I am the American. As a family living in a small village in northern Portugal, we are the Americans.
No matter what we do, some people will see us through that lens, rather than for who we really are.
Clothes, speech, eating habits, hobbies, religion, leadership styles. I could go on and on ad nauseam and no matter what area you look at in our lives, if others see it as good or bad, it is because we are American.
I can be factually correct about an issue, but culturally wrong on the same.
Missionaries around the world face the same dilemma. They can give their time and their wisdom and their experience, with or without giving their money, but it is too often received with an air of hesitation because it came from the American.
If you give financially, you’re the “rich” American that’s boastful and controlling. If you don’t give you’re the “stingy” American that’s selfish and doesn’t want to help.
The kids suffer more than the adults. They have friends that want to come over and play with the cool stuff from America, but when the relationship forges deeper, other kids get jealous because the American is trying to steal a friend or break up the group.
Mind you, not everybody treats us like that, and the people that do, don’t always do it…but when they do, it tends to sting a little. We don’t have a hidden agenda and aren’t looking for anything in return, but it really doesn’t matter.
I’ll always be the American.
I’m still trying to decide if it is a blessing or a curse.