Vladimir's comments are quite appropriate. I have also felt the same
way, and I wrote about it in my trip narrative from 2001
My biggest fear was being perceived as the
"arrogant American" and described behavior appropriately portrays.
The people from our homelands are generous, warm and welcoming. The
last thing I ever wanted to do was alienate them, as the connection back
to the homeland and to my cousins took so long and much work to
It took me exactly 10 minutes after coming into their home to learn to
listen more and talk less. There was a quick tendancy for me to say,
"Well, in America we have this or that" and to compare.
Eventually when they warm up to you, they will begin to probe and ask
about things in your life. And even then you must respond with some
amount humility. Certain things I would have been embarassed to tell
them - that my family not only has two cars, but a garage to put them
both in, for example.
But there does come a time to tell them things. When communism lost
its' grip, many Russian-based television programs were replaced with
captioned American sit-coms and game shows. And hoo-boy, some of my
cousins sincerely believed we all lived like that, that we were all loud
mouth, pushy and arrogant. That took a bit of explaining that only a
few actually live and act like that! Needless, they were surprised but
Remember that except for those in the cities, for the most part they
were cloistered from information outside the iron curtain. In many
cases I found their opinions of Americans to be an "open-book." That
is, no opinion formed. So remember when you travel, you help create
their first impressions of Americans. As with me, you may be the first
American they meet. I quickly considered one of my roles to be a minor
American "ambassador". Take it seriously!