A few days ago, I had the pleasure of hosting a student from England for a night, and in his honor my housemates and I threw a small party. Unfortunately for us, a few of the people that came managed to fulfill every negative stereotype that I think Europeans have of Americans, within about the first five minutes of their meeting the English student.
Everything was going fine at the party until the English student stepped outside to smoke a cigarette, which was when these two girls and two boys, for lack of a better word, pounced on him. I did not know the four of them, so maybe it was out of character, but they immediately barraged him with requests that he just talk to them with his accent. To hear him say it, he speaks the Queen's English, but to them it must have been some sort of exotic experience. Soon, the four Americans started to practice their own, embarrassingly contrived 'British accents' on him, which he took with admirable aplomb. Thankfully, these four people soon left, but in the morning at breakfast they were our only topic of conversation. The English student was fairly polite about it, but made it clear that he had hated every second of it. My friend and is formal host was much less diplomatic about it, talking about how people like that give us all a bad name.
As he talked, I realized that whenever you meet someone from another country, you are in a way a representative of your home country to that foreign person you meet. And whatever kind of impression you leave on them is going to shape how they feel about the entire country you have hopefully just represented well. So without knowing it, all those American tourists out in the world are doing public relations for the U.S.A., here's to hoping they leave a better impression than the four from my party.
Have any ideas or comments on how we can better represent ourselves to the world? Comment below, I'd love to hear from you.
This post was authored by Faiz Mandviwalla, a senior at Temple University and an Assistant Firm Director of PRowl Public Relations. Follow Faiz on Twitter here and LinkedIn here.