It’s kind of cool that for the last 240 years, the U.S. has acted like a reckless, young-gun police officer who gets the job done but plays by his own rules (think Mel Gibson in “Lethal Weapon”). But this behavior has caused the rest of the world (like Danny Glover in “Lethal Weapon”) to perceive us as arrogant children who don’t have any respect for history.
Because of this, Americans are far more heavily scrutinized than many other tourists, which may not be fair, but it happens. The travel-minded YouTube channel geobeats has compiled some American habits that, for whatever reason, foreigners find offensive.
1. We refer to the United States as America.
South American countries, in particular, take offense to how the U.S. has laid claim to the phrase “America,” as if the rest of the countries in North and South America don’t matter. It’s kind of like how the rest of Bon Jovi should be mad that their whole band is named after their singer.
2. We wear flip flops and sweatpants in public.
In other countries, seeing an American lounging around in flip flops and sweats really bums the hard-working locals out. I have to agree here. Folks, it’s vacation! Look like you’ve vacated your house, at least!
3. We accept gifts too willingly.
Other countries seem to enjoy a healthy amount of shame, so it’s odd to them when Americans take free things without at least pretending like it’s weighing on their conscience.
4. We open gifts in front of the giver.
Another gift-centric one: In China and India, it goes against customs to open gifts in front of the giver. Imagine how boring their bridal showers are, though!
5. We give thumbs-up.
In parts of West Africa and the Middle East, the thumbs-up is basically the middle finger. Does this mean the middle finger is like their thumbs up, then? …Maybe don’t test that one out.
6. We ask people what their jobs are.
Asking people what they do for a living is a no-no in some countries, so try to keep that question to yourself. Forget about work…you’re on vacation!
7. We assume people speak English.
Maybe it speaks to the plight of education in our country, but Americans are notorious for not knowing any other language besides English. Some countries (especially the French) really hate this and prefer that you at least try to speak their language.
8. We talk too much.
As someone who was raised by a part-Norwegian father, I can confirm that Scandinavians like nothing less than small talk.
9. We blow our noses in front of people.
In America, if you gotta blow, you gotta blow. But in other countries, they aren’t so sympathetic to the sniffles.
10. We tip waiters!
While it’s customary in the U.S. and generally appreciated in Europe, in some Asian countries like Japan, leaving a tip isn’t typical and is often even considered an insult.
I’ve also been told that beckoning someone towards you with your hand is offensive to Japanese people. A good way to avoid things like this is to read up a little bit about the country you are going to visit before diving in. Our American accents will most likely flag us immediately, but a little respect can go a long way.