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.