On Friday, I had my first recording gig in Vilnius, Lithuania. I played “a typical American woman abroad” in a local radio advertisement.
“So what does a typical American woman abroad sound like?” you ask.
’Scuse me!! Where’s the McDonaaaalds?! Oh my gaaawd! No one speaks English!
My first attempt fell a little flat. In response, the recording directors offered me some helpful – if not amusing – advice on how to sound more authentically American:
Act in horror that no one speaks English. It’s a real shock to you. Can you be a bit more bitchy…perhaps a bit more blond?
To their credit, the young Lithuanian directors soft-shoed their cues to me on how to be “more American” – almost to the point of apology. They distanced themselves from the direction, implying that they were just doing their jobs. And they made a point of repeatedly assuring me that they didn’t think of Americans in this way.
But somebody certainly did.
I wasn’t offended. I know well the stereotype of Americans abroad. And our readers know already that one of our goals as we travel around the world is to act as citizen diplomats; to use our interactions with local people to present a different image of America than what is broadcast in Hollywood movies, on the news…and on Lithuanian radio.