Are you too loud? Or is it your suit?
April 16, 2006 12:59 PM   Subscribe

Speak softly, don't argue and slow down' The reputation of the "Ugly American" abroad is not..... just some cruel stereotype, but - according to the American government itself - worryingly accurate. Now, the State Department has joined forces with American industry to plan an image make-over by issuing guides for Americans travelling overseas on how to behave.
posted by terrymiles (96 comments total)

 
I can't believe the State Department thinks americans are THAT stupid ? I guess I met the stereotyped american only one time in my life and he really was a big momma boy after all !
posted by elpapacito at 1:04 PM on April 16, 2006


State Department Guide for overseas behavior
posted by srboisvert at 1:11 PM on April 16, 2006


that's a very cool url, but changing the style sheet doesn't seem to do anything.
posted by andrew cooke at 1:12 PM on April 16, 2006


I don't think that'll do much good given the actions of our government, of late.
posted by delmoi at 1:12 PM on April 16, 2006


"Religion is usually considered deeply personal, not a subject for public discussions."

It would be nice if the government followed it's own advice.
posted by 2sheets at 1:14 PM on April 16, 2006


Then there's this, dining tips for world travelers.
posted by etaoin at 1:18 PM on April 16, 2006


It wouldn't hurt if americans followed that advice in the United States as well as overseas.
posted by martinX's bellbottoms at 1:21 PM on April 16, 2006


... and furthermore, stop trying to pass yourself off as Canadian, nobody believes that anymore.
posted by bobo123 at 1:22 PM on April 16, 2006


I hardly think a pamphlet is going to be able to override years of bad manners and/or bad rearing.
posted by dobbs at 1:22 PM on April 16, 2006


Americans (in general) really are a lot louder than people from other cultures that I've met, though. Being out in public in Canada is ... a lot more calm-feeling, even in Toronto.
posted by blacklite at 1:26 PM on April 16, 2006


But I liked being the uniquely polite traveling American.
posted by b1tr0t at 1:35 PM on April 16, 2006


USA is #1. Why don't the natives acknowledge the USA has the best of everything.

Where is the damn ketchup?
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 1:39 PM on April 16, 2006


I actually think this is a bad stereotype about Americans. I find traveling abroad that other nationalities are so much more prone to loud and obnoxious behavior. At least from my travels.
posted by LouieLoco at 1:47 PM on April 16, 2006


Americans (in general) really are a lot louder than people from other cultures that I've met

Not that Americans aren't loud, but the Chinese outdo us by a factor of 3, at least.

As for the state department, I think it's cute that someone there believe that tourists on good behavior are going to change the image of the U.S. as a boorish, self-absorbed juggernaut, willfully ignorant of local culture and actively rolling over anything that disagrees with it.

As a fairly well travelled American, I would like to inform the state department: The world just doesn't mind American tourists that much. In fact, they like us better than the Germans (we tip better). The rest of the world is perfectly capable of meeting us as individuals and liking us, while at the same time recognizing that our country is sociopathically batshit insane.
posted by tkolar at 1:53 PM on April 16, 2006


Some Americans may be loud and obnoxious, but as one who lives abroad, I can tell you they are hardly alone in having these traits.

And as mentioned in the article, the biggest image problem Americans abroad have is our foriegn policy, and no amout of politeness and quietness is going to get around that.
posted by moonbiter at 2:03 PM on April 16, 2006


There's people who have ugly behavior from every nation, and there's preset "stereotypical" bad behavior of every nationality. There's certainly badly behaved Americans, but being American certainly doesn't preclude bad behavior.

After college, I backpacked solo abroad for a year (during the Clinton years), trying to take in both the tourist locations and the Rick Steves routes. What I found was that people had preconceived notions of what an Ameican was, and that didn't usually include first-hand experience of ever meeting an American. Despite being painfully aware and raised to mind my P's and Q's, people either absolutely loved me or hated me, and that reaction started upon their first learning that I was American - not upon having a discussion with me. My biggest peeve was that I was 23, desperately trying to learn about the world I live in, and being forcibly accused quite often that I, as an American was painfully ignorant and not interest in the world I lived it. On the whole, people who had met or interacted with Americans before myself, did like Americans or had positive experiences, but I found many many people who just absolutely wanted nothing to do with me simply because I was born & raised in the United States. We were loud (ok, guilty), selfish (not guilty), stupid (debatable) and every other cliché we've all heard. By rule, I took the concessionary route, but also learned fairly quickly to shut down these folks by asking simply if they had ever met an American before. Strangely more often than not, the answer was a harsh 'no,' followed up by some lengthy retort about our media.

In fact, while traveling that year I learned that sadly, it's not very customary for Americans as a whole to backpack the world (although I hope it's different now), and only ever met about ten other US backpackers during that time. Americans usually take arranged tours, insular by nature, perhaps to avoid the sort of experiences I had (though I relished them), which did include some discomfort and rather 'on the cheap' methods.

I have very fond memories of having a evening conversation at a cafe in Piazza San Marco, Venice with about 20 other backpackers of similar age consisting of several Columbians, Australians, Italians, Canadians, Germans and Britons and being called to answer for several er - "Americanisms." Including topics from "why all Americans think Columbia is 'just drugs'" to "why Americans are ugly." I'm still surprised at how comely I took it all and tried to explain the nature of such a large country with so much wealth and so much diversity. It's difficult to fully explain the expanse of 290 million individuals. At the end of it, we all ended up on pretty friendly terms, and several of them apologizing for their previous aggression. But still, I think ignorance is a wide-spread problem on all sides, we Americans might just take a larger brunt of it since we all are often taken by where we come from - and who might be our administration at that time.
posted by eatdonuts at 2:05 PM on April 16, 2006


Anyone who thinks Yanks are obnoxious hasn't been stuck on a 10am bus with a bunch of drunk Britts. Those girls emptied out all the beer in the tiny Lao village before departure!
posted by furtive at 2:06 PM on April 16, 2006


Some young Israelis can be heavy going, too.
posted by Kiwi at 2:17 PM on April 16, 2006


Ever seen Brazilian tour groups at Walt Disney World? They put anything Americans might do abroad to shame.

I just try to be respectful of the people around me wherever I go and that usually means just being quiet and observing for a while until I figure out what that entails.

If foreigners are going to be upset because of what clothes I wear (though I do keep it to the simple basics for the most part) then I reserve the right to be upset with the way Japanese girls get their hair cut.
posted by obfusciatrist at 2:17 PM on April 16, 2006


I've found that most Americans who travel do so to increase their experience of the world, but in all fairness every nation has its own stereotypes.

The stereotypical British tourist can be found inhabiting the English/Irish/Scottish bars (never seen a Welsh bar though), of the Spanish Costas and popular package resorts of the Meditteranean.

Two weeks of loud, drunken and arrogant behaviour with Union Jack shorts and t-shirts, sandals with socks, beer bellies on show (men and women), sun burnt, pint in one hand and a Daily (hate) Mail in the other typifies the brit family abroad.

Package holidays like that horrify me, however, the fact remains that all stereotypes have an element of truth and reality in them..
posted by Nugget at 2:17 PM on April 16, 2006


We may be noisy and opinionated, but you ever have a discussion with an Israeli? It's like agressive trolling is the only argumentation style they've ever learned.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:18 PM on April 16, 2006


Sort of like talking to American about Israel then...
posted by Artw at 2:25 PM on April 16, 2006


all stereotypes have an element of truth and reality in them

That's a stereotype on stereotypes :D !
posted by elpapacito at 2:33 PM on April 16, 2006


I've met plenty of lovely, friendly and kind Americans in many places I've visited. True, some had a rather naive view on what other countries were like and how to handle the developing world, but they were a lot better, in general than many others.

I was once taking a plane from Liverpool (UK) to Dublin and I saw people gwetting on a plane next to us, bound for Malaga. When I saw that bunch of drunk chav's, I did think it was morally wrong to send those people to another country. The worst of the Brits abroad is just disgusting. I have never seen Americans behave as awfully as my fellow countrymen and women.

Earlier this year I changed planes in Munich, on my way to Qatar. The plane was then heading to Thailand. Having a beer before the flight I got chatting with a middle aged German couple, already dressed for their beach vacation. They asked where I was going and I told them. The man replied "I hate Arabs".

Being in a slightly twisted frame of mind, I replied "At least they're not Jewish"

"Yes, you're right that's tr....."

Silence.

I left.
posted by quarsan at 2:38 PM on April 16, 2006


Frankly, in my experience, Americans abroad are really not that bad, or worse than other nationalities. In fact, they may be quite self-conscious and pay more attention to their surroundings. The only problem I've noticed is that they sometimes get lost in the most touristic places and have to be rescued by their hosts from, say, the historical centers of Roma or Paris... But then, the most confused tourist I've ever met was not an American but a Hong Kong citizen who was desperately looking for the Piazza Navona in Paris.
posted by elgilito at 2:53 PM on April 16, 2006 [1 favorite]


Guide for American Students Overseas:

Step #1: Sew a Canadian flag onto your backpack.
posted by frogan at 2:55 PM on April 16, 2006


The hen parties leaving from Liverpool airport are quite possibly the most frightening thing I've seen in my life.

I grew up in a tourist town and I think American's get a bad rap, they're really no different than anyone else. If anything they're better liked because they aren't cheap, they don't get obnoxiously drunk and insult the locals and they tip well.

I've also encountered the "I know everything about America because I watch Desperate Housewives" phenomenon a lot going home to Europe and it's kind of funny. Why would American TV programs be any more accurate than, say, Eastenders or even Eurotrash? I can only surmise that American media is so pervasive that people really feel like they understand the country and culture despite never having been there or really knowing any Americans.
posted by fshgrl at 2:59 PM on April 16, 2006


Just for the record, the coinage "Ugly American" comes from the 1959 novel of the same name by Eugene Burdick and William Lederer - and in the novel, Ugly American is a term of approval (because one of the heroes, Homer Atkins, is precisely not a manicured, deodorised, superficial, all-surface American, but a grimy, ugly, practical dirty fingernailed sort of guy who can be an example to the nation and to the natives.)

Funny how it shifted so quick...
posted by A189Nut at 3:02 PM on April 16, 2006


These boil down to the golden rule for getting along with people: be self-contained. That is, don't expose others to your spit, smell, noise, or opinions. I'm looking at you, Chinese, French, Spanish and American travellers, respectively!

(I apologise for the stereotyping, but... well, there you go).
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 3:03 PM on April 16, 2006


When I lived in Europe I basically developed a rule: If you're going to chew my ear off in a bar about American foreign policy, fat stupid Americans and their crazy lawsuits, or the intrensic supiority of Football/Rugby/Hurling/etc. over American Football you had to keep me well supplied with beer.

As soon as the golden poison stopped flowing, I stopped talking.
posted by jcking77 at 3:04 PM on April 16, 2006


A189Nut wrote...
Just for the record, the coinage "Ugly American" comes from the 1959 novel of the same name by Eugene Burdick and William Lederer - and in the novel, Ugly American is a term of approval (because one of the heroes, Homer Atkins, is precisely not a manicured, deodorised, superficial, all-surface American, but a grimy, ugly, practical dirty fingernailed sort of guy who can be an example to the nation and to the natives.)

That's really interesting. Thanks for posting that.
posted by tkolar at 3:17 PM on April 16, 2006


The world just doesn't mind American tourists that much. In fact, they like us better than the Germans (we tip better).

See, this is the mentality that is part of the problem:
"The rest of the world have menial jobs and exist only to serve me, so all I need to do to be liked is tip better than others."

Newsflash: Most of the world like the germans better, they build nice, reliable cars and haven't started any wars lately. And the wars they did start they have the decency to feel bad about.
posted by spazzm at 3:45 PM on April 16, 2006


Continuing on the topic of tipping...do people hate Australian's because we don't? Or rather, have to be rudely embarrased into doing it?

But, in reality, there isn't ever just one sort of tourist, so you can't stereotype people into cultures like that. An American backpacker in Amsterdam is going to act different from a pack of little rich kids in Cancun, which will be different from a couple of American retirees in Alice Springs. And, I've got to say, every American tourist I've ever met, either here in Australia or overseas, has been incredibly polite, friendly and well spoken. I always thought the award for loud and obnoxious would go to the gangs of Australian backpackers in Europe, but the points people have made about the British are probably pretty fair.
posted by Jimbob at 4:11 PM on April 16, 2006


New England Republican has a few other suggestions for how Americans should act overseas.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 4:15 PM on April 16, 2006


Being in a slightly twisted frame of mind, I replied "At least they're not Jewish"

Dayumn, quarsan. That is twisted. Reminds me a little of the time I met a devastatingly handsome German man in a bar in Paris. We talked all night and eventually the subject turned to history. The war came up. He says
"I don't know why I should be held accountable for what my grandparents did."
"Oh, so they were Nazis?"
End of conversation and end of any chance at getting lucky. And I was so hoping to reconcile our peoples' troubled past. Although this would have been further proof to my family that I am a self-hating Jew.
posted by TheGoldenOne at 4:16 PM on April 16, 2006


Newsflash: Most of the world like the germans better, they build nice, reliable cars...

on the contrary, mercedes' automobiles have the worst reliability on the market, followed closely by bmw and volkswagen.
posted by Ziggy Zaga at 4:17 PM on April 16, 2006


spazzm wrote...
The world just doesn't mind American tourists that much. In fact, they like us better than the Germans (we tip better).
See, this is the mentality that is part of the problem:
"The rest of the world have menial jobs and exist only to serve me, so all I need to do to be liked is tip better than others."


I hate to break it to you, but 90% of the people a tourist from any country encounters are working in jobs that involve tipping. All but the rarest tourists are staying in hotels, eating at restaurants, being driven around in cabs and charter busses, and being guided through tourist attractions.

Newsflash: Most of the world like the germans better, they build nice, reliable cars and haven't started any wars lately. And the wars they did start they have the decency to feel bad about.

I have yet to see a German tourist make a car. Or an American tourist start a war, for that matter.

You are correct, however, that Germans are preferred over Americans by the tourist industry. I mis-remembered the article in question. It's the Brits who are in the shitter.
posted by tkolar at 4:23 PM on April 16, 2006


European Men Are So Much More Romantic Than American Men
posted by homunculus at 4:30 PM on April 16, 2006


Continuing on the topic of tipping...do people hate Australian's because we don't? Or rather, have to be rudely embarrased into doing it?

I don't think people hate aussies - there's to few of them to make much of an impression. Maybe they are disliked in places where they congregate in large numbers (e.g. London)?

And in some cultures, tipping is considered insulting, almost like bribery (which I learned after having to accept my tip back and apologize to a tiny enraged waitress in Tokyo).
posted by spazzm at 4:31 PM on April 16, 2006


And in some cultures, tipping is considered insulting, almost like bribery.

I think to an Australian it's just considered unnecessary and anti-egalitarian. A waitress isn't some serf waiting on hand-outs from your lordship. She's just another person with a job to do. And in Australia we pay them well, so we don't realize that in other places they don't.
posted by Jimbob at 4:34 PM on April 16, 2006


one thing i find really bizarre is the american tendancy to eat with one hand under the table (correct me if i'm wrong please). it's just so weird. looks like you're playing with yourselves or something.
posted by canned polar bear at 4:41 PM on April 16, 2006


Another reason people don't hate aussies are that they are such a likeable bunch.

The Londoners may disagree, but they're just a bunch of whinging poms, so who cares?
posted by spazzm at 4:47 PM on April 16, 2006


"European Men Are So Much More Romantic Than American Men"

... ha ha, this is great. I'd have to say that while I lusually love a man with an accent, I wasn't too particularly fond of having my crotch grabbed twice in Barcelona (two different men in clubs), being exposed (literally) to some guy jerking off on the Italian subway, a man offering a friend and I money to "see his boat" in Monaco, and another guy asking me to dance in Rome and then shoving his tongue down my throat as soon as I got up. Of course, who can forget the charming way the latter shrugged it off by saying, "But you need a memory of Italy!"

Mmmm, sometimes I think the problem isn't the tourist.
posted by eatdonuts at 4:50 PM on April 16, 2006


I don't find Americans travelling to be the loudest or the most obnoxious - but definitely the most annoying. "It's too hot in here, can we turn up the AC? Oh, now it's too cold. I don't like these beds, the sheets scratch me too much. And the food is so weird. What I wouldn't give for a hamburger right now." STFU!

I often wonder if they're really that bad, or it's just my own embarassment at being American.
posted by fungible at 4:54 PM on April 16, 2006


I have yet to see a German tourist make a car.

I guess german auto-workers never go on vacation, then. They just mindlessly slave away at the VW assembly line, day and night, untill they topple over ;)

The reputation of a country as a whole reflect on the individual citizens, and vice versa. Sure it's prejudice, but that's how a large portion of the world operates.
posted by spazzm at 4:56 PM on April 16, 2006


State Department to Americans: Behave like Canadians, and our policies have made it dangerous for you to talk politics so don't. You are walking PR for the country, which is how the entire government is run nowadays by us--it's all marketing.

also, Karen Hughes, that rousing success at outreach and overseas travel, was involved in this, which pretty much tells you it's bullshit. 1 1/2 billion dollars of our money is involved with this too.

More on Hughes and the State Dept. and what she wants to see overseas from Americans: --The State Department has been using political litmus tests to screen private American citizens before they can be sent overseas to represent the United States, weeding out critics of the Bush administration's Iraq policy, according to department officials and internal e-mails. ...

I travel alot, and talk politics all the time, and never have trouble. I'm open to new experiences and different ways of doing things, and not an asshole, which are the only rules you should have when traveling. Most of us don't travel overseas anyway so it's not really an issue at all. and I doubt it's the tour groups of retired people that are causing problems.

canned, it is really weird--i think it's connected to some English rules we imported.
posted by amberglow at 5:08 PM on April 16, 2006


this is a really good rule tho, too:
When I lived in Europe I basically developed a rule: If you're going to chew my ear off in a bar about American foreign policy, fat stupid Americans and their crazy lawsuits, or the intrensic supiority of Football/Rugby/Hurling/etc. over American Football you had to keep me well supplied with beer.
: >
posted by amberglow at 5:10 PM on April 16, 2006


I love stereotypes, but only when they're subtly funny enough to appeal to my wry, understated British sense of humour. Fucking yanks are all gape-yapped gobshites, though.
posted by Decani at 5:36 PM on April 16, 2006


Personally, I found the recommendations themselves to be smug and arrogant. Sort of a wink, wink, nudge, nudge, you know and we know that America is the best. Just try to be polite about how you let those poor foreigners know. Ugh.
posted by michswiss at 5:44 PM on April 16, 2006


It should be pretty clear that Americans don't care what stupid foreigners think of them. If we did care, we wouldn't have reelected our "war president", who seems hell-bent on insulting our allies (especially "old Europe") and alienating the rest of the world (think Bolton in the UN).

A lot of foreigners saw Bush's reelection as the US voter's approval of everything Bush has done - lying about WMDs, the war in Iraq, torturing prisoners, bullying and insulting our allies, ignoring global warming, etc. etc.

Of course some foreigners are able to separate their opinions of individual Americans from our nation's foreign policy, in much the same way your neighbors may like you personally despite the fact that your dog periodically escapes at night and craps on their lawn. But when packs of your dogs run loose on the streets day and night and you respond by purchasing more rottweilers with spiked collars, their goodwill towards you is bound to suffer.
posted by Davenhill at 5:48 PM on April 16, 2006


I've worked at a couple of jobs where I came into contact with lots of tourists over the years, and while I did meet a few unbelievably rude Americans, they were the exception to a pretty pleasant, polite rule. They couldn't hold a candle to Brits abroad, anyway - nobody could.

Even if Americans really are ruder, louder and more obnoxious, they're nowhere near as drunk, violent, destructive, abusive and generally in need of a good fucking slap as the average package-holiday lager-lout chav in Malaga. If i felt any sort of association with the country beyond currently residing here I'd be ashamed. As it is, I just feel thoroughly sorry for anyone living in one of the places that regularly gets invaded by the total shits.
posted by terpsichoria at 6:05 PM on April 16, 2006


As long as we're stereotyping, I don't expect that most of the folks that elected the current administration have strayed too far from our shores in their lives. Its the Eastern elitist liberals that give everyone else the bad rap.

Seriously, after spending about a year and a half living in Zurich and traveling thoughout Europe and the Far East on business, albeit most ending in around 2000, so it may have changed somewhat. I have to say that I have never had any 'foriegner' ever treat me anything other than politely, act interested in America, or at least be neutral.

Maybe these stereotypes are just what stereotypes are prone to be, the shortcuts for the lazy mind?
posted by sfts2 at 6:08 PM on April 16, 2006


In Europe I found that - unless you are in the UK, of course-if you just take a stab at the native language from the get-go, people will be at best kind, and at worst tolerant..


I have seen plenty of "ugly Americans" right here in the states - so I can't begin to worry about the ones abroad.
posted by wfc123 at 6:22 PM on April 16, 2006


My personal favourite 'ugly American' story involved my friend Ray, who worked at a McDonald's at the time.

An American couple came in, got their whatevers, and paid with American funds. No problem. As was the policy in most places in Victoria, change was given in Canadian funds, whereupon they told Ray that they wanted "real money, not your McDonald's money." He was perplexed, and informed them that it was, indeed, real money. At which point the male of the pair took out his wallet, showed Ray a few American bills, and said in his most condescending tone, "No, you know. Real money."

Then there was the couple who asked where the bridge back to the mainland was. Bear in mind, of course, that not only is there no bridge, but they had taken a ferry to get where they were.

Nothing, however, can surpass what I've heard of the arrogance of the French when confronted with Quebecois. Egads.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 7:24 PM on April 16, 2006


The guide is probably very good as one (of a number) of guides Americans ought to consider before going overseas. I'll certainly give it to my employees as input ... not as something definitive, but as a perspective worthy of the time it takes to consider.

I do find it interesting that it is only America that would even consider publishing a guide about how to respect other nations. (If you want to really experience RUDE - try playing golf on a US golf course with French Canadians ... every waitress in south Florida will tell you that "Je me souviens" translates into "highly demanding and does not tip").

We're living in a nation where illegal immigrants feel free to march in the streets to demand their "rights" - yet somehow we're the one that need to be "sensitive" to other cultures when we visit? Tell me, what culture is sensitive to the US when they visit the US?

I'm currently - for business reasons - living part time in NYC, Houston, and Mexico City. I am being sensitive to Mexican culture - but also also gotten screwed - and had to pay untold tips and bribes - just to get satellite TV hooked up in Mexico City. I reached a point where even my (Mexican) assistant was getting frustrated. Then I became an "agressive American" ...

... guess what ... maybe the American attitude that says "don't charge me up the ass and then fuck me on what you deliver" has some merit.

Every culture should be polite and respectful of other cultures, but ...

1. If other cultures do not wish to extend the courtesy to the US when they visit (which many most definately DO NOT), they should not complain when Americans to not return the favor; and

2. I - personally - will begin following such a guide when other nations begin publishing such guides. My experience, in the US is that Japanese act like Japanese, Chinese act like Chinese, Venezualians act like Venezualians, French act like the French, Germans act like Germans, Australians act like Australians, and Brits act like Brits. VERY few of them make any effort to figure out what tipping customs are, what standards of politeness are, or even spend more than a day considering what it would mean to "harmonize" with American culture when they come here.

Oddly enough, until they do so, I won't feel any strong need to start respecting their cultures either.

(What I HAVE found is that - and the end of the day - they certainly do want my money - and are largely indifferent as to whether I follow "guidelines" if I give them a Platinum card when I check in).
posted by MidasMulligan at 7:42 PM on April 16, 2006


Ah. Typically American. "Until they start doing it, I'm not going to!"

Why be so reluctant to be the first to be respectful? What purpose does that serve?
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 7:55 PM on April 16, 2006


"Britons were judged to be the rudest, followed by Russians and Canadians."

Canadjuns, or Americans pretending to be Canadjuns?

Also, about the ketchup thing? I've never really been outside the US (Aruba doesn't count; it's a giant American resort), and if I do, should I bring my own ketchup? Is that allowed, to transport ketchup into a country? Because I really love ketchup, and can't fathom not being able to have it. Ditto on barbecue sauce. And no, I'm not joking.
posted by Eideteker at 8:22 PM on April 16, 2006


From what I understand, George W. Bush had never set foot outside the USA until he became President. Didn't even own a passport.

And this is the man entrusted to shape the foreign policy of a great nation, and to dialogue with other nations. A clueless
philistine.

His election and re-election to me is the ultimate expression of the "Ugly American" stereotype.
posted by Nicholas West at 8:23 PM on April 16, 2006


Fucking left-handed people are the loudest, most obnoxious travellers bar none.
posted by peacay at 8:55 PM on April 16, 2006


Ah. Typically American. "Until they start doing it, I'm not going to!"

Ah. Typically Canadian. Not posting except to disparage Americans and point out how you're (kind of) different.

I know that that's not really typically Canadian, but I also know that that's not really typically American, either. I love Canada. Really.
posted by oaf at 8:58 PM on April 16, 2006


All you blue eyed people, over there. All you brown eyed people, over... never mind.
posted by disclaimer at 9:24 PM on April 16, 2006


I should have said stereotypically. My apologies.

But it's a truism. The current political climate in the USA is the logical product of that attitude filtering throughout portions of society in the USA; do as we say, not as we do. And God forbid that we should have to give an inch before you do. It's a standard Imperialist pose; the British Empire was very much the same, from what I can gather. And that went effectively tits up. I'd be surprised if the prevailing Roman attitude had been any different. It's not that it can't be changed, and it's not that there aren't a lot of Americans who don't feel that way. It's just that they have no power. Nor will they, for the foreseeable future.

For the record, the overwhelming majority of American tourists I have met haven't been rude, per se. They've been shockingly ignorant when it comes to the idea of understanding that things work differently outside their borders, to be sure, but not specifically rude. American customers, on the other hand, were 99% of the time, the textbook examples of the Ugly American stereotype when I dealt with them as a CSR at Ford.

Of course, having to drive one of their vehicles would likely drive anyone batshit, I'd wager.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 9:36 PM on April 16, 2006


I can't say that "loudness" exactly captures the American stereotype for me. More something to do with close-mindedness. A worldview that seems impervious to change. On the road in Asia, I was guaranteed to see an American freak out at least once a month because things didn't go his/her way. Loudness and rudeness -- maybe, but I don't find American travellers at the top of those heaps.

Oh, except for west-coasters. Northern California, Oregon, Washington -- vastly different mindset on average, it seems. This of course just generalizing from the subset of Yanks I've met on the road.
posted by dreamsign at 9:40 PM on April 16, 2006


I remember talking to a small tour guide in Ireland who said that half of his american groups were smart, funny, openminded, and his favorite customers, while the other half were ignorant and loud. Not much middle ground.

I've gone over seas many times to many places and america certainly has no strangle hold on ugly anything. You'll find far more ugly americans in the states than elsewhere.

I travel alot, and talk politics all the time, and never have trouble. I'm open to new experiences and different ways of doing things, and not an asshole, which are the only rules you should have when traveling.

Much of the world is upset with american politics. You're upset with american politics. That probably has a lot to do with your good reception.

His election and re-election to me is the ultimate expression of the "Ugly American" stereotype.
posted by Nicholas West


If someone is so small minded that when hearing someone is american they immediately think "ugly american" based on who the president is, well, I'm not losing sleep over it. That, and your comment really makes little sense.
posted by justgary at 9:42 PM on April 16, 2006


"His election and re-election to me is the ultimate expression of the "Ugly American" stereotype."

Umm... 21% of eligible voters voted for him (the second time; he wasn't elected so much the first time as Gore conceded). And as said again and again, those voters are mostly not world travelers.

"Fucking left-handed people are the loudest, most obnoxious travellers bar none."


*shows peacay the middle finger on his left (dominant) hand, coincidentally the only bone in his body that's ever been broken.*
posted by Eideteker at 9:52 PM on April 16, 2006


Much of the world is upset with american politics.

Mmm, I have noticed people's insistence on berating Americans when identified as such. That was prior to 2004, when the excuse was that Bush wasn't actually voted into office. I can't imagine what it's like now.
posted by dreamsign at 10:01 PM on April 16, 2006


Heres a tip: try bringing up not liking George Bush early in any conversation, things will most likely go better after that.*

* TBH If you *do* actually like George Bush you'd maybe want to stay quiet about it.
posted by Artw at 10:21 PM on April 16, 2006


Guide for American Students Overseas:
Step #1: Sew a Canadian flag onto your backpack.
.

This tripe pisses me off, the fact that it even happens makes my mind boggle at the sheer ignorance and arrogance of some people. I say this as a full-blooded American girl who has been living in Canada as a university student for the past 4 years and News Flash! Canada is not some goofy autonomous region of the United States! surprisingly, it is, in fact, another country entirely.

You can't miraculously win strangers over with a smarmy "Eh? Eh?" inserted randomly and a flag on your bag. Even if you could fake out many, hell even all of the furreners while travelling aboard, the fact you would even attempt this means you KNOW there is a problem with America's image. BUT, rather than try and change it for even one person you meet, it's simpler to attempt to co-opt another nation's identity and LIE because you think you'll get better treatment and you can circumvent all that hard work of being a polite, decent human being. Excellent. Awesome. Way to go changing stereotypes,Team USA.

*fusses, fumes, and generally carries on*
posted by nelleish at 10:24 PM on April 16, 2006


nelleish writes "*fusses, fumes, and generally carries on*"

Four years? That's all? If your fussing and fuming and generally carrying-on is done quietly and privately, followed by a good cup of tea (and possibly some CBC), I think that the Minister will grant you citizenship.

Welcome :)
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:34 PM on April 16, 2006


frogan: the "you" in my post is not you directly, really! It's just that lately I myself have been making plans for travelling to Europe, and the stereotype struck me, especially that yeah, it might be easier than most for me to fake being Canadian. But then it struck me, that what bloody purpose would that serve? So, I kind of went off on what your post... I realize you might have been being facetious. Sorry!
posted by nelleish at 10:39 PM on April 16, 2006


MidasMulligan writes...
I do find it interesting that it is only America that would even consider publishing a guide about how to respect other nations.

Now that statement is stereotypically American, and makes me want to apologize on behalf of all of my countrymen.

Sigh.
posted by tkolar at 11:31 PM on April 16, 2006


Oh enough about the polite Canadian BS already! Please?

I'm Canadian. My wife is American. We both can't stand the flood of BS.

We went on a cruise last September. 7 days from Vancouver to Juno and back. Lots of people from all over the world on that boat, all in close proximity. Turns out, rude people are from all over the world, including Canada.

It's embarassing to listen to my fellow Canadians go on and on about rude Americans - especially after learning that I'm a fellow Canadian. Only to see them turn red faced when confronted, very politely, by my wife as she mentions that she's from Michigan.

So many of us are holier-than-thou snobs. Passive-aggressive sniping backbiters. All smiles to your face but smugly laughing at you all the while. This attitude is getting worse and worse up here and it's disgusting.

And that whole "Canadian flag on the backpack thing"... don't bother. We've become so self righteous and arrogant about it that I'm guessing we've used up any value it once had.
posted by C.Batt at 11:38 PM on April 16, 2006


I realize you might have been being facetious. Sorry!

I was indeed. But thanks for the mea culpa.

I cribbed the joke from Canada's favorite hometown writer, Douglas Coupland, who once claimed to see American students doing exactly that. If anything, it's a compliment to Canadians and says something about Americans who secretly wish they were Canadians. Who could possibly be angry with Canadians? They're the nicest people in the world. We should all be so lucky to be Canadian.
posted by frogan at 11:54 PM on April 16, 2006


oh riiiight. that'll work. do you think the kind of idiots that cause this kind of trouble are going to read a booklet on how to be polite? fuck no.
posted by muppetboy at 12:15 AM on April 17, 2006



I do find it interesting that it is only America that would even consider publishing a guide about how to respect other nations.

(my emph)

Where do you get that idea?
posted by pompomtom at 12:31 AM on April 17, 2006


I've done a bit of travelling and have run into a couple of Ugly Americans, though SE Asia isn't really a hotspot for American tourists. As far as obnoxious behavior, though, they (we) don't take the cake. Based on my very personal, very limited experience, I'd say the Israelis take that honor quite distinctly.
posted by zardoz at 1:16 AM on April 17, 2006


So many of us are holier-than-thou snobs. Passive-aggressive sniping backbiters. All smiles to your face but smugly laughing at you all the while. This attitude is getting worse and worse up here and it's disgusting.

What are we supposed to do? "Oh, poor Americans"?

I've been living in the US off and on for a few years now (recently returned) and I am tired of being tolerant and polite about it all. I don't really like it down there, I like it here, and the situation in America is not anything I can change. Most of my American friends don't like it there either. They get shit on by the system, feel entirely powerless about it, and I can't do a thing about it to help them.

So I come home and I try and be politically engaged and make sure that we don't slide in that direction and hope that my friends do alright. What else can I do? Send care packages and hugs? I consider it only reasonable to be as polite as possible when I don't agree with someone, i.e. an American tourist, and so I try to be nice. At other times, when I'm trying to have a serious discussion about America, Canada, or both, (i.e. now) I am not going to mince words about my feelings on the situation.
posted by blacklite at 1:36 AM on April 17, 2006


If you want to see how they think of us, just watch the "waldorf salad" episode of Falwty Towers. I saw it as a kid and I swear it sunk in. As an american it's an uncomfortable epsiode to watch because as awful as that man is, you know five people just like him.

The guide rings true from what little I witnessed and crash learned when in London for over a week.

I hope it also mentions differing service and restaurant etiquette (order at the counter, bill never comes unless requested, spoons are big, glasses are small and are infrequently filled, and food comes when it comes, don't be a hurry - relax. And most importantly asking questions is fine, just smile when you do it.)

Another big one is that Nationality is not subfoldered like it is here. You live in Britian, you're British. Anything else is second, and your race seemed non-important. (we liked that, people seemed more comfortable in their own skins) We had the misfortune of traveling with some less than stellar minds from my hubby's company who managed to offend a minicab driver by asking where he was REALLY from when "britian" wasn't sufficient for his indian appearance. He mumbled to me in the front, "I've been here ten years, what the hell do they want me to say". I just apologized soft as I could so they couldn't hear me in the back. I was never so embarrassed to be american as I was then.

Americans don't admire different places BEING different, just looking different. If that's you and you can't smile and nod - don't travel.
posted by Dome-O-Rama at 1:44 AM on April 17, 2006


I do find it interesting that it is only America that would even consider publishing a guide about how to respect other nations.

Rough Guide. The site's framed so I can't link you directly, but I found guides to local customs and etiquette for Japan with just a few clicks.

Okay, so that's non-governmental. How about this?
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 2:42 AM on April 17, 2006


You live in Britain, you're British.

I'm going to have to respectfully disagree with this. Just ask a Scotsman or a Welshman where they're from....

The topic of Americans overseas has come up more than a few times in the last few years on Mefi and I've had the luxury of pondering it whilst being in foreign climes with close contact to a number of other expats from various nations. To cut a potentially long post relatively short, I'll only say that any nationals behaviour overseas is almost certainly dependant on the context by which they find themselves there.

Here's an example. I can't imagine meeting a worse bunch of people than a group of 25 girls from the North of England out in Prague for a hen party. But I have, and I survived. It was truly fucking horrific. I'm due to meet a group of about 25 (mainly female) teachers from the North of England who will be touring Nyanza Province (Kenya) to meet the staff and pupils of schools they are twinned with. I have a feeling these people will behave pretty well, however, its entirely possible that one or two of them might have been on an overseas hen party and got ripped to the tits on drink and drugs.

Where I currently live, in Kisumu, there are large numbers of Americans. A good number of them are patriotic, flag waving Republicans. I have found them to be very friendly and accommodating people, quite unlike the "ugly american" stereotype. However, If I met American kids on spring break in Cancun, I'm sure it'd just reinforce the US stereotype, whilst perhaps even broadening it.
posted by davehat at 3:30 AM on April 17, 2006


Being a first generation American myself, it's really strange to see how loudmouthed and rude my parents are compared to me while travelling. I wonder if it was their transition from their native lands to here that made them feel like they had some right to become so outspoken and such, playing up the stereotype -- even 40 years ago? Maybe there isn't much merit to ethnic personality traits at all. Even at 25, I'm still embarrassed at my father's outbursts of laughter and poke-funnery in public. He's probably doing it on purpose because he already knows my reaction, though. I might be confusing ethnicity with ancestry here.

This thread seems to have two main themes, with many Americans speaking from a victim's standpoint and defending their own prudent behavior while travelling, and others from other European nations [and a few Kiwi's i seem to recall] debating their own countries' stereotype against that of the U.S. tourists. What all of these opinions have done to me is to beg the question: What causes these traits to develop in the first place? Is it up to the parents to instill proper manners and respect for other cultures during childhood in hopes of them carrying on into adulthood? Is society and it's perceived ideals of what is allowable responsible -- i.e. in the 'land of the free' is it more permissable to be a jerk?

Whatever the cause, i can't help but find it more hilarious than sad that it's come this.
posted by phylum sinter at 3:34 AM on April 17, 2006


Only one Kiwi actually, I think the rest are 'Strines.

Same thing though, probably....
posted by Kiwi at 5:56 AM on April 17, 2006


This is very true, thanks for posting. Actually, this past weekend, I was trying to get by a mass of tourists standing and completely blocking the sidewalk in DC and thinking that the Ugly American isn't only when outside of America. It's like when going on vacation, no one else matters, whether in another country or not.
posted by wonkybusker at 7:00 AM on April 17, 2006


My parents do a lot of bus tours all over the world, always surrounded by a sea of very loud Americans. They hate travelling with Americans, but they're not much they can do about it. They just shut up and do their own thing. On their first trip ever they had this conversation with a Texan on the very first day:

"We're from Texas. Where are you all from?"
"Canada."
[Pause.] "Where'd y'all fly outta, Washington?"

Because surely Canada contains no airports, I suppose.

My dad was livid about this conversation. He actually flies out of Toronto, and he couldn't understand why this man imagined we would go all the way to Washington to get a plane to Europe. "He could have at least given us Buffalo, or even New York, for god's sake. Washington?!" I suggested that perhaps he thought they were from Vancouver, and flew out of Washington state, but still. It's been downhill ever since.
posted by Hildegarde at 7:01 AM on April 17, 2006


I'd also like to contrast this with the time that I lived in the USA (Iowa, very small town, for about six months). Everyone in town assumed I was from the college--I wasn't--and as soon as they heard that I was Canadian, they went out of their way to be friendly. My best experience was when a bunch of the local high school boys were harassing me on the street for being gay. Some random guy stepped out of his house with a shotgun, and I got very scared. Until he asked them, in a very quiet voice, what the fuck their problem was and to leave me the hell alone. After they'd scarpered, I thanked him, and he just said (words mine, can't remember his exact ones) "I don't really like gays. But I hate bullies more. You go on now."

It was an odd moment for me.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:01 AM on April 17, 2006 [1 favorite]


The ugly American stereotype is somewhat true, but the problem is that it isn't true for every American. Once you see an ugly American, however, your stereotype is confirmed but you may not have noticed the five not ugly Americans who passed by.

To put it in another setting, say you're screwed over by your accountant and you may say, "what a thief", but if the thieving accountant is named David Greenberg, for example, it brings up all sorts of assumptions, even though the ten or twelve other Bernstiens, or Rabinowitz's you've dealt with have been fine and even though there are gonniffs of every racial, ethnic, and religious stripe. It is, alas, a part of the human condition.

So denying that there is an ugly American is silly. But assuming *every* American is an ugly American until proven otherwise is bigoted.

But I'm from New York, and in Europe at least, we New Yorkers are thought different: We get a pass.
posted by xetere at 10:17 AM on April 17, 2006


A few years back when travelling in Europe, while in France we must have had 4-5 French come up to us and ask us for directions. Dunno why, I guess we looked French? We politely responded to them in broken French that we're not from here and we didn't know where it was they were inquiring about. Countless times the French insisted "Yes you are, you are French!"

I think it all comes down to wearing dark clothes and nice shoes while travelling abroad. Nice shoes are the key! They gain you all the respect in the world.
posted by afx114 at 10:37 AM on April 17, 2006


It's totally the shoes, afx. When I am in France, as long as I am not wearing sneakers, people will address me in French first. Sneakers gets English.
posted by dame at 10:49 AM on April 17, 2006


Speaking of shoes, I'm continually amazed by the number of American tourist married couples we see here who seem to have gone out and bought matching pairs of white sneakers (Reeboks seem to be a favourite) just before leaving home.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 10:52 AM on April 17, 2006


I love that, afx--if someone doesn't come up to me assuming i'm local, i get disappointed : >

(and you're right, xetere--we do--they know we're more used to different people and things and cultures and stuff, i guess)
posted by amberglow at 11:19 AM on April 17, 2006


best troll in ages.thanks.
posted by PaddyJames at 12:04 PM on April 17, 2006


Yes a bunch of chavvy Brits are the worst, the rudest and the most embarrassing (seeing as I share a passport with them. ) I just find that Americans abroad ask stupid fucking questions instead of thinking about things for a split second. However just like chavs are one section of Brits abroad, there are Americans who know things about the rest of the world and work things out before asking inanities. I'm happy to say that I'm married to one.
posted by ob at 2:44 PM on April 17, 2006


Follow up on Americans in the UK in the Guardian. Semi-amusing.
posted by Artw at 8:02 AM on April 18, 2006


... Every time you want to say, "So you guys say crisps for chips, and chips for fries, right?", stop, think, and then say "George Bush - what an asshole" instead. Soon people will start smiling at you on the bus. But don't take it too far: America has her spies everywhere. : >
posted by amberglow at 9:39 AM on April 18, 2006


Every time you want to say, "So you guys say crisps for chips, and chips for fries, right?", stop, think, and then say "George Bush - what an asshole" instead.

this is veyr funny to me, as it;s basically true. i've seen it work all over Europe.
posted by Artw at 1:52 PM on April 18, 2006


All you need to know.
posted by Kiwi at 2:08 PM on April 18, 2006


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