American Myths: All Americans have guns

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At least this shows that gun use has been declining, that’s reassuring…right? Right?

While I was in China, I often had students who were trying to apply for American student visas. One student told me that he’d tried twice, and was rejected both times.

Him: Why won’t the Americans accept me?

Me: What did you say during your visa interview?

Him: Well, he asked me what I thought about the US.

Me: What did you say?

Him: I said I think America is dangerous.

Me: Why would you say that?!

Him: Everyone has guns in the US. They’ll shoot me.

Me: …

Gee, I wonder why he was rejected both times.

Many Chinese people have this image of the United States as being a violent and dangerous place (mostly thanks to Hollywood and Chinese government propaganda). While it is true that the US is the country with the most gun deaths and injuries by far, as well as the highest guns per capita (94.3 out of 100), it’s still not everyone. People who have guns tend to have more than one. Also, having a gun doesn’t mean that you’ll use it, and especially not on other people.

This gun fear is pretty widespread among Chinese people too; a lot of them think that if they go to the US, their chances of being shot are pretty high.

Me: Why would they want to shoot you? (I thought that was a pretty reasonable question).

Them: Because they want to kill me!

Me:…but why?!

Them: I don’t know, because they have guns.

Um, I think there’s a flaw in reasoning here…

Or:

Them: I don’t want to go to Canada!

Me: Why?

Them: They all have guns!

Me: Uh, I think you mean the country down south…

Poor Canada.

 

 

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American Myths – Americans are “open”

I want to start posting beliefs about Americans that I’ve come across in the past few years, in hopes of dispelling them. And I’ve decided to start with the one that infuriates me most, the myth that all Americans are “open”.

During one of my first few days in China, I was invited to have dinner with my new friend and one of her male friends. Although I’m not usually a very social person, I figure it couldn’t hurt to make new friends. After the usual “how are you” and “where are you from”, the conversation turned to relationships. Which was fine; I’m not very sensitive about discussing my relationships at all. But the conversation quickly made a turn towards a topic no one should bring up at a first meeting.

Him: What’s your favorite sexual position? Have you ever had a threesome?

Me: Why would you even ask me that? It’s so inappropriate, I don’t even know you!

Him: Oh, I thought you American girls were “open”…

It didn’t take me too long to learn, that being described as “open” is basically an euphemism for slutty. “Open” means open to invitation from all men, and not open-minded like we take it to be. I still couldn’t understand why usually conservative Chinese men would ask these kinds of questions to a girl they barely knew, so I asked some of my Chinese friends. Some said that Chinese men feel they would “gain” something if I answered their question; if I act shocked, they can feign surprise and claim cultural ignorance. Some say that men generally get excited when talking about sex, and while Chinese girls would call them a pervert for asking those questions, they feel that an American girl wouldn’t.

Another time, while I was teaching, a student commented that he would like to get an American girlfriend when he goes to the US for university. I asked why he didn’t want one in China, and he said that girls are “easy” in American, while you’d have to work hard to get a girl in China.

To which I replied, “They wouldn’t be easy for you.” Don’t think he got it though.

Where are they getting these ideas from? American TV shows and movies, of course.

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They think all American girls are like this…

American TV shows and movies are very popular in China for both entertainment and educational value (learning English). Unfortunately they are also developing American stereotypes based on these sensationalist programs. I’m often asked, why do Americans have so much sex? Why do they sleep with everyone? Then they use the incestuous relationships in Gossip Girl as an example.

And it’s not only women who are affected. One of my friends from South Africa liked a Chinese girl and invited her to his house for dinner. He spent hours preparing a home-cooked meal for their date. According to him, she walked in, praised his food presentation, and then dragged him into the bedroom. He said that he really was just expecting to have a nice meal.

Although I wouldn’t call him a “victim” of this stereotype (he seemed quite pleased about it), Chinese women also seem to think that American men just want to have sex, and the way to “be American” was to have sex as quickly as possible. MenĀ  have complained that Chinese women have difficulty understanding that sex was not the only thing they wanted in a relationship, but also companionship and communication. Chinese women seem to think of American men as one-dimensional creatures after one thing.

In their defense, there are a lot of American men who are behaving just so in China. They brag about their conquests, sleep with a different woman every night, have tons of one-night stands and seem to be collecting Chinese women. But that’s no reason to categorize all American men as manwhores, especially as there are a lot of decent ones out there ( I snagged one myself).]

Recently, an American girl blogged about the sexual harassment she experienced in India (ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-1023053), targeted because she was “American”. This stereotype is being perpetuated all over the world, and it’s simply not true. We aren’t easy, we’re just open to sexual relations.

What American myths have you come across?