Aboard Winterlude we fly the Stars & Stripes and we’re proud of it. We have cruised all the Western Caribbean all the way to Cartagena Columbia. Some of the countries we’ve visited might have reason to resent US interference, but we have yet to have any anti-American sentiment aimed at us or our boat. I am proud to be an American, but it’s not something to be flaunted. Every other cruiser is proud to be from their country as well. And all the countries we visit, the people are proud to be from their country. Pride in your country is not limited to the good ole USA.
Out cruising, we find that we’re treated as we treat others — remember the Golden Rule? We always treat others with respect and the same is accorded to us, and it has nothing to do with whether we’re Americans… or Europeans … or purple. The only Americans I’ve ever witnessed being treated badly deserved it … the old Ugly American stereotype. I cannot believe some of the scenes we’ve witnessed, particularly in customs/immigration or port captain offices. I’ve been embarrassed beyond belief, to the point that I apologized to the port captain for the behavior of those in front of us in line checking in.
The flip side of the Ugly American is the courtesy and generosity shown cruisers. It is nothing when you ask for directions to have someone say “follow me, I’ll take you there”. Once when shopping for a new alternator that was a bit complicated – no built in regulator, we needed an external regulator and they’re not made that way anymore – we had a man take pity on us and actually take us around to several places until we found what we needed (we had to get it rebuilt because there was nothing that would work). Of course, it’s usually in whatever language that person speaks, so it’s better if you take the time to speak and understand a smidgeon of their language. Their tolerance is amazing once you make an effort whether or not you’re successful. Several times when dealing with officialdom, I’ve found gruff faces and strict officials turn into smiling friends as soon as my bad Spanish makes them laugh — and it’s amazing how many of them actually speak perfect English and are willing to help us out … after we make the effort to speak to them in their language first. So enjoy your cruise, but remember how we feel when visitors don’t make any effort to speak English and act accordingly. And please, never ever act like that stereotypical Ugly American and embarrass the rest of us.
Lee Greenwood said it best in his song “Proud to be an American”:
“I’d thank my lucky stars,
to be livin here today.
‘ Cause the flag still stands for freedom,
and they can’t take that away.
And I’m proud to be an American,
where at least I know I’m free.
And I wont forget the men who died,
who gave that right to me.
And I gladly stand up,
next to you and defend her still today.
‘ Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land,
God bless the USA.”