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Why do Tourists From the US Get Such a Bad Rap?

Updated: Oct 18, 2021

I hate that we from the United States get such a bad rap as international tourists … but at the same time, it feels kind of well-deserved. From social media to news stories to talking with other travelers, everyone has heard or read stories of people from the United States acting badly.

Point of Person Privilege: This is just my own pet-peeve here, but this seemed like the perfect place to talk about it … Even though the colloquial term in the United States is to refer to ourselves as “Americans,” this shorthand is inaccurate and in this blog post, offensive to the other inhabitants of ... America.

After all, I don’t think our kindhearted and overly polite neighbors to the North or hard working and enterprising neighbors to the South really like being lumped in with US (pun intended). And that isn’t even beginning to address all the amazing people and cultures who call Central and South America home.

Proud to be a United Stateian

“American” technically refers to all people living in North, Central, and South America. I think this is only part of the reason why we from the US get a bad rap when traveling. Our world view and national identity is messed up before we even leave. So keep in mind … the next time you use the term “American” to identify yourself, that’s totally fine, but you are being as inclusive as possible. Consider instead identifying yourself by state or region.

Fat Mama Tip: Geographical identifiers can be helpful when introducing yourself or talking about places in the US while you are traveling abroad. "I'm Fat Mama from California" usually doesn't need any more explanation. But, "my brother Jackalope lives in Wisconsin" usually needs a follow up like "that's in the Northern, Midwestern United States." This is also far more accurate than just saying "I'm an American" or "I'm from America."

I have gotten off on a bit of a tangent … my whole point in bringing this up was not to drive home the fact that be you Canadian, Mexican, Brazilian, Chilean, or from the United States, that you are, therefore, American … but rather to explain that this is why I always engineer my sentences to say that we are from the United States rather than the easy, colloquial, inaccurate, misnomer, American.

I do, however, think this is part of the bad rap tourists from the United States get when we travel abroad. I mean the gall we have to identify our small (and really in comparison, no matter how you look at it, it is small) part of the world with the label provided to two entire continents (actually a whole hemisphere), which one out of thirty-five countries occupy.

I know I’m being dramatic here, but do you see what I’m getting at? We in the United States love to think of ourselves, really our county and culture, as this bigger-than-life thing that is due awe and respect. Often, we (and I am definitely guilty of this too) get so wrapped up in this view that we forget other countries are awesome too! And for WAY MORE than just visiting.

BUT, I don't think our nationalism and self-identity as “Americans,” which other countries and people can find so off putting, is at the heart of why us from the US get a bad rap as tourists. No Mama! I think it ... partly ... comes down to one simple thing. Vacation days … or more specifically the lack thereof.

Is this an over simplification? Yes!

Are there other social, educational, and deep-seated ideological reasons for the disrespect some tourists from the United States show foreigners ... even though when they travel, they themselves are the foreigners? YES!

Is there a subset of tourists from the United States (and other places too, but let's focus on our own problems for now) that simply lack the necessary elements of curiosity, humility, and respect to be successful global citizens? YES!

But hear me out ...

You get a vacation, and you get a vacation, and you get a ... no, not US

Did you know that the United States is the ONLY industrialized nation that DOES NOT require employers to provide employees paid vacation days? In fact, many nations even provide paid vacation days to part-time employees. But NOT in the United States.

Check out this chart on Wikipedia to compare each country’s minimum annual leave with what your company has chosen to gift you (or not) as a perk. Normally I don’t like using Wikipedia as a source, however this article’s references check out and I have found a ton of other articles and news stories backing up the data.

A 2014 article published by the BBC states clearly the US work force’s relationship to vacation days (and let’s be honest, things haven’t gotten any better since 2014):