…aka How to (Unintentionally) Live-Up to American Stereotypes in a Foreign Country.
Any traveler’s guide will tell you that, when venturing to a foreign country, you really have two choices:
1) Be the tourist. This includes carrying around a large bag, camera around your neck, and snapping pictures of random people’s babies.
2) Integrate. This could also be the “subtle tourist” approach. You carry only a small purse and camera, hide your valuables under your clothing, and take pictures of the landscape quietly and discreetly.
However, what no one tells you in all the traveling books you collected and memorized, is how to avoid internationally recognized Americanisms, and how people can instantly know you’re American (and not maybe just a visiting Canadian). I’m not talking about wearing flipflops and American Eagle apparel and asking for a Miller at the local pub. I’m talking about things you would never notice because it’s so normal for us.
The word “awesome.”
Crazy, isn’t it? You could put on your best Irish brogue and they might buy it until you slip and say “awesome.” I had no idea that this word was such a dead give-away. I mean, I say it all the time, don’t you?! Well, thankfully, I made friends with a local to Letterkenny, Ireland who has shown me the way… Her name is Aoife (pronounced ee-fah) and when I first said “That’s so awesome” she literally cringed.
Aoife informed me that American television shows are really popular in Ireland. Irish teenagers grow up watching shows like Desperate Housewives and The Hills (yikes!). These shows have made the American accent and the word “awesome” a huge sensation for the younger Irish.(Globalization or Americanization? A debate for another time…)
Apparently, Irish youth love talking in American accents. They do it so much to be “cool” that they end up annoying all the older teenagers and adults. One popular phrase is “Oh my god, that’s soooo awesome!” Which totally explains why a bunch of kids at the Errigal Arts Festival’s Carnival Parade were asking us to say the word “awesome” and then giggling for an hour afterwards.
After talking with her a while, Aoife (who is my age) sighed and exclaimed, “You’re so American, it’s unbelievable.” So now, I seriously watch how I speak. Whenever people ask me how I am liking Ireland, I say “It’s so aweso–beautiful.” It’s so hard not to use that word! That forbidden word…
Well, I’m going to go retrain my vocabulary and further explore just how the Irish feels about Americanisms.
PS. Oh my god, Ireland is soooo AWESOME!