Oddly enough, most people here don't seem to catch on right away that I'm an American, whether it's from mien, appearance, accent or any combination of the three. This has saved me a lot of dirty looks and remarks in most of the Middle-Eastern shish kebap stands that I like to frequent, but on the other hand makes for slightly awkward encounters when people come up to me and address me with "Monsieur" or "Senor." This has probably played on my unconsciousness hard enough to directly influence my learning Spanish and French (German is the daily language of usage that we're talking about here). It also causes a number of misconceptions that go beyond my citizenship...

One such occurence happened today in the cafeteria, right before my lecture this morning. I was enjoying my daily morning ritual of sweet roll and chocolate milk when I struck up a conversation with an olive-complexioned, conservatively-dressed young man at a nearby table. With typical Yankee curtness I tried to keep the conversation on track with simple "how-are-you" pleasantries and inquiring about how his classes were going. Then, as soon as I mentioned I was an American, the man, who in turn proved to be a Syrian, abruptly asked me my opinion on the coming Iraqi war.

The conversation went abruptly downhill from there.

I didn't pull any punches with him, though in retrospect I think he was expecting the response to be a little more skewed out of politeness's sake. Told him as plainly as I could that the Iraqi government was, in eyes, still a credible threat and needed to be dealt with in an appropriate manner. I didn't get up to rationalizing this stance before he kicked his chair over, grabbed his backpack in one fell motion, and stormed out of the room like a rebuked 6-year old being sent into the corner.

I chuckled and finished breakfast alone. Trying to sanitize my views in a vain attempt to make myself more popular is about as low as claiming I'm Canadian. Sadly, I have seen too many fellow expats who do both. But when it comes down to it, I have to ask, are people here more willing to accept heartfelt sincerity or superficial courtesy?

I think that the widespread reptutation of the German people can easily answer that one.