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wundayatta's avatar

For those who are not Americans: how true do you find the "ugly American" stereotype to be?

Asked by wundayatta (58722points) February 27th, 2009

I’m interested in your personal experience with Americans. How do you think we tend to behave when we’re visiting you? I am asking for both generalizations, but also specific cases that differ from the generalization.

Do you find Americans tend to be defensive? Haughty? Do we make a lot of assumptions that we shouldn’t make? Have you met Americans who are respectful, interested, and courteous? What do you think explains the difference between the boors and the decent ones?

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20 Answers

Sparkie510's avatar

Honestly? Whenever I meet Americans they’re great! Loud, friendly, positive and outgoing people who love to enjoy life!

May2689's avatar

Americans visit Mexico all the time!!!! They are always asking us about our culture and out traditions. I’ve met some americans that are really courteous, respectful, and eager to learn about Mexico.
However, there is the occasional american that instantly associates mexicans with “burros” and “sombreros”. I think thats one assumption that shouldnt be made at all.
I think that the difference between these two is that some people want to be well informed and some prefer not to. It is just a question of ignorance.

btko's avatar

The ones I’ve met in person tend to be crass, and very patriotic, but also really nice. I’ve met lot’s of British, Russians, and Canadians to be the same way though.

Everywhere has the same types of people… it’s just usually the loud, obnoxious, jerks tend to be the one everyone hears and remembers.

cwilbur's avatar

I’m an American, and I’ve noticed that when you’re overseas, you can frequently pick out several ugly Americans. You just don’t notice the quiet, well-behaved Americans.

My favorite incident was when I was in Germany, eating alone in a restaurant. When I went to pay, my passport fell out of my pocket, and the waiter was absolutely astonished. You see, because I was obviously not British, and I was reading a book in English, and I spoke a little German (apparently with a bit of an accent), and because I was polite and patient, he assumed that I was Canadian.

Artem's avatar

There was a funny story my sister brought back from Australia when she went. She was part of the student exchange program, and there was another girl from the UK. My sister is very slim and somewhat quiet, and the other girl was apparently very large, loud and obnoxious. Most of the students assumed that my sister was from the UK and the loud girl was from America, and were often shocked to learn otherwise.

May2689's avatar

Why do americans have such bad rep???

cwilbur's avatar

@May2689: because many (but by no means all, or even most) Americans behave very poorly when they are guests in other people’s countries.

The attitude, for instance, that if you speak English loudly and slowly, that the natives will understand you, because they all speak English, they’re just pretending not to because they think they’re superior to Americans. I’ve seen that one more than once.

Or griping because something in the country they’re visting is not the same as the way it is back home. Shared bathrooms at the end of the hall in some European hotels, for instance. Or adding 15% to a restaurant bill for a tip as a matter of course.

So the natives notice people doing this, and they’re often clearly American and proud of it, and the behavior becomes associated with Americans. Well-behaved and mannerly Americans aren’t really noticed.

Mtl_zack's avatar

This applies to most Americans that I’ve encountered. I don’t mean this to generalize all Americans. It’s just something I’ve observed. I’m sure there are Americans who are the exact opposite

In most cases, the Americans I encounter are very loud, and obnoxious. They always want to impose their own ideas on others. They also overuse their use of the word “freedom” so it doesn’t really mean anything anymore. A lot of the time when I’m traveling, I encounter Americans who expect that the laws in the other country should be like their laws. For example, I live in Canada, and I was in a store and an American wanted to pay in American currency without being charged a tax. He was yelling at the guy behind the counter about how absurd it was, thinking that if he shouted loud enough the cashier would change his mind. I find that the main reason why Americans are so loud is because they need that “extra push” to impose their values.

cwilbur's avatar

@Mtl_zack: I’d bet you also encounter a good number of Americans that aren’t that way, only you don’t notice that they’re Americans because they’re not doing anything to draw attention to themselves.

adreamofautumn's avatar

To be honest, as an American, every time i’ve traveled people have always told me how much they love Americans. Hate our government, our social issues and our general crap, but love the people. I dated a Brit and she said she loved Americans because we’re happy, full of life and incredibly outgoing, something that tends to be a very American trait from what I hear.

May2689's avatar

Well, the thing that has happened to me ( once or twice) is that whenever I’m having a conversation with someone from the U.S. ( in spanish) and they ” dont want me to understand something” they tend to speak a fast english so ” I dont understand”.
I think its absurd. I mean, english is the language of the world!!

galileogirl's avatar

The term “Ugly American” comes from the title of a book in the 1950’s. The American characters in the book are very open and generous, rying to do good in an imaginary SE Asian country. Because they are clueless about the local people and customs, their actions are often misunderstood. Due to differences between Asian and American ideas regarding behavior makes the open and confident Americans seem to the locals to be ill mannered. Also the acts of largesse like food shipments are undermined by Communists. The bad guy is the Communist ambassador who has been educated in the local language and customs and easily undermines the good intentions of the Americans.

The man who is referred to as the “ugly” American is actually the one American who gets to know the locals and their needs while assisting them with small sustainable improvements to their lives. Ugly refers to his physical appearance.

In the end a new American ambassador takes over and learns the lesson of the ugly American and advocates a different way to contribute. When his proposals reach Washington they are turned down politicians who only want the giant American gesture.

galileogirl's avatar

BTW Americans are seldom held to the same standards as people from other countries. When visitors come here we are expected to respect them and their customs and when we travel abroad we are criticized for not subsuming our behavior to the local customs.

MarcIsMyHero's avatar

@galileogirl, really? i think its the opposite… i notice very often Americans being annoyed by foreigners who don’t know all of our customs or language- and they end up getting short tempered with the foreigners… however in many foreign nations juyst a small attempt at following local customs or attempting local language will earn us Americans a lot of respect and street cred. Its obviously not universal though.

I am embarking on a European road trip in April, spending time in 10 countries…i’ll let you all know how it goes.

galileogirl's avatar

Well NYC and environs may have a different attitude toward VISITORS. That’s what this thread is about. Many Americans are xenophobic when it comes to immigrants but almost everybody recognizes the value of foreign tourists.

RandomMrdan's avatar

I’m american, I’m in the military as well. But whenever I’ve traveled out of the country, or met people visiting the United States. I’ve always tried to be courteous and open minded to customs and courtesies.

When I was in Germany for a month, I was told constantly by friends I would meet that I wasn’t anything like the stereotypical American that they had in their minds. A lot of the people I met in Germany associate a lot of people with either from Texas, or New York.

RandomMrdan's avatar

@Mtl_zack I would say I’m the opposite to that generalization. I actually will get customers in my place of work from time to time who think they are tax exempt for being from another country, though they never yell at me to change my mind, I would laugh and walk away. But I do feel you on the “freedom” part. Sometimes people overuse it, or I see a lot of people who put up American flags on their vehicles, houses, and so on. I feel you actually get more personal freedoms in Europe than we do here in the United States. But I can’t staaaaand it when people try and push beliefs, and ways of life onto me.

Religious nutty people are the worst it seems to me. They are hardcore freedom preachers, and will not compromise at all when it comes to being open minded to other religions (my sister for example thinks muslims are going to hell). They just seem to me to be the most closed minded type of people out there.

Sillyish's avatar

I can’t push a stereotype on all Americans, obviously, but my general impression is that they’re often very loud people and come across as rude. Not always, don’t get me wrong, but I have encountered a lot of overconfident loud rude Americans. HOWEVER, I think it’s just a cultural thing and I’m sure they don’t think they’re being rude.

Also, seems like a lot of you guys are bible thumpers or at least quite conservative :P


From my personal experience, there are some like that, especially middle-aged and older ones from Texas. Loud, brass, and arrogant. But I also find a lot of Americans to be fair-minded and progressive, especially those from California and New York. In Canada here, we have this image of Americans to be overly patriotic and loud, but if you watched the recent Winter Olympics in Vancouver, we Canadians are pretty proud and noisy ourselves. But our patriotism, although overt, is less organized and more unkempt in nature. Just look at a Labatt’s beer commercial——“I AM CANADIAN!!!” Lol.

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