Stay Home if You Are an Ugly American

Posted on December 9, 2013. Filed under: Philosophy, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Travel - Bill at Cinque Terre

Hiking in the Cinque Terre

As we travel around we find many fellow travelers who are friendly and enjoying their trips as much as we do.  We also occasionally come upon what we term the Ugly American who makes us ashamed to come from the same place.

I think you are an Ugly American traveler if:

1.   You expect to be able to have everything just as you like it at home.  (“We insist on American-style coffee, not this espresso-stuff they drink here.”)  If you even try unusual local food/drink you expect it to be unpalatable, or something that will make you sick.

2.  You get angry that there are other people trying to travel too.  You are surprised and irritated when you have to wait in line, share a table, or tolerate a crowd at an important attraction.

3.  You look at people’s customs, dress, and language with disdain.   You see nothing but inferiority everywhere you look.

4.  You expect everything to go perfectly smoothly.  When the inevitable disruption to your plans happens, you wallow in self-pity instead of finding a way to make lemonade out of lemons.

5.  You are frightful of local people, expecting them to rob you when they have the first chance.

6.  You are actually happy when you see McDonald’s, Starbucks, and the like in foreign countries.

When we run across Ugly Americans we try to slink away.  They want co-conspirators, though, so there have been times we’ve tried to show them the bright side.  Aren’t the differences in culture they are experiencing interesting?  Haven’t locals been friendly and helpful considering how many tourists traipse through their area every season?  Isn’t it amazing to see such wonderful, world-famous art/mountains/historical sites?

Trust me, there is no arguing Ugly Americans out of their mindset.  Next time I might just say, “You should stay home.”  That is the truth.  If you can’t enjoy the differences between your destination and your home, then you should stay there, at home.  If the food, drink, accommodation, weather, sights, people and transportation are irritating to you, why have you come at all?!  You are not enjoying it and your fellow travelers are ashamed of you.

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Atop the Duomo in Florence

Travel - Chestnut seller

Chestnut seller in Florence

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9 Responses to “Stay Home if You Are an Ugly American”

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Good points. I agree, but at the same time, I think one of the things that contributes most to Europeans thinking that all Americans are like your “Ugly Americans” is actually Americans trying to distance themselves from their less enlightened countertparts. I think the world would have a much clearer picture of the American people in general if we were less prone to condemn our less like-able countrymen and more quick to say “Well, in a nation of 350 million people, there are going to be very different opinions and attitudes. Like every country, we have lots of problems, and cultural isolation from Europe can be a problem in the US, but it doesn’t help that it’s quite expensive to leave the US, so many Americans don’t get to interact with other nations as easily and frequently as many Europeans. What do you think could help broaden our horizons?”

Well, I don’t have a lot of excuses for the behavior I’ve seen even if the people in question could travel more. I don’t think it’s a matter of more exposure. I would like to see less exposure! And I’m sorry if my condemnation of rude and bossy behavior by Americans in other people’s countries makes your view of Americans less “clear.” But I will say, it is a rather small number of people who fit this category, in my experience. I’m thankful for that. And I do thank you very much for your thoughtful comment. I love a worldwide discussion, I truly do!

Speaking as an English woman who has travelled and lived abroad – I can absolutely reassure you that there are plenty of Ugly English people too!! I guess some people really would be happier staying at home. Enjoyed your post.

Ah yes, I guess it’s just human ugliness. Thanks for going easy on us Americans!!

You’re welcome – as you’d say!

Great post! I haven’t come across one yet (thankfully) but yes, I suppose this is true as I’ve heard a lot about them – ugly Americans. Happy travels! 🙂

You are so right! The whole reason you travel to another country is to experience a different culture, to celebrate in something new, to educate the mind to be open and accepting of differences, etc. Having said all that, I’m pretty sure I’ve been guilty of being the ugly American, most of the time out of impatience. Thank you for reminding me to be mindful of “bratty” behavior. I’ll try harder to be less and less ugly! XOXO, Angie.

I highly doubt you have exhibited a lot of ugly behavior abroad!! You are just too nice, even here to be analyzing your own behavior. The uglies don’t think it could possibly be them!!


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