As an international student in America, I have heard countless accounts about American tourists and travelers. Although I have been living in America for a long time now, I have made a number of observations about American tourists in America and around the world as I travel. There are more than seven Americans the world loves, but for the purpose of this post, I want to talk about the seven American travelers the world despises.
1. The “In Dire Need of a Gastric Bypass” Tourist: Americans love traveling and enjoy spreading those weak dollars around in pursuit of happiness. Unfortunately, most Americans with that kind of cash tend to be obese. And they only speak English, making the French wary and the Moroccans who speak English wealthy in the process. Those tourists spent a great chunk of their time abroad looking for a restroom and, yes, they will take pictures of those tiny Johns and upload them on their Facebook page. These tourists often have the American embassy on speed dial. They travel in packs and are easy to spot—even someone who is visually impaired can recognize them from a distance. They are a perfect target for traveler scams as their negligence and behavior scream “Rob me please!”
2. The Curiously Strong-Smelling Activist: This type can be found anywhere in the world where there is trouble, or anywhere Starbucks buys coffee beans. Coffee. They care enough about the world to stop caring about how awful they smell, leaving a bad taste and a bad stench wherever they may go The smelly activist is more hardcore rebellion and local culture (even though the locals are abandoning their culture for a Cowboys football jersey and a Coke Zero. For example, when a local boy sports a Nike shoe, the smelly activist gets offended at the prospect that the very child making the shoes has the audacity to wear them. Additionally, these activists absolutely love to blog and toot their own horn. But nothing comes as natural to them as talking shit about The Man! Unless it’s smelling like crap. They really need to learn that smelling like crap does not equal fighting the power. Unless by “power” they mean “legal human sanitary standards.”
3. The Thai-Special Lover: They love Asia and Latin America, they tend to be older, middle-class, heart-of-America types, and they’ve have had some trouble with the law back at home. So, rather than dealing with their questionable underage preferences, they abandon the motherland and seek those outlawed pleasures in other countries, such as Thailand, home of the Big Mac (if by that we mean “gross sex trafficking of women and children”). They can often be found in the world’s poor shanty towns where unassuming peasants do not question their odd behavior and their excessive love for little children. They will tell you they are researching a book on “development,” yet are unable to compose a single coherent sentence given the nature of their problem as “premature.” Creepy indeed. This tourist also comes in a U.K. version.
4. The Creepy Spook: They have made the Middle East and China their home. They keep a low profile and get teaching jobs with as little commitment as possible. You run into them in your local café smoking a hookah and sipping some mint tea. They like to talk about books and anything the locals buzz about. They do not live a life of affluence, and have very few possessions, yet they manage to have connections with the ministers, the judges, and the journalists. Their favorite types are Western-educated locals in search of validation. They are highly personable and intelligent, love to schmooze and one day they just vanish with no trace.
5. The Business Shark: Anytime a developing country talks privatization these guys start to show up in five-star hotels, hanging out at bars, and schmoozing politicians. They come bearing many gifts and know exactly what they want. They make short trips and give handsome fat tips; they are good for local escorts. Smooth operators and slick they are. Officially, they are not supposed to bribe anybody, but the rival French and Italian companies are coming, so they see nothing wrong with showering officials with gadgets. And hell, if the official’s daughter needs a scholarship, they will get one for her in any American school of their choice. If all else fails, they will get an American official to make a phone call to swing the deal their way. The trick is to keep their ignorance, arrogance, and ego in check before they ruin it for the rest of us hardworking, beer-guzzling Americans.
6. Those Who Read Eat Pray Love: Italy and India tend to be the most popular destinations, with Bali not quite making the “trendy enough for my unfulfilled white self” list. They are often not as good looking as Julia Roberts, but they are in search of something meaningful in their otherwise quite affluent and comfortable lives. They worked hard throughout their life but realized it was not worth it to lose oneself in the process. Now they are out to explore the world and eat some gelato. They do not say no to anything; if they were in Finland and invited to jump in the sauna naked, they would in a heartbeat. If they were in Pakistan and asked to cover up, they would as well. They will try anything foodwise and trust fat older men who give them life-changing advice while trying to look down their shirts. The trouble with this kind is that they develop a real connection with the locals and give them hope, but once the travelers feel fulfilled they just leave. Maybe they will send a postcard from Seattle. They actually have everything going in their life, but find a spiritual and emotional lack in their lives and rather than trying to find their own lives in their own country they exoticize the cultures of others as being more fulfilled than theirs and think by going on a soul searching journey, while leaving behind their responsibilities, they’ll find inner peace. Or get laid.
7. The Language Student: They’re always fun as tourists, who do everything and come back fully thinking of themselves as experts on the region and country. They come to your country with a collection of flip-flops, shorts, and a guitar hoping to seduce one of the local girls. They have the attention span of a three-year-old, they tend to smoke anything the locals give them, and they eat from dirty food stands claiming to be “foodies” when in fact they are just broke. Thanks to Uncle Sam, they got a grant to come to your country and study your language. They go back to their campus and never shut up in their political science class about their experience overseas. Not to forget the exotic, blue, eye-necklace thing or other ornaments that are supposed to cast away evil. The language students stalk every international student on campus to brag about their tote bag they got from your home country, but then you say, “I am sorry I am not from Ghana, I am from Senegal.”
Originaly published on the Huffington Post
(Hat Tip: Lyndsay Ford, Sana Saeed)