Ugly Americans?

Old May 29th, 2014, 10:00 PM
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Just in case anyone didn't know where the term "ugly American" comes from: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/039...453RVLPZ3F5UVK


Only two stories pop into my mind:

1. We were on a somewhat packed regional train and there were 2-3 young men about 2 rows behind us and we could clearly overhear them saying about how hot the chicks on this train were and how they would bang this one, bang that one, etc.

2. We were in Rothenburg ob der Tauber and stopped in one of the churches and were sitting towards the front and admiring the art. There were about 5-7 other people in the church quietly sitting/praying. A family of four plopped down in the pews a few rows behind us and proceeded to open up the map and loudly (well, louder than is appropriate in a house of worship) discuss where to go next while the children were talking about how they didn't like the food. Mrs. sparkchaser and two other people sitting turned around and glared at them then the husband said that they should go outside.

Now, I realize that either anecdote could have involved any other nationality but since I'm American, I pick up on the English better than I can pick up Chinese, Japanese, french, or Arabic.
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Old May 29th, 2014, 10:04 PM
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I have seen my fair share of Ugly tourists and the ones from my own country are really bad at times but I may have told this story before but here goes.
I travel to Prague a lot and often meet with American friends whilst there,this is not about them.
I was meeting an American friend in the main concourse of the main train station in Prague so we could go an visit a bar thet neither of us had been to before. I was waiting for my friend when I could here this loud American voice shouting that he needed help.I wandered over asked if I could be of assisitance.Shouting at me he said he was fed up of prague as no one spoke English and everyone bumped into him (he was rether large(short but LARGE),he was trying to find how to get to namesti Republicky by metro and according to his Rick Steves book ,he had to take the metro one stop change metro and go another stop on that line (all this time speaking so loudly I could have heard him a mile away).I explained to him it was easier and quicker to walk or even take the tram just 2 stops,but he would have none of it Rick Steves says I must do this so I must do this.(I refrained from saying that I thought rick Steves head was up his arse).I explained exactly what he had to do ,wrote down the direction of the metros he had to take and what stops to get off,I did emphasise it was still easier to walk but he would have none of it,I even showed him the right entrance point to the metro but he was not convinced and the last time I saw him he was heading down the wrong stairs to the metro taking him in the completly wrong direction that he wanted to go in.
Ugly American yes but he certainly is not representative of the many Americans I meet on my travels
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Old May 29th, 2014, 10:09 PM
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As flanner tried to explain, the usage of that infamous term is almost exclusively limited to Americans describing Americans.
You don't even have a translated term in the local languages over here. In the very rare occasions you hear that term being used, it's always in its English original. And always as a generic term mostly with reference to geo-political issues, e.g. Gitmo Bay. And also in those rare cases it would be used more in an ironic way and would not be an acceptable term in serious debate.
In 40 years, I have never heard it to describe an individual. And especially not to describe harmless little incidents that can happen when you travel abroad.

twoflower.. funny, but I bet that you will also find many young German ladies (and guys) who will give you a similar answer. And historically both castles are not that far apart on the timeline..
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Old May 29th, 2014, 11:37 PM
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I live in NYC and the rudest tourists speak French. Unfortunately I am not sophisticated to know if they are from France or Québécois.

There is a bizarre and insecure double standard that arises on these boards occasionally. A few will state that when visiting a foreign country, we must learn about their customs as much as possible, with which I fully agree. But when people come here, we should be tolerate of those who ignore our customs or act rude in some universal manner.
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Old May 30th, 2014, 12:17 AM
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To say one group is worse than another is just plain silly. For instance, last Saturday late afternoon I was at my gym. I'd just finished a workout and was taking a sauna and a steam.

In between the sauna and steam I took a break by the pool. A group of 3 middle eastern men were in the spa leering at women and giggling like school girls each time any woman young or old in a bathing suit passed them. They were disgusting but I don't use the spa so I ignored the idiots.

Soon they came into the steam room. It was crowded and they were talking loudly, people asked them to quiet and they didn't. One of them shook his body and his sweat flew around the room. The woman next to me said, "eww" and the idiot said, "it's a steam room. We're suppose to get sweaty."
I said, "not with other people's sweat."

They said something in their language and giggle like schoolgirls again. Finally, I reported them and suggested to the other women they do the same.

Were the "Ugly Middle Easterners" or just idiots? There are a couple of middle eastern men and women who go to my gym. They don't act like that. These guys were buffoons.

I've met rude Americans b/c I'm an American most people I meet are Americans and very few are rude. Because I live in a multicultural city, I get to meet folks from everywhere, most are pleasant and some are jerks. Why should I paint a whole country by their jerks?
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Old May 30th, 2014, 12:19 AM
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Robert

Are you also going to deny the ETA bombed a restaurant in Madrid and Barajas and two of the main train stations in Madrid back in the 1970's?
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Old May 30th, 2014, 12:21 AM
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Sorry the last entry was put on the wrong topic.
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Old May 30th, 2014, 12:23 AM
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I think we're more conscious of the gaffs of people from our own country when we travel.

Firstly, we're attuned to our own version of English, so are likely to pick that accent above the hubbub.

Secondly, although we wouldn't cross paths with the offenders in our normal lives, when we're abroad we're embarrassed if "one of ours" acts in a clueless or boorish manner.

A shrill Australian female with ironed flat vowels, the attention span of a gnat & a bogan male looking for a twin for his brain cell will irk me more than almost any American or other national.

I'm thinking of a couple in a lovely little Thai village on a small group trip designed for people who were keen to learn about & try local Thai cooking. She "couldn't eat any of this muck" & Prince Charming "Dazza" was rude to our host when he couldn't produce the "plain cheese & tomato sandwich" our hero had promised "Shazza" I'd have happily practised my cleaver skills on them!

Visitors' cultural misses are easily apparent - whether it's the "cawfee" barked at a barista without "please" or "thanks"; people barging in on queues or talking through theatre performances. Or not greeting shop owners - things that many of us would just regard as common manners - but which are foreign to some foreigners.

I've met quite a few North Americans in my travels & here in Australia. With a couple of forgettable arms-length exceptions, they have been charming, interesting, interested people I'd be very happy to have in my home any time.
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Old May 30th, 2014, 12:58 AM
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The trouble is that the majority of polite softly spoken normally dressed tourists aren't noticed. I agree that when it's one of your own, you cringe.
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Old May 30th, 2014, 01:14 AM
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I remember years a a young English girl a Waterloo station. She noticed that the women's lavatories had Ladies and Dames on the doors.
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Old May 30th, 2014, 01:15 AM
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Whoops. That got posted too soon. Anyway, she trilled, "Oh that must be for Americans"
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Old May 30th, 2014, 01:48 AM
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Just saw something that reminded me of something that does irk me about some travelling Americans - the insistence on tipping, irrespective of being told it's not customary, expected, warranted. And in some instances regarded as patronising & embarrassing.

Travellers to the US are expected to tip whatever the customary % is, "because it's the custom ..."and roundly castigated if they don't, irrespective of the custom in their country. Fair enough.

Yet many Americans completely ignore local customs when they travel, insisting they "do it at home, would feel odd if they don't, people will appreciate it etc ".

Why is it incumbent upon travellers TO the US to follow local custom, but not
travellers FROM the US to follow local customs in this when they travel?
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Old May 30th, 2014, 02:02 AM
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Oh gosh, I'm sure I've been an Ugly American before and I'm almost just as sure that anyone who has traveled has had their share of ugly moments. It's rarely intentional and is more a combination of being tired, overwhelmed and in unfamiliar territory. Rather than judging someone experiencing that it's best to smugly pat ourselves on the back with the confidence of knowing we've never been THAT ugly.

Oh, and an Ugly Tourist has nothing on an Ugly Ex-Pat!

Here's my story. An American couple at Luton airport buying a guidebook for Prague minutes before they got on the flight. He didn't crack the book, she skimmed the Top Ten lists. They got off the flight and said to each other "I guess there's some cool stuff here. Maybe we should see some of it?" And we had an amazing weekend!
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Old May 30th, 2014, 02:36 AM
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<i><font color=#555555>"UGH!, nytraveler. I would have been beside myself."</font></i>

I would have never lost my marbles by allowing another English-speaking couple to glom onto me in the first place. What a crazy situation to invite upon oneself. Who in their right mind would invite strangers to dine with them?

Some taxi drivers around the world are famous for ripping off tourist customers. Certain drivers can be notoriously biased against certain kinds of customers. And George Bush did plenty to stir anti-American sentiment in Europe, which may last for a nice long time.

Unless you speak the native language fluently and know the lay of the land, there is risk when one steps into any taxi, even in NYC. I remember plenty of Roman taxi drivers who persisted in their attempt to blatantly rip me off. None of them won the argument.

There's no excuse for boorish behavior, but if you don't know the correct (or non-rip-off route), then you probably should not step into a cab. Otherwise, you can find yourself at the mercy of the driver's wit and will.
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Old May 30th, 2014, 02:53 AM
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"There is a bizarre and insecure double standard that arises on these boards occasionally. A few will state that when visiting a foreign country, we must learn about their customs as much as possible, with which I fully agree. But when people come here, we should be tolerate of those who ignore our customs or act rude in some universal manner."

This is not a double standard. This is manners. You tolerate in others those things you would not tolerate in yourself. If everybody were like that, the world would be a better place.
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Old May 30th, 2014, 03:59 AM
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The OP never answered whether he has ever been an Ugly American???>

OK mea culpa - When I was younger I used to not wait at those don't walk signs in Germany when there was absolutely no traffic coming for miles whilst all the Germans duly waited for the 'go' sign to pop on.

I no longer do that as I have become more sensitive to local customs.

I'm sure the definition of an Ugly American is broad and we all - Americans that is - have been guilty of offending local culture even in ways we do not know.

For example in the Bayeux Cathedral once I was wearing a baseball cap and someone came up to me and shouted in French 'take your hat off in a church' - I did not realize I was being so offensive - same with going into churches in Italy with shorts - unless banned by signs I do it or else I could not see the church - may offend locals.

Everyone has been an ugly tourist no doubt about that - you may not even realize it!
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Old May 30th, 2014, 04:11 AM
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And another time in a Paris metro information office I walked in to pick up a metro map from a rack and from the far side of the room the young gal at the desk starts yelling at me in French 'you come in here and do not say bonjour' - reprimanding me - now to her I was an ugly American - and I thought she was a rude Parisian - fitting another stereotype.

I felt that a public servant should not attack folks coming in like that - I mean when I walked in I barely noticed her sitting at the desk.

We are all Ugly Americans at times and do not realize it or mean to be.
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Old May 30th, 2014, 04:17 AM
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<Everyone has been an ugly tourist no doubt about that- you may not even realize it!>

Would certainly agree with the OP on situations he now describes.

I'm probably guilty of some of things he mentioned.

While I don't wear a hat, shorts are my thing everywhere.

But not sure if it would qualify for an ugly American or tourist.
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Old May 30th, 2014, 04:24 AM
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<We are all ugly Americans at times>

In Prague at a fruit stand I could not read the sign and picked up a piece of fruit. I was yelled at, but would not call that an ugly American.

Perhaps a dumb American.

I think most of the situations Pal is now mentioning qualify for 'dumb' and not 'ugly'.
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Old May 30th, 2014, 05:26 AM
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<i><font color=#555555>"We are all Ugly Americans at times and do not realize it or mean to be."</font></i>

My alter ego here is a fun escape, but there is nothing "ugly" about me or my behavior in public, no matter where I find myself. I had great parents, great teachers, and great mentors. And I will always respect their wisdom and tenacity.
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