. and Canada. Thus, I do not find this surprising, as you can't take the piss out of Americans, either.
posted by dreamsign 27 June | 09:21
I only just noticed this in the second link:
Given American voting patterns, about half of the American students concerned probably don't like George Bush very much either but that does not hold back the Left from their narrow and ignorant overgeneralizations.
Of course they're left wingers - they don't like America. Narrow and ignorant overgeneralizations? Oh the irony!
posted by dodgygeezer 27 June | 09:25
posted by jonmc 27 June | 09:44
I've not gotten any crap for being American when I've traveled overseas. (Of course I haven't been anywhere like Tehran. : ))

My non-American friends couldn't understand why Bush got re-elected, but they all know how I feel about him and that if it was up to me he wouldn't be in office.
posted by sisterhavana 27 June | 11:27
Oh jayzus, more of the toddler mentality..."Mommy, someone called me a name...waaaaaa! I'm gonna take my ball and go home!"

I've traveled all over the world...and I'm from Texas...even before Bush, Texans caught crap that "regular" Americans didn't see. (Especially people like me who would say things like "Well...I'm a Texan, that's like an American...but different." It's funny, because it's true.)

Maybe I just have mastered the art of the raised eyebrow, or maybe it's that I can be a little spooky...but I've been able to stop any anti-American agitator by saying "Yep...I'm not too fond of the man myself...but the's pretty cool, you should go see it once we take it back from the current regime." Generally, people defuse once they realize I'm not going to 1.) take any crap, and 2.) probably agree with their main point, which is that Bush is a congenital idiot who proves the axiom that shit floats.

That said, I've only ever run into the problem of hostile people in bars. It's never happened to me in a work environment, or hotel, or service provider, or man on the street. It's only drunks...and frankly, I avoid them most of the time, no matter what country they're from.
posted by PsychoKitty 27 June | 12:27
(way upthread)

Well played, mr_crash....
posted by cobra! 27 June | 12:29
and I'm from Texas...even before Bush, Texans caught crap that "regular" Americans didn't see

you know, if I were from the great State of Texas, I'd constantly brag about that great flawed giant of a Texan, the one with the biggest brass ball evar who saw injustice and decided to mend it, no matter what. seriously. in my eyes, that gives Texas a million bonus points
posted by matteo 27 June | 14:12
Well, LBJ was great on civil rights, but a disaster on Vietnam, so it's kind of a split the difference scenario with him.
posted by jonmc 27 June | 14:24
When I first started visiting Canada, I used to get shit left and right. I was always having to defend myself when compared to my fellow Americans. It's quite frustrating when your country's politics are heaped on your shoulders. Thanks to my tendency to, unknowingly, pick up the local accent, the only time people know I'm American is when I "out" myself.

I, too, wish Americans knew better how people of other nationalities viewed them.
posted by deborah 27 June | 14:31
I rarely meet americans, (maybe i'm a repellent?) and the ones i do meet are automatically different, because theyre the ones who've elected to travel outside the states. From what I hear, most americans never travel much. But i will admit that it was very hard to not get all political with this poor kid who landed up as an intern in the lab, and especially since I found out he voted for Bush :)
posted by dhruva 27 June | 23:20
(Especially people like me who would say things like "Well...I'm a Texan, that's like an American...but different." It's funny, because it's true.)

I think people i meet when i travel realize that i'm not like other Americans because i'm from NY--i never have trouble anywhere. dhruva makes a good point, but that makes all this worse, because those kids actually were trying to broaden their horizons.
posted by amberglow 27 June | 23:32
well this kid was in australia because it was the closest to being-abroad-but-not-really type place, if you know what i mean.
posted by dhruva 27 June | 23:48
but that's still something.
posted by amberglow 27 June | 23:59
A side note.
Being a Canadian traveling or living in the U.S.A. can be great. You are just different enough to be intriguing but not different enough to be scary. It leads to all kinds of odd confessions.
posted by arse_hat 28 June | 00:07
I've heard that some Americans traveling are doing that maple leaf thing now, but i haven't seen it. (it always makes me laugh--that whole "god forbid they think i'm American" thing, but if shit's going to happen...)
posted by amberglow 28 June | 00:11
amberglow, I've never run into it in the field but two yanks have told me they have done it in awkward situations.
posted by arse_hat 28 June | 00:17
posted by amberglow 28 June | 00:22
I've travelled to several countries and have never run into America-hatred. Some express concern about the current White House but they've never made it personal. I don't give the impression that you can play nasty with me (probably my Brooklyn genetics) but I am approachable for intelligent discussions.
posted by hojoki 28 June | 09:59
I've actually run into it, amberglow. An American self-identified as Canadian. When I said: "Really? Where from?" she paused, then confessed. I must say, I had thought it was mostly a myth.

And all this aside, (northern) Californians, Washington-staters, Oregonians -- they're all honorary Canadians to me. Zero attitude. Maximum real-in-the-momentness. At least those I've met on the road.
posted by dreamsign 28 June | 22:21
it's weird.
posted by amberglow 28 June | 23:31
Jakarta. 1985ish, as I recall. A youth hostel, I was boozing with a laid-back Texan. A muscular German woman picked up on our accents and wheeled around to confront us.

"You! You voted for Ronald Reagan!" she accused by way of hello.

The Texan thought then spoke slowly. "Ma'am, Actually I didn't. I ... "

She cut him off. "But you Americans did! Overwhelmingly you elected him! How could you do such a thing? You must explain!"

My friend paused just long enought that it seemed he wouldn't answer at all. (A great conversational tactic, BTW). "Ma'am, there is a barbed wire fence down the middle of your country. How do you explain that?"
posted by LarryC 29 June | 01:29
Uniporn (NSFW) || Big, fat books?