What does an American look like?

Yesterday, as part of our history class we had a diplomat from the American embassy come and talk to us. What started  off as a speech about the cold war, in which it was not once mentioned, quickly turned into an attempted recruitment of U.S citizens.

This diplomat went by the name of Esther Pan Sloane, a Chinese American whose family moved to the U.S when she was very young. She lived and studied there and now works to represent her country abroad in countries such as the U.K and China, as she speaks quite a few different languages including English, Chinese and German. Currently, her job involves her looking at applications for American citizenship and determining whether or not someone meets the requirements.

From what she told us it seems pretty easy to become a citizen. Unlike in many other parts of the world, you can become American by just simply being born in the U.S. I’m not entirely sure, but you may even have the right of American citizenship if your mother gives birth to you on an aeroplane flying over the U.S!

For this reason, there is the big question of what does an American even look like? America is such a culturally diverse place and so full of people from different origins that you can’t really tell just from looking if someone is American. What do you look for? The unique shade of white in their eyes? I suppose the only way to distinguish between them and the rest of the world would be by their accents and even those tend to vary from state to state. You have the wild-west cowboy accent, the Disney accent, the valley girl accent…

Anyone could be an American. Whereas in another country, such as China, it is much more obvious. You would not expect a tall black person; curly black hair, big brown eyes; to be Chinese. Nor would you expect a short white person; straight blonde hair, blue eyes; to be Chinese. There is one specific profile that must be matched in order for a person to be accepted by most people as Chinese.

So, from this very interesting (totally irrelevant) visit I benefitted quite a lot. Instead of learning about the differences between America and Russia and the ways in which they competed with each other, I realised that there are no such thing as black Chinese people. I have also concluded that despite my misconceptions about them not having to pay tax, I wouldn’t mind pursuing a career as a diplomat. Therefore, I am going to have to look into commiting fraud or purchasing a  house in Switzerland.

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12 thoughts on “What does an American look like?

  1. Very interesting to get someone’s take on Americans that isn’t “My God Americans are stupid and fat.”

    My husband and I (both Americans) were just wondering the other day about whether other English-speaking nations perceive us as having an accent. What in the world is a Disney accent?

    You have an interesting blog, Yasmine. Keep it up. 🙂

  2. Ok, I have to comment! You write very well, and I have greatly enjoyed reading some of your posts. This one caught my eye as I am well aware, being from the United States, that Americans are somewhat run down generally. Poor Canadians must not live here, eh 😉 (I’m picking here, playfully. I hate cyberspace not having face-face emotion cues)

    Anyway, I really enjoyed your post, and actually, it is far to easy to become a citizen of the United States. There are many that would change that, but changes to those laws are slow to happen due to the melting pot that we are. Thank you for being positive and creating a blog that gives one pause to think.

  3. Very interesting points. I agree that America is unique in how many appearances can describe your typical “American.”

    I’m from Florida and am very curious as to if I have a Disney accent now! Keep writing. And I say go for the house in Switzerland. Great chocolate there.

  4. Hi.. interesting blog indeed. I am a Singapore-born Chinese who married an American and am now living in America. I had lived and studied in Australia, traveled to London alone to visit a friend when I turned 18.. I have seen alot. So your take on life and different culture and continents is pretty refreshing. 🙂

  5. Jasmine, you are a very interesting young lady! I am also wondering what a Disney accent means to you {I am speaking in a southern accent, btw}.
    Thank you for liking our post. I look forward to more from you.

  6. I always thought that the stereotype of an American would be very… Barbie-ish. Blonde, tanned, preppy… etc. But it’s also true that you can’t really tell if someone is American just by looking at them, since… American really isn’t a race, but a gathering of people.

    I love trying to identify people by their looks before I know where they are from; along with figuring out accents, it’s a hobby of mine to figure out what facial features and habits go with which places. Perhaps partially because I have always wondered if I look like I am from a certain place, and wonder if I look/sound like what someone would classify instantly as American.

    Anyway. Interesting post and question! And good points. 🙂

  7. This post made me laugh. We Americans aren’t always easy to spot until we speak. It was easier in the 80s and early 90s to spot Americans abroad: almost all of them wore white tennis shoes. When I lived in Europe, my friends and I played the “where’s that tourist from?” game, and Americans by far were the easiest to spot! 🙂 Now, though, shoes don’t necessarily help.

    Like the commenters above, I’d love to know what a “Disney accent” is!

  8. Yes, what is the Disney accent?
    Also, I think it is not so easy to become a US citizen. I was born here, and therefore am a US citizen. Sure, that was easy. But others don’t have it so easy. Not even marriage to a US citizen grants you citizenship. It can be quite an ordeal, especially if you entered the country illegally to begin with, even if you entered illegally as a child with your parents.

  9. Hi yasmine… I arrived here because you liked one of my posts. Maybe otherwise I wouldn’t have visited. who knows…

    I am from Puerto Rico and all Puerto Ricans are US Citizens. Spanish is our main language and our currency is the US dollar. I have a US passport and I like to spot where the US Embassy is whenever I travel internationally, just in case something happens. My dad is Cuban and after being a political refugee and a resident for over 20 years, he decided to become a US citizen 25 yrs ago because he didn’t want to wait until he became 65, which is the age when you can take the test in your natural language. Yep, my dad speaks very very little English.

    The beauty of the United States is the INCLUSION. There is no specific physical traits – skin color, hair texture, eye color, manner of speech specific to all Americans. What does unites us is the love for democracy and the freedom that provides us. A country that was mainly built from immigrants looking for a better way of life – at the beggining from Europe, now from Latin America and Asia, among all others. The fact that here, with hard work and determination, you can achieve most anything you put your mind to astounds me… My dad has never been able to return to his home country, because in Cuba, you are not able to think freely, work freely and enjoy the fruits of that labor like any person can do in the US or in your UK.

    I am Puerto Rican… but I am also proud to be a US Citizen.

    And in regards to the Disney accent… I guess it is something similar to using Univision Spanish- speaking English without a strong, specific regional accent and who uses words that all English-speakers (spanish-speakers in the case of Univisión) understand, free of regionalisms. For example, saying soft-drink instead of calling pop, soda or just plain Coke when refering to any soft drink like a Dr. Pepper. Or saying “elevator” instead of “lift”.

    I’ll get off the soap box now… bye.

  10. This is a very interesting post. I completely understand your thoughts and questions as to what an American looks like…as I tend to pose the same question when it comes to your native UK. What does a Brit look like? As the UK is just as diverse and I suppose the main way to tell yet again is by the accent :o) Keep up the good work with your blog!

  11. Good question. I’m a Canadian–so I don’t know about America, but I can tell you that Canadians can look like anybody ;] I live in Toronto, a seriously multicultural city, so I didn’t even consider myself a minority until 17 when I went away for university. So, Canadians can look like anyone, and I think, America might be like that too.

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