Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Ugly American-With a side of Rant

The Ugly American tourist is no myth. I know, I've traveled with him.

Fueled by frequent flyer miles, people who should stay home, take busman's holidays to visit people and places they have no more business going to than I have writing the great American novel. Take my South Carolina relatives for instance. Please.

My brother in law and his wife have finally saved enough for the grand tour.

Carolina to London to Barcelona, cruise the Med,and back for a week in London. Sounds delightful doesn't it? I wish I were going, just not with them.

Since they leave Friday, they decided to give the trip some thought. This morning they phoned their travel agent to curse her for the volcano in Iceland. She is now on notice. Later, they stopped by here to ask what to see and do. They were most interested in knowing about London.

Dr. Johnson wrote "If you are tired of London you are tired of life." I hope to never tire of it. I adore London.

Somehow they scored a suite in a swank hotel in Mayfair. Walking distance to everything. I suggested for new kids the basic tourist stuff. The V&A, no we are not museum types. Does that include the Tower of London? Probably. St. Paul's? No, we're not churchy. A play on the West End? Nope. Bath, Stonehenge, Stafford on Avon? What's there?, they asked.

Why the ... are you going? I was starting to steam.

As long as I was getting nowhere I had to twist the knife.

Now remember, I told them, you are staying in the most elegant, sophisticated neighborhood in the English speaking world. Don't expect to be treated well if you don't dress at least as well as the doorman at your hotel.

This to people who think long trousers are an imposition.

No shorts, no tennis shoes. Wear a sportcoat or suit, if you want your presence to be acknowledged in any local restaurant. Act like adults.

It was clear they thought I was on drugs. I can't wait to hear about how their excursion went.

Londoners, I apologize. I promise they won't be back.



Jg. for FatScribe said...

OMG ... awesome post. London meet brother in law; brother in law meet London. Neither will be the same.

preppyplayer said...

If they ever get there.
I am currently stranded in Germany and it looks like the UK's airspace will be the last to open as another cloud of ash erupted last night and is about to shadow the UK.
And I agree with you in regard to attire.
Here in Germany it is a little different in regard to formalities. You can be nude next to another nude family on a nude beach, but you better not converse with them using the more familiar du rather than sie. To use the more familiar you must ask or be invited.

Allie and Pattie said...

Oh, my! I think I know them!! Actually, think I may be related to them! I KNOW I've run into them in our travels...

Shelley said...

Hilarious! You should have sent them to stand in the 2 mile queue for Madame Tussauds. Sounds just their cup of tea...

Must admit I've seen all of the specific things I want to in London, though I could always return to the V&A to see what's on. After all the 'sights' it's just fun to wonder around the funny little streets!

I hate running into American tourists, sadly. I'm embarrassed by how loud they are. On the other hand, young Americans travelling in Britain have impressed several of my friends with their manners and lack of bad language, so maybe it's a middle aged thing (I can afford to travel to Europe so I must be important??).

Look forward to hearing how it all went!

James said...

It does beg the question" why the .... are you going?" We sent my daughter to France after she graduated from university. She said she could always spot Americans by their NASCAR gear.

Martha said...

Ah, Americans -- you can spot them a mile away. A friend and I traveled to England on tour and ended up for a couple of days on our own in Canterbury. By our dress, we were taken for locals and often asked directions. I am sure the Americans were startled when "American" came out of our mouths rather than English. But it pleased us that they thought us English! I love England but prefer the countryside -- perhaps because I live on the prairie, the countryside is more appealing to me. My dream is to rent a cottage in England for a month and live the life of an English villager!

Suburban Princess said...

Oh yes...my uncle has a B&B in Stirling...I have seen all types come and go! When I lived in London I could spot one a mile away.

The funny thing is...when in Canada, I LOVE Americans (dont like American politics tho) but when I am abroad I spend a lot of time cringing for them :O(

Gawd that sounds awful doesnt it!

nanc said...

Several years ago my husband and I traveled to Paris. We arrived mid morning, dropped our bags off and went to pick-up tickets to Faust at the Opera House. We thought our tickets were for that evening so we planned to get our tickets, take a nap and return for the performance. When we got to the Opera House we found out we had tickets for the matinee. We attended the opera in our traveling clothes and did not leave our seats during either of the two intermissions. I'm sure people are still talking about us.

JMW said...

Exactly! Why go in the first place? When Hubby and I went abroad, we tried to blend in, but with all of the walking, I had to break down and wear my running shoes. I guess that was a dead giveaway at the point. :)

David said...

I could easily spend the rest of my days roaming the museums and cathedrals of Europe. Saying we're not "museum types" or "churchy" is really saying "we're just not terribly interested in much of anything." Funny on the surface, tragic when you think about it more.

NCJack said...

I've traveled with Euros and Brits on some tours here, and don't worry, they can be as clueless and snotty and badly dressed as any Yank (Where's the bar, mate? Who iss diss band, pliss, are they known in Berlin?) And they're less bellicose politically because they have the military power of, e.g., a small Ohio County. Read your history, they've all tried it.

That rant aside, I don't know why some Americans MUST dress like slobs, nor why they travel even in our own huge wonderful country with the blinders on. Want to see the Canyon? Nah, I'll stay here in Vegas. Did you ever determine why your in-laws are going?

Mom on the Run said...

I'm so sorry. They'll be the ones bitching that everything isn't just like in the good old U. S. of A. and why do they drive on the WRONG side of the road here anyway?

Do they want to go shopping, perhaps? I'm always amazed at the people who are so excited to go to Marks and Spencer and do a bunch of shopping. I got a huge laugh when I overheard a couple of women talking on the ferry in Bermuda. One was from England, the other off a cruise ship from New Jersey. The NJ woman was telling the British woman that her daughter just loved shopping at Marks and Spencer and they were so excited that there was one in Hamilton. The British woman said "yes, it's lovely for basics, but it's rather like going to Walmart".

Americans....sigh. You can't take them anywhere, can you? ;-}

Toad said...

I can conceive of no reason why they are going, except they have the miles, and they have to take their vacation time or lose it.

Patsy said...

We visited Mystic Seaport yesterday and saw a large group of teenagers who were incredibly well dressed (not a pair of underpants or a belly to be seen) and extremely well behaved.

They were French, lol.

Town and Country Mom said...

I had the opportunity to live in one of the world's foremost tourist destinations, and,cultural cluelessness is an equal opportunity phenomenon--Europeans, South Americans, Asians, and, of course, Americans can all be annoying and provincial. It's the unwillingness to try new things and to see and to learn ("we're not museum people!") that's wasteful and sad.

~Tessa~Scoffs said...

A+ for today's rant! Keep up the scoffing!

Anonymous said...

Love Americans, just adding some militant tourists to a museum makes them hilariously amusing. Example, I'm in Rome with my family (I'm 16), in the Vatican museum, we come across a group looking upon a painting and the patriarch declares with absolute certainty 'This is a Picasso, one of the great fauvist painters!'. Quickly I turned to my dad and said in a low voice 'Well that's all very well... But Picasso is a Cubist... And that's not a Picasso it's a Dalì'. Love this article, and thanks for being so nice to us Brits, I wish I could say that we are all as tolerant of you. :D