What Other Countries Think of Americans
We've all seen "those" travelers: loud American tourists wearing bright clothing (and even brighter sneakers) and letting their kids run rampant everywhere from Italian piazzas to American national parks. We know you, a Budget Travel reader, would never behave like they do, have you ever wondered exactly what other countries think of us—travelers and non-travelers alike?
We asked world traveler and Norwegian journalist René Zografos, author of Attractive Unattractive Americans: How the World Sees America, for some real talk about how foreign citizens view Americans. Read on for his honest answers and tips on what you must do—and NEVER do—to be a good ambassador for your country.
Q. What would Americans be most surprised to hear regarding how other countries view us?
A. "The positive: Americans are very popular. Many people I interviewed while I was writing Attractive Unattractive Americans asked me to say how grateful they are to the Americans for what their soldiers have done abroad to help people after hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, etc. So on behalf of many people in the world: thank you, Americans!
"The negative: Many people think that American pop culture is pretty shallow. And they hate American fast food: Not only because it’s causing diseases almost all over the world, but also because it kills local business for local farmers."
Q. Which countries love American travelers most?
A. "Scandinavian countries like Denmark, Sweden and Norway—but to be honest, many countries in the world like American travelers because they know how to behave, are friendly, outgoing, and appreciate our planet. It’s the Americans who don’t travel that people have more problems with."
Q. Which countries have a low opinion of American tourists? Why?
A. "Southern Europe in general: Greece, France, and Italy. People think Americans are “sticky” and that they act like they know better and look down on other people. In the south of Europe, there is a quieter lifestyle that clashes with the American way. I’ve found the same views in some Asian countries like Thailand."
Q. What are the top three ways to avoid being an “ugly American” overseas?
A. "1) Take your time to blend in to other cultures. Eat local food, talk to local people, and immerse yourself in local customs... At a restaurant, enjoying the experience—leave your phones and tablets behind. 2) Don’t rush from one place to another. Take a deep breath and de-stress! 3) Listen to others with respect. Talk less. Remember: We are all equal."
Q. Let's talk about clothing. Is there a rule of thumb that Americans can abide by so we blend in better overseas?
A. "Americans are gear freaks. They have to have the best and have all the latest gadgets, and they like to show off to others. They walk around with the most expensive cameras, phones, and handbags. Have respect for other cultures' costumes when it comes to dress codes. Otherwise, Americans abroad dress quite well (and way better than many other countries!)."
Q. What's one especially rude behavior that we should consciously try to avoid when traveling?
A. "Talking loud for sure. No one really understands why Americans must stand in a square and shout at each other so everyone can hear them. It’s like: “I’m an American, so you all better listen!” Also: the way Americans polluting the world, buying and throwing things away without thinking of Mother Nature."
Q. Finally, what suggestion do you have for American travelers who want to get the richest cultural experience possible?
A. "Don’t bring so much stress with you. Don’t rush from one city to another. Stay longer in one place, and explore the surroundings there. Many Americans feel like they have to see everything in a few days. Paris one day, London the next…but can you really see Paris or London in one day? The greatest gift of traveling is getting to know new places and people in an authentic way—and to maybe even make some friends that will last your whole life."
Funniest Celeb Travel Tips Ever
Comedians are some of the most experienced travelers in the world. After years spent shuttling from city to city for gigs, they have an, ahem, "unique" perspective on universal travel experiences. And let's face it: We nomadic types could all use a laugh after a third flight delay or while trying to ignore rowdy kids interrupting our piña colada zen at the pool. With that in mind, we asked 14 comedic stars of the stage, TV, and silver screen to share their funniest summer travel tips—some are so practical, you'll pray for a travel snag so you can try them out.
Travel Bargains: These "Magic Words" Will Save You Big
Have you ever had a conversation where moments—or even days—later you realize, "I wish I'd said that"? Travel booking and airline and hotel check-ins can often feel like that, with so many questions, options, and price points to juggle. The travel experts at Budget Travel have been there and back. We've assembled a 12-point cheat sheet with a dozen phrases to help make your next travel booking easier, nab you some upgrades, and save you money. "CAN I GET AN UPGRADE?" Well, that question seems a little on-the-nose, doesn't it? But most airline passengers never ask, and it can pay off. Ask politely, and if you're met with silence, be willing to wait for an answer instead of backing down. Last-minute first and business class seat availability can mean you pay an "up-sell" fee (typically $50 and up) to get out of coach. The same question can work at a hotel, especially if it's a hotel that caters to business travelers and you're checking in over the weekend. "BUMP ME!" Airline crews deal with a lot of tired, anxious, and sometimes just plain cranky passengers all day every day. Letting them know that you're willing to get bumped to another flight solves some major problems for them—and can result in your being moved up to first class just because you were willing to be accommodating. Note: It might also get you bumped, so use this phrase only if you mean it. "I SERVE IN THE MILITARY" We can't guarantee it, but first-class passengers have been known to trade seats with military personnel as a way of saying "thank you" for their service. On a more predictable note, cruise lines will often offer a discount if you tell them about your military service. "WOULD YOU LIKE SOME CHOCOLATE?" This may sound a little precious, but handing out one-pound chocolate bars to the gate agents and flight crew gets John E. DiScala, founder of travel advice site johnnyjet.com, a better coach seat or upgrade about half the time. "WE'RE ON OUR HONEYMOON!" Our evidence here is anecdotal, but Budget Travel readers have reported that telling airline personnel at check-in that you're newlyweds can get you moved to first or business class. Hotels, of course, will almost always respond with an indulgence or two. But don't say it if it's not true—apart from the fact that lying is wrong, you may have a difficult time answering questions about your alleged recent nuptials! "I HAVE KIDS" Hotels may be willing to upgrade you to a suite at no charge, and if you ask for a later check-out to accommodate the little ones you'll almost always get a thumbs-up. "I'M FLYING ALONE" When airlines try to accommodate families who want to sit together, it helps if they know they can move your seat, and there's a chance they'll move you to first or business class, where single empty seats are more common. "GIVE ME THE CHEAPEST CAR YOU HAVE" We know, we know. When renting a car, you don't really want to cram yourself into the cheapest model in the company's garage. But if you're willing to take the chance, booking the lowest-priced car available and showing up super-early in the morning (before most people have returned their rental cars) can garner you a free upgrade to a bigger car. "HAS THE PRICE GONE DOWN?" Yeah, airline seats and hotel room prices fluctuate, and there's a chance that the price has dropped since you made your reservation. Call the airline or hotel regularly as your trip approaches and, if the price goes down, ask for a refund or re-book. (But make sure there's no significant re-booking fee!) "IS THAT 'FREE' NEWSPAPER GOING TO COST ME $25?" Resorts are notorious for tacking on fees up to $25 per night for goodies you might assume were free—including pool towels, Wi-Fi, newspaper delivery, gym access, and even access to the resort's casino. Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Las Vegas are especially known for these non-negotiable surprises. Your best bet it to ask about extra fees up front when making a reservation. "I'M A RETURN CUSTOMER" When booking a cruise, mentioning that you've sailed with the line before can nab you a 5 to 15 percent discount on your fare. "I'M 55+" Yup, just remembering the 1960s should get you a 5 percent discount from most cruise lines.
Let a local show you how locals live
The idea took root when Sarah Winters and Shawn Ward, a longtime marketer and entrepreneur respectively, were vacationing with friends in the Hamptons. They wanted to go to a club but it was sort of exclusive and there was a line. One of the friends they were with was much more connected in town; he had a few words with the doorman, who quickly whisked the group inside. That’s when it occurred to them: how cool would it be if anyone could hangout with a local while traveling? It affords you dependable advice about local haunts and hidden gems overlooked by guidebooks and, if you work it right, access to places that might otherwise be exclusive and inaccessible. And with that, Gibby Road was formed. “It’s not that you’re told where to go. You don't get a curated list of places to check out. It’s just a chance to go around with someone—whether you know the person or not—and it’s like having a friend of a friend who’s an expert," explains Winters. "There’s this idea of ‘come with me’ infused throughout the whole Gibby Road concept.” The site went live in in August with more than 100 local “gibbies” in three states. The guides sign up, explain the experience they offer, and provide a bio and their contact information on the website so that you can get in touch with them directly while deciding on whether to hire them. Fees are variable and range between $5 and $250. But the coolest thing about the site—and others like it—is that each individual offers highly specified tours, usually around a particular theme. You can go on a food tour in Brooklyn or San Francisco for instance, but there’s plenty that are more eccentric featuring places and things you likely didn’t know were a thing. In Detroit, for instance, you can go on a music tour with a longtime Detriot dweller and music industry vet. In Joshua Tree, CA, there’s a “surreal” art crawl with a local film producer featuring little known installations in the desert and a visit to Junk Dadaist, an outdoor museum. In Palos Verdes, CA, an adventure-loving ski instructor takes you to test drive a Tesla along the coast. Detroit’s every growing hipster haunts are the focus of a tour of the Motor City's increasingly vibrant Downtown. “Going local trend that everybody is obsessed with. You even hear it from hotels that say ‘don’t be a tourist, live like a local,’ but that’s just four walls and a bed,” says co-founder Rachel Harrison. “What really allows you to be a local is actually interacting with and spending time with locals.” Gibby Road is very much a product of our time. After all, that “come with me” ethos that Ward describes is increasingly infused throughout most of the way we travel, from AirB&B to Uber and other rideshare services. In fact, thematic local-led tours are a growing trend. Viator is the elder statesman of destination tourism, having launched in Sydney in 1995. It’s a bit more slick and glossy than the newer indie start-ups, having been acquired by TripAdvisor in 2014. It’s a network of more than 3,000 tour operators around the planet and its site is available in ten languages. Vestigo, which launched in 2015, focuses on outdoor activities, from yoga to hiking to mountain biking. It’s largely offered in Georgia, where it was founded, and surrounding states. Your Local Cousin is much broader in scope. Like Gibby Road, locals sign up to offer tourists tips and insight when they travel. There are over 1200 “cousins” in 250 cities in 110 countries. Unlike Gibby Road, it is not a marketplace for purchasing hours’ or days’ worth of time with a guide. (Many of its cousins are independent tour operators, though, so the connection could end up with the option of a private tour.) YLC's network of cousins is pretty broad and eccentric. There’s a fishing expert in Victoria Falls, Zambia, for instance, and an Olympic silver medalist in field hockey offering tips in Amsterdam, to name a few. YLC’s services are communication-based, allowing you to pick someone’s brain and answer your specific questions. You can connect with a Cousin over text (20 questions for $15) or communicate through the YLC platform (3 questions for $10). Have a phone conversation with a local to help you plan your trip (30 minutes for $15), or get a custom designed itinerary for one to 11 days ($25 to $60) to use as a guide as you explore a city on your own. “The best source of information is always a network of friends and family,” says co-founder Aarti Kanodia. “We have a family of 1200 locals who really help you explore the way you should. They're a way to get a deep dive in the city.”
Trending 2017 trips to book now
There’s always a renewed sense of excitement, anticipation, and inspiration at the beginning of the year. Resolutions are fresh and positive change feels within reach. Most importantly (for us, at least) there are travel dreams and fantasies that beg to become realities. And my, those dreams are bountiful. Planning travel is an exercise in discipline and decision-making. And the hardest decision is the first: Where to go in 2017. CANADA CALLING Not surprisingly, Dubai, London, Tokyo, Sydney, Washington DC, Machu Picchu, and Bangkok remain on experts’ lists for destinations that continuously attract increasing numbers of visitors. But for the most part, hot spots on everyone’s must-see list change. Sometimes a city is an attraction because it is planning anniversary events, either for itself and its own founding or of an iconic historic celebrity, the way Salzburg and Vienna did in 2006 on to celebrate 250 years since Mozart’s birth. Montreal (pictured above) is a hot ticket this year because it’s commemorating the 375th anniversary of its establishment. All of Canada, in fact, will be a source of attention because the country is celebrating its 150th anniversary. That makes Canada a great budget destination for Americans at the moment, what with a strong dollar against the Canadian dollar. Only problem is that hidden gems may no longer be hidden. Canada made a very select list of top destinations that Orbitz put together. Montreal and Toronto in particular are sure to be on everyone’s radars, with the anniversary festivals and celebrations building on the 10 percent increase in visitors the cities saw last year. Meantime, according to the Conference Board of Canada, Toronto is one of the country’s fastest growing metropolitan economies. A slate of cultural happenings, like an expanded location of the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Bentway Project, a mile-long recreational space beneath the Gardiner Expressway, chances are slim that the boom will slow in 2017. WINE COUNTRY YOU CAN ACTUALLY AFFORD Another North American destination that’s sure to grow is Paso Robles, a relatively "undiscovered" Central California region that’s home to more than 200 wineries. In addition to the many tasting rooms to visit, there’s a booming restaurant scene that’s getting hipper by the minute. NORDIC TRACKS As far as the tried and true go, though, Iceland is not losing any interest, what with its natural wonders on full display and the quintessentially Scandinavian vibe in Reykjavik, where hip artists, musicians and chefs dictate the tone of the city. Plus an increase in budget airlines offering minimal flight prices from the US is added incentive for wallet-watchers. You may want to hang tight on planning, though. According to its data, Skyskanner says the most strategic time to book is week of October 23 through 29. And for the been-there-done-that folks, Helsinki is having its moment, according to the travel experts at Bloomberg. It’s the nation’s 100th anniversary and parties abound, like choral concerts in national parks starting end of August. Plus an Arctic Treehouse Hotel and Northern Lights Village, a glass-domed architectural feat, are just a few of the new attractions in Finnish Lapland that might make adventure-seeker get up and go. THE CARIBBEAN IS STILL HOT And for those who prefer lounging around on the beach, Caribbean destinations that are getting a lot of buzz include Saint Barthélemy, which is showing off the fruits of its years-long hotel-building boom, largely in the luxury realm. Just take note that almost everything is shuttered in September for hurricane season. Turks and Caicos is another luxurious splurge. Among the spate of new luxury accommodations, there are cabin accommodations that make for a feasible stay for families and groups. Nature lovers will love the three nature reserves and the third-largest coral reefs. On the budget side, Isabela, a surf town in northwest Puerto Rico (always one of our favorite budget destinations), is welcoming a spate of hip new resturants, cocktail bars, and surf shops, thanks to entrepreneuring Americans.