Throughout my life I, like most other people, have heard all of the negative stereotypes about Americans when we travel overseas. According to legend we are fat, lazy, loud, stupid and pushy. While I usually am of the mindset that stereotypes exist for a reason, I’m not so sure in this case.
A few years ago, while visiting Bangkok, we stayed at the Bangkok Marriott Resort. The hotel is a large, riverside resort with great views of the city and a very relaxed, Thai feel. We were guests for almost a week, and every morning we rose dutifully and took the hotel boat shuttle into town for a day of exploration and discovery. Every morning though, I noticed the same scene at the pool in the center of the hotel. Dozens of guests were encamped in lounge chairs next to the pool, where they would stay for the rest of the day. The tourists in question, German in this case, rarely left the hotel and instead spent most of the day poolside.
This shocked me to no end. Why on earth would anyone travel halfway around the world only to plant themselves in a beach chair. It would’ve been easier and cheaper for them to take a quick flight down to Mallorca.
In Jordan a busload of French tourists refused to shut up during the Petra at Night experience, drawing the ire of tourists and Bedouin alike. In Morocco a Brit got pretty stern with a hotel employee because he didn’t get his morning tea and croissant. In Israel, a bunch of Russians got hideously drunk at the Dead Sea and made a scene.
I don’t cite these examples to say that Americans are perfect travelers, far from it. I’ve seen just as many American tourists embarrass themselves abroad as anyone else, but they’re not alone. The issue isn’t nationality, it’s personality type – whether or not they’re a touron.
I think it’s easy for most people to throw stones at Americans. On the whole we are boisterous, outgoing and showy. Some of our best exports have been 7-11, Starbucks and KFC. We’re easy targets. I think though that by using us as scapegoats, people from other countries give themselves a free pass. In their estimation, they surely can’t be as bad as an American tourist, regardless of how awful they really are.
The truth is no one is the perfect tourist, we all make mistakes and we all embarrass ourselves from time to time. I’ve been guilty of perhaps causing a scene once in a while, and I definitely have been found in a McDonald’s in some of the great capitals of the world. It’s not a question of whether or not we’ll make these mistakes, because we will, it’s what we learn from them that matters. Some of us will grow as travelers while, still others, will sadly remain tourons.
What do you think? Are bad travel manners inherent in certain nationalities?