Ya’ll seem to be concerned with distances and geographic comparisons.
In some ways, I’m glad Americans don’t travel much overseas. Having lived overseas for an extended period, I found Americans visiting to mostly be rude, crude and socially unacceptable. Comments were often “it’s [bigger | better | cheaper ] in America than this place.” I always thought travel exposed onself to different things, places, ideas, people, etc., and not a tit for tat America is always better attitude.
On top of that, almost all the American travellers I met were utterly clueless about where they really were beyond the hotel, the beach and the nearest McDonalds.
Flying home on occasion as I sat in the international lounge waiting for my flight it was sooooo easy to pick out the Americans returning home from vacation – they stood out like sore thumbs with their smug attitudes, large egos and loud complaints of the country they were leaving (and how great America always is in comparison.
Hell, at least the cultural antics of the Italians and Greeks were at least sincere in their behavior! They may have been loud, but it was out of joy, fun and having a great time. The Yanks are merely international bores and arrogant sods.
Ironically, since my return to the States, they now act this way at home.
My bad, clairobscur, I forgot about the identity card (easy thing to do over here since nobody has them). However, that’s still different from being able to use any ID, and still very very different from there being no border checks at all, so on balance I still claim this one
I think the fact IDs don’t exist in the UK explain why UK sources tend to overlook the fact that an ID is enough to enter UK/Ireland(for EU citizens) . But people living in countries where IDs exist, like me, are well aware they don’t need a passport to enter other EU countries. The only difference between entering UK (not part of the Schengen treaty) and Spain, for instance, for the average visitor, is that coming into the UK, you’ll be actually asked to show your ID (as it was usually the case when entering a now Schengen country before the treaty).
Sorry, I didn’t read your last post before entering mine. Yes, indeed, not any ID will do. My statement also was based on cultural bias (ID= Identity Card, in my mind). And yes, there are still border checks between the UK and France, indeed.
Still, I can maintain that the number of passports issued in France would be representative of the number of people travelling outside the EU (but I’ve still no clue about this number, so it actually doesn’t help)
Yes, american tourists have a bad reputation (loud, obnoxious, expecting everybody to speak in english, etc…). however, I would argue that you probably notice the boors because they’re american. You’ll probably notice the caricatural american stating that “we saved your asses during WWII” when denied a payment in US dollars for whatever thing which anyway isn’t the same that at home, but you probably won’t notice the french tourist in Morroco stating “we build everything in this country” when similarily complaining that “we don’t do (whatever thing) this way in France”, especially if you don’t understand french.
There’s a general assumption that anything different in a foreign country must be somewhat wrong (guilty until proven innocent). And I’m not totally innocent of such assumptions. Two examples out of my head : a tourist complaining about having to pay for the bread in restaurant. He will tend to think that it’s not the way things should be done, and that he was victim of some sort of scam. Same with a tourist noticing that the VAT wasn’t included in the price displayed and is added after he bought whatever item, believing it was cheaper that it actually is.
Considering things objectively, these aren’t scams (everybody has to pay for the bread/has the VAT added to the displayed prices, not only the “poor” tourist, and everybody is assumed to know that…too bad if you don’t know the local customs) nor inherently wrong (there’s no objective reason for the bread, which is food too, to be handed for free, nor for the VAT to be included beforehand in the prices). But taking the time to consider things objectively is less common than having a “gut reaction”.
Also, people tend to be upset by really unimportant things (like having to pay 20 cents for a piece of bread or to use the cafe’s bathroom, while they have just paid hundreds or thousands of dollars to travel there at the first place)
Gee, clairobscur and Duckster… stereotype much? I thought only Germans behaved as you describe! Just out of curiosity, Duckster, are you an American and if so, are you the only American who doesn’t act like this? Congrats!
There are obnoxious tourists of all nationalities, as well as perfectly polite ones. The exact same behaviour will often elicit a a completely different reaction depending on the accent of the person it’s coming from - witness Duckster’s comments above about Italian and Greek loudness being acceptable in a way American loudness apparently isn’t. There is no real difference, except that one feeds into a negative stereotype and therefore reinforces that stereotype to those who hold it, while the other tends to be either regarded as inoffensive or blamed on the personal shortcomings of the tourist.
An interesting experiment for those outwith the US: next time you encounter a non-American tourist, imagine him or her saying and doing the same things but with an American accent, and consider how you’d view his or her behaviour then.
2 Points [list=1]
[li]I suspect that the majority of Americans who travel overseas do so during military service. Any evidence, for or against?[/li][li]I used to work at Disney World in Orlando, Florida, USA. I discovered that once you get some office drone into a “tourist uniform”–i.e. a Hawaian shirt & funny hat–he becomes a asshat in a twinkiling of an eye. Doesn’t matter if he comes from Tokyo or Detroit, Paris or Timbuktu, New York or Beijing. All jerks. They get 10 miles from home, & automatically assume that rules of common courtesy don’t apply. [/li][/list=1]
I don’t know about the validity of those numbers but the assertion about people never leaving their home state seems ridiculous.
As for the cause, generally, what others have said about vacation time. It’s precious. I can leave my apartment in New York City in the morning and that afternoon be sipping a margarita on the patio of Coyote Cafe in Santa Fe. If I was flying to Europe I’d still be on a plane, probably another half a day to a day away from my destination. Yes, where there’s a will there’s a way but taking more than a couple weeks off in a single stretch just doesn’t happen very often in people’s lives when they’re in their working prime.
Personally speaking, there’s so much to see in the US that I just prefer to travel here more than abroad. I had great experiences traveling in Europe when I was in my late teens and one thing I learned was how little I knew about (and how much I value) my own country. Nowadays there are so many areas to explore around here that I have no time left to go overseas. Eventually, I suppose, I’ll be making more overseas trips when I get the urge.
There’s a lot of people from Buffalo, New York who have never been to New York, New York. Buffalo to New York is an eight hour drive on I-90; seven if there’s no snow, and you drive really fast. Think about it – eight hours to get partway across one of the geographically smaller U.S. states, driving 110 KM/H on one of the best maintained limited access highways in the nation.
When Buffalonians want to go to the “big city,” they usually hop in the car, and drive 90 minutes to Toronto. No passport required – you’re driving on an expressway, you cross the Niagara River, answer a few questions, and the expressway continues, only the signs are marked in metric. When you fly anywhere, you’re advised to arrive 90 minutes before the scheduled departure time. In the time you’re waiting for a flight at BNIA, you could have driven from your tract home in Amherst to the parking ramp at the Eaton Centre.
When Buffalonians want “exotic,” they head to Montreal, or fly to the Caribbean; Cuba is also quite accessible to Buffalonians, via YYZ. Travel agents in Buffalo all have promotional materials for beach holidays in Veradero; pay in cash, and it’s off to the socialist paradise for rum and Cohibas.
When I lived in Denver, I found that a much higher percentage of locals travelled internationally than those “back east.” Why? Consider that Denver is smack in the middle of the country, and despite the cultural and recreational amenities, it’s extremely isolated. Excepting Colorado Springs, driving to any other city of a reasonable size is a massive undertaking; 10 hours to Kansas City, eight hours to Albuquerque, eight hours to Salt Lake City. In that time, you could head to DIA, board a flight, and be an hour away from landing at Gatwick. Denver is also extremely affluent; Colorado residents have huge disposable incomes, and it’s no big deal to spend a couple thousand dollars to head to the Continent for a few days.
When I was a kid the Harlem Globe Trotters toured New Zealand (possibly more than once). I remember how much of a curiosity they were because no-one had ever seen African Americans before or Native American Indians for that matter even though a real Indian totem pole was a feature of this city at that time. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen Eskimos on a mini bus tour either. Other sorts of American tourists are quite common I suppose but they don’t often have southern accents. Money and travel: without which not.
> As for the cause, generally, what others have said about
> vacation time. It’s precious. I can leave my apartment in New
> York City in the morning and that afternoon be sipping a
> margarita on the patio of Coyote Cafe in Santa Fe. If I was
> flying to Europe I’d still be on a plane, probably another half a
> day to a day away from my destination.
Say what? It’s only five or six hours flight to Europe. You can be in London in just about the same amount of time that it would take you to get to Santa Fe. It’s not hugely more expensive either. According to the Travel section of The Washington Post today, to get from D.C. to London the cheapest round-trip fare currently is $527, while the cheapest round-trip fare currently to Phoenix is $255.
Some numbers: The round-trip ticket cost me US$532.20. The flight from Baltimore to Gatwick will take about 6 hours.
I estimate that the total expenses for a 10-day vacation will come in under US$2000, but won’t be able to verify that until after I’ve gone and come back, and the credit-card bills start coming in. From previous visits, I know that that’s about the usual total.
I was a student at a British university in the mid-'80’s, and I’ve been going back for visits every two years or so since I finished grad school and got a job that gives me the vacation time and money to do so.
Europeans really have no concept of the sizes of the US and Canada. We once had a foreign visitor that we took on a day from Montreal a hundred miles west and he asked if we were now west of the Great Lakes!
One item that was only briefly mentioned is how scattered families are. Earlier in my life, we spent vacations visiting my parents in Philadelpia and my wife’s in NY, later in Florida. Now we spend much of our vacations visiting our children (Boston, NY, and Seattle). Who has time left for foreign travel? Those cheap flights to Europe are in sardine class and the last time I flew back from Switzerland on Swissair, I literally could not sit straight in the seat and had to sit twisted for 8 hours and wound up with a bad back for a month. I am large, but not that large; the problem was that part of what should have been my space was taken up by a retrofitted game center that also made it impossible to lift the seat arm completely.
Re the language question. The only time I was in a country of whose language I was totally ignorant (I am not counting places like Denmark and Holland, where it is hard to find people who cannot speak English) was Japan and I have to say that it was not entirely comfortable. It was fascinating and I would go back in a minute, but still uncomfortable.
When I was 17 and in France (in other words, mid-western American teenager, not a group known for civilized behavior and great cross-cultural sensitivity), I saw a LOT of tourists that made me embarassed to be American. And boy, they sure stood out! On the other hand, there were a LOT of American tourists like myself, too - I had spent some time learning the language and basic cultural items, and for some reason folks kept thinking I was German or Russian. (Not too puzzling - I had grandparents from both countries). Of course, the fact that I was NOT hugely tall, not overweight, failed to shove cameras into everything, at least tried to communicate in the country’s language (my spoken French was never fantastic, but I could communicate) and so forth meant I did not fit the stereotype.
Living/working in Chicago, I have occassionally startled the heck out of French-speaking tourists who, assuming no Amercian knows a foreign language, were being sharply critical of my home and did not expect the person sitting next to them to have a sharp retort for their comments. Or to burst out laughing.
There are ugly tourists from every country, but I’d say 9 out of 10 aren’t bad, and the mistakes they make are because they aren’t from around here. In a major city like Chicago we’re used to that sort of thing and can even guess some of the mistakes a particular nationality it likely to make. Smaller towns are less cosmopolitan and misunderstandings are more likely to escalate - and I’ve found that to be true both in the States and during my experience in France. Heck, I’ve run afoul of local customs just visiting my in-laws in Virgina and Tennessee.
As for liking my country best - one of the most valuable lessons I learned from going to Europe is that, yes, indeed, I AM an American. Mind you, I thoroughly loved going abroad and I’d like to do so again (I imagine there have been considerable changes in the last 20 years!), but as much as I enjoyed it, it is not my home. I do like my native country best. Where I differ from some folks is that I don’t expect everyone to share my opinion of the United States - I expect a French person to have just as much love and affection for France as I do for my land.
One place I would like to go very much is Russia. My grandparents fled that country under threat of death. I would like to see the land where I might have lived had history been different. When I had time and money to travel abroad it was very difficult for an ordinary US citizen to travel there (certainly beyond my means as a 17 year old). Now I think the trip is possible.
Aw, heck, if time and money were no object I’d like to travel the world. But practical matters intervene…