Swiss Saturday: It’s Time to Stop Being the Ugly American

You’ve probably heard of the Ugly American. It’s a phrase commonly used to describe loud, rude, arrogant Americans abroad. These are the types of people who get upset when the corner ice cream stand doesn’t accept dollars and yell at people to speak English already, even though they are in a country where English is not the national language.

I have run into many of these. One of my “favorite” encounters was the following, which I shared previously:

 I forgot to report on a very important event from our vacation. When my husband went to check out of the hotel in Budapest, there was a very obnoxious American (or at least American accented) family checking out. The mom was throwing a fit about every little thing and basically being the perfect example of the “ugly American.” When they finally left the front desk clerk apologized to my husband for having to hear that and removed all of our breakfast costs from the bill to compensate for having to hear the crazy American woman.

When we boarded our train back to Austria, this same family was there. My husband wouldn’t let me go up and thank the lady for the discount on our hotel bill.

One of my fellow expat friends (who I knew in college) shared an encounter she had with some Ugly Americans on a train in Italy on an expat Facebook page. People started to jump in with their stories of horrible people–many of whom were not Americans.

Basically, it turns out, every country has horrible people who are loud, rude, and arrogant, and these people are horrible when they travel and, presumably, horrible at home. It’s not limited to a single country.

To keep reading, click here: It’s Time to Stop Being the Ugly American

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7 thoughts on “Swiss Saturday: It’s Time to Stop Being the Ugly American

  1. Glad you noted in the article that being rude and obnoxious is not just an American trait but more a trait of those who feel entitled. You find these “entitled” people all over as they feel life revolves around them solely. Unfortunately, as a person who worked in retail, I had to deal with this attitude many times, but they only reflect themselves as most people aren’t as snobbish. As for the comment about English only by the salesperson, I myself only request that living in the USA, even with multiple languages spoken all around me as we should have a standard language. If I ever venture to another country, I expect to follow the rules of that country and would have a translator app on my phone to help.

    1. So true. Great post and great comment.

      The “ugliest” tourists I’ve encountered were crowds of French teenagers. My first trip to London in the 80s included French spring break. Everyplace I went I encountered the teens behaving like … teenagers — self-absorbed, loud and oblivious to those around them.

    2. I disagree about having “a standard language” in America. One of our beauties and greatest strengths is our diversity and our freedom of expression, enshrined in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

  2. Online customer service manager here. Americans and Australians ask for managers much more often than other countries, but once they’re speaking to us they’re always perfectly polite and willing to accept whatever compensation we offer them. We’ve got the most problems with British customers. They’re the ones who insist they’re right, and if they’re not right it’s our fault they aren’t.

    I once had a British woman ask me if I was, “in some roundabout way, implying it was [her] fault” that she had booked a hotel room for 2 people, and they wouldn’t let her stay with a party of 5.

  3. During my 25+ years serving abroad as an American Diplomat, I Often encountered “ugly Americans” both in the official American community but with Americans in general.

    Not a shrinking violet, I had no compunction about approaching them during their tirades about the local people and their culture and reminding them that they were the “f**cking foreigners here. In one instance, I even said this to my mother.once, and she never went off again.

  4. I am an American & generally travel only in the States where I have encountered ugly “insert nationality” folks in many places. Common courtesy seems to be a lost art. Saying excuse me or thank you is too much of a bother for many.

  5. I’m glad you mentioned the problem with social media — instead of broadening our horizons, which is certainly its potential — tending to strengthen our “confirmation bias;” that is, our natural tendency to limit our exposure to viewpoints that coincide with ours. It’s a big problem Worldwide, as we grow more extreme and — hence — more divided and divisive in our opinions.

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