Americans - don't assume the rest of the world cares about your blue passport

Discussion in 'General Discussion | Travel' started by 7Continents, Jul 8, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. 7Continents
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    7Continents Silver Member

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    This has probably been discussed to death, but I was recently in Berlin and over 5 days & saw 4 blatant examples of an american being an american in a foreign country. It grated on my nerves. Instead of posting a story about the people who wasted time yelling and arguing, I'll post the tips that would have avoided it:
    - If you have a combination museum ticket, it stands to reason you probably shouldn't wait on the long line to buy tickets. Go to the door and show them the ticket. Nobody is coming to escort you in when you wave your hand.
    - Don't assume that every tourist destination worker speaks perfect english, whether it's a hotel or an attraction or a ticket desk. Start off speaking politely using simple words and discover the level of english the other party has. Adjust your attitude and use of slang accordingly.
    - Don't assume that a hotel cleaning staff member doesn't have a disgust threshold. If you would see an item in a porn film or in an operating room right after an operation, don't purposely leave said used item out in the open of your hotel room and expect the staff to deal with it and/or ready it for it's next use. That's not what they are there for.
    - Don't get upset when you decide to purposely ignore local laws/customs and then lose a chunk of your vacation paying for it. Getting nailed for something minor in your own country is one thing. Getting nailed for it in another country where you don't speak the language is quite another.
    If anyone wants a complete rundown, I'll be happy to send it.
    Travel with respect, please!
     
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  2. travelgourmet
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    travelgourmet Silver Member

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    I don't find that the above behaviors are unique to (or more prevalent among) Americans...
     
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  3. Scottrick
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    Scottrick Gold Member

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    True, there are bad foreign tourists in America, but we're a little less dense, and it's not as easy to find them. But weekends in urban areas (NYC, SFO, etc.) tend to bring them out. Then again, I find the locals in NYC bad enough sometimes. :p

    I think the point is that Americans have a stereotype, so people are watching for us. I've seen a lot of the same bad behavior when Americans are traveling in America. Confirmation bias is a b**** so it's best not to give people something to complain about.
     
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  4. viguera
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    viguera Gold Member

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    Indeed, and I do find that most tourist (foreign in the US and Americans abroad) would go a long way if they bothered to a) learn the customs of the country they're visiting and b) at least try to familiarize yourself with a few local phrases.

    My Dutch is just a tick short of horrendous, even though most of them speak perfect English, yet you'd be surprised how many vendors/shop owners/etc actually appreciated the fact that I was trying to speak their language during my last vacation to AMS.

    As per the hygiene and other items, I can't comment as I don't work in the services industry. I know that there are things you're supposed to do which would be faux pas otherwise (such as leaving a towel on the floor to signify you're done with it), but in general I tend to treat hotel rooms as I do my own house, since I have to live there temporarily. :)
     
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  5. 7Continents
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    7Continents Silver Member

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    I happen to be one of those locals in NYC. Seems I'm an exception to your statement? :rolleyes:
     
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  6. DestinationDavid
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    DestinationDavid Milepoint Guide

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    I just got off the plane 12 hours ago on a 3 week RTW trip stopping in the UK, Japan, Sri Lanka, Singapore, and Australia. I certainly saw lots of bad behavior from American tourists on this trip, but I also saw equally bad and frequent missteps from the British, Germans, Italians, Filipinos, Chinese, Brazilians, etc.

    Bad manners and bad attitudes aren't owned by any countries' tourists. I think it would be best if we stopped perpetuating stereotypes and started educating all people on proper travel etiquette. I think that would fit better with MP's goal of welcoming all travelers and promoting healthy and fun travel. Singling out specific groups of people as "bad apples" seems more divisive than constructive, especially when it's clear how universal bad manners are regardless of nationality. That's just my 2 cents though. :)
     
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  7. Scottrick
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    Scottrick Gold Member

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    Let's hope! I dunno what it is, I just never seem to enjoy my visits to NY. I'm sure most of the people are friendly enough, but there are plenty of other places I can visit instead and everyone stays happy.
     
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  8. Scottrick
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    Scottrick Gold Member

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    My French is also atrocious. (I usually read something else instead of paying attention in class, including, to torment my teacher, English translations of famous French novels.) I love the food, so I can read from a menu and order, but only barely. Still, I spoke French for most of my recent trip to Paris. I think most of the people I ran into were humoring me, but they seemed to appreciate it. And if I ever required English (like for directions) I always started the conversation by asking, in French, if they spoke English. It's just rude to assume otherwise.
     
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  9. jfhscott
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    jfhscott Silver Member

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    When in France or Quebec, I always initiate a conversation in French. My French vocabulary and grammar are pretty good, but I am advised by folks I trust that my accent is pretty thickly American. Generally, a short conversation will end in French as well. But those are the only places I make such an effort, beyond learning a limited number of polite phrases.

    And I do not think it is chauvinistic or boorish to presume that individuals in positions of public visibility in hotels and tourist sites in Europe will speak basic English. English has, by and large, become the second language of continental Europe, and, for example, a German in a position of public visibility needs English skills as much to speak with an Italian as much as with me. I do not presume that such a person is being forced to bend to my preferences or the requirements for which I might be responsible on account of my not knowing the local language. Rather, he or she is speaking Europe's lingua franca with me as much as they would do so with anyone for whom English is a second language.
     
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  10. Scottrick
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    Scottrick Gold Member

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    At a hotel or a "tourist" restaurant, yes, it's fine. I think most of us have common sense. But I didn't go to a lot of tourist destinations. And even I my gf, who slips into a deep Texan drawl whenever she gets nervous, can manage to say "Pardon, parlez-vous anglais?" I think everyone should make an effort to memorize how to say "Do you speak English?" in the foreign language of their destination.
     
  11. JSpira
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    JSpira Silver Member

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    If you do decide you would like to visit NYC again, since I live here a good part of the year, please let me know so I can attempt to influence your opinion of the city. (This is meant sincerely, not a "let's have lunch" type of offer.)
     
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  12. JSpira
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    JSpira Silver Member

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    Not to mention "please," "thank you," and (perhaps optimistically on my part) "how are you?".
     
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  13. JSpira
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    JSpira Silver Member

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    There's a great article in the Economist (dating back to 2001) about English as a second language. I'll just quote a few paragraphs from it:

     
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  14. JSpira
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    JSpira Silver Member

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    I would definitely like the complete rundow but I also wanted to comment that you started an interesting topic.

    I see tourists of all shades and stripes misbehaving as I travel. Two egregious examples come to mind which I witnessed in the Delta Sky Club in Atlanta not too long ago. One incident was caused by an American and one was not.
     
  15. Pharaoh
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    Pharaoh Gold Member

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    I find this to be quite silly. Ask in English. If they answer, it will be in English and you can continue the conversation at some level. If they don't, try another language (sign, if necessary); they have no idea what you said.
     
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  16. Bluto
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    Bluto Silver Member

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    I am interested in the complete rundown. I have a feeling others would like to read it too.
     
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  17. NYBanker
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    NYBanker Gold Member

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    New York isn't for everyone. That much is for sure.

    Why do you visit if you don't enjoy it?
     
  18. NYBanker
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    NYBanker Gold Member

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    ...ask louder. ;)
     
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  19. goodandclassy
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    goodandclassy Silver Member

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    double like. true new-yorker :D
     
  20. Dovster
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    Dovster Gold Member

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    That's a horrible thing to do! I make it a point of always reading in the local language.

    In Israel, for example, I read the Hebrew translation of the Old Testament instead of insisting on reading it in the original English.
     
  21. Million Mile Secrets

    Million Mile Secrets Silver Member

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    ...and look at them like they are stupid.:rolleyes:
     
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  22. JSpira
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    JSpira Silver Member

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    I'm not sure there is an appropriate emoticon for this... but I am picking myself up off the floor now and still haven't stopped laughing.
     
  23. SirRagnar
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    SirRagnar Silver Member

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    It's actually not silly. You get a lot further if you ask in local language. For instance, if you travel in Southern France and go straight at them in English, that's when you'll experience the arrogance the France are infamous for. If however, you ask them in French, or at least greet them in French, you will get a lot friendlier attitude.
    I am also always super impressed by tourist in Denmark that start out in Danish - even though I don't understand a bit of it. It shows a willingness to learn the other culture.
     
  24. Valentine

    Valentine Silver Member

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    It irritates me when people are incapable of toning down their level of English to make it more understandable to locals. Many people are too used to their complex vocabularies that they forget that there are often simpler colloquial alternatives to many words. It's not just Americans, but often non-native English speakers who are so used to learning and speaking English in a structured environment that find it hard to simplify their sentences.

    (And I'm probably guilty of it too above.)
     
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  25. Dovster
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    Dovster Gold Member

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    Often, the "25 cent word" will be more apt to be understood than the colloquialism.

    The word "television", for example, will cause no problem in France, Italy, or even Israel -- but "boob tube" will draw a blank.
     
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