The Naive American

15 May

We all know what the ugly American is, correct? Tune into any season of the Amazing Race, and chances are there will be one team member that exemplifies that. Jaime from season 14, anyone? Travel for long enough, and I’m sure you’ll run into one as well. Today I want to introduce to you another type of American, the “naive” American. Jerry said it wasn’t fair to call the delightful young woman we met today an ugly American, because she wasn’t rude or pushy, so henceforth, she will be known as the naive American.

Alright. So today we went on a tour of an amazing place called Elephant Nature Park. More on that place in a future post. We had a group buffet lunch with open seating and ended up sitting with a bunch of people, including the naive American. She’s from Greenwich, Connecticut if that helps in your assessment of her. Here are some conversational gems:

While talking about our trip to North Korea: “You’re North Korean?”

5 minutes later, after explicitly explaining that we were not North Korean and that we just visited there: “Oh you lived there? Can you speak to them?”

At this point she mentions that she just finished teaching English in South Korea. Which is shocking to us, because her questions sounded more like she taught English while living Under A Very Big Rock On The Planet Neptune. I guess she chose to not immerse herself in any type of history or current affairs/news while teaching there.

So the conversation progresses to teaching English in foreign countries in general because a fellow lunch mate mentioned that she was a teacher in Chicago and now New Zealand. They compare notes of how students, no matter what country, get increasingly hard to teach once they reach double digits in age or so. Enter next gems:

Referring to her difficulty when teaching in South Korea: “I thought all Asian kids were good and easy to teach! South Korean kids were not nice and they were naughty! I heard Japanese people were really polite and I thought South Koreans would be the same!”


I was going to go all model minority myth on her, but I figured it wasn’t worth it. At this point I just ate my food and stopped talking to her. Otherwise, I would have had more gems to share here.

Have you ever met a naive American while traveling? Would you have held your tongue like I did? Shouldn’t Americans at least know that Americans don’t live in North Korea? Wait, I forgot about Miss South Carolina 2007…never mind.


4 Responses to “The Naive American”

  1. Uncle Raymond May 15, 2012 at 7:25 AM #

    Many Americans that I brought over to do work were naive during my 8 years in Asia. It happens that way because we watch reality TV, shop at big box stores, hear about local news, etc. and don’t pay enough attention to what is happening around the world. China is the “Jung Guo”, not the U.S.

  2. Ken May 15, 2012 at 8:47 AM #

    Back in 2000, when Linda and I were taking a cross country trip on Amtrak, we came across an older (60-ish) couple from Ohio. They had never really spoken to a person of Asian descent and were surprised that we spoke English so well…and that we did not work in a laundry or a restaurant. They were quite pleasant and polite as they could be, not trying to be condescending or play to stereotypes, but they really didn’t know that Asian Americans could be “regular” Americans too.

  3. Robert May 15, 2012 at 9:06 PM #

    You don’t have to go overseas to find naive Americans. There are plenty of them in the U.S.

  4. msluu May 19, 2012 at 4:52 PM #

    The first time I read this I was procrastinating from writing my final paper and rather sleep-deprived so I thought it said “native” not “naive” american. I was so confused. You two are in Asia so what does that have to do with Native Americans? Good thing I’ve been getting more sleep. :p Hope you don’t encounter too many more annoying naive Americans! I know Jeannie doesn’t have too high of a tolerance for them!

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