Travel Tips for Americans

“Before you travel abroad, please brush up on your traveling skills.”

“My traveling skills?”

“A non-profit group, Business for Diplomatic Action (BDA), surveyed people in 130 countries. They found that much of the world perceives Americans to be loud, arrogant, ignorant, rude, boastful and unwilling to listen.”

“Has Teddy Kennedy been globe-trotting again?”

“Thankfully, BDA offers help: the World Citizens Guide. It offers 25 tips on how Americans can help change these negative perceptions while they travel.”

“I get it. You want us to be ambassadors.”

“Exactly. For starters, Americans need to dress better. In some countries, casual dress is a sign of disrespect. So wear a suit and tie. You can always remove them if you find you're overdressed.”

“A suit and tie on vacation! But I just picked up five Hawaiian shirts at the Wal-Mart.”

“And enough with the boasting. Talking about our wealth, power and status creates resentment in many countries.”

“The ingrates. You'd think with all the dough we're dropping on their little countries, they'd be grateful.”

“When conversing with people of other cultures, be sure to match your voice level and tonality to theirs.”

“But I tried that. I talked low and in a tone that suggested everybody was irritating me. Still, the French wanted nothing to do with me.”

“Always keep your conversations local. Don't assume other cultures care about American movies or the Super Bowl. Ask questions about their culture.”

“I did that, too. In Italy I asked everybody why they're so rude. Nobody waits in lines over there. I had to elbow some old lady to get a slice of pizza.”

“Americans need to be more patient. Most cultures don't move as fast as ours. Slow down the way you eat and talk.”

“I tried, but I couldn't help but gobble down the Quarter Pounder I got at the McDonald's joint in Rome. Man, those Italians know how to grill a burger.”

“Keep your religion private. Globally speaking, religion is very personal. Unless you're a professional missionary, don't share your religion with others.”

“I couldn't agree more. Hey, anybody think of introducing this concept to that guy who runs Iran?”

“Place special emphasis on learning the local customs. Did you know that in Japan it's considered rude to look someone in the eye for more than a few seconds?”

“Yeah, well maybe somebody should have told the Japanese it's rude to make cars so much better than ours. General Motors is so ashamed, they can't look anybody in the eye.”

“In Thailand, it's illegal to exit the country with an image of the Buddha.”

“No kidding. In Afghanistan, it was illegal to HAVE images of the Buddha. I guess that's why the Taliban nuts blew up those ancient, mountain-sized sculptures.”

“Be aware of the power of hand gestures. Europeans wave 'good bye' and 'hello' by wagging their fingers up and down, while keeping their palm out and their hand and arm stationary. But in Europe, the common American wave means 'no.'”

“Hey, how about the next time they ask us for assistance, we wave at them?”

“Americans are notoriously poor with geography. Be sure to bring a map so you can familiarize yourself with the local region.”

“Map? What is this thing you call map?”

“And locals appreciate when you learn some basic statements in their language.”

“Yeah, that can be useful, too. I learned how to say, 'Hey, pal, where's the John?' That could come in handy in an emergency.”

“The point is the world is unhappy with America right now. Many people dislike our foreign policy and the war in Iraq. They worry that our culture is overtaking theirs.”

“It ain't easy being the only super power.”

“The truth is Americans are generous, enthusiastic and industrious. If the 60 million Americans who travel each year can embrace 25 simple travel tips, perhaps we can begin to change the negative perceptions the world holds of us.”

“OK, I'll give it a whirl. But I'm going to wear my Hawaiian shirt with that suit and tie.”

Tom Purcell's weekly political humor column runs in newspapers and Web sites across America. His email address is; his web address is

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