The American Abroad - How to polish up the image?

Discussion in 'The Observation Bar' started by PADDY, Sep 26, 2006.

  1. PADDY

    PADDY I'll Lock Up Bartender

    Here are some views by others of the so called modern 'ugly American' abroad, and interesting enough, many are by North American's themselves, who have made the effort to read up on the cultures they are visiting, dress appropriately and even learn a few phrases.

    Although I get the feeling that this doesn't fit the scenario of our esteemed members here who are all very dapper and civilised, I just wondered, after reading some of this, what positive travel advice you could give people from the United States when they take a vacation out of their own country..?


    Here is a news piece from MSN.

    Travel Trends: How to Avoid Being an ‘Ugly American’How to Avoid Being an ‘Ugly American’

    Find out how one group thinks you should act when you’re traveling abroad.

    Do you love to share your political views with the locals you meet while traveling? Do you think that people in other countries should do everything the American way? Does your voice tend to get as loud as the print on your Hawaiian shirt? If so, then you might be an “ugly American.”

    The concept of the ugly American has existed ever since an increasing number of ordinary, middle-class travelers began exploring the world over a half-century ago. Now, an organization called Business for Diplomatic Action, concerned by an apparent rise in what it calls “negative stereotypes about our collective personality,” is hoping to clean up the image of Americans abroad. The group has published a set of guidelines for travelers, the World Citizens Guide, that suggests proper ways of behaving when visiting countries outside of the U.S.

    Among its tips:

    Be humble. In many countries, boasting is considered very rude. … Assume resentment as a default and play down your wealth, power and status.
    Refrain from lecturing. Nobody likes a know-it-all, and nobody likes a whole nation of them.
    Be quiet. A loud voice is often perceived as a bragging voice. Casual profanity is almost always considered unacceptable.
    Dress for respect. Jeans, T-shirts and sneakers work for many of us much of the time, but there are people in other countries who believe such casualness is a sign of disrespect to them and their beliefs.

    These might seem like obvious ways to behave when you’re traveling abroad, and you may not appreciate the guide’s somewhat patronizing tone. But it appears we could use the advice. In studies conducted in more than 100 countries by DDB Worldwide after 9/11, respondents perceived Americans as loud, arrogant and disrespectful of local cultures. And in a new survey of seven Asian countries, the results of which were published this week in a Japanese newspaper, the image of the U.S. was reported to have declined across the board in the past decade, particularly in countries with large Muslim populations. [END QUOTE]

    So..ladies and gentlemen, have they got it right here do you think about portraying the American abroad, as loud, ill informed, arrogant and ill dressed?

    There was ONCE a time when people thought of Hemingway, Jimmy Stewart, Clark Gable, Henry James, FDR..etc, as the American traveller abroad, and what a great ambassador they made in flying the flag!! They dressed 'well,' spoke well and conducted themselves with a decorum befitting a gentleman traveller.

    And if today, things have deteriorated in what is seen as the average Yank abroad...(you may well disagree with this), what advice could you give this modern day stereotyped American Traveller to be a better ambassador for his/her great nation
  2. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

    Chicago, IL US
    Yanks Abroad

    With travel for country and on my own passport; including
    several years spent abroad as soldier and student, I have
    encountered a fair share of foreign ugliness that travel commentary,
    such as cited above, rather conveniently ignore. However, for the
    most part, I have been very well treated when abroad, and I have
    tried to reciprocate this kindness by being a respectful guest.
    Basic etiquette and good manners are universally appreciated.
  3. Elaina

    Elaina One Too Many

    I've been treated kindly and rudely when I've been overseas. Back when I couldn't hide the fact I was from Texas, and sounded like an episode of Dallas, I had mixed reactions, except the one time I saw "Oklahoma" in London.

    People are the same the world over, and you get what you put into it.

  4. The_Edge

    The_Edge One of the Regulars

    WA USA
    I can't abide the entire "UglyAmerican" stereotype. No, I don't have any facts or figures but for some reason I highly doubt that large numbers of rude tourists are to blame for America's decline in world opinion. I would attribute it more to the citizens of these other countries having feelings of resentment because they don't have what we have and they want it.

    Contrary to the popular belief, it seems, America has it's own cultural identity and as a result we act and think in our own unique way. Why should we feel shame and downplay our own cultural qualities? Especially when everyday we are being preached tolerance and to embrace other culturals and ideas. Is that for everyone but Americans? Strike that, I mean for everyone but Americans of European descent?

    Where are the articles about the "ugly Asians" that walk around in tour bus groups nattering in loud high pitched voices and photgraphing everything in sight? Where are the articles about the "Ugly Arabian" who walks around in short sleaved shirts with the top two buttons undone while his wife trails behind covered from head to toe in sheets?"

    Why is it once again the job of Americans to go out of their way to make everyone else feel comfortable? I'm certainly not advocating being rude while a guest in another country. Being polite and courteous is just the right thing to do no matter where you are. But this American guilt line we are being fed has gone too far.
  5. Feraud

    Feraud Bartender

    Hardlucksville, NY
    Those are very good points! American can complain just as loudly about "Ugly ______ " as anyone else. There are immigrants who live in the U.S. for many years and do not learn the rudiments of English! Go figure...

    I myself think of any form of travelling as being a "guest". Whether it be the Middle East or another state in the U.S., being on good behavior is important. We are representative of our state or country and should behave in a pleasant manner. No one wants to deal with an idiot, local or foreign. ;)
  6. jake_fink

    jake_fink Call Me a Cab


    lol lol lol

    Pretty much exemplifies the attitude under discussion.

    Enjoy this thread while you may. I'm sure it's gonna get ugly. :D
  7. I'll give you two reasons:

    1.) ... because we remain the world's only superpower. With great power comes great responsibility. Americans are held to higher standards
    ---because we are on a high (and very visible) pedestal.

    2.) ... because we, as Americans, should hold ourselves up to the very highest standards. Doing so is a manifestation of greatness. Not doing so is
    ---a sign of turpitude and decadence.

    I've lived abroad long enough to conclude that Americans are at their worst AND their best when visiting foreign countries. I suggest that each of my fellow Yanks be "an embassy of one". See yourself as a representative of the U.S.A.; comport yourself with the civility and tact of an American diplomat.

  8. scotrace

    scotrace Head Bartender Staff Member

    Small Town Ohio, USA
    It isn't going to get ugly, or it isn't going to stay open.
  9. Scotrace is right. If we (and I include myself) exercise enough self-discipline, this thread will roll along just fine. If, however, we act like "ugly Americans", slinging mud back and forth, then we'll be ejected from our sidewalk cafe seats (without ever having received our espressos).

  10. And don't forget the extreme rudeness of vacationing "ugly Germans", who are roundly (and rightly) despised by theme park workers worldwide.

    As for your points in the quote, the answers are:

    -- Yes, every country and culture in the world has its "ugly traveller": there are ugly Swedes, ugly Italians, ugly Costa Ricans, etc.

    -- Articles about the "ugly Asians" and "ugly Arabians" are published in Asian magazines and Arabian newspapers. The fact that you don't read those ---articles doesn't mean that they aren't printed.

  11. Paisley

    Paisley I'll Lock Up

    "Noblesse oblige: the obligation of honorable, generous, and responsible behavior associated with high rank or birth."
  12. LaMedicine

    LaMedicine One Too Many

    This is true for any and everyone...of any and every nationality.
    When my father was posted abroad for the first time, and at the age of 6 I was to attend a local school, before he sent me off, he admonished me by saying, "Always be on your best behavior and be courteous, honorable, diligent and studious. You will be the only Japanese in the school, and it is likely you will be the first Japanese the others have met. Keep in mind that they will judge the Japanese and Japan through your behavior." More than 50 years have passed, and I have never forgotten his words.

    Several years ago, when I was in Hawai'i with some friends (all female), my friends and I were dismayed and embarassed by the behaviour of a young Japanese couple on a tram ride. A few stops after where we got on, an elderly American couple boarded the tram, and stood in front of the Japanese couple, who were sitting on the seats closest to the door. The driver repeatedly asked the elderly couple if they were alright standing (all the seats were occupied), hinting that someone should stand up and offer their seats, at least to the wife. The Japanese couple did not take the hint:rage: , and the driver eventually started the tram. My group was on the far end of the car from where this was taking place, but I was half of the mind to standing up and offering my seat, only, we were all on the other side, and the tram was already moving, which made it a bit difficult to walk up to them. The Japanese couple got off a few stops later (whew!) and it turned out, all of my friends had thought of offering our seats but had hesitated because of the distance. To be honest, I regret it to this day that I hadn't acted, and the next time the same thing happens, I am not going to procrastinate.

    So, everytime I see some tourist behavior from anybody, I figure, it's not where you are from, it's who you are.
  13. And in a sense, the citizens of a superpower have a high rank -- a "glorious burden", as George Washington said. We should comport themselves accordingly.

  14. Steve

    Steve Practically Family

    Pensacola, FL
    I don't see it as a guilt line; American travelers just need to remember basic courtesies and cultural differences. The message I get from some message boards and European publications is that that the generally-held view of America is the Toby Keith cowboy image promoted by our commander in chief; and we need to rise above that.
  15. MK

    MK Founder Staff Member Bartender

    Well said. I have been very embarrassed by some of my fellow Americans when traveling. We are the outsiders when abroad. I always learn a few words of the language of the country I am visiting, carry a dictionary and never expect them to speak English for me....but I am grateful if they do.
  16. Very wise words!

    Whenever visiting a foreign country, we should keep in mind that:

    1.) Its citizens are often much more aware of the U.S.A. than we are of their nation.

    2.) Its citizens are often more affected by U.S. policies than we are by their nation's policies.

    3.) Its citizens may fear and distrust us because of our own nation's power.

    4.) We can help ease this fear and mistrust by being "good guests" and showing respect, goodwill and compassion towards the citizens whose
    ---countries we are visiting or living in.

  17. MK

    MK Founder Staff Member Bartender


    Your father gave you wise words. It is a good lesson. I will pass them on to my children.
  18. Daisy Buchanan

    Daisy Buchanan My Mail is Forwarded Here

    All very good advice Marc and LaMedicine.
    I am going abroad in November, and have actually done a lot of thinking on this topic. My mom was telling me that all I needed was jeans, sneakers, and a fleece jacket. Maybe a couple of nicer outfits for dinners out. I was disappointed in this advice, for I can't imagine that the Italians will be dressed this way. I want to not look like a tourist, so I'm sticking with some nicer outfits. I was very disappointed too, because my mom used to be very well dressed. She's succumbed to the jeans and t-shirt style of the American. To each his own. But it's not for me. I like to look nice, and definitely don't wnat to stick out. I understand that a lot of people dress this way because they like to be comfortable. I can be very comfortable in a cute tweed skirt and a pretty sweater. As for the sneakers, there are tons of companies out there that make fantastic walking shoes that are not only as comfortable as sneakers, but also very good looking.
  19. Archie Goodwin

    Archie Goodwin One of the Regulars

    New Orleans
    A reverse perspective

    I worked as a bartender in the French Quarter to pay my way through college. Most of the people I dealt with were tourists (locals tend to avoid the Quarter, they know the really good places in Uptown and the Garden District). I saw tourists from all over this country, and the rest of the world. Generally, all of them showed up and expected things to be in the Quarter just like things were at home, wherever home happened to be. Some, but not all, were willing to tell me about how our political/economic/social system was flawed, and how things were better at home. I was a bartender. I listened to their spiel, fed them drinks, and hoped they would leave a good tip. I also promised myself that I would never be like those people when I went to other countries.
  20. This is how the majority will be dressed in Italy, from what i remember. No longer the land of skinny besuited sartorial pleasure it used to be ... This is how most of the world dresses. Unfortunately, jeans and t shirts are the height of trendiness - so long as they cost hundreds of dollars. :rolleyes:


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