How to Spot an American Tourist When You’re Traveling Abroad
The United States, like everywhere in the world, has its own way of doing things. This includes how we speak, interact with others and the cultural and social norms we admire and those we find odd. Having been all over the world and seen thousands of my fellow countrymen checking out the latest and greatest many different corners of the globe have to offer, I know a thing or two about how to spot and American tourist. After all, it’s not that hard. But in the spirit of having fun with the topic and not taking ourselves too seriously, here goes!
1. Americans are loud and talk way too much
Most of us don’t even realize it, but we are much louder people than the people in most other countries. Even those “big loud Italian families” we hear about can be quieter than us. Part of the issue isn’t volume as much as frequency. We talk all the time! In fact, I’ve seen fellow Americans traveling and interacting with someone who doesn’t speak English. Instead of trying to communicate in some cooperative way, we just speak English slower and louder as if that will help them understand. In the end, my message here is simple. We just never shut up!
To enjoy this more thoroughly, read these with an elderly female, New Jersey accent and read them quickly without pause.
“I SAID, DO YOU KNOW WHERE THE BATHROOM IS???!!!”
“Oh honey! Look at that bird, it’s just beautiful isn’t it?”
“What are you going to eat? I’m going to try the schnitzel. Do you like schnitzel or do you prefer something else? Oh look at that child, isn’t she so well behaved, not like at home in America, I have to tell Rhonda about this, her kid is such a brat don’t you think?”
“Mmmmmm oh my goodness! This dessert is unbelievable! Here try some! Isn’t it amazing!”
“Hey will you take a photo of me with the Great Wall of China behind me? This will make the perfect profile picture!”
“Wow! Just look at all the little stray dogs running around, how sad! Ooo gross they’re all dirty! Things here are so nasty don’t you think?”
No matter what we’re saying, we say it with a lot of volume and we say it a lot. We never stop talking. I have to remind myself to shut up constantly when I am traveling. Americans comment of everything! We cannot look at something, taste something or be somewhere without having to narrate the situation as if we are all radio commentators giving the play-by-play to millions of radio listeners.
In the end, Americans are pretty awesome! We’re authentic people who want to enjoy the places and people we see and we are naturally curious about other cultures. We just show our interest in a great big, loud and constant voice. Luckily, most of the world doesn’t hold it against us.
2. Americans live under a rock
Everybody in the world wants to be like me. Everyone in the world wants to do as I do. Not so!
Sure, our music, movies and technology is second to none so you’re going to meet people from Argentina who love Madonna and Metallica and you’re going to run into someone from Bavaria who is crazy about Brad Pitt and Chevy trucks. But other than the entertainment and cultural aspects of our country, most people in the world really don’t give us or our lives much thought. In all fairness, we have a lot, we’re very fortunate and it’s not a stretch to think that a lot of people really want the same opportunities we’ve created for ourselves in our country. But this doesn’t mean they think about us all the time and are familiar with everything that concerns our country. In fact, many people have contrary views to many of ours because their views of the world tend to be more holistic and inclusive instead of outlined with hard-and-fast boundaries. You’ll find that most cultures around the world have very strong characteristics, but they also tend to be rather open and enjoy sharing what they have with others. In the United States everything is about ownership. This certainly exists elsewhere too, but not with the same intensity as it does in the U.S. Americans live under a rock so to speak because we forget that the entire world isn’t keeping up with our lives with the same level of attention that we do. We are very self-centered people and while we are amazingly loving, generous and considerate, you really don’t find that out until you’ve spent some time interacting with us. Until you get to know us, we’re just loud, motormouth, self-centered Americans.
3. We aren’t the only Americans
Sure the word “America” is in our country’s name so for short we are called Americans. But anyone from North, Central or South America also considers themselves American. Sure, they may be Brazilian but they are also American, just like I am an Okie (presently from Oklahoma) but I too am an American. We really should try to remember this especially when talking to people from other parts of our hemisphere about our country and what it means to be an American. Remember…they’re American too and being an American probably means something a little bit different to them. We’re all Americans, we just have different nationalities.
4. Americans need a lot of personal space
You’ve been to the movies before. If you don’t know a person you automatically leave an empty seat between the two of you to avoid getting “too close” which causes all kinds of problems as the movie theater fills up. This happens in all areas of our lives, but this isn’t the case in other cultures. If someone bumps into us or touches our bodies in some way, we flip out thinking “how rude” and “what in the world is wrong with these people?” Other cultures don’t have 4 bedroom houses with 2 or 3 car garages, numerous personal vehicles and personal offices to work in. Before you get too proud, remember, most people in the world don’t want that. They consider it wasteful and materialistic. Either way, the United States is a massive country and has a great deal of wealth. Consequently, we have big houses, big cars, big yards, big tables and big everything. These things keep much more distance between us and those around us than you’ll find in most other cultures. The vast majority of the world thinks absolutely nothing about being on a train or sidewalk and having 3 or 4 different people touching them at some point. Their world is more intimate and connected on a personal level and they touch each other with much more frequency that we do. Americans are so easy to spot as they try to carve out a big personal space no matter where they are.
5. Americans are very opinionated about how awesome we are
Somewhere along the line, our entire country got the notion that we know everything and the ways that we do things are the right ways. Simultaneously, we have overlooked the truth that many cultures and nations have been getting along rather well for much longer than we’ve been around. But we don’t care, we’re big, we’re wealthy, we’ve got the cars, the music, the movies, the talent, the resources and the guns and we’re here to tell you that our way is the best way and while you all may be doing okay, if you would just do things our way, everything would be perfect in the world.
This sounds kinda far fetched but this is essentially how we approach other cultures. You might hear one of us say something like, “Sure that Catalonian dance and beer and artwork and architectural style is cool here in Barcelona, but if they had done it all the way we do it, maybe they wouldn’t have been conquered by the Spanish and wouldn’t be so upset about not being their own country anymore.” This is the type of thing that runs through our minds and unfortunately, often comes out of our mouths. We have strong opinions and this serves us well as a country trying to do the best it can for itself. But it doesn’t exactly endear us to people from other parts of the world. Once we get to know people on a personal level, we suddenly become more understanding and supportive of their way of life, but if you’re a stranger, we are here to tell you that you have some U.S.A. style learning to do in order to make your life better.
6. We’re huge – big bodies, personalities and appetites
I was walking through the streets of Rome, Italy one time and realized that the (obviously) American woman in front of me was physically larger than 3 (yes 3) full grown Belgian women sitting at the table beside her. Then I began to pay attention and I noticed that I was twice the size of many of the men. It seems like no matter where you go, you can pick out the American purely based on circumference. Whether it’s overgrown muscles and big fat bellies, we go big and go all out! Our portion sizes are massive, our personalities are big and loud and our way of life is very aggressive and pro our way, so it isn’t too much of a stretch to think that this would show up visually. And it does! Those poor little skinny French women standing next to someone from the U.S. are done for if that “Merican” is hungry. I have seen so many instances where Europeans, Asians and South Americans have looked at someone from the United States like, “you’re not hungry are you? You’re not going to eat me are you?” Hahahaaa I joke, but it is true, we are huge and everything about our lifestyles is large.
So there you have it my friends! Keep in mind that I have never met a person who wasn’t absolutely intrigued by my lifestyle and how I live in the United States. People everywhere are so cool if you meet them as equals and come to them with a sincere interest in who they are and what their culture is all about. Most people are really excited to share their national pride and cultural aspects with you if you remain humble, interested and appreciative of them as people. So we had some fun here joking a little bit about ourselves, but I do have to say that people from the United States really are pretty amazing. We just have a different way of demonstrating that than do other cultures and that is what makes us who we are. So be yourselves when you’re out there on the road, but be open to other points of view, other ways of life and others ways of seeing things. I dare say you may learn a thing or two and will probably make some great friends. I know I have.
Peace to you my friends.