almost a diary, compulsory reading, Europe, Germany, oddly enough, traveling, USA

My New Ralph Lauren Sweater.

So via Blogdex, I found this hilarious article published by USA today called “Ugly sentiments sting American tourists”.

I suppose it was pretty tough to write this article. You can literally sense how the evident editorial intention to publish yet another “peaceful American tourists tortured to death by mad and naked European pacifists”-peace made the newspaper’s European correspondents look desperately for something anti-American to write about. Their effort wasn’t too successful, even if you insist to count Bush-policy discussions as anti-American torture, as the article indicates –

“‘I am certain that a number of American visitors will be asked about the U.S. administration’s policy on Iraq. But if indeed there have been some unpleasant encounters, I strongly believe that they are few and far between,’ says Patrick Goyet, vice chairman of the European Travel Commission in New York. ‘Furthermore, speaking as a European and for the vast majority of my fellow Europeans, I consider any such behavior idiotic and embarrassing.'”


But the best part of the article is a bullet point list by Bruce McIndoe, CEO of iJet Travel Intelligence that tells American tourists how to behave when in Rome. Well, we all know what the obvious answer is, but let’s have a more detailed look at Mr McIndoe’s propositions.

Avoid American fast-food restaurants and chains.

Believe it or not, but McDonald’s and their competitors do not just cater American tourists in Europe. Like it or not, the deconstruction of traditional European eating habits is advancing rapidly, even in France, although they don’t like to talk about it for cultural and marketing reasons. So Starbucks has just announced to open more than 200 branches in Germany. And I had my last McBurger last Monday night. Remember “Pulp Fiction“? It was a “Royal With Cheese” – basically the same, but with subtle, metric, differences.

Keep discussions of politics to private places, not rowdy bars.

Well, it’s never a good idea to go to a rowdy bar anyway, if you aren’t a cowboy yourself. I seriously wonder what kind of etablissement Mr McIndoe had in mind here. What exactly are “rowdy bars”? There are hardly any cheap-western-movie-style saloons in Europe, should that be of any help. But wait, he might be concerned about the significant amount of Irish and English Pubs where it’s definitely a lot easier for American tourists to talk to Europeans as most interaction is in English….

Take a rain check on wearing clothes featuring American flags or sports team logos.

Damn. I just bought one of those Ralph Lauren US-flagged sweaters and I am not even American. And I did not even buy it for any ideological reason. And when I recently wore it during a generally leftist (read: European left, not its kinder, gentler, liberal US cousin) theatre company’s performance I was actually a bit stunned that no one cared at all. Seriously, the American flag is not something only Americans would wear in public in Europe.

The same goes for baseball caps or university logoed sweaters. If all the Germans who wear Georgetown or Harvard sweaters with Yankee baseball caps actually knew those universities and had any real idea about the baseball team whose logo they promote, Germany would have certainly fared a lot better in last year’s international secondary education assessment. But I will tell you, should I ever feel safer not wearing my Ralph Lauren sweater.

Keep your passport out of sight.

Indeed a good idea. But mostly because it really is a hassle to get a temporary one abroad.
Keep cameras, video equipment and maps tucked away.

Right – very interesting point. Sure, there are places where its safer not to be to easily identifiable as a tourist. Just like in Miami, a few years ago, remember? So this is good advice for all tourists if they choose to visit places they should rather not. But if this is an advice specifically aimed at Americans in Europe it does come across a tad bit arrogant – there are cameras and video equipment in Europe. We also have mobile phones, T-mobile hotspots and even ones with at affordable rates…

Soften your speech; Americans typically overshadow their hosts in the volume department.”

This, I have to agree, is partly useful advice. Some American tourists do overshadow almost everyone in the volume department. That is particularly true for shrieking female undergraduate students. Strangely though, it does not hold at all for all the Americans I know personally…

I wonder what Mr McIndoe’s ideas for blending in in the US would be? Maybe you, my gentle readers do have some suggestions?