Americans love to travel. Thanks to the internet and vacation rental apps like Airbnb, international destinations are more accessible than ever. As more Americans venture abroad, however, they're also gaining a reputation for uniquely American behaviors. That's not to say that tourists from the U.S. are a nuisance. On the contrary, many locals celebrate these cultural differences and happily share their customs in return. The stereotypical American abroad might not look as you'd expect. Discover the telltale signs you're an American tourist and how to best experience the countries you visit.
If you pack such wardrobe staples as white crew socks, logo t-shirts, and baseball caps, you can bet that the locals will single you out in a second. Americans' wardrobes have an overall laid-back vibe, prioritizing comfort over style. That makes them more likely to go out for a day of sightseeing in athleisure wear or board shorts and sandals. The locals in Paris or Florence, on the other hand, are dressing to impress. Step up your style by choosing chic silhouettes and trendy colors, or flaunt your own fashion with gusto. Confidence never goes out of season.
One of the most distinctly American traits in a foreign country is their tendency to speak at much higher volumes than their hosts. Locals can sometimes hear American tourists coming before they see them, especially in enclosed plazas or narrow alleys. It also makes the American accent even more obvious to bystanders, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't let loose. Some locals agree that it makes friendly tourists easier to spot and engage in conversation. Don't be surprised if a local approaches you at a bar or cafe. They've probably overheard some of your conversation and find you interesting.
You might not plan on using a map or guidebook on your travels, but poor phone reception or a dead battery might not make using GPS technology possible. Download offline maps ahead of your arrival to avoid getting lost in a foreign city, which Americans do all the time. Also, familiarize yourself with the metric system, degrees Celcius, and military time to save yourself some trouble. When all else fails, ask a local for help. A barista, security guard, or train station employee will more than likely be happy to help you find your way.
For some reason, Americans feel compelled to visit the same eateries they do back in the States. While visiting Starbucks in Prague or McDonald's in Luxembourg guarantees the comforting flavors you're used to, it could discourage you from sampling local flavors you won't find anywhere else. Forego your afternoon Frappuccino and try some fresh pastries at the cafe down the road. Find a regional fast food spot and find out what the locals are getting on the go. Your taste buds will thank you.
Americans don't usually see thousand-year-old buildings and artworks on their daily commute. Tourists will almost always stop to admire these landmarks, some older than the United States itself. They might even slow down the speed of traffic or stop in the middle of a walkway to do it. American tourists are very enthusiastic, displaying a sense of awe and gratitude at things the locals take for granted. While they find this trait rather endearing, keep in mind that every moment need not be photographed. Take some time to relish your surroundings and enjoy these sites as the locals do.
Americans might have fond memories of college bar crawls, but the trend isn't too popular among adults. Many tourists from the U.S. choose a bar that they like and stay there all night, a habit that their European counterparts don't share. Unlike Americans, friends in London or Madrid will have a drink at one venue before heading to the next spot, visiting four or five bars in one night. You shouldn't feel obligated to leave an establishment if you're comfortable and having a good time. Don't be surprised, however, if the locals guess your nationality before night's end.
If there's one thing most foreigners know about Americans, it's that they love to engage others. Europeans don't make small talk or speak to strangers, but Americans are famously interested in foreign cultures. They have the confidence to initiate conversations or to ask for help. People in other countries attribute this quality to Americans' optimism and open-mindedness. They'd be hard-pressed to find a tourist from the U.S. in a terrible mood.
One of the biggest signs that you're from out of town is not knowing the lingo. Even in English-speaking establishments, some American phrases don't apply elsewhere. Eateries don't sell food to-go in European countries, but they do have takeaway. If you're looking for the restroom, ask where the water closet is, or look for the sign that says WC. Learn a few words and basic phrases in the language you'll be encountering. Not only is it a sign of respect, but it will also help the locals help you.
Most of what American tourists know about foreign countries comes from the media. Between film and television programs, travel vlogs, and globe-trotting influencers, Americans know where to travel and what they should eat when they get there. What they shouldn't do is bring their stereotypical questions and jokes with them. Most Londoners aren't personally related to the Queen. New Zealanders don't know where the hobbits live. Japanese men aren't married to geishas, and Germans don't wear lederhosen every day. These questions aren't as funny as you think, and the locals would appreciate it if you didn't ask.
If there's one thing that differentiates Americans from almost everyone else, it's apathy toward soccer. The beautiful game transcends language barriers and international borders year-round, but Americans are strangely reluctant to join the party. It's obvious to the locals that when bar patrons aren't agonizing over the score, there's a good chance that they're American. You shouldn't feel pressured to take a sudden interest in the sport, but it's a good idea to be mindful of the pub television. If there's a soccer match on, don't distract the locals.