Things American travelers complain about

Sunday, November 26, 2017

I’m planning on filming a video for my YouTube channel that will address the topic I’m about to write about. In the meantime, I felt the urge to vent a bit about some of the ignorant things my fellow Americans say, think, or do in regard to traveling internationally, or in regard to other countries and cultures in general.

To any and all of my online European friends who read this, you would not believe how culturally conservative and closed-minded people are here in the states. Forget traveling to other countries, mere cities and states within America are divided by cultural and political clashes. Nine times out of ten, someone from Chicago would make fun of someone from Texas, and people from New York City would think themselves somehow superior to those from the Midwest. I’ve met people from California who mock New York, people from New Jersey who make fun of the South, and people from Illinois who think that anything not related to Chicago is beneath their interest. And on and on it goes. It seems like every micro-culture in this country is largely represented by people who have chips on their shoulders, who are always determined to put down or dismiss anything that is even a little different from what they’re used to, or just a little outside their comfort zones.

I feel like I say this a lot, but this is largely an American problem. Someone from Norway would have a deep appreciation for the cultural differences of a place like France, while someone from Germany has nothing but respect and wonder for a beautiful city in the Czech Republic. Europeans love to travel, and they enjoy and revere other lifestyles and cultures, they don’t insult them. So think about how backward Americans are in terms of even accepting their own country’s various diverse cultures, and then imagine their reactions to witnessing or experiencing the multitude of European cultural differences that exist. I don’t have to imagine; I’ve seen and heard this firsthand.

Here is a short list - in no particular order - of some things Americans will most often complain about, make fun of, be shocked by, or simply not understand when they visit parts of Europe.

- Paying to use bathrooms
Look, most countries across the pond don’t have the same obsession with bathrooms that we have in America. They see our preference for having big, fancy, comfortable bathrooms as being a bit weird, and who can blame them? People here like to read magazines while they’re sitting on the toilet, women like to spend an hour or more getting all done up in front of the bathroom mirror, and middle- and upper-class people spend a lot of money on fancy showers with all kinds of jets and knobs and massage settings and whatnot.

In much of Europe, doing your business is something that you simply do and get over with. This is why many public restrooms in Italy and Russia are literally just holes in the floor. As for why you have to pay a (very) small fee to use public restrooms in places like France, Germany, and Czechia, it’s because it’s seen as a service. Somebody has to clean up after you and has to be paid for that work. Public transit costs money, and it costs money to eat at a public place. The Europeans don’t place any special value on a bathroom like we do, so they see no reason to let people be freeloaders with it. I heard several people complain about this while I was in Paris, but really, how big of a deal is it? Bear in mind that even if you have to pay the equivalent of 25 cents USD, you’re usually getting a restroom that is 50 times cleaner than any you might see in the U.S. Sometimes cultural differences can be disruptive at first, but try and see the positive side to it, too.

- Public nudity
Granted, nudity is mostly confined to nude beaches in Europe, but in general, our friends in places like Germany and the Netherlands usually have no compunctions about showing a bit of flesh. People in Europe aren’t ashamed of their bodies and they aren’t bothered if they see someone’s genitals. Kids often still bathe together in some of these countries. 

It’s just a different view of things, it’s true, but Americans have always been particularly prudish and easily offended. Yes, nude advertisements and sex stores are quite common. Red light districts exist in many cities of many countries. A woman might walk around topless in France. And while we’re at it, prostitution is also legal in many European cities; it’s not associated with crime, abuse, or disease the way it is in the states. It’s seen as a legitimate profession, not something to be ashamed of, and sex workers are required to get medical check-ups. In Germany alone, sex work brings in roughly 15 billion Euros per year.

I’ve heard about many Americans being horrified by any or all of this. Parents will cover up their kids’ eyes (note: we also have shitty, inadequate sex education in the public schools in America). Americans will look down on women (or men) who take pride in their bodies, or else make baseless assumptions about them. It’s really not fair and it’s not right. Uncultured American “travelers” are automatically putting their own way of doing things on a pedestal and then comparing - and judging - Europeans. And, ironically enough, it’s often the people from the U.S. who end up being rude and disrespectful toward people in the countries they visit. So clearly, being puritanical does not make you morally superior. Europeans aren’t afraid to loosen up. Nothing wrong with that!

- Smoking, eating meat
Modern America is probably engaged in one of the largest anti-smoking/anti-tobacco campaigns of any country, ever. In places like Chicago, they also go after sugary drinks like soda (they recently implemented a “sugar tax” that is driving people crazy and forcing them to cross the border into Indiana to cheaply buy a bottle of Coke). The way it seems to work in the states these days is, “If a vocal majority believes that something is immoral, they have the right to legislate their beliefs and make others pay for their self-righteous opinions.” Europeans don’t tolerate that.

In Paris, for instance, you’ll find that many, many people smoke. Proudly and openly. You can do it in some restaurants, and outside almost all restaurants. A cigarette and a cup of coffee is still seen as a nice way to end a nighttime meal, and if people “are offended” or “triggered” by the smoke, they can simply go somewhere else.

While we’re at it, let’s also tackle the issue of veganism: it’s currently a craze that is sweeping the U.S., and I would not have a problem with that if it weren’t for that handful of vegans who ruin it for everyone, by trying to shove their views down the throats of people who disagree. Back off, guys, okay? You eat your rabbit food, I’ll eat my rabbit. But yeah. You’ll find that many countries across the water, especially in Central and Eastern Europe, still have diets that largely consist of meat, and it would be arrogant and ignorant of you to expect them to change the way they do things just for you. Grow up!

- Everything else
There are so many other things that surprise, shock, or offend Americans when they travel (if they’re closed-minded). People are proud to speak their own languages (so while many Europeans do speak English, they are not required to, and don’t expect them to just because your dumb ass can’t learn a few words of another language!). People actually sit next to each other on public transit. People take things slow; a meal might be expected to take an hour, and people don’t yell and have a panic attack if they miss a bus or a train. Waiters don’t make forced smiles and cater to your every whim at a restaurant; again, don’t expect everything to be like it is in America!

In short, people all over the world have their own values and ways of doing things, and if they didn’t, the world would be a pretty boring place. So, to those Americans who take issue with anything and everything, either change your ways or stay home! Don’t give the rest of us a bad name!

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