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#249702 - Sat Nov 20 2004 07:48 AM The Ugly Americans
versailles Offline
Explorer

Registered: Wed Dec 10 2003
Posts: 74
Let me start off by saying that I am an American. Last night I was walking (or stumbling) down memory lane by looking at photos and slides of the many foreign vacations I was fortunate to enjoy over many years. I haven't looked at these for a long time and I was embarrassed and appalled by some of what I saw. Maybe it's because I'm older now, but I don't remember noticing before what I noticed last night.

Coming out of Notre Dame in Paris was a 350 pound American woman in pink short-shorts with an orange tank top (and this top would have fit on a Howitzer), flip-flops, and a huge purse that was a replica of an American flag. Her 90 pound husband follows her dressed in baggy shorts, a tee-shirt with 'studmuffin' across the front, with at least six cameras around his neck. They looked like the number '10' when they stood together!

Entering a mosque in Cairo was a bunch of American teenagers, the boys wearing jeans and tee shirts with various obscenities emblazoned across the front; the girls wearing the 'de rigeur' short-shorts (I wish I had stock in spandex) and tops so tight that every nook and cranny was visible.

What is wrong with people? Don't they have mirrors? Is there no sense of decorum and respect? Don't they realize that they are guests in a foreign country and should try to abide by that country's cultural mores? Don't they realize that they are representing America to the rest of the world?

I remembered some of the people we met when traveling. As I recall, many Americans love to complain. They don't like their seats on the motorcoach, the hotel room is too small, the food doesn't agree with them, they visited too many cathedrals, they couldn't hear the tour guide, they can't find nice souvenirs, and on and on ad nauseum. They want things to be just like they are back in Cleveland or Phoenix or Dallas. If they like it so much back home, STAY THERE!

I'm not an ugly American, I'm an embarrassed American.
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#249703 - Sat Nov 20 2004 07:59 AM Re: The Ugly Americans
PurpleFan Offline
Multiloquent

Registered: Fri Oct 22 1999
Posts: 2249
Loc: New Westminster BC Canada
I shouldn't laugh but oh it is so good to see you back I have to!
Thank you, you made my day.I have missed that twinkle in the eye sense of humour.

PF
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#249704 - Sat Nov 20 2004 08:00 AM Re: The Ugly Americans
sue943 Offline

Administrator

Registered: Sun Dec 19 1999
Posts: 35719
Loc: Jersey Channel Islands        
They looked like the number '10' when they stood together! - I love it!

Perhaps it is the 'holiday syndrome' Rich, some Brits make me ashamed to be British. Lager louts is the common term for them, they go overseas and not only dress crudely but get very drunk and become obscene. There was a television programme a while back about young Brits in Crete, another about Ibiza, drunken, exposing themselves, mooning at the cameras, urinating in full public view, have sex in public.

It makes you want to hide.


Edited by sue943 (Sat Nov 20 2004 08:02 AM)
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#249705 - Sat Nov 20 2004 08:05 AM Re: The Ugly Americans
versailles Offline
Explorer

Registered: Wed Dec 10 2003
Posts: 74
It makes me want to take a quickie in Ibiza, if only I knew where it was.
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#249706 - Sat Nov 20 2004 08:08 AM Re: The Ugly Americans
ren33 Offline
Moderator

Registered: Thu Sep 30 1999
Posts: 11359
Loc: Fanling
  Hong Kong      
In fairness to American and Brits abroad, it is not always them. I was in Malaysia once, extending my visa at the local administration dept.The officer in charge and I were passing the time of day and I said how busy the resort was. He mentioned all the nationalities and complained in particular about the lack of respect shown in temples etc by the Italian women, half naked, showing large expanses of flesh. He was particularly upset by the nudeness on beaches. His words were "It is as if they are saying to us Malaysians : 'I have paid for this sunshine to shine on me here on this beach. I own it and I shall dress how I wish.'
If only foreigners would act like guests and show a little respect... I agree, it is most embarrassing.
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#249707 - Sat Nov 20 2004 08:22 AM Re: The Ugly Americans
sue943 Offline

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Registered: Sun Dec 19 1999
Posts: 35719
Loc: Jersey Channel Islands        
Ah you should have come to Crete with me, the more gentile part with no drunken yobs and a wonderful thalasso spa. Ibiza was a lovely place many years ago when I was in my early 20s, now it is loud and brash thanks to the tourists.
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#249708 - Sat Nov 20 2004 08:52 AM Re: The Ugly Americans
IndieQueen Offline
Forum Champion

Registered: Tue Apr 17 2001
Posts: 7306
Loc: Pittsburgh Pennsylvania USA
My husband often recalls the trip he and his family took to Paris. His father was stationed in Germany and the family had the fortune to see many wonderful sites in various areas of Europe.

They were in Paris taking in the sites when this group of American tourist wandered by complaining quite loudly that the "stupid frogs" (their words, not mine) couldn't bother to speak English. My mother-in-law looked at them with the most innocent expression on her face and said "If want people to speak to you in English, go home."

According to my husband, most of the people in France, Germany and Italy were more than happy to speak English to those who didn't wander around complaining about the lack of English speaking people. He could say three or four French phrases and he got along just fine.
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#249709 - Sat Nov 20 2004 10:30 AM Re: The Ugly Americans
Bruyere Offline
Star Poster

Registered: Sat Feb 10 2001
Posts: 18396
Loc: California USA
Perhaps it's the anonymity breeds contempt rule. When people are traveling in groups they tend to assume that others cannot understand them and speak louder as it isolates them from the feeling of being foreign. It's somehow reassuring. I lived about 11 years of my life elsewhere than the states and I have seen it with every nationality, but Americans do tend to stick out more and not just now. It's not just the clothing, it's the speech patterns that distinguish foreigners.

"Anglo-Saxons' as we're called also assume that French people for example, speak English, but are pretending not to, therefore they speak louder and louder.
I generally would intervene for people if they asked me, or if they were in serious danger of course. Otherwise, I kind of assumed that they'd get more pleasure about telling about how the French obstinately refused to speak their language to them.

I've noticed this phenomenon taking public transportation for years in Europe in cities. If a group of one nationality is in the bus, they'll speak very loudly together and the others are sitting there wondering why on earth they're talking so loud. With cell phones/mobiles, it's even worse! In my former workworld it was the service staff going to work cheerfully blasting us all away in conversations in whatever language they spoke.

As to clothing, well, the traditional lag of five years between France and the States for fads, has been shortened with modern communications. Some fashions like underwear sticking out managed to hit France, but didn't stick out in the general population, just the teens.
But then again, French kids letting their navels stick out is a bit different from Americans of all ages doing it, which a trip to any American mall can show you. And, unless I'm mistaken, French kids aren't yet wearing pyjamas out in public like the kids in the States are at the moment.

As to speaking a few words of French in France, wellllllll, hmmm, let's see. I guess the premise is that, just remember the French criticize each other's French, so don't take it seriously if you get a critique speaking the language of Moliere. They come from a long standing tradition of debating the propriety of their language.
They tend to be perfectionists which is why many don't like to speak English as they have a version of perfection to which they try to measure themselves.
Many times this vision is far from what we'd think.
Whenever someone with a university education speaks English, you must think that he or she has been subjected to years of criticism for a preposition or a vocabulary word astray...that you or I as English speakers wouldn't worry about. Perhaps they've even lost a year for two or three words at university on a translation test.
This has been happening from day one of their education in every subject.
So, when a French person criticizes a foreigner's efforts at speaking French, it's only what he or she has had in English or any other subject. They do appreciate the effort, but praising a student publicly doesn't happen but twice a year in school, so, I'd never expect to hear, 'You speak French so well.' Just do the s'il vous plait and merci, and do it till you turn blue in the face after every time you get the salt and pepper.

The Italians, as I lived for about six years on the border, worked with them and have family there, I can say that if you try to speak Italian, it means you've made an effort, and it will be appreciated, but, in many cases, they'll be happy to try out their English on you. I wouldn't take it badly. As Italy is a small country, the fact that someone tries to speak their language is already a sign of effort, therefore, they acknowledge it, but, they often answer you in...well, the Italians are the most gifted people at assessing your nationality quickly with a glance from your head to your toes, so, French or English, or perhaps German.
Even when you're asking for the library, which assumes you know how to speak, read or write Italian, the person whom you ask will respond in English.
I often passed for Dutch or German as my clothes stumped them. My clothes were French, but, well, they couldn't place my accent as I'd worked with Milanesi and had family in Liguria, been trained by someone from Venice. So they'd respond in German! This was unless I was there with my workmates or family.
When I shopped there weekly, the older people at the marketplace assumed I didn't understand their dialect, as so many older Italians rarely bother speaking standard Italian amongst each other. So, as I understood that dialect from family, I would smile as they were saying how much I was paying for cabbage and then say no thanks.

I think the Italians are good hosts for tourists, but, in general, their tourist industry isn't as regulated as in other places, therefore, get ready for more surprises.
It will happen to people who speak Italian, so don't think they're doing it to Americans or Brits.
I mean that sometimes the sliding scale in prices at the restaurants or hotel will slide higher for you..
We even had it happen at gas stations! We'd check our bill on the credit card and they'd put the card through three times. Other European countries legislate this more, so it is a concern in Italy.

So, if you're talking about the clothing that Americans in particular wear when they travel, I agree that they do tend to stick out, however there are some well-heeled Americans touring Provence etc who don't fit this stereotype at all.
The Brits in Provence, well, some of them never learn a word of French, or look pained when they must speak it.
I was constantly amazed to go out for a drink with some of the Brits I knew and hear them barely able to order in a cafe.
Americans, it's different, the ones who are there in France for technical jobs etc...they've normally had language courses.

There are huge British expat groups in Provence, Languedoc and the Riviera area on both sides of the Franco-Italian border though and many times they speak only minimal French. They do not dress differently however.
They simply have many groups and clubs they frequent and don't seem to mix that much.

Oh I must give you an example of a foreigner in France behaving badly, though, the person wasn't American but it's typical of some Americans I've known.
I sent a student to my own bank and I'd sent about a hundred before her to open an account with my bank manager.
She needed one very quickly for her visa. This young lady was a rather spoiled Latin America though I won't say from which country, it's immaterial.
She'd been to American international schools her whole life anyway.

So, my bank manager was clearly offended at this young woman as he told me, when he said there was a two day wait (that's nothing in France) for the account in his best English and it wasn't really an international bank catering to internationals, she said something to her boyfriend in the line about how the French were all stupid jerks and this guy spoke English so badly.
She said this rather loudly and was overheard by most everyone waiting in line!
As most French are afraid to speak less than perfect English but many understand it, this was really insulting, therefore, he must have thought this kid represented America's finest as she had an American accent and education.
Plus, it was MY bank manager to whom I'd sent people as a favor to them. In France you need to establish a good relationship with your banker.
Oh well, she finally realized I was right and went to apologize.

I think that Americans had more trouble accepting the constraints of European customs as they're a little spoiled in terms of service. This is much worse than the customs of dressing badly when touring the country.

I also recall an American woman who called me up at my job, and screamed at me that she wanted the exact number of the apt she'd be occupying and right away and wanted to speak to my boss as I'd botch it up anyway!
I told her that, if she was coming to Europe to study European business practices, she needed to change her attitude immediately as she'd just insulted the one person who could actually do something for her, the boss refused to speak to her! THat, no matter how much money she wanted to throw at a problem that sort of behavior would get her no where. Many French people take it as a matter of pride that, they are trained tourist professionals and if you insult their intelligence, they'll gladly refuse some service, no matter how much money you pay.
She apologized profusely to me when she arrived and in fact, would call me on her mobile phone during her stay to ask me questions like, 'at the airport, does it say Parking lot in English?'
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#249710 - Sat Nov 20 2004 10:44 AM Re: The Ugly Americans
satguru Offline
Forum Champion

Registered: Thu Feb 17 2000
Posts: 6504
Loc: Kingsbury London UK           
Oh Versailles, it's not just Americans, we've got them over here as well... Check this lot out on chavscum . They used to be called Pikeys, originating mainly from the travelling people, but it appears 'Pikey chic' as you described in your tourists, has been taken up by a certain class of people up and down the country as a token of admiration. But I'm sure on your side and ours, they represent a very small section of society, but are just so visible thay create a distorted impression as they stand out in any crowd.
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#249711 - Sat Nov 20 2004 06:28 PM Re: The Ugly Americans
ladymacb29 Offline
Moderator

Registered: Wed Mar 15 2000
Posts: 15430
Loc: The Delta Quadrant
Quote:


According to my husband, most of the people in France, Germany and Italy were more than happy to speak English to those who didn't wander around complaining about the lack of English speaking people. He could say three or four French phrases and he got along just fine.




I have always said as long as you make an effort and *show* that you are not expecting people to speak English to you, you'll be fine.

I can't tell you how many people think the French are rude... Well, if you go around speaking "Hey, ENGLISH!", I'd be rude to you too. All you need are three simple words: Excusez-moi, anglais?" and you're fine.
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#249712 - Sun Nov 21 2004 04:14 AM Re: The Ugly Americans
damnsuicidalroos Offline
Multiloquent

Registered: Mon Feb 10 2003
Posts: 2167
Loc: Sydney
NSW Australia
I believe Australians are barely tolerated in Bali, but as I`ve never been there I can only comment on what I`ve been told by people that have.
The Americans I`ve met overseas have fallen into two categories, those that desire to be seen and heard wherever they go and those that cringe at such behavior. I can state with some accuracy that the latter have been in the majority though.
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#249713 - Sun Nov 21 2004 05:39 AM Re: The Ugly Americans
sue943 Offline

Administrator

Registered: Sun Dec 19 1999
Posts: 35719
Loc: Jersey Channel Islands        
Roos, you have hit the nail on the head. The same goes for many nationalities, the few giving the majority a bad name with the 'normal' ones cringing.

Some years back I went to Italy to a town called Abano, fairly near Venice. This town was a spa resort and absolutely full of Germans who were receiving this spa treatment free on their health service(!), it was so full of Germans that all the goods in shops were double-priced, the prices shown in lira and in marks.

My hotel had just three English guests, all the rest were Germans and these Germans had absolutely no manners or consideration for others. Meals for the English were a nightmare, you needed very sharp elbows to get any food at the buffet.

We got talking to a charming young woman who spoke impecable English and who finally 'confessed' to being German, she said that she would never speak German when on holiday as she was so ashamed to be considered German. In the UK we joke about the Germans and their towels reserving the sunbeds, they just have a reputation for grabbing everything before other people. I am sure that in their own country they wouldn't dream of being so inconsiderate.
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#249714 - Sun Nov 21 2004 12:46 PM Re: The Ugly Americans
ladymacb29 Offline
Moderator

Registered: Wed Mar 15 2000
Posts: 15430
Loc: The Delta Quadrant
When my friend was walking down the Eiffel Tower, he accidentally bumped into a woman who was walking up. Well, my friend said 'pardon' in French and the woman replied with (again, in French) "oh, I thought you were an American."

When I was in France and Austria, my friends were saying that they hate the Japanese tourists as they are like ants at a picnic and just take over wherever they are. When I was in Versailles, I literally had to push them *backwards* because they kept pushing me through the palace faster than what pace I was going.

I think what happens to give different nationalities bad names is that when on vacation, people tend to forget their manners because, after all, no one knows who they are and they'll never see these people again. So why bother being nice when you can just be yourself? (Same thing goes with how people will dress.) But we tourists often forget that we are *guests* whil on vacation and should behave as such with impeccable manners and a little bit of at least trying to speak the language, even if that means pointing to a phrase in a guidebook because you can't pronounce it.

I guess this is why I prefer staying with friends while in Europe than going with a tour - you're more apt to 'blend in' and be treated nicer than as part of an 'invading horde'.


Edited by ladymacb29 (Sun Nov 21 2004 12:47 PM)
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#249715 - Sun Nov 21 2004 02:48 PM Re: The Ugly Americans
flem-ish Offline
Enthusiast

Registered: Thu Oct 11 2001
Posts: 319
Loc: Belgium
It's possibly just an impression of mine, but I seem to have noticed that it's the "little details" that make all the difference. Anyway a well-travelled British friend of mine is always quite successful in getting the good will of the locals, with this gambit for a conversation:" Hello Madam, Sir (preferably in the local language...). I am quite sure your English is much better than my ...(French, Dutch, whatever..).Etc.
The usual response is a big smile, and even when people are not too sure of the quality of their English, they are quite willing to make at least an enthusiastic effort to be of service.

As to "ugly Americans"...in the Flemish art cities of Bruges and Ghent I have not noticed them for ages anymore.
They seem to have been given instructions from their Embassy to keep a low profile. Even the Germans are hardly noticeable. The noisiest groups at present might be the Spaniards but their language is so glorious that nobody minds, and they seldom operate in large groups. The French by definition seldom operate in any other way than in "couples". The Japanese on the contrary are always part of a coachload, but they never pay attention to anything else but the buildings.
It's my honest opionion that no "nation" in particular is "unpleasant", but the whole batch of tourists tends to become a real nuisance when at 5 p.m. I try to ride home on my city-bike through the crowded, medieval streets.
No visitors to the town, whatever nation they are from, seem to be aware of the difference between the roadway and the pavement. They all behave in the same tourist way i.e. jaywalking, looking at church spires while crossing the street, turning a deaf ear to all other noises than their own excited chatting, reading maps whilst being in the middle of the road, etc.

So I ultimately decided to fix a louder bicycle-bell on my handle-bar, and I now keep smiling at ALL the tourists, whether Spanish, American, British, French, German...or local, whilst enjoying the TTTRRRRING TTTRRIING of my new "hooter".
If you ever come to Bruges or Ghent, you are forewarned.

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#249716 - Sun Nov 21 2004 06:10 PM Re: The Ugly Americans
quogequox Offline
Prolific

Registered: Sat Sep 15 2001
Posts: 1049
Loc: Adelaide SA Australia      
Actually with regard to Australians in Bali, i've been there a few times and Australian tourists are some of the more popular there, mainly due to them not treating the locals as colonial servants as many europeans do. Of course im setting aside the "footy club" who treat the country as a private bar and bathroom.
But if you really want annoying tourists you need look no further than the backpacker! What a self-righteous pain in the neck that lot have become. Apparaently because these young folk are of seeing the world we must treat them with unrestrained awe and respect. They seem to think that they are groundbreaking explorers and that their very presence has honoured us. Of course they arent tourists, oh no, they're travellers. In other words they can't afford airfares and get around onthe bus. If you ever see a group of German backpackers heading your way (in Australia they can be identified by the fact they are the only people on earth who still wear torn off denim shorts, and they actually wear the novelty hats with the corks hanging from them) run, run for your lives!
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#249717 - Mon Nov 22 2004 03:41 AM Re: The Ugly Americans
Anonymous
No longer registered


in my experience if people have an attitude to show respect to the country and culture they are visiting then there are no problems,it is when they bring their own expectations and values with them,baggage they could well leave behind.With most people it is a case of visiting somewhere to say "been there, done that" instead of seeing a place with your heart and mind, and leaving no trace or sign that you have been there.
I have been to places where a white man has never set foot and feel responsible to show local people how western people behave and leave behind a favourable impression

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#249718 - Mon Nov 22 2004 02:38 PM Re: The Ugly Americans
lothruin Offline
Multiloquent

Registered: Wed Nov 12 2003
Posts: 2165
Loc: Nebraska USA
I've only been outside the country once, on a 3 week school trip when I was a junior in high school. Before we ever left America, we were drilled on the proper attitudes of the country we visited. Since it was with my German group, we were to speak German as much as possible. (I with my whole 2 yrs of high school German, did rather well, if I do say so myself.) And we were expected to be respectful, to listen to our host families, to always say Danke and Bitte, etc. Really, I doubt we would have needed the instruction. For a bunch of high school students, we were a pretty good bunch.

The most dangerous part of it all as far as manners go was that for many of us it would be our first real experience with alcohol, since of course none of us were old enough to drink legally in the US, but ALL of us (I was the youngest and had just turned 16) were old enough to drink in Germany, and we were allowed to do so. I think the rowdiest we got was in the hotel in Berlin, staying up late with a few bottles of wine from the shop across the street and playing poker...

Of course, since we had host families, much of our time was spent not in sight-seeing but going to school, being with family, etc. And I had a "brother" in Germany, with whom I spent my two weekends, in an entirely other city. (My family's foreign exchange student from the year before. We're still quite close.) His mother helped me pass for 18 to get into the discotech.

I guess maybe students are a slightly different thing that adult tourists. At that age, we actually had to answer to someone for our behavior.

An interesting flip-side to this thread, though, happened to my sister. In at least one particular instance, being an American tourist was the absolute best thing that could possibly have happened. She went to Bosnia with two close friends, toured around their country and then visited the Adriatic. Whilst in Bosnia, they visited the Mosque yard where Lana and Lea's father (killed by Croatians) had been buried. (Appearantly it is not typical to defile a Mosque yard with burials, but due to the large number of deaths and the small amount of Muslim land available, they had to in many cases.) As they approached the Mosque yard, they were stopped by a man in military garb and asked for identification. Upon seeing my sister had an American passport, they were let through without trouble. When the got into the yard, Lana informed my sister that the man was a Croatian, and that there were snipers surrounding the yard, as noone but Muslims went there. Were it not for her American citizenship, they all three would probably have been killed.
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