This year marks exactly 50 years since the book The Ugly American hit the shelves, and yet those who call the United States home still can’t shake that damaging, albeit often fair, reputation. And while it may be just a few Americans who give the rest of us a bad rap, there are still plenty of people who spot a U.S. tourist abroad and can’t help but shake their heads.
So, where in the world are our Hawaiian shirts and unparalleled patriotism making us stand out like sore thumbs? Read on for a list of 20 countries that roll their eyes at U.S. tourists. And for more on our not-so-friendly foreign habits, check out these 30 Things Americans Do That Foreigners Think Are Super Weird.
Australia is home to a range of indigenous animal species, many of which drive the country’s tourism. One in particular is the furry, herbivorous koala. The problem? Americans like to call them koala bears. However, warns one Australian, “I find the most annoying thing that [Americans] do in Australia is to call our wonderful koala by the wrong name. DO NOT add ‘bear’ to the name. It is simply a koala.” And for more travel tips, check out these 15 Jaw-Dropping AirBnBs from Around the World That Won’t Break the Bank.
Apparently, Americans’ “we’re number one” philosophy isn’t so popular among the Danes. As one computer technology student in Denmark explained, “They feel better than the rest of the world, but in reality we are as good as they are. They simply don’t see us as their equal … but we are. Sometimes we are even better than them. But don’t tell them.” So, if you find yourself cruising through Copenhagen, make sure to tone down your more aggressively American attributes. And for more travel tips, check out these 15 Things You Should Never Do On An Airplane.
In Germany, don’t be surprised if the locals think your nationality means you’re a bit of a slob. As one woman from Germany told The Daily Mail, “Most people believe that Americans are dumb, mostly eat fast food and are very patriotic.”
Chalk it up to Germany’s rigorous schooling system (most Germans learn English from a young age and begin career-focused courses in their equivalent of high school), our need to have ice with every drink, or perhaps our seemingly insatiable need to wear the American flag everywhere we go. For more on the horrors of traveling abroad, check out these 20 Shocking Facts About Your Hotel Room.
A highly popular attraction in Rio de Janeiro are painted Jeeps giving tourist rides through the now world-famous favelas. After the movie City of God, Americans just have to see life in the slums first-hand. They sling their big cameras around their necks and file into an old Jeep for a safari-esc expedition to see how other humans live their lives. However, as one Brazilian national succinctly explains, “Poverty and inequality shouldn’t be tourist attractions.”
Americans just can’t seem to help but try to show how well we know a country based on the movies we’ve seen. As one Italian tells it, the most annoying thing U.S. tourists do is making “the hand-gesture“—you know, the thumb-to-forefinger motion you see in every American movie about Italians. It’s not just a symbol of emphasis, but actually means “What do you want?” Yeah, I’d roll my eyes too. And for more on what makes Italy superior, check out these 50 Things Italians Do Better.
Unfortunately, some people—many U.S. tourists among them—feel that the best way for them to vacation and see the world is for others to fund their travels, a few bucks at a time. It’s called “beg-packing.” Yep, tourists set up on a street corner and beg for money to get to their next island destination. Considering that more than 31 million people are living in poverty in Indonesia, this is understandably eye-roll-worthy.
You may have seen incredible photos of your friends smiling with, playing with, or feeding a bottle to massive tigers in Thailand. You probably thought, “Wow, I wonder how they train those ferocious beasts?”
Unfortunately, the means by which it’s made possible have earned tourists some understandable ire. According to one insider, “The truth is these ferociously handsome kitties are sedated, have the tendons in their paws clipped, and have their claws and teeth removed, so they don’t maul the happy faces of ignorant tourists.”
India is undeniably beautiful and rich in history, but that doesn’t mean it’s an entire country created specifically for the purpose of your Instagram. Mumbai-based blogger Prachi Vaity is tired of foreigners saying, “I’m in India to find myself!”
She says, “India is a country, not a self-help book! … Look, you can still come to India. Just leave your ‘Eat, Pray, Loving’ at the door. Your ‘self’ is not waiting patiently for you to arrive at some ashram in India, or a monastic retreat in Himalayas. Sorry.” And if you are looking to find peace and balance with the universe, consider one of these 20 Most Zen Places on Earth.
Think you can use your American dollars in Ireland? Think again—and trying to do so will certainly annoy some locals. Sharing a particularly annoying encounter with a U.S. tourist, one Irish national says: “I explained that nowhere accepts [dollars], no restaurant, hotel, shop, nowhere. He demanded to know what kind of a country doesn’t accept [dollars]. ‘A foreign country,’ I answered, ‘with foreign currency.’”
And you’re a hard-partying tourist in Ireland, know that it’s truly bad form to order an “Irish car bomb” at a pub there. After all, it’s not a joke: There were actual car bombs there. Trust us: It’s one of the 30 Biggest Cultural Mistakes Americans Make While Abroad.
Just about everyone says American tourists are loud, but the bigger issue for some Scots is our “annoying accents.” At the very least, hold back on the Braveheart impersonations. And if you need some incentive to visit Scotland, one of the country’s roads earned a spot on our list of the 40 Roads Everyone Should Drive by Age 40.
Strike two for the U.S. education system: Americans struggle with geography. One Belgian admits to being particularly tired of Americans thinking Belgium is a city in Germany. That’s Berlin, folks. Not even close.
What’s one thing someone from the States can do to annoy an Argentinian? Call yourself American. One woman on TripAdvisor asked how Americans are received in Argentina as she was preparing for a trip there.
One response said, “I think you’ll find that all the folks in Argentina are Americans – South Americans!!!!!” Calling ourselves “Americans” really just feeds our stereotypical reputation for arrogance.
A recent study found that the most popular emoji in the U.K. is the laughing-crying emoji, likely frequently used in reaction to some dumb things tourists do. Unfortunately, United States tourists just can’t seem to leave the soldiers of the Queen’s Guard alone.
Never mind that the soldiers are often carrying automatic weapons. The fuzzy hats and straight faces attract us like moths to a flame. Usually they keep pretty composed, but one U.S. teen was shocked to have a guard point his bayonet at him, yelling, “Get back from the Queen’s Guard!” when the teen put his hand on the guard’s shoulder.
Once again, our geographical knowledge is seriously lacking, and a pet peeve to those who encounter us abroad. Czech Republic native Vojta Rod is sick of the question, “Are Czechs the same as Russians?”
In France, U.S. tourists seem to forget that many of the French speak English very well. French national Michell Martin Corson shared an experience where “two young women were walking down the sidewalk in front of me discussing specific graphic details of their last evening’s debaucheries.” For more travel ideas, check out these 15 Summer Family Trips Your Teenage Children Won’t Hate.
Not only is Northern Ireland a separate country from Ireland, but Northern Ireland is part of the U.K., while Ireland is not. However, Northern Ireland is not part of Great Britain. We from the U.S. of A. have a hard time understanding this. In our defense, the breakdown of geographical kingdoms is out of our wheelhouse. Great Britain is comprised of Scotland, Wales, and England. The U.K. includes these and Northern Ireland. To make it more confusing, the British Islands and the British Isles are different too. However, if you want to make yourself welcome while visiting Northern Ireland, it behooves you to know the difference.
Some U.S. tourists see no shame in public drinking in a foreign country. One Greek said, “Americans go out and get college-girl drunk—it’s a big cultural difference. In Greece, we care a lot about what people think, so we grow up trying to do everything in certain ways. Plus, there was never a drinking age here [until recently when they made it 18], so as teenagers, we never felt the need to get wasted because we easily could if we’d really wanted to.”
Tourists can’t be expected to understand every cultural norm of the places they visit. However, that’s no excuse for ignorance and insensitivity. One author on Odyssey wrote about disrespectful American tourists visiting the sacred Angkor Wat temples, complaining that they ignored the clearly-stated expectations regarding their dress.
“Women must cover their shoulders and knees when attending the temples, out of respect to the locals and the monks that go there to pray and meditate. How many American women have I seen in tank tops and short shorts this week, at Angkor Wat? Far too many. It’s grossly disrespectful and completely out of line, but something that is ‘advised’ like a cultural norm is often totally ignored by American tourists.”
One of the best ways to experience a foreign culture is through the local cuisine. Yet, in Austria and many other countries around the world, U.S. tourists see fit to stop at the McDonald’s instead of a local coffee shop, bakery, or restaurant—no matter how famous or renowned the local establishment is. Unfortunately, seeing this has convinced some Austrians that Americans rely too much on familiarity and are unwilling to expand their horizons.
It’s no secret that Americans crave entertainment and gratification. But sometimes we take it way too far. Mats Andersson says, “[Americans] imagine that everywhere they go is a theme park, put on especially for them to amuse themselves. In Svalbard, they have even been known to just wander into private homes, and get very upset when they are shown the door.” To make sure you’re on toes as a tourist, check out these 30 Major City Names You May Be Pronouncing All Wrong.
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