Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Some Bad Traveling Habits That Americans Are Known For

Americans do not have the greatest reputation around the world, and there probably has never been a time when that is more true than right now. Yes, the election of Donald Trump is viewed generally in negative terms throughout much of the world, and if you follow this particular blog of mine, you'll know that I believe that this is for good reason. After all, Trump epitomizes the very worst traits that Americans tend to indulge in, and he does these things to such an exaggerated degree, that it would almost be comical, if it was not so damn sad! 

And to think that this is the man that more than 60 million Americans thought of as fit to by the name and face of the country for at least the next four years (and frankly, I would not be the in the least surprised if he actually gets eight years in office, and all of the talk of impeachment would go by the wayside probably only once he became a lame duck president, if even then). 

However much this bad reputation has taken a hit since the election victory of Trump, the fact of the matter is that the reputation that Americans have overseas really has not been stellar for a surprisingly long time. And you do not have to go far outside the borders of the United States to understand this perception. This lesson hit home to me during one of my frequent trips to Canada, when I saw a t-shirt in a storefront that tested people on their knowledge of Canada. I have to paraphrase here a bit, but basically, if you got something like 9-10 questions right, you were considered an honorary Canadian. If you got 6-8 right, you did okay, but needed to brush up a bit. 3-5, and you obviously needed a lot more work. If you only got 1-2, then your knowledge of Canada was, frankly, poor. 

The kicker was the 0 at the bottom, and what it said afterwards was telling: "Oh, you're an American."

Indeed, I have found Americans shockingly ignorant of some basic facts about Canada. Many Americans did not know that French was an official language of Canada, and many of those who did know believed that French was the majority language in Canada. I have known some people (adults) who knew that French was an official language, but could not identify the other official language of Canada (which is English). And many believe that Toronto is the capital city, a fact that proved quite humorous in the movie "Canadian Bacon." Even more sadly, I have met some people (again, Americans), who believed that Montreal was an American state, or that Canada as a whole was a state. And not all that surprisingly, given these facts that I have stated, I have met a ton of people who live either no farther from the Canadian border than I do, and some who live much, much closer, but who have never been to Canada. Hell, I met one guy of maybe about 55 to 60 years old who lived about an hour from the border, and he had been to Canada only once in his lifetime! I even once met someone who lived on the border (within 10 to 15 miles) who at least claimed, seemingly proudly, to have only gone to Canada three times! 

So, it is perhaps no wonder that when Americans seem completely disinterested and oblivious to the closest country to them both geographically and culturally, that it would stand to reason that this level of indifference would be magnified when it came to other countries and cultures. 

I have traveled overseas, and have found that too often, the very loudest travelers will usually be Americans. That is not to say that all Americans systematically are louder, but that when there are loud and obnoxious tourists, they are more often than not Americans. 

Case in point, I went to Saguenay, which is about an hour and a half to two hours north of Québec City, and which also is likely the least bilingual urbanized part of Québec province. And the guy who I was traveling with, along with my then wife and very young son, subscribed to that stereotype that if they do not understand you, you just have to speak louder and slower, as if they are morons who simply did not understand you the first time, as opposed to people who do not speak the language. It was a bit embarrassing, even though this guy was not exactly a typical American in the sense of being close-minded to other cultures and countries. He wanted to travel to Russia and Venezuela, among other places, and he practiced Buddhism (it was when I attended Buddhist meditation that I met him, in fact). Yet, when we went across the border to a land where English was not the first language, he converted outwardly to a version of the quintessential Ugly American. 

There are also plenty of Americans who have absolutely no interest in visiting any country outside of their own, and who make no bones about it. Typically when asked, they will claim that there is just so much to visit here in the United States, that they want to visit these places "first" (which I generally take as meaning they want to restrict their traveling to the United States "exclusively"). 

But we are discussing Americans who do actually travel, and usually, traveling is a good thing. As Mark Twain once said, "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts."

Indeed, the other side of what I have been mentioning is that there are also plenty of Americans who do love to travel, and many of them have the right spirit and desire to explore and to try and learn and adapt while traveling overseas. While in Rome, do as Romans do, in other words. 

However, even among those who do travel, there is sometimes an unfortunate strain of arrogance by a people who often generally view themselves as the greatest country in the world, and people who subscribe to that viewpoint often want to be noticed and recognized as being American while overseas. Many of them feel that if they are spending their money, that the natives of the country that they are visiting should bend over backwards and accommodate their every whim. It does not take much imagination to see how this kind of attitude can be deemed offensive, and how it can cast Americans as a whole as rather arrogant and rude, even though this stereotype does not actually encompass all Americans, or perhaps even a majority of them.

So, those of us who want to combat this unfortunate stereotype might want to be mindful of some of the things that many Americans do or have done while traveling abroad, and which has generated the wrong kind of attention to themselves. Some of these things are actually pretty obvious and fit the stereotype, while in other cases, perhaps they suggest taking a slightly more humble or subtle approach while traveling overseas. One way or the other, this list seemed to be helpful to those Americans who do wish to travel overseas, and who may also wish to not be recognized as Americans for the wrong reasons.

Take a look for yourself by clicking on the following link:

The 13 Most Offensive Things Americans Do Overseas"


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