May 27, 2007

Ugly tourists.

It turns out Americans aren't the worst, but there's still a NYT article about it.
"... what distinguished Americans was that they could be loud and demanding, and then would invariably apologize and give them big tips."


Pete the Streak said...

Good point; until relatively recently, I would imagine most travel destinations' residents came in contact with more Americans than any other 'different culture' peoples, simply because Americans could afford to travel. The Japanese, too, once their economy got rolling following WW II.

Sure, Europeans would roam their continent, but aside from language, I'm not sure how hugely different their cultures are after centuries of intermingling.

The Chinese are finally experiencing the fruits of quasi-capitalism, and are exploring the world. They've long been isolated and insulated from other cultures, and apparently it is showing.

Americans are demanding, yet generous? No surprise there. Capitalist societies expect results, and are willing to reward them.

However, in terms of 'ugly tourists' (at least in a physical sense): how many times have host Americans had to avert their eyes when the Euros that did come here insisted on parading around in Speedos and string bikinis when their bodies were screaming for a mumuu? American culture appreciates modesty more than some others, and it's these cultural differences that make travel (or hosting) fascinating.

Scrutineer said...

Americans rated as 2nd best tourists, although worst-dressed.

knox said...

There was a discussion about this on the Manolo last week. At least one commenter said the British make the worst tourists, and many complained that Europeans in general don't tip. I was surprised to hear this, as all my life I've heard Americans are the worst. Anyway, as a former server, I can definitely say: give me a decent tipper over someone with an exotic accent any day.

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Unknown said...

My daughter toured Europe two years ago. She says they view the Japanese as the worst tourists, followed by the French -- actually Parisians.

Unknown said...

Over here in Asia, it's definitely the Chinese who have earned that label, and the article pinpoints the nature of the problem:

"Valene Smith, an anthropology professor at California State University at Chico who pioneered the academic study of tourism and travel in the 1970s, said that the tourists most likely to be deplored by their hosts these days are not the euro-rich Europeans or the British or the standard ugly Americans but the Chinese.

“They have only been traveling widely in the last five years or so, but they are touring in numbers no one has seen before — by the thousands,” she said. “They behave as they would at home — there is a lot of pushing and shoving. Very few speak languages other than Chinese.”

MDIJim said...

Mostly it depends on the tourist's circumstances rather than his or her nationality.

I cater to tourists in my job. Chinese tourists travel in groups and don't know English. How many of us know Chinese? They wander about aimlessly unless given good direction by a Chinese tour guide who knows the place. The great failing of the Chinese tourists in my experience is that they are accumulating a check list of sights to see but not really immersing themselves in the places they visit because of the immense language barrier.

Perhaps the Europeans' reputation as bad tippers stems from the European practice of tacking a service charge onto restaurant and hotel bills. Maybe they think we do that here.

There are people with a list of sights to see. There are people whose travels are limited visiting gift shops in order to acquire objects, usually made in China, things supposedly representative of the location. There are too many people who do zero research on places they visit and expect some local person to amuse them and prove that it was a good idea to leave home.

One thing that surprises me is that there are few judgemental foreigners. In my youth when Americans were the about the only people in the world with enough income to be travelers, Americans acquired their reputation as ugly tourists because they were always remarking on how things were much better back in the States. I share the views of America held by many foreigners: the crime of the death penalty; arrogant foreign policy; disgraceful treatment of the poor; but I cannot stand criticism by citizens of a nation, eagerly aided and abetted by citizens of neighboring nations, that in my lifetime was busy gassing and burning its Jewish fellow-citizens. Surprisingly, I find that almost all foreign tourists love America and its citizens more than I do.

The worst tourists generally are people, usually from the Boston-Washington megalopolis, who are selfish in all of their actions, not just tipping, although that is an important outcome of that selfishness.

Anthony said...

During my many years in Egypt, I have come to following tourist conclusions:

Germans: Loud, overbearing, largely harmless, prone to wearing Speedos, and unduly fascinated by exhibits devoted to torture.

French: Absolute worst. Think they're the cream of civilization and everyone should bow down to them.

English: Fun. Can be obnoxious depending on their station back home.

Aussies: Great fun. Always friendly.

Americans: Often kind of clueless, but generally not as arrogant as Europeans.

Japanese: Always in groups doing a variety of things. Can be rude in a group.

Italians: Standoffish. Women: Hoooo-boy.

Unknown said...

We have a lot of ugly tourists here in Hawaii. Most, not all, are ugly American tourists, but we get our share of other nationalities visiting too. I think it may have to do with snorkeling in Hawaii or that our car rentals are cheap and plentiful. Not sure.