When my Etsy shop was up and running 2 years ago, there was a go-to strategy for making a sale: make it French. Etsy buyers love anything that has to do with travel, but Paris has a special, noticeable draw. London is a close second, followed by any Italian or Spanish city, then the rest of Europe.
I’ve started speculating about why there’s a uniquely American fascination with Europe, but I can only think of specific examples that embody the obsession, not a point of origin. For example, those ubiquitous “Keep Calm and _______” sayings. If you search “Keep Calm and” on Amazon, it comes up with 137,547 results in nearly 40 categories. Any child born after the new millennium will have no idea the original saying is “Keep Calm and Carry On,” from the WWII propaganda littering the London Tube.
Another example is the Google Super Bowl commercial from a few years ago that touched the hearts of even the most brutish football fans.
So, of course, I asked Lee what he thinks the deal is. After all, I was charmed by his English accent and the cute little quirks of English society. He hypothesized that Americans desperately seek connections to the Old World. We’re a nation of immigrants who fought for independence, but held tightly on to our ethnic backgrounds.
One of the first things I noticed about the different people you meet abroad is that Americans are the only ones who can tell you their families’ ethnic backgrounds through several generations. For example, I’m Cambodian (50%), German (25%), and Swedish (25%). However, I’m laughed at by actual German and Swedish people, and the only reason I can get away with being half Cambodian is because my Mom was born here. My children will be grasping at the ethnic identity threads I’ve thrown their way.
Every other English speaking country ethnically identifies with that country.
Do not, EVER, confuse those first four.
It’s finally time for Americans to follow suit. You’re not Irish just because you dusted off your Irish ID badge and put on a green shirt for St. Patrick’s Day. You’re American. You share more in common with the Spinelli family next door than the O’Malley family in Dublin.
If you can’t accept that you’re not a special flower born out of a melting pot, then you’ll get a really rude awakening when you go abroad, tell a real Polish person your family is Polish, then be laughed at when you say it was your great great great grandfather who crossed the Atlantic to the New World.