Last week I went out with Andrew and another couple. We met Mike and his girlfriend, Kim, at a restaurant. I knew Mike but met Kim for the first time and we had a good time. After a while she started talking about her ancestors. It turned out that she had a lot of nationalities in her family history. I don’t remember all of them anymore, but the main nationalities were Italian, Irish, French and she also had Native American roots. It appeared that half of Europe and even parts of Africa were united in her blood stream. But that’s not how she formulated it. She started telling me about that by saying, “Hey, did you know that I am Irish, French, Italian and partially Native American? I am European like you”.
Whenever I hear that I have to smile silently. There is hardly one American I have met so far who couldn’t tell me where their ancestors come from (Andrew is one of the exceptions). They are telling me how Italian they are because their great grandparents immigrated to this country a hundred years ago. Today I heard a woman say that her family is so typical German, without ever having been in Germany or knowing Germans, but just because her grandmother was German.
To me, Americans are a contradiction in this respect. They are so proud of their country but also love the idea of being more than just American.
After Kim told me about all the different nationalities in her family history which she thinks aren’t only in her genes but also show in her character (she’s got the typical Italian temperament and can drink like an Irish), she asked me this question: “And what is your nationality?”
I was surprised and hesitated a moment. I thought she knew the answer. I was sure Mike had told her and didn’t she hear my accent? Then I said: “Well, I am German.”
Kim looked at me and waited. I looked back and thought this was a rather awkward moment. What was she waiting for? Then she burst out: “What? Only German? That’s all?”
For Americans, simply being American doesn’t seem to be enough.