In this issue of The Statesider US travel newsletter:
We’re on the outside, looking in. Cowboy novels in German, a Jackson Hole knockoff outside Beijing, emo rockers in Nigeria … a full parade of Americana abroad, as interpreted by non-Americans. Bonus: Mac and cheese in American Samoa, which is both the USA and abroad all at once (it’s complicated).
A large bowl is thrust into my hands, and smiling faces look expectantly at me. I hear someone in my family, or maybe it’s me, exhale sharply through their nose; it’s a quick, nasal laugh. “Mmmm!” I say, too-brightly. I raise my eyebrows and widen my eyes, miming to the women how pleased, thankful, and hungry I am.
Then I dig into my bowl of Kraft macaroni and cheese, with boiled Vienna sausages, and try not to laugh or grimace. It is slimy and salty.
Marika Malaea remembers a trip to American Samoa to meet her birth family. It is nothing like she expects, and still, everything. 🌴 Read this Statesider Original 🌴
London: Here at the Statesider, we cannot, we simply CANNOT overstate how much we love what gets labeled as “American” in supermarkets outside the US. Christine Ro, NPR
4th of July Abroad: It’s easy enough to find stateside celebrations of Bastille Day, Cinco de Mayo, or Lunar New Year, but what about Fourth of July festivities in other countries? Turns out they’re fairly common, if you know where to look. Hey look, it’s Doug Mack in AOL Travel
Bad Segeberg, Germany: Nineteenth-century writer Karl May wrote adventure books about the American West for German audiences—and he’s still so revered there that the annual Karl May Festival draws 300,000 every year, with tepees, log cabins, and a diesel-powered “steam” train. Rivka Galchen, The New Yorker
Japan: The Japanese quest for perfection in every detail extends to some of the most famous icons of Americana. You want the best jeans, the best bourbon, the best hamburgers? This is where to find them. Tom Downey, Smithsonian
Beirut: Harley-Davidsons and other motorcycles are having a cultural moment in Lebanon. But what happens when the Hell’s Angels arrive? Alexandra Taltry, Roads & Kingdoms
Lagos: From roots in the early-2000s music of American bands like Evanescence and Fall Out Boy, Nigeria’s “Gothics” have built a vibrant—but still largely underground—cultural scene. Edwin Okolo (with photos by Jan Hoek and Stephen Tayo), The New York Times
Tokyo: Grease is the word, but if you see the guys in pompadours and leather jackets at Yoyogi Park, they’re known as roller-zoku. Photographer Denny Renshaw spent years putting together these portraits of this Rockabilly-inspired subculture. Jessica Steward, My Modern Met
Santa Barbara D’Oeste, Brazil: After the American Civil War, more than 10,000 people from the Confederate states immigrated to Brazil. Generations later, their descendants celebrate “Confederado” heritage at an annual festival that includes chicken and biscuits, square dancing, and a whole lot of Stars and Bars. Statesider editors’ note: This story. WTF? Bradley Campbell, The World
Australia: Baseball’s gone global now, but back in 1928, it was still a curiosity when the Stanford University team toured Australia, with support from the local divisions of American companies like Kellogg’s and Studebaker. Ray W. Nickson, Baseball Research Journal
Beijing: Tired of life in the big city? Escape to the (comparatively) wide-open spaces of Jackson Hole, a 90-minute drive from Beijing, where rustic mansions stand on Route 66. If Northern California is more your style, a Mendocino-themed development is coming soon. Steven Jiang, CNN
The Meat Department: American-style barbecue is having its moment across the world, from Vienna to Ho Chi Minh City. The State Department even sent one pitmaster on a world tour. Smoked-meat diplomacy? It’s worth a shot. Jim Shahin, Washington Post
Just in case you need more (we can’t get enough, honestly), here’s an Airstream park in France, diners in Tehran and Belgrade, an American roadhouse chain in Italy, a honky-tonk bar in Belarus, the Pastrami King of Tuscany, cowboy bars in India and Pakistan, notes on the importance of KFC at Christmas in Japan, a Crimson Tide store in Jerusalem, “Brooklyn” gum in Italy, a Steelers bar in Madrid, the most famous Tex-Mex restaurant in Paris (it’s a whole thing), GI-worshipping cargo cults in various Pacific islands, and, for your own planning purposes, how to throw an American-themed party. (Many thanks to everyone on Twitter who provided tips!)
Hey there, you beautiful America lover.
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Homesick American Blues
Uruguay: Naomi dreams of tacos. We could do a whole *thing* on what we miss most when we’re not in the United States, but tacos are a great start. Naomi Tomky, HuffPo Life
United Arab Emirates: An Iraqi detained at Abu Ghraib confronts his American roommate with the deeply personal impact of US foreign policy. This story is ten years old, and it still (sadly) resonates. Corey Eldridge, World Hum
Dijon, France: “Why do so many Americans have guns?” “Are you all in cults?” “Which movie stars do you know?” An American living abroad attempts to answer questions about his homeland, with varying degrees of success. Nathaniel Missildine, The Morning News
Ghana: “For people like Ford, that blackness, combined with the energy of a booming economy, makes it an attractive place.” American racism is driving a black brain drain. Mark Beckford, Narratively
What We’re Reading
Notes on a Foreign Country: An American Abroad in a Post-American World by Suzy Hansen: There many narratives about travelers heading into the world to discover themselves, not nearly as many about those who have left US borders to discover America. Hansen digs deep — so deep it hurts — into the impact America global policy has had on the world and on our identity. Ya got yer CIA, yer Marshall Plan, yer covert Central American ops, and if you consider yourself a self-aware American, you might nod your head with a wry “ouch.” But there are also Turkish highways, the Iowa Writers Workshop, Time Magazine, Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start the Fire, and so much more. It’s a tough read, but not because of the writing. It’s the harsh light of self examination that makes this difficult … and essential. Amazon | Your Local Indie Bookstore
For more on American travel writers who dig deep, read Doug Mack’s homage to Tony Horwitz.
WKYMI (We Know You Missed It)
This Seattle seawall was built to be good for fish, too; birding as a “gateway drug to nature,” and North Carolina shipwrecks. Those and more in the previous Statesider.