The Stereotype of an American in Colombia


I like to ask people what their stereotype of Americans is when I travel. I just get a kick out of it. The other day in the taxi in Medellin, Colombia, I didn’t even have to ask.

It was pouring rain, so I was more eager than usual to be entering a cab, though I think I closed the door as I usually do, forcefully.

The taxi driver was none too thrilled. “Why do all gringos slam the door of the car?”

I thought it was a hilarious stereotype, but as I thought about it, I realized Americans do slam car doors. This wasn’t the first time I or other American friends with whom I was sharing a taxi had been chastised for closing a door too hard in South America.

I explained to him that I close the door hard because it’s annoying when I close one too softly, and the door doesn’t close all the way. Coupled with the fact that I’ve never seen a car with a broken door from closing it too hard, closing forcefully seems obvious and has become a habit.

When it was time for me to get out, he told me about three different times not to close the door at all. He would close it for me after I exited.

A few weeks ago I was talking to a girl in Bogota, Colombia about Halloween costumes, and she said last year she went as a gringa. I had to know what that entailed, and she explained that it meant wearing flip flops. Guilty again, I guess.

Since most of readers are probably car-door-slamming, flip-flop-wearing gringos like me, I hope you’re not too offended by what the Colombians think of us.

What other stereotypes for Americans have you uncovered in your travels? (Please don’t say anything actually terrible.)

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  1. I came to the US as a student. For me the “American” stereotype is non-alchoholic drinks of all kinds with glasses that three-quarters filled with ice… why??? 🙂

    • I don’t know. Interestingly most soda machines dispense the soda and water cold anyway, so I often eschew the ice completely.

      • Sometimes they are but as a rule, I haven’t found refills to be free. I really don’t think there is any marginal difference beyond a certain point of coldness but it seems to have become a cultural norm that most international visitors are surprised by this. To each their own :).

  2. Stereotypes are usually wrong the water in the UK is great and the French are NICE . Hope you didn’t tip the driver and your seat belt was on ..

  3. Hey Scott, glad you’re enjoying Colombia! ( I love it )
    I’m a gringo married to a Colombiana living in Colombia and they are always amazed at the size of my coffee cup (16oz) and my appetite.
    I’m also guilty of car door “slamming”.

  4. If you see someone with cargo shorts , t-shirt and sneakers in Europe, most likely an American.. Heard that from a cousin who lives in Paris during my last visit.. And saw quiet a bit too..

  5. My best friend, a Brazilian who lives just outside São Paulo, accuses me of slamming the car door. But, like Scott, I’m annoyed when the door is closed too softly and it doesn’t close properly and I’ve never seen anyone break a car doo by closing it too forcefully.

  6. i am from Argentina and can tell that argentines also have an issue with car door closing. It’s a cultural thing. All cab drivers get mad when you slam the door.
    Now that i live here and i can close the door with whatever strength i want, i realize that the argentine cars (and other south american cars) seem to have less padding around the door. so when you close the door hard, it just sounds louder and worse.
    It’s a funny cultural difference and your post made me smile.


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