The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Discretion guide for American tourists

This Telegraph piece is really weird. I don't think American tourists as more obnoxious than any other tourists (an inherently annoying species). In fact I would put the French first (they complain all the time):

Loud and brash, in gawdy garb and baseball caps, more than three million of them flock to our shores every year. Shuffling between tourist sites or preparing to negotiate a business deal, they bemoan the failings of the world outside the United States.

The reputation of the "Ugly American" abroad is not, however, just some cruel stereotype, but - according to the American government itself - worryingly accurate. Now, the State Department in Washington has joined forces with American industry to plan an image make-over by issuing guides for Americans travelling overseas on how to behave.
The recommendations include "If you talk politics, talk - don't argue. (Steer clear of arguments about American politics, even if someone is attacking US politicians or policies. Agree to disagree.)" and "Save the lectures for your kids. (Whatever your subject of discussion, let it be a discussion not a lecture. Justified or not, the US is seen as imposing its will on the world.)"

The whole thing seems like a rather sad statement about American insecurity about the way the US is perceived. American tourists -- just be yourselves (OK, maybe talk a little more slowly and less loudly). And vote for a better president next time. Before 9/11 I use to tell taxi drivers, who always ask, that I'm Belgian (it just seemed easier). My mother is, but I'm not -- in fact I only carry a US passport. Since the late unpleasantness, I almost always say that I'm American, or Moroccan-American. It's OK to be American -- people won't kill you, although sometimes they'll bore you to tears with their opinion on George W. Bush.