Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Ugly American-Cristina recommends

When it was released, JF Kennedy turned it into a text book (a stretch, but you get the point) for his senators. This is fiction, we are told, but most of the things happened in reality: the russians had indeed "stolen the applause" by appropriating american aid, because it was easy: nobody within the US camp knew the language. US found out later from newspapers what was written on the trucks full of (US) rice: "this is a gift from the Soviet Union." Not only the inability to speak their hosts' language made them infamous, but the inability to understand their culture and respect their customs. Isolationist, the typical US ambassador transpired as arrogant.   

Most people have a love/hate relationship with the americans. At the grassroots level, they are considered ignorants, poorly behaved (wearing tubes at Vatican), disrespectful (constantly shouting for ketchup, regardless of the cuisine.) Waiters like them because they give big tips (it is customary to leave 20% tip here, while in Europe waiters actually have an income, and only partly rely on tips, which are, nonetheless, welcomed with both hands.) William J. Lederer and Eugene Burdick’s novel The Ugly American is not about these drunk tourists, these unaware seniors wearing sandals with long, under the knee, socks, and a camera around their neck used to snap pictures of themselves and their pears holding/or surrounded by african kids. "What a lifestyle..", they say (documented in various real, this time, films), "...these people must be so happy! No worries, no house loans, no expensive college for kids, food is growing in trees..."

However, I think this book is a gem for Romanian diplomatic representatives. I witnesed for far too many times Romanian ambassadors having troubles with English, not to mention the languages of the countries they are sent to. The latest was the Romanian ambassador in UK (!!!!), interviewed by BBC in regards with the horse meat issue- it was a disaster. In 2011, an insider in the Romanian government told me that about 25 diplomatic posts were vacant after the the ambassadors were sent home by the host countries because of their outrageous behavior: parties, prostitutes, and huge amounts of alcohol. They asked for more professionalism on our part. They are, after all,  the educated elite of the Romanian diplomatic corps.... 

“The simple fact is, Mr. Ambassador, that average Americans, in their natural state, if you will excuse the phrase, are the best ambassadors a country can have,” a Filipino minister tells an American official. “They are not suspicious, they are eager to share their skills, they are generous. But something happens to most Americans when they go abroad. Many of them are not average...they are second-raters.”

A book you'll finish in one day. It is funny, but sad funny, and mandatory.