As an American I am constantly being compared what is seen on TV and social media. Media doesn’t only shape the view we have of ourselves, but has a large part of how the outside world pictures us as well. It is amazing how much the rest of the world looks to the United States, while the citizens and media ignore much of the outside world.
Even in Samoa people are aware it is election season in the United States. Every night there is at least one campaign story covered by the New Zealand news. I am growing weary of answering questions about politics back home. My host family constantly pesters me about “Who will win?” or “Do you like insert candidate here?” My Samoan family and friends aren’t the only ones partaking in the questioning. Visitors from distant countries are common on the island and with them come another brand of curiosity. Up to this point I never realized how much people care or are interested in daily American life.
Aside from politics you have the stereotypes. Samoans see Americans as rich smart people with weak stomachs and weak backs. Obviously, these statements don’t fit for everyone. There is a stark contrast to life here and back home. Samoans are somewhat aware of the differences and like to make comments in conversation.
Taxi rides are always an instant interview. “Where are you from? Oh America! You like Samoa? Samoa is free and safe unlike America.” The last comment is always my favorite. I am not sure where the notion Samoa is freer than America comes from but in a way it is true.
The way of life on the island is free. There is much less to stress or think about. You don’t have to travel great distances for holidays. Do you have a job? No? Well than most likely you live and are supported by your family. Yes? Then you are care of the family, but if anything comes up you are excused with little questioning. Time passes by slowly. The pace changes you; you worry less and learn to just go with the flow. Samoans know that their pace of life is different and they will tell you. In this case the stereotype that white people worry too much is correct.
Living in a different country is an eye opening experience. You have the opportunity to learn about cultures and people first hand. What your not told is that you find out more about yourself and how the culture views you. At first it is difficult as you fight the believed stereotypes of your country or race. Slowly people in your community learn who you are and see many of these notions are unfounded. What you may not know is this in of itself is a goal of the Peace Corps. You act, as an ambassador of your country not only to learn their culture but to share yours as well.