An American Abroad

Amanda Berthold University of Edinburgh, Scotland


October 1, 2014

Almost every week, a bunch of my friends and I gather to watch American Football and eat our own weight in chips and chocolate. Most of us are from America but occasionally a British student or two will come to watch the crazy Americans scream at the men wearing shoulder pads and spandex on the T.V. It’s weird to think something so normal to me seems so strange to these British onlookers. Football games on Sunday afternoons, Red Solo Cups, and big juicy cheeseburgers are something ingrained into my daily life at home. But with being amongst people that don’t know who Tom Brady is (and frankly don’t care) I came to the conclusion that I never in my life stopped to realize that I was American.

I know that sounds crazy but it makes sense. In the states people tend to identify themselves with their ancestry, speaking in scary detail what percentage of ethnicity they are as if reading off a pie chart. I guess that is what happens when your country is the so-called “melting pot” of cultures. Surprisingly though, as I found out in my Scottish Studies class, Europeans or at least those from the British Isles don’t think this way. Where you were born or where you grew up defines your identity not your ancestry. One of the students in this class, a girl from the Outer Hebrides of Scotland, shared a story that confirms this European view. She explained that while visiting Novia Scotia in Canada, a place with a high population of people with Scottish ancestry, people would come up to her and say they were Scottish. But to her they were not being honest. They didn’t live in Scotland, they didn’t grow up like her, and they certainly did not have the right to call themselves Scots. They were Canadian and that was that.

This girl’s story really opened my eyes to a facet of my own identity that I fail to register at times. Because everyone else around us in the states is American it seems irrelevant to talk about it. But here in Scotland, I feel as though I am constantly reminded that I am American. The way I speak, dress and think are all to my British compatriots “so American”. It took being more than being 3000 miles away from what I know to discover a bit of my identity I unknowingly tucked away. I thank all of the wonderful Edinburgh students who, by including me in their lives, have shown me not only their beautiful identities but helped me find mine as well. It’s finding these kinds of discoveries and friendships that make missing (good) peanut butter and ice in drinks so wonderfully worth it.

And for good measure I decided to include my most “American Abroad” moments to show just how fun embracing who you are can be (check out the gallery at the top).