The Obvious American

Charlie (Charles) McDowell
March 27, 2017

It’s just past 6:00 pm, I’m on the metro heading home. It’s been a long day and I’m quietly marveling at how nice seats are, as it’s about 30 minutes from Centraal Station to Uilenstede and I’ve been on my feet all day. Just before the metro doors close to leave it’s first first stop, two men not much older than I am enter the metro and sit opposite me. They pay me no mind, my headphones are in, though it’s more so that I can avoid anyone staring at me as I’m still dressed up from Comic Con earlier that day, and the Jughead Jones crown had earned me some weird looks on my way to Utrecht earlier that morning.

I barely hear what they have to say as they talk together, but I almost snort when I hear the one directly across from me assert that the Rijksmuseum and Centraal Station look similar. “They’re both very…..brick” he says as a side comment.They caught me looking at them in that moment, but I refrained from informing them that they were both designed by the same architect. He’s actually a very famous Dutch architect. No, I didn’t want to converse with the, I wanted to listen to what else they had to say.


It was obvious they were American.


I tried to pinpoint an accent, analyze their style to determine where in the US they were from, but they could have very well been midwestern, they could  have been from the east coast. I didn’t ask. Instead I picked them apart, analyzed what that purple Patagonia jacket meant, why only one guy had a bag (with sandles carabeandered to it?), or why they were so obsessed with going out that night (or as one suggested, “just getting blazed instead” which he said at the top of his lungs on the otherwise quiet ride).

Why did I care? Who cares if they’re American? I’m American, I’m staying here, using the same public transport as these boys. I have 5 other Americans living on my floor alone. Why do I care so much about these Americans?


They were obvious.


Before I left the states,  took very careful measures to pack the right things. I only packed clothes that would match with other things I brought, and I wouldn’t pack a single thing that tied me back to my university or home town. I wouldn’t even pack my Captain America pajama pants (which are among my favorites).

But despite this, unless I’m being quiet in a place I am familiar with, I am still obviously American. Maybe not as obvious as these boys, maybe worse.

Why did it bother me that two strangers were obvious? They weren’t me. In fact, earlier that day two men had tried to ask me something in Dutch and then German when I was able to spit out the only Dutch sentence I know (it’s “I don’t speak Dutch, sorry”).

I think I came here afraid that everyone would think I’m a stupid American if I presented myself tied with America, but what should I care? I’m here, I’m attending University, I’m making friends, I’m having a good time. If some stranger on the metro wants to think that I’m a stupid American, who am I to care?

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Charlie (Charles) McDowell

<p>I am a 20 year old Psychology and Intercultural Studies major escaping the suburbs of Chicago in search of an adventure. I can be found reading or writing most of the time, and love to talk to people. I&#39;ve been daydreaming of traveling the world since I was a child, and am so excited that the time for that is finally here! Thank you for stopping by, I hope my stories are as helpful to you as these moments were for me.</p>

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