10 Ways To Easily Spot An American Abroad

By Lisa Medeiros on March 17 2020 in Travel

Perfectly straight white teeth are common physical feature for people in the US. Photo by Atikh Bana on Unsplash
  • Most Europeans can speak more than one language.
  • If you stop at a McDonalds overseas, you will most likely hear an American accent.
  • Americans are known to be generous tippers.

Europe consistently ranks as one of the top travel destinations for Americans. The thought of experiencing world-renowned attractions, sampling ethnic dishes, and cooling off in the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean is appealing to the American traveler. 

But often, Americans would prefer if it were a bit more like home. American’s failure to assimilate into foreign cultures often makes spotting an American an easy task. Here are a few ways to pick out a US traveler on your next trip abroad. 

10. Speaks Only English

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Most Americans are not fluent in any other language other than their native tongue. This is not the case in most European countries. It is not uncommon for Europeans to fluently speak several different languages. Children are taught from a young age during their schooling to speak a variety of languages. Not only do Americans only speak English, but they seldom take the time to even learn the simplest phraseology before traveling to a foreign country. Many American’s expect shop keepers and restaurant owners to speak English and often get frustrated if English is not spoken. 

9. Prefers Icy Drinks

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Ice is not something customarily served with drinks in Europe. Americans are known for their fondness for drinks with generous amounts of ice in the glass. If you happen to overhear a request for ice at the next table, it’s almost certainly a thirsty American traveler.

8. Stops at McDonald's

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No matter how many Michelin starred restaurants a European city offers, many Americans will still not pass up an opportunity to enjoy a meal from their favorite Big Mac and french fry maker. Travelers are often disappointed to discover that McDonald's menus may vary from country to country. Fortunately, many of the standard options will remain the same. Visit any McDonalds around the world, and you are sure to hear an American accent - usually loud and clear. 

7. Perfectly Straight White Teeth

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Today more than ever, almost all American middle schoolers are recommended by their orthodontists for braces. Americans are known worldwide for their flawless smiles. Even American adults who didn’t have an opportunity to wear braces as a child are straightening their teeth through braces or Invisiline corrections. Americans also take advantage of a variety of whitening options available for purchase. These options, along with proper dental care in the US, make Americans traveling abroad easily to spot when they shine their pearly whites. 

6. Uncomfortable on Topless Beaches

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Visit any European holiday beach destination, and it’s not uncommon to find many of the European women going topless. Women of all shapes and sizes take advantage of Mediterranean sunshine and engage in this practice that is considered a social norm. European women are much less self-conscience of their body type. If they aren’t topless, they are almost certainly in a skimpy bikini. Americans are not only easy to spot by their obvious uncomfortableness around topless sunbathers, but most American women are spotted in conservative bathing suits. 

5. A Preoccupation with Safety Codes

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Whether climbing the Leaning Tower of Pisa or discussing their Airbnb rental, Americans are often overheard saying things like, ”This would never pass code in America.” Europeans are not nearly as a litigious society as their American counterpart. Europeans tend to take responsibility for their own safety where Americans are conditioned to have the safety precautions in place for them. This fact makes Americans easy to spot abroad by their overt concern about codes and safety conditions. 

4. Littering and Lack of Recycling

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Though America has made great strides in recent years to increase awareness of the environment and the need to recycle, the Europeans have been maintaining these practices for some time. Americans are often easy to detect with their casual disregard for throwing something out a car window or leaving trash on a public beach. It’s not uncommon to spot an American passing by the recycling bin and depositing all their garbage in the rubbish bin - including plastic bottles and cans. 

3. Baseball Caps

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Americans can easily be spotted from a distance in airports and tourist attractions by what they are wearing on their head. Whether showing loyalty for a local baseball or football team, promoting a brand, or showcasing a clever statement, when Americans are ready to travel, a baseball cap is one of the first things they grab before heading to the airport. 

2. Louder the Better

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The easiest way to spot an American abroad is not with your eye but with your ears. Just listen in a crowded restaurant or on public transportation, and you can quickly spot the American by their loud voices and constant conversation. 

1. Tipping

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Americans are known to compensate their servers and bartenders generously. Most American’s will tip 15-20% on any given night. Europeans are much more conservative with their tipping habit, and 10% is an acceptable tip. While travelers might think they can save a few Euros on their holiday abroad, most servers are aware of the tipping practices in America and are often insulted or may even comment on anything less than a customer would tip at home. 

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