Please sign in to post.

Americans talking loudly.

I’m currently on a Europe trip and one thing that is really annoying me as an American, is how loud my fellow countrymen talk. Wether it be on a tour bus, mornings at the hotel breakfast wherever they always talk louder than anybody else. What about our culture is producing that and has anybody else noticed it?

Posted by
8997 posts

has anybody else noticed it

Most all Europeans have noticed it:) Probably their number one complaint/running joke about us Yanks.
Even Mr. Rick has admitted to being "shushed" on more than one occasion at restaurants over the years.

If you are looking for an academic explanation check this out:

https://tinyurl.com/y7zrdb4j

Posted by
11462 posts

I've heard loud Germans, loud Chinese, loud Italians, loud British.......Americans don't have a monopoly on loudness.

Posted by
21325 posts

What I particularly noticed is that the French practically whisper in restaurants.

In museums, I'm often surprised at how loud local school groups are, even in France. It appears that the chaperones do not try to rein in the kids (they probably know it's hopeless), and it can be pretty unpleasant in a small museum if there are 30 students holding 15 conversations.

Posted by
15063 posts

Maybe you notice it because you understand what they're saying so it's harder to tune it out than another language. Maybe you are in places where there are more Americans than other nationalities. I've certainly heard people being inordinately loud in many languages.

Posted by
5561 posts

I spent several weeks in Korea a few years ago. The first thing that really hit me when I arrived back at my local airport was the noise and volume of people. I had to get away from US culture for a bit to really notice it.

Some of it it is also a local vs. tourist phenomena. I can spot tourists in my local area in much the same way. This is especially true on public transportation. Locals tend to be quieter and just travel from point "a" to point "b". Tourists are busy responding to the experience, often verbally.

I don't really mind most of the time. Tourist dollars help the local economy quite a bit. Sometimes I benefit by getting to see the beauty of the area through fresh eyes.

Posted by
8889 posts

I understand Chani's point about people only hearing the languages they understand. It happens in reverse, if an announcement is made, most people stop talking to hear the announcement. Except if you don't understand the announcement, it is some gibberish in a foreign language, many people start talking again. It is some sort of subconscious act, but annoying if you are trying to hear the announcement.
Some people cannot handle multi-lingual announcements. For example, on a train:
"Nächste Halt Zürich Hauptbahnhof, prochain arrêt Zurich Gare Centrale, next stop Zurich main station"
I have seen many times where tourists "Switch off" after hearing it start in German, miss the bit in English, and later ask what the next station is called.

Posted by
4725 posts

We were in a resort in Marbella over Easter in an apartment on the third floor overlooking the bar. This was notn a problem until the third night when a group of Americans arrived. They were so much louder than any other group, so much so that we could hear every word of their conversations. I wouldn't put it down to knowing the language as there were plenty of British groups that were nowhere near as loud.

Thats's not to say there aren't people of other nationalities that are naturally loud but it does seem that the default volume of most American's is higher than everyone else.

Posted by
35 posts

It's not scientific, but I wonder if the fact that every mall, grocery store & restaurant here has music playing all the time. I have been in some restaurants where one practically has to shout to be heard. The grocery store where I shop is particularly bad: constant pop music. Maybe we are so used to having to use a loud volume that we can't turn it down. (Movie theaters are often deafening, too!)

Posted by
13730 posts

I've heard loud Germans, loud Chinese, loud Italians, loud
British.......Americans don't have a monopoly on loudness.

I feel the same, Frank, and find comments about noisy/loud Americans interesting as that hasn't been our experience. Sure, there are always the few but it's been the decibel level of other nationalities - particularly some Asian groups - which have bothered us a lot more.

Yep, school field trips to museums.... Bless 'em (we both enjoy young people) but all that chatter echoing off high ceilings, walls and hard-surfaced floors can do a number on the ears. The din, after a few hours, drove us clear out of the British Museum some years ago. The teachers were trying to put a lid on it but, well, you know about excitable small folks... It annoys me more when it's adults who should know better.

Posted by
3355 posts

Americans are certainly not alone. After spending nearly a week based in London several weeks ago, I heard PLENTY of loud Brits on trains and in pubs. That's when I listen to RS podcasts on my iPhone. Make lemonade from those lemons.

Posted by
1236 posts

I've been to the British Museum and the Prado with British and Spanish schoolchildren and it's as loud and chaotic as any field trip in the US. Ditto on British trains where I can here whole conversations from Brits on the other end of the car.

I thin the reason you hear them is that you understand what's being said. There are rude and loud people from all over the map-not just Americans.

Posted by
138 posts

On a Rick Steves tour (the GAS which has wonderful highlights of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland; I highly recommend it) the guide scheduled a group dinner in the hotel restaurant in lovely Halstadt. I enjoyed the dinner, but the next morning I was talking to a British couple at breakfast, and they told me (nicely) that they'd come down to the hotel restaurant to have dinner, but on seeing and hearing our loud group, left to have dinner somewhere else. I'm usually quiet in restaurants but at that group dinner I was as loud as anyone else, and was upset at myself that I'd taken part in the behavior.
I agree with Keim that my own countrymen are more likely to exhibit this behavior than other nationalities. However I have run into a very loud group of Irish women (on a Delta plane on their way to Graceland) and a loud group of Danes on a flight returning home after their US. vacation.
Basically I travel in order to experience other cultures, I can hear loud Americans at home. So in future I will try to stay away from situations where my own countrymen are drowning out my ability to listen to what's going on in the culture of the country I am visiting.

Posted by
7273 posts

No not just Americans. The locals in Naples on the subway and then the Circumvesuviana on the way to Sorrento.
But I agree you understand them that is why you hear them.

Oh yeah the also the pubs in London filled with locals are pretty loud.

Posted by
401 posts

My wife and I were in a quite good restaurant in Kilkenny a few weeks ago and were seated in a rather enclosed part of the restaurant that served as a passageway for waitstaff and customers, with tables aligned along the two brick walls. Very quaint and pleasant, for the most part. However, there were two young women from the U.S. in town on business, and they were talking to one another at an incredibly high volume. We wondered at first if one or both were hard of hearing, but figured that maybe they just had no idea how loudly they were talking. Finally, ignoring my wife's pleas to just stay put, I got up and went over to their table, and in a quiet voice apologized for interrupting, pointed out that it was a small space, and asked them if they could please speak a little less loudly? They immediately piped down, quickly finished their desserts, and left.

I felt badly that they seemed so embarrassed, but it seemed like a reasonable request.

I found out later that several people at the tables behind me had smiled and nodded appreciatively to my wife after I did that and people from one of the tables stopped by as they left to thank me for stepping up.

Having noted that recent example, I think British tourists are worse than Americans with respect to talking loudly (especially when in groups). Germans and Americans being about tied. Just my experience.

Posted by
10126 posts

Americans don't have a monopoly on loudness.

There's nothing louder than a London restaurant full of young men drinking beer. My husband and I almost had to resort to sign language or passing notes in more than one establishment.

And then there are Italians on the bus... So different from the quiet French.

Maybe we talk loud because we want people to know we are there?

Posted by
11292 posts

To Grace's story, about the RS tour group being loud in the hotel restaurant: One thing that seems (to me) to be cross-cultural, is that the larger the group, the greater likelihood it will be loud - regardless of nationality. Alcohol, of course, is part of the equation too.

Posted by
1331 posts

We were in a British restaurant last night. The noise was so loud in there you could not hear yourself think. We were the lone Americans. Yes, I could understand them. So it is not just us Americans.

Posted by
72 posts

What sent me over the edge was, me and my wife were eating at Zur Holl Restaurant in Rothenburg, when we were sitting beside 3 American girls in there early twenties carrying on about personal drama at home, loudly. I was like are you kidding me? You’re in this historic town in an historic restaurant and this is what and how you talk. Embarrassing

Posted by
7273 posts

3 American girls in there early twenties carrying on about personal drama at home, loudly. I was like are you kidding me?

Yeah the means to travel because of a certain status is probably wasted

Posted by
2930 posts

On occasion, I've been there and done that. With experience, everywhere, I do manage to speak much more quietly as I've aged, but I have yet managed to rein in my laugh...

In my home town, some of the rural dialects of Asia are the loud ones. I also agree with Traveler who indicated it has a lot to do with the background music/noise in the US in restaurants, movie theaters, etc. It is hard to go out to dinner and have a quiet conversation when you can't hear because of the piped in noise. But then there still is my laugh...

Posted by
80 posts

I think it could also have something to do with the fact that most Americans have a pretty big sense of personal space, and you have to speak loud enough to cross that. I know that, as someone born and raised in the Northwest US I find myself backing up slightly from people from places that tend to stand closely together. Having said that, the first time I went to Greece I wondered why everyone was arguing at the top of their lungs!

Posted by
2329 posts

I don't notice Americans seeming loud at all--the past week at breakfast in Munich the loudest people by far were Germans; so much energy, so early in the morning...otherwise it's the Italians and Russians. I don't think of Hungarians as being noisy at all, but I did also spend 3 hours on the train with a group of teenagers on a field trip and that was quite possibly the longest trip ever.

Posted by
3479 posts

From what I am "hearing" (no pun intended) from some contributors, I think it comes down to individual experiences and how we perceive different noise levels. After years of traveling I am not convinced it's just about American culture.

Posted by
2349 posts

I am not a linguist but I did talk to one in a bar recently. She was with a choir of foreign born college students. We had asked if any nationality were better singers than others. She said no, but there were differences in what sounds and tones they could make, depending on what language they first spoke. The shape of the mouth is different, etc. Sort of like the ability to roll your r's.

Several here have mentioned that the French are generally quieter. If I speak French or even just make Pepe le Peeuw sounds, that seems to come more from the front of my mouth, and my lips are closer together. But English seems to come more from the back of my mouth, and my lips are wider. (Yes, I am sitting here trying to sound like Maurice Chevalier. Ooh la la.)

Maybe those mouth shapes related to language have to do with the volume? It's hard to be loud from the front of a half closed mouth, but pretty easy from the back of a wide open mouth. And I do think the personal space has a lot to do with it.

"Think of me what you will, I've got a little space to fill." (Tom Petty)

Posted by
61 posts

Yes, we're loud! I recall my first trip to Europe in 1982 on a train heading north out of London hearing a loud American guy saying they were going to Edinburgh (pronounced like Pittsburgh). I cringed and shrank in my seat. I make a huge effort to lower my voice, being from a loud (even for Americans) family.

Posted by
653 posts

I noticed that the tables in French restaurants are often very close to each other, but it doesn't pose a problem because the French typically speak softly while dining. My husband and I really enjoyed this style of peaceful, relaxing meals.

One time, while traveling on a blissfully, quiet train in France, we were sitting across from a French couple having a hushed conversation. My husband (who speaks French) overheard them whisper to each other, "plus proche" (closer) and then repeated "plus proche" (more closer) and finally "dîtes-moi" (tell me). Ever since the, we try to be quiet Americans and have fun using those same French words while traveling in Europe.

Posted by
72 posts

Then this morning in Murren, we were eating breakfast and this lady bless her heart, had a Rick Steves book out and was explaining to her friend across the table all about this hike that Rick laid out, and I’m pretty sure the whole room knew who Rick Steves was by the end. My wife thought I was being to sensitive for what it’s worth.

Posted by
13730 posts

Several here have mentioned that the French are generally quieter.

Well, "generally", maybe? It was in the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam that a group of French-speaking women nearly got themselves tossed for the amount noise they were making. They had been sternly asked by the guards several times to shut it down before the final warning. Granted, they may have been French speakers from Canada or Belgium but they sure were LOUD.

It was VERY drunk Dutch businessmen that kept up awake in Rome one night, and the Asian bus tour that spoiled sunset at Arches in Utah one night (and our group of die-hard watchers were 1/2 mile away!!!!) aaaaand the list goes on. No matter: every nationality can have its Problem Children. :O)

Posted by
28145 posts

Try flying into Tel Aviv on a night flight.

Posted by
1787 posts

I think part of it has to do with TV. Many people have theirs on constantly and talk over it. They then seem to think it's okay to talk over whatever is going on (concert, movie, and so forth). Drives me crazy.

Posted by
996 posts

I am quiet by nature. My other half is so quiet that I can almost read lips now if he's looking straight at me.

Having said that, one of the most embarrassing moments of travel for me was on a ferry from Belfast to Scotland. There was a party of Americans who epitomized the stereotype of the loud American.

I seriously considered telling people that I was Canadian for that ferry ride...

Posted by
8186 posts

Riding the trains every day in Frankfurt, one of the most diverse cities in Europe, I get to hear all kinds of languages being spoken and ride with people from almost every country in the world. Who is loudest? hm, to be honest, it varies. Eastern European, Russian, various African countries, Italians, Turkish, American, French speakers, British, Irish, Chinese, Israeli, Arabic speakers, Spanish speakers. They are all loud. Phone conversations seem to bring out the loudness. Perhaps because they are talking to someone far, far away and they want their voice to be heard? Groups of people are always going to be louder than just couples talking together. It just doesn't bother me. Folks are having a good time. As long as they aren't in the movies talking, it is fine.

Posted by
15063 posts

Nigel, been there, done that. Ugh. Not so sure it's always the Israelis though. In January I flew overnight to Hong Kong and it was the Aussies heading for home that were really loud.

Posted by
11462 posts

I am currently on the ferry between Copenhagen and Oslo. It is big, it is crowded, and it is noisy. Lots of groups. Of people from all over the world.

I've come to a revelation.....the larger the group, the louder they are. Nationality doesn't matter. Sound has no borders.

Posted by
441 posts

Just returned from Germany, Prague and Amsterdam and Americans were definitely not the loudest people I heard. One night in Prague, the two young German girls in the room next door were so loud (talking, laughing) until after midnight that we could not sleep, so I went over to ask them to please be more quiet (wish I had done it earlier but I could not believe how loud they were so late and we had just arrived from the US). They went out at about 1 am and returned at 5 am. Apparently, everyone in the B&B complained the next morning, and I laughed when I heard that they came down for breakfast at noon. And then in Nuremberg, we had an apartment near a bar and late into the night, we heard every language out there (or so it seemed). In Bacharach, on the street, I did see a group of 20-something Americans and they were kind of loud and obnoxious but it was 9 am and the street was deserted, so it wasn't a big deal. I can deal with loud during normal waking hours much better than midnight-3 am...that was brutal.

I think it may be age more than anything else. And alcohol. I'm not saying Americans aren't loud, but we aren't the only ones. I think we get the most attention though.

Posted by
1971 posts

I recall two loud talking incidents in France. One was a drunk American woman at a cafe in Paris who had a voice like a bullhorn. Good luck to her husband. Whoa Nelly! Another involved young Chinese in line at the airport. It seems people get loud when they're excited.

Posted by
32 posts

I was on a tour with about 30 people, aged 18-35, pretty evenly distributed American/Aussie/Kiwi/Canadian and three of the American girls were HORRIFICALLY loud and obnoxious in a "LET'S PARTY!!" kind of way. The other 6-7 of us Americans seemed to be at pretty much the same volume/energy level as everyone else. I could tell that the loud girls would have been that loud and obnoxious back home, too.

It bothers the heck out of me that people draw such harsh conclusions about Americans and America based on overhearing a conversation (or based on the behavior of so many of our dubious public figures.)

I think it's totally fine to politely ask someone to speak a bit more quietly and I suspect most Americans would feel embarrassed, apologize, and pipe down. Our country just functions at a higher volume. Think of how loud television commercials are these days. Background music playing everywhere, over-dramatized reality show fights, etc.

Also, most Americans get maybe two weeks of vacation a year, and many don't get any time off at all. Can you blame people for really whooping it up for the short time they have? Traveling outside the country is a big undertaking when getting anywhere other than Canada or Mexico requires going to a different continent, so not many Americans do it. Being a good traveler, like most things, requires practice and experience.

Can you tell that this topic gets under my skin? I've had more than a few (usually semi-drunken) conversations about it when traveling abroad. Always something to the effect of "You're so quiet. Most Americans are loud and rude." Please.

Posted by
4725 posts

Think of how loud television commercials are these days. Background music playing everywhere, over-dramatized reality show fights, etc.

Couldn't agree more! I can't watch TV in America because everything is so loud, brash, dramatic, constant camera angle changes etc. I put it down to the constant strive to keep viewers engaged due to the frequency of commercial breaks. British commercial TV is going down the same route but fortunately we have the BBC (although I know many won't share my view!) to put the brakes on it.

Posted by
914 posts

And who's watching/listening to these TVs in airport lounges, doctor's offices (although thank goodness that practice seems to be waning), and my personal pet peeve, gas stations that seem to think you want to listen to a loud advertisement or clip while pumping fuel? No, I just want to buy my gas and move on.

Honestly, I do wonder if things would calm down a bit in the U.S. if they piped in classical music more places...

But, yeah, lumping Americans into one pile makes no sense. Way too many different personalities and styles of communication.

Posted by
7718 posts

Some of it it is also a local vs. tourist phenomena. I can spot tourists in my local area in much the same way. This is especially true on public transportation. Locals tend to be quieter and just travel from point "a" to point "b". Tourists are busy responding to the experience, often verbally.

Carol makes a good point - the locals who are just going about their business (whether I'm at home in Paris or in my former home of Washington DC) are often alone, just going to work or about their errands, often solo, although sometimes with a friend or family member, and often not talking AT ALL. While tourists of ANY stripe are indeed discussing which stop to get off on, how many stops remain, etc. etc.

I have an American friend who's about 10 years older than me who if I ride home from work with her, I know everybody is going to be looking at us - she's a bit deaf and is effectively yelling whatever she's telling me. I just resign myself to the looks (I know I'd be looking askance at anyone else as loud.)

The loudest people I've heard recently were a French family from the countryside on the line 1 last night -- they started chanting at MAMIE to sit down, in peals of laughter, after a nice fellow got up to offer her his seat and she was too embarrassed to take it.

Posted by
179 posts

When we were on a Thames River cruise recently, the people sitting in front of us (we were on the top level, in the enclosed section), were speaking French so loudly it was sometimes hard to hear the boat captain's commentary.

Posted by
13026 posts

Regarding the multi-lingual announcements....the most obvious experience of that is on a Thalys train from France through Belgium to Germany. You hear the announcements in French, German, Dutch, English, and Flemish.

In Paris Gare de l'Est and Gare du Nord you can hear the announcements in three languages...French, German, and English. Directions also in these languages at Nord and Paris Est

In the German train stations, the major ones, the announcements can be heard in German and English only, no French.

In the Czech Republic I heard train announcements given in 3 languages in Prague and Brno...Czech, German, and English,

Posted by
85 posts

Last time I hear Americans talking loudly in Europe was on RS France tour in 2004. There were three guys that didn't read the program--two doctors and a lawyer, so don't blame dumb Americans. The farewell meal was an embarrassment.