Author Topic: You don't look American.  (Read 46073 times)

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mbenedict

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You don't look American.
« on: May 08, 2011, 10:19:52 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.
 

Alida

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Re: You don't look American.
« Reply #1 on: May 08, 2011, 10:21:25 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.

mbenedict

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Re: You don't look American.
« Reply #2 on: May 08, 2011, 10:28:33 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.

MommyPenguin

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Re: You don't look American.
« Reply #3 on: May 08, 2011, 10:35:32 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?

Waltzing Matilda

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Re: You don't look American.
« Reply #4 on: May 10, 2011, 09:15:00 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  :)
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magdalena

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Re: You don't look American.
« Reply #5 on: May 10, 2011, 09:21:46 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)



Lynn2000

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Re: You don't look American.
« Reply #6 on: May 10, 2011, 09:49:54 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!
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Skoffin

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Re: You don't look American.
« Reply #7 on: May 10, 2011, 10:20:25 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

Shiraz_Much?

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Re: You don't look American.
« Reply #8 on: May 10, 2011, 10:23:16 AM »
Ummm...yeah...what does an American look like?  That is the weirdest comment.  ::)

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Rohanna

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Re: You don't look American.
« Reply #9 on: May 10, 2011, 04:13:37 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

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whiterose

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Re: You don't look American.
« Reply #10 on: May 11, 2011, 07:44:56 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".
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Larrabee

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Re: You don't look American.
« Reply #11 on: May 11, 2011, 08:28:29 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! 

zoidberg

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Re: You don't look American.
« Reply #12 on: May 11, 2011, 09:06:37 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...

Thuringwethyl

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Re: You don't look American.
« Reply #13 on: May 12, 2011, 01:16:24 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!

hobish

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Re: You don't look American.
« Reply #14 on: May 12, 2011, 01:47:40 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.

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