The fear of being the ugly American tourist

The stereotypical white sneakers, fanny pack, sun visor and flashing disposable camera of the ugly American tourist is the picture I fear I will be when I am in Russia.

We had a crash course on how to pack for 10 days in a carry-on suitcase and how to dress during our stint in Sochi. Not only am I going to be in a foreign country where English is not commonly spoken, but also people from all around the world are about to converge on the same 50 square miles of Earth, and only a portion will speak English.

Also, trying to respect the Russian culture is another concern of mine. Do they have the traditional European greeting, kiss on each cheek, shake hands, bow, salute, thumbs up or fist bump? These are the kinds of blatantly unattractive mistakes I do not want to make.

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During this trip I am determined to not be that American tourist. It is time to turn the tables and change the American stereotypes.

I may not know how to say thank you in Mandarin, Arabic, Italian, French or the many other languages, but I can portray it in other ways with a smile and try to show my appreciation and respect for someone else’s culture.

I am expected to hit the ground running in Sochi, ready to find sources for stories and produce interesting cultural, Olympic Games-enthused articles that can be published for readers. I know I could do this if everyone spoke English, or if I could speak the all the different languages of the world, but the biggest challenge will be finding those whom I can actually speak to and understand.

This adventure has me facing many challenges that make me want to hide and just report from Muncie, Ind. But every book I’ve read, movie I’ve watched or writer I’ve spoken to has told me any kind of writer needs to experience it, be in the thick of it and not be afraid to fail and let it hurt a little. I just have to remember there are many more adventures ahead of me that are going to scare me just the same, but who’s to say what is to keep me from going? Surely not my fear.

 

BSU at the Games is a freelance news agency operated by 22 student journalists reporting from the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games through an immersive-learning program at Ball State University.

 

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