I always get aggravated when I run into other Americans abroad, even though I don’t find them nearly as annoying when I’m in the US. It’s like travel brings brings out the worst of American culture. I see it in coffee shops, restaurants, planes, and airports. And I finally figured out precisely why.
Americans are loud. Everyone knows that. We are much louder than many other cultures, especially European cultures. And that’s kind of irritating, but a lot of cultures are loud. I realized what pisses me off about Americans in particular is not that they’re always speaking loudly, but what they’re saying.
When you overhear Americans socializing in the US at brunch or at Happy Hour, this is what they talk about:
- Their relationship
- Other people’s relationships
- That they suspect someone they knew in HS got her lips done based on Facebook photos
- The diet they can’t stick to
- How awful their shitty coworker is
- How much they hate their jobs
- That funny/infuriating/adorable thing their kids just learned to do
- The last episode of Game of Thrones
When Americans are abroad, this is what they talk about:
- The time they went zip lining in Costa Rica
- How at least this flight isn’t as bad as the time they went to China
- The horrible hostel they stayed at in Paris one time
- The first time they ever went to Europe
- How surprised they were at how nice people were in India
- Their life changing experience on an overland trip in Africa
And it occurred to me that the reason that they’re so loud is not because that’s how they actually talk to people. It’s because they’re not telling that story for their travel companion’s benefit, but for everyone around them. Let’s face it, the person they’re traveling with has either already heard this or was there. And either way, they don’t give a fuck. But they want the people around them to hear: the servers, the locals, the other Americans. So that we all know how well-traveled they are. So that we think they’re cultured and enlightened, and that they’re not at all like other Americans.
Here’s the thing, guys, no one buys this. And that’s precisely what sets you apart as American. It comes off as fake, obnoxious, attention-seeking behavior. Like you think you’re better than everyone and want praise because you backpacked around South America for 2 weeks one time and now you consider yourself a “citizen of the world.”
Even if someone did believe you’re this culturally-sensitive, well-traveled intellectual, I promise you they’re not impressed. No one is impressed. And the assumption that others should be impressed is insulting and offensive. Because if you’re doing this somewhere like Western Europe, all the people around you probably out-traveled you by the time they were 12. And if you’re doing it in literally any country where the exchange rate favors the dollar, your showing off is also super insensitive. Because the other people on your flight to Nicaragua might have saved up for years to be able to visit their family in the US. So they definitely don’t give a fuck about your all-inclusive bachelorette weekend in Cabo.
And that’s why foreigners hate you (well, that’s one of the reasons). Cut that shit out. You don’t have to become the personification of an Instagram account to be interesting to people. You’re embarrassing yourself, the people you’re traveling with, and other Americans who are unfortunately associated with you.
You want to talk about your travel experiences? Me too! That’s why I blog about them. And my audience consists exclusively of people that want to read about them. Not other random unsuspecting travelers who are trying to fall asleep on an uncomfortable bus somewhere. It’s not only tacky, it’s discourteous.
If you’re lucky enough to find yourself having tapas and sangria in Madrid, keep it real and talk about how shady your fuck boy is.