How Not to Be the "Ugly American" Overseas
When it comes to representing the U.S. abroad, some of our fellow citizens don’t do us proud. Have you been guilty of a foreign-soil faux pas? Our easy guide to being a good citizen of the world will come in handy next time you get your passport stamped!
BRINGING BACK SOUVENIRS THEY THINK THEY ARE ENTITLED TO
Not so fast hauling that vase out of the country and into your foyer. Absconding with a piece of a country's history—whether you knew it was authentic or not—isn't smiled upon. "Some countries, like Turkey, Egypt, and Mexico, have strict laws on antiques," Finan says. "If you purchase a souvenir that authorities believe is a national treasure, you may be arrested. In countries with strict control of antiques, document your purchases as reproductions if that is the case." Read "Warning: You'll Never Get These 10 Items Through Customs"
NEGLECTING TO RESEARCH A COUNTRY'S CUSTOMS
Accidentally making a jerk move abroad usually means you haven't studied what that country's jerk moves are. Post says there are six major areas to educate yourself about before you go to a new locale: greetings, gift giving, exchanges of money (whether to put money in someone's hand or on the table), handshakes, body language, and food. Food etiquette has many facets, Post says, "whether it's the eating of the food, the not eating of the food, complimenting the food, trying the food... In some places, a compliment may mean you want more." Read "10 Things You'd Never Guess About Paris"
RELYING ON CREDIT CARDS FOR PURCHASES
Carrying zero cash and using your debit card to pay for a bottle of water is growing more and more common in the U.S., but when you're abroad, you can't count on plastic. "Credit cards are not widely accepted in some countries," Finan says. "Although it is a good idea to bring a credit card or two, leave all unnecessary credit cards at home." If you run out of cash, the U.S. Embassy can help you with everything from contacting friends and family on your behalf for wire transfers or giving you a loan to get back to the States. Read "5 Credit Cards Every Traveler Should Consider" and "The Right—and Wrong—Way to Pay for Your Dream Trip"
PACKING SOMETHING DUMB
Other countries' security can make going through airport security in the States look lax. Abroad, if you bring over an item that so much as looks dangerous, you might find yourself on the wrong side of the law. "A foreign country's laws can be different from laws in the United States," Finan says. "For example, some countries have strict laws on weapons—in some cases, possessing something as small as a pocketknife or a single bullet can get you into legal trouble." Clean out your suitcase before you start packing. Read "8 Common Vacations: the Surprising Things You'll Need (and the Things You Won't)"
FORGETTING THEY ARE REPRESENTING THE REST OF US
You can't cancel out the bad behavior of every American doofus traveling abroad, but you can make a difference by being a positive example of a U.S. citizen. "Americans in general have a pretty bad reputation to try to live down," Post says. "Any time you can go the extra effort to use every courtesy that's available to you to show appreciation—like for the time that someone gives you in a shop—even if they don't return it right there, I think that that is part of what it means to be an ambassador for your country when you travel." Read "Are You the Ugly American?"