Throughout my travels, I’ve encountered a lot of stereotypes about American culture. Most people are curious to find out if what they hear, read, and watch about the U.S. is true. No matter where I go, however, people usually ask me the exact same questions over and over.
1. Do Americans eat pancakes, eggs, and bacon everyday for breakfast? Apparently this is the typical breakfast shown in movies. I explain that few Americans have time/any desire to cook in the mornings, and we usually grab cereal or some sort of packaged bar.
2. Were you a cheerleader in high school? No. Side comment: no girl has ever asked me this, leading me to think that it has to do with the popularity of certain types of films on the internet.
3. Is American Pie real? I am amazed at how nearly every foreigner I’ve met has seen this movie. I always tell them that yes, almost everything in it is true and American college life is awesome. The look of joy on their faces is worth it.
4. If I went to the U.S., everyone would discriminate against me, right? This question saddens me. Many people I’ve talked to think that Americans treat foreigners poorly and that if they went to America, no one would talk to them or help them because they don’t speak English perfectly. I tell them that despite our intimidating entry procedures, most Americans welcome the chance to teach foreigners about our culture and would gladly help them with info, directions, a meal, etc.
5. When Americans think of Brazil, do they imagine soccer players, bikini-clad girls dancing on the beach, and jungles full of monkeys? I don’t even know how to answer this.
6. Are all Americans fat? In some areas, there are many fat people. In other places (eg my university), there are very few. These websites have photos of USC students so you can see what typical college students look like.
7. Have you been to ‘Spring Break’/prom/other typical American event as portrayed in movies? Yes, I went to prom, it is pretty similar to the movies except for the crazy fighting over who gets to be prom king and queen. No, I have not gone to Mexico/Florida for spring break and all that it entails.
8. What clique were you in during high school? Jocks, nerds, goths, popular kids? People really believe that the social scene in American high schools is akin to Mean Girls. While there is some drama, there aren’t real social divisions, and athletes are allowed to talk to nerds and vice versa.
9. What American bands do you like? This question makes me panic. I listen to a lot of different music (rap, rock, indie, jazz, classical, reggaeton, folk, mash-ups, etc) and I think I have pretty eclectic taste. However, when someone asks me this I feel like they are judging me and searching for the ‘right’ answer, so I immediately forget all the bands I like and mutter something like “Um, Blink-182?”
10. Do Americans know what the capital of ____ country is? Contrary to popular belief, most Americans have a basic knowledge of geography. Do they know that the capital of Indonesia is Jakarta or that the capital of Brazil is Brasilia? I say there’s a 40% chance, but hey, there are almost 200 countries in the world, we are too busy marketing cereal and videogames to memorize them all.
Lessons I learned in Ouro Preto, one of the prettiest cities in the state of Minas Gerais: frats do exist in Brazil, the Portuguese are obsessed with churches, and you can not walk up cobblestone hills in flip flops.
Ouro Preto (Black Gold) was founded by the Portuguese in the 17th century and was the site of a gold rush in the 18th century. The Europeans used the wealth from the gold mines to create a baroque city full of beautiful churches, like the Church of St Francis of Assis seen above.
Inside of the churches are elaborate statues and wall carvings covered in gold leaf. The altars shimmer and sparkle.
The streets are all paved in cobblestone and on steep slopes. Walking up and down the hills is a serious workout, so the residents have to eat lots of meat, rice, and beans for energy.
Almost all of the stores and houses have preserved their colonial architecture. I was obsessed with the colorful windows, porches, and vintage store signs.
After spending hours photographing all the adorable stores, we visited an old gold mine. We all had to wear hard hats and hair nets in case the mine ceiling collapsed. Luckily there were no Chilean style accidents.
Leah inside the mine, while the guide told us the history of the African slaves who were forced to mine for gold.
I was kind of a fan, despite the cold. Click below to see the man who almost cut off his hand, waterfalls, and Brazilian fraternity houses.
Fun fact: Today is “Dia dos Namorados” aka Valentine’s Day in Brazil. Brazilians celebrate the holiday on June 12 because it’s the eve of the death of Santo António, the matchmaking saint. With that in mind, here are some of the relationship tips my host dad has given me this semester:
-Stop dating guys with Anglo-Saxon names. What, you’re going to tell your parents you’re in love with a guy named Michael? You should date someone with a real Brazilian name like João.
-You need to make your hands prettier. Go to the salon and get a manicure.
-Stop meeting guys at clubs. They’re like hunting grounds. If you want an actual relationship, you need to spend more time looking for guys in bookstores.
-(upon hearing that I made a pie for my guy friend’s birthday). You should do something bigger. Like jump out of a cake.