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Overseas Advice

December 1, 2003 |

I just got a job that is going to take me overseas to Germany and the Netherlands. I know that many Europeans have a dim view of Americans (we're all fat, watch bad TV, have no culture, no sense of history, are religious zealots, etc.). I'd like to make a good impression so I've slimmed down a bit, brushed up on European history and culture, and polished my German. I think I'm ready to go. Any advice?


You're a conscientious man and I admire your resolve. You'll meet Europeans who can't see you as an individual and who will see fat and zealotry and cluelessness no matter what, but don't worry about it. Smile and be gracious and eat what's put before you and say thank you at every opportunity. Gratitude always is in order. It'll be hard to develop your German in the face of all the English-speaking Germans you'll meet—you'll have to switch to English if they insist, to honor their command of your language—but you can always strike up friendships with small children and improve that way. Keep a record of your life there: You'll enjoy reading it years from now.

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