It’s nice to feel incognito when traveling, but sometimes, you can’t hide who you are. If you are an American, there may be a few things you didn’t even realize you’re doing that make it easy for someone to spot you as a foreigner in a crowd. And hey, there’s no shame in being a tourist. But if you’re wondering how people worldwide can spot an American person miles away, we’ve compiled a list of the unique things that give it away.
Eating Sweet Food for Breakfast
There is perhaps no other country in the world that loves a sweet breakfast quite as much as America. From donuts to pancakes to waffles, if you are in the US, the number of sweet options for breakfast is seemingly endless. In many other countries, though, things are quite different. Salads and savory dishes are often served for breakfast, something that would come as quite a shock to the American traveler.
If you see someone abroad actively searching for a sweet breakfast, chances are high that they are an American tourist looking for something that reminds them of breakfast at home.
Socks With Sandals Is a Total Giveaway That Someone’s American
One of the biggest fashion controversies is whether or not it is acceptable to wear socks with sandals. Most people would claim that the answer is no, and yet there are many people seen wearing this combination on the regular – especially American tourists. Maybe they are confused with the weather or didn’t want to pack multiple pairs of shoes, but this is a pretty telltale sign that an American is approaching.
This is a pretty clever solution to having to pack multiple pairs of shoes. Instead of bringing warm shoes and cool shoes, you can just layer on socks.
Only Americans Wear Shorts in the Cold
Ok, so it’s not only Americans who wear shorts outside even when it is cold, but it is definitely one of the most obvious signs that someone is a tourist. Of course, cold is subjective. In some countries, it may be in the upper 60s, and the locals will think it is cold, while tourists (especially from America) may think it is quite hot. That is when you’ll see the locals bundled up and the Americans in shorts.
It is pretty common to see Americans wearing shorts outside, even if it is snowing or there is snow on the ground. Aren’t their legs cold?
Thinking Everything, Including Stores, Will Be Open Conveniently Late
In the US, stores tend to be open pretty late. It is common to find stores that will be open past 10 pm, and many are also 24/7. However, in many other countries, especially in Europe, stores close at a relatively early hour. You can’t just pop out to the store to run some errands at 9 pm under normal circumstances. You have to plan your day to get it done earlier.
Some stores will close as early as 6 pm in many countries in the world. If you need to grab a few items before the evening, be sure to plan in advance.
Having Lots of Pride in Their Flag
If you are from America, you might not know that most countries are not too eager to display their flag on their clothes. They would rather keep the flags for places like above the supreme court or government buildings. However, Americans are quite the opposite. They tend to be pretty patriotic and are eager to show that to the world by putting the American flag on all sorts of clothing items.
Some countries might even consider it offensive to put their flag on articles of clothing. While the flag is something to be proud of, it is also something to honor.
Wearing Tall White Socks Shows You Are an American
Although tall white socks are no longer a very common fashion choice, there was a time when they were all the rage, especially with American tourists. While traveling abroad, this was one of the easiest ways to identify an American tourist, as no one else really tried to embody this look. It’s not really clear why this ever became popular in the US and why it became something particularly associated with tourists.
If you want to avoid one of the biggest American tourist fashion faux pas, avoid wearing very tall white socks. They can be knee length or even just mid-calf, and that is already considered too long.
Exaggerating a Bit About Their Non-American Heritage
Who doesn’t love to learn a little bit about their family history? After all, most people who live in the US do not originally come from the US (unless you have Native American heritage). As a melting pot of cultures, people are always eager to talk about their heritage and their ancestry, claiming to be Italian or Irish if they have just one person in their ancient family history that came from there.
It may come across as offensive if an American is traveling to Italy and claims to be Italian when they really just have one great great great grandparent who was born there.
Smiling at Strangers Is an American Thing
Of course, it depends on where you are coming from and where you are living. However, there is no doubt that many people think that smiling at strangers is one of the strangest things a person can do. You don’t know them, so why would you smile at them? However, this is extremely common for Americans, and if you don’t smile at a stranger, it is even considered to be rude.
If you see a stranger smiling at you in the streets of Paris or Milan, chances are very high that they are an American tourist. It is almost definitely not a local.
Thinking Everyone Will Just Understand or Speak English
Living in a country where the vast majority of the citizens speak English and a country that is so large can lead you to think that almost the whole world speaks English. Although English is certainly the most international language, you can’t expect everyone to be able to speak it well, especially in a country where that is not the official language. Many American tourists have a hard time understanding this concept.
If you are traveling to a new place, consider learning a bit of the local language. People will really appreciate it if you can say hello and ask how you are.
Baseball Is American, and so Are Baseball Hats
If you are American, this one may come as quite a surprise to you. Although fashion trends are changing rapidly to make the baseball hat much more popular, that wasn’t always the case. As baseball is a very American sport and one that is played in very few countries outside of the US, most countries also do not wear baseball hats as a result. They opt for other headware.
If you are traveling abroad and wearing a baseball hat, there is a good chance that people will assume that you are an American tourist just because of the hat.
Striking up a Random Conversation With Literally Anyone
Some things may be completely normal in the US and feel normal to do even when you are outside of the country, but you need to be aware that they might be giving away the fact that you are American. For example, starting a friendly conversation with a stranger shows that you’re most likely American. Other people from other cultures aren’t always that friendly and open; it is something very telling of US culture.
You might be surprised, as an American, if your waiter or waitress isn’t used to having small talk with you as you order your meal. In some places, it’s more straight to business.
Asking for Your Drink To-Go Is an American Habit
This might come as quite a surprise to many Americans, but the vast majority of countries do not like to have their food and drinks to go – especially coffee. In countries like Italy, it can even be considered slightly offensive and absurd to take a coffee to go. What is the rush? Don’t you want to enjoy it? If you ask for something to go, it is a pretty big giveaway that you are an American.
Coffee to go is pretty much one of the biggest backbones of American culture. It is crazy to think that other countries find this concept unacceptable.
Hawaiian Shirts Are Saved for the Americans
Who doesn’t love a good old Hawaain shirt? They are bright and colorful and full of flowers and make you easy to spot in a crowd (unless you are in a crowd of Americans). Hawaiian shirts have become more popular over the years and are very trendy lately, especially when it comes to floral prints. However, they are still a staple of the American tourist and something that makes it clear where you are from.
If this gives you away as a tourist, perhaps it is for the best. It also makes you look bright and happy, so it’s worth it.
Touching Things (and Animals) They Shouldn’t
One of the most important things to keep in mind while traveling and visiting historical sites is to keep your hands to yourself. You shouldn’t touch things that are historical, especially if there are specific signs requesting otherwise. Many tourists traveling abroad do not take these signs seriously, and they can actually cause a decent amount of damage to historic sites and museums or such as a result. Always be vigilant!
This is not something that specifically applies to Americans, however. It seems to be a general issue with tourists from all different places not following the rules.
Some Places Think That Asking to Box up Leftovers Is Weird
In the US, it is extremely common to ask for a doggy bag to take any unfinished food home with you. After all, sometimes you just can’t finish your whole meal, and there is no reason to leave it behind at the restaurant if you paid for it. You can take it home and have a snack for later. However, this is actually pretty uncommon in many countries outside of the US.
Although the restaurant probably won’t tell you no, they will be a bit surprised and maybe even assume that you are American as a result. But who cares? It’s worth having the snacks!
If Someone Sits in the Taxicab’s Front Seat, They’re Probably American
If you are an American, you know that if you take a taxi, it is expected for the person to sit in the back seat of the taxi, especially if you are alone. The only time that you venture to the front seat is if you are a large group and all three back seats are already taken. However, in other countries avoiding sitting in the front seat can actually come across as quite rude.
Taxi drivers will think that you’re a bit snobbish if you don’t sit in the front seat and opt for the back. Maybe they are more understanding once they realize that you’re American.
A Love for Applauding
American tourists (or maybe just all tourists in general) can be pretty excited about everything that is going on around them. The sights and experiences are new and exciting, and it’s hard for them to contain their applause. You shouldn’t be too surprised if you see American tourists clapping a bit excessively at things that most others would not consider clap-worthy. But can you really blame or judge them? They are just excited!
There is something so pure and cute about seeing tourists excited to visit a new place. After all, it is just pure enthusiasm.
Big Tips Are an American Thing
Tipping culture varies from place to place and country to country. In the US, tipping is very popular and almost considered mandatory. And not only that, they are very, very high tippers (over 25% sometimes). In other countries, this is not the norm, to say the least. If you tip at all, it is a much smaller number, and it is not usually considered a requirement for each and every dinner or act of service.
If you are abroad and see someone tipping very high at a restaurant or a taxi driver, you can be safe to assume that they are most likely Americans.
Ancient History Is Extra Exciting for American Tourists
People who grew up in countries that have a history that is thousands of years old tend to take for granted the fact that not all places boast such a robust history with such remarkable and ancient structures. Americans tend to be pretty excited when they travel abroad and see structures that have been standing for hundreds or thousands of years. After all, most of their history (other than that of the Native Americans) started in 1776.
This is actually a really cute quality for American tourists. While tourists in the US will be excited by the big buildings and the modern conveniences, Americans feel the opposite.
Expecting Lemonade Abroad to Be the Same as American Lemonade
If you are American, you probably think that lemonade is the same thing no matter where you live. However, that is very much not the case. The sweetened lemon water drink that is served in the US is probably not what you will receive if you order lemonade in other countries. On the contrary, you will probably get a processed soda like Sprite instead of a homemade drink.
If you are looking to order a lemonade while traveling abroad, maybe ask for some details before, just to make sure that it is the same thing that you are looking for.
Americans Have a Reputation for Taking Selfies Even When/where It’s Not Appropriate
One important thing to keep in mind when you are traveling the world is that you need to make sure that you are always alert and aware and making sure not to make any stupid mistakes in the place that you travel to. One such stupid mistake could be taking a selfie in the bike lane in the Netherlands – something you should not do, and that will make the locals quite angry.
The locals probably won’t be too surprised when they find out that the guilty party was an American tourist, as this is a somewhat stereotypical action of tourists.
Taking Personal Space Very Seriously
Maybe because the US is such a big country, and people are used to having plenty of space for themselves, they tend to hope for the same while they are on vacation. Although they have no issue being friendly and talking to strangers, they usually value that personal space and want to maintain it as much as possible. There is a good balance between being friendly and keeping a distance.
This may be a bit of an extreme example of people keeping their personal space, but you get the idea!
Not Being Used to Public Transport and Pedestrians
One of the strangest things about the US, specifically in the suburbs or smaller cities, is the extreme lack of pedestrians. It’s sort of a chicken or egg situation, but there are very few pedestrians and even fewer sidewalks in some places. People tend to just drive everywhere (it is a big country, after all). However, in other countries around the world, walking from place to place is very common.
There is also the fact that in the US, public transport can be risky and dangerous, which causes people to opt for Uber instead of busses or walking.
Being Super Duper Enthusiastic When Traveling
Americans, in general, are known to be friendly, open, and talkative people, especially when they are traveling. But why do you think they are particularly open and friendly when they are abroad? Maybe it is because they are not busy with the stresses of work and then can be the next level of friendly and excited. Either way, imagine the typical American excitement and multiply it, and that is when you will see an American tourist.
Enthusiasm is a good thing. It probably makes people enjoy their experiences and their travels even more than others.
Trying to Use American Money Everywhere
Although the US dollar is one of the most widely accepted currencies in the world, you cannot assume that it is accepted by everyone. Not everyone wants to deal with the hassle of exchanging money. If you are visiting another country, be sure to exchange the amount of money that you need and use the local currency. Only use your American dollars if you are in a pinch and have no other choice.
Some places actually prefer to take US dollars over the local currency, but you can’t just assume. Maybe have a combination of both if you want to be on the safe side.
Ordering French Fries on the Side of Everything
Although French fries are arguably one of the most delicious foods to have ever been created, there is a time and a place that they are appropriate to have with a meal. Many Americans may be under the impression that they are always fitting, even though that is not really the case. While it may be common to order them on the side of a salad or pizza, in other countries, it is considered strange.
If you’re an American traveling abroad and you try to order French fries with your pizza, there is a good chance you’ll end up with French fries on top of your pizza instead of on the side.
Expecting Cars to Just Stop Anytime You Cross the Street
So this varies very much depending on where you are from in the US. While there is a good portion of Americans who must truly think that cars just have to stop when they step onto the road (mostly New Yorkers), there are many who wait for the light to be green before they cross. Although this action might be fine in New York, it could get someone killed in another country.
Cars will usually stop for someone who is crossing the street, as they don’t want to hit anyone, but they are not as accustomed to it as in other places.
Getting Confused by the Metric System
Perhaps the most obvious sign of an American tourist is their inability to understand the metric system. As the vast majority of countries in the world use the metric system (with just three countries as the exception), it is pretty obvious. The other two countries, Myanmar and Liberia, are also using the imperial system, but there are far more American tourists than tourists from those countries, so the likelihood of them being American is stronger.
It is always a shock for American tourists to be abroad and try to understand the different units of measurement (even if they are a lot more straightforward than their own system).
Giving a Detailed Response When Someone Asks Where You Live
The United States of America is a very big place. To tell someone who asks where you are from that you are from the US can come across as pretty vague. After all, it is a big country. However, people from Russia will usually just say that they are from Russia, while Americans will list their hometown and state as if everyone knows exactly what they are talking about and where this is.
Maybe they are just really proud of their hometown and want to tell people all about it, that is why they share the details with everyone.
Restroom Versus Bathroom
If you are an American tourist traveling abroad and you are looking for the bathroom, you should consider carefully how you ask for directions, especially if the country is not full of native English speakers. Most people will recognize the term bathroom, but toilets may be better. If you use the term restroom, other people may be left confused (or convinced that you are from the United States of America).
In the UK, everyone will know what you are talking about, but they will probably laugh at “the Americans” for using this term instead of a more common one.
Living in Cities Named After European Capitals
It’s safe to say that most people will assume that the place they live in is the original location of the place. For example, if someone lives in Brisbane, California, they probably don’t even think twice that the original Brisbane is in Australia. They think that they are the original. This seems to be a reoccurring theme with American tourists. They don’t quite understand that the US is a relatively new country, and the names of places are repurposed.
Most people are probably aware that places like Paris in the US are named after the famous French city, but other city names that are not quite as famous may be more confusing.
Apparently, They Can Get Rowdy When Traveling
This may just be the number one thing that will enable you to spot a group of tourists that are from America: the volume of their voices. Maybe they are used to having enormous spaces between them and the person that they are trying to talk to, but it is pretty well known that Americans talk very loudly. Even if you are a couple of tables down, you will probably still be able to hear their conversations easily.
If you are ever sitting on a train (which in many other countries is usually a pretty quiet place) and hear lots of loud talking, chances are high that they are tourists.
American Tourists Tend to Be Extroverts
It is no secret that Americans are generally friendly people who love to start conversations with random strangers. It is one of the most known characteristics of an American, whether they are traveling or at home. They are curious and welcoming and always ready to chat. Not all tourists are like this, however. So if you see some overly friendly and extroverted tourists, chances are high that they are Americans.
This is generally a really great character trait as long as it does not take a turn into the realm of obnoxious. Be friendly, but also give space!
Somehow Being Public and Private at the Same Time
Now, this is something that only a person from the US will completely understand. While Americans are often generalized as being open and friendly, there are definitely certain subjects that are off-limits and that they would prefer not to talk about. They may go on for hours about their favorite sports team or their hometown, but ask them how much money they make or their age, and their lips are sealed.
It can be hard to understand what is taboo and what is acceptable if you did not grow up in the US.
Sneakers Are the Go-To Shoe
It’s hard to say that sneakers are a particularly American shoe. However, you can say that a great majority of Americans wear them, especially when traveling abroad. While foreigners from other countries may opt for sandals, boots, or hiking shoes, Americans are famous for their sneakers. After all, they are comfortable and versatile, so it’s easy to understand why. Why not choose a shoe that never gets old and goes with everything?
There are also so many different types of sneakers to choose from, different styles and colors. The options are endless.
Coffee Versus Tea With Americans
What do you prefer, coffee or tea? In general, people around the world tend to prefer coffee over tea as it is the most popular beverage. However, in some countries, tea is very common and greatly enjoyed. The most famous country for tea is clearly the UK, but India and some Middle Eastern countries also greatly value it. In the US, it is less appreciated, and although there are some tea drinkers, there are not too many.
Not choosing tea over coffee will give it away that you are probably American rather than British. However, this is just a generalization, as many Americans do enjoy a good cup of tea!
Using American English
It is no secret that things are said a little bit differently in different parts of the world, even if the places speak the same language. However, it is one thing to acknowledge that and appreciate the differences, and it is a whole other thing to make fun of how other people say something. If someone from the UK says queue instead of a line, it is not something to make fun of, just a difference!
It can be funny to see how things are said between different people around the world, and even funnier that someone might not even understand them, even if it’s the same language.
Getting Stuck on Certain Stereotypes About a Country
It’s hard not to get stuck in stereotypes and images that you get in your mind about a place. After all, there are reasons that places are famous and reasons that people think of snow in Russia or heat in Africa. However, it is important not to get stuck in those stereotypes. This isn’t an issue, particularly with American tourists, but with all tourists. You want to feel the love in Paris, but that isn’t all the city offers.
Being naive while traveling is definitely not something that exclusively plagues American tourists and is a problem with just about every tourist that doesn’t do their research before a trip.
Wearing Their Heart on Their Sleeve (or Car)
Now, this is definitely not something that can be said about all Americans. However, there is a large portion of Americans that have some very strong religious beliefs. And because they grew up in an area where just about everyone else they knew also had those religious beliefs, they might not be very aware of other religions. This can be potentially problematic when they are traveling to countries where the majority religion is not theirs.
If you want to avoid overly touristic behavior while traveling (and just have common decency), be sure to accept and understand other belief systems while traveling.
The World Is a Very Diverse Place
Something that American tourists tend to forget or not consider is that the term African American cannot be used for all Black people. Many people use it in order to sound respectful and kind, but Black people from Africa are not African American. They may have never visited the US or even had a family member there. Not to mention that there are also Black people who are not African.
It can come across as quite offensive to use the term African American so broadly. It doesn’t show much understanding of the history of the word and its origins.