Quite a few Lithuanians have relatives in the United States or have traveled to the US or know Americans in Lithuania. However, I often meet Lithuanians who tell me that I am the first American they’ve meet or had an opportunity to really talk to. Whether Lithuanians have met other Americans or not, I — as an American in Lithuania — represent America.
This means, of course, that I am expected to provide insight into all manner of topics about America. I’m often asked questions about whatever the current political “hot topics” are, but sometimes the topics are less expected. I have been asked to explain the American social security system. I’ve been asked to explain why American adults don’t want their elderly parents to live with them like Lithuanian parents often do. Recently two different people asked me to explain Puerto Rico’s relationship to the United States and whether Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens. I’ll admit that I had to check that out because I wasn’t quite sure myself the answer to that question.
I frequently hear the comment that I smile like an American. In the past, I’ve adapting to the Lithuanian custom of not smiling as much in public. This time I decided that smiling is actually something I want to keep doing. I’m doing my best to represent my fellow Americans well — and what better way to do that than to be known as the “smiling American.”