This is from an article on Huffington Post.
I love traveling abroad, and I know I was an ugly American during my first trip over the pond to the United Kingdom in 1989. I have come a long way this then! But I almost always encounter Americans like those described in this article when I am traveling.
This one didn’t hit me until I had made several trips abroad. I now do my research and try to blend in when traveling – especially in Paris where fashion is important. I admit that I love it when tourists in London and Paris mistake me for a local! And while that doesn’t need to be everyone’s goal, I do agree that it is important to avoid standing out. There are cities like Barcelona that have serious problems with pick pockets. You can reduce your chances of becoming a victim when you look like you belong.
2. English Only
I made my first trip to Paris in 1996. I was warned by lots of people that the French are rude to Americans. I didn’t experience that at all, largely due to the fact that I used as much of my high school French as I could remember. I always make an effort to speak the local language. Unfortunately, I have this problem where I think my brain can only retain English and French; because I tend to speak French is every foreign country – even after I learn some basic local language expressions. I remember dealing with a very confused looking woman in Tokyo’s airport after I started speaking French to her. It doesn’t take me long to switch though.
3. Complaining About Portions
Given all of the research about obesity rates in America, I am not even going to comment, except to say shame on us.
4. Demanding to Know the Price in Dollars
I hope this is really only an issue with border countries – Mexico and Canada. It would be very insulting to do this abroad. A little harsh perhaps, but if you can’t do basic math and learn currency conversion you should stay home. Or download the app!
5. Excessive Patriotism
Agreed! I have seen this also, but I have seen it from non-Americas too. I encountered a large group of Irish guys in Lisbon who should have been embarrassed by their behavior.
6. Trying to Recreate America Abroad
I really enjoy eating local cuisine, but I do follow one of Rick Steves’ recommendations – eat at McDonald’s abroad because they are quite different than the food we get in America. We used McDonald’s in Japan as a way to save money. We would eat a light meal first at McDonald’s and then go to a local sushi or noodle place for our “real” meal. Food is very expensive in Japan, and going back to #3, it would cost a great deal of money to get “full” in Tokyo at a local sushi restaurant.
Skip McDonald’s in England though and eat at the local pubs. But, beware of peas! (I don’t like peas and hate to waste food so I ask up front for them to leave the peas in the kitchen because I will not eat them and don’t want to see them thrown away.)
This one took me a long time to overcome, and not just when traveling abroad. It is important to pack light in certain cities especially if you plan to use local transportation. Don’t expect escalators in every subway station in London and Paris, so lugging a huge suitcase up several flights of stairs will not be fun.
I had two interesting experiences the first time I was in London.
First, it was a school trip so there was a group of us girls. We went to a local pub, where after laughing at us, a group of locals provided lots of helpful tips on everything from the different kinds of beer – to pub food – to how to pronounce things the English way instead of the American way. I probably didn’t express it, but I really took what they told us and appreciated their advice.
I had a cold when I arrived and couldn’t clear my ears or taste anything. I did not feel well. Our first meal is something I haven’t forgotten – fried veal patty and peas. I tried a bite of each to be polite – and because I couldn’t taste them – but left the meal hungry. I didn’t eat for the next three days until I found a KFC. I was greatly relieved, because I was a very picky eater back then and couldn’t eat the food at our hotel. I filled my stomach and then began eating pub food, which I really like now. I probably would not enjoy traveling as much as I do if I didn’t get over my issues with food. I am now pretty brave and really do enjoy trying local cuisine.
Again a bit harsh perhaps – but if you don’t plan to truly enjoy local culture and customs – stay home.