Imagine this: you’re walking down the street, in any given country that’s not the US (or your home country, for that matter) and there’s a group of Americans/’place-your- nationality-here’ coming towards you. Or a couple or just a guy, and old lady, any American, under any circumstance.
Here’s what’s gonna happen: you’re gonna feel this inexplicable, but deep certainty that that person is American.
Automatically, you’ll kind of lean towards that person when he or she passes by, trying to eavesdrop on what he’s saying to his friend, because you want to prove your theory. Even if it has absolutely no impact in your live. I mean, you’re not even going to talk to him, but still there’s something that moves to get weirdly close to him and say… “Yep, I knew it! He IS American”.
I know, this sort of phenomenon seems completely pointless, but you got to admit it, it’s a bit fascinating. It’s a mystery that binds us all foreigners when we’re abroad. We’ve got to look into it.
So let’s cut to the chase: first of all, you’re not the only person able to identify comrades from your home country when you’re abroad. I can do it, all your friends can do it, you’re oddball cousin can do it. Everyone does it. We’re all kind of born with it. Apparently our brain has some tiny little area, some small corner dedicated specifically to “identify-people-from-our-home-country-when-travelling-abroad”. Crazy stuff. But still, fascinating.
Second, this is not a “skill” exclusive to Americans. I understand you might have theorized about the fact that there must be something tangible that every American has common but I’d say there actually isn’t. I’ve tried to find that something about Brazilians and my conclusion is that if there is anything we share is maybe the skill of knowing how to get the most personal benefit out of a situation. And that’s not something you can see when someone’s just walking down the street.
And let me tell ya, from my own personal research just as an American can spot another from a distance, so can a Spaniard, Koreans, the British. And I’m quite sure Russians, Argentinians, and Papua-new-guineans can probably do it too.
Ok, so let’s try and understand this: why the hell has our brain decided to dedicate a couple of neurons for such a crook idea? I mean, we could be reading minds with those neurons, learning to play chess, brilliantly investing in the stock market and making tons of money, but hey, no, we’re out there identifying Americans or Brazilians tourists abroad and for what? We got to find a purpose for this.
My guess is that our brain is just trying to look after us, and that this “skill” is actually useful, we just need to learn how to use it properly. So I thought about it (yep, that’s the level of free time I have) and I figured we have two ways in which we could put this less then conspicuous “skill” to use:
The first thing is in case you’re a tourist abroad and you actually want to find someone who speaks your language, gets your culture and knows where to find a burger joint within a mile (or a Brazilian barbecue place, or a Biergarten, or a pub or whatever food spot is typical for Papua-new-guineans).
In this case, you don’t need to be randomly asking for information on the streets and feel stupid because locals don’t get your – so beautifully crafted – French accent.
Use your guts! Go to a busy street and just start to observe the crowd. In a couple of minutes you’re brain will tell you “wow wow wow – here comes one” and you know can directly approach this person with a “What up, bro?” and feel at home, and get all the info you need and go together to the burger joint and bitch together about how French people have a problem understanding your beautiful accents and become BFF. Cool.
The second thing is in case you don’t want to be recognized and walk around with people from your own nationality, because you’re spending your holidays in Paris and you think that your blasé-born-and-raised-in-Montparnasse look will make you mingle with locals and that’s glamorous and awesome. (By the way, this feeling of “OMG people from my home country are soooo embarassing when travelling abroad” is also quite universal). In this case, just stare at the ground and when the sign of “yaiks – fellow countryman spotted” comes in, just say some words in a random language and walk faster. There you have it, collision avoided.
So that’s it folks, mystery solved. There’s nothing about collective sub-conscient, nothing about an American (or Brazilian, or…) feeling of belonging that surpasses any borders, it’s not a magic connection between people, Sense8 style.
It’s jus tour brain, doing what has it has to do. Reacting in a basic instinct to prevent us from embarrassing ourselves when we travel. That’s all.