Just like vegan food is now a “thing”, we Americans can be smart.
We all know that Americans are known throughout the world for many things…burgers, fries, rock ‘n roll, Prince (RIP), crappy reality television (and Presidents)… and being dumb. Sure, most of those things make me proud (or hungry), some make me cringe (um, those housewives are not real) and some just make me want to cry (DT, I’m lookin at you). But I’m here to tell you that the times are a changin’…and so should we. Just like vegan food is now a “thing”, we Americans can be smart.
So let’s start with basics….
Put Your Camera Away
Don’t wave your camera, your iPhone or your cash around like an Oprah giveaway. When I was living in Brazil, I saw some serious poverty, and then some very dumb tourists. Waving your shit around like you’re in vegas isn’t cute, it’s disrespectful, and honestly you’re asking for it. Put away your valuables because in other parts of the world, some people are not even eating dinner. Have some respect.
I once heard a hilarious story of a group of bros getting mugged by some professional con-artists in Spain. The way they played it was brilliant. The pack of frat boys were watching a street performer and one young kid snagged “Biff’s” backpack. Biff yelled, “Hey, you come back here!” Biff tried to find the guy but the young Spaniard threw the backpack to another kid…dressed exactly the same, black pants and a white shirt. Young Spaniard #2 threw it to Spaniard #3, dressed in, you guessed it, black pants and a white t-shirt and he threw it to another and another and another. You get the picture. By the end of the chase, Biff huffed and puffed but had no idea who took what. Biff, you should have been paying attention.
Use your inside voice.
Why we Americans need to raise the volume of our voices in public places, I’ll never understand. When overseas, it sucks that we’re known for being loud idiots. I mean, if you’re not so bright, don’t let everyone know. But I guess that’s the point– you don’t know.
When abroad, I often didn’t open up my mouth at all when traveling alone because I knew I would be a target. Either people would think I was loaded with cash or worse, I might be ridiculed for not having a clue. The infamous French Savoir Faire kept me in line the moment I arrived in Paris. I remember asking for directions quietly, in French. I had a helpful group surround me right away just because I made an effort to communicate as the locals do. Be an adult and use your inside voice… you’re not a football coach, and it’s not the Superbowl.
Gap is not cool anymore.
While I am full proponent of being comfortable (you are right to assume I am in sweatpants right now), can we as Americans band together and try to improve our fashion game while traveling? Wearing matching khakis with your bae is never a good idea (except maybe at Disneyland, where it’s the uniform), and maybe switch out your “vintage” baseball cap made in 2017 for a hat that the Italians won’t mock? I want us to start representing, without birkenstocks, visors or stretchy waste-bands. Thank you.
Learn something– anything.
Learn a few words in the native country you are visiting. It’s 2017 and there’s absolutely to excuse for you to say (loudly) “how do you get to the (miming eating) restaurant?”.
By now you know you can just use a damn app to translate. But seriously, if you are shelling out that much money to travel across the world for 13 fucking hours, you can find the time (on the plane) to learn how to say “Ou est le Café de Flore?”. Get off Instagram for a second and learn something.
Perhaps one of the best reasons to travel is to learn how other people live. But us Americans usually view it another way. As any Kardashian Instagram feed might suggest, somehow we are raised to believe that the world revolves around us. But news flash, there are about 7.4 billion other people in the world who are not you. That means that maybe they are having a shitty day and don’t feel like serving you a cappuccino as you yell at them in bad Italian. It’s totally possible that the bus driver had a sleepless night and doesn’t give a shit if you want to go to the mall. True, I want everyone to cater to my every need too but I’m not Donald… and whew, thank goodness for that. The point is that traveling is a wonderful opportunity to be reminded that everyone is doing the best they can and that differences are an amazing opportunity to broaden your perspective and remember we are all here to grow and change.
So as you use your vacation time to venture out and see the world, I applaud you. But let’s all band together. Let’s try to evolve, to change the stereotypes that our ancestors have passed down and let the world know that we, as Americans can in fact, not be dumb.
Designer, musician, writer, traveler.
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