The Ugly American and other stereotypes

By Bernd Debusmann
July 16, 2009

Bernd Debusmann- Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own -

What happened to the Ugly American, the one with the loud shirt and the loud voice, expecting the natives to speak English? Has he been shouldered aside by the Arrogant French?

That’s the conclusion one could draw from a survey this month of 4,500 hotel owners around the world who rated the French the world’s worst tourists, bad at foreign languages, arrogant and tight-fisted. Spaniards, deemed noisy and messy, came second in a field of 27. Americans ranked 9th on the list of the top 10 best.

The survey, commissioned by the online travel agency Expedia, ranked travellers in nine categories, from cleanliness to generosity in tipping, and provided food for thought on a long-running debate on an unresolved question: to what extent do national stereotypes correspond to reality?

One of the most extensive studies of that question ever conducted, led by scientists of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, involved 4,000 people in 48 countries and came to the conclusion, in 2005, that most national stereotypes are inaccurate.

Researchers compared perceived national characteristics with actual character traits and reported some surprising findings. Americans, for example, think the typical American is very assertive. Canadians think the typical Canadian is submissive. But Canadians and Americans had almost identical scores in objective measures of assertiveness.

The enduring nature of stereotypes, scientific studies challenging their veracity notwithstanding, is reflected in an evergreen joke about the nature of heaven and hell: Heaven is the place where the lovers are Italian, the police are English, the mechanics are German, the cooks are French and the place is run by the Swiss.

Hell is where the lovers are Swiss, the cooks are English, the mechanics are French, the police are German and the place is run by the Italians.

In a similar vein: How many American tourists does it take to change a light bulb? Nine. Three to figure out how much the bulb costs in the local currency, three to comment on how funny-looking local light bulbs are and three to hire a local person to change the bulb.

So is there a kernel of truth to the notion of the noisy American, the efficient German, the stiff-upper-lip Briton, the stingy Scot, the rude French, the passionate Latin lover, the drunken Russian, the polite and boring Canadian, the extrovert Australian, the macho Mexican, the egocentric Argentine, the melancholic Swede? It depends on whom you ask.

STEREOTYPES ARE UNIVERSAL

Almost everyone has stereotypical ideas of other nations and other cultures. Shining the light on these notions can be entertaining as well as good business. Take the case of the Xenophobe’s Guides, a series of light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek books on the characteristics of different nations.

Since the guides started in 1995, the publisher sold 2.6 million copies and there are translations into 22 languages, according to Anne Tauté, the creator and editor of the series who lives in London. She says she was prompted to start the books to provide more insight into other cultures.

The guide to Americans observes that they “are friendly because they just can’t help it; they like to be neighbourly and want to be liked. However, a wise traveller realises that a few happy moments with an American do not translate into a permanent commitment of any kind.”

On the French: “French politicians look smart because power itself is chic, attractive, and one should dress to look the part. The French electorate would never allow any government to intervene in their lives if it were shabbily dressed.”

There is a serious side to stereotypes. As history has shown, they can contribute to discrimination and prejudice, often reflected by offensive jokes. As in: What do you get when you cross an Italian with a Mexican? A gangster on welfare. At the extreme end of stereotyping, there have been persecution and mass murder, viz. Nazi Germany or Rwanda.

To get back to the survey of tourists: it confirmed some widely-held stereotypes and raised questions over others. Why do people from France and Spain, the world’s top two tourist destinations (The U.S. is third) behave in ways they would criticise in visitors to their own countries?

As to the Americans: they were rated the loudest, least tidy and worst complainers. They owe their ranking as the 9th best to generous spending and tipping and to their willingness to try and communicate in the local language. Who ranked first? The Japanese.

79 comments

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

“What happened to the Ugly American, the one with the loud shirt and the loud voice, expecting the natives to speak English? Has he been shouldered aside by the Arrogant French?”

Reply: He has turned to online blogging.

Posted by Dan | Report as abusive

Why the sensitivity Dan? He didn’t say a single bad word about Americans, sheesh.

These type of blogs are exactly what we need to stop stereotypes.

Posted by Michael Ham | Report as abusive

More than the French is the Parisians with “la salle extranger” that are the arrogant tourists. Paris is a beautiful city but Parisians are haughty. As for Argentines, the joke is that you buy one for the price he is worth and you sell him for the price he believes he is worth.

Posted by Ricardo | Report as abusive

Finally! A Reuters mass-debate article that is about something genuinely important. I’m not sure about the version of heaven with the English police though, but I guess that depends on what branch they work for. (I haven’t noticed any ugly American’s on my travels either, which reminds me of a German chap I met while having a cigarette on the side of the road [you can't smoke on a motorbike] who came up and started talking to me in German [I was in Germany] so “I said I might look like a German but I’m not German” [in English] and he said “what does a German look like?” [also in English… they’re good like that, the Germans.)

Posted by Peter H | Report as abusive

I have to disagree about the anti-French comments. I spent the millenium party at the Moulin-Rouge, had a great time, and was treated courteously the next day when francs were exchanged for eurodollars. I only had one semester of French in college and when I tried to use it, the French were polite and ofter replied in English. If the exchange rate ever gets back to one Euro for one dollar, I will head back!

Posted by James Cannon | Report as abusive

It’s amazing how few people have read the original novel “The Ugly American.” I always find it ironic that the title character is, in fact, only ugly in his facial features, and is a model of how one should behave when abroad: sensitive to local needs and customs, the protagonist is an engineer who works hard to better the lives of the people he meets. Given that this book was written in the 1950s or early sixties, it’s amazing how sympathetically he and those he meets are presented. The unpleasant character is the government official from the embassy who is portrayed as loud, arrogant, and dismissive of the concerns and needs of the locals, sure (in the style of what we generally call an “Ugly American”) that he knows what is best for them.
I strongly recommend reading the book.

Posted by Rob B | Report as abusive

I am an American who owns a house in a colonial Méxican city, and yes I am often embarrassed by American visitors. First, they are much too big and much too pink: I suppose they can’t help that part. Second, you can often hear them before you see them, especially in restaurants. Third, they nearly always are dressed inappropriately. Méxican men only wear shorts on the soccer field and sometimes on the beach. Men over the age of 50 NEVER wear shorts! I don’t think I have ever seen a Méxican woman of any age in shorts in the city. Older Méxican women wear skirts, always. Only very young women wear jeans. Americans come off as being oblivious and clueless. But the sweet Méxicans forgive them because they are free-spending and invariably over-tip!

Posted by Constance | Report as abusive

The problem with using a tourist-based study to assess the truth behind stereotypes is that tourists to other countries are not a random sample of the population. Neither are all regions of a country visited equally by tourists. The US definitely has a fairly small minority of people who travel relatively frequently outside of North America, a larger minority who travel outside of the US on rare, special occasions, and a large group who do not travel outside the US. Witness the great pride exhibited by certain members of congress who paraded their lack of a passport as proof of patriotism. Why, after all, would any true-blooded American go to some foreign place?

Posted by Joy | Report as abusive

RE:”Hell is where the lovers are Swiss, the cooks are English, the mechanics are French, the police are German and the place is run by the Italians”

Rather, it is: Hell is where the lovers are Swiss, the cooks are English, the mechanics are Italian, the police are German and the place is run by the French

Heaven is where the lovers are French, the cooks are Italian, the mechanics are German, the police are English and the place is run by the Swiss

…but things do change

Posted by Pablo | Report as abusive

So the article starts by saying Americans used to be viewed as loud and unpleasant, and finally concludes that Americans are still…loud and unpleasant. I have travelled a great deal and I think the stereotypes are well-deserved all around: passionate Italians, brash Australians, methodical Germans, loud but friendly Americans, drunk Russians, polite but distant English and Canadians. I’ve met several of all of these. I’ve also met some of each who shatter the mold, and have learned it’s best to just meet as many people from all places as possible and get to know them as people, rather than pre-judging them.

Posted by Ken Baker | Report as abusive

Rob B:

The book, by William Lederer and Eugene Burdick was published in 1958 and became a bestseller. Its title
became a dual-purpose label, first primarily pasted on inept American officials abroad and later on the kind of traveler who would irritate the natives with boorish manners and garish clothes, feeding anti-American sentiments around the globe.

The book is indeed worth reading, or re-reading. Many of the characters it portrays are alive and well today, in different settings and different countries.

Posted by BDebusmann | Report as abusive

Constance, first off, foreigners can’t own property in Mexico. Are you sporting duel citizenship or something? And if you’re seriously going to suggest to me that a country with no middle class somehow “outdresses” Americans is a joke. When did wearing shorts become a problem? It is, after all, really hot in Mexico. Perhaps your “colonial Mexican city” isn’t the norm. Maybe they’re not wearing shorts because they can’t afford them, or they’re waiting on one of their relatives who illegally came to the states to send them back some of OUR money. (see, I can use CAPS too).

Posted by Greggo | Report as abusive

Princeton did an interesting study a few years ago on whether stereotypes change over time. They do, it found. Stereotypes in the U.S. of Italians and Japanese, for example, were much more negative in the 1930s than they are today. The question that is not often asked is to what extent politicians and the media in a free society (as opposed to a dictatorship with a controlled press) are responsible for perpetuating or deepening stereotypes. Anyone remember how “French fries” became “Freedom fries”? The neocons under Bush went out of their way to portray the French as cowards for not joining the “coalition of the willing” in Iraq. The conservative media went right along.

Posted by Elvira | Report as abusive

Hate to rain on your politically correct parade Michael, but “stereotypes” are a fact of life. They exist because they are based on facts people can see with thier own eyes. They won’t go away and there is nothing we can do about it. As for Constance, I am embarrased that people like that always look down on thier own country. You can defend the Mexicans if you wish but based on what I have seen they don’t need to be looking down on Americans in the rudeness department. Based on what I see with my own eyes they are extremely surly when I go to thier restaraunts and when they “bump” into me at Wal-Mart (literally). They often come off as arrogant and careless so if Americans do them the same way in thier country, I say HOORAY!!! HAHA!

Posted by Christopher | Report as abusive

I’m an American living in the PRC. Stereotypes abound and the ex-pat community comments on them regularly. They make life easier when dealing with new situations and we all do it. When my children were young I told them stereotypes exist for a reason. Some members of a group live up to them and so we stereo type the group. But, each individual should be judged on their own merits and given the benefit of the doubt even as I would hope others would do for this ugly, old, white (actually kinda gray), big nosed, loud, opinionated, American in China

Posted by Jeff Legue | Report as abusive

We need reminding that “The Ugly American” was the hero of the book with that name. He was an American engineer who created a simple water pumping system for the natives using a bicycle and bamboo, which were local materials easily obtained. His efforts were contrasted in the book to a US government sponsored super highway that ended at the edge of a jungle. Perhaps the original road to nowhere. He was a good man, a simple man and bit ugly. Somewhere along the way he’s been transformed into a tourist. The book was credited with inspiring JFK to create the Peace Corps.

Posted by Richard Guindon | Report as abusive

read mark twain’s *the innocent abroads.* he’s the one who coined the term, “ugly american.”

Posted by gloria monti, ph.d. | Report as abusive

Filipinos are hospitable.

I’ve done a bit of traveling in my time and have found that cultural stereotypes do carry an element of truth in their descriptions. I’m reminded of the old joke that goes, “What is the difference between a group of terrorists and a group of German tourists?” The answer is, “Terrorists have sympathizers.”

Posted by queenofromania | Report as abusive

US AMERICANS -
HAWAIIN SHIRTS in a formal restuarant , big hair and beer belly couples cheap CIGARS AND FAT overtly displayed MONEY CLIPS OF THE DEMANDING NEUVO RICHE ARE NO LONGER the norm. THE KIDS GREW UP EMBARRASSED and learned manners. Also-
The neuvo poor(er) are more humble and less brash.

Posted by dcm | Report as abusive

but then there are still the christophers of wal-mart.

Posted by dcm | Report as abusive

It is probably not accurate to lump American behavior into one basket. As the country becomes less “European White Ancestry” and more other, then the culture shifts, and behaviors must also shift. The U.S. is projected to become 50% Hispanic in less than 30 years given current demographic trends. Any group of humans will act based on their wetware, that is, the programming in their brains. The programming in turn is influenced by their family(ethnicity related)and region they live in. I should also point out that England is becoming unlike its historical roots, and stereotypes about England are out of date.

The world is constantly changing. But, the homogenous populations that don’t allow immigration, such as Japan, are likely to keep their culture (and stereotypes) constant over longer periods of time.

Posted by Sage | Report as abusive

Could be that the stereotypes are just the ones you notice? I live in Barcelona which gets its fair share of foreign tourists. I notice the loud, brash Americans, the queue jumping Germans, the drunk badly dressed Brits, (the reserved polite brit stereotype is no more I’m afraid, at least here in Spain)the arrogant French, etc. But the quiet, polite, well dressed tourists may well also be American, German, British, etc but I can’t tell without speaking to them…

A telling story (perhaps). I was looking at a menu outside a restaurant in Rome last year and the waiter came out to try and persuade me inside, speaking French. I told him I’m not French and he began to try and guess – Swiss? German? Spanish? No, English. Impossible he cried, switching to perfect English. Well, I live in Spain, I told him. Ahh, that explains everything, I am never usually wrong! The reason he couldn’t believe I was English – I was smartly dressed in “city” clothes, appropriate for a cold, damp day – trousers, boots, jacket etc. Not shorts, sandals with socks (sigh) and a plastic kagoul, on a wet day in February in one of the world’s most elegant cities… (anyway, the meal was excellent!)

Posted by Helen | Report as abusive

It is understandable for tourists not to be able to speak the local language, as long as they try to say the equivalent of “hello” and not expect the natives to speak English.

What truly annoys people are expats who live in another country but cannot speak the native langauge, expect people around them to speak English to accommodate them becaue of their stupdity, and have the audacity to complain about natives not being able to speak English.
All of these people, they should just go home!!

And here, I’m not just talking about Amercians, but British, Canadian, Australian, Germen, French etc.

Posted by Kate | Report as abusive

I’d like to agree with James Cannon’s positive opinion of the French, the stereotype’s they suffer are only partially true. I go there as often as possible because it’s the most beautiful and civilized nation on earth (and hopefully President Sarkozy doesn’t Americanize it too much… or at all).
Their mechanics are also very good. The one thing that I did notice on my last little visit a couple of weeks ago was the prices of things, it is now probably more expensive than the UK which is a shame.
I’m not sure if they all speak English, but I have noticed that when they’ve had a few they start singing in English, which leads me to believe that in every French person there’s an English person trying to get out.

Posted by Peter H | Report as abusive

What do I think? – I am glad you asked.

The simple answer: Different people from different countries act differently on different days at different times.

Do what you can to best represent your country. Because wherever you go, you are acting as an ambassador for your given nation. Before you go on a trip, learn some basic language phrases. You will be surprised how far a couple phrases can take you. Also, don’t forget to smile.

I’ve been to many nations and this works! They will stare at you like your a ghost. But when they see you smile, they are completely stunned and above all else, extremely curious. This may be the first time they have seen an American, Japanese, Brazilian, etc. Make a good example.

Yes…Shining the light on these “stereotype” notions is also extremely important for political reasons. Policymakers sometimes will make policy decisions based on these skewed assumptions.

Mr. Debusmann, What do you think about my last statement? I would love to hear your opinion.

Elvira – the “neocons” did not have to go out of their way to portray the French as cowards. The French have been doing a remarkable job of proving their cowardice for decades – a fact you would be familiar with if you had a clue about history. The abysmal absence of such a clue is the only thing that permits you to imagine there even exists a “conservative media” in modern times unless, of course, you are to the left of Stalin. Are you?

Constance – thanks for the laugh. You imagine Mexicans dress better than Americans. Surely some do, but have you ever noticed the masses of illegal aliens standing around in America’s southwestern cities sporting only stained wife-beater undershirts and filthy blue jeans with rubber flip-flops for shoes? I dare say we poorly dressed Americans are somewhat outnumbered. Still, I appreciate a woman in a dress as much as you do. I just prefer one that comes from a culture that values frequent bathing and laundering. Thank God for Americans of Mexican heritage. But wait…a lot of them wear blue jeans and shorts. Aw, crap! Guess we can’t win.

Posted by Hiroshima Taro | Report as abusive

After watching my fellow Americans here in Bangkok, for over seven years I would have to agree with the notion we tend to treat locals as little better than ignorant children. But the arrogance of the French is not a misnomer. Of the hundreds of tourists I have had the misfortune of being crammed into the BTS with, the French win hands down for arrogance and body odor. Ninety percent 90% of the Europeans need to practice better personnal hygiene. And they think the Thai smell bad. Do they have plumbing in Europe?

Posted by Sonny | Report as abusive

We find ourselves wanting to avoid other Americans when traveling abroad. Just returned from three weeks in China, where we seemed to stand out as overweight, loudly critical and opinionated, dressing inappropriately in five star venues, exhibiting more money than taste. Even saw one of us on a street in Beijing, wrapped in an American flag on July 4th! (Rush really does inspire, doesn’t he?)

Posted by Speechman | Report as abusive

In France, one never tips really. Tipping is really reserved for those who deserve it (as it should be for that matter). I can imagine that upsetting many hotel owners and throwing off results.

Posted by martin | Report as abusive

Well, just ask everybody: Their own compatriotes will come off best. (Well except if you go asking some grumpy old grampa). The more travelled the more tolerant people tend to be. The beauty in evry country and their population is in the eye of the beholder and best expressed in the joke far above: Every nation has its own shiny side. So may all the ugly Americans stay home (and not go and start yet another war abroad). All the other ones are welcome.
PS: Try a swiss lover, they tend to be as versatile as an army knife….

Posted by ElBen | Report as abusive

I’m an American living in Dublin Ireland. I have family here and citizenship but I don’t claim to be Irish. Most of the tourists I come across of any background are for the most part are courteous and enjoying the time. There’s only the few that seem to promote the stereotypes and most hold true to them when they do. The ones that bug me are the Americans that come here and even though they are 3 or 4 generations removed from the ‘homeland’ claim to be Irish and speak as if the natives should treat them better or as a native son. Get a grip! Have fun and be courteous, wherever you go. Be proud of your heritage but don’t use it as a way to get a free drink.

Posted by Frank | Report as abusive

Greggo,

How is it that I, an American citizen, own and live in a house in Queretaro? It most certainly IS possible for foreigners to own Mexican properties, except in a very few coastal areas. Also, did you mean “dual citizenship.” Duel isn’t an adjective. You can duel with pistols (or swords, if you like) or be injured in a duel. But you can’t be a “duel citizen.”

It isn’t “really hot” in Mexico any more than it is in the US. Ever been to Mexico City? Or Queretaro? Or Veracruz? Mexico is mostly mountains, not jungles and coastline resorts. It gets chilly in the mountains!

Mexicans, by the way, can certainly own dollars just as norteamericanos can own Mexican pesos. If you own something, is it not OK to do as you wish with it?

Posted by John Frykman | Report as abusive

Bernd! OMG!!! “Hell is where the lovers are Swiss, cooks are English, mechanics are French, police are German and it is run by the Italians”.

That is the funniest thing I have ever heard!

We’re in sypatico, I submitted this yesterday to Harvard Law…

Human Catagorization Theory
James Reginald Harris, Jr. July 16th, 2009

That as individuals in cultures are technologically defined as ‘groups’ or ‘type’ that these technologically applied cultural catagories begin to dictate the subjects reality. That observations will be subjectively skewed to the catagory and create inappropriate reactions to information from subjects within the defined catagorical parameters.

This is highly applicable to Terrorist Watch Lists and Miscatagorization Errors made in Terrorist Watch list

It is certainly understandable that visitors should try and speak the language of the natives. I myself am living in a foreign country. However, it annoys me when natives force you to (barely) speak their language because they refused to learn it. Great examples are French speaking countries such as France or Belgium. Kudos to those who are the exception, being open to other languages. If I encounter a person who tries to speak English to me, I try to speak her language. If I see that person refuses to speak English on principle (even though she could), she does not even deserve my attention.

Posted by Sven | Report as abusive

The “ugly American” has been replaced (or perhaps, accompanied) by the ugly Mexican, Japanese, Chinese, French, and so on. I grew up in south and central America where my father worked for the state department. Yes, I sometimes saw north American tourist behaving in an obnoxious manner but then again, I saw that with other nationalities also. Here in Texas now, I certainly see it in Mexican nationals.

“Joy’s” comment above is typical of an expats smug arrogance of “don’t confuse me with the tourists!”. Growing up, my father always talked about the beauty of other cultures and people. The only nationality he said be careful with in business were the French. His advice? “Always be twice as careful with the French as they are untrustworthy in business”.

Posted by Texan | Report as abusive

I’m starting to wonder if people ever actually read my posts before they call me out when they reply.

Chris, please tell me where I said stereotypes don’t exist?

Posted by Michael Ham | Report as abusive

I think the American dream of other countries learning English to accomidate them has died over the last decade or so as spanish-speaking illegals have forced them to realize how irritating it is.

Stereotypes are a starting point. They are based on at least some facet of some reality somewhere, and can be s useful tool. BUT: you must be able to discard them the moment you encounter evidence to the contrary, and be willing to be delighted you were wrong.

Posted by Dave | Report as abusive

As an expat living in a country that has a very difficult language to learn, I do not expect the natives to speak my language, nor are they offended when I don’t speak theirs. We are perfectly comfortable communicating in other ways. My students that wish to improve their English do it mainly as a necessity to communicate with businesses from non-native English speaking countries. I’m not sure if I’d say it was an “American Dream”. They found a common ground and then they rolled with it in order to increase opportunity. Americans teaching it are just capitalizing on an opportunity to travel. Seems fitting given the culture we were raised in.

I live in a country where ALL tourists are treated poorly. The stereotype is tourists equal money no matter where you are from, so give it and get out. Fair enough.

And the Ugly American does exist. It exists all too well.

Posted by Dynomite | Report as abusive

FakeName:

You say “policymakers sometimes will make policy decisions based on these skewed assumptions.” They sure do, and some help create the skewed assumptions, so there’s plenty of room to create vicious circles.

Posted by BDebusmann | Report as abusive

would love to see the actual results of the survey. any chance you could post a link?

Posted by john g | Report as abusive

Thankfully, not all the Boomers taught their kids this codex of stereotypes. What a ridiculous fraud.
Racism isn’t cute. At all.
This is a step away from saying racial profiling works.

Posted by Chris Diminie | Report as abusive

It’s a brief but good article. Japan rated the 1st in ranking as best tourists. Who were the 2nd, 3rd and 4th?

Different cultures interpret different behaviors differently. An action as simple as choosing a seat on a bus could be inrepreted a hundred different ways: sexually aggressive, an act of charity, physically threatening, an act of solidarity, etc. Politeness and etiquitte are relative to each culture and sub-culture. In some cultures, tipping is foreign. To say Expedia users are an adequate sample is ridiculous. I’m guessing that 80% of the users are American. That’s a poor representation of the cultures of the entire world. What about tourists who visit countries that are off the grid i.e. the South Pacific, Southeast Asia, and the like? How is American behavior interpreted by them? People, tourists and innkeepers, should realize that there are cultural differences. As big an effort that one may make, he or she will make mistakes in cultural competency. People should be empathetic to those missteps, not see them as an opportunity too assert cultural superiority.
You have a right to express your opinion. But, author, as a journalist, you have an ethical obligation. Just in case you forgot: http://www.spj.org/ethicscode.asp
I’m just saying, take an athropology class and watch yourself before you spew out any more pseudoscience.

Posted by Eileen | Report as abusive

The only reason Americans did so well is because they speak English which is one of the foreign languages the French were criticized for not knowing.

Posted by gabby | Report as abusive

Having lived overseas for several years, and in several countries, I can attest to the fact that the French have been arrogant snots for far longer than this article would suggest.

I was a tour guide on Bali in the 70′s and I would leave the island in August – the traditional French holiday month – because of several run-ins with French travellers.

No, I don’t think any one group of people are worse than another but the lingering memories of the arrogant expectations of the French stay with me to this day.

Posted by BubbaX | Report as abusive

Helen R.:

The five best, according to the survey:

1. Japanese
2. Britons
3. Canadians
4. Germans
5. Swiss

The five worst:

1. French
2. Spaniards
3. Greeks
4. Turks
5. South Africans

Posted by Bernd Debusmann | Report as abusive

“One of the most extensive studies of that question ever conducted, led by scientists of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, involved 4,000 people in 48 countries and came to the conclusion, in 2005, that most national stereotypes are inaccurate.”

Is anyone else shocked that the NIH is wasting taxpayer money on BS studies like this one? Cancer, AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria: pick a real problem to fix.

Posted by Lisa | Report as abusive

In some cases , Racial Profiling works. Example: Not all Muslims are terrorist but 95% of all terriost are Muslims. It is stipid not to take this into account. Political correctness can cost life. You are not likely to have a 22 year old Blond Iclandic girl carrying a bomb. Anyone in law inforcement will tell you profiling works. In the FBI, that is a complete department.

Posted by Ruck | Report as abusive

This is such mindless gibberish.

Posted by Ron Friend | Report as abusive

Ruckus obviously does not think abortion is terrorism, or he’d not say 95% are Muslim. He does not think those that bomb clinics and harass patients are terrorists, either. He also does not think the large number of white supremacist groups that quietly terrorize minorities in this country are terrorists, or the number would be lower… If we pluck out all the things different people call terrorism (like a teen playing with a bomb in a field, or making sarcastic comments on facebook), the percentage of terrorists that are Muslim is much lower than 95%

Posted by silly comment | Report as abusive

As a Mexican, I guess I should be some how offended. But I am not.
First, yes, most Mexicans have a Macho profile, sadly me included.
On the other hand, I have lived in the US for 3 years now, not as an ilegal immigrant, but as an investor. It is sad to see that most Latinos in the US (including mexican roots, on first or second generations) are some how always looking for some type of welfare benefits. As a result, stereo typing all the rest of us. No wonder Canada is requiring visas for Mexicans travelling to Canada, as soon as they step in Canada, they ask for asylum, giving a big burden to the Canadian economy.

The Ugly American became President. A few other ugly ones did almost everything he decreed. From then on, things went downhill all the way, unfortunately taking all the other Americans along for the ride into everlasting ugliness.

The End

Posted by The Bell | Report as abusive

The poor economy and weak dollar might have something to do with it. Only wealthier Americans that have disposable income and place international travel as a higher priority are still traveling. Meanwhile, lower income Americans might be putting off their first trip overseas waiting on a surer tomorrow and more favorable exchange rates.

Posted by Jeff | Report as abusive

Let’s not overlook the fact that the survey was commissioned by a US company. It wouldn’t do much to enhance Expedia’s rapport with US customers if Americans were rated as the worst travelers. Perhaps a collection of surveys commissioned by companies around the world would be appropriate here.

Of course come to think of it, we do have a lot to be humble for these days, given the last eight years of our government’s international diplomacy record.

Posted by JN Thiem | Report as abusive

Stereotypes are based on truth, whether it’s past or present and evolves over a period of time. Each stereotype develops by acknowledging the differences in a culture instead of understanding them. Each culture is what it is because of what daily life is like in that area over history. Each one is unique and interesting in its own way.

I wish there was a cultural codex to allow people from different cultures to mesh like gears in a clock when interacting in the world, but it never works that way.

When abroad, “be a traveller not a tourist.” Try to understand and fit in instead of stand out and be disrespectful or ignorant.

Posted by btao | Report as abusive

When Americans come up to Montreal to drink in our bars on Thanksgiving and New Year, they glow from a distance, though. Really loud and excited.

Posted by Julie | Report as abusive

We just came back from Italy and I’ve never met a nicer group of people. To be sure not all of them were saints, there was that bully at the airport who felt that by running past people while getting on the plane he’d get there faster. But with that exception I enjoyed the Italians and look forward to returning soon and discovering more.

Posted by P T reynolds | Report as abusive

As an American, I was horrified on a cruise in 2000 when I saw elderly American passengers treating the French people in Monte Carlo terribly. They were asking where the “quarter” slot machines were and threw fits when they couldn’t cash in their chips at one booth instead of the required two. I wanted to hide underneath my seat.

But my wife and I went back to Europe in 2004 and encountered not a single iota of bad feelings toward us as Americans. We went to Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, and France and the French people in particular were wonderful to us. My wife was pregnant at the time and the French people in Paris were standing up on the trains so she could sit down. We found that if you are mild-mannered like we are and take the opportunity to smile, people are more than willing to treat you with respect.

There are “bad eggs” everywhere. We also went to Vancouver, BC in 2002 and had a teenager walk up to my mother and tell her that she needed to take off her sweater, which sported a tiny American flag. It was an unpleasant experience, but I would certainly not allow it to diminish what was otherwise a fabulous trip. The Canadians are great folks.

Posted by Paradigm | Report as abusive

The ugly American definitely still exists. I ran into one the other day, yelling at a poor McD’s fry cook for taking more than 30 seconds to make her coffee while there were other people who have been waiting longer for their orders. I don’t blame people at all for disliking American tourists. What’s sad, though, is that the majority of Americans (who are polite and respectful) are cast in a bad light by the few who act so terribly. I make a regular habit of having a Canadian symbol visible whenever I travel so the locals will treat me better (the difference in the way a Canadian is treated vs and American can be outrageous) because many people believe that all Americans are as rude as the kind of person I met in the McDonalds.

Posted by Caggles | Report as abusive

What do you call someone who speaks 3, 2 or 1 languages, according to Europeans? Trilingual, bilingual and American. Old joke and it lumps all the Americas into a single basket; not good, nor really true.

We’re all influenced by everyone and everything we encounter. That is the driving force behind our ‘collective’ national consciesnesses (nc), in my humble opinion. That said, the so-called nc is just another word for a stereotype. We may tend to drift toward and be influenced by those around us, but we still have our own inner guide post, be it staight or not. As an example, 27 years ago (I’m 52), I heard the joke I posted and it affected me. I speak French, Italian, Spanish and Japanese; yes, Japanese! I learned them because I felt like it and nothing more. I learned a lot about the people as well. I am gifted (genetically lucky, I don’t think there is such a thing as “blessed, gifted, etc.”) in that languages are simply time consuming to learn and maintain, but easy (to me) to learn and attain fluency in. My point is this, I have perfect pitch and together with my lingusistics skills, I have never failed to fool native speakers with my perfect, native accent. What have I learned after visiting France (3 times), Italy (6 times), Spain (3 times), Argentina, Chile, Peru (1 time each) and Japan (1 time)? You see, I feel like I have always been the stealth visitor. I could find out the real people as one of them myself, so to speak.

The Japanese and the Italians are tied for first in my book, but for totally different reasons. The Japanese are honest, to the point and always respectful. You’d never suspect them of talking bad about you and frankly, they rarely, if ever, do. The Italians are a wonderful, beautiful and cherished opened book. They say it like it is and they like most everything. If they don’t, they’ll let you know. Spanish speakers in most countries, save for the mother country of Spain, are quite nice. Spain is a bit harder, but overall, the people are wonderful, though they do tend to take their language a bit more seriously, as they should. The French do in fact take the cake. There are tons of exceptions, though I’ll likely never come across more than a handful, to this. The French can not only be insulting, but they are downright vulgar. I actually didn’t know any of the bad French curse words until I was in France!

So, as a native, stealth tourist/visitor, I have had the opportunity to see it from behind the curtain. I have no doubt that my earlier discussion on nc/sterotyping was flawed when it included the French (also the French speaking Canadians, but NOT the Hatians…a great people!) in the same lump of countries and languages.

So why did I visit France? To hear what made up my mind and to go back and confirm I wasn’t crazy or being a racist, Francophobe. Also, the museums and Paris are beautiful. You want good food? It is south in Italy! The Italians most definitely taught the French (remember the court of Louis?) to cook. Why does French cheese stinck so badly? It has to, in order to compete with the people!

Posted by Matt NJUSA | Report as abusive

Being a French living abroad, and travelling a little, I realized by being silent in the airports with french tourists acting around you as if you could understand them how true the foreign people are about us.

BUT I also realized which French people they have to deal with: the posh, the snob, the arrogant, the “arrived”. 90% of the french go to… France for their holidays, fortunately France has enough diversity to allow them to find a place they like without having to speak another language. BUT the parvenu (the “arrived” mainly from Paris and its suburb) travel a lot, it’s part of the show off, they have to say they went abrod here and there… And they are awful, the rest of France hate them too and is quite happy to see them going abroad. Sorry about them, our revolution was a “bourgeoise” revolution with the places in the society previously occupied by the aristocrates now being occupied by the “bourgeois”. And since then we wait for the next revolution to get rid of them…

French arrogant? Well, go to a camp site in France, near any beaches, for summer around 11h30-12h or 18h30-19h when it’s “apero time” (aperitive alcool you drink before lunch) when the people who come in this camp site every year get together, bringing chairs, bottle of alcool and few foods. You will enjoy the true french: lauging and re-making the world over and over. Sadly you won’t see these people in your countries as they go every year to the same camp site and do not travel abroad. They don’t have a lot of money, they are not over educated but they are damn generous and they are damn good people.

And finally: less than 50% of the french go on holidays every year, do not be foolish the few you see abroad, they are a minority. Everybody knows that the majority of the french is perfect ;-)

:-D

Posted by Fred | Report as abusive

These stereotypes are just plain wrong and Expedia’s study’s not really fair. One of the questions was “tipping”, wich is a natural fact for americans, it is not for europeans used with the “tips included” in their bills, for instance.

Besides most of travellers from all countries are people able to pay for plane tickets and accomodations, who certainly do not look no behave like the majority of their population. Wondering if the higher social spheres are really where the most educated and nicest guys are…

I worked as a guide for tourists, my worst experience ever was with an italian group, but still Italy is my favorite european country to travel to. I remember being able to have japanese tourists paying for everything, giving me 2-3 times tips because they were happy of each visit. No wonder why they are the favorite of some hotel register guys, but is that really meaning their the most interesting humans travellers ?

Posted by Jack | Report as abusive

Well, looking through the comments it looks like the consensus is that Americans are ugly, and that France and the French are beautiful. Not surprising really, France is the most beautiful and civilised nation on earth, they are probably a bit disappointed that all their assistance rendered to the fledgling America resulted in the America the world has today. What went wrong?

Posted by Peter H | Report as abusive

i agree that the french are the rudest and most arrogant. and Peter H they are not beautiful at all – inside or out! The French women are like french poodles, they smoke, they smell, eat like birds, wrinkle easily and have foul attitudes. look at what brigitte bardot looks like!! sophia loren on the other hand looks gorgeous. No, French women are not beautiful. Italian women are incredible looking and they have class and style, much more so than the French. They also smile, like to care for others and are very hospitable women. Italian women win!

well i travelled the world in 1968-1969 and my friend avoided americans. i,m canadian and never travelled with then at all. travelled with danes and germans at times and enjoyed them . always remember two americans asking for ketchup in afganistan. give me a break. also remember the day three americans were laughing at iranians processing them at a small border post on an old 20 year typewriter. we were patient and were on our way in 30 minutes. 2 hours later they were still there and it was a blistering hot day. donmt know if they ever caught on that they were being had for being rude.

I agree that Americans can be “Ugly”. I am an American but I had the good fortune of being born and raised in Germany. In my short life (24 years) I have traveled to roughly 13 countries, on vacation and with the United States Marine Corps. I always try to be polite, respectful, and kind to anyone I meet. Unfortunately I can’t say that about everyone I have traveled with. I think the problem with America is is that there is no one to teach manners and respect to our children. We have become a society of materialistic work-aholics where both the father and the mother work, leaving the children at home watching TV. Parents don’t spend time with their kids anymore so our children are being raised by society. Values are no longer instilled but are picked up from TV shows. I have respect for my elders and superiors because I was raised that way. My mom stayed home with us and actually raised us. We hardly watched TV and spent most of out time outside. Society has let us down. We are rotting from the inside.

Posted by John M | Report as abusive

I don’t know, life’s a short trip and I can’t find any positives in lumping whole nations into one line commentary’s. So I’ll just say that I’ve traveled to many Latin American and European countries and found nice folks most of the time. They treat me well and I treat them well. Even if I am an American from Philly.

Posted by Michael P. | Report as abusive

America is less that 200 years old. It is being compared to countries that are thousands of years old. So the fact is “American” traits are really just the collective traits of the many people of many cultures that felt they would rather live here than in thier own land. So that any person from any nation should exclude their own culture’s misgivings from those of Americans is pure hypocracy. How many French, Italian, Englisn, Canadian, and German-Americans are there? Uh, 60+%, or more. eople who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

I’ve traveled all over the world. I’ve found almost without exception, that most people are kind, welcoming and interested, and only a few live out the stereotypes we all know so well. And I’ve seen people in this country do good deeds without a second thought that made me re-evaluate my own personal standards of goodness. Complaining about other people’s differences is just complaining. The details of the discontent of malcontents is really of no interest to me…

Posted by Derek D | Report as abusive

OK, so little bit of a typo. America is just OVER 200 years old. Can’t let that one go unchecked. Anyway, please continue to the next post with this in mind…

Posted by Derek D | Report as abusive

Racial profiling is like Astrology, it has to be right at some point. Only the ignorant and lazy employ it.

I can be the loudest person in the room, or the mouse in the corner; neither occurrence is because I’m American.

Posted by Nahnook | Report as abusive

As an assistant hotel manager and booking supervisor I’d say Canadians would be a close second to the French in both rudeness and being stingy -
but I’m just speaking from personal experience. A guest is a guest no matter what.

Posted by Mr Holiday | Report as abusive

I’m pretty much resigned to people wanting to dislike Americans wherever I go. (Except in Kosovo; there, we can do no wrong. Last fall, I actually got out of a ticket I totally deserved “out of respect for your being an American”.)

So I try to make a habit out of tipping outrageously and thanking everyone as profusely as possible for everything in sight (hopefully in some reasonable facsimile of the local language).

I like to hope that my own little personal foreign policy campaign might change a few minds, just a little.

Posted by Lisa | Report as abusive

As a traveller and expat who is also an American, my philosphy is to channel the standard of behavior set by Rudyard Kipling’s “If” (though I do not always measure up) and look for the good in people and situations. While, strangely enough, certain stereostypes hold true for a sufficiently large percentage of time to continue being stereotypes (i.e. loud Americans, rude French, melencholy Danes, etc), I have met a good cross-section of nationalities and find that stereotypes are generalities that seem to “generally” apply to certain nationalities but are by no means a way to define individual people. I have met the good, the bad, the beautiful, and the ugly from many nations and find that in the end, you are dealing with individuals and your own paricular bias which is also influenced by your culture and nationality.

Posted by Expat American | Report as abusive

I am an American and have never traveled to Europe.
My wife wants to go to France and personally I would rather skip visiting a country where Americans are not liked. While on vacation in the British Virgin Islands I brought this same subject of visiting France with one of the local Brits and he assured me that it is not true that the French dislike Americans.. he said they dislike everyone. I feel much better now that we werent being singled out.

Posted by Robert | Report as abusive

Americans, despite what we would like to believe, are hardly ever singled out or disliked anywhere. You would have to go to a hard-core country (Iraq/Afghanistan) AND find a truly hard-core hater. If Americans are ever singled out, it is because the person is a weiner. Having been to umpteen countries, and lived in a number, I can attest that Americans are better liked, and better behaved than the majority of the British and German tourists. And don’t believe the press. The French like Americans. They are just cool-ish toward everybody. So they aren’t looking to make best friends in 5 minutes. They are an awesome people, and they typically really like Americans.

Posted by Horst Engels | Report as abusive

I assume the “Ugly American” is too obese to travel nowadays?
Nasty, huh?

Posted by Carole Fite | Report as abusive

I always laugh at the French when they complain about the number of English words creeping into their language. They forget that 25% of our vocabulary has a French derivation. (Anyone remember 1066?)

Trying to keep your language “pure” is a joke.

Posted by Jon Anderson | Report as abusive