10 Sure-Fire Ways to Spot an American Tourist

Thu, Mar 20, 2014

. Posted by: Sophie

Filed under: weird & wonderful

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By Adria Saracino, a fashion blogger and stylist with The Emerald Closet, a Seattle-based fashion blog that offers up street style, advice, news, and inspiration.

“Hey, Bobby! Hey! Ya gotchyer raincoat ready? Hey that Lye-chester Square was somethin’, wasn’t it?”

Of course, real Londoners know that the tube comes with a shroud of silence – except, of course, between 5pm and close, when the noise level raises along with the pub occupancy – and any kind of talk will be the mark of the tourist. But it’s not just the tube where American tourists stick out; it’s pretty much anywhere fashion is involved. Here are the top ten ways American tourists stand (or jump or shout) right out of the crowd.

1. Not observing local customs

You might not share the opinion of many cultures abroad that a woman should cover her head in public, but if that’s the cultural norm, the best way you (if you’re a woman) can show your respect and gain access to all that culture has to offer is by observing their tradition. Wearing a scarf may just help you empathise with the way other people live around the world – which is kind of the point of travel, right?

2. The smile

By and large, the American dental experience is far superior to most first-world countries. What’s more, we love our white, straight-toothed smiles, and we flash ‘em all around like the AmEx cards few non-American vendors accept. Beware that in most cultures, smiles are a rare invitation to chat, especially from women. Old-fashioned American friendliness might get you a lot of conversation, but it won’t help you blend in.

3. Beat up tennis shoes

Don’t get me wrong. The rest of the world loves their tennis shoes as well, but the sneakers they wear tend to be more fashionable than your run-of-the-mill track shoes. Rather than dull white sneakers, picture a fun, green pair peeking out from beneath the hem of two finely cut, high quality jean cuffs.

4. Not attempting to speak the language

Yes, English is the global language, so what? There’s nothing worse than an American who rants about immigrants in our country not speaking English or complains about having their calls outsourced to an Indian who’s really trying, only to travel abroad and begin shouting loudly and slowly at a Spanish waiter, “DO. YOU. HAVE. STEAK. EL STEAK-A?” Get a phrase book and some manners.

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5. Fanny packs

First of all, fanny means something entirely different in British English, so beware. Secondly, fanny packs? Really? They don’t even look good in the United States, let alone abroad. They are a clear invitation for thieves, and they’ve got ‘tourist’ written all over them. Leave this fashion faux pas at the bottom of the closet where it belongs.

6. Schlumpy t-shirts

The surest way to spot an American tourist: look for the slob in the untucked t-shirt, sidling up to the travel currency exchange window and drawling about needing some buckaroos. First of all, you can handle your currency exchanges before you even leave the states. Secondly, have a little class; at least tuck the t-shirt in!

7. Talking about how awesome we are

Look, we can all agree that the US is a pretty kickin’ place. Home of the free, melting pot waves of amber grain and all that. But you didn’t go abroad to preach the gospel of America, you went to experience a new place and a fresh culture. Taste, touch, feel, listen and observe, and above all, refrain from saying, “See, in America, we do it more like this…” Believe me, they’ve seen what it’s like on every media channel out there, and they aren’t looking for yet another reminder.

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8. City paraphernalia

You know how it’s super-lame to wear a band’s t-shirt to their concert? The same thing goes for tourism. Parisians don’t need to have a map of the metro printed on their t-shirts; they ride the thing every day.

9. Asking for tap water

In many places across the world, bottled mineral water is the just the norm. Asking for anything else is sure to reveal your tourist status. Also keep in mind that, in many other places around the world, you’re going to want bottled water, so just smile and accept it.

10. The North Face jacket

I know, I know. This will come across as sacrilege to college campuses far and wide, but the thing is, this popular brand is only popular among Americans. Europeans, for one, simply do not wear North Face, and pretty much no other culture wears jackets that are ten times puffier than the frame beneath it. There is one exception and that is, of course, the Nordic cultures, where that much warmth is actually needed. A trendy pea coat and scarf, despite not being as warm or as practical for inclement weather, is really the only route to a sophisticated, worldly look when traveling abroad.

So there you have it: the top 10 sure-fire ways to tell an American tourist. Ignore them at your own touristy peril.

Thanks to  Ed Yourdonardenswayoflife for the excellent images from Flickr. Please note, all images were used under the Creative Commons License at the time of posting. 

Yikes! What do you think about this guest post – agree or disagree, let us know in the comments box below… 

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16 Comments For This Post

  1. Kat Says:

    Hilarious list… except the love of North Face extends to Korea, where it’s a matter of pride to dress for an everest expedition when you’re just going to the shops!

  2. Erin Says:

    Hostelbookers, you’re better than this. There isn’t a single original thought in this trite little article. That, and the author seems to be speaking to the worst kind of American travelers, who get a lot of attention but are actually relatively few in number. Plus the rude ones probably aren’t reading this blog. I’d like to think that people who take the time to read a travel blog on a hosteling website are more worldly, respectful and well traveled. When you get away from Temple Bar or Cancun, you find that the majority of American travelers are polite, curious and genuinely interested in the local culture.

    Why not write a piece with a positive spin, instead of reinforcing the clique mentality “we are the best kind of travelers and we will look down on everyone who isn’t as experienced and wise?” That doesn’t encourage people to travel. In fact, it probably does the opposite. Who cares if someone’s wearing a shirt from the city they’re visiting? The point is that they are out in the world, exploring.

    It’s one thing to poke good-natured fun at other travelers, but this piece reeks of superiority and condescension. The reality is, no matter how many stylish peacoats or green sneakers you stuff into your bag, you’re still a tourist.

  3. Enrico Caruso Says:

    @Erin…because it is all so true. Best investment I ever made was my PG Field waxed coat for my trips to Scotland. I’m still pretty obviously an Amurricun, and I’m old enough to realize that everyone in Europe knows it, but every once in a while I’ll get asked for directions in Kirkwall, and that means I’ve at least made the effort to acknowledge that Europe is not some kind of travel museum for Americans.

  4. Karol Says:

    Well said Erin! I agree wholeheartedly. This article does not support what the HostelBookers community of devoted travelers stand for and goes way beyond poking fun at one country’s quirks. Remember we’re all tourists somewhere.

  5. Rob Says:

    This is rank stereotype and also a classic self loathing article. When I travel I find myself around other Americans who are supposedly informed and enlightened talking down about the lesser American travelers apologetically and sarcastically in order to fit in with young non American travelers, its pathetic. Yes American tourists can be annoying, but there are many(European)tourists which rank right up along side in annoyance. This is essentially how ALL tourists are in touristy places. I watched a young English woman storm out of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul because they asked her to wear a head scarf. Italian tourists are quite load on the Metro line in DC. City tshirts…yea your right no foreign tourist to the US has ever worn an I Love NY shirt or Washington DC tshirt around the city while touring.

  6. Adria Saracino Says:

    Hey guys, really appreciate your comments on this. Apologies if offended – it was meant to be funny, poking at the extremities for some light humor. But agreed, not everyone is like this, and agree @Rob, there can be equally as “annoying” European travelers. It was all in good fun, meant to get a few laughs.

  7. Jaime Says:

    The only thing that offended me was the bit about t-shirts. You talk about how North Face jackets are soooooooo laaaame, but seriously…it’s more of a fashion faux pas to tuck in a t-shirt. It just sounds like you’re making fun of the fat women in that pretty picture up there….

  8. Dan Malan Says:

    I have lived oversees for over half of my life and these are overused stereotypes that do not exist anywhere in the world. Get real.

  9. Chris Says:

    Have a laugh at yourself guys, news flash some Americans are like that, whether you like it or not there are a lot of you and stereotypes exist. I’m an Australian so I’m sure you could rattle off about 50 stereotypes of Australian backpackers in Europe. Learn to laugh at yourself and you’ll have a much better time of it.

  10. Tripe Says:

    We all appreciate the 4 minutes you spent writing this, thanks.

  11. Carlos Says:

    Chill guys! It’s a fun article, learn to laught at yourselves, as Chris said, every culture has its clichés and the article was written by an American so man up and have a laugh :)

  12. HmmmInCA Says:

    What a list! I didn’t realize North Face jackets were hip. They certainly aren’t in Northern California! Also, at the shows I go to, it is VERY COOL to wear the band’s t-shirts, so stop being full of yourself!! And no, tucking t-shirts in is never cool.

  13. Alex Says:

    That’s the problem with America, they love joking around about your country, but when you joke around with them, it’s all “Don’t mess with Texas!” Oh wait, I am American. I wonder what it’s like to be an Asian in a Western country not trying to blend in at all…

  14. Teddy Says:

    Some European cities are either completely goth in fashion, or totally dorky. Have you ever been to an Addidas Store in Germany? Yeeecchh. No one works out and athletic footwear is simply something which is an alternative to poor quality leather, with two dye color options – black and shiny black, and lots of belts and tags. And Europeans think that a COLD weather jacket should make you look like the Michelin Man, with lots of purples involved. Yes, there are no fanny packs, but there are man-bags. The problem is that Americans bring, easy sub-urban clothing t-shirts, white tennis shoes and jeans, when a dark shirt, scarf and a earth tone leather jacket might be a better choice. So this totally makes sense. Then there are some countries, where no matter what you do, you will not blend in.

  15. John Says:

    Its all true. Every bit of it. Americans though these days are the 2nd most annoying visitors in Europe after Chinese tourists. Atleast Americans have some manners and politeness and don’t try to steal anything that isn’t (or sometimes is) nailed down!

  16. Anna Says:

    11. Using “we” and “you” interchangeably, implying that anyone reading this article is American by default.

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