Americans have a bad reputation for being impolite and impatient when abroad, and though it is likely a small few creating this image of tourists as a whole, it is up to the rest of us to correct this unfavorable view of American travelers. With that said, there are several things Americans do unknowingly that are seen by those in some host countries as rude – like the act of tipping throughout most of Asia, and assuming that locals around the world know English.
Then there’s the American tourist’s wardrobe. For some reason tourists like to wear the same thing, like sneakers with high socks and a big camera strapped around their necks. It may seem practical when you’re walking around all day, and you’ll definitely want pictures, but you’re also putting a big “tourist” label on yourself by doing so — making you more susceptible to getting pickpocketed. These tips don’t only benefit the overall image of tourists abroad but will benefit you too, if you can blend in with the locals and not bring unnecessary attention to yourself while traveling.
Be respectful of the country you are visiting and their cultural norms. Don’t be the tourist in Florence trying to visit the duomo (or any church for that matter) in a tank top. If you know you’re going somewhere where certain attire is considered proper and respectful, adhere to local norms and pack accordingly.
American tourists stick out like sore thumbs in their sneakers and classically white, above-the-ankle socks. If you’re planning to do tons of hiking and outdoor activities, it makes sense to bring a pair along with you, but otherwise leave the sneakers at home. Instead, find comfortable day shoes with support that you can wear for extended periods of time. (Don’t, however, decide that this is the time to break in those painfully new shoes.)
Most travelers know that tipping isn’t necessary in Europe (since service is typically included in the bill), but if you’re traveling outside of Europe, do a quick search to find out what is customary in that country. For instance, in Australia and New Zealand a restaurant tip of 10 to 15 percent is expected, but in China (and most of Asia) tipping is considered rude.
For whatever strange reason, fanny packs have made a comeback in recent years. You’ll be an easy target for pickpockets — unless maybe you’re in one of these safer countries. Although somewhat practical, a cross-body bag works just the same and won’t scream “I’m an American tourist” the way a fanny pack certainly will.
You don’t have to go out and take a full course before your vacation, but at least have some common phrases down such as “please,” “thank you,” “hello,” and “goodbye.” They’re easy to pick up, and the locals will appreciate your effort.
By the same token, don’t assume everyone knows English. Some people probably will, but not everyone does — and they don’t have to. It’s rude to assume that whomever you speak to will automatically understand what you’re saying in English. Americans sometimes get upset when people doesn’t understand them, but think about how frustrated you’d be if a foreign tourist came up to you in your hometown and assumed you knew his or her language.
You’re in a new foreign country, so things are going to be different. Don’t talk about how the burgers are better back home — you should be enjoying the cuisines the country is known for anyway. Foreigners already think Americans complain enough; be the American who breaks that stereotype.
Drinking is part of many cultures around the world, but know your limits and control yourself. Don’t be that person who gets loud or aggressive after a few drinks. The idea is to avoid sticking out like a sore thumb.
Unless you’re a professional photographer (in which case you probably can’t help it) don’t have your camera out 24/7. You’ll obviously want to take pictures, and you definitely should, but once you’re done snapping a few images, put your camera back in your bag as you’re making your way around town. Keeping it strapped around your neck will only draw attention and let everyone around you know that you’re a foreigner.
Enough with the selfies. Sure, everyone seems to be taking part in selfie images, but the trend has gotten so bad in places that popular destinations have had to ban the use of selfie sticks for safety reasons on behalf of the public interest.