Thursday, April 17, 2008

The American Tourist

Why do we Americans get such a bad rap when visiting other countries? Well, the sure fire way to find out is to put the shoe on the other foot (the way filmmaker Morgan Spurlock does). As a tourist myself, I've had enough time in Europe to observe the local Italians and compare them to the notorious American tourist - and from what I've seen, the majority of mainland American tourists tend to be loud, obnoxious, arrogant, impatient, self-centered and ignorant.

In the airplanes, in the trains, in the restaurants, in the continental breakfast rooms, on the tours, wherever I went I noticed that the loudest of all the people were the Americans. Loud American teens on vacation, loud American adults talking on their cell phones and loud conversations in what should be tranquil restaurants. The loudest of all were the Americans.

Obnoxious, Arrogant and Impatient
In Venice, in the vaparetto (water bus) line, an American man was causing a commotion by shoving his way to the front of the line complaining about all the people boarding the bus ahead of him. He was then corrected by a group of local Italians that said he was in the wrong line for that particular bus. Trying to save face, he asked the Italian man next to him, "How much are those boat rides, know, those Gonduhluh - or how do you guys say it? (insert condescending tone here) Gahn-Doe-Lah rides?" To which the Italian man replied in a calm voice, "Depends. If you are American, you pay twice."

Self-Centered and Ignorant
On the EuroStar train in Europe, you have designated seats on your ticket just like on an airplane. As the crowded train made a stop, an Italian lady got onboard struggling with an armful of bags. She and her companion approached their seats and found that a group of loud American teenage girls were sitting in them. Thinking that there was some sort of mix-up, the lady (not knowing any English) tried her best to convey that the seats matched the number on her ticket. The kids just sat there looking at the lady and each other while shrugging their shoulders.

The train started to move, the bags I guess were getting heavy and after a couple of minutes of getting nowhere, the Italian lady huffed off to find another seat in the crowded train. After she left, the American chaperone comes over and asks the girls what had happened. The girls said that they weren't sitting in their assigned seats because they were too far apart and wanted to sit together, so they took the empty seats. They went on to say that it was okay, though, because the lady had already left.

You have to check this out if you think I'm not being fair.

photo by: rflashman