Our accents, body language, and mannerisms can tell everyone around us what country we’re from before they even ask. However, there are other more subtle cultural and behavioral differences that give this away as well when you’re going abroad on holiday. We’re not even aware of some of these things until someone points these out to us.
Redditor Mknapp37 went on r/AskReddit and asked people to share the ways in which you can recognize that a tourist is American, besides their accents. Redditors from all over the globe, including from the US, shared their opinions and experiences. Having loads of confidence, talking to waiters and strangers, and being super polite are all just the tip of the iceberg.
Have a scroll through these subtle and not-so-subtle signs that someone’s American, upvote the ones you agree with, and share your own insights from your travels in the comment section. Remember, dear Pandas, this list is a mix of compliments and subtle criticisms—all cultures have their upsides and downsides and it isn’t something that any of us should be ashamed of. However, stereotypes and false assumptions also play a large role in how Americans are seen abroad. More about that below in Bored Panda's interview with a redditor from the US.
Being called African American while living in the Netherlands
I went to Russia once, and they knew I was American because I smiled too much.
Confidence. I have never seen someone walk so confidently in the wrong direction like an American can.
I had an insightful chat about cultural stereotypes with redditor Pfl2020, who created another thread about how Americans are viewed abroad. The redditor, who lives in the United States and has traveled abroad and seen the stereotypes foreigners have about Americans firsthand, shared with Bored Panda that some of these points of view are here to stay.
“I think cultural stereotypes are impossible to live without to some degree. Until people have been exposed to other cultures and really understand that there is more than one way to live they will continue to pass judgment on things they don't fully understand,” Pfl2020 told Bored Panda.
Some Americans are way more polite than expected. Whenever I hear someone say 'ma'am,' I know they're American. One time I was in Lidl and there was an American family asking a worker if they sold cellphones. When the woman said they didn't, they were all, 'Oh, okay, thank you for your time, ma'am! Have a great day!' which is a lot cheerier than the average Scot.
While in Korea, I was casually talking to a friend on the bus in a regular speaking voice. Not even a minute later, the lady in front of us turned around in her seat and very casually said, 'Please calm down.' I guess American volume is noticeably louder.
When Americans cross the street, they expect cars to stop for them. In my country, the cars will run you down without thinking twice.
According to the redditor, something that greatly influences how the world stereotypes people from the United States is the media that the country puts out.
“I think pop culture and the prevalence of American media internationally is the true source of so much of the ‘presumption.’ As Americans, we really don't know that much about the way other people around the world live day to day,” they pointed out that many foreigners already have an idea of how Americans are ‘supposed to’ act and can shoehorn some of them into neat little categories when they meet them. After all, we tend to look for things that support our hypotheses when we’ve already come to a conclusion about something.
When I went to Italy with a friend, I couldn't figure out why everyone greeted me in English before I said a word. I don't wear running shoes outside of the gym, I dress pretty posh, I can't remember the last time I owned a baseball cap, and I try to have a basic grasp on the local language. How could they tell I'm American? My friend told me, 'It's because you're smiling at them.'
Americans are amazed by old things. My girlfriend used to work on a farm in an estate in the UK and would often have Americans in awe of the old buildings. One time someone said, 'Some of these buildings are older than my country'.
Saying, 'Hi, how are you?' to baristas, servers, retail workers, etc. My country doesn’t quite have that culture, so I find it really sweet.
Pfl2020 told me that they’ve been abroad only a couple of times and it was to visit their wife’s extended family in England. “I was intrigued at the assumptions some placed on us because of where we lived. We just had candid friendly discussions about how we lived that was different from England in particular,” they shared.
The key to being a good tourist is pretty much the same as being a decent human being: respecting others and doing your best to fit in with the local customs. The more time you put into learning about the culture, the better off you’ll be.
I was at a beach where music was playing and 'Sweet Caroline' came on. I told my sister (we are both Hispanic, but I live in the US): 'Hey, if you are wondering who here is from the US, you are about to find out.' Ten seconds later, we heard: 'BA BA BAAAAAA.'
I mean, obviously you could tell they were an American when they spoke, but once in my little village in Scotland I was in the pub and a woman politely asked the barman where the restrooms were. He didn’t know wtf she was on about and then it obviously clicked. 'Ye mean the toilet? Aye hen it’s joost back ‘err.'
It's 80 degrees out there!
How many miles?
That's two pounds?
Also, make sure to learn at least a handful of key words and phrases so that you can communicate with the locals. Yes, English might be a global language but it would be arrogant to assume everyone knows it. Besides, learning a new language before your trip is part of the romance of travel. Embrace the experience.
When Americans introduce themselves, they never say they're from America. They mostly say the state/city they're from.
Baseball caps, university spirit wear, cargo shorts, free T-shirts from events with ads and text all over them, and, for the older Americans, they always seem to just kinda stand in the middle of everything and look around
The absolute fearlessness of asking anyone on the street about anything
They’re overexcited over something ordinary. “OMG look that grass how green it is”
If you see an American in Japan, they will frantically look for public trash cans. The absence of trash receptacles is something unfounded in the US, and they become confused at the idea of having to hold onto their trash for extended periods of time.
Having conversations with family at a level appropriate to a rock concert. HEY SANDRA WOULD YA LOOK AT THIS!
When we were visiting Paris, my wife and I learned that they don't seat you at restaurants. You just walk in and sit down at an available table. We figured it out after standing around at the entrance a few times. Then we started noticing other American tourists doing the same.
Americans are very outspoken. At my local aquarium the other day, I heard a lady very loudly say, ‘Have the penguins gone to bed? Can we not see them? Y'all, the penguins have gone to bed! Y'all, we missed 'em.’
Inability to be discreet + really really really loud.
From across the petrol station on the other pump, I can hear that your wife's pin number is 7321 and she also wants you to buy her a coke, the other lady in the back just wants a sprite or whatever that is over here.
You are counting the money in your wallet on the way into the store out in the open, and i can see you have about a grand in 50's.
Where does the loudness come from, is it because everyone lives in such large houses that are built a few yards apart, so there has just absolutely never been a requirement to be quiet?
Americans will try to tip everyone, even in countries where tipping isn't a thing/is considered a serious insult
There was a bowl of ice in the middle of the table for everyone to share between them, and this American guy took the bowl and dumped all of the ice in his own drink. Apparently Americans like ice more than Europeans
They’re looking for a store to be open at like 11 p.m. In most European countries stores close at like 7–8 p.m
Handing the credit card to the server to be taken away and processed
Not looking to blame or shame, but there was this (otherwise Adorable) lady at a social gathering a few weeks back, that started talking about religion, and abortion, and how everyone should basically 'pick a side' (her words). I live in Northern Ireland, and that happened in Derry. Luckily everyone took it fine and the conversation went on after a short silence.
Edit : so pretty much as expected, obviously not all Americans are Muricans :)