“Did you experience any problems being an American?”
This is one of the most common questions I get from people when returning from traveling overseas. The answer: absolutely not.
We have been treated exceedingly well overseas by people from all corners of the world and I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve experienced any negativity due to my nationality.
In fact, I am very proud to be an American when I travel. Let me tell you why.
1. American men don’t wear speedos
American men never wear a banana hammock, grape smuggler, man thong, scrote tote, etc., etc.
2. Americans volunteer in poor countries
All across Africa, Asia, and Latin America, I have met Americans who were working to help others.
On an airplane to Guatemala in 2003, I sat next to an American doctor making her 13th trip to Central America to work as a volunteer. In Malawi, I met a woman who raises money to install sand water filters to provide clean water to villages. She was on her fourth trip to Africa.
In China, I met a man who works with the blind and deaf to operate a cafe to provide funds and job training. And in Guatemala, I met a large group of students who were building chimneys and stoves in homes to prevent deforestation and improve fuel efficiency.
America is a very wealthy country, but we have a very limited number of vacation days per year. The fact that so many people give up their valuable vacation time to help others overseas is commendable.
3. The U.S. Sponsors the Peace Corp
One of my friends, Jade Hammer, is currently working in Guyana as a Peace Corp volunteer (you can read Jade’s blog here). She is giving up all the comforts of home to live in a poor country. Her job is to teach students who have fallen behind in reading, helping them catch up to their appropriate grade level. I have always thought that if you can read, you can teach yourself anything. I am sure her work will have far reaching and long term impact.
The U.S. government spends about 356 million dollars per year sponsoring volunteers to work in developing countries. There are currently 7209 volunteers working in 65 different countries, according to the Peace Corp website.
Sixty-six percent work in education or health and most are based in Africa or Latin America. I think it is pretty special that our government not only funds these missions, but that there is no shortage of volunteers. As far as I can tell, no other country has a program like this. (If I’m wrong, let me know in the comments please).
4. American military power is often a force for good
Yes, I know. Hear me out.
After Typhoon Yolanda devastated the Philippines in November, 2013, the United States military dispatched 50 ships and aircraft to the disaster zone to help deliver supplies. In addition, the U.S. pledged $37 million dollars in aide to help rebuild.
By contrast, China pledged only $200,000 to the Philippines recovery, but then bumped it up to $1.6 million after criticism, according to a reuters.com report.
Whether it is a tsunami in Indonesia or an earthquake in Haiti, the United States military is often the first organization to arrive on the scene to help. For that, I am proud.
(That whole invasion of Iraq, well, that was a little embarrassing).
5. Americans are nice and respectful
Most Americans I meet overseas are nice, friendly, open and interested in interacting with locals. Most Americans are jovial, good natured people. I realize this is a wild generalization, but I think it is true. Also, I think our most unruly and unworldly citizens don’t leave the country or only go to Mexican beach resorts, so we are only letting our best people out in the world at large.
There are always exceptions to the rule, but when visiting mosques, cathedrals, palaces, and/or temples, Americans are usually pretty good about dressing appropriately and behaving with respect.
I am not going to name any names (Russia), but all over the Middle East and India, I see girls walking around with their asses hanging out of their tiny shorts and/or wearing booby tops. That is very disrespectful to conservative cultures. Again, I am not going to name any names (Italy, China, India), but some people have no idea how to lower the volume on their voices in a spiritual place or on a train, especially if they are sitting next to me on a long haul trip.
And when it comes to getting drunk, partying and being obnoxious, I am pretty sure others (Aussies) have us beat on that one. (Again, we probably send our most ridiculous people to Cancun, so, there is that.)
Americans are by no means perfect, but I think overall we are respectful and polite. Here is some photographic evidence:
6. We rock at sports
Here are some current world rankings for American Sports teams:
- #1 Men’s Basketball
- #1 Women’s Basketball
- #2 Baseball
- #6 Ice Hockey
- #14 Soccer (Football)
- #18 Rugby
The U.S. has won 2653 Olympic medals, most all time by a margin of 951 medals over Russia/USSR.
Tiger Woods is #1 in the world golf rankings, and we have 10 of the top 20 golfers in world (although we can’t seem to win a Ryder Cup).
Soccer is the number one sport in the world. Virtually every kid dreams of playing football (soccer) for their national team and games are followed with a religious fervor all over the world. According to a Harris poll, soccer is the 8th most popular sport in America. Take a look at the pie chart below.
Soccer in America ranks just below golf, is tied with women’s tennis and is barely more popular than bowling. And yet, we are still really good at it.
Imagine if our best athletes played soccer? We’d dominate! Can you see Chris Paul launching a corner kick to Russell Westbrook for a header into the net? Can you see LeBron James dominating as a goalie? You think Johnny Football Manziel or Wes Welker wouldn’t make some great soccer players? We’d dominate if we set our minds to it.
I can go into a sports bar anywhere in the world and if there is an international game on TV, I can have confidence that we will be among the best. And if anyone makes fun of me because our soccer team is merely #14 in the world, I can say, “Soccer? Oh, that is the sport where they kick the ball right? We don’t really play that in America.”
How are you treated when you travel overseas?
Add to the conversation by leaving a comment below.
(If you are Italian, Indian, Chinese, Australian, Russian or wear a speedo, please don’t take offense and stop reading. I need all the readers I can get.)
1. Two-Thirds of Americans Don’t Have a Passport. So What. – (Go See Write)
2. Myths About Americans Traveling Abroad – (Katie Aune)
Being from Canada we always have been greeted warmly and treated with respect in any country. Some of my family lives in the US and I know Americans sometimes have a reputation….my experience has always been a good one. 🙂
That is good to hear. Canadians are often mistaken for Americans I think.
Haha you’re so right about loud Italians/Indians and Russian girls running around half naked. I find Americans one of the most interesting people to meet on my travels. They’re usually very smart and funny people to talk to.
Suze – I am glad you like Americans. Germans are always some of my favorite people. Indians are some of my favs also unless I am on a train next to the for 8 hours…
Reblogged this on The Pretty Canary.
I’ve never understood the Cancun thing, especially after you hit 21. What’s the point? I’ve had pretty crazy parties in my backyard, and I didn’t have to fly all the way to Mexico to do it.
We’ve never had a problem, but we try to be respectful wherever we go, even if it’s just to a different part of the states. Visiting rural Montana and then the French Quarter of New Orleans is like visiting two different countries, maybe two different planets 🙂
Jennifer – that is a good point. You wouldn’t want to go to a Hutterite community in Montana flash them and expect beads. Being respectful within our own borders is important.
Yes, flashing people anywhere besides Bourbon street is probably not considered acceptable 🙂
Yo,I hear u on the Russians… When I was in sharm el-skeikh egypt all the russians were going around with their butts hanging out on the beach. I kid you not, there was even a young russian girl like 5 or 6 years old wearing THONG bikini bottom. Only in Russia would they make that for a child! Jesus Christ. One huge woman was even topless on the beach which is illegal in Egypt. Also every single russian there couldn’t pose for a photo without making a seductive model pose!
Jen – I saw a Russian girl at the pyramids in Egypt with her ass literally hanging out of her shorts and a tiny top on. She was drawing stares from everyone there. That is funny about the topless women in Sharm – so disrespectful.
The more I see the bride/speedo photo, the more I realize it may be one of the coolest photos ever.
Why do Americans have such a bad reputation? As you note, we hardly have a monopoly on bad behavior.
I have gotten a lot of mileage out of that photo. I may need to retire it.
I think every culture probably does something annoying to someone else. That is part of what makes travel interesting.
I don’t know, I think the photo is viral-worthy.
And, yes to your 2nd point.
I need a viral photo or video. That would be cool. Maybe I’ll go out and take one later today…
If it were only that easy.
Me too. Take one for me while you’re at it.
Most of the so-called viral videos though have been carefully PRed into place by firms”
First of all, scrote tote?! Never heard that one and I DIED. Secondly, thanks for the shout out 🙂 Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go update my very neglected blog…
Here are some more names for a speedo. Enjoy.
Nantucket Nad Bucket
Portuguese Pud Purse
Peach Pit Papoose
Brazilian Ball Bag
Manberry Pudding Pack
Miami Meat Tent
Saint-Tropez Truffle Duffle
Bratwurst Bath Cap
Bwwwaaa ha ha ha ha!!!!! (Cuz “lol” does NOT cover that list) 🙂
And I didn’t even include some of the more obscene ones!
Aren’t the Americans the ones who are so loud in restaurants abroad?
Maybe, maybe not. I don’t think we are necessarily any worse than anyone else.
On too many occasions, we had to ask the waiters to move us to another table on the other side of the restaurant since we could not even talk. Just because there was a bunch of guys from the US speaking so loudly (and they were not even drunk). I wish they would understand we are not really interested in listening to their stories.
If it happens again please show them this post. They are letting me down!
Australians beat you hands tied behind their backs on loudness.
YES! I am glad someone is louder!
Jeff, I thought the post was great … then you went and topped it with your “alternate names for a speedo” response to Jade. That may deserve a post all its own. 🙂 ~Terri
I thought about putting all those in the body of the post but wasn’t sure. I even left out a couple of really horrible ones – there might be children reading though I doubt it.
Reblogged this on I Run in the Rain and commented:
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Football is the number one sport in the world. Soccer is number 8 in USA.
I don’t get the sports part. I mean, what if baseball would be popular in the rest of the world – where would USA be? And the whole sports thing – isn’t part of the reason for the sports mania in USA that you can get a university degree for being good at sports? Don’t know if I’de be proud of that…
I agree that it is very strange that we give scholarships to athletes, but I benefited as some of my college was paid for by athletic scholarship.
Good to know you are able to see the strangeness of it, even though you profited from the system.
In fact Americans are a tad TOO proud to be american. I met really nice ones but a lot of them have Superiority Complex which is downright annoying
U.S.A. U.S.A!!! ‘Merica!!!!!!
Great post and you always make me laugh! We enjoy being Americans while overseas. #1 we don’t wear speedos. But we also have many people (Brits, Aussies) tell us that we are the coolest Americans they have met and we make our country look better! HA! Can’t beat that I guess. And whoever they met should probably stick to Cancun and be allowed anywhere else outside of the country!
That is a great compliment coming from a Brit or Aussie that you are the coolest Americans! Especially from a Brit. I have a crush on all British people. They are my favorite.
Yes, the speedo thing sets us apart from so many cultures. If the majority of the men in your culture wear nut-huggers, you are a less advanced civilization.
You make me laugh!
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Soccer (Futbol) has actually ticked up in popularity to about the same as basketball since 2014 when FIFA caused a rise in popularity. I routinely see more soccer nets going up in people’s front yards now. It’s become much more common now than it was when I was a kid in the 90’s where everyone was into basketball, baseball and NFL. However, Futbol/Soccer isn’t as accessible on TV on major national networks like ABC, CBS, etc… still in the US, making it difficult to see matches. You generally have to have various ESPN channels to access it.
It will be interesting to see if more kids play soccer with all the concerns about concussions in football (American football). Soccer is probably the most popular sports among kids, but as you say, we don’t have leagues or pros that we really follow. Although I hear that in Portland and Seattle MLS is really big. Thanks for your comments!
I won’t generalize, but on my experience traveling throughout Asia people from the United States of America tend to be very loud in restaurants (specially the young ones) and do stuff like playing with their food, I saw a group of guys from the United States of America (I could tell by the accent) throwing meatballs at each other and seeing who could catch it with their mouth in a Hot pot restaurant in Taiwan.
Also some people from the United States tend to have the I’M FROM AMERICA attitude which makes them believe it’s okay to do whatever they want just because of where they come from, and also some tend to confuse being poor with being stupid, not because your country is rich and you’re traveling to a third world country it means that you’re the smart one and the locals are stupid, then again I’m not generalizing. There are tourist from the united states that are just as rude and annoying as some misbehaved Russians, Indians or other nationalities.
And what’s wrong with wearing a speedo? or what’s there to be PROUD of about not wearing one? I guess I should be proud of not wearing dorky shoes with big white sucks sticking out, cargo pants, baggy t shirts and safari hats…..
But in reality , just like there are nice tourists from the USA there are also some that are really annoying , and that’s the case for every country
Thanks for your comments. In this blog post I am joking about some of these things so please don’t take it too seriously. Having said that, wearing a banana hammock is wrong. 🙂
I am appalled that Americans were behaving so badly at the hotpot restaurant. Are you sure they were not Canadian?
I do think there are two types of Amerian travelers – ones that go mostly to beachy areas in Mexico, the Caribean and Latin America who are there to party and not experience the culture, and others who go farther afield and are more respectful. As you say, there are good and bad people everywhere. Thanks again for commenting.