Should I have spoken up??

Jun 12th, 2002, 10:31 PM
  #1  
Marcie
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Should I have spoken up??

We just returned from a fabulous 3 1/2 week vacation visiting Prague, Vienna, Italy, and all over Switzerland. There was not one "bad" moment until the day we flew home from Zurich and I just can't get this out of my mind.
We were in the process of going through security at the Zurich Airport (Delta Airlines) including removing our shoes. I was just completing this and in the process of putting my shoes back on when an American women came behind me. In her LOUD voice I heard" What kind of airport is this?" "I smell smoke and I'm not going to be subjected to this". She then went on to say that she wanted to be the last one to complete the security process because she didn't want to have to walk through the smoking section to enter the plane. She was so loud and obnoxious that myself and several other Americans just hung our head in disgust.

Completing security and entering the gate area, there was a small smoking section (maybe 10%) next to the larger non-smoking area. She could have easily entered the non-smoking area and kept her mouth shut.
A very nice Swiss Delta airline employee tried to explain that since the 10 hour flight to Atlanta was non-smoking that the area was set up to provide passengers with an opportunity to smoke prior to entering the plane (without exiting the security area). She was just so rude, loud and an embarassment. I wanted to speak up and say something but couldn't find the words for such a person. Should this ever happen again, I may not be able to maintain my politeness. Should I have said something, and if so, what would you have said? I felt like I should have said something (almost an apology) to the very polite Swiss people staring at her in astonishment of her behavior....maybe this is where the term "ugly American" comes from!! I just can't get this incident out of my mind after experiencing 12 days of a wonderful holiday with the Swiss people. I just felt like holding up a sign saying "we really are nice people and please don't judge us by this obnoxious lady, we appreciate your hospitality to us visiting YOUR COUNTRY!" I want to be prepared should something like this happen again.
Marcie
 
Jun 12th, 2002, 10:41 PM
  #2  
janis
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Marcie: I am glad you had a wonderful holiday. Unfortunately the type of behavior you describe is all to common. Saying anything to the "lady" would not have done any good so it is probably just as well you didn't. It could have just gotten more ugly.

My experience has been that many travelers from the US demand and expect Eurpoeans to conform tho the non-smoking rules they are used to at home.

I am definitely NOT pro-smoking (My mom has all kinds of smoking related health problems) but I have seen WAAAAAY too many Americans either make embarrasing scenes or just make nasty faces when encountering smoke in a pub, shop, restaurant or airport. And they are always so LOUD about it.

If you don't like the smoke -- just walk away!
 
Jun 12th, 2002, 10:46 PM
  #3  
speaking
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No. I think speaking up would only have made it worse. The woman was having a bad day. And, if every day is a bad day for her, then you can feel sorry for her!

If people judge an entire nation by the actions of a single person, well, it wouldn't say much for them, would it?

Glad you had a great trip! Now go to bed, if your jet lag isn't too awful.
 
Jun 12th, 2002, 10:59 PM
  #4  
Whome?
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You better believe that's where the term "ugly American" came from. If it's any consolation, there are plenty of "ugly" French, German, and Australians out there as well. Oh boy could I tell you stories. Just keep doing your part to counteract the stereotype -- that's all you can do!
 
Jun 12th, 2002, 11:01 PM
  #5  
ida
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Marci,
I agree with the others that you probably did the right thing by not saying anything....it may have just escallated things. I've witnessed similar in my European travels and it never ceases to amaze me at how rude and disrespectful some travelers can be! Let's just hope that most of our behavior out-weighs the rude impression like you encountered at the Zurich Airport. If anything, I think most Americans try to be on their best behavior when visiting a foreign country and leave their paranoid hang-ups at home. These people are most likely rude no matter where they are! Ida
 
Jun 12th, 2002, 11:03 PM
  #6  
simone
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You should not feel self-conscious just because you share a nationality with someone who is behaving rudely. Most reasonable people will not think that you hold the same opinions or would ever behave in the way that this person did. Realistically, I think all you can do is what you did: be polite and cooperative yourself (and perhaps make a subtle sympathetic remark to the person who had to handle the outburst, if you happen to be speaking with her anyway).

Many European airlines have instituted a policy of not allowing aggressive or confrontational passengers to board the plane, as they're considered at worst a threat and at best an unnecessary additional cause of stress for crew and passengers. Had this woman been flying BA or Swissair, she might have found herself spending some additional, unplanned time in horrible, backward, smoky Europe.
 
Jun 12th, 2002, 11:20 PM
  #7  
Duke
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"Marcie" is a pathetic whiner. The majority of us have experienced loud, disgraceful, obnoxious, foul-smelling europeans, asians, & middle-easterners throughout our travels abroad and home. Why are you so daft and narrowminded to believe that it is only the americans? Open your eyes, Marcie. You obviously need to broaden your mind!
 
Jun 12th, 2002, 11:58 PM
  #8  
nation
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Since Marcie's an American, the odds are that there's at least one thing about her that's broad: her backside.
 
Jun 13th, 2002, 12:20 AM
  #9  
Nigel Doran
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I think you should have said something. You should have, very politely and calmly, pointed out that she was perhaps over-reacting, that she was causing distress to other people (many passengers hate flying, and anything that gets them more nervous, tense, irritable etc. is to be avoided) and that whether she likes it or not, the small smoking section was provided for the benefit of a minority. I think she would have been surprised to have one person out of so many 'mutes' speak up and might well have felt at least some of the embarrassment you were feeling and she should have felt. If she then wanted to escalate things, you simply ought to have walked away. Obnoxious behaviour that upsets many others should not be tolerated.
 
Jun 13th, 2002, 12:35 AM
  #10  
Shadow
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I get so tired of American bashing.
Can we just give up stereotypes? So many Europeans I've met over here have said something unpleasant about our country (in front of us Americans). We are not the only LOUD people either.
Geez, get over it!
 
Jun 13th, 2002, 12:51 AM
  #11  
xxx
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Would you have considered saying something if she was British, Australian or any other nationality? What makes you think it's ok for you to tell someone else how to behave??
 
Jun 13th, 2002, 01:21 AM
  #12  
Melissa
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Marcie, this ugly American sounds hostile and if you had said something, I bet the situation would have turned ugly on *you*. These kinds of people don't ever believe that they are out of line, so your speaking up would have been a waste of breath, unfortunately.
 
Jun 13th, 2002, 01:27 AM
  #13  
Nigel Doran
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I would've said something had the person been British, Irish, Canadian.....whatever. Rudeness has no exclusive home. Why do you think that everyone here will only post items that criticise nations other than the poster's own?
 
Jun 13th, 2002, 01:53 AM
  #14  
Angela
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Simone,
For your information. British Airways has operated a no-smoking policy on all its flights since the late 1990's. As well as that Britain is one of the more progressive countries on smoking policies in public places. I rarely have a problem as a non-smoker in the UK.
 
Jun 13th, 2002, 02:15 AM
  #15  
NoneOfMyBizBut...
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The REALLY sad thing is it is that when this moron you ran across reaches the other side of the pond, she would be rewarded for her obnoxious attitude by being allowed to make policy.
 
Jun 13th, 2002, 05:42 AM
  #16  
slappy
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you should have slapped her silly!
 
Jun 13th, 2002, 06:56 AM
  #17  
xxx
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Angela, I think you've misunderstood Simone's point - she wasn't saying that BA allows smoking, but that they might well have "pulled" this obnoxious passenger off their flight until she had calmed down, as she could have been a security risk. IMO it would have served her right.
 
Jun 13th, 2002, 06:58 AM
  #18  
Marcie
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Thanks for the feedback. Yes, I am positive she was an American and I certainly don't consider myself narrow minded. I just have difficulty tolerating rudeness, regardless of nationality. It is especially worrisome to me when it reflects on "Americans" as I'm standing there witnessing the incident. Hopefully, this "one bad apple" wont' leave as lasting an impression as those of us who travel and appreciate the differences in customs and culture and show respect to others. I'm a Die-Hard American through and through but when traveling to other parts of the globe, I'm very respectful of diversity and differences within each country without trying to assume that the American Way is the only way, the best way, etc. and voicing such! Marcie
 
Jun 13th, 2002, 07:15 AM
  #19  
Jen
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Marcie, I think you did the right thing by not inciting the situation to escalate. You might have left the Euopeans in the area with the impression that half of all Americans are loudmouths and the other half are argumentative and confrontational!
 
Jun 13th, 2002, 07:20 AM
  #20  
annie
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Marcie:
I would not have spoken to the woman in question, either. I usually just catch the eye of the person receiving the wrath and just roll my eyes or smile at them. No reason to escalate the situation, she would probably have turned on you. Now what?
 

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