There are a few things you’re probably doing that make you stick out as a “typical American tourist” (effecting your favorability depending on what that person thinks of the states). Sometimes , depending on the country I’ve been visiting, people love the fact that I’m American. Other times, not so much. It’s been particularly interesting to see peoples’ reactions to me being American post-election- but I won’t be getting political right now, I’m just saying…passport control in certain countries suddenly got more difficult after January.
Regardless of what I think, or what you think, about our current sociological and political climate, what goes on at home affects how we travel. Suddenly, when you’re abroad, you find yourself feeling more American than ever. People can tell almost immediately that I’m American. At first this really threw me off because there is no “American ethnicity” other than Native American, which I am not. Two years into international traveling and I’ve finally gained an understanding of what makes a person look like a “cliche American.”
Don’t worry if you do all of these things, it’s what makes us “special.”
10 Tell-tale signs you’re an American abroad:
- Being too saucey- I get made fun of for my sauce consumption even when I’m back home in California, so you can imagine the weird looks I get most other places in the world when I ask for “extra sauce please!” A word of the wise from me to you: DO NOT ask for ranch dressing when you’re abroad (not even for your pizza). Trust me, they don’t have it and don’t know what it is. I went without ranch dressing and extra sauce for a year and a half, you can too.
- Water Demander- You want me to pay how much?! Many, if not most, other countries do not have drinkable tap water and charge for it, or they do have drinkable tap water but won’t serve it to you at restaurants. I’ve had to pay $3 for a water at a restaurant that could have given me a glass filled from the tap for free. Each country is a bit different but in general you do not get complimentary water like you do automatically at an American restaurant. I’ve got to admit, I’m two years into traveling sound the world and this one still irks me.
- Ice cubes are “unnecessary” and “high maintenance” according to people in many other parts of the world, specifically in Europe. Brrrr. That’s cold.
- Overpacker- We are the ultimate consumers, us Americans, aren’t we? Leave it to us to lug around twice as much crap as our European cousins walking through an airport. We have got the overpacking thing DOWN. I packed so much for that first Europe trip that I ended up leaving some of my belongings at each stop until I could carry my bag more efficiently. Suddenly all that stuff I thought I needed became a burden I couldn’t wait to get rid of, and each item I left behind gave me what I really needed: a lighter load and a less-achy back. I’m packing less and less each time I go abroad now. (READ my packing list for women traveling abroad long-term.)
- Loud Speaker- Back in April I was reminded just how loud we really are. I was in Singapore with another American. From hotel check in, I was extremely aware how quiet the locals spoke and how loud we were in comparison. The Singaporean locals speak at a volume we would consider whispering. Meanwhile I’m over here like…
- Chatty Kathy- Not only are we loud, we’re loud A LOT. We talk endless circles around most other nationalities, and it’s all too apparent when you’re immersed in another culture that shares less verbal details constantly. I have become hyper-aware of this and find myself becoming a better listener as people share with the mentality of “less is more.” I don’t want to miss the few sentences they DO share. Definitely something to be mindful of when you travel abroad- especially in Asia where they are far more reserved.
- Baseball hats all day erryday. We’re obsessed with baseball hats. It’s true. Perhaps our logic is this: what better time to pull out that cheesy hat from 2008 than in a foreign country where no one knows you?! Who knows. For me, in all honesty, I just get lazy on the hair front when I travel so hats are my solution. I realize now just how much it makes me stand out immediately from the locals- especially if I’m wearing my red MAGA hat…. I’m totally kidding. I do NOT own one of those things.I do own one of these though….Here’s my new favorite SUPER American hat on Amazon…
- Big toothy grins. Someone once told me a joke that really sums this up. “If you see a man wandering around the woods smiling, you’ll assume he’s one of three things 1) A complete psychopath, 2) Lost and needs directions, or 3) American.” It really is true though! We Americans smile A LOT. Go anywhere in Europe and you’ll feel like an overly friendly person even in your worst mood. I, for one, think this is one of the great things about us Americans!
- Incessant apologizing. So you walked in the door the same time as someone, or asked the waiter to go back for your drink they forgot. SO WHAT. Why are you apologizing? Why do we do this all the time? Through spending so much time abroad around the otherwise unapologetic masses, I’ve realized just how often I say “I’m sorry” for no reason. Maybe I’ll switch over to “sorry not sorry” and see how that goes…
- Your Hawaii t-shirt from vacation 2001. You know which one I’m talking about…
Like I said before, don’t worry if you do any or all of these 10 things. Becoming more self-aware is one of the huge benefits of travel, and not taking yourself too seriously is KEY to enjoying the journey. Stay true to you, travel on, and laugh lots along the way. That’s my plan anyway!