The Ugly American: Backpacker's Guide to Pissing Off the Natives Abroad

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1. Be Loud
A Swiss person once asked me: “Why do Americans all sound like soldiers yelling into walkie-talkies?”

2. Don’t Tolerate Their Hatred of You
Instead, politely accept their glaring stares, and smile when they ask: “Why are all Americans overweight?”

3. Be Overweight
Nothing angers them more for some reason. Shopkeepers in Milan will shoo you out of their store if you’re overweight.

4. Get Too Drunk
The drunker you are, the more likely you’ll abuse all the items on this list.

5. Have Sex in Public
You may think that a sleeping bag is adequate camouflage, but everyone on the train can tell what you’re doing under there.

6. Get Sick
Beer is cheap in Greece—a perfect excuse to down an entire case and then turn into a human vomit volcano all over their nice clean country.

7. Don’t Have Correct Change
Small change has inordinate value abroad. They will turn you away if you try to buy a single beer with a 20 euro note. This is one reason item number four gets abused so much.

8. Don’t Respect the Prostitutes
There’s an involved etiquette when it comes to soliciting prostitutes abroad, so involved it makes you wonder why they don’t just call it dating.

9. Mistake Someone for a Prostitute
Wow, it turned out that girl wearing the thong under her fishnet dress is just a Dutch au pair. No wonder your first solicitation of a hooker ended with a dinner tab and an open-handed slap.

10. Speak Zero Words in Their Language
How are you going to understand their subtle derision of you?

11. Speak Some words in Their Language
How dare you use them for practice. Come back when you can speak perfectly.

12. Perfectly Speak All the Words in Their Language
Are you insinuating that you think you speak their language better than they speak yours?

13. Ask If They Accept American Dollars
They wouldn’t use American dollars to plug the peepholes in their public toilets.

14. Take Too Long to Ask the Tram Driver Directions
This holds up the embarkation line, which in turn causes an epidemic of huffing, eye rolling and, in extreme cases, arms akimbo.

15. Use Landmarks for Stupid, Unoriginal Photo Poses
Does the Leaning Tower of Pisa really need the ten millionth tourist to mime trying to push it back into place that day?

16. Call It a Fanny Pack
In England, fanny is the word they use for vagina. Instead they call it a bum bag, which is not at all, in any way, as bad.

17. Try to Pet Their Dog
In metropolitan areas, dogs on leashes are as common as toddlers in strollers, and hovered over equally. Try to pet either and expect to be tackled.

18. Set Your Hair on Fire
Maybe it’s just common to me, but let’s just say that the combination of copious hairspray and a bar lined with atmospheric candles makes perfect conditions for a human torch. Don’t at all expect the locals to waste their beers by pouring it on your head.

Hollis Gillespie writes a weekly travel column for Paste. She is a writing instructor, travel expert and author of We Will be Crashing Shortly, coming out in June. Follow her on Twitter.

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