I love America, and Americans. As someone who’s spent a lot of time abroad, I can say with conviction that we are some of the warmest, friendliest, most determined and able people out there. Sometimes, we’re even smart, savvy, funny, fashionable, interesting, all kinds of positive things — but some of us? Are idiots.
What I detest more than anything when traveling in a foreign country is the American Idiots — many thanks to Green Day for the moniker.
You know these people. They’re often obnoxious in America, too. They’re the ones that are too loud in the bar, or the ones who tell slightly offensive jokes in mixed company and laugh their heads off, and the ones who demand preferential treatment wherever they go. These problems are exacerbated the second they cross the border.
There are several types of American Idiots you may encounter at the airport. The first kind is American tour groups. They travel in packs — often wearing matching brightly colored shirts. American tour groups are really, really excellent at mass-oblivion moves like blocking the entrance to the baggage claim, blocking the restroom, and taking over the entire restroom, including with their bags all over the counters as they wait for the rest of their group. The worst part, in my opinion, is their tendency to make loud remarks to each other across the waiting area, and, eventually, across the plane, as though they were the only ones there. Sometimes they have entire conversations, or throw out something blue to embarrass one of their co-idiots (I’m looking at you, school groups). It’s as though the minute they enter a foreign country, it becomes them-and-the-locals, and there’s no need to pay the locals any notice. Who knows if they even speak English, right?
Well, they probably do. And there are almost always other Americans around, especially in the kind of destinations that tour groups hit. Stop making Americans look bad, tour groups. Have a little self-awareness and humble respect.
Next, let’s talk about the families. Sorry families, but you’re total jerks in foreign countries sometimes.
First of all, you brought your babies over on a very long flight and couldn’t get them to stop screaming — we assume you had your reasons for this trip that the baby won’t remember — or your adorable toddler kicked the back of my chair the entire way to Amsterdam. What we tend to see in American Idiot families (that is to say, not all families, but the ones that drive us nuts) is either a lack of discipline — tell your adorable toddler to stop kicking my chair! — or a demand for special treatment, as though nobody’s ever had kids before. Parents, it may be your first time having your babies with you in a foreign country, but I have yet to discover a foreign country where they don’t have any babies. You do not get skip to the front of the ticketing line. You do not get to let your children run amok and disturb the other passengers, whether it’s because you’re tired or because you think they’re so cute that no one will mind. You do get to board early — get your kids on the plane, get them settled, and teach them how to make a good name for our country. Buy them a coloring book or a magic pen workbook, something.
Lastly, there are the lone wolves. Found either solo or in couples, you’ll usually find these American Idiots smoking in (or just outside) the designated smoking area at the airport. They’ve usually got a few drinks in them, and their volume control is totally non-functional. The first thing on these passengers’ minds? How to get a free upgrade. They will loudly announce that they’re Americans, attempt to bribe the agents with their fancy American dollars, and often insist on telling you what state they’re from (I’m looking at you, Texas — I waited tables in NYC when I was younger and am pretty sure I never served a Texan who didn’t inform me of their Texan-ness, as though it were a totally relevant fact) in support of their argument. Sometimes, I’ve heard these people pull out historical references like “our country saved you guys when the Germans invaded,” as though that should justify a free upgrade. You’ll find them soon after their loud (or pointlessly loud-whispered) debacle in the airport bar, saying “They wouldn’t give me an upgrade, can I get a free drink?” or chain smoking angrily. Guess what, lone wolves? Everyone hates you — the foreign countries, and the Americans with their decency intact.
So, America, to the small percentage of you who travel abroad, please be considerate of others. But since you’re someone who reads Gadling, I can only assume I’m preachin’ to the choir.
Find more hopeless passengers here.