Traveling Abroad? Here Are 4 ‘Ugly American’ Behaviors to Avoid

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Americans have a bad reputation as international travelers. Here's how to steer clear of the stereotype.

You’re probably familiar with the term the “Ugly American.” It refers to a badly behaved, rude or obnoxious American traveling abroad.

A 2015 global survey by travel deal site Travelzoo revealed that Americans are among the worst-behaved in the world. The Travelzoo survey found that when compared to travelers from Germany, China, Britain and Canada, a higher share of American tourists admit to urinating in the ocean or pool, snagging hotel toiletries and skipping out on a bill.

“Some of these habits are not acceptable,” says Gabe Saglie, senior editor for Travelzoo.

Travel expert Brian Cohen has compiled a long list of “Ugly American” travel habits that you should steer clear of next time you’re in another country if you don’t want to fit the label.

Here are four of his ugly travel behaviors to avoid:

  • Asking “Do you speak English?” — or worse yet, ‘American’: You should not travel abroad and expect the locals to speak English. “More often than not, I ask how to say certain words and phrases in the official language of the country where I am visiting,” Cohen explains. “People appreciate when you take an interest and effort to learn their language — even if it is only a few words — and you get the added bonus of impressing your family and friends with your newfound language skills when you return home.”
  • Complaining about food portions: Food portions vary across the globe. It’s customary in the United States to serve large portions. Instead of complaining or questioning the size of a meal you order when dining abroad, Cohen recommends simply ordering a second (or a third) dish.
  • Poor attire: A loud, obnoxious T-shirt, baseball cap, fanny pack and baggy cargo shorts may be OK attire if you’re going to the county fair, but if you’re traveling to a foreign country, take heed of their customs. When you’re packing for your trip, consider how people dress in the country you’re visiting. For example, if you’re visiting a place where women dress modestly and cover their legs, you may want to do the same to show respect.
  • Demanding to know prices in “real money” or American dollars: Instead of asking a merchant to convert their prices to U.S. dollars, you’d be better off downloading a currency-conversion app before you leave the United States. You may find you get a better deal on your purchases.

What do you think of Americans’ being labeled some of worst-behaved travelers in the world? Sound off below or on our Facebook page.

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