Via Media

Via Media


In a comment below, TSO, well, comments on Michael’s remark elsewhere of his experience of always being taken for…an American (or at least an English speaker) in Rome, even before he had ever opened his mouth. This had become somewhat of a running joke with him over the week, but I never really saw it in such stark relief as on the last Saturday we were there, and we were riding the train back from St. Paul St. Paul Outside the Walls. As I told you before, (really) traveling musicians, an adult male and two boys, hopped on board, set up shop, feverishly played, and then collected.

The little boy went around with his cup. "Grazie" he said to every one of the five or six people who gave to him.

To Michael: "Thank you."

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Ray from MN

posted March 18, 2006 at 6:13 am

When I was in the Army in Germany in the 60s, we figured we could often tell Americans by the haircuts and hair styles.

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Teresa Polk

posted March 18, 2006 at 10:13 am

I have found that if people’s first guess for me is not American, the most likely wrong guess is Dutch. My guess has been that an American accent must sound a little bit like a Dutch accent, and Dutch and American people look a little bit alike. Do other people find the same to be true for you?

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Fr. Stephanos, O.S.B.

posted March 18, 2006 at 11:02 am

As an American studying in Rome, I developed the ability to identify American tourists from a block away by their clothing and hairstyles.
I could also usually identify the English and the Germans–mostly by the clothing and hair of the women specifically.

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posted March 18, 2006 at 5:33 pm

I was always mistaken for a German in Europe and Africa, which I took as a bit of a compliment as unfortunately Americans were considered slovenly!

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posted March 19, 2006 at 9:32 am

I have lived in Holland, and am maried to a Dutchman, so I speak from experience:
The Dutch are VERY tall, long legged and slim and very healthy looking – and usually wear colorful clothes.
My husband is 6’4″, about 175 pounds and he is average for men. I am just over 5’8″, about 130 pounds and I was typical for women.
All Dutch speak English, most w/a slightly British accent and an unusual intonation.
In my opinion, the Dutch and Americans don’t really look or sound alike. Perhaps you are tall, slim and fair?

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posted March 19, 2006 at 2:53 pm

An American friend of ours lived in Germany long enough that his clothes and shoes were all German. He trained himself to walk with shorter steps so as to fit in better with the locals. One day, on a trip to Austria, he approached the registration desk at a hotel, and before he’d said a word, he was greeted in English. “How did you know?!” he asked the clerk. She said he had made a gesture with his arm that was too expansive.

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Charming Billy

posted March 20, 2006 at 10:58 am

I think it’s the slouch. Americans, especially the men, carry themselves differently than most everyone else. It’s not obvious till you leave the country. But once aboard you start to feel like a sack of potatoes when you notice that everyone else looks like they were drilled in comportment by Henry Higgins.
Many continental Europeans women have told me that they can spot an American women a mile off owing to her loping stride, versus a European woman’s mincing gait. Ladies, I’ll let you fight that one out. As for me, I find that your frank and unaffected carriage and dress:
“Do more bewitch me than when art
Is too precise in every part”
I don’t know how well I “passed” over two decades ago as a footloose twenty year old hitchhiker. Provided you didn’t display your national flag prominently, as all the Canadians seemed to do, inexplicably, everyone assumed you were simply a foreigner of indeterminate origin. Plus my buddy, who was English, and I carried our things in a very large, old, battered white suitcase, while everyone else had back packs. Our rides always commented on the suitcase. I believe it was the secret of our remarkable success.
The last time I was over there I think I once again passed as an indeterminate foreigner; this time owing to my wife’s exquisite deportment and unplaceable Anglo-Persian looks, even though I now played the part of the very large, old battered white encumbrance.
Strangely, because I think I look like a typical brown haired WASP, I have been frequently and persistently mistaken for a Mexican while in Mexico. One occasion, a roaming team of student interviewers armed with a video camera refused to believe that I wasn’t Mexican when I told them, in bad Spanish, that I spoke Spanish badly and wasn’t Mexican. They thought I was lying to avoid being filmed. My guess is that as a Texan, I have a feel for what the average middle class Mexican (all three of them) wears, and that’s what I try to wear while I’m down there.

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posted March 20, 2006 at 1:29 pm

I mangled my infrequent attempts at L’italiano so badly that I was occasionaly mistaken for Spanish.

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