“But….they hate us there.”
I’ve heard those words before when telling people I’m traveling to a destination, would like to travel to a destination, or had traveled to a destination in the past. One thing I’ve heard a lot of people mention as a concern when traveling abroad is a fear of Anti-American sentiments in other countries. There’s a fear of traveling to a destination only to find that the people “don’t like Americans”. It would seem that a lot of my fellow countrymen seem to find this off-putting, and often use it as an excuse not to leave the country.
I do get it. If I know that somebody hates me, I’m not going to want to hang out with them. It makes sense that people would be afraid to travel somewhere that they perceive is full of people who will dislike them. I understand the fear and the hesitation. I do.
To me, however, that is an even more compelling argument as to why we should travel abroad. Proximity breeds tolerance and people do not fear what they know. Let’s say there is a shopkeeper in another country who really does hate Americans. He has heard all the negative stuff in the media about us, and since he’s never actually met an American, he believes it. Then he just so happens to get an American traveler who visits his shop. The American is nice, polite, and excited to be visiting the shopkeeper’s town. They have a conversation and discover that they are both avid hikers. They share a few laughs and stories and enjoy each other’s company. That shopkeeper is going to come away from the experience with a new perspective on Americans. Now that he has met one and enjoyed meeting him, he will think twice about his generalizations. Maybe he’ll have a better opinion of Americans in the future. Now, imagine an American who holds opinions about people in another country traveling and discovering that they are actually really lovely people. It works both ways and I’ve seen it time and time again.
When I went to France in 2005, I heard all the old “oh, but the French hate us” comments from various people. Most people were just jealous that I was going to France, but there were certainly a few “oh, but the French hate us” comments in there. I just rolled my eyes at them because I knew it was going to be incredible. I was right. I found the French to be delightfully funny, charming people. They were kind and helped with directions and information, and a friendly chat in shops and markets. France itself was beautiful and wonderful and full of history, culture, art, and amazing food. Had I listened to the naysayers and stayed home because “the French hate us”, not only would I have missed out on an amazing trip, but I also would have believed something that is, quite frankly, not true.
Even if there is anti-American sentiment in a place, it’s generally directed at governments and not individual people. If you show that you are a kind, understanding person, people will respond positively to you. It’s always possible you might meet the odd person here and there who won’t give you a chance, but just move on if you do meet that person. They clearly have deeper issues that they need to work through.
But what about places where they really hate us?
The same principal applies. People all over the world are generally just regular people who are kind and welcoming. Most people want others to come and visit their homeland and see the delights it has to offer. People are generally excited to have an opportunity to show the good side of their home. I promise you that if you’re open-minded, people will respond in kind. You’ll learn something new and your life will be richer for it. I’m not saying you should travel to the middle of a war zone or somewhere that is legitimately dangerous, but you definitely shouldn’t be afraid of a destination just because “the people hate us there”. So get out there, take a chance on the unknown, and you’ll be rewarded with new experiences and awesome memories that will last a lifetime.
P.S. I realize that not all my readers are Americans and this is a pretty American-centric post. It just reflects my own experiences. I’ve certainly heard some of my international friends making similar comments. A British friend and I once got into a friendly argument in which we both tried to convince the other that our tourists were hated more abroad. It’s a universal experience, it seems.