By Leroy Metcalf
I used to watch TV shows and movies, and saw how Americans were portrayed when traveling abroad. It amused me in a way, because for some reason, I thought it was inaccurate. We’re portrayed as rude, obnoxious, disrespectful and arrogant. But over the years, I started paying attention and there’s definitely some truth to it.
As Americans, we love to travel. As Americans, we love to have fun when we travel. But, as Americans, we also have some attitude when we travel.
We’re known to have that, “I’m on vacation. I’ll do whatever I want. These people will never see me again. Who cares, I’m an American.” Ahhh… yes. I’m an American. That one line speaks volumes as to why we “behave” as we do.
We tend to think that no matter where we are, it needs to be known that rules simply don’t apply to us because we’re Americans. We tend to think that because we’re in (insert country here), they’re doing things all wrong because that’s not the way we do it in America! We say things like, “They’re driving on the wrong side of the street.” Or “the metric system is so backwards.” Or my all-time favorite, “I have no idea what they’re saying. They NEED to speak English!!” Really? There’s no wonder why we’re thought of by many as the worst travelers in the world.
I didn’t make these things up. There’s been tons of research done on this topic. It has to be noted though that not all research showed that we are “No. 1.” For instance, the poll below shows Americans as being the worst behaved travelers in the world.
An NBC poll from 2012, which polled Americans, had Americans at 20%, Chinese at 15%, followed by the French at 14%, Japanese at 12% and Russians at 11%.
I have to admit though, I don’t necessarily consider all of these things bad behavior, especially compared to things like:
No hotel room? No problem! Seventeen percent of respondents admitted to hooking up in a public place while abroad, according to a Triposo survey.
60 percent of respondents admitted to partaking in some sort of adventure that was fueled by alcohol. Unfortunately not all of these adventures had a happy ending, as 11 percent admitted that drinking led to hurting themselves or someone else.
Just Plain Bad Behavior
Some respondents admitted to illegal or questionable behavior abroad, including more than 20 percent who admitted to stealing while in a foreign country, even if it was just a hotel towel.
While traveling to Canada recently, I admittedly had that “American” moment. I like to always be prepared. No matter how large or small the task, I work hard in order to be prepared. I also don’t “normally” take things for granted, nor do I feel like I’m privileged just because I’m an American.
I’m mindful and respectful of others…regardless of where they are or what they look like. However, I was reminded by trying to pay something with my debit card in a country other than the U.S. won’t get you very far. What was I thinking? That’s just it, I wasn’t.
I took for granted that just because I can drive there, and regardless if I have to go through customs to get there, they should accept my debit card. That was definitely a face palm moment. Had I become what many label as the “ugly American”? It was an eye opener for me. A moment of reflection, if you will. One small incident. Times that by thousands of tourists, and it’s easy to see why we get labeled. I’m quick not to lump myself into that category.
Regardless if I have about 10 little bottles of shampoo in my bathroom. Just sayin’….
Leroy Metcalf is a pharmacy compliance and product management coordinator at a Portland-based medical and health provider. (In other words, he’s in charge of Obamacare in Oregon.) “As productive as 2015 has been so far, it’s nothing like I expect 2016 to be,” Leroy says. “With everything else in life going on, I have committed myself to working on a project that will get the word out about Lupus and to help with Lupus research. Since losing my mother to Lupus as a kid, it’s been something that has always been near and dear to my heart. 2016 will be the year to get something positive out it, and I’m looking forward to it.”
Editor’s note: From a random encounter as both of us waited for a bus one night in downtown Portland has come a friendship with Leroy. He’s a native Detroiter and big fan of University of Michigan football. He’s joined in on a few poker games at my place and I joined his beer-fueled cornhole team for a season. On a serious note, as an Army veteran he was a great source of comfort and assurance when we worried about our youngest son during his Afghanistan deployment. Leroy also volunteers with grieving children at the Dougy Center.
Tomorrow: “The pilgrim soul in you” by Patricia Conover