American tourists have a pretty bad reputation. They’re considered loud, pushy and whiny. There are lots of online guides to help you avoid looking like an American abroad with tips like “nothing screams ‘I’m an Ugly American Tourist’ like a baseball cap” and “quit whining about the smoke, you’re not going to get lung cancer from a two week vacation.” But a recent and extremely informal survey by Conde Nast Traveler reveals that many service workers don’t find Americans that bad at all. The editors traveled around and asked hotel managers, waiters, flight attendants, tour guides and front-desk clerks what they really think about Americans.
One front-desk clerk in France even said that they missed the American tourists. “We used to make fun of Americans for not knowing their fingers from their toes in terms of European history and geography. But since the recession, we miss them,” he said. “They’re really polite to everyone. The guests who are filling their shoes come from cultures where it’s acceptable to be harsh or abusive to people who serve you, which has been a real shock to us.” A tour guide in Berlin said that “Americans are a lot sweeter and more curious than most.” A Kenyan Safari guide agreed, saying, “Americans are probably the kindest and most generous people we work with. They’re happy with everything we show them.”
Of course, not every experience with an American is great. Especially if that American is from New York City. A hotel manager in Cambodia described New Yorkers as “are a tough lot—not go-with-the-flow types at all!” A flight attendant said that New Yorkers give her a hard time too. “New York to south Florida is one of the worst. They don’t appreciate anything. They don’t say thank you, and they don’t return a smile. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve lived in New York, but there’s something about putting a bunch of New Yorkers on a plane.”
Of course, the service workers all also had tips for not annoying your host country. The biggest ones involved coffee. “We don’t do cappuccino, mocha, all those crazy things you find in America, and we rarely have soy milk,” one French waiter said. “If you want a waiter to really hate you, ask for a decaffeinated coffee, because those have to be made by hand in many cafés.”
So while Americans may still have a reputation for being brash and rude, those who are nice and don’t order decaf can leave a pretty good impression.
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