Avoiding the “Ugly American” Stereotype


Americans love to travel, and are a major source of European tourist revenue. Unfortunately, Americans traveling abroad are often seen as boorish and rude. This has led to the unfortunate stereotype of the “ugly American” tourist.  From behavior to clothing, “ugly American” tourists are easy to for Europeans to spot. Use these helpful hints to avoid fulfilling this stereotype when you travel.

Keep Your Opinions to Yourself

Americans are, without a doubt, known for being very opinionated and making those opinions known. Europeans are much more reserved and less outspoken. Therefore, when you travel, it is best to keep your opinions (especially negatives ones) to yourself.

Do not complain about the food, culture, prices, or anything else. Be sure also, not to complain that things are better, faster, or easier back in America. Discussions should always be just loud enough for the people involved to hear them. Avoid loud, boisterous conversations.

Put Thought into Your Wardrobe

While you certainly do not need to dress like you are going to a black tie event to travel in Europe, you should take great care to ensure that your wardrobe is not offensive. Europeans do not dress as casually as Americans do.

If you can, avoid wearing anything with visible logos, holes, rips, tears, or that looks like you could either work out or sleep in. Europeans do not wear sweatpants in public and you should not either.

Pay special attention to your footwear, too. Open-toed shoes, like flip-flops, are a no-no. Europeans do not want to see your feet. The only place it is acceptable to wear flip-flops is to the pool or the beach. When considering which sneakers to wear, avoid the typical white athletic shoe. Wear something with a little more color and style.

Learn the Language

While it is true that English is spoken in many countries, you may encounter some locals who only speak their native language. “Ugly Americans” are often frustrated by this and can embarrass non-English speakers by raising their voices, or speaking slowly, as if to a small child.

Do not do this. Remember, you are visiting a foreign country in which English probably is not the official first language. You should learn at least a few simple and useful phrases in the language of the country in which you will be staying.