Eight Most Frequently Asked Questions About America

Eight Most Frequently Asked Questions About America

Over the past four months I have been studying in Austria (WOW) ,and I have been questioned many times regarding my home in America. Classmates, family members, teachers, friends, and even store clerks are just as curious about my culture as I am about their Austrian culture. I find many of their questions a bit amusing. . . So, here are the eight most frequent questions I am asked:

  1. “Have you ever been to New York City or LA?” Which is usually followed by, “I really want to go to New York City or LA” in an eager voice. No, I have never visited either of these places in the US. . . And this response usually provokes a shock. EVERYONE here wants to experience these two famous cities.
  2. “Are the high schools really like the movies? You know, like American Pie? And with the cheerleaders and school lockers and house parties with the red cups and varsity football teams that wear the cool jackets and school mascots?” I have to explain this is usually a quite exaggerated view of our high schools, but definitely some of the portrayed images are accurate.
  3. “What do you think of Obama?” However before I am able to respond, I often am presented with the inquisitors’ opinions on our US government… When I told one man I came from America, he responded, “Oh, the country that starts all the wars,” with a smirk and chuckle. I didn’t understand what he had said at the time as he had said it in German, so I just responded with a nervous laugh.
  4. “Isn’t the drinking age 21?” This is always asked with a tone of disbelief and followed by, “That’s so old!” Most people I speak with believe this to be absurd, however one man I spoke with agrees with the age regulations in America. He is addicted to cigarettes and explained if he had been older when presented the opportunity to smoke, perhaps he would have considered or been more educated on the health effects.
  5. And of course, there’s the infamous fast-food myth: “Does everyone eat McDonalds?” Sigh, no… There is an abundant amount of fast food chains with thriving business, but this stereotype is blown out of proportion. I usually explain most people do not consume fast-food for all three meals, and many Americans avoid fast food completely.
  6. “Is school really easy in the US? I heard from a friend it’s really easy.” Also a no. I explain the level of difficulty depends much on your plans for college, how much you choose to work, and the classes you select. My peers are fascinated by the idea of being able to select your own classes. Most schools in Austria have a set schedule of classes with little variation or freedom to choose the classes students must participate in.
  7. “Do you have your driving license?” Normally in Austria, teenagers acquire their driving license at age 18, so they are fascinated by the idea that teenagers in America are allowed this freedom two years prior.
  8. “Does everyone in America talk unclearly and have funny accents?” Students learn British English in school, so they believe Americans speak and write quite improperly.

While I have found these questions extremely humorous in many cases, I have realized many of them contain quite stereotypical views of America. Though many fragments of these clichés are true, it’s made me aware that several are hyperbolized. I have found that I am also often confronted with questions containing Austrian and European stereotypes by my friends in America. While many of these views are harmless, I hope over the past four months I have given my Austrian friends an accurate taste of America, just as I have learned that not all European and Austrian stereotypes are reliable. I’ve loved more than anything creating my personal view of Austria, free of any conventional views. And I hope I’ve been able to prove that not all Americans are unhealthy, ignorant, and uncouth.

Read all of Sarah’s posts from her high school program in Austria…

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