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Americans Still Ugly? Travel with a Vengeance!

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Fake plane over worldWhile growing up in Ireland, my favorite tourists were always Americans. I loved their swagger, tanned faces, booming voices, white socks, and new sneakers. I enjoyed hearing about their great-great-grandmothers, and as a waitressing teenager, I enjoyed the big fat tip I got for listening to their stories.

But I’m not the only one with an opinion. Expedia recently polled more than 4,000 hoteliers across the globe for feedback on the world’s travelers. Participants provided opinions on the best overall travelers, as well as ten specific categories rating popularity, behavior, manners, a willingness to learn the language and try local cuisine, generosity, tidiness, fashion sense, and propensity to complain. The survey confirmed my teenage belief that Americans are indeed the world’s most generous tourists; but sadly, it seems not everyone appreciates a shiny pair of sneakers. I think it’s high time Americans did something about this …

Best in Show
The Japanese won top tourist prize and are considered by hoteliers across the globe to be the best tourists. German and British tourists tied for second place, followed by the Canadians and Swiss. American tourists came in at number eleven overall.

What’s a Yank to Do?
Complain about Japanese tourists every time you stay in a hotel. Also, lord it over the Irish, Czechs, Turks, French, Russians, Mexicans, Portuguese, and the Brazilians that you beat!

Best Dressed
I had never heard the term “Ugly American” as a kid, but even I knew that fanny packs and high-waisted plaid shorts were not pretty. Living here now, I know that not everyone dresses in corduroy pants, sequin sweaters, and brilliant white socks up to their calves, but the image and reputation of the ugly American is a hard one to shake. Americans rated last for fashion sense in Expedia’s poll, with the best-dressed award going to the Italians and the French.

What’s a Yank to Do?
You could accidentally pick up an Italian or French traveler’s luggage at baggage claim (hey, it’s survival of the most fashionable) or just leave your “comfortable” clothes at home.

Squeakiest Wheels
When I first arrived in the states, I used to blush every time my American relatives “made a scene” in a restaurant, bar, or hotel. Now, many years later I can throw my weight around with the best of them. I’ve learned that here in America, the squeaky wheel really does get the grease, but abroad the squeaky wheel gets rotten tomatoes. Apparently hoteliers of the world find that Americans are the least polite, often keeping their neighbors awake at night. Japanese, Chinese, and Canadians were voted cheeriest tourists.

What’s a Yank to Do?
Complain of course! Or ask for a room next to an uncomplaining Canadian tourist.

Biggest Spenders
Sure the world’s hoteliers have no problem complaining to Expedia about your manners or habits, but they’re not complaining when you’re buying up all their seashell souvenirs and after-sun soothers in their lobby shops. Americans were called loud, unfashionable, impolite, and messy in this survey, but they can never be called tight. The tightest tourist awards go to the French, the Dutch, and the Brits.

What’s a Yank to Do?
Well the dollar’s not worth a damn anyway, so you may as well give it away. (Consider throwing some of your money at a personal stylist so that you can at least be the best-dressed big spender.)

Culturally Curious
Next time someone (preferable a Frenchman) gives you a hard time for your talking or eating habits, be sure to point out that American travelers lead the way when it comes to making an effort to learn a few key sayings in the local language and sampling local delicacies. The French, Chinese, and Japanese were the least likely to incorporate the local language, and the Chinese, Indians, and Japanese have the least interest in the culinary styles of the places they visit. So there!

What’s a Yank to Do?
Talk and eat baby, talk and eat.

Best Messers
While Americans make the greatest effort to absorb the local culture, they also make the biggest mess in their hotel rooms; but really, who has time to tidy with all that culture to be absorbed? (Actually, the Germans do-but they’re just showoffs).

What’s a Yank to Do?
You’re messy, but you’re also generous, so tip the cleaning service more and ask them to say you were tidy.

Most Popular at Home
Whatever about being popular abroad, I was most interested in the category of “most popular in their native countries.” Americans were not the most popular in their own country-this distinction went to the Canadians, but keep in mind the Canadians are also the most cheerful and uncomplaining, so of course they love themselves. The least popular tourists in their native countries were the Spanish, Mexicans, French, British, and Greeks.

What’s a Yank to Do?
Plan a staycation. You can’t afford the gas/baggage fees/currency exchange rates anyway, so why not vacation where you are under the radar?

Most travel experts will offer tips to ensure that you don’t live up to the messy, noisy, or complaining clichés associated with American tourists. They’ll tell you to tone it down, clean it up, and cut it out. I say be who you are and continue to be inspired to be culturally curious on your travels this summer. Also, please don’t forget to tip your Irish waitress.

Photos courtesy of DivineCaroline.com.
This article was featured on DivineCaroline.com in June 2008. Reproduced with permission.


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