The Land of Jamón, Siestas, and Yankophiles

By Laura Rodriguez, Global Co-op

Star Wars and Kill Bill. slang, memes, Hollywood—the diner that is. “You know, there’s movie theaters where they don’t dub the original movies in English.”

It always takes me by surprise exactly how much people outside the US appreciate a culture that we as Americans fail to distinguish ourselves in.

When you’re inside, you don’t think about any of it. In a world where everything is a click away from being right in front of your face, the lure of something foreign, something seemingly rich and fermented brings you to a reality in which, for once, the US cannot compete. We are simply lacking a sense of solidified identity.

But are we wrong?

People elsewhere can’t get over the accent, the movies, even the food. A country like Spain, with culinary innovation over centuries old is obsessed with the ‘novelty’ of chili cheese fries. You walk down the street where the problematic bullfighting ring still holds the monstrosity of an act inside for entertainment value. Things become all too clear, you see American style restaurants and watch people sporting fads from years ago… its not that they’re obsessed with being American it’s that they’re fascinated by it.

I got a real taste of this magnetism when a friend took me to a spot that has become the novelty in this big city. It’s a cereal bar called “Cereal Hunters,” where locals can get a taste of American cereal brands you don’t find in supermarket aisles, served with an array of toppings and a bottle of milk with the color of your choice. The walls were lined with pictures of trendy shows and cult films, like the hit series friends or Everybody Hates Chris and classics like Matilda. Where there weren’t iconic movie posters and shots of television shows, the wall was covered in cereal boxes, some of which even I had forgotten existed. Moments after we stepped in the door, the line extended at least around the block and people waited anxiously to get their fix of Lucky Charms or Reeses Puffs.

The hype for this was real, and I can’t say I didn’t enjoy it at least a little. It’s weird to look at your culture from an arm’s length, a view that isn’t the ethnocentrism funneled down our throats by our own. I felt like I was watching people watch me, study how I live, and try to emulate it in their own way. It’s the kids biking down the street in E.T. or the offensive blue tones of that diner in your town.

“You don’t get it, it’s the movies, but it’s so much more. The American accent, those actors and just the way you live. We idealize it all so much,” my friend gushed as I tried to grasp exactly what it was about Americans that captivated them so. Those little things you’ve normalized in your mind, remain such a novelty to people across the pond.