Friday, March 16, 2012

Chalet Shenanigans - Chapter 11

At Least Americans are #1 at Something

Ah, me.  It’s that time of year again that US ex-pats hate and, no, I’m not talking about tax time.  Just before travel season kicks in, inevitably, some magazine or newspaper does a survey to find out who the world considers to be “The World’s Worst Travelers”.  Every year, hands down, America wins.  Those of us in foreign lands just kind of cringe and use fake British accents for a week until everybody forgets about it until the next year.



THIS YEAR, apparently, it’s even worse.  I guess the website LivingSocial polled AMERICANS to see who THEY thought were the world’s worst tourists AND EVEN THE AMERICANS VOTED FOR THEMSELVES!!!  Apparently they figure, “hey, we are still number one at something and, by gum, they’re not taking this away from us, too.”



What makes Americans such lousy travelers?  Well, let me tell you what the general population over here in Europe thinks.  And, for the Americans reading this, try not to flip your lid.  I mean, it’s not like you weren’t aware, right?  You did, after all, just vote yourselves into this dubious status.



Number One Complaint:  Americans are the loudest human beings on the planet.

Well, there is no getting around this one, really.  It’s just right there in your face every day.

 On the metro, we hear, from three cars away, “IS THIS OUR STOP?  DO WE GET OFF?  OHMUGOD, I THINK WE JUST, LIKE, MISSED OUR STOP!

And from the other side of the restaurant, we hear, “I DON’T KNOW WHAT ANY OF THIS SAYS.  WHAT IS CHEVAL? IS THAT LIKE CHICKEN?  IT STARTS WITH ‘CH’ SO I THINK IT’S CHICKEN.  MAYBE WE SHOULD GET FONDUE, SINCE WE ARE IN “SWISS”.  HOW DO YOU SAY “I HAVE A PEANUT ALLERGY” IN FRENCH?

And on the ski slopes, across three pistes, comes, “HALEY!  LINDSAY!  MADISON!  YOUR MOM AND I WILL MEET YOU AT THE BOTTOM AT THAT CUTE LITTLE RESTAURANT, OK?  DON’T GO ANYWHERE ELSE, OK?  GIRLS, DO YOU HEAR ME?  NOD YOUR HEAD IF YOU HEAR ME!

Then, everyone, to a man (smug ex-pat Americans included), within a 100 meter radius, smirks at each other, shrugs their shoulders, mutters “Ah, les Americains” and goes about their business.

Rebuttal for Complaint Number One:  No secret, here, folks.  It’s quite simple.  There is no stigma in America for being loud.  Let’s just look at their clich├ęs and colloquialisms for a moment.

1.        The squeaky wheel gets the grease.
2.       Loud and Proud
3.       Speak up, Son, I can’t hear you
4.       Give a Rebel Yell
5.       Stop mumbling.
6.       Say it loud, say it clear

And those just came off the top of my head in 30 seconds.  Now, compare that attitude to a country like Switzerland WHERE YOU CAN GET A VISIT FROM THE POLICE IF YOU RECYCLE YOUR GLASS BOTTLES ON A SUNDAY AND MAKE A CLANKING NOISE.  Do you see?

Let me just ask the Europeans for a second, hey, guys, have you ever been in a restaurant/bar/store/mall in America?  If you have, did you notice the decibel level of the background music?  Yeah.  You don’t have that, do you, the whole background music thing?  Doesn’t exist.  In America, the people get used to yelling just to be heard by their pal who is only 1 foot away.  Crazy, but true.  Now, let’s just acknowledge that this is a problem and move on to complaint number two.

Number Two Complaint:  Americans are Difficult to Please.

Unfortunately, this is also true.  Every hotelier in Europe knows what I’m about to write.  Here are the Top 5 complaints they hear every time an American checks in:

1.        Um, my internet is not working.
2.       My cell phone is not working.
3.       It was my understanding that breakfast was included.  So, um, like, where are the eggs and bacon?  If this croissant is supposed to be breakfast, then I am a monkey’s uncle.
4.       Do you have any bigger:   beds/rooms/bathrooms/TVs/balconies/closets?  Because everything you have shown me so far was built for Mini-Me.
5.       I cannot find:   an outlet in the bathroom/a coffee maker/ an iron or ironing board/wi-fi connection/anything resembling a real shower.  Can you help me?

Europeans all have the same general impression of Americans when they are traveling and that is that Americans THINK they want to go experience new things, but when faced with the reality of travel outside their comfort zone, they become, um, fussy.  They say things like: (and, please note, they will be yelling when they say these things, even though they don’t realize that they are yelling):

1.        DUDE!  IT’S LIKE WE’RE BACK IN THE MIDDLE AGES OR SOMETHING!  NO INTERNET?  THAT’S FREAKING CRAZY, DUDE!  HOW DO YOU PEOPLE LIVE LIKE THIS?
2.       SERIOUSLY?  MY CAR IS BIGGER THAN THAT ROOM.  NO, WAIT, THE TRUNK OF MY CAR IS BIGGER THAN THAT ROOM.
3.       THAT IS NOT A SHOWER, MAN, THAT IS SOMETHING MY MOTHER USES TO WASH DISHES IN THE KITCHEN.  TAKE A BATH?  NO, THAT’S JUST GROSS.  NUH-UH, NO WAY.
4.       WHERE DID YOU SAY THE EGGS WERE AGAIN?  ALL I SEE ON THE BUFFET ARE THOSE HARD-BOILED ONES IN THE SHELL.  NO OFFENSE, BUT THOSE ARE SALAD TOPPINGS, NOT BREAKFAST FOOD.

And, all the time this is going on, the Americans are thinking, very quietly and under their breath, “No wonder these people couldn’t win a war without us.  You can’t fight Hitler with only a lousy pastry bun in your belly and trying to get clean using a shower head on a stick”.

Ha!  Caught you!  All y’all were thinking that, weren’t you?  Onto item number three.


Number Three Complaint:  Americans dress like they are either on their way to the gym or preparing for bed.

I have only three things to say to this.




The Pajama Jean.

The Fanny Pack.

The White Sneaker

There is no defense for EVER wearing any of these three items outside of America’s borders.  They should come equipped with an Invisible Fence type of apparatus.  If you try to smuggle them on an airplane, the beeper goes off once you reach international airspace.  “You, ma’am, in 34B.   Yes, you.  You’ll have to hand over those stretch pants with the stitched-on pockets or, so help me, we will have to turn this plane around.  You should have left those in Texas, ma’am, where they belong.”

This blog entry is going on far too long as it is, but I don’t care.  I want to hit points number 4 and 5 and then I’ll feel better.  I’m trying to help you here, folks!  Let’s tweak our ways just a little bit and then Americans can drop down to the Number Two spot and let the Chinese tourists claim the title.







Oh, you thought only Americans were bad?  Let me tell you about the Chinese.  They only travel in packs.  Of, like, 200.  Plus one guide carrying an umbrella with a scarf tied on the end which she holds over her head like the majorette in a marching band. 







All 200 of these people will have a large camera swinging around their neck.  They take pictures of EVERYTHING.  Every plate of food they are served.  The toilets.  The doorknobs.  And don’t even talk about the monuments.  They absolutely swarm the monuments like flies on raw meat.  






No one else can ever have a picture taken in front of any statue or fountain unless they are willing to have ten random Chinese people mugging in the picture behind them.



Enough about them.  Let’s get back to our issues. 




Complaint Number Four:  Americans expect everyone to speak English.

I really don’t know how we Americans ever got stuck in this entitlement rut, but we did.  I mean, we are like one of the youngest countries, but we expect everyone to speak our language.  And, don’t blame it on the British.  Brits know how to speak enough German, French, Italian and Spanish to get by.

I’m not saying that Americans need to learn another language before they travel.  Just a few words are sufficient.  Just enough to make an effort.  Just enough to say, “hey, I’m tryin’ here, people, gimme a break!”

Before you leave for vacation, learn the words for yes/no, please/thank you and hello/goodbye.  Everything else can be accomplished by grunting and pointing.  Trust me.  My sign language skills are awesome now.

Finally, Complaint Number Five:  Americans Constantly Complain About Prices

Well, they do, it’s true.  But, it’s because they come from the Land of Discount Shopping.  Say what you want about the evils of capitalism and the free-market system, but that fiscal policy allows Americans to buy burgers for 99 cents and gas for 4 bucks a gallon, (which they still think is high!)

Here’s a little hint.  Do your homework on the internet before you leave for whatever country you are going to visit, so the sticker shock isn’t quite so bad.  Then, BELIEVE what you are reading.  Don’t think, “Oh, once we get over there, surely it won’t be so bad/surely we’ll be able to find things cheaper/surely not all places charge extra for a glass of tap water.”  Shirley, you, my dear, are in for a rude awakening.  If, before you leave, you google “Most Expensive Cities in the World” and the place you are going to is on the list, you better dust off the credit cards, girl, and get ready to support the gross national product.



In summary, I know it’s hard for the Yanks to have to hear all of this (again!), but, like I said, just a little tweaking would do wonders and could pop those Chinese right up into the top spot.  Those Goober McGoo rain hats they wear everywhere are right up there with the Pajama Jean, in my opinion.