Etiquette Hell

Etiquette School is in session! => "What an interesting assumption." => Topic started by: mbenedict on May 08, 2011, 09:19:52 PM

Title: You don't look American.
Post by: mbenedict on May 08, 2011, 09:19:52 PM
I used to teach English as a Second Language. The first day of class one my students starts this conversation
Student (very belligerently): What are you?
Me(confused as all get out): What do you mean?
Student: What country are you?
Me: American.
Student: Are you sure?
Me: I was born here, that makes me an American.
Student: You don't look like an American.
Me: What do I look like?
Student: Russian.
It was the strangest assumption I've ever encountered.
 
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: Alida on May 08, 2011, 09:21:25 PM
What does an American look like? For that matter, what does a Russian look like? Maybe I'm just dense, but I have never been able to tell nationalities based on appearances.
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: mbenedict on May 08, 2011, 09:28:33 PM
I don't think anyone can. An American can look like anything. That's the beauty of the United States. It was just a strange encounter.
I've also had elderly ladies speak to me in Russian and I had to apologize that I didn't understand what they were saying.
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: MommyPenguin on May 08, 2011, 09:35:32 PM
I think some countries have a definite "look."  Not so much that you can't be that nationality if you don't have the look, but that if you have the look you are probably of that nationality.  I've had a Russian roommate and several friends, and they all have a certain look to the cheekbones that is distinctive.  I'm sure there are plenty of Russians who *don't* have that look, and many Americans of Russian descent that do (my friends had lived here since childhood but were born in Russia), but it hints in that direction.

That said, America in particular is such a melting pot, that I can't really imagine any possible look that couldn't be American.  While I will often guess, when I see somebody who has very Nigerian features, that they are a recent immigrant, it's not because they *couldn't* be American, but just that the area I lived in had a lot of Nigerian immigrants (rather than Americans of Nigerian descent).  Purely based on immigration trends in the locale.

I could see somebody not looking native to a country that had a low rate of immigration, or a country that's immigration was so recent that there weren't weren't any different-looking natives, but... America, of all countries?
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: Waltzing Matilda on May 10, 2011, 08:15:00 AM
What does an American look like? For that matter, what does a Russian look like? Maybe I'm just dense, but I have never been able to tell nationalities based on appearances.

Don't be fooled. You can always tell an Australian - they're the ones wearing thongs in the middle of winter  :)
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: magdalena on May 10, 2011, 08:21:46 AM
It's an odd comment, but I have to agree with MommyPenguin on this:

I think some countries have a definite "look."  Not so much that you can't be that nationality if you don't have the look, but that if you have the look you are probably of that nationality. 

I love to tease my DH with my uncanny ability to spot Germans abroad. Especially Germans in Scandinavia are easy to spot, I claim. (DH is German, we live in Germany, I adore all things German, lol).

There are a few other nationalities that I find easy to recognize, but that doesn't by any means mean that I think all people from those countries look the same/act the same/are the same and has absolutely no value judgement attached, it's just something I've noticed during my travels  ;)

(...and I'll obviously recognize a fellow Finn rather easily... or so I claim)
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: Lynn2000 on May 10, 2011, 08:49:54 AM
I think some countries have a definite "look."  Not so much that you can't be that nationality if you don't have the look, but that if you have the look you are probably of that nationality.

POD. I work in a diverse area and usually when I see someone new I idly try to guess where they might be from originally. I'd never bring it up to someone on my own, though, especially not as brusquely as in the OP--but if someone turns out to have a Russian accent or name, I often nod to myself and go, "Yeah, I thought they were Russian." Which doesn't even really matter in the scheme of things... I'm usually more interested in their names than anything else, being a name nerd. :) And I've definitely been wrong a few times--there was one woman I thought was Russian, until I heard her cussing someone out in Spanish over the phone and learned (from a friend) that she's actually from Argentina. Oops. Good reason to not make assumptions when in conversation with someone!
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: Skoffin on May 10, 2011, 09:20:25 AM
I've been told by various people that I don't look Australian or I don't sound Australian. Some follow it up with weird comments while others have looked at me accusingly.  ???
Interestingly, I 'don't look Australian' because apparently I am 'too white'. I'll take comfort in  not sounding it though, as I will just take it as maybe I do not  sound as much like a bogan as I thought I did.  :P
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: Shiraz_Much? on May 10, 2011, 09:23:16 AM
Ummm...yeah...what does an American look like?  That is the weirdest comment.  ::)
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: Rohanna on May 10, 2011, 03:13:37 PM
What does an American look like? For that matter, what does a Russian look like? Maybe I'm just dense, but I have never been able to tell nationalities based on appearances.

Don't be fooled. You can always tell an Australian - they're the ones wearing thongs in the middle of winter  :)

You mean, they're the one's who think thongs mean sandals and not rear-floss?  ;D

Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: whiterose on May 11, 2011, 06:44:56 AM
Looks, I do not get that much haranguing. Maybe because the USA is so diverse. By my looks alone, the most common guess of my ancestry is Italian- though if you add up Israeli/Jewish/Hebrew, that would be second, and otherwise I have not computed what third is. 

I get much more a "you don't sound American". Which sometimes the way it is said, the implication is "you are not a real American".
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: Larrabee on May 11, 2011, 07:28:29 AM
I've been told quite a few times that I look Russian, which is strange as I'm very English and all my ancestors for at least the last few hundred years were from the British Isles somewhere.  I can only assume its because I'm pale?

I actually think Americans and some other nationalities can have a 'look' that helps me to spot them regardless of their race or ethnicity.  Its partly to do with clothing I think, even though some fashions are almost universal, different countries tend to have a different way of wearing them.  I remember when German exchange students would arrive at school every year, whatever colour they were it was clear they were German because of the neat backpacks, corduroy trousers and lace up shoes! 
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: zoidberg on May 11, 2011, 08:06:37 AM
I remember when German exchange students would arrive at school every year, whatever colour they were it was clear they were German because of the neat backpacks, corduroy trousers and lace up shoes! 

LOL! We could spot the french exchange students because of their side-buttoned adidas track pants. I will not repeat the very rude term we had for those pants...
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: Thuringwethyl on May 12, 2011, 12:16:24 AM
It may also have to do with mannerisms; while spending a couple summers in Ireland my white-as-a-ghost sister was always recognized as a USian because of how she smiled. I was also told by my Japanese ex that the rumors in his schools (back in Japan) claimed that we were officially taught to grin all the time.

I once came across a Youtube account by this Caucasian USian girl who moved to Japan. It intrigued me because, after she was in that country for a while, she looked Japanese. There's no other way to explain it - her makeup was Japanese, her face was Japanese, everything about her screamed Japanese! After spending two hours scrutinizing her videos (I was curious! Don't judge me) I realized that the difference was in how she held her mouth. While in the US she spoke with her mouth opening to a medium extent; while in Japan her mouth only opened to about a crack. Check it out with Japanese cinema sometime, it's totally obvious once you notice it!
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: hobish on May 12, 2011, 12:47:40 AM
Looks, I do not get that much haranguing. Maybe because the USA is so diverse. By my looks alone, the most common guess of my ancestry is Italian- though if you add up Israeli/Jewish/Hebrew, that would be second, and otherwise I have not computed what third is. 

I get much more a "you don't sound American". Which sometimes the way it is said, the implication is "you are not a real American".

Nah. Sometimes people phrase things badly, you know? That could just as easily be a compliment to your accent or even just inflection. It's still a silly thing to say, but not neccesarily derogatory.

 :P Maybe you and the OP should carry guns and drop the F bomb more.

Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: Spoder on May 12, 2011, 12:54:41 AM
Looks, I do not get that much haranguing. Maybe because the USA is so diverse. By my looks alone, the most common guess of my ancestry is Italian- though if you add up Israeli/Jewish/Hebrew, that would be second, and otherwise I have not computed what third is. 

I get much more a "you don't sound American". Which sometimes the way it is said, the implication is "you are not a real American".

Nah. Sometimes people phrase things badly, you know? That could just as easily be a compliment to your accent or even just inflection. It's still a silly thing to say, but not neccesarily derogatory.

:P Maybe you and the OP should carry guns and drop the F bomb more.


Ha ha.  ;D.

I think this kind of thing is pretty common, to be honest. People have vague stereotypes in their heads that they're barely aware of. I lived in various overseas countries for years and was often told I didn't look Australian. Of course, the person would then have no idea what they thought 'Australian' should look like. A few times it was apparently because I had an 'English face'. (Yeah, no idea about that one).
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: Ereine on May 12, 2011, 01:12:09 AM
There's one look that to me seems American, not because all Americans look the same and those that don't look like my stereotype are obviously as American, but it seems that other nationalities don't look like that. (For some strange reason my stereotypical American is a hiker and has a glossy brown hair and a wide smile). And there's something about clothes and body language that may make me think that someone's American. Not that it matters at all, it's mostly just idle curiosity and I would never tell anyone that they don't look like X (I don't look like the Scandinavian stereotype of blond and tall, but not that many people actually look like that in Finland). For some reason some people assumed that I was English when I was living in the Netherlands, despite my awful accent, maybe because I wanted to speak English to them.

And Russians often look like Russians, at least the ones I've met. There are some other groups as well, I might recognize Germans abroad for example and many Swedes seem to have the same smile, even if they weren't born there. Though when I was in Holland I saw a group of very well dressed (like suits when other people were wearing t-shirts) people who didn't look local and was shocked when they started speaking Finnish. The Finnish stereotype is that we don't understand fashion :)
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: Brentwood on May 12, 2011, 01:30:43 AM
I think some countries have a definite "look." 

I agree. I think I "look" like my Scandinavian heritage would suggest.

Of course, I also look American, because...well, I am American!
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: Nurvingiel on May 12, 2011, 01:38:47 AM
This just goes to show you don't just learn a new language in an ESL (or other language) course. You also learned the local customs. This is a great time to disabuse the naive student of a fairly offensive notion that all Americans looks the same.

I took Swedish as a second language when I was there. But it was actually my neighbours in the student building who taught me the most about culture.

I remember talking about stereotypes with one friend. She said that people think all Swedes are blonde. She was blonde herself but not all Swedes are blonde. Not by a longshot. Of course I would never dream of telling someone they don't look like they're from Sweden/the USA/wherever. In Canada such a statement is considered ridiculous.

Maybe it's normal in a country where people do tend to have similar features. But it still seems rude to me to basically call someone out for not looking a certain way.
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: magdalena on May 12, 2011, 02:18:07 AM
I pretty much fit the stereotype of a Finn (except I like to think that I know how to dress, lol, Ereine, that's so true  ;D ;D... actually, I pretty much dress "German" by now and might even appear German to foreigners), and I have had a hard time explaining to people that no, not every Finn is tall, blond and blue-eyed, no no.
Extra points were given when my best friend visited. She's my height, blonder and her eyes are probably a bit bluer  ;D >:D And we were going around saying, "oh, no, most finns are not blond. No no, most have brown hair. Really. And not really all that tall... oh those pics of us with a bunch of tall young men, well, those are our cousins and brothers, yes, they're blond. And tall. And blue-eyed. And Finns. But no, no, not all Finns look like that. Not at all"
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: Flibbertigibbet on May 13, 2011, 12:39:35 PM
I'm English and have been 'accused' of lying when I say I am. I am apparently French, Italian or Greek, but definitely not English  ::). I even got an 'are you sure?' from a complete stranger once after he enquired about my nationality. Um, yes? lol. Another person kept speaking what I think was Greek to me (and as I don't speak Greek, it was as the saying goes 'all Greek to me'!) I think in an effort to make me 'come clean'...It didn't work for obvious reasons!

The only reason I can think of for this happening is that I have very dark hair and when I have a tan have quite olivey skin, but still!
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: Auntie Mame on May 13, 2011, 02:12:04 PM
I don't think anyone can. An American can look like anything. That's the beauty of the United States. It was just a strange encounter.
I've also had elderly ladies speak to me in Russian and I had to apologize that I didn't understand what they were saying.
That is EXACTLY how I feel.  I love the diversity of people I see everyday.
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: Nurvingiel on May 13, 2011, 03:16:03 PM
FWIW I don't know a lot of Finns but the ones I do know always dress well. That's not a stereotype I really "get". Maybe it's more prevalent in Europe.

People actually thought I was Swedish when I learned how to speak the language. Like many Swedes I have brown hair and brown eyes. Except they all thought I was from the part of Sweden where they have a strange accent (no offence Malm÷).
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: magician5 on May 14, 2011, 03:23:27 AM
I am an American, and I live in a VERY ethnically diverse area.

Some countries or regions do indeed have a very distinct "look". For instance, it's not much trouble telling a Korean from a Japanese. Around here we have a lot of Hispanic people from a wide variety of countries, but I know if they look like the pictures the Aztecs and Incas painted they are almost certainly from Central or South America.

But first and foremost, I assume all of them to be Americans unless told otherwise. My people (whoever they are ... I'm an adoptee) came here from somewhere else, too. I'm thrilled, and my life is enriched, to be in an inclusive country (at least, that's what I was taught, recent ugly attitudes notwithstanding).

As for "what are you?", that is so rude, compared to "where are you from?"
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: Ereine on May 14, 2011, 06:31:58 AM
FWIW I don't know a lot of Finns but the ones I do know always dress well. That's not a stereotype I really "get". Maybe it's more prevalent in Europe.

I think that's a mostly Finnish stereotype, along with the stereotypes that Finns can't speak English and that we can't behave (very often a politicians visit to another country is accompanied by headlines about how they shamed Finland by not speaking fluent enough English or by having an ugly handbag, in the case of our president).
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: HorseFreak on May 14, 2011, 07:13:01 AM
I was told the other day I looked European, not American. I wasn't sure what to make of that since I am a Euro-Mutt (Irish, Scottish, Polish and Slovak) from three generations back.

One of my colleagues is a 6'1" Mexican and he's constantly told he's too tall. His brothers are even taller. I don't think people realize that not everyone from Mexico looks exactly the same. His niece is nearly blonde and fairly light skinned.
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: iridaceae on May 14, 2011, 07:42:36 AM
My father's family is all German, as far as we can tell and my mother was Estonian. In 2009 my dad and I went over to Europe to visit my sister and her husband in Germany and then went down to Lake Como to visit my dad's brother, who has retired there, and then up through Switzerland [we took the scenic but not very much used anymore Spluga Pass] to Neuschwanstein. While we were visiting my uncle we went to Lecco for the day and decided to have some gelato.  So, we went up to order and the young lady promptly spoke to us in German.   Then we were up having lunch in Spluga and I went across the street to the souvenir shop...and the man behind the counter spoke to me in German. 

I guess my fair complection, beige hair and fat cheeks and face make me look German.
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: Giggity on May 14, 2011, 08:18:13 AM
I think this kind of thing is pretty common, to be honest. People have vague stereotypes in their heads that they're barely aware of. I lived in various overseas countries for years and was often told I didn't look Australian. Of course, the person would then have no idea what they thought 'Australian' should look like. A few times it was apparently because I had an 'English face'. (Yeah, no idea about that one).

Even inside the United States, we deal in stereotypes by state. Texans, of which I am one, all have scads of guns, big cars preferably with longhorn horns mounted on the front, and oil wells in our back yards.
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: Nurvingiel on May 14, 2011, 12:50:30 PM
FWIW I don't know a lot of Finns but the ones I do know always dress well. That's not a stereotype I really "get". Maybe it's more prevalent in Europe.

I think that's a mostly Finnish stereotype, along with the stereotypes that Finns can't speak English and that we can't behave (very often a politicians visit to another country is accompanied by headlines about how they shamed Finland by not speaking fluent enough English or by having an ugly handbag, in the case of our president).
LOL who cares what Tarja Halonen's handbag looks like, she the President not a model.
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: Ereine on May 14, 2011, 01:39:03 PM
FWIW I don't know a lot of Finns but the ones I do know always dress well. That's not a stereotype I really "get". Maybe it's more prevalent in Europe.

I think that's a mostly Finnish stereotype, along with the stereotypes that Finns can't speak English and that we can't behave (very often a politicians visit to another country is accompanied by headlines about how they shamed Finland by not speaking fluent enough English or by having an ugly handbag, in the case of our president).
LOL who cares what Tarja Halonen's handbag looks like, she the President not a model.

But it causes the whole world to mock us, at least according to some. Some people call her Moominmamma, like it's an insult.

I think that Finns think too much about what other people think of us, when in reality they don't think much at all of us :)
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: KatPsych on May 14, 2011, 02:46:29 PM
My father's family is all German, as far as we can tell and my mother was Estonian. In 2009 my dad and I went over to Europe to visit my sister and her husband in Germany and then went down to Lake Como to visit my dad's brother, who has retired there, and then up through Switzerland [we took the scenic but not very much used anymore Spluga Pass] to Neuschwanstein. While we were visiting my uncle we went to Lecco for the day and decided to have some gelato.  So, we went up to order and the young lady promptly spoke to us in German.   Then we were up having lunch in Spluga and I went across the street to the souvenir shop...and the man behind the counter spoke to me in German. 

I guess my fair complection, beige hair and fat cheeks and face make me look German.

I'm an American and I get mistaken as German too! One side of the family is from Germany, but they came over in the 1790s, so they've been here awhile :)  When my DH and I were in Italy, a German man came up to me on a train and started speaking to me in German to ask about the train route and if he was on the right train.  Fortunately, I did take German in high school/college, so I actually understood what he was saying, but you should have seen his eyes when I replied back to him in my far-less-than-perfect German! He clearly thought I was a fellow German and was startled by how I was (probably) butchering his language.  But we were able to communicate and I was able to help him.

I was told by a different German man that I looked German because I have very "German eyes."  I'm not sure what that means, but my eyes are a very light shade of blue and I have darker brown hair.  The eye shade has been passed down from the German side of the family, so maybe that shade is more common there than in the US?





 


Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: LadyPekoe on May 14, 2011, 03:08:12 PM
I am constantly mistaken for being South American.  Not only am I an American, I'm not even of South American heritage.  One time I was mistaken for Brazilian three times within three hours.  People come out of nowhere, speaking Portuguese to me, which I do not understand.

There is no "American" look.  I think part of the world expects us all to be blond haired and blue eyed, wearing overalls and a baseball cap, with a bald eagle on one arm and carrying an apple pie in the other.
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: Nurvingiel on May 16, 2011, 10:33:59 PM
There is no "American" look.  I think part of the world expects us all to be blond haired and blue eyed, wearing overalls and a baseball cap, with a bald eagle on one arm and carrying an apple pie in the other.
I know he or she doesn't exist, but I would like to be friends anyway. (And I love pie.) ;D

FWIW I don't know a lot of Finns but the ones I do know always dress well. That's not a stereotype I really "get". Maybe it's more prevalent in Europe.

I think that's a mostly Finnish stereotype, along with the stereotypes that Finns can't speak English and that we can't behave (very often a politicians visit to another country is accompanied by headlines about how they shamed Finland by not speaking fluent enough English or by having an ugly handbag, in the case of our president).
LOL who cares what Tarja Halonen's handbag looks like, she the President not a model.

But it causes the whole world to mock us, at least according to some. Some people call her Moominmamma, like it's an insult.

I think that Finns think too much about what other people think of us, when in reality they don't think much at all of us :)
Well they can tell that to the Finnish hockey team (winners of a gold medal after blasting Sweden 6-1 in the final) at the men's world championships.

Personally I think Finland and everyone in it is totally awesome. I can't put my finger on why exactly. Every Finn I meet is just so cool. Finland is an absolutely gorgeous country with incredible food and an amazing culture.

I think that Finland and Canada are natural buddies. We get each other. :) So you have at least one ally over here!
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: magdalena on May 17, 2011, 02:15:30 AM
Well they can tell that to the Finnish hockey team (winners of a gold medal after blasting Sweden 6-1 in the final) at the men's world championships.

Personally I think Finland and everyone in it is totally awesome. I can't put my finger on why exactly. Every Finn I meet is just so cool. Finland is an absolutely gorgeous country with incredible food and an amazing culture.

I think that Finland and Canada are natural buddies. We get each other. :) So you have at least one ally over here!

To start off: Yay for the Lions!!!
Second: awwww! Then again, every Canadian I've ever met was cool. I think we really are natural buddies... Your country is just way too amazing to be true, can't wait to come over again... and then, maybe I'll finally make it to the west coast...
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: bluedahlia on May 17, 2011, 06:50:17 PM
I was once told by someone in Seattle that I couldn't possibly be from the East Coast because I didn't sound like I was from Brooklyn or Boston.  There are a lot of accents from New England through the Mid-Atlantic states but he just couldn't wrap his mind around it.
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: Brentwood on May 17, 2011, 11:02:24 PM
There is no "American" look.  I think part of the world expects us all to be blond haired and blue eyed, wearing overalls and a baseball cap, with a bald eagle on one arm and carrying an apple pie in the other.
I know he or she doesn't exist, but I would like to be friends anyway. (And I love pie.) ;D



I've got the blonde hair, blue eyes, baseball cap and apple pie covered, but I can't produce the overalls or the bald eagle. ;)
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: Nurvingiel on May 18, 2011, 01:00:45 PM
There is no "American" look.  I think part of the world expects us all to be blond haired and blue eyed, wearing overalls and a baseball cap, with a bald eagle on one arm and carrying an apple pie in the other.
I know he or she doesn't exist, but I would like to be friends anyway. (And I love pie.) ;D
I've got the blonde hair, blue eyes, baseball cap and apple pie covered, but I can't produce the overalls or the bald eagle. ;)
Close enough! ;D
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: Cyradis on May 19, 2011, 08:48:52 PM
At home many people believe I'm too pale to be a Trinidadian. I've learned to get a kick out of people asking kindly where I'm from and if I'm having a nice visit. Most folks assume I'm Venezuelan or British.

At college in Illinois my Caribbean heritage was doubted because of my lack of a Jamaican accent.  ::)
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: Emmi on May 24, 2011, 02:00:45 AM
I had a class in high school where one girl was from the Caymen Island and her father was black but she had blonde hair (but I think it was dyed) and blue eyes and pale skin.  And someone told her that she can't be from there and that can't be her father.  And my favorite was that she can't count as half black.
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: kethria on May 24, 2011, 01:07:22 PM
I went to an ethnic store with a coworker and the cashier started talkign to me in Spanish, which I speak, so I responded, and my coworker was amazed. "How did she know you speak spanish? you look so white!"

Erm... maybe because I bought everything from the Goya aisle?
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: Nurvingiel on May 25, 2011, 12:41:49 AM
^ Basket of food with Spanish labels means one of two things. The person buying the food speaks and reads Spanish or, the person buying this food does not read Spanish, and it's adventure night. ;D The store employee assumed the more likely former scenario.

And my favorite was that she can't count as half black.
LOL did they have trouble with math? ;D
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: Nora on May 30, 2011, 01:31:47 PM
I don't look Norwegian. I can sing the Norwegian national anthem, recite all the public holidays, got an A in Norwegian, and an A in Norse (old Norwegian), have read lot's of Ibsen, can play Grieg on the recorder, and can explain "fjellvett" to whomever it may concern.

I'm Norwegian. I was not born here, but I'm raised here, work here, married (a foreigner) here, and had my child here.

It's really annoying when strangers assume my husband is Norwegian, because he's white, and that I'm the recent immigrant because I'm cafe au lait coloured.

Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: PaintingPastelPrincess on May 30, 2011, 04:59:18 PM
I don't look Norwegian. I can sing the Norwegian national anthem, recite all the public holidays, got an A in Norwegian, and an A in Norse (old Norwegian), have read lot's of Ibsen, can play Grieg on the recorder, and can explain "fjellvett" to whomever it may concern.

I'm Norwegian. I was not born here, but I'm raised here, work here, married (a foreigner) here, and had my child here.

It's really annoying when strangers assume my husband is Norwegian, because he's white, and that I'm the recent immigrant because I'm cafe au lait coloured.



I'm American, but I'm also 1/4 Norwegian on my mother's side.  When I took Norwegian in college, I was grilled by another girl because I didn't seem Norwegian. My name was Norwegian enough (Dad's family was probably Italian orignally, many generations back, sorry to disappoint), my hair was too dark ( ::)) and I couldn't speak more than 3 words of it.  Although, I did get in trouble in high school for a report on Norway because I didn't explain what a fjord is.  I thought it would be overkill, like explaining an ocean.

My sister's first reaction to my BF was "He doesn't look Mexican."  ::)  He's Mexcian on his mom's side, and Polish on his dad's.  He's got a very Polish last name, and looks more like his dad's family than his mom's (except for his hair).  Light skin, green eyes, really tall, so it's true that he's not the Mexican stereotype.  However, he grew up close to his mom's family and culturally identifies himself with them more than with the Polish side (who are much more American than Polish at this point anyway).  Looks don't really mean anything.

That said, though, I agree that some people have a look about them, but in places with huge immigrant populations going back generations, like America, it's impossible to tell if someone's [whatever] by birth or by heritage (or not that at all).  I like to guess inside my head, but would never say anything out loud, because it doesn't really matter to me and I'm wrong too often anyway.
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: Brentwood on May 30, 2011, 05:04:29 PM
I was once chastised because I say my Norwegian last name "wrong".  ::)
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: hobish on May 30, 2011, 08:53:11 PM
I think this kind of thing is pretty common, to be honest. People have vague stereotypes in their heads that they're barely aware of. I lived in various overseas countries for years and was often told I didn't look Australian. Of course, the person would then have no idea what they thought 'Australian' should look like. A few times it was apparently because I had an 'English face'. (Yeah, no idea about that one).

Even inside the United States, we deal in stereotypes by state. Texans, of which I am one, all have scads of guns, big cars preferably with longhorn horns mounted on the front, and oil wells in our back yards.

...and giant belt buckles. Shiny ones.  :)


Being from New Jersey = huge teased out hair, fake tan, and a love for all things mall. Also a terrible accent and possible mob ties.

Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: StarDrifter on May 30, 2011, 11:24:54 PM
I just copped this one today!

Apparently not only do I not *look* Australian, I don't *sound* Australian and I say my (Scottish, married into the family) last name wrong.

Not sure how I can not look Aussie, we're pretty multicultural. And last I checked, my accent has always been as Australian as Hugh Jackman or Cate Blanchett's!

Then there's the last name question... I just pronounce it the way my (Scottish!) FIL taught me!
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: #borecore on May 31, 2011, 12:42:22 AM
I don't look American, either ... I guess. Americans and non-Americans have regularly told me that since I was a kid.

Frankly if I can be guessed as Jewish (check, though I don't get why Jewish=Un-American), German (check), Latina (nope), Italian (nope), Polish (check), Russian (check) or Middle Eastern (nope), I'd say that makes me pretty darned American Mutt of the Highest Order.

People don't pick up on my other Eastern Eurobits or my English and Irish bits. Guess those have faded out of the gene pool faster.
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: Brentwood on May 31, 2011, 02:04:47 AM
I just copped this one today!

Apparently not only do I not *look* Australian, I don't *sound* Australian and I say my (Scottish, married into the family) last name wrong.

Not sure how I can not look Aussie, we're pretty multicultural. And last I checked, my accent has always been as Australian as Hugh Jackman or Cate Blanchett's!

Then there's the last name question... I just pronounce it the way my (Scottish!) FIL taught me!

Well, we can just say our last names wrong together, then. Given that my grandfather was a first-generation American who learned how to pronounce the name from his Norwegian-born father, then raised my father, who raised me, I'd say I'm doing okay. ;)
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: Mopsy428 on July 04, 2011, 07:36:37 PM
I was once chastised because I say my Norwegian last name "wrong".  ::)
I once had a student correct my pronunciation of her last name. She then said, "It's French!" I said, "I know. I am fluent in French. I've lived in Quebec for many, many years. 'X' is how you pronounce your name in French."  ::)
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: Mental Magpie on July 04, 2011, 10:30:21 PM
My German/Italian/English/Irish/French sister was mistaken for a Chinese woman by a Chinese man.  I would like to add more to the explanation, but I am afraid I may insult someone.
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: Xallanthia on July 05, 2011, 11:56:24 AM
I've been told quite a few times that I look Russian, which is strange as I'm very English and all my ancestors for at least the last few hundred years were from the British Isles somewhere.  I can only assume its because I'm pale?

My husband gets this all the time, and for the same reason (he is predominantly English, as far as we know, but very, very pale (burns on a cloudy day in winter) and with very light hair).  Apparently this means he looks like the Russian upper class.  We go to a Russian church (Orthodox) and people have approached him to ask if he speaks English.  Also, upon first meeting nearly everyone is surprised that he is a convert.  No one is surprised that I am (mostly Italian and look it).

It's not just the Orthodox, though.  His last job was as a pharmacy tech at a grocery store pharmacy that served, among other customers, the Orthodox Jewish portion of the town (primarily Russian Jews).  It was right next to an apartment complex called Shalom Towers, to give you an idea :P.  One of their older customers asked for him as "The Russian One" and refused to take the word of DH's coworker, who was actually a Russian Jew, that he was not Russian and definitely not Jewish.  When DH came over and confirmed both these things the customer said, "Well, he has a Russian soul!"
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: Xallanthia on July 05, 2011, 11:59:23 AM
My German/Italian/English/Irish/French sister was mistaken for a Chinese woman by a Chinese man.  I would like to add more to the explanation, but I am afraid I may insult someone.

That's very strange, but I suppose when someone is expecting a certain result (like a Chinese woman in China), and a certain mix of phenotypic cocktail is going on...  *shrug*

I mean, there was a priest at my last church who was half Mexican and half Lebanese.  He married a native Alaskan (I believe she was Aleut).  Their son?  Looks Chinese.
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: Mental Magpie on July 05, 2011, 02:03:30 PM
My German/Italian/English/Irish/French sister was mistaken for a Chinese woman by a Chinese man.  I would like to add more to the explanation, but I am afraid I may insult someone.

That's very strange, but I suppose when someone is expecting a certain result (like a Chinese woman in China), and a certain mix of phenotypic cocktail is going on...  *shrug*

I mean, there was a priest at my last church who was half Mexican and half Lebanese.  He married a native Alaskan (I believe she was Aleut).  Their son?  Looks Chinese.

FWIW, we were in a small mall in rural Pennsylvania...As with the cocktail you mention above about your priest's family, I could see where a combination of things could make someone look like a different nationality.  However, that is not so with my sister; especially with her abundance of freckles, I cannot see anything Asian about her.

We have also been mistaken as twins on numerous occasions despite her being 2.5 years older than I; our favorite is when identical twins mistake us for identical twins specifically because we look more like fraternal twins than we do identical twins.  You can tell we are sisters, that much is certain, but I cannot fathom how someone can mistake us as twins.
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: Twik on July 06, 2011, 08:33:21 AM
I was once chastised because I say my Norwegian last name "wrong".  ::)
I once had a student correct my pronunciation of her last name. She then said, "It's French!" I said, "I know. I am fluent in French. I've lived in Quebec for many, many years. 'X' is how you pronounce your name in French."  ::)

Well, technically, I'd say the owner of the name is the one who has the last word on how it's pronounced.
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: iridaceae on July 06, 2011, 08:44:39 AM
I was once chastised because I say my Norwegian last name "wrong".  ::)
I once had a student correct my pronunciation of her last name. She then said, "It's French!" I said, "I know. I am fluent in French. I've lived in Quebec for many, many years. 'X' is how you pronounce your name in French."  ::)

Well, technically, I'd say the owner of the name is the one who has the last word on how it's pronounced.

I agree. Especially in the US lots of names get their pronunciation anglicized over time.
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: Mopsy428 on July 06, 2011, 09:56:32 AM
I was once chastised because I say my Norwegian last name "wrong".  ::)
I once had a student correct my pronunciation of her last name. She then said, "It's French!" I said, "I know. I am fluent in French. I've lived in Quebec for many, many years. 'X' is how you pronounce your name in French."  ::)

Well, technically, I'd say the owner of the name is the one who has the last word on how it's pronounced.
I never said otherwise. My point is not that she was "mispronouncing her name". I couldn't care less if it was the French version or not. The point is that I was pronouncing her name as it would be pronounced in French--so her correction of her name to the Anglicized version followed by her snotty "It's French!" was a bit ridiculous.
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: girlysprite on July 07, 2011, 04:20:08 AM
Sometimes you don't even have to mix nationalities to get strange results. My mother's side of the family is all Dutch - the family tree has been tracked back for a couple of hundred years. Yet, and uncle of mine has narrow eyes. He producted a daughter with the same eyes, and a very white skin and very black sleek hair to go with it. Many people thought he adopted a child from Asia. When looking at old family pictures, I can see that my great grandma had the same look - she looked like she came from indonesia. We have no idea where it comes from.


Now, I;m bad with guessing nationalities, but one thing always interested me. There is one paticular type of face that I have only seen on UK males. No all UK males look like that (not so many, in fact), but if a man has this face type, he's bound to be from the UK. I can not explain it very well, so here are some pictures from Richard hammond and Tennant.
(http://images.icnetwork.co.uk/upl/birmmail/jun2009/2/5/richard-hammond-42487834.jpg)(http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-xvfI9ZpSfKE/TWzy9Mii6yI/AAAAAAAABkE/xqxpKzbJ_To/s1600/tennant.jpg)
I think it's the narrow lips, somewhat bulgy eyes and narrow nose. I once had a UK friend who also had that kind of face. Please tell me I;m not crazy for noticing this. :p
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: Irishkitty on July 07, 2011, 04:57:56 AM
I get told all the time that I don't sound Irish, but then they can't tell me what they think I sound like.
It may be because I don't have a very strong accent. "Mid atlantic" or "West Brit" are often used to describe an accent which is nice (posh) accent but doesn't sound like it's from one particular region. (In the same way that someone from Texas has a different accent from someone in New York, and then there are variations within a state, even within a town).

Once an Australian told me that I looked very Irish, curious I asked them what did an Irish person look like? "Oh, well, red hair and green eyes and em... well you still look Irish!"
(I have blond hair and grey eyes)



Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: Spoder on July 07, 2011, 06:22:11 AM
Sometimes you don't even have to mix nationalities to get strange results. My mother's side of the family is all Dutch - the family tree has been tracked back for a couple of hundred years. Yet, and uncle of mine has narrow eyes. He producted a daughter with the same eyes, and a very white skin and very black sleek hair to go with it. Many people thought he adopted a child from Asia. When looking at old family pictures, I can see that my great grandma had the same look - she looked like she came from indonesia. We have no idea where it comes from.


Now, I;m bad with guessing nationalities, but one thing always interested me. There is one paticular type of face that I have only seen on UK males. No all UK males look like that (not so many, in fact), but if a man has this face type, he's bound to be from the UK. I can not explain it very well, so here are some pictures from Richard hammond and Tennant.
(http://images.icnetwork.co.uk/upl/birmmail/jun2009/2/5/richard-hammond-42487834.jpg)(http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-xvfI9ZpSfKE/TWzy9Mii6yI/AAAAAAAABkE/xqxpKzbJ_To/s1600/tennant.jpg)
I think it's the narrow lips, somewhat bulgy eyes and narrow nose. I once had a UK friend who also had that kind of face. Please tell me I;m not crazy for noticing this. :p

That's so funny, because I actually *do* get what you mean.

To me, there's a 'Caucasian American woman' face. Probably some minuscule percentage of Caucasian American women have this face, but nearly all women who have this face are Caucasian American women. Errr...make sense?  ;D.

(I can't possibly describe this face but I know it when I see it).
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: Mental Magpie on July 07, 2011, 01:56:41 PM
Sometimes you don't even have to mix nationalities to get strange results. My mother's side of the family is all Dutch - the family tree has been tracked back for a couple of hundred years. Yet, and uncle of mine has narrow eyes. He producted a daughter with the same eyes, and a very white skin and very black sleek hair to go with it. Many people thought he adopted a child from Asia. When looking at old family pictures, I can see that my great grandma had the same look - she looked like she came from indonesia. We have no idea where it comes from.


Now, I;m bad with guessing nationalities, but one thing always interested me. There is one paticular type of face that I have only seen on UK males. No all UK males look like that (not so many, in fact), but if a man has this face type, he's bound to be from the UK. I can not explain it very well, so here are some pictures from Richard hammond and Tennant.
(http://images.icnetwork.co.uk/upl/birmmail/jun2009/2/5/richard-hammond-42487834.jpg)(http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-xvfI9ZpSfKE/TWzy9Mii6yI/AAAAAAAABkE/xqxpKzbJ_To/s1600/tennant.jpg)
I think it's the narrow lips, somewhat bulgy eyes and narrow nose. I once had a UK friend who also had that kind of face. Please tell me I;m not crazy for noticing this. :p

I do the same thing!  I look at someone and just think "Wow, he looks British" (FWIW, I lived in England for 6 months, but this thought happened even before that); and the pictures are almost the face I see, too, when I think that.
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: ═korna on July 07, 2011, 03:33:40 PM
I'm mistaken all the time as both Polish and Jewish. I'm neither ;D
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: Larrabee on July 07, 2011, 04:01:26 PM
Sometimes you don't even have to mix nationalities to get strange results. My mother's side of the family is all Dutch - the family tree has been tracked back for a couple of hundred years. Yet, and uncle of mine has narrow eyes. He producted a daughter with the same eyes, and a very white skin and very black sleek hair to go with it. Many people thought he adopted a child from Asia. When looking at old family pictures, I can see that my great grandma had the same look - she looked like she came from indonesia. We have no idea where it comes from.


Now, I;m bad with guessing nationalities, but one thing always interested me. There is one paticular type of face that I have only seen on UK males. No all UK males look like that (not so many, in fact), but if a man has this face type, he's bound to be from the UK. I can not explain it very well, so here are some pictures from Richard hammond and Tennant.
(http://images.icnetwork.co.uk/upl/birmmail/jun2009/2/5/richard-hammond-42487834.jpg)(http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-xvfI9ZpSfKE/TWzy9Mii6yI/AAAAAAAABkE/xqxpKzbJ_To/s1600/tennant.jpg)
I think it's the narrow lips, somewhat bulgy eyes and narrow nose. I once had a UK friend who also had that kind of face. Please tell me I;m not crazy for noticing this. :p

I know exactly what you mean, and I'd add Gareth Malone to the list:

(http://pics.livejournal.com/rakspatel/pic/0002q1c2)
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: Minmom3 on July 08, 2011, 12:43:11 AM
Sometimes you don't even have to mix nationalities to get strange results. My mother's side of the family is all Dutch - the family tree has been tracked back for a couple of hundred years. Yet, and uncle of mine has narrow eyes. He producted a daughter with the same eyes, and a very white skin and very black sleek hair to go with it. Many people thought he adopted a child from Asia. When looking at old family pictures, I can see that my great grandma had the same look - she looked like she came from indonesia. We have no idea where it comes from.


Now, I;m bad with guessing nationalities, but one thing always interested me. There is one paticular type of face that I have only seen on UK males. No all UK males look like that (not so many, in fact), but if a man has this face type, he's bound to be from the UK. I can not explain it very well, so here are some pictures from Richard hammond and Tennant.
(http://images.icnetwork.co.uk/upl/birmmail/jun2009/2/5/richard-hammond-42487834.jpg)(http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-xvfI9ZpSfKE/TWzy9Mii6yI/AAAAAAAABkE/xqxpKzbJ_To/s1600/tennant.jpg)
I think it's the narrow lips, somewhat bulgy eyes and narrow nose. I once had a UK friend who also had that kind of face. Please tell me I;m not crazy for noticing this. :p

That's so funny, because I actually *do* get what you mean.

To me, there's a 'Caucasian American woman' face. Probably some minuscule percentage of Caucasian American women have this face, but nearly all women who have this face are Caucasian American women. Errr...make sense?  ;D.

(I can't possibly describe this face but I know it when I see it).

Even going back several hundred years, isn't it possible that an ancestor is both Indonesian and Dutch?  I thought I read that a lot of Dutch men working there married Indonesian women (more didn't marry them...) but this ancestor DID marry one and brought her back to Holland with him when he returned?  Didn't the Dutch have huge holdings in South EAst Asia back in the 1500-1700 time frame?  Am I nuts and mistaken?
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: Ferrets on July 08, 2011, 05:31:11 AM
There is one particular type of face that I have only seen on UK males.
[...]
I think it's the narrow lips, somewhat bulgy eyes and narrow nose.
[...]
Please tell me I'm not crazy for noticing this. :p

Y'know, that reminded me of some TVTropes commentary (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/Maus) on Art Spiegelman's Maus. (For those unfamiliar with the work, it's a Holocaust memoir in graphic novel format, recounting the experiences of the author's parents, in which representatives of each nationality are portrayed as different species of anthropomorphic animals.)

Quote
Every shown nationality was given its own animal, except for the Jews which are mice no matter what nation they came from.
[...]
British are fish.
[...]
The English are (or at least were) associated with fish in Eastern Europe, partly because they live on an island and consequently eat a lot of fish, but also because to many Eastern Europeans they look like fish - sharp, narrow noses, strong upper lips, and weak chins are more common among the English than among Poles or Ukrainians.

So no, girlysprite: you're not crazy. ;)
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: girlysprite on July 08, 2011, 08:21:58 AM


Y'know, that reminded me of some TVTropes commentary (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/Maus) on Art Spiegelman's Maus. (For those unfamiliar with the work, it's a Holocaust memoir in graphic novel format, recounting the experiences of the author's parents, in which representatives of each nationality are portrayed as different species of anthropomorphic animals.)


*Tries to steer around the tv tropes link*
*fails*
(http://cache.ohinternet.com/images/b/b9/I%27ll_just_look_at_this_one_article_on_tvtropes.jpg)
(Am I the only one who lost at least half an hour to that black hole?)

Ahem, back on topic. I wonder, if anyone else has found certain features that only (some) people from a certain area seem to possess? I mean, apart from the obvious features and the cliches of course (like skin and hair color)

Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: Mental Magpie on July 09, 2011, 12:03:31 AM


Y'know, that reminded me of some TVTropes commentary (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/Maus) on Art Spiegelman's Maus. (For those unfamiliar with the work, it's a Holocaust memoir in graphic novel format, recounting the experiences of the author's parents, in which representatives of each nationality are portrayed as different species of anthropomorphic animals.)


*Tries to steer around the tv tropes link*
*fails*
(http://cache.ohinternet.com/images/b/b9/I%27ll_just_look_at_this_one_article_on_tvtropes.jpg)
(Am I the only one who lost at least half an hour to that black hole?)

Ahem, back on topic. I wonder, if anyone else has found certain features that only (some) people from a certain area seem to possess? I mean, apart from the obvious features and the cliches of course (like skin and hair color)

*shaking* I did it, I did it!  I know I shouldn't have, you said it was a black hole, but I didn't listen, I didn't listen!  Will I ever make it back?!
(I've never heard of it, and now that I started clicking, I don't think I'll ever stop...)
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: GreenEyedHawk on September 03, 2011, 08:34:03 PM
I think I mentioned in my intro post that I'm Canadian, Albertan, to be more specific.  I'm Prairie born and bred.  I *think* my background is English, Irish and Scottish (the British Isles, anyways) and some French I think also.   To my ear, people from Alberta do NOT have an accent, but Easterners do; the further east you go, the stronger it gets. My father is from northern Ontario, and to me he says a few words strangely. (tagger=tiger),  Newfoundlanders have a pea-soup thick accent to me, and that's as far east as you can get and still be in Canada. 

And yet, I've been told by American friends that I "sound Canadian" or "look Canadian."  I didn't realise the prairies had an accent specific to them (I totally don't think we do), nor that Canadians had a specific appearance to them.  Like the US, we're a melting-pot sort of country and you can find folks of all different backgrounds here.

And as someone else mentioned, I've also been subjected to the stereotype that we live in igloos and drive dogsleds to work.  Others might; I can't speak for everyone, but I live in a regular house, and I take the bus to work...
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: magician5 on September 03, 2011, 08:52:03 PM
All very well, but you'll have to admit that you drink Moosehead all the way there and back ... got ya, eh?
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: GreenEyedHawk on September 03, 2011, 08:53:13 PM
Not Moosehead...Molson, eh!
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: Mental Magpie on September 04, 2011, 01:40:27 AM
I think I mentioned in my intro post that I'm Canadian, Albertan, to be more specific.  I'm Prairie born and bred.  I *think* my background is English, Irish and Scottish (the British Isles, anyways) and some French I think also.   To my ear, people from Alberta do NOT have an accent, but Easterners do; the further east you go, the stronger it gets. My father is from northern Ontario, and to me he says a few words strangely. (tagger=tiger),  Newfoundlanders have a pea-soup thick accent to me, and that's as far east as you can get and still be in Canada. 

And yet, I've been told by American friends that I "sound Canadian" or "look Canadian."  I didn't realise the prairies had an accent specific to them (I totally don't think we do), nor that Canadians had a specific appearance to them.  Like the US, we're a melting-pot sort of country and you can find folks of all different backgrounds here.

And as someone else mentioned, I've also been subjected to the stereotype that we live in igloos and drive dogsleds to work.  Others might; I can't speak for everyone, but I live in a regular house, and I take the bus to work...

My mother is Pennsylvanian born and raised; she says "tagger" for "tiger", and it slays me.
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: Thyisa on October 30, 2011, 06:46:33 PM
My Grandmother, who was tall, skinny and blonde was mistaken for a Swede, by an airline stewardess.

I was asked if I was part asian when I dyed my hair. Except I dyed my hair a very dark pink, so no idea how that works. I am also a French/German/English/Irish mix, though I have been told I look very French. Except that is the smallest part of the mix and only from French people who came over quite some time ago. But I don't know how French people are supposed to look, so I hope it was a compliment?

My sister and I are mistaken for Brits online. She gets mistaken for one since she's had editorial training and memorized Strunk and White. She often edits things for friends and her command of English makes people assume she is British.

I get mistaken for being British because I drink tea and type 'Loo' rather then bathroom as it is shorter. Sometimes I just need to mention tea and I get mistaken for one. Through I perfer Irish Breakfast to English!

As for regional sterotypes, I guess I fit mine to a T. Through I am from San Francisco, so when people try to joke around about The Californian sterotype, I feel the urge to say no, I'm from the other end of the state. If you're going to make fun of me for being Californian, you have to use the sterotype of doing yoga, eating granola and being vegetarian!
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: Cami on November 28, 2011, 03:23:44 PM
When we were in Italy, although we dressed to fit in, we were always instantly pegged as American. I remember once walking into a take-out cafe and the clerk barely glanced up before he said, "Americans? Coke -- that way." I asked our guide why we were so easy to peg as Americans and she gave us three reasons why Americans are easy to pick out:

1. Americans smile. Other nationalities do not smile with anything close to the amount Americans do, especially when they walk into a shop and automatically smile at a clerk.
2. When Americans smile, you see the teeth.  Perfect teeth=American.
3. Americans do not have a discernable physical type, so therefore when you see someone without an obvious nationality, we assume they are American. If in doubt, smile at them,  then they'll smile at you and see #1.


Ahem, back on topic. I wonder, if anyone else has found certain features that only (some) people from a certain area seem to possess? I mean, apart from the obvious features and the cliches of course (like skin and hair color)

When we first moved out to the midwest 20+ years ago, three times in the first year I had a conversation that went like this:

Them: You don't look white. Are you white?
Me: Excuse me?
Them: Your looks confuse me. You seem to be white, but you can't be.
Me: Excuuuuse me?
Them: Well, you have black hair, so you can't be white.
Me: Excuse me?
Them: Well, Indians and Asians and black people and  Mexicans have black hair. But not white people.
Me: Are you kidding me?
Them: No. We all know that white people have lighter colored hair.
Me: Oh really. So what race is Elizabeth Taylor? Or Sophia Loren?
Them: Hmm. That's a really good question. And Sophia Loren is Italian, which isn't really white either, so that doesn't count.
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: Mental Magpie on November 28, 2011, 03:33:30 PM
I quickly got pegged as an American because of my teeth; a teacher initially did, too, until she revealed she was Canadian.  The people doing the pegging said, "Close enough!"

But holy moly, CamiCar!  What about the "Black Irish" with their green eyes and black hair?  I have never, ever heard hair coloring to be the determining factor.

However, I did have someone tell me that I'm not white because I'm part Italian...that really confused me, especially because I'm pretty pasty half of the year and don't think I could be mistaken for anything but.
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: Cami on December 01, 2011, 01:30:13 PM

But holy moly, CamiCar!  What about the "Black Irish" with their green eyes and black hair?  I have never, ever heard hair coloring to be the determining factor.

Black Irish -- that's me to the tee, actually. When I pointed that out to those idiots I mentioned above, the response was, "No, no. Irish people have RED hair. RED hair."
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: Corvid on December 11, 2011, 10:36:27 AM
I was mistaken for German a few times when I was stationed in Frankfurt, but I chalked that up to me being a female, out of uniform, and reasonably fashionably attired.

I was also mistaken for Canadian while in Wales, but that was understandable considering that I am originally from Michigan and a Canadian men's choir from Ontario was visiting the same town.  Yes, that's right.  While visiting Wales I got to listen to a Canadian men's choir.  That's pretty much like going to a British pub and getting handed a chili dog instead of a steak and kidney pie.  Not only that, they sang "The Battle Hymn of the Republic", practically the anthem for the American north during the American Civil War.  I kept a straight face then, but I did ruefully crack up later.
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: Portugal79 on December 15, 2011, 10:10:29 AM
this happens to me all the time, i am from South American heritage on my dad's side and anglo-saxon on my mums. So i am shaped like a viking with an unusual surname...you have no idea when people assume i am from said country. When my brother married his wife, we all sat round and made it clear the life she would now have. but she did it anyway :D
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: ------ on April 13, 2012, 04:00:48 PM
I must have the kind of face that people assume is part of their ethnicity or something. I am an American of German descent (Bavaria, to be exact, which is in the southern part of that country). I have pale skin, brown/amber eyes and (naturally) dark hair. I've had people mistake me for all kinds of ethnicities...I've had people ask me if I'm Latina, Mexican, one guy even asked me once if I'm from Guatemala. Now, my mother's family was from Austria/Hungary, so my mom had kind of olive skin with the dark hair and brown eyes...but her features were very Anglo. And her skin wasn't that dark. My brother and one of my sister's have my mother's skin tone, while my other sister and myself are as pale as the Bride of Frankenstein. I think people often project their own ideas about ethnicity on others...I think it's just natural. It's silly to assume, of course, but kind of fun to be on the receiving end of it for me. I like to think I'd make a great spy, because obviously I could blend in...anywhere.  8)
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: Piratelvr1121 on April 13, 2012, 04:31:56 PM
I quickly got pegged as an American because of my teeth; a teacher initially did, too, until she revealed she was Canadian.  The people doing the pegging said, "Close enough!"

But holy moly, CamiCar!  What about the "Black Irish" with their green eyes and black hair?  I have never, ever heard hair coloring to be the determining factor.


However, I did have someone tell me that I'm not white because I'm part Italian...that really confused me, especially because I'm pretty pasty half of the year and don't think I could be mistaken for anything but.

That's the first thing I thought of too!  As for the typical Irish look, I've heard that the red hair and blue eyes combo is becoming more and more rare and its more common to see brown hair and green eyes. 
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: afbluebelle on April 18, 2012, 10:57:40 PM
I'm a mutt of muttley proportions (Irish, English, German, French, Italian, Native American*, Russian, who knows what else)

In Kandahar, the Canadian complex was next to us. There were several guys there that refused to believe I wasn't one of them. What made it even funnier was my aunt sent me a shirt from her Calgary trip that said "Made in Canada". The jujitsu class decided that was enough evidence to convict me of falsyfying my Canadianness.  I guess my family roots met in the middle and I was never aware of it (mom's family is in Alaska, dad's family is in Colorado/Texas)


*Native American is actually Native Canadian... the tribe I have ties to is near/around the Hecate Straight. We never found out if it was the Haida or Tlingit tribe.
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: Harriet on April 18, 2012, 11:09:49 PM
On my last trip overseas I was told I couldn't possibly be American since I was too skinny.

I honestly didn't have a clue what to say.
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: WolfWay on April 19, 2012, 02:50:23 AM
I was once chastised because I say my Norwegian last name "wrong".  ::)
I once had a student correct my pronunciation of her last name. She then said, "It's French!" I said, "I know. I am fluent in French. I've lived in Quebec for many, many years. 'X' is how you pronounce your name in French."  ::)
I have a first name that is actually a French surname and a last name that looks French (but isn't, it has an ending that makes it look French).

I don't pronounce my name with any sort of French pronunciation, but I once had a teacher (during roll call) make a valiant effort to pronounce my full name with an flamboyant roll on the "r" and a silent "s" at the end and I've sat there (along with all my baffled classmates) going "Who is that? Do we have a new person in the class? Oh wait! That's my name in a French accent!"  ;D
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: JonGirl on April 19, 2012, 04:53:06 AM




Someone told me I couldn't be Australian, that I had to be European because I am "too white".
 :-\
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: Lynn2000 on April 19, 2012, 08:50:00 AM
Someone told me I couldn't be Australian, that I had to be European because I am "too white".
 :-\

Hmm, do you think they meant "pale," as in, there's a stereotype that all Australians are really suntanned? That's all I've got...
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: Sophia on April 19, 2012, 01:01:56 PM
When we were in Italy, although we dressed to fit in, we were always instantly pegged as American. I remember once walking into a take-out cafe and the clerk barely glanced up before he said, "Americans? Coke -- that way." I asked our guide why we were so easy to peg as Americans and she gave us three reasons why Americans are easy to pick out:

1. Americans smile. Other nationalities do not smile with anything close to the amount Americans do, especially when they walk into a shop and automatically smile at a clerk.
2. When Americans smile, you see the teeth.  Perfect teeth=American.
3. Americans do not have a discernable physical type, so therefore when you see someone without an obvious nationality, we assume they are American. If in doubt, smile at them,  then they'll smile at you and see #1. ...

So, that explains it!  I visited my Swedish friend in Sweden (she'd been an exchange student).  If I kept my mouth shut and let her do the talking.  People seemed to assume I was Swedish.  (I am half-Norwegian)  The second I opened my mouth, people's face would change.  I could read their mind, it was "Oh!  You are American!"   I even experimented with just opening my mouth and then closing it without saying anything.  Still got the
"You are an American look."  I also am a smiler, even for an American.  My husband said I even have a slight smile when I am crying.  I hate jeans and athletic shoes, so I wondered what gave me away. 
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: GreenEyedHawk on April 19, 2012, 10:15:01 PM
I was pegged as a Canadian by a group of people from Toronto while I was standing in line at an outdoor cafe.  In Stirling.  I was happy to see some fellow Canucks but bewildered as to how they'd picked me out as Canadian when I was just a nondescript white person in a group of other nondescript white people.  I hadn't been speaking, so there was no way they'd have known I didn't have a Scottish accent and my background is Scottish so I figured I looked pretty much like the locals.  Finally flummoxed, I asked how they'd known I was Canadian.  One of them wordlessly pointed at my shirt.  I was wearing a hockey jersey emblazoned with the logo of my local NHL team. 

Derp. :-\ ::)
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: Mental Magpie on April 19, 2012, 10:20:22 PM
I was pegged as a Canadian by a group of people from Toronto while I was standing in line at an outdoor cafe.  In Stirling.  I was happy to see some fellow Canucks but bewildered as to how they'd picked me out as Canadian when I was just a nondescript white person in a group of other nondescript white people.  I hadn't been speaking, so there was no way they'd have known I didn't have a Scottish accent and my background is Scottish so I figured I looked pretty much like the locals.  Finally flummoxed, I asked how they'd known I was Canadian.  One of them wordlessly pointed at my shirt.  I was wearing a hockey jersey emblazoned with the logo of my local NHL team. 

Derp. :-\ ::)

Haha!  I love when I forget which shirt I'm wearing, then someone comments on it, and my brain is left to catch up.  Happens more than it should...
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: Bast on April 20, 2012, 09:33:13 AM
When I was in Germany for a semester, people always thought I was French.  Granted, I was near fluent in French at the time, so I played along, but it was rather disconcerting the first few times, and then when I was in Paris and was stopped by an (obvious) tourist who asked where the Metro was!  Feeling slightly wicked, the instructions were given in French, with my rather Paresian accent.  The only times that I was pegged as American was when I was with my classmates, who did fit the stereotypes of "loud, slightly rude, partying college kids."

My background, however, is British/German/Polish.
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: Sophia on April 20, 2012, 09:43:43 AM
One thing I could never figure out is that when I was in Taiwan on business, several people spoke German to me.  When it was the doorman at the hotel I thought it was excellent customer service and that they'd made note that I worked for a German company.  But then it happened when I was shopping or doing tourist things.  I am an American of Norwegian/Czech mix. 
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: guihong on April 24, 2012, 08:48:47 PM
I was always mistaken for a Russian in China, but the city we were in was way up in the northeast, and had not seen many Americans.  If you weren't Chinese or Korean (we were about 50 km from the border), you were a Russian.   The two African-Americans in our group really got stared at on buses.

The most recent generations in my lineage are everything in the U.K., German, and somewhere in what is now Poland, ethnicity unknown.  I do in fact have some Russian blood, but way back in the mists of time.  I'm also a Grand Mutt of Muttley Proportions ;).
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: Martienne on April 24, 2012, 11:09:41 PM
I must have the kind of face that people assume is part of their ethnicity or something. I am an American of German descent (Bavaria, to be exact, which is in the southern part of that country). I have pale skin, brown/amber eyes and (naturally) dark hair. I've had people mistake me for all kinds of ethnicities...I've had people ask me if I'm Latina, Mexican, one guy even asked me once if I'm from Guatemala. Now, my mother's family was from Austria/Hungary, so my mom had kind of olive skin with the dark hair and brown eyes...but her features were very Anglo. And her skin wasn't that dark. My brother and one of my sister's have my mother's skin tone, while my other sister and myself are as pale as the Bride of Frankenstein. I think people often project their own ideas about ethnicity on others...I think it's just natural. It's silly to assume, of course, but kind of fun to be on the receiving end of it for me. I like to think I'd make a great spy, because obviously I could blend in...anywhere.  8)

I say the same thing about myself! Which is funny, because my lineage on my dad's side is German as well (he's 3rd/4th generation American, but everyone married German descendants). My mother is from Central America.

Actually, the way I word it is that I must have the most generic set of features of ambiguous ethnicity possible, because I don't get people asking me about (or assuming about) my ethnicity so much as I have people come up to me and start addressing me as if they know me. I'm pretty sure that few, of any, of these incidents have been repeats either. I always get addressed as a different name (I have been Michelle and Tiffany and several others) or when they assume I went to high school with their daughter or whatever, they always mention a different school. I have dopplegangers who have graduated from three area high schools!

When I have had people assume my ethnicity, I'm either assumed to be part (Asian) Indian, or part black.
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: s on June 05, 2012, 03:52:55 PM

Maybe it's normal in a country where people do tend to have similar features. But it still seems rude to me to basically call someone out for not looking a certain way.

I am constantly mistaken for being South American.  Not only am I an American, I'm not even of South American heritage.  One time I was mistaken for Brazilian three times within three hours.  People come out of nowhere, speaking Portuguese to me, which I do not understand.

There is no "American" look.  I think part of the world expects us all to be blond haired and blue eyed, wearing overalls and a baseball cap, with a bald eagle on one arm and carrying an apple pie in the other.


I'm American and live in an ethnically diverse area so it confounds me when I get this.  I don't get it too often but recently I have.  I have been attending a local university to get a TEFL certificate for teaching English.  There are a lot of international students that attend this university and specifically in the TEFL program.  Ironically, the program has more nonnative English speakers than native English speakers!

Whenever I get asked why I don't look like "everybody else" for some reason I feel the need to explain by giving my ethnic background.  Then again I shouldn't have to because this is the US and the area I live in is also ethnically diverse!  Maybe when the next round of classes start and I get this I'll try just saying "What do you mean?"  ???


Out of my 4 ethnicities I only really identify with 1 of them plus being American.  Another one I like some of the food but that's about it.  I do identify all 4 ethnicities if people are curious of what I am or if I'm speaking to someone of one of those particular ethnicities I'll so "Oh yeah I'm 1/4 Ethnicity."   I feel like I want to stop doing that though and just say I'm 1/2 American 1/2 Ethnicity to make it easier since I don't identify with the other 3.  Plus, when I say I'm also part ethnicity for one of them, the people of that ethnicity pretend like I didn't even say it.  They just completely ignore it!  I feel like if you are surprised or can't believe it or don't think I look it just say so!  That's better than a snub!  I mean what is with the snub?   :o  And this is usually with Americanized people of that ethnicity, born and raised in the US.


Outside of school, if I do get reactions about what I look like it's usually surprise and intrigue or surprise/disbelief and the need to point out that I don't look it at all which gets annoying after awhile, especially because it always seems to be done in a negative way.  For example, I was having a conversation with a co-worker awhile back.  I forget what we were talking about but it came up about me being certain ethnicity and she said "Well you don't look like it at all," and I was like "Ummm... ok..." mainly cause I found it kind of rude especially with the tone she used.  Then she said "Well you don't!" in an even ruder tone!  It's like what's your point exactly?   ???
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: Pippen on June 08, 2012, 04:49:07 PM
Sometimes you can just tell. I had a Slovak guy staying with me who went to the supermarket and this woman comes up and asks him 'You're Slovakian aren't you?'. He was 'Yes. How did you know?' and she replied 'My husband is Slovakian and I can just tell.' then she wandered off. He wasn't wearing any branded items or bags etc so it kind of freaked him out.
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: Jocelyn on June 08, 2012, 10:40:12 PM
My niece is Korean. She's been mistaken for Chinese by Chinese people. When her son was an infant, a woman accosted my sister (his grandmother) demanding to know how she had custody of a Native American child. When my sister told me the story, I agreed that the grandson did look very much like the local Native American children, more than he looked Korean.
When I went to Germany with my father's side of the family to meet our German cousins, it was very striking: all the Americans were blond or redheaded, mostly with blue eyes, and most of the Germans were dark-haired and dark-eyed.
I have a friend who is Japanese-American. She once had a man argue with her that her surname is really Italian, so she must be Italian. Both her surname and appearance are very typically Japanese.
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: Mental Magpie on June 08, 2012, 11:04:37 PM
My niece is Korean. She's been mistaken for Chinese by Chinese people. When her son was an infant, a woman accosted my sister (his grandmother) demanding to know how she had custody of a Native American child. When my sister told me the story, I agreed that the grandson did look very much like the local Native American children, more than he looked Korean.
When I went to Germany with my father's side of the family to meet our German cousins, it was very striking: all the Americans were blond or redheaded, mostly with blue eyes, and most of the Germans were dark-haired and dark-eyed.
I have a friend who is Japanese-American. She once had a man argue with her that her surname is really Italian, so she must be Italian. Both her surname and appearance are very typically Japanese.

A man once tried to argue with Dark Sister that our last name wasn't German.  It is incredibly German, as was our grandfather who spoke fluent German because, oh wait, his parents had come over on a boat and he was raised bilingual.  I've never had anyone guess wrong when they guess the origin of my last name.
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: Bottlecaps on June 17, 2012, 07:01:01 PM
I would be halfway tempted, if someone said this to me, to say, "Funny that you mention that. You don't look like an idiot."

But that would be very, very rude - so don't do that. :-P
Title: Re: You don't look American.
Post by: Lady Snowdon on June 24, 2012, 09:43:00 AM
I am Irish/English/Scottish/Polish/Norwegian/Swedish.  Thanks to the lovely mashing of genetic types, I do not look like any particular ethnicity.  I'm just your average generic American mutt; brown hair, blue eyes, pale skin.  I don't get any comments on how I look, but I certainly get the "You don't sound like you're from here" comments!  I work in customer service, and I've had people assume I'm in India, I'm in Mexico, plus a random smattering of US states.  I live and work in Minnesota, but nobody seems to think that could possibly be true.  If I tell people where I am, I get comments like "you don't sound Minnesotan!" or "you're lying - you can't possibly be up there".   

My aunt is more of the Black Irish stereotype, with brown eyes, black hair, and very dark olivey skin.  She had a daughter who has blond hair, green eyes and very pale skin.  I know of at least two times where she was accused of not being my cousin's actual mother because "you look too different".