If your reaction is, “How did you know?” scroll down for the surefire, tell-tale signs that most commonly divulge your national heritage while traveling abroad. In homage to Jeff Foxworthy’s classic “You Might be a Redneck” standup act, here’s our best-practice guide for spotting a Yank. You might be an American tourist if…
You Demand Cold Drinks
The number one dead giveaway for spotting an American is—ice, ice, baby. Let's face it, ice is the surefire way to make a tasty beverage even more refreshing. First, one will observe the shock of indignation on the American tourist’s face as a glass of Coca-Cola is handed to them sans ice.
Accustomed to a heaping pile of bubbly and refreshing fizzing cubes, the Americans will panic, assuming the foreign nation expects them to consume a room-temperature soft drink. That’s when the second sure-fire sign sets in. The typical American will ask for ice. Because it's always the real thing.
You Wear a Baseball Cap
If you are an American, you may not realize that MLB is not a worldwide sporting league. After all, they go to the World Series each season. The fact is baseball is a very American sport, and the baseball cap is a unique type of lid. It doesn't just keep your head protected from the sun, but it makes anyone look automatically ten times cooler.
It’s practical and comfortable and even stylish, in your homeland, that is. So, if you’re wearing a baseball cap while traveling abroad, the cool factor might not be there, and it’s a red-flag sign of where you’re from.
You Wear White Socks
In Europe, wearing white socks is a fashion faux pas. Sock color should match the color of the pants, according to Europeans. A leaked memo out of the Dutch Finance Ministry stated that wearing white socks is “transgressing the limits of decent dress behavior.” Pardon us for our cultural insensitivity, but that's a bit strong, don't you think?
If an American is spotted wearing the ubiquitous athletic socks, locals may laugh. But since sneakers (also a red flag) are the most common shoe for Americans—again, practical and comfortable—naturally, athletic socks are a closet essential. What is it with Americans wearing white socks wherever they go?
You Have Perfectly Aligned Teeth
If you are traveling abroad, you have managed to escape notice; a big, friendly smile will be your outing. In America, orthodonture is an inescapable part of life. Being fitted for braces is like an adolescent right of passage, not so in the rest of the world. Showing off our pearly whites is one of the quickest ways to expose our citizenship...
How comes every American, no matter where they are from, seems like they are about to star in the next Indiana Jones movie? In the rest of the world, it's just not guaranteed to have a set of pearly whites.
You Clap to Show Your Enthusiasm
Uproarious applause is the United States of America’s favorite way to express appreciation. From ballparks to rock concerts, clapping, shouting, whistling, and making as much noise as possible is normal. It seems like Americans will clap at nearly everything. But it does not stop there.
Tourists will clap for a server if he makes an exceptional save on a teetering trayful of drinks or for the conclusion of a tour guide’s spiel; it is too much! And, It could get you labeled as an “ugly American.” If the table at the Parisian cafe you are visiting ruptures into applause, they are probably American.
You Use Slang Words Like “Bro”
If you walk up to someone and say, “’Sup, bro!” you will definitely be identified as an American. Of course, the proper response is “’Sup!” but the average non-American speaker will find this very awkward. Every language has its slang usage, but ours is widely identifiable around the world because of our movies and TV shows.
So, say “bro,” “brah,” or “dude” at your own risk! We recommend going for more generic greetings while traveling around the rest of the world. Say things like, "hello," "greetings," and "excuse me." You can't go wrong this way. But definitely avoid "howdy," that's immediately going to blow your cover.
You’re Sporting a Fanny Pack
Americans do not actually wear fanny packs anymore. Those contraptions were an ‘80s thing. A wild craze. Wearing one these days is a fashion faux pas. But when people are traveling, they do not care. And yet, Ted Mosby was referred to as a "fanny pack" dork when he was backpacking around Europe.
We hope you appreciated that "How I Met Your Mother" reference. Whatever the case may be, Americans dig fanny packs out from the bottom of the closet because, quite frankly, those bags on a belt are practical. And mostly because Americans are terrified of pickpockets. And that is certainly a problem.
You Don’t Know the First Thing About Fifa
In America, sports are a big deal as long as it’s football, baseball, basketball, hockey, or pretty much any sport other than soccer. Frankly, Americans are annoyed and bothered that football would mean anything else besides the tackle sport that requires helmets and body armor, never mind that it was invented after the game everyone else in the world calls football.
So, it’s not so much that Americans are ignorant of the worldwide sports craze; they are willfully ignorant. It’s an easy way to spot an American. And that doesn't bode well when you consider that the USA is co-hosts of the 2026 FIFA World Cup with Mexico and Canada.
You’re Eating on the Run
In America, people are always eating on the run. In their cars, commuting from point A to point B or on the way to the metro station. We do not always have time to sit down and eat. Likewise, on vacation, Americans want to see as much as they can.
This makes it easy to be able to spot one. They’re the tourists who are always walking and eating. On the contrary, locals in many countries around the world like to take their sweet time, appreciate their friends' company and not rush their meals as they take in the ambience at the restaurant they're sitting at.
You Need a Metric Conversion Calculator to Know the Speed Limit
Much to the chagrin of U.S. scientists and academicians, America never made the switch to the metric system. Everyone else in the world uses that very organized system of measurement. So, when Americans travel abroad, one of the simplest ways to spot one is that look of confusion on their face when he or she is asked how many kilograms their luggage weighs.
Heck, Quentin Tarantino even made a joke about the whole thing when he wrote "Pulp Fiction" back in the early 90s. What do they call a quarter pounder with cheese in Europe? That's right, "Royal with cheese." Why? That's right, because of the metric system!
You're Obsessed With McDonald's
Many Americans cannot pass up the chance to eat at a place they are familiar with while traveling. It’s counterintuitive. You’d expect world travelers would want to try out the local customs and foods, but it’s not the case, especially for parents traveling with kids.
You’ll see happy families with happy meals inside McDonald’s. While it’s true that half of worldwide McDonald’s diners are locals, the happy smiles immediately confirm the suspicion—perfectly straight teeth. Some travelers can't visit a country without checking out one of the local golden arches. And that's definitely the case when it comes to many Americans.
You Enjoy a Glass, or Two
Americans on vacation tend to celebrate by boozing it up. Getting plastered, however, is not common in countries where the drinking age is not enforced. Europeans wonder if the age restriction in the States causes Americans to rebel by overconsuming. Just to clarify, it's 18 years in most of Europe.
And so Americans under the age of 21 really take advantage of this loophole when they travel across the pond and indulge in Europe's finest, sweet nectars. Do you want some limoncello in Venice? Sure, why not? Put some absinthe to the flame in Paris? Oh, oui oui, monsieur! The possibilities are limitless!
You Are Shocked by Nudity
Unless you are traveling in the Muslim world, people are going to be much more relaxed about public nakedness or steamy love scenes. In fact, there are plenty of beaches around the world that are specifically for people who prefer sunbathing with their clothes off. But Americans generally can't handle this kind of laidbackness when they lay eyes on it.
The prudish nature of the average American obsesses over these things, and as a result, we have a flood of shocking performances and outward behavior in our culture. Musicians are the best example of those who rebel against American prudishness.
You Are Overly Friendly With Strangers
One way to spot an American is by their fondness for small talk. They will strike up a conversation with anyone. In contrast to Londoners, who are stereotypically cold and do not want to talk to anyone on their way home after a hard day of work, Americans can not wait to let someone know how they feel, wherever they are.
They will speak loudly, enunciating each syllable, as if volume will help the non-English speaker understand our foreign words. And, as long as that person is nodding and smiling, we will talk on and on and on. Just shut up already!
You Share TMI with Others
In some countries, informal conversations with new people are taboo. In France, using the familiar greeting inappropriately is a big faux pas. Many people around the world find our TMI tendency to be awkward and a bit annoying. Yet, some people welcome it and enjoy a chance to chat with a real, live American.
It's not just that we're talking to strangers. Americans are super, weirdly, intimately open with them. Maybe it's the security of knowing we're never going to see this person again that makes us open up like they are a bartender and we are four drinks in.
You're a Man Wearing Shorts
In Southern California, you may get a sideways look if you’re wearing dress pants at the beach, but American men get those same looks for wearing shorts all around the world. In some countries, shorts are only worn by boys, so you risk looking immature and silly.
To stay cool, it’s probably worth the risk, but, in the end, it’s an easy way to spot an American. Generally, a non-American will stick to something typical, like a pair of jeans or chinos. Americans just need to show off those calves wherever they travel. It's tradition. It accentuates the fact that they're on an adventure.
You're a Generous Tipper
Tipping is an American tradition. We tip our waitress; we tip the valet, tip the concierge, and tip anyone we come into contact with during our vacation stay. It’s a polite way to appreciate people who we assume are not getting paid enough for their crucially important service. We are having a great time, and we can thank these people.
Well, my fellow American, guess what. Tipping abroad is unnecessary at best and, in places like Asia, downright insulting! However, in many places, people are happy to take your tip. So read the room, and maybe do some research before you tip willy-nilly.
If you’ve dressed to fit in, withheld tips, steered clear of small talk, and consumed your beverage without ice, there is one thing you cannot hide—your American accent. The rest of the world has done their homework after binging every American show Netflix has to offer.
It doesn’t matter which territory of the expansive American land that you hail from. An American accent is very easy to recognize. So don’t even waste your time trying to hide it. Maybe just write what you're trying to say on a whiteboard instead. At the very least, that will be less annoying for everyone around you.
You Try to Disguise Your Accent
So, you tried to hide your American tongue. No worries, many Americans will try to disguise their accents with a local one. However, saying, “G’day, mate” with that extra twang in Australia or trying to sound like the Queen of England in the U.K. is never going to fool anyone but yourself.
In general, people you meet abroad will appreciate it more if you try to communicate in their home language. But if you're in Italy and start sounding like Brad Pitt in "Inglourious Basterds," we think you're probably better off avoiding it altogether. Maybe just stick to one-word requests and try and stay quiet.
You Only Speak English
Americans are notorious for being monolingual. In Europe, where national borders snug up to each other, people are forced to be multilingual. So, it’s true. Americans are just too busy learning other things at school, like history, science, math, and, dare we say...English.
Americans don’t learn a second language because they don’t have to. English is the dominant language around the world. Everyone else is fighting for bilingual status. But it can be trying for locals when you ask for help and then cannot speak any of the languages they offer. Just download Duolingo already and play around with the app once a day, it can only help!
You’re Kinda Loud
Americans are a confident and jolly lot. They like to be heard. They speak loudly and burst into explosive belly laughs. It’s a red flag trait of an American. It’s also one of the biggest pet peeves of Europeans. No one people think of that classic line from "Midnight Cowboy" whenever an American comes along. "Hey, I'm walking here!"
They say it’s impossible to dine next to a table of American tourists. And, as a stereotype, it happens to be accurate. You have to admit, even as Americans, it’s obnoxious. So maybe stick to the more obscure parts of town, where the Americans are less likely to visit.
You Don’t Know the Customs
Perhaps we’re used to living in our own little world with almost an entire continent to ourselves. We don’t think about outside customs. Whatever the reason, when Americans are abroad, they have the tendency to flout other people’s customs, accidentally or intentionally. In South Korea, it’s pretty easy to offend the locals.
Keeping your hand in your pocket is considered a rude gesture. In the Czech Republic, whistling is a problem. Clapping and cheering is fine, but whistling is their way of booing. In Asia, finishing all the food on your plate is rude, and so is chatting on the subway.
You Go Wild When You Meet Another American Abroad
Americans are already loud and obnoxious. When one American tourist runs into another American tourist, the explosive excitement is a head-jerker. They’ll ask each other where they are from. Even if one has never even visited the home state of the other, they will get very animated because a relative they know lives there. It’s like the trauma of being in a foreign culture, even for a week or a few days, is so oppressive, anybody who speaks American English becomes like a long-lost friend.
When Americans meet other Americans abroad, it may seem to a local that they have met their long-lost relatives. But no. These are complete strangers! They'll get loud. They'll talk about what states they are from. And they'll let everyone else around them know they are from the States.
You Order Coffee to Go
One sure way to offend a European barista is to take your cup of joe with you instead of enjoying it at their quaint café. It’s a sure way to get labeled “ugly American.” Espresso coffee is such an important ritual in France and Italy that they may not allow you to take it to go. The last thing you want to do is ask for drip coffee.
Americans are always on the go and in a rush. In many places, especially Europe, they take their coffee culture seriously. And it's something that you should sit, sip, and take your time with. If you're looking to grab your drink and dash, you're more than likely giving yourself away as an American visitor!
You Pack Plenty of Purell
Typically, Americans are perceived as germophobes. They are compulsively slathering themselves and their kids with antibacterial hand cleansers at every turn. Though, these days, it’s probably truer than the Purell trend is catching on. Americans aren't cleaner. That's not what we are saying. But they do seem more preoccupied with germs than people in other regions of the world.
When it comes time to eat with your hands out in public, Americans whip out their travel-sized Purell bottles quicker than duel participants. Now, since the pandemic hit, we feel like that levels out the playing feel when it comes to antibacterial gel usage around the world.
You’re Wearing a North Face Jacket
For some reason, North Face outerwear is only popular in the United States. The jackets are of such high quality that wearing one could save a person from freezing to death in the Arctic. The point is, it’s too much. As an American tourist, you’ll stick out like a sore thumb. People abroad don’t go out in extravagant sporting goods wear. They prefer woolen coats and more fashionable attire.
Maybe it's not surprising that Americans would wear American brands abroad. But what makes The North Face particularly American is how much of the outwear market it controls. South Korea is getting in on the trend, as the brand has shot up in popularity in recent years.
You’re Wearing a Graphic T-Shirt
Graphic tees are so common in the states that your favorite shirt is bound to end up in your suitcase as you head off to another part of the world. But wearing it is another red flag. In general, graphic T-shirts feature obnoxious slogans in boldface text. It’s meant to be funny. Americans think they are cleverly showing off their individualism.
If there's one absolute giveaway from non-Americans that you are from the USA, it is that your shirt will say things like "Choose Love" or "Seattle" or "USC." Graphic tees, or t-shirts with text on them at all, are less common throughout, say, Europe. We say it's time to ditch these both abroad and at home--they're only one step above a bumper sticker.
You Exude Optimism
What is it about Americans that makes them so positive and full of hope? Chalk it up to their unwavering belief in the American Dream. The attitude dates way back to the time a ragtag group of colonists trounced the British crown in the Revolutionary War. In a world where everything is not always that great, other cultures around the globe do not understand our glass-half-full ways of seeing.
This isn't a knock against one culture or another. But Americans have an eternal supply of optimism and a sense that anything is possible. Even more so, they think large changes can happen quickly. Not every culture is like that. Take the French, for example. Maybe it's not fair to describe them as pessimistic, but there is a definite sense of malaise throughout the culture.
Not only are Americans optimistic, but they are also very patriotic, and they wear their national pride on their sleeve. This is obviously one of the ways Americans are most easily identified. No one else is going to wear an American flag graphic tee or accessorize in red, white, and blue. But whatever you do, do not break into the chant, “U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” Than might not end well.
As Americans, we love our country! And that's the way it should be, right? But we also seem to go on at length about just how great the good ol' U-S-of-A is. Even if the conversation starts about a dog that we saw in a public park, we can still turn it into a way to praise America for being its awesome self.
You Leave a Mess in Your Hotel Room
We all agree that staying at a hotel is a break from the dreariness of housework. However, leaving trash-strewn and depositing a much bigger mess than how you found the place is really unnecessary. Cleaning up after yourself is not something that should be left stateside.
Hotels have a cleaning staff for a reason, but that’s still no excuse to leave a room looking like a war zone. And yet, it’s still one of the trademarks of an American tourist. If you're gonna absolutely ruin the room, maybe leave a big tip for the cleaners. I know that tipping is an American thing too, but I'm sure they'd be willing to make an exception in this messy case.
You Take up a Lot of Space
Traveling from the vast American frontier, you’re used to having plenty of room, so there is no reason to cut down on the amount of space you are occupying. In Europe, they are smashed into one small continent. Almost all of Europe could fit into the U.S. Here we have fifty states. There, they have about 50 countries. Everything is smaller, even their washing machines. So, if you’re trying not to get labeled an ugly American, do as we say and “share the road.”
We’re not sure what it is about public areas that make Americans lose all sense of spatial awareness. Whatever the reason, you’re likely to see us taking up prime real estate on busy sidewalks and other areas where people are in a hurry. That being said, we're also very good about yelling at people who are in our way.
You Packed the Kitchen Sink
There’s plenty of space in the bag; why not use it? Americans go big. When it comes to packing, they bring everything, just in case. Some will carry several bulging bags, while others will drag around a suitcase twice their size. It’s one of the most obvious ways to spot a Yank abroad, and if you don’t care about that, it’s much easier on your back to packing sensibly.
If you see someone in the airport that looks like they’ve packed for a month-long caravan, they’re probably an American. From multiple checked bags to backpacks that make your spine ache, we’re not great at the concept of packing lightly.
One of the traits that pigeonhole us as Americans is crass behavior while out sightseeing. In some countries, it is considered rude to wear overly casual attire to a religious monument. Americans don’t care. To them, it’s just another tourist stop. Another way Americans are rude is they joke disrespectfully about a culturally important site.
It turns out that people aren’t crazy about it when Americans make fun of their deeply held cultural customs. But we’ve never let human decency get in the way of a good punch line. If you're gonna crack jokes, at least make sure they're hilarious!
You Spend More Face Time With Your Phone Than Your Travel Mate
Never mind your travel mate; they are probably staring into their phone just as much. Why is it Americans spend so much time with their phones? Is it because our wireless plans offer unlimited data? Cell phones are important to people around the world, but for some reason, Americans are a little more obsessed about using them.
We spent hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars to travel to foreign countries, and what do we do when we get there? Spend our precious travel time glued to the phone while new art and culture pass us by. That seems totally logical.
You're Obsessed With Selfies
You brought your selfie stick, you’re constantly stretching your arm out for a quick pic, or you’re posting them to social media. Selfies are a thing. At first, it would be an easy way to spot an American abroad. They take, on average, 500 selfies per year! But Europeans aren’t far behind. In Spain, they are just as obsessed, taking about 700 selfies a year. In the U.K., however, they keep it under 500.
Americans and non-Americans alike use photos to mark special occasions, and there’s nothing wrong with that! But if you’re whipping out the selfie stick nonstop, you might be an American.
You're Wealthy and You Know It
Wealthy or not, Americans are sure to flaunt it. They carry Louis Vuitton bags, wear shirts with designer labels sewn onto the front, and don sparkling jewelry. There are plenty of ways to showcase the lifestyles of the rich and famous. Not all Americans are so flashy, but it is a definite fashion trend—the glitz of Vegas and the glamour of Hollywood.
Flaunting luxury is America’s primary pastime--and it does not rest even when we go on vacation. At best, this is insulting to the people around you; at worst, you’re making yourself a magnet for pickpockets. "The White Lotus" was made for a reason.
You Like to Make a Deal
At home, people don’t haggle a bargain, except maybe at the used car lot. But when Americans go abroad, they feel like they can haggle a deal anywhere they go. With foreign prices and unknown currencies, values and prices are in disarray. Why not offer a hard-earned greenback? Whatever the reason, you can spot an American tourist straight away. He’s in his element, loudly haggling over some souvenir and reveling in the art of the deal.
In some places and cultures, haggling is a way of life. But as Americans, we’re not big on “minor” details like where it’s appropriate and where it’s not. Don’t be surprised to see Americans arguing about everything from the price of food to the price of some novelty souvenir.
You Play Your Music on Speaker
We all know that Americans can be loud and obnoxious. Blasting music out of phones is a huge part of it. Headphones and earbuds are tossed aside, and music is played for all to enjoy (or not). We assume our impeccable taste in music is something anyone in the vicinity would greatly appreciate, but, actually, that is not the case.
Even though you might have excellent taste in music, no one wants an unsolicited concert heard from your iPhone. Unfortunately, not all Americans have gotten the memo about this. We promise that no one is as interested in what you're listening to like you.
You're a Litterbug
No one should ever litter whether they are at home or in a different country. Perhaps Americans litter more than most? One thing is sure; they do create the most trash. And there is something to say for tourist pollution, just the idea of people travelling around the world way too much for their own good.
We have no qualms about dirtying up our own country, so what makes you think we’d worry about it when we’re away from home? The reality is that countries are suffering from too much pollution, and Americans, and tourists, in general, aren't helping. Respect the Earth. Peace out.
You Pump Iron
A tourist with a chiseled body, nine out of ten times, is going to be an American. Bodybuilding caught on in the ‘80s, and Americans really got into it. Arnold Schwarzenegger popularized the pastime at Venice Beach near L.A. And so many Americans have never looked back since then.
Even though a large percentage of Americans are not bodybuilders, if you spot someone with a ripped physique in your neck of the woods, they are probably American. They have probably been in extraordinary shape since they were at high school. And that is just the reality of it all, folks.
You Wear Your Workout Threads
Not all Americans workout, but they are sure to wear athletic sportswear. Adidas sweatpants, Nike shorts, you know the look. Since these items are super comfortable and easy to pack, most Americans will rock the athletic look abroad. Just know, it’s not cool like it is at home. Locals may find it strange.
And think about it. When you're traveling around the world's biggest, busiest cities, you need to be wearing comfortable clothing for long-distance walking and exercise. So when you think about it, the Americans actually know what they are doing sometimes. So when in Rome, just do it.
You Expect People to Speak English
One of the main reasons U.S. travelers got pegged with the ugly American stereotype is because they assume everyone speaks English. They don’t just assume everyone speaks their language--they expect it. Some tourists will go so far as to get angry and insult the non-English speaker’s intelligence.
At home, in the states, these people are just as intolerant. Some, but certainly, not all Americans will say things like, “Speak English or go home.” American tourists will turn up at a local, untouched cafe in the middle of nowhere and try to order the most exotic thing on the menu in English. Things are going to get complicated very fast.
Using the Wrong Hand Signs
Knowing the customs of the places we visit is important. Americans usually don’t care, but it can get us in hot water. A thumbs-up sign, in some parts of the world, is not cool at all. In Russia, Iran, Iraq, Greece, and West Africa, our friendly hand gesture can mean something like “up yours!”
The innocuous-seeming OK sign means “worthless” in France. A high-five is offensive in Greece, as is all American hand waving. And if you've seen Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious" movie, you'll know that depending on where you live in Germany, there is a way to indicate the number three with your fingers.
Do You Expect Everything to Be the Same?
American tourists expect American food to be served everywhere they go. They expect water to be served gratis. They expect free ketchup. They don’t expect an entrée to be an appetizer. When they order bacon, they expect long strips of Farmer John, but when the order arrives, it may look very different.
We need to be prepared to accept cultural differences and even appreciate them. Isn’t that the point of traveling? No. If an American is in the middle of Timbuktu, they will ask where the nearest 7-Eleven is. If they're stranded on a remote island, they will check to see if hot dogs grow on the trees there. Ok, maybe we're exaggerating a little...
Confused by the Date and Time?
If you don’t want to stick out, be prepared to be able to tell the time and date. Their systems are more organized, so give it a try. First of all, they use 24-clock. Therefore, if you request room service at 3, expect a knock at 3 in the morning. Instead, say you want it served at 15 hours. No confusion.
As far as the date goes, Americans write it out backward. Why not use the proper order? First the day, then the month, and then the year. It makes a difference! If you write 5/2/2020, it will mean February 5, 2020.
You Compare Everything to Back Home
One annoying way Americans behave abroad is to associate every new thing they see or do with something from back home, and usually indicating it is better. Tourists at the Eifel Tower have commented that the one in Las Vegas is somehow more fabulous.
You might complain that the burger you ordered is not as good as it is at home. At Stonehenge, don’t be surprised if an American brushes the artifact off as if it is nothing, compared to Mount Rushmore. Or you might hear, ‘You call that a canyon; we have the Grand Canyon.’ Get over yourselves, 'Murica!
You Wear Pro-Sports Logos
In the United States, pro sports merch is hugely popular. But if you wear your favorite MLB cap or your home state NFL jersey, your ensemble is going to scream, “I’m an American.” People abroad do not care about U.S. sports teams.
Football does not require catching and running with a ball, as far as they are concerned. So, if you want to impress people, don’t bother packing your team gear. There is a chance that you might not even be American and might just really enjoy wearing Red Sox jerseys. And then again, they probably grew up close to Fenway Park.
You Talk Politics
Many Americans hate politics or don’t care about it, but if you are someone who likes to chat about the hottest topic, beware! Around the world, people might get offended. Not every nation is our ally, and not every ally is loyal to our leaders. A lot of the time.
If you want to talk politics, ask someone about their national politics. It might be interesting! What's funny is that foreigners around the world will normally know more about American politics than Americans will know about theirs. That tells you everything about how Americans are so self-absorbed on a national level.
You Have Poor Subway Etiquette
A majority of Americans do not have to deal with public transportation, so they should know the rules of the rails. Always wait for the subway car to fully unload before shoving your way in. If you’re in London, leaning on the center pole is considered extremely rude because you are hogging it to yourself.
Also, it is expected that you move into the center of the car during the commute to make room for others to enter. Americans don't really care about this kind of stuff. When they go on the subway, it's wild west all the way.
You Call it a Koala Bear
There is only one thing more aggravating to Australians than tourists popping off with, “G’day, mate!” And that is calling the koala a bear. It’s a koala. Australians hate it when Americans call their famous marsupial a koala bear. Remember, when down under, don’t call it a koala bear; it’s a koala.
This brings up a completely different problem Americans have; overnaming mundane words. For example, they will call a small trash can a waste paper basket, and they call horseriding "horseback riding." What is the point?! At the end of the day, you're riding the horse, not just the horse's back!
You Ask for Ketchup Outside of the US
Outside of the U.S., an order of a hamburger and fries does not come with ketchup. As if that is not enough of a culture shock for tourists from the States, some restaurants abroad charge extra for the condiment. Also, you may not know how to ask for it. In the U.K., it’s called “tomato sauce,” which can be confusing.
In many restaurants in the States, it's perfectly normal to have ketchup always resting on the table, regardless of who is sitting there. It's just a constant that doesn't need to be ordered. So if you don't end up ordering anything in America, you can at least take a shot of ketchup.
You Go to India to Eat, Pray, and Love
Americans go to India to find themselves and the locals don’t like it. Ever since “Eat, Pray, Love” hit the New York Times bestseller list, Americans have been flocking to Indian Ashrams to partake in a journey in self-discovery. Let's face it - India is a very spiritual place with many religions and beautiful places to visit. So it makes sense that Americans are in love with it.
Here is the thing. Americans are self-absorbed enough. This trend of spiritual tourism seems like an indulgence, and it can be perceived as offensive, especially in a nation plagued by poverty. Facts.
You Take up Too Much Space Taking Pictures
Whether it is a selfie snapped in an inappropriate locale or a shot of the Eiffel Tower from the Champ de Mars, visiting Americans are in the way. Standing in the middle of Avenue Anatole to take a picture can be dangerous. And danger aside, Americans just fill up all of that beautiful space just so they can get a quick snap for the 'gram.
American tourist photographers, with a camera always glued to their face, are also known to be rude. They take pictures of local people as if they are a tourist attraction. And don't get us started on the photo bombs.
You Call Yourself an ‘American’
In South America, If you are visiting Central America or South America, don’t call yourself an “American.” Say you are from the United States or, perhaps, call yourself “North American.” South Americans are Americans too. And believe it or not, they’re a little offended how their northern neighbors have co-opted the name of the continent for themselves.
And yet, North Americans still assume that they are the only ones who have the God-given right to be called American. It's bad enough they call football "soccer" they should be calling their version of football "American rugby." We're just keepin' it real here.
You Ask for Menu Substitutions
Not every restaurant staff abroad is going to be irritated when you order a burger without lettuce and onions. However, in France, Americans appear indecorous by ordering substitutes. It infuriates the chef who has spent countless hours perfecting the dish and it frustrates the waiter who must deal with the chef.
Cuisine is a central part of French culture, don’t ask for a special order. Save that annoying habit for American soil. You can do that whenever you visit an Olive Garden, or Applebee's, or iHop. Don't do it in a high-end Parisian restaurant. If you use any advice today, use this.
You Speak Too Loudly at Restaurants
Local diners cringe when they hear loud English speakers sitting nearby. Americans. Not only is it annoying, but in many nations like France, English is learned in school. So, if you are making fun of French customs or the chef, they understand what is being said.
At certain high-end restaurants around the world, part of the experience is to enjoy the silence or the ambient music in the background, whisper sweet nothings to your significant other, and wow at the beautiful dishes. Americans come along? And all hell breaks loose! And that disrupts the vibe for everyone else, and the fine dining experience is ruined!
You Stick Out on the Subway
It’s easy to spot an American on the metro, or any public transportation option for that matter. As usual, they get in the way and take up too much space. Local commuters dread a pack of Americans coming their way. Tourists slow things down by not knowing how to pay or which train to take.
This frustrates locals who are just trying to get from point A to point B. To our fellow Americans, do your cultural homework before you step foot into someone else's country or another country's subway. And for your information, they might call their subway a metro.
You Pester the Queen’s Guard
In England, American tourists, more than any other, are drawn to the Queen’s Guard. They have a reputation for pestering the fuzzy-hatted soldiers with annoying taunts, trying to make them blink. It’s a thing. In Great Britain, it’s a thing to ridicule disrespectful Yankee guests.
And guess what? They are able to ignore all of the annoying distractions coming from the American tourists. They just stand there, emotionless and motionless, until it's time to swap with another guard. No American is going to put them off, and that's a testament to this old tradition. But you've got to admit, they do look kind of funny.
You Give the O.K. Sign in Germany
In Germany, don’t give the O.K. hand signal. It’s considered vulgar and may be perceived like we feel when an L.A. gang member throws a sign. It’s not appreciated. Just remember, what may seem like an innocent gesture to you, may offend a lot of people.
For example, doing the peace sign can be offensive in certain countries. If we were you, we would just keep our hands close to our hips when we're traveling, learn the local language and be careful what we say too. Cultures are fascinating and often have many differences depending on where you are in the world. Take note of this.
You Get Rowdy in Public
In Germany, Oktoberfest is one of the nation’s grandest traditions. The autumnal celebration is known for its seasonal brews, the finest beers on the planet. Counterintuitively, this does not mean public inebriation is tolerated. At clubs in Germany, for instance, folks who are a little overloaded with the magic liquid will be turned away.
Americans are conspicuous—they love beer, and they'll let you know about it. We get the appeal of Oktoberfest. Getting the chance to drink out of one of those huge glasses, munch on some bratwurst sausages and sings jolly German songs. But there are limits to every tradition, and sometimes, Americans have no limits.
You Wear Flip-Flops
If you’re not wearing socks with sandals or your athletic sneakers, you’re wearing flip-flops. These shoes are like an American creation, and we wear them everywhere, especially during the summer. Technically, flip-flops came to the U.S. from Japan after the end of the Second World War. As a tourist abroad, you’d be wise to consider a more practical shoe.
Americans do feel like they can just walk around anywhere wearing flip-flops when they are on vacation. And although flip-flops are pretty worn all over the hot climate world, that doesn't mean that you can wear them in virtually any context. It doesn't work that way.
The rules of the road are venerated in Germany. Just because you can go as fast as you want on the Autobahn doesn’t mean speed limits are not respected. Germans are sticklers for road safety. Jaywalkers, for instance, are disparaged, and there is a steep fine for those who dare to cross illegally.
And yet, Americans are willing to take all kinds of liberties when they step foot in Deutschland. That's the recurring pattern of American tourists. They come to a new country without being aware of the rules and assume that everywhere in the world works exactly the same way as it does back home.
You Ask for Tap Water
Asking for tap water in a German restaurant is going to set you apart. Bottled water, either with carbonation or plain, is preferred. Even though German tap water is high quality, it’s proper decorum to order fine mineral water or a sparkling variety.
In nations like Russia, the water is not always safe and can have a metallic taste, so bottled water is best there as well. If you are really concerned about the water in the country you visit, we recommend bringing either some bottles or at least a filtered water jug. That's the only compromise we can really come up with.
You Think You’re a Boon to their Economy
Americans act like they are doing the host country a favor by visiting. And there is some truth. A total of 30 million Americans visited the E.U. during 2019. Clearly, tourism is important, but locals get tired of loud, obnoxious, tourists who are always in the way and act as if they deserve something just for being there.
The reality is that tourism has become a lot more globalized over the last few decades. There are people visiting other countries from all four corners of the globe all the time (unless there is a global pandemic that puts a halt to global tourism).
You Go to Spain Expecting to See a Bullfight
Put aside everything you thought you knew about Spain and don’t ask where the bullfight is. It is banned in Barcelona and the Canary Islands. For the last few decades, bullfighting has been waning in popularity with Spaniards due to animal welfare.
For the bull, the fight isn't exactly a walk in the park and for the matador, it is extremely dangerous. Only in Spain will you find a surgeon who is specialized to treat horn wounds. Americans need to accept that some national traditions just don't happen anymore. For example, they haven't used the guillotine in France in a long time. And we bet some Americans are dying to see it in action!
You Try to Speak Some Dutch in The Netherlands
In France and Germany, and many other nations, a tourist who at least tries to speak the native language is appreciated. It is considered good manners. Not so in The Netherlands. The Dutch are extremely annoyed by Americans who malign their mother tongue with endeavors to say a catchphrase.
And to be honest, there really isn't any point in trying to learn Dutch unless you are planning on living there. Why? Because the Netherlands is one of the best non-native English-speaking countries on the face of the Earth. That's why. You'll have a similar problem in most of the Scandinavian countries too.
You Walk in the Bike Lane
In the Netherlands, you will find specialized pink paths that look very similar to sidewalks in suburban America. Beware! These are bike lanes, and the Dutch don’t like it when Americans use them for a pedestrian walkway. They have a lot of pride in their biking infrastructure and for the efficiency it allows.
But the pink paths are not safe for pedestrians. And yet, American tourists are always walking down them, completely unaware that they are designed for bikes only. Americans should have their extra wits about themselves in the Netherlands. The Dutch love to ride their bicycle until the cows come home.
You Get in the Way on the Escalator
Americans get in the way in The Netherlands wherever there is an escalator. Like bike lane regulations, there is an established protocol for using escalators in the Dutch nation. In essence, there are two lanes. The lane on the right is the slow lane and the lane on the left is the fast lane.
People who are in a hurry use the left side of the escalator and people who wish to stand stay to the right. In fact, this system is prevalent in many countries around the world. To be fair, it doesn't take too long to adjust to the system.
You Don’t Take a Handshake
Another thing that Americans are not aware of in The Netherlands is the handshake custom. Handshakes are an important part of Dutch cultural tradition and refusing a handshake is considered very rude. So, get your hand sanitizer ready and meet a Dutchman properly.
We are saying it like the handshake is exclusive to Dutch tradition. And let's face it - people shake hands all over the world. It just happens to be taken even more seriously in this part of the world. And then there are the countries of Latin America, where kissing is generally how people greet each other.
You Have Tattoos
Americans are known for their tattoos. They take great pride in their inked body art. The Japanese, on the other hand, associate this kind of artistry with criminals. It is how they marked criminals in the past. Now, tattoos are taboo in Japan. A ban was put in place in 1936.
One place in Japan where people with tattoos will be turned away is the onsen, the traditional Japanese geothermal hot spring baths. So if you're going to Japan anytime soon, we're not saying to hide your ink. But maybe don't flaunt it in people's faces. It's all about respect at the end of the day.
You Try to Make Eye Contact with the Waiter
Americans can be demanding at restaurants. Once the endeavor to make eye contact with the server fails, greater efforts go into effect. However, waving one’s arms and calling for the server is frowned upon. Especially in Japan, where there is a procedure for getting the waiter’s attention.
Most Japanese restaurants provide a little back box with a button. Use that instead. But of course, what if the place does not have the little back box with the button? You just need to be super on your A-game with eye contact. It's like some sort of tense sequel to "Kill Bill."
You Leave Shoes on Your Feet
Generally, we know that leaving our shoes on when entering a Japanese home is frowned upon. But an American tourist can also be spotted dissing customs in public places in Japan. There are certain restaurants in that Asian nation where shoes are not allowed.
The etiquette is also in place in some dressing rooms. Don’t be the tourist who walks in fully shod. And of course, in the Islamic tradition, one must take off their shoes (and wash their feet) when they enter a place of worship. It just goes to show how serious foot etiquette is in so many cultures.
You Ask for Peanut Butter
Believe it or not, peanut butter is uniquely American food. In many nations, it will simply not exist. Don’t bother looking for it. Or bring some with you. In China, on the other hand, the market for peanut butter is getting nutty to the upside.
In general, Americans love peanut butter, while others don’t. Perhaps some Nutella will fill the gap. Of course, a PB&J sandwich is a staple of so many children's school lunches. It's amazing to think that there are still so many children with peanut allergies with peanut butter being such a big deal. Americans go nuts for peanuts!
TMI Alert: You Say Where You’re From
When a tourist from the U.S. is asked where they come from, they won’t say, “I’m from America.” Most of the time, the American will be specific and say, “I’m from Seattle, Washington.” The United States is a massive territory. Perhaps that is why they give precise details.
And there are many states out there that are even bigger than countries around the world. And many Americans haven't even left their home state. Furthermore, many Americans don't even have passports. So that should tell you how big this country is. So don't get too annoyed when an American is so specific with their answer.
You Know the Melody to ‘Sweet Caroline’
One of the most sure-fire ways to pick an American out of any audience anywhere is that they recognize Neil Diamond’s song “Sweet Caroline.” After the lyric, “Sweet Caroline,” and in anticipation of the percussive element to the famous American melody, he or she will typically feel the urge to meet it with, “Ba, ba, ba!” And, of course, “So good!”
British readers will know how popular the song was when the England national soccer team went so far in the 2020 European championships. After every win, fans all around the stadium would start singing the song! That's a true testament to the popularity of the song.
You’re in France and You Don’t Say ‘Bonjour’
This is a pet peeve of the French. Americans who are visiting France approach locals and ask for directions, sans greeting. Not saying “hello” or “bonjour” before demanding information is considered rude. This, especially in a place like France where etiquette is an important part of their culture and language.
So we would recommend checking out the popular Netflix show "Emily in Paris." That is a decent entry point for Americans into the French culture as it is told through the eyes of a young, happy-go-lucky American lady played by Lily Collins. If that doesn't teach Americans how to act in this part of the world, we don't know what will.
You Expect Stores to Be Open Late
In Europe, you will not find a 7-Eleven. Don’t even bother looking. On Sundays, it is worse; everything is usually closed. Contrary to the U.S. always-open philosophy, European shops are closed on holidays. Even the food stores and you probably won’t be aware of the dates. During the week, stores stay open until 7 or 8 p.m.
Well, we told a little white lie when we said that you won't find a 7-Eleven in Europe. On the contrary, there are a few located in Scandinavian countries, the UK, and there are quite a lot located around Asia. The globalization of 7-Eleven is serious.
You Leave Locks on the Bridges of the Seine
Don’t leave a lock on bridges over the Seine. Over the years it became a custom of tourists to lock their love in France. But the famous Pont des Arts removed them all and banned the sentimental practice in 2015. Why? Because it is dangerous. Part of one bridge buckled because of the weight of the padlocks.
Paris officials did not want to risk a bridge collapse. But that doesn't stop newly engaged couples from padlocking other bridges around the world. You just need to see if other couples are doing it and maybe research it online before you do it.
You Are Impeccably Groomed
Though it’s true that beards have become increasingly popular in America the last year or two, American men, many times, are carefully shaved. Sometimes they will shave designs into their scalp. You see, manscaping is a thing in the States, and this means all facial hair will be perfectly mowed, plucked, and sculpted.
But if you go to other parts of the world, men might not be so well-groomed. Some men, depending on where you are, might just let themselves go and let the hair grow indefinitely. Other men, might not have the patience to groom and simply shave all of their hair off as soon as possible. It just depends where you are.