As any traveler can tell you, it is an unparalleled experience to be an American abroad and take in so many of the mesmerizingly different facets of the world. This is to be expected, but one thing that first-time travelers often don't so readily anticipate is the way in which being abroad empowers one as a representative of his home country. (I probably should have expected this; some good friends of mine are Canadians residing stateside, and they are practically walking billboards for Tim Hortons™.) Being a walking window into American culture not only elicits patriotism, but also prompts one to join his international friends in examining the USA from the outside-in.
One pervasive international perception of the US is that of our capitalist ideals and consumerism. This is polarizing stuff, but just about everyone with whom I spoke could agree on at least on one thing: When it comes to being consumers and producers, Americans are damn good at it. We know how to make a product,