In all my travels I have noticed a common recurrence. Namely unfounded criticism against American tourists. I hate this because it’s just so hypocritical. Europeans tend to be the worst, followed by Australians and New Zealanders. Despite never having gone to the US, they feel they can know the country authoritatively and by extension can judge people from that country. It was amazing to me when traveling through Europe how rude people would be when they assumed I was American by default, only to suddenly be helpful and apologetic when I made it clear I was not. A good example of this is when I was in Rome and ran out of money to get my bag out of storage. I managed to get access to my bag to get a carton of cigarettes which I sold outside the airport to get enough money to get my bag back. I tried selling to taxi drivers who simply insulted and laughed at me, however when proving I was not from the US they all bought a packet and so I was able to get my bag back.
It’s pretty bad in the UK and Australia as well. When American tourists ask questions or remark how things are different they tend to be insulted, like they should be expected to know these things. Yet, most people from the UK or Australia have no idea about the US except from what they learn from each other and the media, which is to say they have a wholly inaccurate depiction. Yet, despite not traveling they somehow feel superior to these American tourists being exposed to a different culture for the first time. The fuck?
When I’m in New York, I deal with tourists every single day in my job selling comedy tickets. There are a great many idiotic tourists from Europe or Australia. People who can’t figure out how the streets are numbered on Manhattan, people asking for directions to a store that has huge signs lit up right behind them, or the worst is people being convinced that selling comedy tickets is illegal despite us doing this every day and police standing near us and being on friendly terms with us. Honestly Australians can be the worst as xenophobic as they are in a city as packed and diverse as NYC.
The anti-US sentiment is some of the worst groupthink and idiocy I have encountered in my travels. Only 30% of Americans even have a passport, yet those who decide to travel and learn tend to be criticized by those who haven’t even left their own countries. I assume part of it is just being defensive….a lot of these countries are smaller and many of the people feel the need to prove a point, that their countries are not small or backwards as they think Americans might think, when that isn’t necessarily the case at all. It’s far less likely to be the opinion of those who actually travel.
Another example of this irrational US hate is a Taiwanese guy I met when I was in Canada in January was terrified of the NYPD despite never having been to NY. He was very happy with the Toronto police despite the huge criticisms against them and their history, such as the G20 riots. The NYPD in my experience have always been helpful and friendly. Sure, people will have different experience but on average it seems the NYPD have a better reputation than the Toronto PD. Yet, simply because it was American, this guy thought the NYPD were going to be far far worse.
Another example would be an Australian kid on a forum I used to frequent, who was convinced that Americans were offended by the word mate. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth, but he was convinced of this after he called someone mate and they punched him. I’m sure there was more to the story as this kid tended to be ignorant and argue for the sake of arguing about things he didn’t comprehend and someone probably had enough. To draw the conclusion that any American will be offended by calling them mate is just idiotic.
It’s amazing how little people know of the US yet they feel they can criticize it as an expert. Most Europeans or Australians have no idea just how diverse the US is with climate, culture, laws, language, cuisine and more. Many areas of the US have a strong dislike of other parts, to the point they act like different countries sometimes. The US is more than twice the size of the EU and the third biggest population on the planet, yet all too often people dismiss it as a homogeneous cauldron of stupidity lacking in culture what so ever. It’s this that I don’t understand.
Not to mention the ridiculous political criticisms. Yes, the US has many problems when it comes to politics, but so does the EU. From mass surveillance and limiting photography and journalism in the UK to out of hand censorship in many countries, France banning Burquas and privacy concerns raised by the Data retention Directive? The EU acts like a country without any of the checks and bounds a state provides, so I consider it worse in many respects. However, that is another discussion (and post) entirely.
I just wish the hypocrisy and unfounded criticism would stop. All countries are different, and many countries in Europe are backwards in several respects. Just as the US is. If a tourist makes an observation it can start a discussion or be a chance to provide information or correct an incorrect assumption. People need to stop the thinking all Americans are idiots and their countries are better than the US because they have socialized health care and lower crime rates. The issues are a lot more complicated than that and in any case, why does it make sense to judge people from a country because of the government that represent them? When someone travels and wants to learn about the world that is a good thing and should be encouraged. At the moment it would seem that many Americans might have the idea that people of other countries are ignorant, backwards and insecure. If people keep acting the way they do towards American tourists, then they would be right.