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Monday, January 15, 2007

Don't Be An Ugly American

By Burton Jones

Given our relative isolation geographically, it is fairly amazing that so many American travel abroad. Unfortunately, this brings us to the issue of the Ugly American.

Don’t Be An Ugly American

Never heard of the Ugly American? It is a term used by locals in other countries for many American tourists. It refers to the fact that we have a tendency to whine. This usually occurs when something is different from what we are used to.

Being an Ugly American is not a good thing. First, it is incredibly rude, which you should keep in mind since we don’t exactly have the best reputation at the moment around the world. Second, complaining about this and that is not going to make things better. Instead, it is more likely to result in more problems and worse treatment. Nobody likes to deal with a complainer, so don’t expect to make any friends.

When traveling abroad, you need to use your common sense. Things are going to be different. Different countries have different cultures, standards and ways of doing things. If you aren’t comfortable with this concept, maybe you should think twice about going somewhere. If the cliché “when in Rome…” sounds horrifying to you, a trip abroad may not be your cup of tea.

So, what are some of the common Ugly American situations that come up? The first is the food. Every culture has different ideas regarding what is tasty and what is not. In France, you can order steak tartare, which is rare steak. In Italy, you will probably be stunned to find out real Italian pizzas are nothing like the Americanized version. This doesn’t make them “wrong.” They came up with the idea, not us. If you get over whelmed by food issues, you can usually find an American fast food joint in just about every city. McDonalds, Pizza Hut and Kentucky Fried Chicken are the most common.

Culturally, you are also going to run into some things that will surprise you. Many countries have more relaxed views on everything from drinking to prostitution to marijuana and so on. You may disagree with their standards, but you should respect them. After all, you are in their country!

Once you decide to go abroad, keep in mind that you will be experiencing new and interesting things. Assume everything will be different from what you are used to. By taking this approach, you will have a good time, become friends with the locals and avoid being an Ugly American.

Burton Jones is with - your online travel information source.


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