Skip to main content

How Not to Embarrass the U.S. Abroad

The most important thing to bring on a trip overseas is good manners. These tips will help you avoid being labeled an "Ugly American."


  • TIP: Blinding white sneakers are not the only form of comfortable footwear.
  • Step 1: Keep your voice down. Right or wrong, U.S. tourists are stereotyped as loud and opinionated. And be careful when comparing your experiences abroad with how things are done "back home." Americans can come across as boastful and judgmental, even when they don't mean to.
  • Step 2: Whether it's foreign food, clothes, or customs, don't criticize, mock, or recoil in horror. Smily and remember: you'll be back to your own creature comforts soon.
  • FACT: Americans were rated the worst dressed tourists in a 2010 survey of 3,400 respondents from 99 countries.
  • Step 3: For clothing, think "smart casual." American tourists have a reputation for dressing too informally. When in doubt, lean conservative, especially when you're visiting a sensitive site, like a house of worship or memorial.
  • Step 4: Research local etiquette so you don't inadvertently offend anyone, and always follow the natives' lead. Know a bit about the political landscape: Americans often embarrass the U.S. abroad by not knowing the leader of the country they're visiting.
  • TIP: Don't shout. The person you're speaking to may not be a native English speaker, but they're also not deaf!
  • Step 5: Learning how to say "hello," "please," "thank you," and "excuse me" in the places you're visiting is a good way to represent the U.S. abroad; it goes a long way toward smoothing social interactions.
  • TIP: In many cultures it's impolite to start speaking to someone without first smiling and saying, "hello."
  • Step 6: Don't assume everyone speaks English when initiating conversation. When you do talk to people for whom English is a second language, speak clearly and refrain from using American slang and idioms.

Popular Categories