Wikipedia, my only source of reliable information, states that ‘Ugly American’ refers to perceptions of loud, arrogant, demeaning, thoughtless, ignorant, and ethnocentric behavior of American citizens abroad.” Nothing is worse than being told “Oh, you must be American,” in this context. To that end, I try to be more self-aware of my behavior so as to not perpetuate the stereotype.
And sometimes I just don’t care. As part of my MBA, I had the opportunity to study for a semester in Prague, the Czech Republic. Czechs have recently taken the title for highest consumption of beer per capita from Germany. In an effort to assimilate to the local culture, I increased my intake of this wonderful beverage. One night, a few friends of mine were on a social venture when hunger struck. As Americans with discerning tastes for the finest of foods, we made our way to a restaurant that has the most superb hamburgers in all of the world- McDonald’s.
Not sure how the conversation began but a friend of mine bet my classmate that he could not finish two large Big Mac meals. Entranced by the smell of golden, crispy McNugetts , I proposed my own wager: four Big Macs in 15 minutes. The only stipulated term: I could have one large Coke.
We placed our order and calmly took our seats. I mentally prepared myself for this great life challenge as my friend calibrated his stopwatch. He yelled “Go!” and I dove in. What my betting friend did not account for is that I am a pupil of Takeru Kobayashi, once an unstoppable force in the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Competition.While a rookie would try to eat each Big Mac, one at time, I knew better. Instead, I quickly separated beef from bun and proceeded to dip the bread into the Coke and consume the patty on its own.
Everyone at the table was laughing hysterically witnessing one of my life’s crowning achievements. Down went two all-beef patties, down went two more. I vaguely recall tasting the special sauce, lettuce, cheese, and let me tell you, there’s nothing like a sesame-seed bun drenched in Coke.
“Time?” I yelled out. “Four minutes,” my friend replied. At that point, it wasn’t the hunger that was making this endeavor challenging, it was trying to not choke on my food as I could not stop laughing. I glanced over at my friend who was making headway with his Big Mac meals and knew it was time to get serious. More chow, less stops, I told myself.
Well ahead of schedule, I took my time finishing up the last Big Mac, grinning proudly at what I had just accomplished.
Challenge: Four Big Macs in 15 minutes.
Result: Four Big Macs in 7 flat.
Our antics had attracted the ire of locals who gave us the dirtiest of looks. They were far from amused at how loud we were being, perplexed as to how we could have such poor etiquette in this fine-dining establishment.
‘Ugly Americans’ or uptight anyones? You can decide. Either way, it made for a great story.