Embracing stereotypes

This morning I bought Vegemite to take with us to Taipei.

A staple of the Kiwi and Aussie diet

I don’t even like the stuff and I’ve only seen Luke eat it a handful of the time. So why did I buy it? I bought it because I think it will be something we will be expected to have in our pantry (as Kiwi expats).

One of the interesting things about travelling is getting to understand the stereotypes the rest of the world has about where you are from. I experienced this big time when I came over to NZ for my year of study abroad in 2004, a year into the Iraq war. People assumed that, because I was American, I supported the war and former President Bush (not true). They also assumed:

  • I drove a pick-up truck (not true)
  • I was a cheerleader (well this one is true)
  • I owned guns (not true)
  • I ate fast food (not true)

It took a bit of convincing to explain to people that Americans are actually an incredibly diverse group (with a wide range of views) and the stereotypes that others have formed based on TV or movies are not always true of the Americans they will meet.

At the same time, sometimes it is useful to embrace a stereotype. It can make interactions less challenging and make you more memorable, as you reinforce their stereotype. So, in Taipei, Luke will be the ‘Vegemite-eating, milk drinking, Kathmandu tramping gear-wearing, honest and hard-working Kiwi bloke’. I still haven’t decided where I will sit- with the Kiwis or with the Americans. I think within the expat community, I will embrace my Americana (cowboy boots and all). Outside it, around local Taiwanese, I may be more Kiwi.

Two identities. Many stereotypes.

Our apartment will have many Kiwiana-style decorations so I will have to think of decorations that represent America besides our President Obama magnet.

Lucky guy gets his own magnet!

Most of our Kiwi-style stuff has been given to us for various presents over the years. We’re bringing it all with us. Here’s a few of our favs.

Beautiful tile from Luke's Mum

Vase also from Luke's Mum

Beautiful handmade bowl by NZ artist a wedding present from Dominica and Matt

Rita Angus prints a bday gift from our friends, Hamish and Aimee

A fantail print by an NZ artist, something we purchased

Thank you all for giving us these beautiful gifts over the years. We’re certainly going to have a well decorated place.

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