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How to Piss Off an American Woman Abroad

United States
by Eileen Cotter Wright Nov 23, 2015

Make remarks about her ‘healthy appetite.’

I’ve watched a svelte Romanian woman put away two pounds of polenta with ease and no one batted an eye. But God forbid I tuck into a plate of ribs. I’ll get chastised by men around me for being too much of a “fat American girl”. Half the time I’m trying to be polite at other people’s house and clean my plate, and the other is just that I’m hungry. Point out a culture to me that doesn’t want to embrace a hearty meal with abandon.

Get sexist with us.

By traveling to other countries, the biggest lesson I’ve learned was that I need to be thanking my lucky stars for the way women are treated in the U.S. Now I know that American feminists believe we have a long way to go – and we do – but other countries are lightyears behind us. I’ll never forget how the father in my au pair family in Spain told me it was pointless for women to waste their time on too much education. Or the man I met once abroad in Mexico who thought it was ‘cute’ when I expressed my opinions about current events, and actually patted me on the head. American women are damn smart and know how to hold their own in any crowd. Even if we have on stilettos and makeup. Good luck to you if you piss one off or tell her she doesn’t know anything. Decades of fighting for equality will quickly punch you right in the gut — metaphorically or physically, whichever is necessary.

Ask her where her ‘people’ are from.

I’m American. Period. Maybe I had a great-great grandmother who was Italian and I can now make killer pasta sauce, but I still haven’t been to Italy. So no, I’m not Italian woman – I’m an American woman. Mama let me be. However, heritage is different and we can cautiously discuss that. But let’s tread lightly. I wouldn’t dare ask you what country you identify with unless you offer that information; it’s none of my business. Assuming something because of my long, dark hair (must be Greek!) or my blue eyes (are you Scandinavian?) is not the way to ask about my background.

That said, I am going to get drunk on St. Patrick’s day in nod to my Irish blood no matter where I am, so don’t judge.

Always treat her like a tourist.

Yes I know I sound like I’m from the U.S. — but just because I’m wandering around looking a little lost doesn’t mean I’m a hopeless tourist. I’m just lost like I get lost all the time back home. I’m sorry my subway card isn’t working today too, but the amount of eye rolls I get from Londoners who think I’m just clueless kills me. I’ve lived in the city for months and I’m just having a bad day! My card’s just not working. It has nothing to do with me being an American. Sheesh.

Assume she can out-drink anyone.

There’s a rumor that American girls know how to party. Maybe it’s because every movie with a female lead under 25 depicts her dancing on a bar somewhere and doing shots lit on fire with her friends in New York City or Vegas. Our girls can hang, sure. But as soon as we’re out of the studying abroad age bracket, we fall into those cursed three-day hangovers, just like everyone else.

Suggest she lower her voice.

Oh hell no. Listen, I know my voice can be brash and maybe a decibel higher than all the other women around me, but this is just how I speak. My dialect is bold, real and unapologetic. Just because I’m above average in sound projection does not mean I’m being rude. Us ladies have worked hard to be heard and I’m happy to show that off wherever I am. Besides, my friend is across the airport and I have to get her attention.

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