Best Ways to Spot an American Abroad

Americans love to travel, see new things, taste new foods and experience different cultures. However, when overseas, they tend to stick out like a sore thumb.


People from the US may love traveling, but they also love talking about their hometown and country. Even if they don’t, there are several tell-tale signs that you are in the presence of an American. So, how can you tell when there’s an American in Paris?

19. Drinking to excess

Young American tourists are particularly susceptible to drinking a bit too much when overseas as they take advantage of being able to legally drink at the age of 18, as is the case in most foreign nations. Also, the alcohol content of non-US beers is typically higher than that of US beers, so Americans can drink the same amount they usually do but be a lot worse the wear for it! All the more reasons to get a travel insurance if you are young and plan on partying far from home during your college spring break.

18. Eating while walking

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The French will lay out a blanket to sit on and eat their lunch, Italians are happy to stand up at a bar to eat and Americans enjoy having a bite on the street as they walk. With a fast-food restaurant on every corner in US towns and cities, it is perhaps unsurprising that Americans have developed the tendency to eat on the run.

17. White socks

Many of us may own a pair of white socks but if ALL your socks are white and you feel it’s appropriate to pull them up as far as they can go, you probably call the US home. Europeans favor a darker sock or even no socks at all whereas Americans can’t get enough of crisp, white socks. In some cities across the globe, Paris, for example, white socks are even frowned upon.

16. Overly friendly

This trait isn’t universal among those from the US but it is seen as typically American by foreigners. Forget the accent, the mere fact that you are happy to chat to complete strangers will single you out. This assertive friendliness is not very common outside the US.

15. Monolingual

Sadly, the travel bug among Americans does not come with a desire to speak the local tongue. Americans tend to make very little, if any, effort to speak in anything other than English when abroad. Being monolingual (only speaking one language) is the norm in America whereas most other countries put a high value on speaking other languages, with English often taught in schools. This lack of interest in speaking other languages and the (mistaken) idea that everyone speaks English anyway put Americans behind the eight ball when traveling.

14. White teeth

In the US, every teen has braces and everyone else is getting their teeth whitened. The US may be lagging behind the rest of the world in terms of the accessibility and quality of healthcare and health insurance, but they lead the way when it comes to straight, white teeth. A dazzlingly and white smile may be common in the US, but it is unusual elsewhere and can appear unnatural and very ‘Hollywood.’

13. A fear of germs


We are not suggesting that Americans are cleaner than people in other countries, but they do seem to be more germophobic. At home and abroad, hand sanitizer is a must for every American. Time to eat? Here’s the hand sanitizer. Just taken a train? Here’s the hand sanitizer again. Patted a dog or touched a park bench? Hand sanitizer. That is, if you are American, of course. With the cost of medical bills, we understand why you are so scared of getting sick though.

12. Baseball caps

Designer baseball caps are fashionable in certain countries but a baseball cap that is actually affiliated with a real baseball team is a uniquely American accoutrement. Why? Baseball is just not that popular outside of the US, so if the logo on your cap is a real baseball team’s logo, you’re American.

11. Shorts

In a heatwave or a snowstorm and in all locations, Americans love a nice pair of shorts, especially when on vacation. So, if you think nothing of putting on some shorts when it’s raining outside or you’re off to a nice restaurant, prepare for others to assume you’re American—you are, aren’t you?

10. Tipping

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In the US, you always tip waiters, taxi drivers, even the guy who makes your takeaway coffee. This is not the case in most countries around the world. Tipping is less important and less habitual in other nations because in other countries waiters are paid a decent wage. In the US, waiters are not paid even minimum wage as the expectation is that they will bring home additional money from tips.

9. Obesity


It may feel like a nasty stereotype but there is a lot of truth to it. America is suffering from an obesity epidemic and Americans have thus earned a reputation from being bigger than others. They are, in fact, bigger than world averages so an overweight tourist is typically assumed to be an American tourist.

8. A love of ice


Chilled mineral water or wine can be found in some countries, but ask for a soda or tap water with ice and you will immediately identify yourself as American. Non-Americans just aren’t that fussed about ice. Plus, in some countries, ice can carry diseases such as hepatitis A. All the more reasons to avoid ice cubes when you are far away from home.

7. Selfies

People worldwide love to take photos. However, Americans have a particular love for the selfie. If your selfie stick has essentially become an extension of your arm, you most likely hail from the US. When traveling around Europe, people selling selfie sticks on the street will tend to zone in on Americans as they’re the ones that always have a phone in their hand.

6. McDonald’s

You’ve spent hundreds, perhaps thousands, traveling to an exotic destination, putting yourself up in a nice hotel and visiting local attractions. Then you choose to eat at McDonald’s. There is no doubt about this one: you’re American. Why travel to the other side of the globe to eat at a US fast-food chain? You’ll have to ask an American. Walk into a McDonald’s in a country other than the US and only half the customers will be locals. The other half will be, you guessed it, American.

5. Luggage

Not only are Americans themselves on the big size, so are their bags. Americans love stuff and will pack enough for a month when traveling for a week. If you see someone dragging two bags behind them and laboring under an overstuffed backpack, you are most likely in the presence of an American.

4. Football, so what?

It is a sport that is beloved almost everywhere except America. Americans just don’t care about soccer, or football, as it is called everywhere else. So, if you’re having a drink in a bar in a foreign country and you’re not riveted to the TV screen to watch the match, you’re not from around there!

3. Applause

We’re not talking about applauding at the end of a performance at the theatre, we’re talking about applauding when a plane lands or a meal arrives at your table. If you find everyday things worthy of applause, you’re probably American. Save your energy for something else when you travel.

2. It takes one to know one

If you see a couple of Americans outside the US walk to greet each other, you would be forgiven for thinking that they were beloved relatives who haven’t seen each other in years. In truth, they’ve probably never met each other before but this doesn’t stop them from being loud and demonstrative in their affection for each other as they discuss precisely where they’re from in America.

1. Disrespectful

Americans may be known for being overly friendly, but they’re also known for not respecting cultures different from their own. They may have decided to travel and see something new but this doesn’t stop them from mocking accents or doing things that are considered offensive in their host country. The US can be quite an insular place and finally confronting another culture can prompt Americans to deride or make fun of the differences they find. Make sure you don’t claim this stereotype when you are traveling.