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How To Spot An American Tourist Abroad



Ask the average European if they know how to easily spot an American tourist and chances are they will reply “yes.” Turns out, they have some traits and habits that make them stand out when in a foreign country. Some of those habits are great, such as the ability to strike up conversations with random strangers and their propensity for leaving generous tips.
However, other traits can be considered rude, insulting, or even land you in legal hot water! From the attire to their eating habits and gregarious nature, here are some sure-fire ways to spot an American tourist abroad.

Wearing Baseball Caps

It’s true that baseball is an American pastime and as Americans, we love our baseball caps – but the rest of the world, not so much! Wearing a baseball cap is one sure sign you’re an American tourist, especially if you’re wearing it backward. It’s also important to note that in many countries, wearing a baseball cap when indoors is considered rude.

Men In Shorts

In Europe, most men don’t wear shorts once they’ve bid farewell to childhood – unless they’re headed to the beach. Seeing a grown man taking in the sights of Rome whilst donning a pair of shorts is a sure-fire sign he’s an American tourist. Leave the shorts for the beach and wear a pair of pants instead if you want to blend in with the locals.

Metric Conversions

Confused by the metric system? We don’t blame you. Coming from America it can be hard to try and figure out kilometers, kilograms, and meters. It’s one sure sign you’re from the States if you look bewildered when airport staff asks how many kilograms your suitcase weighs.

Ice In Beverages

Contrary to what is the custom in America, in other parts of the world don’t expect to receive your soda poured over a heaping cup of ice. If you’re lucky you may get one, or two cubes. Your server will probably look at you with disdain if you ask for more since it’s a uniquely American thing.

Trying To Tip

In America, we love to show our appreciation for a job well done by leaving a generous tip, but in other parts of the world, it’s not customary and may be considered an insult. It’s worth noting that waitstaff in Europe are paid more than in the United States since their wages aren’t made up by tips. In the UK it’s perfectly fine to leave a small tip – a couple of pound coins for example – if eating at a nicer restaurant, but you definitely don’t need to go by the 15 percent rule that we use in the USA.

Being Too Loud

Americans are a gregarious lot. We speak loudly, laugh loudly, and love to yell “woo-hoo” when we are especially excited. Sadly, that loudness has gotten American tourists a bad rap in many parts of the world where residents are a little more low-key and quieter.


It used to be that American tourists were renowned for being overweight. Alas, in many other parts of the world fast food and convenience food is also leading to overweight residents, so the plump American tourist may not stick out as much as they used to. Still, if you spot a pudgy, baseball-hat-wearing, white sock sporting man, chances are he’s from the USA.

Eating/Drinking On The Go

In Europe, especially France and Italy, food is savored and enjoyed while sitting down – very different from what we are used to in the states. In America we are so used to eating on the go it can be hard to give up this habit when traveling abroad. It’s one sure way to spot an American tourist, who is eating, walking, and taking in the sights in an effort to multitask.

Flaunting Fashion

Nothing screams “I’ve got bucket loads of money” than donning designer apparel, the latest fashion trends, and accessories. We love our labels in the U.S. – especially big labels and designs that can be easily spotted and associated with wealth. If you’re planning on going overseas dressed as a walking billboard you’re prime prey for pickpockets – so leave the pricey Louis Vuitton at home and carry something a little more low-key.

Too Many Items

Maybe it’s because we like to be prepared for anything that may happen, or we are afraid we won’t be able to get what we need overseas, but Americans are notorious for bringing too much luggage with them. From oversized suitcases to large backpacks suitable for a Mount Everest climbing expedition, it’s one tell-tale sign you’re an American tourist.

Straight White Teeth

America’s obsession with straight, white teeth is here to stay with a reported 80 percent of U.S. teens getting orthodontic treatment – and that’s only the kids. Adults make up approximately 25 percent of all orthodontic patients. Maybe it’s the effect of Hollywood, but we love our pearly whites to look in tip-top condition, something that’s not such a big deal in other countries as American tourists come to find out. Yes, that big white smile of perfectly straight teeth will make you stand out when abroad and scream “American Tourist.”

Using Slang

Using “bro,” “dude,” “what’s up?” or other slang words and phrases when abroad will make you stand out as an American tourist and may even be met with a few eye rolls. Most Europeans are familiar with our slang words, thanks to movies and TV shows, but try and keep their usage at a minimum if you want to fit in with the locals.

Wearing Fanny Packs

Yes, fanny packs are having a moment in the fashion world, but even before celebs were spotted sporting these ultra-practical fashion accessories, American tourists were renowned for pairing their uniform of shorts, white sneakers, and white socks with a very efficient-looking fanny pack. The cause for the American love of fanny packs when traveling abroad is quite simple – to protect ourselves from those crafty pickpockets we have heard so many horror stories about. It’s also the reason American tourists love to purchase those hideous money belts that fit underneath clothing. It harkens back to our desire to be prepared and protected at all times.

Lack Of Football Knowledge

In most parts of the world, football (or soccer as we call it here) is not just a sporting event – it’s a way of life, a religion, the reason to get up on a Saturday morning! Europeans and Latin Americans, especially, are passionate about football and their favorite footie teams. Not understanding football makes you stand out as an American tourist.

Too Much Drinking

Maybe it’s because we have a legal drinking age of 21 here in the States – much older than the legal drinking age in Europe – but American tourists have a reputation for consuming way too much booze when on vacation and that’s something that sets them apart from other nationalities. In Europe, consuming alcohol isn’t something you do to just get inebriated, rather it’s part of the dinner routine and kids often join their parents in the beer garden at their local pub.

Overly Friendly With Strangers

Americans are a friendly bunch – we can’t help it! We love to make small talk with strangers, but surprisingly that friendliness makes us stand out as tourists in many foreign countries where residents are a little more reserved.

Wearing Socks And Sandals

Look at any American tourist meme and chances are they will be pictured wearing socks and sandals. It’s a huge no-no if you want to blend in and not stick out like a sore thumb – plus, socks and sandals are a fashion faux pas even in the good old U.S. of A!

Sports Apparel

Granted, on any trip to Europe you’re likely to encounter some residents wearing their favorite soccer team t-shirts, but in America, we have a particular love of donning sports apparel especially when we go overseas. If you don’t want to stand out as a tourist, leave your favorite sports jersey at home.

Always On Phone

We aren’t the only nation who spend way too much time on their phones when traveling – it’s an unfortunate habit that has spread worldwide, especially since the majority of us are also using our phones to snap those fantastic vacation pics. However, Americans are notorious for their cell phone use, and let’s face it if you’re spending all your time glaring at a screen you are missing some seriously good international people watching.

Overly Patriotic

We love our country, but guess what? Other nations love their countries too and they don’t want it thrust down their throat how great America is when you’re in their country. Save the patriotism for when you get back home and definitely avoid donning a stars and stripes speedo.

Too Many Selfies

According to the New York Times, more people die from taking selfies than they do from shark attacks, which is worrying when you note Americans are renowned for their love of selfies when vacationing. Granted, they’re not the only nation of selfie lovers, but when you’re on vacation please be aware of your surroundings when taking that Instagram-perfect selfie to avoid any life-threatening accidents!

Aggressive Haggling

We’re not used to haggling on a daily basis in America, which may explain why we have a tendency to go overboard when vacationing internationally. Whilst it’s perfectly normal to haggle in some countries, it’s never done aggressively and in other countries it can be seen as an insult.


We can’t say for sure if Americans as a nation are litterbugs, but we do make a lot of trash. When on vacation make sure to dispose of your trash in the appropriate receptacles – many countries have different trash cans for recycling purposes, so make sure you throw away your water bottle in the proper place.

Disrespectful Of Customs

The professional traveler knows to abide by the golden rule, which is “when in Rome do as the Romans do.” It basically means to follow the customs of the country you’re in and it’s a great rule to follow if you want to be a polite traveler in a foreign country. Showing disrespect for the customs of the country you’re in is not only insulting, in some countries it could get you thrown in prison!

Liking McDonalds

American travelers, especially those vacationing with picky kids, love to eat McDonald’s when they’re vacationing abroad. Problem is, you’re missing out on some of that fantastic local cuisine by eating stuff you can get at home – for probably cheaper. Ditch the familiar Big Mac and use your American knack of talking to strangers to ask a local which restaurant they recommend instead.

Unnecessary Applause

We, as a nation of proud Americans, love to show our appreciation and thanks in an exuberant manner and clapping is one of them. Naturally, foreigners also love to clap but generally tend to reserve it for things like the theater, or concerts. Clapping unnecessarily will definitely make you stand out as an American tourist.

Being Prude About Nudity

Whether it harkens back to our Puritan colonial days, or just that we aren’t exposed to nudity, Americans are notorious for being somewhat prudish about nudity, especially when faced with the myriad of topless beaches Europe has to offer.

Using Hand Sanitizer

The coronavirus pandemic has made hand sanitizer a universal necessity, but prior to COVID changing the world as we know it and thwarting our travel plans, Americans were noted for their germophobic use of hand sanitizer. However, since 2020 you’ll be hard pushed to travel anywhere and not see people of all nations whipping out the sanitizer on a regular basis.

Don’t Understand Time/Date

Just because we use the Month/Day/Year format for telling the date, doesn’t mean other countries do the same thing. In the UK, for example, they use the Day/Month/Year format, which can get tricky especially when following travel plans. Many countries use 24 hour time, so before traveling, check the date and time format the country you are visiting uses to avoid any complications.

Your Accent

So you’re trying to blend in as a local and not stand out as a tourist, which is all well and good until you open your mouth. Our accent is a dead giveaway we are American, so rather than trying to hide it with a fake accent, just let it flow.

You Talk Politics

Politics is a hot-button topic regardless of where you live in the world and even though it seems to dominate many conversations in America right now, in some parts of the world it’s considered bad manners to talk about politics. Plus, many people just don’t care about American politics, so leave the political commentary until you get home, unless someone specifically asks you about it.

You Ask For Ketchup

Yes, there are strange lands outside of the USA where ketchup isn’t automatically included with your order of burger and fries – and even costs money. Worse still, in the UK they don’t even call it ketchup, they refer to it as tomato sauce. Asking for ketchup is as American as apple pie – and if you want to dip your British “chips” in some tomato sauce, you’d better be prepared to pay extra for it!

Menu Substitutions

Asking the waitstaff at a French restaurant to substitute a menu item for you will not only make you stick out like an American tourist, but it’s also insulting to the chef who has meticulously curated the menu to feature the best seasonal offerings. Whilst it’s commonplace in the States to ask for menu substitutions, it’s not the case overseas, especially at fine dining restaurants.

Leaving A Mess In Hotels

Sadly, some U.S. tourists make a habit of trashing hotel rooms, which casts us all in a bad light. Yes, hotels have cleaners, but there’s no need to leave a huge mess for them to tackle. This may be one circumstance where it’s perfectly ok to leave a big tip before you depart.

Blocking The Way In Public

In the USA we are used to having lots of space, but in many European cities (especially old, medieval ones) the streets are narrow and residents are having to navigate crowds to go about their daily business. As a polite traveler, you should make an effort not to block crowded streets, etc as you take pictures, consult your guidebook, or figure out where you want to eat.

You Use Incorrect Hand Signs

What may seem like a perfectly innocent hand sign in America could be deemed insulting, provocative, or insinuate violence in some countries. Our good old American thumbs-up sign means something entirely different in Russia, Greece, Iran, and parts of West Africa. Giving the okay sign in Germany could get you into a fight, and a backward peace sign in the UK is the equivalent of the middle finger. It’s definitely a good idea to do some research on offensive hand signs in the country you’re visiting to avoid any mishaps.

Wearing Flip Flops

Who doesn’t love flip-flops? They’re easy to pack, super comfortable and if you get caught in a rainstorm you’re all well and good. Unfortunately, unless you’re heading to a tropical location, they make you stand out as an American tourist. They also pose a safety hazard if wearing them in European urban areas as you’re likely to get your little toes trampled on. Opt for more appropriate footwear instead – not socks and sandals!

You Try To Drink Tap Water

Here in the U.S., it’s the norm to ask for a glass of tap water in restaurants, but overseas – especially in Europe – restaurants serve bottled water on request and for a charge. No one asks for a glass of tap water. For the most part tap water in Europe is perfectly fine to drink, but always opt for bottled water to avoid any tummy problems.

Athletic Fashion

Athleisure is having a moment, which is great for the American tourist who loves to don their favorite athletic fashion when on vacation. Who can blame us? It packs well, is super comfortable, and doesn’t need ironing – the perfect travel wardrobe. However, depending on where you’re visiting, athleisure may be a little too casual, so make sure to add some dressier items to your suitcase.

You Don’t Remove Your Shoes

Heading to certain parts of Asia? School yourself beforehand on their customs regarding shoes. In countries such as Japan, you not only have to remove your shoes before entering someone’s house, you should also remove them at certain public places including restaurants and fitting rooms. If you’re unclear, make sure to take a look around before entering a building to see if other people have removed their shoes.