Americans living in Europe say `Yanks' find warm welcome
Paris — In the movie ``An American in Paris'' three decades ago, Gene Kelly danced, sang, and fell in love with costar Lesley Caron. Real-life Americans in Paris today have recently had a less glamorous time -- especially when French headlines burst out with criticism over last month's US bombing of Libya.
In fact, though, Americans here -- and in Britain and West Germany -- say that attitudes toward them as a rule are warm.
The French may frown at the United States the superpower, but at Americans as individuals, they tend to smile -- less so at non-French-speaking US tourists, but definitely at Americans who live here.
The British read newspaper articles about so-called ``anti-Americanism, yet they like the ``Yanks'' they meet.
West Germans are long accustomed to American GIs in their cities and towns, and the older generation of Germans welcomes the US military shield against the East-bloc nations just across the border.
What criticism there is comes from university students who chafe at West German dependence on US protection. But those same students who demonstrate outside US bases also eat hamburgers at McDonald's in towns where US GIs are stationed, listen to American rock music, and wear American blue jeans.
The European perception of the US tends to be somewhat superficial -- hamburgers and soap operas rather than Aaron Copeland or Arthur Miller -- but the warmth for individual Americans here does come through.
``Before I came, I expected a little bit less fascination with Americans, but after being here I was surprised,'' said Leslie Corvillo of Denver, who works in Paris as a secretary. ``I found them much more warm and welcoming than I had expected. It's a bit misleading when we hear that the French are cold or they don't speak. I don't find that at all.''
Rebecca Byers of New York, who works for a French publishing company in Paris, says ``there's much more fascination for Americans now than when I lived here in 1973. Then, I met a group of communists from Lyon who wouldn't talk to me because I was American. Now, I don't think that would be the case.''
At the same time, Ms. Byers feels that the French have retained some criticism of Americans. ``They perceive us as being very naive, as not having an international view of the world,'' she says.
Steve Corvillo (Leslie's brother), a professor of economics, says young French people see Americans symbolizing a country where people can have a good idea and be a millionaire -- ``bingo, you're gone.''
``They don't want to live in the US, necessarily. They say, `Go to America, stay, work, make my fortune, then come back to France, live in my ch^ateau, eat fine cuisine, and live the good life.''
In London, Bob Payton of Chicago runs several American-style restaurants selling pizza, ribs, and seafood, plus two similar restaurants in Paris and Barcelona. He says he grosses $15 million a year. Staff at his Chicago Pizza-Pie Factory in London say they serve 1,000 people a day, 80 percent of them British, the rest US tourists and Indians looking for vegetarian pizza dishes.
He is doing well enough -- and feels accepted enough -- to have just spent $9 million to convert a stately home called Stableford Park in rural Leicestershire into a hotel which offers hunting, shooting, and fishing facilities. He has also joined the local fox hunt so he can ride to hounds with the landed gentry.
Standing amid the Chicago street signs and bric-a-brac that adorn the walls of his restaurant, he says, ``There's this whole new phenomenon which I call Euro-yuppies around Europe, who identify with America and come in here because they like America.
``I also run into some resentment -- people saying, `why are you serving this poisonous food?' Well, the fact that we're injecting $15 million into their economy and employing 300 people doesn't seem to matter.''
Mr. Payton, wearing an English tweed coat, smiled. ``It's very trendy to be negative about Americans right now,'' he said as the first customers of the day began appearing for a pizza lunch. ``But at the end of the day, I've never met a foreigner who hasn't said he's found an American he doesn't like.''
At a US military base in Heildelberg, West Germany, GI Arlene Watson doesn't believe Germans ``hold a grudge against us for being here.'' Her husband Doug says, ``I think they treat us very well.''
Heidelberg Mayor Reinhold Zundel says, ``We have no trouble with the 15,000 to 20,000 US troops here. They're temporary citizens of Heidelberg.''
``The troops get on my nerves,'' said one German woman in the main shopping area. ``They make the town so crowded,'' said another. ``But I like them,'' said an older man. ``Why? Because if they go, the Russians come.'' Second of two articles.