6 Tips on How to Avoid Being an 'Ugly American' Tourist
Back in the Dark Ages (1987 to be exact), I spent a summer in China at East China Normal University (Huadong Shifan Daxue in Mandarin) to improve upon my skills in Mandarin Chinese. We toured all over China, admiring the incredible scenery and the amazing history, and enjoying the company of many kind and gracious Chinese hosts. And unfortunately, all along the way we met..."ugly Americans."
I had seen them before on my previous visit to China. I had thought that these stereotypical people had existed only in comedy skits. But there they were: loud, floral print shirts, loud voices, and whiny, complaining tones. (And I have seen and dealt with whiny, complaining, obnoxious Americans in other countries as late as last year. We still have plenty around, sadly.)
I love America. I am proud of my country and I believe America is the greatest place on earth to live. But just because we think highly of our country does not mean we have a right or a reason to behave rudely or arrogantly or ignorantly in other people's countries.
The Chinese love and are proud of their nation too. The Italians love and are proud of their country too. And the Canadians and the Argentinians and the Japanese and the Kenyans and the ... well, you get the picture. So, here are a few tips I thought of for travelers as they set out to tour a foreign land. Here's how NOT to be "an ugly American:"
1. Lose the attitude.
Like I said, America is wonderful. I am very patriotic. But remember, you are a guest in another person's country. You are in their home. You love your home; they love their home just as much as you love yours.
So, show some humility. Go with the attitude of learning, experiencing, and appreciating. When I was in Italy, I learned so much about the ancient and medieval worlds that I never knew before. Man, I could just LIVE in the Capitoline or Vatican Museums. In Italy, it's all about the art! The music! The FOOD!!!! And the people were just as kind and generous as could be. (There are nice people everywhere in the world — and there are jerks everywhere in the world.)
But were there some things in Italy that irked me? Sure. I had a cab driver who rooked me one day. On another day, a pickpocket stole from my friend. But on the whole, the trip was a living dream. I went to learn and make new friends. So with that attitude, even a few setbacks did not stop me from enjoying the beauty and charm of Italy. (I can't wait to go back.)