Discovering Why Americans Are The Most Annoying Travellers

Back in November 2008 a survey by 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.


  1. Definitely a very true point. Unfortunately the US has the worst reputation in this aspect, but it certainly also applies to other countries.

    My current “host” country England also struggle with a lot of “bad ambassadors” that probably have helped to give them the second worst reputation with regards to this topic.

    I find that cultural understanding is very important, but most people don’t bother.

    It’s funny but for me understanding the local culture is the most exciting part of travelling, but what I describe here in europe as the “charter tourists” have a very different agenda and list of priorities when they go on holiday!

    Also you’re not the first to suggest a “cultural basics” exam for being issued a passport, I think a large amount of people here in Europe would actually approve of it if the politicians suggested it 🙂

  2. Hah. Is it evil that I once pretended NOT to speak English while traveling in Europe? I didn’t want to associate himself with a very loud, very rude couple in a tiny little book store in a small town in Poland. I did enjoy translating their words for the bemused shopkeeper though…

    They where annoyed that there where no English newspapers and the woman talked about being ready to go back to where there was exposure to the world, unlike this hick town… Completely blind that all the newspapers and magazines around her featured up to date “world” news… just in Polish. 😛 They didn’t have English or Australian accents, they *might* have been Canadians…. though i doubt it. 😉

  3. I like you travel and I have to admit that we Brits do not always fair well in the tolerance stakes when it comes to language and making oneself understood, I have seen it resort to farce, speaking more slowly and louder as the frustration increases. People watching at an airport between fligts makes up in a small measure for the travelling.

  4. I have to say, that living in a country in which we are being required to learn the languages of those moving here (Spanish) it is not a big wonder that we go places and expect others to know OUR language…but it still does not excuse them from at least attempting to speak the local language. I’ve done only a little foreign travel, but did find that if I at least TRIED to speak the language, I was better received and often they would then start speaking English to me, because they would know it was my native language.

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