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How to Spot an American

Updated on January 27, 2011

I used to travel - I travelled a lot. But times change; jobs, marriage, children come along and the frivolity of youth gets pushed aside for more serious endeavors like paying the bills and buying school clothes. Still, I can't complain. I had my day in the sun, and I hope after the kids are grown up and moved away to travel yet again. It's a big world and there are so many places to see and so little time to see them in.

When I did travel, Europe was my place. I caught the bug early, and I never took the cure. Well the "cure" was more travel and so I treated myself to the full extent my pocket book would allow. And I tried my best to blend in with the locals no matter where I went. And as an American, I could fake it most of the time. Not having those classic cinema-like looks that Europeans associate with Americans, I had half a fighting chance. But still, someone, someone always figured me out - and this was before I ever opened my mouth. So I asked a couple of good friends of mine what was the tip-off was to my Americanism. And the following are their responses...

SHOES: American shoes are built for comfort - look at the classic penny loafer. Penny loafers are uniquely American. You won't see these in Europe. Tennis shoes or gym shoes are very ornate here in the States. Surprisingly enough, tennis shoes are worn by Europeans but the standard Adidas plain white tennis shoe is much more prevalent in Europe than it is here in America. Thongs, unfortunately, seem to be a universal trend - particularly with teenagers.

WATCHES: This is a dead give away. Europeans, for one reason or another, never fell out of love with the digital watch. Digital had its day here in the States during the late 1970's and 80's, but Americans prefer the more classic look of watch hands.

BODY SIZE: Well, let's face it - Americans are fat. The average American male wears a size 36 waist pant. The average European male is at a 32 to 34 inch waist. I read some time back that the average American woman wears a size 14. The average European women wears a size 8-10. But there is variance in sizes throughout Europe. The French and Spanish tend to be the leanest while Scandinavians tend to be a bit more substantial.

DEMEANOR: I can't say with any certainty that Americans are happier than Europeans, but we sure smile a lot more. And that smile always gives up away. Sometimes that is not such a bad thing, other times it paints a target on our forehead that says please take advantage of me.

In summary, our differences are what make us. But when traveling in Europe, keep this in mind - they see us coming.




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    • CHRIS57 profile image

      CHRIS57 6 years ago from Northern Germany

      What about good, straight teeth?

      Europeans addressed their attention to what is inside the mouth only in the past 20 years.

      I am German, will probably go for an american until i open my mouth. My teeth are in good shape, dentists don´t earn a dime on them, but - they are not straight.

    • DTR0005 profile image

      Doug Robinson 6 years ago from Midwest

      Thanks Victor - we seem to have many of the same interest. I do look forward to reading more of your posts.

    • Víctor Manteiga profile image

      Víctor Manteiga 6 years ago from Spain

      For me it's the smile that does it. Someone smilling without much of a reason? Probably American! ;) Very funny article!

    • DTR0005 profile image

      Doug Robinson 6 years ago from Midwest

      Thanks so much Mighty Mom

    • Mighty Mom profile image

      Susan Reid 6 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      The comfortable shoes/clunky sports shoes thing I definitely knew about. There is also the USA-centric worldview that comes into play. When in Rome... as they say. But Americans expect Europe to be just like... America. And can be quite boorish about it!

      Another excellent hub. MM

    • DTR0005 profile image

      Doug Robinson 6 years ago from Midwest

      My point is to simply point out to Americans the subtle differences between themselves and Europeans. I assure you, this hub has no polictical leaning - not unless you are looking for one...

    • profile image

      lena 6 years ago

      What is your point? Why must we disguise ourselves or worse yet, pretend to be Canadian? I don't know how long ago this was written, but look around, visitors come to America and act badly everyday. I live in Los Angeles and suffer these bad drivers, loud talkers, poor dressers year round. They take advantage of our freedoms to act in a way they wouldn't in their own countries.

    • profile image

      Goastwrighter 6 years ago


    • livelonger profile image

      Jason Menayan 7 years ago from San Francisco

      Good list - there is something subtle about the way Americans carry themselves, but I can spot them a mile away when abroad (although Canadians are fairly similar, as are Australians sometimes, too).

    • DTR0005 profile image

      Doug Robinson 7 years ago from Midwest

      Damn! forgot the baseball cap, but YES!

    • Gypsy Willow profile image

      Gypsy Willow 7 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

      What about the baseball cap, that most ugly of all headware?

    • QudsiaP1 profile image

      QudsiaP1 7 years ago

      Interesting stuff.