How Not to Be an Ugly American on Your Vacation in a Conflict Country


You packed your sandals, several bikinis (with a sarong so you can blend into your exotic environment) and you’ve even Instagrammed several potential outfits, but then you hear the awful news: Your exotic travel destination just erupted with political protests and violent government crackdowns. Oh noes! But can you reschedule that spa appointment you have at that sacred temple?

“Ugly American” is a pejorative term assigned to those stereotypical Americans who carry an air of patriotic arrogance and selfish ignorance of other cultures while abroad. The worst kind are the ones who go to exotic nations hoping to get a gritty, real, developing world experience — all from the safety of their comfortable hotels with cable TV. These are the same people who will post on Facebook that they “saw the horrible living conditions.”

xoJane just published a story by Nicole Rose Stillings called “It happened to me: I pretty much embodied the worst American stereotype ever when I went on vacation to Turkey in the middle of a revolution and mass rioting.” Slow clap. At least she can admit it. In her piece, Stillings details her excitement in seeing “cultural struggle first-hand,” drinking champagne before a hot air balloon ride, and most admirably searching for a pair of new pants in Istanbul right when protests began. She was completely naive and oblivious to the country’s affairs.

If you find yourself in Stillings’ position, about to head to a nation that is experiencing some kind of uprising or conflict, please do not do what she did. Here are some helpful tips you should follow to avoid being an ugly American while visit Turkey/Egypt/North Korea/Texas.

  • Do not take a selfie while using a protest as your background.
  • Do not wear your sorority or fraternity tanks, especially in Greece. Also, refrain from bursting out in random bro or sister chants such as “KAPPA KAPPA GAMMA” on the streets. Actually, don’t do that in your home country, either.
  • Don’t take pictures of people praying at a church or temple. They are not praying to be a tourist attraction. It is very rude.
  • Ditch your stupid Fodor’s — you think that shit will tell you what squares to avoid while a protest for freedom and democracy is firing up the city?
  • If you happen to join a protest because you vehemently believe in the people’s right to democracy, freedom, equality or whatever it is, please do not down a little “liquid courage” beforehand. Also do not use a cashmere scarf to cover your face so you can look like a “true” protester.
  • Do not ask locals where you can find the best drugs. Negative 1000 points if you ask for drugs in a city/country where violence is a direct result of drugs.
  • If Wolf Blitzer approaches you to provide a detailed account of a protest, reject him. Just because you saw something happening two hours ago and you can speak English does not qualify you as a competent reporter. Go home.
  • Do not arrogantly think you can start a revolution in the country you are visiting by wearing a Che Guevara shirt (or no shirt at all).
  • Just because a country has a nice beach does not make it your Cancun. Please refrain from taking excessive tequila shots and boastfully running around the beach like you’re on Spring Break. Also, stop shrieking in general.
  • Do not be Nicole Stillings.
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