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5 Ugly American Stereotypes You Can Learn From

Fair or not, American travelers are sometimes given a bad rap abroad. The ugly American stereotype paints us as insensitive, loud, and unfashionable—even if most of us aren’t! Instead of getting mad about it, why not take it as travel advice? Here’s what you can learn from the ugly American stereotype.

Ugly American Stereotype #1: Lack of Fashion Sense

American travelers are known for wearing athletic clothes, sneakers, or even pajamas when they aren’t working out or sleeping, because they favor comfort over fashion. But there’s no reason you can’t have both! Read the following round-up of travel clothes that feel like pajamas (but look like first class) for more ideas.

Ugly American Stereotype #2: Talking Too Loudly

It’s human nature to speak more loudly when you feel like you’re not being understood. Unfortunately, if you don’t share a common language with the person you’re talking to, no amount of volume increase will help the other person make sense of what you’re saying. If you’re having trouble learning basic phrases in a foreign language, or you tend to panic and forget what you’ve learned when trying it out on an actual person, try carrying around one of these cool little picture translators, which lets you point at what you need—no smartphone or internet connection required.

Ugly American Stereotype #3: Only Wanting to Eat American Food

Traveling can take you out of your comfort zone, and sometimes you just want to eat something that reminds you of home. Doing this while abroad, however, can contribute to the stereotype of the ugly American who only wants to eat hamburgers and hot dogs. Instead of seeking out American food wherever you go, why not find something that reminds you of home but is still an adventurous way to taste another culture? For example, consider checking out one of these foreign fast food chains that don’t yet operate in the U.S.

Ugly American Stereotype #4: Never Trying to Speak the Local Language

You would be pretty confused if someone started a conversation with you in your home state in, say, Chinese, wouldn’t you? Keep that in mind next time you start off a conversation by asking, “Do you speak English?” … in English … in a country where it’s not the main language. Try to at least learn a few essential phrases, such as “hello,” in the language of the country that you are visiting, or download Google Translate for on-the-spot emergencies.

Ugly American Stereotype #5: Criticizing the Local Culture

Another ugly American stereotype is the tendency of some travelers to bash the local culture, even if it’s framed as “it’s so weird that you _____” or “well, in America, we do it this way.” A good lesson from this is to research local cultures and customs before a trip, so that you’ll have some background on why certain things are done. This way, you’ll be more likely to say, “That’s so interesting. I remember reading that things are done that way due to___” instead of jumping straight to criticism.

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Caroline Morse tries to avoid ugly American stereotypes when she travels. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline to see photos from around the world. 

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