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"Ugly Traveler" Experience

Has anyone ever experienced the "Ugly Traveler" and it turned out to be your own Mother/family? Examples... 1. Argued with a waiter very loudly 2. Talked very loud on the metro 3. Sat on tapestries displayed at flea market 4. Told another waiter she would rather if he spoke English to her 5. Took her sweater off in church and had only a sleeveless shirt 6. Broke a cup in the apartment we rented and refused to pay for it 7. Yelled at those people trying to get you to sign their paper and they yelled back! 8. Used her flash in museums because it took better pictures 9. Exited from the entrance and told them she would do what she wanted
10. Feed the pigeons where people were eating 11. Demanded ice and lots of it 12. Never mind what she said to family....

Posted by
951 posts

but did you think that this wouldn't happen? I have some family members that I won't go out to dinner with them because they are so awful to dine with. I would never in a million years go with that person to Europe, even if the trip was for free. If my family acts like a freak in the states, then I would figure they would do the same over seas. Sometimes it pays to think twice on who you travel with. I traveled solo my first 2 Europe trips and feared traveling with my new boyfriend on my third trip. It was going to be a test and if he failed, I would have dumped him, plain and simple. He did fine and since, we have taken 3 more annual trips. But seriously, I hope this really did not happen to you, and if so, you may need to emancipate yourself from that person;)

Posted by
2000 posts

Right! I am very particular about who I travel with. They must not be "ugly Americans". It would be very difficult to deal with the behavior that Stacey describes.

Posted by
492 posts

You don't have to go to Europe to hear ugly Americans either. We were in the famous ancient redwood trees, Muir Woods listening to a horrible voice yelling about why did he come if this was all there was. We also like to stay in Villefranche sur Mer in France and were so embarrassed when an American cruise ship disembarked there and we had to listen to many of the cruisers.

Posted by
1958 posts

Am sorry but am tired of Ugly American stories. There are just as many Ugly German, French, etc people all over the world. Have encountered some as am sure some of you have also. Some people are just "ugly" no matter where they come from.

Posted by
638 posts

This is a traveler helpline, not quite sure how this thread helps anything.

Posted by
31471 posts

stacey, I certainly hope you didn't experience any of the situations you described. If you did, my condolences! I've certainly witnessed "ugly traveller" situations in Europe, but thankfully was not part of any of them. I prefer to use a somewhat "generic" term to describe travellers that behave this way, as that kind of behaviour is not limited to Americans. I'm ashamed to say that I've seen a few Canadians being "ugly travellers" also. I've been temped to "tear a strip off them" on a couple of occasions, but managed to restrain myself. This is one reason I like to travel solo! Cheers!

Posted by
5560 posts

Actually, this could become a useful thread if we inject a little thought here and there. I assume you ugly American detectors out there find it easy to understand the English spoken by those ugly Americans. And how much do you understand of the German, French, Danish and Italian conversations you hear between foreign tourists here in the USA? Truth is, your chances of hearing their ugly comments are small unless you are a desk clerk or a cabbie and they are speaking English directly to you. What they say between themselves in the comfort of their own tongues, with the relative assurance that Americans, who don't generally learn second languages very thoroughly, cannot understand them, can be pretty ignorant and rude. Gail above pretty much has it right.

Posted by
9110 posts

Does the Ugly American walk the Street Without Joy?

Posted by
8114 posts

You have seen nothing til you see Germans in hotels in Turkey or Morocco and the way they behave. I shudder just in remembering. No country has the edge on acting in a less than polite fashion. People all over the world can behave in ways that make others cringe and it doesn't matter if they are at home or in another country. People who are rude at home and in their own hometowns, don't just magically turn polite when they travel.

Posted by
988 posts

I continue to be amazed by some of the comments here but I don't why I am still surprised by the pretensiousness of some of the posters. Now, if you take a cruise, you are in some sub-class of humanity? and an embarrassment to your fellow countrymen?

Posted by
951 posts

I find this post humorous in ways that makes me remember to enjoy the heck out of my trips but be careful of who I go with. For those who find this post pointless or not helpful, I beg to differ. What I get from this is not a tirade on travelers in general acting a fool but something more personal....people we travel with. If one is planning a trip with another who is know to be a pain in the arse and then they read this post, who knows if someone may have a change of heart of who they travel with. It is not about what culture, race, ethnicity is a stain on humanity when it comes to traveling. Sometimes it is a little more personal than that. Perhaps we should loose the "ugly American" slogan and conform to a more politically correct slogan, like "ugly traveler". It's not like I go to Europe to be an example of how to act when in a different county. I just don't want to be that person that everyone whispers about how obnoxious I am being. I am that way in the states. Being an "ugly traveler" is about being ignorant of how you act or that you act out to get attention. It is not how I roll and would have an awful time if that is how my travel partner acted.
Perhaps we are not allowed to vent on this travel forum. But there can be something to learn from this post, especially if you are that type of traveler and now you are reading this and now you will change your ways and behave and not embarrass those you are traveling with or else be at risk for being disowned.

Posted by
82 posts

Ok the "ugly traveler", was with us and yes it was my mother. I do believe she does not walk down the street with joy. How does this thread help with other travels: "If you have any doubt about bringing someone, DO NOT".

Posted by
165 posts

#5 What's wrong with this? Some sort of fashion faux pas? #7 Who really would like to, but just puts up with them?
#8 This is only wrong if the sign says you can't. You can pick your nose but you can't pick your family.

Posted by
1976 posts

Stacey - thanks for using the phrase "ugly traveler" instead of "ugly American," because as other posters said, ugliness is universal. Two of my friends, both German, went to New York City on a trip long before I knew either of them, so I heard this story years after it happened. One wanted to see a theater show and the other didn't and they ended up screaming at each other (in German) on the sidewalk. That's pretty ugly!

Posted by
31471 posts

@ Peter, > #5 - this is a major breach of the rules, especially in Italy. If that had occurred inside St. Peter's, one of the Guards would have landed on her within about 30-seconds. I know that for a fact, as I've seen it happen and the response is brutal! > #8 - While it's true that Flash is only prohibited if there are signs to that effect, I have to wonder if she even checked or would have followed the signs if they had been present??? It's also true that you can't "pick your family", but you can certainly choose whether you want to travel with them (or NOT!). Cheers!

Posted by
82 posts

@Peter #5 - There was a sign that read "Proper dress required" #7 - The point was - they travel in groups and they yelled back #8 It was in the Cluny museum where the tapestries of the Lady and the Unicorn are hung - if you have been you know there are signs and there are guards - she was asked to leave
No, you cannot pick your family, but I have learned who not to travel with. I believe in respect for rules and cultures of other countries.

Posted by
2349 posts

Nothing like travelling with your mother to bring out the inner adolescent! Most people's personality traits just intensify as they all get older. At what point to you accept it and just shake your head, or try to make a positive change? I have no solutions, but I sympathize!

Posted by
18304 posts

I've only seen only two truly obnoxious people in Europe in over 10 years. The first, I was staying in a small, traditional, German town in the outskirts of Munich. I thought I was the only American in the town, but, as I was eating in the restaurant, an obvious Texan came into the restaurant, with a German couple, probably business partners. No one would have doubted he was Texan, as he was speaking very loud in an obvious Texan accent. I wanted to crawl under the table, buy I don't think anyone else in the place knew I was an American. Second, I was eating in a restaurant in Berchtesgaden, my host had said it was a "Steekhaus". It had 102 types of Schnitzel, no beefsteak. Someone came in, with a perfect American accent, DEMANDING beefsteak. I was so embarrassed. When he left in a huff, because he couldn't get a beefsteak, I went over to the Brits in the room, embarrassed for my fellow American's boorish behavior. Turns out he was Italian, his good American accent from working for years in NYC (I guess he learned his manners there, too).

Posted by
1035 posts

"Second, I was eating in a restaurant in Berchtesgaden, my host had said it was a "Steekhaus". It had 102 types of Schnitzel, no beefsteak. Someone came in, with a perfect American accent, DEMANDING beefsteak. I was so embarrassed. When he left in a huff, because he couldn't get a beefsteak, I went over to the Brits in the room, embarrassed for my fellow American's boorish behavior. Turns out he was Italian, his good American accent from working for years in NYC (I guess he learned his manners there, too)." I think I can identify the UA in this story. - Note everyone who sounds "American" is. - People from NY may be direct, but are no more or less obnoxious than people from other places. In fact, I'd argue NY'ers are more honest because they let you know where you stand. None of this west coast phony baloney stuff.

Posted by
893 posts

To be fair - fathers can be just as bad. Just ask me ;-)

Posted by
31471 posts

@ Lisa, RE: #5...... Perhaps the Guards have relaxed their standards since the incident that I witnessed in Fall 2006, or perhaps they just weren't paying attention. On the occasion I was referring to, a young "20-something" young lady had entered the Church with a shawl on her shoulders, as she was wearing a sleeveless top. It was a hot September day, and it was somewhat uncomfortable even inside the Church, so she sat down and removed the shawl to "cool off". I was sitting within a few feet of her, and within about 30-seconds one of the Guards ran over to her and started screaming in Italian. The expression on his face was one of anger, and was clearly not meant as a "friendly reminder". The young lady at first didn't understand, but soon got the message. She was almost in tears! It was a brutal example of what can happen to those who don't obey the rules! I saw a less extreme version in the Duomo in Siena, involving a group of University students (as I recall they were from Germany). One of the males was wearing a sleeveless T-shirt, and was only allowed inside when he covered his shoulders with a blue "paper tablecloth". He seemed to be the subject of endless teasing from his friends. There were numerous Guards watching, and I'm sure if he had removed the "tablecloth", he would have faced a humiliating exit from the Duomo. Always a good idea to respect the local customs.....

Posted by
203 posts

Ken,re: #5 I was at St Peter's last July and there were plenty of women and girls in sleeveless shirts, which I found shocking for the Vatican. During the security screening, the fellow in front of us had a sizable pocketknife in his back pack and after much discussion, the guards let him through with it! At one point, we were inside watching these 2 American guys with a funnel stuffing about 20 little bottles with the holy water. I would never have believed any of this if hadn't seen it.

Posted by
1253 posts

I have been guilty of #2. I have a partial hearing loss, so I have a tendency to talk rather loud. I was on a HOHO bus in Edinburgh and the guide let me know I was being too loud and I apologized profusely.

Posted by
134 posts

I have seen some people being ugly in other languages but at the end when they get REALLY upset, they switch to accented English. ( Or maybe the four letter words are English but universal.) I somehow get the feeling that English is considered ruder than their own language. I know bilingual couples who switch to English to argue.

Posted by
121 posts

Unfortunately, there is little you can say or do to change a pain in the neck travel buddy. I had a fried I had gone on short trips with, but never a long one until a trip to Wisconsin a few years back. On the trip, she informed me she would not eat at the great local Chinese or Italian places--She does not eat "foreign" food. Won't eat Italian unless it is spagetti or pizza. Won't try new foods. Did not like the continental breakfast at the hotel, etc. etc. Complain, complain. Would not try new food or new activities. Would not compromise at all so that I got to do some of what I wanted. She has been asking me to join her in Paris one of these years--and informed me she won't eat french food or stay in french hotels. (I've said NO). In fact I will never go on a trip with her longer than 2 or 3 days ever. In short, I don't think it is an "ugly traveler" thing, but it is an "it's all about me thing." They will be that way whether they are in Athens, Georgia or in Athens, Greece.

Posted by
2193 posts

20 bottles? If you can get away with that much holy water, why not go for a few relics while you're at it? I mean, nothing says souvenir like a crusty old finger or some guy's petrified vocal chords.

Posted by
203 posts

Michael,'20 bottles' are no exaggeration!They had a whole bagful. When we leaned in to look, they seemed defensive...explaining in a sweet southern drawl they were gifts for friends back home.

Posted by
2023 posts

The worst thing I have ever observed while traveling was two women eating cookies in the Sistine Chapel-very tacky IMO.

Posted by
56 posts

Years ago we took my Mother in Law on a Caribbean cruise we really could not afford. She had had a hard life, and deserved some luxury, we felt. NOTHING on that ship pleased her. The room was too cramped, the food too hot or cold, even the champagne at the Captain's Dinner was too sour. On and on My wife was in tears. I finally took her out on the upper deck and calmly told her, "Bernice, if you say one more negative thing in my hearing on this cruise, I will throw you over this railing into the sea." She could tell I meant it, because I did. We enjoyed the second half of the trip much more than the first. Absolutely true story!

Posted by
82 posts

@Nukesafe - I wanted to leave my mom in the Paris Metro. My husband quickly learned "belle-mère" (mother-in-law) on this trip.

Posted by
2193 posts

I remember reading something from a couple of years ago where a guy was attempting to take a large bottle of holy water through security when returning to the U.S. from his European vacation – he was denied and decided to drink it right there instead of checking his bag and taking said holy water back to his friends and family as intended. I wonder if it worked. It's funny how people can be totally insane and then become completely normal when threatened. If you had seriously threatened to ditch her or put her on the next taxi to CDG, she would have straightened out enough in a hurry (if she thought you to be serious) so that you could have enjoyed the rest of your trip. If not, you could have made good on your promise, although I'm not sure about that throwing mama from the boat bit. Either way, the trip would have gotten better. IMO, the moral of the story is to NOT invite freaky weird relatives, friends, or acquaintances, including weird parents or in-laws, to anything important to you or your immediate family, EVER. It's not worth it. Let them be freaky weird all by themselves on their own time. I can imagine you had a lot of unnecessary angst and stress even before your trip, worrying about what mama will be like. Don't do it next time...put down the phone and back away slowly...don't invite her ever again. You'll be much happier. This thread really has more to do with a weird, controlling, selfish mother than with Ugly Americans, but it's been fun!

Posted by
56 posts

I guess my wording was not clear, Jo. No, I did not throw her over the rail. I did mean the threat, at that instant, though. The woman was really on a tear at being horrid, and at that juncture not only was the success of the cruise in jeopardy, but the survival of my marriage, I thought. Of course, if Bernice went for a swim I suppose my dear Wife might have had some sharp words for me.

Posted by
1118 posts

When planning my study abroad trip my mother couldn't understand why I wouldn't bring khakis. I tried explaining to her that they're not commonly worn in Europe as dressy clothes: She then told me I could show them a thing or two about fashion. It was HILARIOUS! EDIT: Let me rephrase that, in non-Mediterranean France. Hope that makes someone feel better, as they felt the need to shoot me off a snide message. It's amazing what some people here feel the need to send you as a message. I find that "HILARIOUS"!

Posted by
1804 posts

@Alexander: You dare insult the khaki pant which is worn by Rick Steves himself and, therefore, by many of his most devoted followers? GASP! If you want to see something funny, take a moment to watch some of the short video clips currently on this website produced by ETBD and featuring Rick researching his Italy guide or hopping about the rest of Europe wearing his trademark khakis & shapeless windbreaker. You will notice that everyone who stops to shake his hand and talk to him on the street after they recognize him is a khaki-wearing North American, yet just about every single European he interacts with (whether it's the hotel owners, merchants and vendors, farmer standing in the road, or some local guide he picked to show him the city) is wearing a pair of jeans (which is also highly controversial subject matter on this board if you attempt to recommend packing 1 pair in your 21" carry-on). About a year ago, Rick was photographed in a pair of dark jeans and a fitted jacket. He must have received death threats from some of his fan base, because it seems he has once again returned to khaki-colored roots. I think Rick Steves is great - he's built a fantastic travel empire for himself and he's helped thousands of people embrace travel. Whether the guy wears khakis or jeans (which, FYI, he looked great in), he's still terrific. I don't think Rick would find it cool that the Khaki Police are sending snippy private messages to anyone that doesn't subscribe to "the uniform". If someone doesn't have the cojones to say it on the board where it's public, then it shouldn't be said period. No need to harrass someone with a PM because you don't like that their opinion varies from yours.

Posted by
1118 posts

Ceidleh, I thought I was the only one to notice all of that! LOL Thanks for stepping to the plate. :) True, jeans certainly aren't perfect for the backpacking tourist. I always wore a pair of nice jeans, which could either go as casual or dressy (depending on the shirt). (What a great post, Ceidleh!) There's nothing wrong with looking like a tourist, since that's what many of us are. Though, I always tried to blend in. It took some time learning how to be a chameleon, but in the end of my longstay living in France I didn't encounter any Frenchman that would try to practice their English with me---and to me, that felt really good.

Posted by
8 posts

interesting topic.... I am visiting family in Germany in Aug/Sept 2012. My father's side is old German Aristocratic family. We are going to the family reunion. I, personally, have to mentally prepare myself and my wife about etiquette. I have a daughter from a previous marriage. As much as I would love for her to visit Europe and meet family. She does not have the social skills to deal with the culture AS OF YET.

Posted by
10 posts

Stacey, I laughed & laughed when I read this page--no disrespect intended! Most of us can relate to it & maybe know people who would do something like that. Hope you have had some wonderful travels since then! And have some good companions when you want travel company....

Posted by
1035 posts

"I have a daughter from a previous marriage. As much as I would love for her to visit Europe and meet family. She does not have the social skills to deal with the culture AS OF YET." Wow, hoi polloi.