An interesting question posed by a friend and reader…What do citizens of the world think of America?…More new sightseeing photos…

We stopped along the drive on the Hibiscus Highway, a 70 mile stretch along some of the most exquisite scenery in the South Pacific, to check out the fisherman using nets to catch the day’s bounty.

A co-worker/friend of Tom’s from his 42 years on the railroad, apparently has been reading our posts. A few days ago, he posed a question in the comments section at the end of a post as follows:

“Jess & Tom: If possible, could you give your perspective of what the citizens of the world think of America. From the most uplifting conversations you’ve had to the most bizarre perspective, you’ve encountered. I know that in your writings you stay away from politics so if you prefer not to answer that’s fine. Rick”

I responded to Rick explaining that over the next several days, we’d respond to his query in the best way we can. We wrote back, his comment below, the following:

On a small island, it’s not unusual to spot abandoned boats, cars, and other vehicles when the cost to dispose of them otherwise could be prohibitive.

“Rick, great to hear from you. We do appreciate that you’re following along with us. It means so much to us both. You posed an interesting point that is definitely fodder for a post. How we’ll do this without imposing our personal political views will be tricky. But, we both feel it’s worth and try and worth a challenge we both would like to pursue. I assure you, Tom will be chiming in during the process. Our response will be online in the next week for sure. Warmest regards, Jess & Tom”

Rick, you are so right. We make a concerted effort to avoid expressing our political views in our posts. Based on the overall content of our site and the nature of our lives, politics don’t play a role of any consequence.

But, the essence of your question is not how we feel about politics in the US, which takes us off the hook in our response, but how America/Americans are perceived by the other citizens of the world.

The fishermen sell whole fish at a section of the Farmer’s Market. Without a good filet knife, it makes no sense for us to purchase an entire fish. Next time Mario fishes, he said he’d save some for us.

Overall, citizens of other countries’ perceptions are that America is still the land of endless opportunity and freedom. But others we’ve met have expressed their concerns for the political and financial climate in the USA. 

Their opinions are purely based on what they hear on the news and from vacations/holidays they take to the US often away from the trials and tribulations of daily life one rarely experiences when staying in a hotel or visiting with friends and family. 

For many, not all, it’s not unlike Americans traveling to Mexico, staying in a nice hotel and never leaving the area, for example, Cancun, a “metropolis of a sort” whereby a traveler never needs leave the area to see how people really live.

This boat was tied to a tree onshore.

We’ve found that perceptions of America are often predicated by their own country’s experiences with America in past wars, conflicts, and economic interaction as to whether their opinions are favorable or unfavorable.

Many countries we’ve visited have been a part of the old European empires. As these countries have gained their independence, including Fiji, our current location, the citizens maintain a negative perception based on the way their ancestors were treated over the generations.

We’ve found that America’s alliances with many of these formerly empire nations have “rubbed off” into the perceptions many citizens perception of the USA. Does this have an effect on us?

Enormous tree roots growing on the beach.

In a way, yes.  Often, their perceptions are tempered based on the fact that many US citizens bring dollars spent during travel into their countries providing jobs and revenue for their businesses. We see this in our daily lives as we are diligently fussed over and cared for by locals wherever we go. There has yet to be an exception to this.

However, the kindness and generosity of time and spirit don’t go unnoticed. We attribute this to the nature of the citizens ingrained in them once again over generations.

The most vehement attitude we’ve experienced over these past three years has been by other travelers. Let’s face it, we all carry certain opinions about citizens of various countries besides our own. These are often difficult to hide. Based on our lives of travel, we strive, every single day to avoid preconceived notions, perceptions, and stereotyping of a race, a country, or a group of people.

Ratnesh explained that there had been a fire on this boat and it has been on blocks in this spot for some time.

Those on vacation/holiday or a cruise may choose not to hold back their opinions. At times, we encounter a rare situation whereby they express many negative comments about the US, its citizens, its politics, and its lifestyle. Often, this occurs when on a cruise, mixed together with citizens of many countries.

Are we ever rejected due to our American status? I wish we could quote specific situations in response to Rick’s questions. However, when we’re privy to such negative comments, we tend to sit back and listen, rather than engage in a negative interaction, presenting ourselves as the “ugly American. At times, quiet and dignity are our best defense. 

For a specific example, which has a tendency to become politically charged, we find a certain area of the world having negative perceptions of US citizens based on the fact that generally, and I stress generally, we choose to speak only one language when many citizens of other parts of the world speak two or more languages, at times as high as five.

A creek running beneath the road we traveled to the sea.

On the flip side, many citizens of the world have a perception that moving to the US would solve all their problems, lighten their political frustrations, and open doors for great medical care, affordable housing, and living costs.

Later, when they travel to the US to find how expensive it can be, they may change their opinions as to the affordability of living in the US. For example, tipping is common in the US, albeit often expected in many service-related industries. 

We’ve found that tips we may offer, (out of habit) are either turned down or expressed as being too generous.  For example, here in Fiji, we will leave tips for our service staff and driver with recommendations from our landlord to avoid setting an unrealistic precedent. We’ve heard this over and over again. At times, we’ve been told, not to tip at all.

The marina is used by many part-time and year-round residents. From our veranda, we saw these sailboats wafting by.

Some citizens of the world have a perception that Americans are “rolling in dough.” This perception can result in our paying higher prices for products and services unless specific prices are posted. Neither of us is naïve enough to fall prey to these scenarios. Negotiation for services in one thing. Refusing to pay a certain price with an argument, is another. We tread carefully to avoid offending anyone or engaging in confrontation.

We must “qualify” today’s comments to a degree. Our observations may be skewed based on the fact that we rarely live in or near large cities. The perceptions of America/Americans in rural areas can be dramatically different than those in large metro areas. The only times we’re around crowds of citizens of the world is on cruise ships and in the hustle and bustle of tourist attractions.

No, America isn’t loved and revered everywhere we travel. However, overall we are treated with kindness and respect, whether or not we are making a purchase or benefitting the party in any manner. Generally, and I stress generally, we’re accepted wherever we may go.

Driving along the Hibiscus Highway is a worthwhile way to spend a day. More new photos tomorrow.

Rick, thank you for your inquiry and we hope in part we’ve answered your questions. If we haven’t, please feel free to email or comment further. We welcome your and other readers’ comments, questions, and opinions and always strive to answer them as promptly and comprehensively as possible.

Please don’t hesitate to request a specific topic you’d like to see us address in our posts.

Have a fabulous weekend as we roll further into October, the fall season in the Northern Hemisphere and spring in the Southern Hemisphere. 

Photo from one year ago today, October 3, 2014:

Once we arrived in Kona, it was necessary to take a “tender” to shore. Along the way, we spotted this cute little island. For more details of our time in Kona, Big Island, Hawaii, please click here.