Ugly Americans

v  By Ashley Bagwell

   The ugly American is a common stereotype that exists not only in pop culture but also in the minds of most Americans. It is the common cliché of the rude and ugly American tourist vs. the beautiful but arrogant Frenchman. This stereotype stems primarily from a misunderstanding of the French culture, but it has been made infamous by the movie industry.

  The bumbling American tourist has thrived in the literary world for over a hundred years and has now been immortalized on the big screen. American novelist and shot story writer Edith Wharton once said, “How much longer are we going to think it necessary to be ‘American’ before being cultivated, being enlightened, being humane, and having the same intellectual discipline as other civilized countries?”

    In “Innocents Abroad” (1869) the popular author Mark Twain highlighted the ugly American as an immature, ungainly fool. Fictional ugly Americans have also been largely popularized in films such as “National Lampoon’s European Vacation,” where the Griswolds made American a synonym for hapless.

   This is not to say that the stereotype has not been earned. The very phrase “faux pas” is French, and when traveling abroad Americans can often be the masters of “faux pas.” For example, when visiting the fashion capitol of the world, one should make an effort to dress nicely. It doesn’t matter who you are, even if one is sporting their best crocs and t-shirt, they will not be served. Americans are often thought of as loud, so this one is pretty easy, don’t talk loudly. This is offensive to French culture, and it just isn’t the way they live. The third faux pas often performed by the ugly American is ordering their steak tartar cooked. Keep in mind that this is relatively minor, but ordering your raw steak cooked does not make you look smart. Our final faux pas, and the one closest to my heart, is calling your waiter “Garçon.” Garçon means boy, and calling your waiter boy will only get you spit in your food or an obscene swear word muttered in French.

   According to a recent international survey, the French are now considered the worst tourists from European nations, behind only Indians and the last-place Chinese as the worst among countries worldwide. The French also finished second to last among nations ranking the popularity of their own tourists who vacation at home. American tourists made 11th place worldwide. Maybe it is nothing more than hypocrisy, but when people like Heather Stimmler-Hall can make a living by telling Americans what not to do, then maybe there is a problem.