Sunday, February 15, 2015

7 Cringeworthy Things Americans Need To Stop Doing In Other Countries

Whether you're traveling for a couple days, or moving abroad for a long period of time, you need to be on your best behavior. This goes doubly if you're American because we are raised in a culture where we are honestly not taught that many other cultures exist, or matter. And this tends to make us douchebags when we go to other countries. Here are the seven biggest offenses we tend to make.

1. Restaurant food photography.

 Yes, Americans aren't the only people who do this, but we are definitely the most egregious offenders. There is nothing more cringeworthy than being at a hole-in-the-wall, tiny, beloved-by-locals Italian restaurant, only to whip out your iPhone and start taking photos with (god forbid) the flash on. It's just so tacky and lame, and no one on Instagram is going to taste that caprese salad. Might as well enjoy it for yourself. 

2. Assume that our politics are everyone's politics.

 If you've ever been in another country during a political scandal on either side, you know that attempting to comprehend what it's really like is just impossible. Pretentious Europeans don't know what the Bush presidency was really like, and we don't really get Berlusconi. But attempting to impose our political landscape on theirs is just ridiculous, and we need to accept that what we think as "right wing" is "extreme right" for a lot of people, and what we think of as "left" is really "center." That's just the way it is, and assuming you can fully understand their politics (or comment on it with authority) is frustrating for everyone involved.

3. Taking pictures of random residents as if they were part of the monuments/cultural sightseeing.

 A cute couple sitting outside a Parisian cafe is not a sight to be photographed. It is a couple. Having lunch. Not wanting to be part of your Pinterest collection called ~*~My Paris Trip~*~.

4. Walking incredibly slowly with a huge backpack on.

 I know that you spend 2,000 dollars on gear alone before your life-changing backpacking trip, but that is no reason to whack people in the face with it in every country you visit. Take it off on public transportation and keep it by your feet, and don't walk slowly through crowded city streets with it sticking out two feet behind you. If you get robbed doing that nonsense, it will have been your own fault.

5. Being ~inspired~ by poverty and struggle.

 If you are a white American who has come back from their trip to a developing country with endless photos of struggle that are captioned with rants about how #inspiring it all was, and how #blessed you were to have seen it, you are being That Guy/Girl. If your profile picture is you, smiling, surrounded by a bunch of impoverished children in various states of undress, you are Definitely That Guy/Girl.

6. Assuming they are familiar with our pop culture.

 Just talking about a movie/TV show/song/whatever as though they were in the US for its release and popularity is kind of a dick move. It assumes that American culture is dominant, superior, and something everyone should be expected to know intimately. Spoiler alert: A lot of people don't speak English, consume that much American media, or desire to. Other countries have their own pop culture and references, and that's just fine. 

7. Doing racist things while STILL in the country in question.

If you are doing/wearing/saying racist and other-ing things about a culture of people when you are still physically IN that culture, you know you're a grade-A Ugly American Asshole. Making fun of the locals is the ultimate in gross tourist fare, and when you do it, you are making every not-asshole American look bad. So please refrain, and pretend to be open-minded and humble for the two weeks you're in Southeast Asia or whatever.


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