(Closed) Hoe to Spot Americans in Europe

posted 8 years ago in Travel
Post # 4
3 posts
  • Wedding: July 2010

I live in Paris, and I see a lot of American tourists speaking to waiters or salespeople in English, without making an effort to say “Bonjour” or “Excusez-moi”.  Gets on my nerves!

Post # 5
256 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: June 2010

I too live in Paris… I agree with almost all of Slicey’s comments, but would like to clarify that there are many Gap stores in Paris, just not Old Navy or Banana Republic.  Other than that, I completely agree with the no white sneakers thing…A couple of other things that scream tourist to me are: fanny packs, socks with sandals and shorts…French people don’t generally wear shorts unless they are hiking, or unless they are of the ‘formal shorts’ variety that was relatively in fashion about 2 years ago.  Another thing I would advise is to avoid using a backpack if at all possible.  As a tourist, chances are, even if you do take the above advice, you will stand out and a backpack is really just an open invitation to pickpockets on the metro.  Speaking of pickpockets, avoid the gypsies at all costs, if they approach you with a  ring that they’ve ‘found’ asking if it’s yours, turn away and do not answer.  Sorry I kind of got off subject there, but I have seen way too many tourists fall prey to them!

Post # 7
1317 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: October 2010

I personally think it’s quite impossible to fully look like a local especially when it’s obviously your first time visiting a destination. A lot of places, Europe and otherwise welcome tourists, especially American tourists.

I’m an American in Scandinavia and have also traveled around in parts of Europe and my only suggestion is to know your surroundings! Keep your bag near you at all times and be especially aware when you’re at high traffic areas, like train stations with a lot of teens and children. I agree with miaou, if you can at least say “hello” in their native language, it’s usually favored.

Just give respect to the culture and don’t compare everything to the States, at least not out loud! A couple of my college “friends” visited me last summer and I was pretty damned embarrassed by them because they just kept on complaining and comparing!

An open mind and a little common sense goes a long way!

Post # 8
3526 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: August 2010

Thanks for all the tips!!!


I really appreciated all your tips about the clothing!

Good thing I’m not a huge fan of wearing clothing with brands screaming on the shirt. 🙂

Post # 9
2025 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: November 1999

My French teacher (who was French) always told us that she could spot an American immediately at a restaurant by how they cut their food. Not sure how true this is, but in America, we tend to cut our food with the same hand that we eat with, then switch hands to eat. I guess the rest of the world never switches back and forth. 

Hopefully that made sense. I guess a good explanation might be that I am right handed, therefore when I cut my meat, I hold my fork in my left hand and cut with my right. After I am done cutting, I switch my fork to my right hand to eat. 

Post # 11
4123 posts
Honey bee
  • Wedding: October 2010

If you can learn how to say hello, a proper greeting and response in the native language you will go much much further. A LOT of Europeans speak English but most won’t let you know that if you approach them expecting that… or yell at them. I can’t tell you how many Americans I’ve seen yell slowly at people trying to get help. They’re not deaf.

I notice more jeans outside the US now, but they’re still not popular in Europe. (And yes, GAP is popular). 

When traveling in a new city, if using public transport, I usually try and see where I’m going before I’m on the train so I don’t have to pull out a map often. This includes knowing where you need to head once your off the train/subway. Stations are targets for pickpocket’s. I try not to pull out maps at all except when absolutely needed.

Keep your bag in front of you and hold onto it for dear life 🙂 If in Rome and all over Italy, be BEYOND cautious with your belongings. I think Roman/Italian thief’s are among the best. They can pickpocket locked bags 🙂 And anytime you’re around “tourist” attractions you’ll be a target.

Don’t freak out if you go to a McDonalds or something and they charge you for condiments like ketchup. Larges are like mediums. Some serve beer. And the oils for the cooking are different so it will also taste a little different. Actually, all foods taste a little different… even things like Coke because the recipe’s are a little different. Dr. Pepper can only really be found in the UK/Ireland, and they don’t Ice Drinks. You have to pay for water, and ask for “still” unless you want fizzy water which is the norm. 

Post # 12
299 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: October 2011

Awesome thread, thanks for the info gals.

Post # 13
4001 posts
Honey bee
  • Wedding: June 2010

I love this thread.  I studied in Europe when I was finishing up college and before we went my professor told us pretty  much the same stuff.  He was a little more abrupt though, like, “if you wear any clothes that have a logo or words on it, don’t, you look like an American tool”.  Or, “don’t tell people you’re American, you sound arrogant.  If they ask, you’re from the States”.  I was like ok, gotcha!  I also went to Europe shortly after 9/11 so my friends and I were much more cognizant of our American tendencies and we tried to subdue them.  Not that there was any more danger than there was in the US but ya never know. 

Post # 14
1883 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: June 2010

I don’t get why I’m trying not to look American in a foreign country. I am. If it’s a safety issue I think I will take the same precautions that I do here in Philly. You can get robbed just about anywhere in a big city. I’ve been to Italy and Ireland and the people were nice, and kind, and helpful on both of my trips. While no one liked George Bush, I didnt feel like anyone took their political views out on me because I was from a different country.

Post # 15
1408 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: September 2010

I totally agree on learning at least a few polite things in the language of the country you’re traveling in (hello. how are you. where is the bathroom, have a good day, etc.). However, when I was  visiting Paris last, everyone, save one sandwich vendor, insisted on speaking English to me in response! It was funny because I was trying my hardest to use nothing but French (4 years of study, I had to have learned something, right?) and everyone kept getting excited about practicing their English on me! heh. The sandwich vendor was great though. He said he only spoke French and an African dialect (the name of which escapes me right now) so we Had to converse in French.

i believe in blending in when i visit. I’ve never thought my brand of clothes showed me as foreign before though! What great tips!

Oh, and my Fiance would like me to add that you should be careful traveling in Sicily as they are renowned for targeting tourists- either with outrageous prices or by stealing your stuff.

Post # 16
14185 posts
Honey Beekeeper
  • Wedding: June 2009

 I try to “blend” when I travel to the UK, although it’s pretty obvious I’m an American (coach or j crew purse and diamond rings give me away–plus i’m, well, curvier than most europeans, lol. And blonde…most girls i meet are dark haired) and tennis shoes just aren’t what you wear around every day. Even college students have ‘trendy’ tennis shoes. They are much trendier than us. I tend to stick to ‘business clothes’ for day to day wear (dress pants, blouse, scarf, peacoat) but if I’m just meandering around, i make sure i wear trendier accessories or scarves and boots or something. Basically, Americans look so “bummy” in comparison! ha! I do so to avoid random people coming up to me, asking if i’m an american (it happens) and then people don’t stare as much. When you stand out SO MUCH, you draw attention to yourself. I don’t want attention–I’m alone in a country all by myself on business travel. I’m a young woman. People are always nice to me, but I don’t exactly want to be seen as prey, either. Especially if I’m walking around at night, to dinner, from dinner, back to the hotel, etc.

They DO eat in the ‘continental’ style and we eat in the ‘american’ style. I always feel weird eating at a table full of european coworkers….odd man out eating with only one utensil at a time, fork in the right hand. And, since americans have a stereotype of being sloppy and unsophisticated in comparison, I feel unkept!

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