I think I’ve heard every stereotype under the sun about Americans, living in Europe as the part-time American that I am. (Part-time American; half American, half Dutch; both American and Dutch; Dutch with an American background – labels don’t really seem to cut it somehow.) But two tourists at the Nijmegen train station last week really took the cake – they asked me if their rail pass would give them a discount in Germany. I looked, and it seemed to be a normal Deutsche Bahn discount card, so I replied, yeah, sure, in Germany. I guess they picked something up from my tone, since one of them asked, “aren’t we in Germany any more?”
Well, no, ma’am, you’re in the Netherlands. To be fair, they’d probably just come off the international train that runs between the two countries, but still. It did really fit into the “Europe in 17 days” cliché – the type of American that thinks that Europe is a single entity, not a very diverse geographical region made up of more than fifty countries with very different cultures.
On the other hand, I know some Europeans forget about the diversity of American culture and expect all of the USA to be the same as on tv. That kind of annoys me as well, even as I understand the reasoning behind it. So I guess the moral of this blog post is to check beforehand in which country you’re getting off the train, so you won’t annoy any culturally sensitive locals you might encounter.