Back in November 2008 a survey by TripAdvisor.com revealed that Americans are regarded as the most annoying travelers in the world.
As an American who travels I often, and who frequently deals with American travellers, I find myself observing some Americans on the road and feeling just a wee bit embarrassed that I share a nationality with these people.
Don’t get me wrong, I am proud to be an American, I do not hide my nationality (except in certain limited instances), but sometimes I wonder if some people should be required to take some sort of “cultural basics” exam before being issues a passport.
Earlier this week, while at Paris’ Orly Airport, I was standing outside for a few minutes between flights when I overheard an American man and woman trying to ask passers-by the fastest way to get into Paris from the airport. After they encountered three people who did not speak English the woman turned to the man and exclaimed, “You know they all look like they’d speak English.”
I stood against the wall for a minute just pondering her comment and thought to myself “what exactly do English speakers look like?”
As a traveller my biggest obstacle has often been language. Foreign languages do not come naturally to me, which is why I travel with translation apps on my iPhone, and before that pocket phrase books to help me get where I was going. I know that when I get off a plane in Paris its quite likely I will encounter people who speak … I dunno … French.
Would I expect to get off the plane in Frankfurt and think to myself “My goodness, these people all look like English speakers.”
What really got to me in regard to this woman’s comment is that after she exclaimed “You know they all look like they’d speak English” out loud, I noticed at least half a dozen people staring at her, all of whom clearly understood English, including a man who remarked that she was a stupid American (at least that is my loose translation from French to English).
I have countless other stories of why some Americans should not be allowed beyond the nation’s borders … but this one really got to me.
…and before you ask “How do you know they were American?” Well, as a Native New Yorker, I can tell you the woman’s accent was most certainly from the area in which I grew up.
Happy Flying … and remember, regardless of your nationality, don’t be “that traveller” that is an embarrassment to everyone from your home country.