The foreign policy and perceived ineptitude of George W Bush's administration often prompted people to ask visiting Americans: How could you elect someone like that? How could you re-elect someone like that? Why would you support that war?
There is hope that the US and its informal ambassadors abroad will be looked on more kindly by foreigners because a liberal, well-spoken black man will be president. A few Americans living in Britain have noticed a general improvement.
An American PhD student who has lived in London for the past four years, Ed Bourque said, “I have seen a definite sea change in how I have been perceived over the past few months When I first arrived, it was early into the Iraq War, and it was awful, absolutely awful. I am in a place - a university - where Americanism is a four letter word.
“In the past few months, people have been going out of their way to ask what I think about the election, or most recently to 'congratulate me' on Obama's win (I didn't win anything...I just voted for the guy...). I am leaving London in a few months, just when I got used to it, and just when people stopped yelling at me.”
“What's struck me the most is just how much the Brits are talking about the election” said Ellen Przepasniak, an American student studying in London. “I'm seeing Brits wearing Obama pins, arguments about Sarah Palin's foreign policy experience on the Tube and articles plastering the newspapers. They really care about the outcome of the election and they have very strong opinions and perceptions of the voting public. The Brits are talking a LOT about what Americans are like and what they're thinking and it's not always accurate. A lot of what the Brits are saying now that Obama's been elected seems a bit condescending, that we're finally 'coming around.'"
“The election of Barak Obama for president of the USA has definitely changed the way my British friends perceive America and American people,” said Shari Jones who is originally from Memphis, Tennessee and now lives in London with her British husband and 11-week-old son.
As an example, she quoted an email she received from a black British friend who wrote, "God bless you and all the American people as it shows that things have gone a long way and Martin Luther King would have been a very proud man yesterday if he was still alive to witness his dream has finally been realised. This is the first time I feel I have a real connection with America as a whole and of course the American people too.”
Priyanka Boghani, an American student who works at a think tank in London wrote, “People at my workplace haven't said anything particularly out of the ordinary, but mostly have been asking me how it feels. One or two of them also expressed awe at the pictures of celebrating crowds saying it must be amazing to be there. I think they share our enthusiasm, maybe not in the domestic political details of what an Obama presidency will mean, but in what a groundbreaking precedent his election has set.”
Elizabeth Motta, also an American student said “I finally feel comfortable talking on the tube. I'm no longer ashamed of my accent.”
Martina O'Boyle, associate producer at The Luxury Channel says “the reaction I've gotten from 95% of the Brits I've encountered is 'you must be so relieved!'. Much like the reaction one would get when the doctor tells you a beloved relative is going to pull through. The comparison is apt.”
As an American witnessing my third election from abroad, I was estastic with my country's selection.
But I have to confess the next day I felt that as many non-Americans should congratulate and thank me for the outcome of our election in 2008 as had berated me for allowing Bush into the White House during the years I lived in Italy and the UK.
In the past week only a handful of congratulatory remarks regarding the election have been directed at me specifically, but the positive headlines and lack of cynicism surrounding Obama's election have indicated a more favourable view of Americans. Perhaps we've turned the corner.