Korean YouTuber SW Yoon asked a number of Japanese and international students at Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University in Beppu, Japan, to share their views on what sets Americans apart from people of other nationalities.
With over 2 million views since it was uploaded last week, the video has elicited a number of responses in its comments section, ranging from the blatant “so racist” to the more optimistic “it’s interesting to see how other young people from around the world see us generally.”
A few years ago when I worked in a Japanese junior high school, some students came up to me one day after their social studies class. “Guess what?” they giggled. “So-and-so-sensei said during class that Americans are fat. But then he paused and said that you’re an exception.” In the spur of the moment, I honestly didn’t know how to respond to that comment–in the end, I think I just laughed awkwardly and thought to myself, “Um, thanks?”
On another occasion, I was visiting a local elementary school. We had just finished playing some basic games in English, and decided to hold an informal Q&A session for the last remaining minutes of class. The first eight-year-old boy I called on looked at me with the most solemn little face I’ve ever seen and asked, “How many people do you know who have been murdered?”
▼ Um, that would be zero…
In any case, stereotypes that people of one nationality hold about those of another are pervasive no matter where you go in the world, regardless of whether the person saying it actually knows someone from that country or not. Of course, different people react to stereotypes in different ways, and while some may become extremely offended, others can easily shake off the remarks as untrue or ill-informed.
For me personally, I try not to let the widespread beliefs about Americans, hamburgers, and guns get me down, but instead laugh them off and take it as an opportunity to explain my own personal experiences on the topics. Yes, I like hamburgers, but I rarely eat them more than once a month, let alone every day, and yes, I know that some Americans own guns, but personally I’ve never so much as held one. Perhaps my attitude towards stereotyping in general is why I found the following video titled “How do you distinguish Americans?” to be more amusing than offensive, and wish that I could have been there in person to see it being filmed and interact with the various people being interviewed. I especially like the fact that the video includes the thoughts of people from a range of countries that don’t usually appear in the western media.
Invariably, the top response about how to distinguish Americans from other groups of people was “their accent.” The common hamburgers, pizza, and Coke stereotypes also inevitably popped up, along with a range of others. You can watch the full video directly below or scroll down to view a non-exhaustive collection of sample responses from the video.
Please keep in mind that “this video expresses the stereotypes toward America and don’t necessarily reflect the views of the interviewees or interviewer,” as SW Yoon writes in his YouTube video description.
▼ Japan (note: what he actually says is more like, “We [Japanese] think that all foreigners are American.”)
▼ Sweden (poking fun at himself since he’s in the middle of eating himself)
Be sure to watch for our Swedish friend’s flustered reaction later in the video when the interviewer asks him, “What if I say you look like an American?”
▼ South Korea
▼ Costa Rica
▼ Austria (man on the right)
▼ United Kingdom
The next one is probably my favorite response. Can someone please clue me in where I can buy deodorant that smells like freedom??
At around 4:16, a Japanese student provides one of the most specific responses out of anybody in the video:
“I guess they tend to be positive. They look like pretty satisfied with their lives. That’s what makes them different from British people and Australian people. British people tend to be pessimists a little bit, like me.”
What do you think about those words, British and Australian readers?
He later goes on to make a comment about Americans sometimes being chubby, and then seems to feel guilty after his comment, adding this jokey little closer:
What kinds of answers do you think people would provide if they were asked to give thoughts about people from your own country? Can you predict what the top responses would be?