Have attitude, will travel

A poll reveals that the French are considered the most obnoxious tourists among Europeans

A poll reveals that the French are considered the most obnoxious tourists among Europeans

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.

americans-worst-chartAn 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:

Social (Mis)behavior
No hotel room? No problem! Seventeen percent of respondents admitted to hooking up in a public place while abroad, according to a Triposo survey.

Drunken Behavior
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.

American fans gather outside a soccer stadium in Rustenburg, South Africa.

American fans gather outside a soccer stadium in Rustenburg, South Africa.

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.

Leroy Metcalf

Leroy Metcalf

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’….

Photographs: Time magazine, Southern California Public Radio

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

7 thoughts on “Have attitude, will travel

  1. This text made me reflect on people’s behaviour in general. Why do people very often lose control when they are not at home? When they are abroad? “I’m on vacation. I’ll do whatever I want. These people will never see me again. Who cares,” – Why? Are we so weak? Or s it “just” the lack of respect towards the others? Towards the people we don’t know. Towards the people in general. Different cultures, different mentalities – trying to understand them can make one’s life so much richer… instead of thinking our way is the best and only…
    I really like the open minded way of thinking in the text.

  2. Yes, I have noticed that American behavior is sometimes bad. Think I would rather get to my destination than travel, and I’m actually in a hurry to get the traveling part of it over. It wears me out.

  3. Passing thru Pendleton a few years ago, I asked a local business woman what the town was like during the Pendleton Round-Up. She thought it seemed like some visitors saw it as an opportunity to leave their morals at home and party hard for a few days. Kind of mini-Las Vegas in eastern Oregon.
    So some Americans don’t need to leave the country to leave a bad impression.

  4. In 1987 I was traveling in Europe with my husband. While in Germany, we made a day trip to Dachau, where I literally felt the ghosts. We left feeling so somber and ashamed of the human race in general. On the tour bus back to our hotel, there were numerous Americans on the bus. They were loud and laughing and making jokes the entire ride back while the other occupants were deep in their reflective thoughts. I was so ashamed to have American on my passport that day. What you write is true – we tend to be an arrogant and entitled people who think we are “better” than others in our host countries.

  5. I’m an American who has lived in France for several years. One is always aware of Americans on trains, planes, and boats. They speak loudly and they don’t censor what they are saying because they imagine that the other people cannot understand English…Guess what? Many French people have at least a conversational level of English. I also spend a lot of time in New York and I overhear tourists in museums, restaurants, trains. The loudest ones? The French! It seems to be human nature that we lose some of our inhibitions when we are on vacation. Everyone needs time to relax and rejuvenate and let go of some of the strict rules and conventions of the home culture. I guess we all need to remember that we’re sharing the planet with other humans, and a little common courtesy goes a long way.

  6. Love this and saddened by the poll. Damn! I am a swimmer. I love water. Damn. Look at all that peeing freely.
    And the Germans: They had the lowest percentage for planning a vacation at work and the highest percentage for cheating on a spouse while traveling. Makes me wanna see the number of people caught cheating while on vacation.
    Now excuse me as I go listen to my “Let’s Go!” Spanish CDs, which enabled me to fake it in Mexico this spring, where most everyone I met put me to shame being at least conversational in two languages. I can order a margarita politely in Spanish and say, “Gracias!” That’s pretty much it. Ashame-wah.

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