American USR Teams Mocked And Insulted At Christchurch Airport

The hardworking American Urban Search and Rescue teams were mocked and insulted as they waited at Christchurch airport for flights home.

A reader sent us this link to a wry account, written by an American observer at the airport


I must say: I highly enjoyed watching the Kiwis (and Europeans) at the Christchurch airport today, as they insulted and mocked the US rescue team for being “American” … You’re welcome, folks. All in a day’s work. Just be glad they’re American. Not only did they take the hardest USAR job in a foreign disaster area without complaining, they’re also used to that sort of abuse/cultural racism and are MEN enough to shrug it off. I say pull them all out right now.

…I was at the airport picking up a friend. And there were about 10 of the American USAR team there checking in for flights home. (I think there are 80 here in total…) The guys were there in their uniforms, just talking quietly among themselves, and most of them looked pretty tired but in pretty good spirits. (I really hope NZ is paying for them to fly first class!)

And I overheard some really strange comments, from several groups of bystanders, over the course of my hour-long wait:

I hope they don’t colonize us [chuckle chuckle].” WHAT?

Leave it to the Americans to leave the job half finished.” (? They did finish — the hardest USAR tasks — and most are still in Christchurch still working!)

Look at the flags on their uniforms. Typical patriotic Americans.” (Um, all USAR teams have a flag on their uniforms — it’s required.)

Obnoxious.” (? 80 guys who spent time away from their homes and families, risking their own lives in order to save lives a foreign country, is not obnoxious.)

I wonder how much the Americans are going to overcharge us for this.” (WHAT?)

And of course the Americans’ presence prompted the same shamelessly ignorant banter about how Americans are the cause of all the ills in all of world history. Add to that the staring and eye-rolling. The above are just some of the more memorable examples.

Whilst this is symptomatic of anti-American sentiment in New Zealand (something we’ve written about often) we think that its shameful that these brave volunteers were openly insulted in this way. They have worked selflessly in the rubble and ruins of Christchurch, alongside the nationals of many other countries. New Zealand could not have done it without them.

Two days ago the US ambassador to NZ, David Huebner, wrote this on his blog

Our search and rescue team is currently deployed in the 18-story Forsyth Barr Building, working to recover victims believed to be in the collapsed stairwell. The majority of the 90 American rescuers who flew in will remain at least another week, until the Government of New Zealand runs out of tasks to assign them.

We have made our US Army Corps of Engineers available to NZ authorities to discuss the upcoming demolition work required to bring down and remove irremediably damaged structures.

We are fielding multiple other requests and offers from government, philanthropic, and private sources, and attempting to add value by screening and matching offers to needs.

We will be sending an Embassy/Consulate team back to Christchurch tomorrow or the day after to do another round of AmCits activities, including the most difficult task a Consular officer can face.

And we’ll keep at it as long as needed. Because that’s why we’re here.

The work of some is obviously finished. We here at E2NZ would like to pass on our appreciation to all of the real, unsung heroes of the Christchurch earthquake – the Urban Search and Rescue Teams.

What the USR teams were up against

10 thoughts on “American USR Teams Mocked And Insulted At Christchurch Airport

  1. Those appear to be offered by the OP merely as representative discussions from pretty standard Kiwi sites. I have been to all of them, and they are not fringe. They are not that old, either, relatively speaking. Combined with the many personal anecdotes I have read on this site and on others, I would say the percentage of Kiwis with this attitude is not anywhere near in the 90% bracket, and moreover it starts with people in their 50s on down and not really the older generation, but it is certainly uncomfortably high for some potential American migrants, and those particular people ought to know about the frequency with which they will encounter the sentiment before they pack up their lives and schlep down here to become offended.

  2. Ted, which of the sites listed by American on a temp Visa aren’t reputable?

    Anti American sentiment is alive and well in New Zealand. You may like to read some other of our blogs It’s true – Kiwis really don’t like Americans which was based around comments made in an international emigration forum by a New Zealander living in Christchurch. That blog entry also included links to other examples and two videos showing how this sentiment is manifested in the New Zealand media:

    The first was made on breakfast TV, by a man infamous for “saying what everyone was thinking but too afraid to ask”:

    “What happens is these big fat Americans, of which there are plenty you gotta admit, they’re up to here with MacDonalds..they’re huge blubbery people…”

    and these comments made in all seriousness in an interview with the delightful Jordan Sparks:

    “You’re fortunately then one of those Americans who are aware that Australia and New Zealand are two separate countries?”…
    …‘Well Rugby is our national game, it’s a little bit different to (American) football, you have to be a real man to play it”

    NB. with regards to the MacDonalds comment. It is worth noting that New Zealand that has the second highest per capita number of MacDonalds restaurants in the world.

    These Kiwis think Americans are in their own little bubble (jf christ, and Kiwis aren’t?):
    Americans are fat and wealthy:
    a third of Americans obese? How about this…

    I understand your feelings and reading these things and thinking that all NZers hate Americans. But that simply isn’t true. I might point out that some of these are very old and not reputable sites. I could put in just as many blogs, news clippings etc that prove otherwise, or even that show up Americans for not only slinging off at NZ, but not actually even caring enough about us to do so! That is a bigger insult.

    But that is not my point. My point is that there are weird public in ALL countries that say these totally moronic things, NZ included. You do not want us judging all of America on what a few of your stupid citizens say, and NZ feels the same way. With this new age of all this social media and us seeing all these comments out there daily, it makes it all the more visible that out there roams these people from all walks of life and countries, with totally weird, unsubstantiated, ignorant, arrogant, and just plain stupid views. A lot of them even just make something up to see what hornets nest they can stir up.

    Please stop thinking NZ thinks this way. If you listen to those people who say ignorant things about Americans long enough, you’ll also hear them move on to some other race, or even NZers themselves eventually. They just bag everyone, they get off on it. Don’t give them the satisfaction of listening to them.

    We are a tiny country, which gives us a little of that small dog syndrome. We tend to yap off at the slightest thing cause we think we need to stick up for ourselves all the time. In reality we are still tiny and we need you all, and we are all eternally grateful for all Americans, Australians, British, Canadians, Japanese, Koreans, and any other nation that came to assist us in our time of need.

    Thank you to all the brave men and women (:>

  4. This is completely typical, and surprises me not in the least. I have heard things in exactly the same vein in other situations, but always just tried to forget I heard these mean-spirited remarks instead of actually bother to go home, sit down, transcribe and post them just to let people know what it is really like here for Yanks. I am so glad this gentleman took the time to do it. And he just set the worst of them down, too, not even all of t hem. It is probably one of the main reasons why I am leaving just as soon as I get that green light. Every turn of news events offers them a new op to illogically & resentfully vilify Yanks. Latest is the news item “Iraq had no WMD” – so they are saying Americans made the whole thing up (were not lied to or had faulty intel – no, they invented it. Just like they faked the moon landing).

    A few thoughts on the general attitudes towards Americans here, recent from late last year –

    These Kiwis think Americans are in their own little bubble (jf christ, and Kiwis aren’t?):

    Americans are fat and wealthy:
    a third of Americans obese? How about this…
    20 JANUARY 2011 WELLINGTON (STUFF NZ) — The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has published its first edition of a health review of 27 Asian and Pacific countries, working new and previous data into a series of graphs and charts. Sixty eight percent of New Zealand and Australian males are rated as the most overweight, making them the heaviest of the survey. Among women, 55 percent of Australians are overweight, rising to 58 percent for Kiwis.

    I am tempted to sit down like that gentleman and start keeping a record of all the overheard remarks of this type, and post them for the benefit of this blog, which is my most preferred of the NZ cautionary ones. I am a big boy and I can swallow it, but I must advise my fellow Americans, please do not bring your children. They should not have to deal with this.

  5. Well, having been in Chch it doesn’t shock me, but saddens me to see that not even tragedy has been able to change the ways of some people…toilets are being stolen, aren’t they? there has been a lot of looting, hasn’t it? that shows that there is a segment of Chch’s population who are the lowest of the low and will take their nasty ways to the grave.
    Bite the hand that helps them.. deserve no sympathy…

  6. I am ashamed to be a Kiwi after reading this. Please know that this is not representative of most of the people here. We truly are grateful for all the help we’ve received from overseas, including the US. I don’t understand why there seems to be an anti-American sentiment. It’s so unneccesary in this global community we live in.

  7. Have any of our readers have a story about the sterling work of the rescue teams in New Zealand?

    Let us know.

  8. It can’t have been easy for the author to listen to either – being an American living in NZ himself. We have no reason to doubt the veracity of his story.

    What a shame that these brave men were subjected to this in their final hours in New Zealand. But being the hardened professionals that they are they managed to shrug it off. No doubt having been subjected to far, far worse during their time among the ruins to have been affected much by mere words.

    Nevertheless, people should take care with what they say because there’s no telling who else is listening. This isn’t a good ‘look’ for New Zealand.

  9. In reply to “Ingrates”. To tell you the truth, that all sounds a little far fetched to me. I can’t imagine one group of people saying such things, let alone several. They don’t even sound like the type of things NZers would even say! They don’t phrase things that way. Personally, I know of not one NZer that would talk like that about these wonderful people who did such a fantastic job. The whole of Christchurch, and I’d go so far to say NZ, are grateful for these people’s efforts, and all the other nations’. As these comments were overheard, and second hand, I would appreciate you being more sure of what you say before spreading this around your countrymen. You are insulting them by even printing this.

    If the comments are in the slightest bit true, I can assure you they must have been made by the tiniest portion of our society whose IQ is below 20. We all have them in our countries and we all wish we didn’t! But normally most of us are not silly enough to make their totally worthless comments public.

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