One thing that Americans have a bad reputation for is not having any idea what other places are really like. One reason that we have this reputation almost everywhere is simply that it's true.
One time I called my friend and told him that I was in Istanbul, Turkey. First off he had to ask where Turkey was. I explained that is in the Middle East then he proceeded to fill in some gaps on his own. He assumed that I was in a small village or town in the desert somewhere. He was shocked, however, when I told him that Istanbul was the 3rd largest city in the world. To really put it into perspective for him, I let him now that on that same list, New York was 25th.
It's not just him. We're all like that for the most part. I used to think New York was the biggest city in the world. Before I really started traveling, someone told me they lived in Thailand for a year and I honestly thought that they probably lived in a hut in the jungle. Hell, I'm pretty sure I pictured them wearing a tunic for some reason, too. Stupid American. I am currently living in Thailand myself and Bangkok is an enormous city. Definitely not a jungle with aborigines wearing skirts.
But it's how we were all raised. When we learned about third world countries, we saw pictures of poverty and villages. When we learned about European countries, we were shown pictures of castles and fun hats. When we learned about the Middle East, someone just showed us a picture of sand. Then they said, "How crazy is all that sand right?" I didn't even know that Pyramids of Giza were right next to the city. I imagined that they were super far away from everything in a completely inaccessible desert. But no, they're right next to the giant metropolitan city of Cairo. But every picture I ever saw of the pyramids never showed a city anywhere in sight. So I didn't know. I just assumed all they had there were camels and pyramids.
In the end, we don't learn shit about what life might actually be like there. And to magnify this, American media has permeated into every other countries culture. So everyone else has a really good idea of what American Life is like and we have no idea what every other culture is like. So we're doomed to being stupid Americans.
So here's a crash course in worldliness. Think of any country in the world and then picture whatever city or town you live in and, yup, it's pretty much the same there. You know how in every place in America you have some people that are more conservative and some are more liberal? Yup, every other country has that exact same thing.
In Istanbul, every story that happens in America happens there. There are entrepreneurs and construction workers, single moms trying to make ends meet, teenagers wasting time and trying to be popular, alcoholics that can never seem to get their shit together... All of that. You know The girl that is going through a bad breakup and is going to beauty school so she can open her own salon? Yeah. You guessed it. They have those too.
When we think of Africa, we think of tiny tribes in straw guys and that's fuckin stupid. There are big metropolitan cities all over Africa with all of the same things happening there that happen in America. People work to eat food and hang out with friends. Third world countries in Africa aren't living in the dark ages, they just have less money in play. They still have smartphones and the internet. Just the infrastructure is a little less glamorous and more people have a flip phone.
In Iran, for instance, they are extremely well developed. Yes, there are laws against drinking and hanging out with your girlfriend but guess what? They still drink and hang out with their girlfriends all the time. Just like in America, people make rules and then everyone breaks them. They party and joke around and date and smoke pot and do drugs in house parties in Iran all the time just like everywhere else. It's crazy, people do things like work hard to become doctors or just sit around and play video games all day there.
Long story short, next time you go somewhere exotic, think of all the shit that happens in your neighborhood. Then just assume it all happens there too. This will save you the embarrassment of sounding like a Stupid American.