I love my country and its people but man, are we a pain in the ass when we travel. There are some behaviors that always make Americans stand out as obnoxious, rude, or ignorant. In case you don’t notice, here are a few of those behaviors. On behalf of other Americans and fellow travelers, please stop doing these.
Getting annoyed when people don’t speak English
Though we are lucky that English is widely spoken around the world, it’s extremely entitled to presume that people should speak English. Americans, more than any other culture, tend to get exasperated when they can’t communicate. This is rude, because you’re already interrupting someone’s day, either at work or outside of it, and through no fault of their own, they can’t help you. They don’t deserve or need your attitude.
Just remember that when you’re home and some tourist from Kenya or Japan tries to ask you a question, you’re not going to know their language either. So cut your server in Chiang Mai some slack, because these people don’t exist to make your life more comfortable. You’re in their country, and if they don’t speak your language, then you need to just thank them and move on. Yelling is not going to make anyone magically learn English.
Using too many napkins
The United States is one of the only first-world countries in the world where climate change is still debated as a hoax perpetrated by liberals. Which is why we consume like savages. But in the majority of other nations, people individually do their part to help the environment. That’s why the lights in your hotel room hallway are on a motion sensor. That’s why the toilets have two flush settings. That’s why they don’t give you grocery bags at the store. And that’s why you usually only get one napkin when you go out to eat.
One of the ways in which Americans stick out like a sore obnoxious thumb is by grabbing a small stack of napkins every time they go to a restaurant. First of all, you should try eating like a civilized human being instead of a pig on its hind legs. But I get it, sometimes that burger gets a little messy and you may need more napkins. And that’s fine. No one is going to fault you for that. But don’t grab 12 napkins, use 3 of them, and then throw out the other 9. That’s an unnecessary waste, and everyone abroad recognizes that but you.
Talking too loud
This one isn’t only true of Americans. There are a few cultures that get really loud, especially when they’re in groups. But instead of traveling abroad as if the city you’re visiting exists to accommodate you, take a look at what’s going on around you. For example, in Japan, people ride the subways quietly. And if you stop for a second and look around you, that would be immediately obvious. So maybe instead of speaking at full volume about how many likes your Instagram picture has, use the social cues around you, and be more respectful.
Acting like you know everything
What is it about travel that makes Americans think that they’re suddenly ambassadors of the free world? There’s nothing more annoying than some ignorant backpacker waxing philosophical about what other cultures should or shouldn’t be doing. I hate to break it to you, but you don’t know what’s best for everyone. Other cultures have different ideals and customs, and it’s not your place to come to their country and criticize their systems or way of life.
And let me be more blunt, we just elected a fascist dictator for president, so our opinion on anything is officially invalid. You ever see a teenager try to explain how the world works to a 40-year-old? That’s what you sound like when you travel outside the precious borders of the U.S. of A. So don’t embarrass yourself. Instead, take the time to listen and understand the place and people you’re visiting.
Maybe it’s because a major war has never been fought on US soil or because the Holocaust is something we’re only connected to through Hollywood depictions of it, but a lot of places around the world have a very historical and often devastating significance. This includes war memorials, historical museums, and religious sites. Do you really think it’s appropriate to walk around joking and laughing at the Anne Frank House? Why not just out for a beer then?
But this is a case where a picture is much more effective than my words could ever be. So allow me to point you in the direction of the Yolocaust project, which uses real selfies of people at Holocaust memorials superimposed on images from Nazi concentration camps. Don’t be that douche. Be better.