Walk Like an American


I’m currently laid over in the Philly airport for around five hours and after demolishing a cheesesteak it dawned on me that I was probably supposed to have some sort of epiphany about this experience. Unfortunately, I think I’m all out of those, possibly due to that same cheesesteak. Instead, I’m going to give my American brethren the second greatest gift they’ll receive this week. (The first of course being the fact that I have gloriously returned after five months away.) So here’s my guide to being a better American while abroad. Make sure you click on the links… it makes me a better writer when I can distract you with pictures and videos.

1. Flags (If you watch the last minute of that… I promise the link makes sense)

A big mistake most Americans make when overseas is trying to blend in with the local crowd. This is dumb. You are an American! Show off that star spangled awesomeness!

2. Regional Flavor

Now that you’ve let everyone know that you’re from America, it’s time to let them know where exactly. This can be easily accomplished by wearing shirts or hats from your local university or your favorite sports team. I, for instance, wore a Chicago Cubs shirt every time I went for a run in Paris. This insured the locals knew that not only did I enjoy a cold beer and delicious tube-shaped meat while sitting on aluminum benches, but also that I have a staggering amount of self-hatred. (What’s that you say Skeptical American? The French don’t watch baseball and would have no concept about what being a Cubs fan entails? Sorry, I can’t hear your facts over this song…)

3. Speak English

Everyone speaks English anyway, why should you inconvenience yourself attempting to learn the basic formalities of the native language? That’s valuable time you’d waste researching other important topics. If they’re having difficulty understanding you, it’s probably because you’re not speaking loud enough. Americans are known around the world for being understated. If they’re still struggling to understand you… well, you know what to say.

4. Ask about Wi-Fi everywhere

Just because you left the comfort of your cellular network doesn’t mean you should deprive yourself of all the wonder provided by mobile social networking. After all, what would you do if you couldn’t check into a café on Facebook, tweet about how the server totally checked you out, and instagram a photo of what you ordered? Converse with friends? Please…

Follow these four steps and you’ll be on your way to a more American way of traveling. When you come back, be sure to tell all your friends and family how the place you visited was not like America. I’m sure where you went was really dirty, or old and in need of renovating, or the food was weird. Lastly, if you’ve taken offense to this post, feel free to ignore all of the advice given. You are already prepared to travel like an American.


50 thoughts on “Walk Like an American

  1. emilypoche

    You’re missing the other key elements: smile at strangers, talk very loudly and take up as much space as humanly possible on public transportation. Loved this post!

  2. callmeclevervintagegoods

    I hope you were also wearing khaki colored shorts and tennis shoes in Paris. I’ve found this to be a typical American uniform, in the summer anyway. SOME Americans are obnoxiously American when traveling. LOUD TALKERS come to mind.
    somewhat of an expert having lived in Grasse, FR for a year. 🙂

  3. moderndayruth

    Being an European, I am offended 😉 But seriously, Americans are the friendliest and most open to new experiences peeps i met among travelers… Happy 4th of July US of A.

    1. nicholasjalden Post author

      I’m really glad to hear you say that! Honestly, most Americans who travel are really fantastic. I met so many great people during my time in Paris from all over the world. Travelers are just the best 🙂

  4. Joseph Rathjen

    Are there any NY Giant fans over there? I figure if I go there and wear my Big Blue gear I won’t have to look for NY’ers…they’ll find me. This may sound sexist, but I just love the sound of some foreign women’s voices. Is that just me?

  5. magnolia5studios

    Everything you see while travelling that is not American is WRONG and you need to point it out to the townspeople no matter where you are so they know. Then when you see someone driving a Chevy or something you are supposed to snicker and say… see, they can’t even figure out how to build THEIR own cars… Now that’s what travel is all about. Liked your article! Cheers! dp@large !

  6. sarsrose

    Either you’re a very well-adjusted, self-reflective and globalized American, fluent in sarcasm, or you’re (dare I say it) a standard American traveller. I’m banking on the former. 😉

  7. Escaping Elegance

    My husband I and I were in Florence a few weeks back and, as we were chatting wating for a walk signal, I felt a hand land on my shoulder and a woman in a visor said (in her best Patty and Selma Simpson voice), “Go USA!”
    I smiled and said, “Actually, I’m Canadian.”
    She was quite shocked and exclaimed, “You have our accent!”
    I replied, “Or, you have ours.”
    For the rest of our time in Italy, my husband and I would crack ourselves up with a raspy, “Go USA!” whenever we saw the travelers you described.
    Not very mature of us… but really funny!

    I’m enjoying your blog. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

    1. nicholasjalden Post author

      That’s a great story! Don’t worry about being immature… I would have done the same thing 🙂 I hope you loved Florence! Thanks for the congrats!

  8. Evie Garone

    This blog is sadly true….we Americans have a little problem with our egos, don’t we? When we travel, I try not to be that American, ya’ know, the one who is sticking out in a crowd and obnoxious. No I don’t dress like an American per se, but we are who we are……..PS Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

    1. nicholasjalden Post author

      Very true! We are who we are and normally that’s a really good thing. I think the majority of Americans who travel overseas are respectful… and thanks for the congrats 🙂

  9. Dr. Fuzz

    As a Canadian, people often mistake me for an American when I’m abroad. They also seem rather disappointed to find out I’m a northern cousin and not the real deal…

  10. Is Everyone an Idiot but Me?

    While you are speaking English abroad, feel free to talk about people in your vicinity, there is no chance they also speak English and will understand what you are saying.
    This post was great, reminded me of being abroad in Spain with a ton of other Americans whose mission must have been to perpetuate negative stereotypes of us. I worry a little that someone who doesn’t understand sarcasm will read this and take your advice to heart!

  11. Maria Athena

    5. Remember that everything is a scam. That parking ticket? Scam. Those high-priced tourist attractions? All scams. Everyone knows you are American and is trying to rip you off.

  12. monica923

    Well if you speak English loud enough and slow enough it magically become the universal language that everyone understands. Either that of offer them a Philly cheese steak. That always works. Great job! Congrats on the freshly pressed!

  13. South of the Strait

    I don’t have enough “American” t-shirts with writin’ and such on my current trip. Everyone keeps talking to me like I speak their language. Next time I’m packing red, white, and blue shorts.


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