With the strong Euro and Pound Sterling, I would think this would be a wonderful time for Europeans to travel to the U.S. I seldom see Europeans postings on where to go and how to do things in the states. Of course Rick's site here is intended for travels in Europe. Is there such a site for for traveler's to the states?
The Thorn Tree
Despite of the "cheap" dollar for Europeans they won't travel to the States. Why? If you thought of crime…or terrorism…think again.
"Travelers are more afraid of US government officials than the threat of terrorism or crime," says Geoff Freeman, executive director of the Discover America Partnership.
He added: "Whether it's reality or not doesn't matter, we have a problem on our hands."
A Discover America survey has found that by a margin of more than two to one, the US ranked first among 10 destinations that included Africa and the Middle East as the most unfriendly to international travelers.
More than half of those polled said immigration officials are rude, and that the US government does not want their travel business.
Almost two-third came up with a concern that might surprise Americans -- foreign tourists were worried they will be detained for hours because of a simple mistake or a misstatement at a US airport. (Source: TravelMole.com)
It is unfortunate that Europeans would feel uncomfortable about going through customs here. I have heard this from German friends too. Nevertheless, many Europeans DO come, expecially to enjoy our beautiful national parks. I see many questions about travel in the US from Europeans (as well as Asians, Australians, and others) on sites such as Fodors.com and TripAdvisor.
If I were not a US citizen and I lived outside the US, I certainly wouldn't want to travel here in the modern climate. Even if I belonged to a nation on the visa waiver program, it isn't worth the hassle. I'm counting my lucky stars that the vast majority of other nations don't retaliate and make entry for US citizens a chore. Some do, but few in comparison to those that simply stamp my passport within seconds and allow me into their country. And an honor system customs checkpoint where I freely walk through the green channels in Europe. I'm not sure how long that will last though if US policy towards others does not change.
I've got some new statistics on this issue, released this week by TIA. It confirms that the main issue for people from all around the world to NOT travel to the US is immigrations and the chance of being held at the airport for no real reason and with no real charges giving you no option to respond to it adequately. In 2001 26 million people visited the US. In 2006 21 million traveled to the States. Compared to 2000 26% less Germans and 28% less French visited the US in 2006. The arbitrariness of US custom control has made the US the No.1 unpopular travel destination in the world. Middle East ranks second. Interestingly enough though the French tourism ministry has conducted a similar study and found out that they were the least popular Western European country as far as immigration goes. Reason: Arrogance of the civil cervants and the fact that the French only speak French.
Hopefully the tight customs regulations and long waits have discouraged some terrorists.
If any country in Europe lost 3,000 citizens in one fell swope due to terrorists bombings, we all know they would tighten their customs.
Prior to visiting 8-9 countries over an 8 week period during the summer of 2005, I had heard that Europeans did not like Americans. When we were there we asked MANY if that were true.
Not once did they say they did not like or hate Americans. The opposite was true. One did say some were arrogant and happy go lucky.
I will gladly show up at the airport 3 hours early if it means protecting our citizens.
This shouldn't turn into a political debate, but suffice it to say the additional airport security stops the "honest criminals" - not to mention the gaping security hole at airports (see http://tinyurl.com/yzoon6). And you are correct - it's not Americans that are hated, it is the American government and its policies more often than not. And since people are entitled to their opinions, more power to them. All of us here included.
I don't think its fair to say "well if another country lost 3,000 people due to terriost bombings maybe they would increse security". Well in Europe there have been many bombings. If a terrorist is determined to kill people he will, while many Americans believe in tougher immigration policies it only acts as a deterent to those trying to travel for pleasure. Being a Canadian I have found American customs much tougher than Canada, yet Canada is one of the safest countries in the world. Maybe America needs to take a few pointers from Canadians on tolerance and acceptance, and while I know many on this site are educated and not the stero-typical "American", but during a 5 week backpacking trip last year there are MANY Americans that live up to this "ugly american" stero-type of being loud, rude and disrepectful. I consider myself a friendly person but was treated anything but nice by many Americans, I think the mentality of Canadians is very different and more open, we welcome all!
I would think that a bigger reason for Europeans not to come to the US is 1. inadequate and affordable transportation between regions. It can be so expensive to rent cars and fly between the major cites, the train infrastructure is not good and who would want to take a bus in this country? Secondarily, so few Americans speak a second or third language making it difficult to navigate. They don't speak a lot of German or French in Kansas City! Thank heavens Europeans make it easy for us to go there, visit and enjoy ourselves.
Just one comment about Americans not speaking foreign languages: Europeans tend to be multi-lingual because they encounter other languages much more frequently due to the compact size of Europe. Someone living in Kansas could very well live their entire life never encountering a foreigner.
Many American high school students study a foreign language, but unless they are lucky enough to travel to a country that speaks that language, the opportunity to practice is limited.
Having said that, Americans who intend to travel to another country should at least make the effort to learn a few basic words and phrases. I lived in Munich for a few years and so my German is pretty good. This past April my wife and I visited Budapest and Prague. I knew no Hungarian or Czech, but I learned how to say Hello, Thank You and Do you speak English?
Steve, we're off the main topic of this thread now, but I fully understand your explanation of why most Americans don't speak foreign languages. Just one thing to add: The French, even though their country is much, much smaller than the US and they are surrounded by Spanish, English, German and Italian speaking countries, are even worse in learning other languages. And like the Americans the majoriy of them only travels within their own country (so why go thru the hassle?). I agree that a very important door opener is to ask "do you speak English" in the local language as this shows respect for their culture. Due to being a financial center, being the seat of the European central bank Frankfurt has become a truly multi-national and -lingual city. But just a few weeks ago a guy asked my for directions in French. He didn't ask whether I spoke any French, he just started with "can you tell me how to get to..." in French. I found that so arrogant and rude,... (to be continued below)
... I responded to to him in German giving the correct directions. So it showed him that I understood the question. He blushed a little, stepped back and asked me rather shy: "do you speak English, too?" He did that in English but at that time it was ok and I repeated the directions in English...
Andreas, I appreciate your perspective as a European resident along with many others who live outside the US. I've been traveling since 1988, and beleive I've done my part to make Americans' reputation a bit better but, I believe the US isn't very helpful to travelers and immigrants. I teach English Language Learners in a high school and have often said that we are as ethnocentric as the French: rarely have info in other languages, no numbers on our coins, etc. In Portland there are some exceptions because we have such a large immigrant population, but having come and gone from Europe, Canada, Mexico I have seen people really struggle at the airport. Clearly we make entry hard for the honest and the dishonest are more patient because they have a purpose.
But hey, there seem to be some got news: VisitUSA today announced they expect the number of Germans visiting the US to raise 5% from 1.36 million (2006) to 1.47 million in 2007. Let's wait and see...
Hm, maybe we should keep this threat up and alive. Today the Association of German Travel Agents and Tour Operators said that a shockingly low level of trips to the US were booked for the 2007/08 season. They said the reason was that due to the Bush administration's immigration policies all information even on previous flights the traveler had booked, his complete bank information and even name and address of the very person issuing the ticket (not the agency but the private contact details of the actual agent) had to be send to the US immigration department prior to the trip. That has also acaused many travel agents to push Canada over the US. Especially people who'd usually travel to the Western US now prefer BC and Alberta and it is expected that the European air carriers will have to start responding to this shift and increase flights, frequencies or even introduce new non-stop services to YVR and YYC. "With glowing hearts we see thee rise, The True North strong and free!"
Lots of europeans are coming to the U.S. and spending lots of money with the dollar down. It all runs in cycles and the dollar is in a down cycle due to our deficit right now.
On security, it used to be very, very lax here but we had a bit of a problem on 9/11/01 that caused the U.S. govt to tighten things down quite a bit. There had been only about 20 attacks on us prior to that.
I think it will become more relaxed as time passes and then we'll get another hit and it'll tighten up again.
I actually think it is the Danish that contribute the most as a percentage of income to world organizations, while the US ranks the least.
Anyway, when I lived in France in 1985-1986, there were bombings in the Latin Quarter and at the Galleries Lafayette and the whole country didn't go into lockdown over it. However, they did smart things like report bags that were left on the subways, etc.
Just think of US Customs/US Police as the Gestapo. As long as your papers are in order you will be fine. They may detain you for a couple of hours for interigation but that's how it is in the US. Drive safely.
I will not be surprised if a few of those who has fears from the immigration and customs office might have thought of staying in the US longer than necessary.
As to the language problem for a tourist, with the invention of computer as a major form of international communication, the world must learn English.
As a Canadian , who lives near the border, and Rvers, let me say one thing that scares us about travelling to the US is the gun laws. I am sorry, it is just too scary to us to realize we could pull into a rest stop somewhere along the highway in the States, and many of the other drivers could actually , legally, have guns in their cars and rvs. We have gone on RVers forums, and I have to tell you , alot of them proudly proclaim they carry guns in their units. I ask why and they all say "just in case" or " to be safe" , well I am sorry, who wants to live somewhere that is that unsafe FEELING( meaning , maybe it is not that unsafe, but its own citzens feel that way)
Andreas, I think your attitudes may be a bit bias for some reason I don't quite understand.
My father is french, and he learned Spanish and Italian in school. A few years ago we travelled to Zermatt and as you know it is an interesting area where there meets German, French ,Swiss, and Italian speaking people. Gosh,we had trouble with the German speaking locals, they refused to even try to understand us, and my dad speaks English, French, Italian , but no German, we tried and tried, but honestly they were cold fish.
My hasbands family is all German, and my brother in law married a German lady who has moved here. She spoke no english when she arrived, in fact she spoke only German, nothing else.
So not all Germans are multilingual charmers, nor are all French arrogant and elitist.
PS,Lots of Germans like to come here(B.C)we have even invited some families we meet out on our boat. They often rent motorhomes,and they say they love the mountains, lakes, and no crowds!
Pat from Victoria, Canada I think your way off base in stating your reaction in this thread and this is not the place to discuss American rights and freedoms. Let's get back on track with Den's inquiry.
Jeanine....maybe Pat's posting was off the original topic, but so were most of the others :) Why not mention them all?
Also, on topic, we have French and German relatives, and the only time they have come to Canada was for our wedding 18 yrs ago. We have some German friends that have come out for a visit a year ago, but they actually were visiting Los Angeles and decided to just "pop up" and see us since they thought it was relatively close,LOL.
We have always begged our Europeon relatives to come whenever they want, but really, they just don't need to travel so far to see alot of things. Europe has the museums, the castles, the food, the many cultures and customs, so close together!
I do think the Germans in particular are more open to travel, they and the Dutch just seem to move about the world more then most other Europeon nationalities, we definately felt that even back in 1985 when my friend and I spent months travelling through Europe. Most of the others we met were young Americans,and Australians.
US customs has always been variable. Best way to put it. Some times they wave at you. Pat your back. Or they want to strip search you. Who knows what it'll be the next time?
But then I've been quizzed coming back to Canada by Canadian customs.
It's easier for me since I speak English and I more or less know the process. But I could see somebody with a weak grasp of the language being scared by the whole thing.
Plenty of Germans have vacation homes in places like Italy. So do people from the UK. If you could hop a Ryanair flight and spend the weekend in Tuscany how many would pick an eight hour flight across the ocean?
The local distances are also a bit of a shock to many Europeans. What I consider a short drive they consider a major trek.
OTOH I just hosted family last month. So they do come.
It's distressing to learn that we seem to have such a barrier or believe of such a barrier at our ports of entry. We just returned from a lengthy leaf tour of New England and everywhere we went, we encountered Europeans on holiday. We stayed at four differetn B&Bs and there were visitors from the U.K. in three of them. Just before our vacation, we had visitors in our home from Germany. So whatever is taking place at our borders, the Europeans appear to be here in numbers.
Larry, I bet more Europeons go to the east coast then the west coastof North America, I mean it is much closer, so perhaps if we look at how many europeons travel in total to our countries, then look at it regionally , we would get two different pictures.
OK a totally different perspective. I visit New York each year and have done for the last 4 years and really I haven't had any problems at all. I did find the iris print and finger print a little disconcerting but as I have a 'clean record' just took it as part of the whole proceedure. I personally don't think the security is over the top and is about the same I go through when I return to Melbourne. Our customs and immigration proceedures are about the same if not a little tougher. Only on one visit did the thought I may get detained pass through my mind when the immigration officer asked me where I staying and what I was going to do. I was going up to Rye for my first night and then to NYC but had put NYC on my card. I quickly explained and it was fine. I do find immigration stricter then Europe but personally I find it far more comforting that they are examining who is entering the country.
Pat from Victoria, Canada..I agree w/you totally about the French. I've lived half my life in France and find the French to be absolutely wonderful, on the whole. I'm glad you spoke up because I had the same reaction to some of what Andreas wrote. So sorry Jeaninne to get "off topic." Glad there's someone to monitor these threads and remind us of the rules.