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10 Annoying Things American Tourists Shouldn't Do

Updated on November 28, 2010

I live in one of the oldest and most architecturally fascinating cities in Europe, which results in loads of tourists. Now, to be sure, every country has their fair share of idiots who travel abroad. But, for some reason, the Americans seem particularly ignorant and obnoxious.

This wouldn’t be so bad, if they were capable of blending into the crowd – but they tend to lack these skills more often than not. Due to my job, I encounter loads of them every weekend, and I’ve noticed a distinct similarity across the board. It doesn’t matter if they’re from the south, the west or the northeast – they always seem to act the fool in some respect.

It’s gotten so bad that the US government has actually started issuing etiquette pamphlets for Americans traveling abroad, to try to clue them in on their behavior and how it ticks most of the world off. Unfortunately, most Americans seem to have missed the memo. So please, on behalf of Europe, let me ask the Americans to stop doing the following:

  • Stop talking about how “cheap” everything is.

For starters, things aren’t as cheap as you think they are, and most of you don’t really have a clue about currency conversion. I hear people debating costs all the time. Bring a calculator, cos most of you cannot do the math in your heads. Secondly, if it is cheap, it may not be cheap to the people who live there and have to listen to you talk like you're King Midas. It’s rude, so keep your remarks to yourself until your back in your hotel room.

  • Stop talking so damned loud.

This is one of the most obnoxious things American tourists do. If you’re in a bar where it’s loud and you have be loud to hear yourself, great, go for it. But if you’re in a nice restaurant, or club, or shop, etc. – shut up! Believe me, your conversations are not that interesting to the locals. And I mean that sincerely; it’s ridiculous how petty the lot of you sound, said pettiness being yet another reason Europeans look down on us. Hard not to, really, when the biggest crisis in someone’s life is running out of hairspray, and, ohmigod, like, will I be able to find Aquanet in this 3rd world country?

  • Read something about the country you’re visiting before you get on the plane.

Did you know that most Americans think the Czech Republic is still Czechoslovakia? John McCain is one of them. And, did you know that most who realize it isn’t, think only the name has changed? And that those who realize it's now two separate countries, still don’t realize the Czechs and Slovaks are two different peoples who speak two different languages? I’ve overheard seemingly educated people calling home on their cell phones to let mom know they’re having a swell time in Czechoslovakia. Doh!

  • Do not assume people speak English.

Guess what? In the whole of Europe, the only place you’re guaranteed to hear English, is in the UK. Do not waltz into Germany or France and expect the locals to speak English with you, and don’t give them a dirty look if they can’t. Most of the Europeans I know speak 3 languages, whether English is one of them or not. How many do you speak? Also, I see loads of Americans encounter non-English speakers.. and then start to speak more loudly. Or, they start speaking like they’re addressing someone who is mentally challenged. Slick, people. Really, really slick.

  • Don’t assume people don’t speak English.

Even if they say they can’t speak English, most people do speak enough to understand whether or not you’re speaking rudely about them. Just because the waitress doesn’t know the name of that fancy drink you’re asking for, doesn’t mean she won’t spit in your food while you snub her to your friends. Get some manners, or order room service.

  • Don’t ask people what communism/socialism was like, and don’t pretend to understand it.

I’ve lived in a former soviet bloc country for 5 years. One which still has loads of red tape and an active communist party. Through having been accepted into a few local families, I've learned many things about life during communism/socialism – but I would never presume to understand what it was like. Which means some fool who just stepped off a plane shouldn’t bring it up, either.

  • Don’t mention the Nazis when traveling through Germany.

Most Europeans still trash the Germans for the Nazis and they still toss words like Gestapo around – but not in Germany, they don't. Don’t be an idiot. If I need to explain this one in detail, you’re one of the Americans who ought to stay home.

  • Don’t get into pointless political arguments.

Whether you agree or disagree with American politics, don’t get into it with the locals. Even if you agree with them, you're bound to make a fool of yourself, as most of them know more about your country's leaders and policies than you do. If you insist on debating anyway, please do it quietly so as not to embarrass the rest of us who have enough sense to just nod our agreement in silence.

  • Don’t "educate" people.

Don’t try to explain life and other complexities to the locals; they’re often quite educated and they tend to take school pretty seriously, even at a young age. Odds are, they’re better read and better educated than most of you, so don’t talk to them like you’re addressing the deaf, dumb and blind kid, ok? Cos most of you just come off as condescending, whether you mean to, or not.

  • Don’t talk about how much better something is in America.

I hear this one constantly. It’s obnoxious. It’s rude, and it’s very, very American. That, and it's something you're unqualified to comment on unless you've actually lived in both. Yes, some things are better in the USA, and, believe it or not, some things are better in Europe. If you prefer the US, go home; Europe will be ok without you.

Obviously, this doesn’t apply to ALL Americans. It does, however, apply to most. And, of course, it’s not just Americans – the Brits do it too, but they're usually more subtle about it. At any rate, this kind of behavior does not reflect well on Americans, and is particularly annoying for those who actually live overseas, cos we get stuck having to assure the locals that not all Americans are so incredibly inept.

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