From the fanny pack to the obnoxious volume of their voice, we can easily picture your average, annoying, US tourist. They’re everywhere—take any major city or landmark across the globe and it’s crawling with college t-shirt clad couples and families of football fans.
USA folk are a different breed of tourist. You can spot them from a mile away in a foreign country, for better or worse. Is there secretly a board of tourism officials who get together and make rules for US tourists who go abroad or are some of these traits naturally ingrained in the collective US consciousness?
Now, of course this doesn’t go for all of them—some are the most respectful, open-minded people abroad, but there’s a stereotype for tourists from every corner of the world, and unfortunately, USA folk tend to bear the brunt of them. Their intentions overseas may not be to offend, but their outgoing nature can seem to others as overbearing and rude.
US culture is widely admired all over the world, but when a US tourist pops up in a different country, locals might not be totally thrilled. If you’re someone from America going overseas, try to avoid doing these 20 things that frustrate foreign locals. Or, if you live outside the USA, do you recognise these annoying behaviours as uniquely USA-like?
20 Think They Know Everything
The girl spending a summer in India who thinks she’s an honorary yogi because she goes to yoga class every Monday and posts Instagram photos of herself in tree pose; The guy who thinks he’s fluent because he got a C in high school Spanish; The family who are all scholars on British history because they watched a royal wedding.
The know-it-all will lecture you on the culture and customs of your own country, even if they’ve been there a day and you for decades. Humour them if they launch into a lecture, maybe even politely offer additional facts—they might be interested in learning.
19 Be The Generic LOUD Murican Tourist
This is perhaps the most infamous trait of USA folk, abroad or at home. Why is it that they seem to have voices that compete with rolling thunder or a 24-piece orchestra? Maybe it’s volume alone, or combined with the accent and slang, but it’s as if people from the States try to drown out the noise surrounding them, and, more obnoxiously, the conversation you’re having near them.
They’re not all like this though, you just can’t hear the quiet ones over the voices of the loud. Pay a bit of attention and you’ll find there are many soft-spoken US tourists that are happy to refrain from talking over everyone else.
18 Their Leisure Gets In The Way Of Your Busy Day
This is especially true for tour groups and families. You could be out, going about your daily errands, and suddenly there’s a wall of seven Muricans (you can tell by their accents and ridiculous tourist garb) blocking your path, gazing about, pointing at all the pretty buildings and sights they see. They pay you no mind and have zero intention of moving.
This is the US tourist that loses all sense of awareness of their surroundings because, hey, they’re on vacation. You’re better off to detour around them, though if you squeeze through, they probably won’t notice anyway.
17 Stereotype You To Your Face
“Hey, is it true Parisians hate foreigners?”
“I hear all anyone does in Rio is party.”
This can be personally insulting, because they’re directly labelling you simply based only on the fact that you’re from a certain place. The worst part is that the offending person probably doesn’t mean to be rude, to them they’re only stating a fact.
Kindly correct them and don’t take their offhand comments to heart. You might even change their minds about stereotyping other countries. However, most USA folk won’t typecast you and realise that no culture falls under a single label.
16 Having No Desire To Learn
This small group of US folk can seem much larger than it is due to the fact that this type congregates in McDonald’s restaurants, beachfront resorts, and shopping centres. It’s all fair and well to want to relax and enjoy yourself while on holiday, but in a foreign country, it wouldn’t hurt to take in a little of the local flavours.
Why not try some authentic Mexican food while in Cancún, or stop by a Roman ruin in Italy? Not that you should always dive headfirst into cultural immersion, but if you aren’t experiencing any of the local customs, you may as well be staying in your own country.
15 USA! USA! USA! - A 24/7 broadcast
People from the USA love expressing their patriotism, which, while having good intentions, can attract the wrong kind of attention. Pickpockets target those who stand out, and some cultures take offense to blatant displays of nationalism. A tip for the US people—don’t go singing the Star Spangled Banner in, well, anywhere if you want to form a good relationship with locals.
Beware, though, the tourist that wears the US flag, usually on a faded t-shirt or a baseball cap. This tourist will be wishing they were home, though they’re only away for a week, and will think that yes, this new country is lovely, but it’s not a patch on Uncle Sam.
14 Tell You About Their Great-Great-Great Grandfather, Who Was Born Here
People from America, listen up: Citizens of other countries are not impressed when you tell them you are that nationality, i.e. “I’m Irish,” or “I’m Swedish.” They see you as from America and aren’t interested in how you’re 1/8 Italian because a distant relative of yours came over in the 19th century. To you, it’s a conversation starter, to them it’s annoying.
Claim heritage from that country only if asked. Maybe you’re visiting relatives or have an ethnic last name. Some locals will express interest, even asking if you’re related to their cousin in New Jersey (even though you’re from Arizona).
13 They're Curious...To A Fault
US culture is much more forward than most, and when USA folk think they’re being friendly and open, it can come across as a little too intrusive. In other cultures, even western ones, politeness is held in highest regard.
Muricans often forget to reflect on how their actions impact others, instead thinking, “Why is this person I’m talking to not answering my questions? Why are they shrinking away? How unfriendly!” They should be considering that that person might be uncomfortable by something they’ve said.
Take a step back, US friends. Let the other person lead the conversation.
12 Refer To Europe As A Country
They’re good at disguising it but conglomerating European countries into one infuriates its residents. A USA tourist in Croatia might be talking about the last time she was “in Europe,” in reference to Vienna, but the Croatian won’t be able to tell if she means Madrid or Moscow.
Sure, in the US, you can say you went to “Europe”, as you can say you were in “Africa,” and nobody will question where exactly you mean. But when you’re in the continent, use the country’s name, just as in the States you would use a state’s name instead of the country’s.
11 Assume Everyone Speaks English
Native English speakers are the least likely to speak a second or third language, probably because English is the world’s current lingua franca and anywhere an English speaker goes, someone is bound to speak enough English to understand them.
Still, it should be appreciated that most people speak English rather than expected. USA tourists will rarely think to learn at least a few basic phrases of the language spoken in the area they’re in. Locals are grateful when foreigners at least try to use their language and will be more than happy to facilitate communication in any way they can.
10 Dress Like A Tourist
US tourists seem to have a designated uniform of khaki shorts, some variety of hat or headwear, a graphic t-shirt with their state/town’s name, fanny pack or body strap to hold their passport, and a camera around their neck. Again, this attracts pickpockets, and just because your passport is strapped to your chest doesn’t mean thieves won’t run off empty handed.
An idea that might sound counterproductive at first is to not read those guidebooks that say pack your tennis shoes and breathable, monochromatic clothes. Pack comfortably but swap out some of those generic tourist pieces for something more appropriate. Research how people normally dress at your destination.
9 Talk (USA) Politics
Everyone knows that when meeting new people, you should never, ever bring up politics or religion. People’s beliefs are too personal to discuss on the first (or tenth!) meeting.
As one of the world’s most powerful and influential countries, US politics are followed worldwide, and foreigners will either feel strongly about them or take no interest. Either way, they don’t want someone from America strolling in and explaining their opinions and theories.
Best to avoid political talk completely, unless you are a politician, and someone asks you to explain your job.
8 Rely On Credit Cards
Money seems like a difficult concept abroad for some people from America. They might assume other countries accept the US Dollar (while some establishments will, do yourself a favour and exchange your currency), or forget the absurdly expensive foreign ATM charge (when you don’t come armed with local cash).
But USA folk love their credit cards more than any other nationality. And they especially love their US credit cards, which don’t always fly in other countries, especially in small towns, where it’s unlikely that businesses will even have a card reader. So, people, get a stack of euros or yen or baht and strap them in with your passport.
7 Disrespect Cultural Traditions
Adults shouldn’t need to be told to respect traditions that aren’t their own, so why do US folk (perhaps not intentionally) make fools of themselves by belittling other cultures? Don’t giggle at the nude statue or gawk at the attire of an indigenous tribesperson.
For those of us who can control their reactions, focus on the minor impolite things you might do. One common sign of disrespect you might not think about as someone from America, is tipping, which is not expected in most parts of the world. In fact, in countries like Japan and South Korea, it’s considered rude.
6 Pack Everything They Own
Sure, you might be the target of the serial sock-thief while abroad, but chances are, for a week-long trip you won’t need 40 pairs of socks. Nor will you need your own pillow, lamp, frying pan, seven pairs of shoes, and a spare toothbrush.
In fact, when it’s becoming more popular for even the highest maintenance travellers to take only a carry-on bag on holiday, people from the US still take the largest suitcase they own and stuff it well past the overweight baggage limit. Have no fear, people, most countries you’ll be visiting will have any essentials you may have forgotten, and you might want to leave some space for souvenirs.
5 Compare Everything To America
When overseas, there’s no need to compare everything in sight to the way it is back home, then there wouldn’t be any reason to travel. Yet, people from the US constantly feel the need to vocalize the differences between the US and their host country.
We all notice small variances from culture to culture but pointing out that, “We don’t use fish sauce in America,” to a Vietnamese person isn’t going to prompt much response, at least not a good one.
Instead, express wonder at something new and unique, as locals admire those who take an interest in their customs.
4 Forget That Staring Is Uncomfortable For Everyone
The unwavering stares of US tourists falls somewhere within the categories of disrespect and obstructing foot traffic. While staring at the wrong thing/person can certainly be insulting, they often simply stare blankly at something they find interesting, again, directly in the path of someone trying to be somewhere.
These looks can not only be rude, but downright annoying. You could be in a restaurant trying to enjoy yourself, speaking an unfamiliar language to the Muricans sitting next to you, and the best course of action they decide to take is to listen and look over, staring. People, be slightly more mindful about where your eyes wander.
3 Take Inappropriate Pictures
Photography is viewed differently in every country, and whether you travel with the intent of taking professional photos or just want some snapshots of your trip, do your research before taking off so you know what’s acceptable, especially if you plan on asking to take a stranger’s photo (and always ask permission).
If you’re in a historic building or at a monument and signs ask you to refrain from taking photos, obey them and don’t make yourself out to be the obnoxious US tourist who can’t read. Don’t put your phone on your lap in the Sistine Chapel and sneak blurry photos when you can buy a beautifully photographed postcard.
2 Underestimate The Extent Of Globalisation
People from America aren’t sure what to think about the technology in other countries. They tend to be surprised when obscure corners of the world have US television and movies, conversely being frustrated when the WiFi they expected in the Amazon Rainforest is unheard of.
Every country is on a different level of technology, and the music charts in Bratislava will largely resemble those in Los Angeles, while engineering in Dubai is among the best in the world. Globalisation is widespread today, so don’t base your judgments of the world on your 11th grade world history class.
1 Complain... About Anything And Everything
Right now, there’s a US tourist out there in a humid subtropical climate, laden with all the things they packed just in case and sweating in their running shoes and cargo shorts and you can bet they’re complaining. Unfortunately, they won’t recognize that they’re the one unprepared, but it must be the fault of the sun’s ruthlessness in places near the equator.
USA folk love to hate, and this doesn’t switch off because they’re travelling. They’ll complain about the food, the smell, the prices, the lack of English speakers—anything that even slightly inconveniences them. Relax, people, and enjoy yourselves, different doesn’t mean worse.