Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Ask a Korean! Wiki: How Not to be an Arrogant American?

Dear Korean,

I am an American I am going to be living in Korea for a year. I don't want to be the arrogant American. I would like to learn and respect the local culture. What would you say is some of the most immediate things to know about the culture to get me started?


Dear Ryan,

The Frenchman of Ask a Frenchman! was asked the exact same question, and his answer is excellent. Here it is in its entirety:

Let’s start with American students in France, especially in Paris…

First of all, let me insist on one point. Like in any other aspects, what you do gives a reputation to everyone in your country of origin, and sadly, the bad things you do always have a stronger impact than the good things you do. For example, if there’s a guy who’s a complete jerk in the metro, if he’s French, people will think “this guy is really a jerk” but if he’s American, people will think “this American is really a jerk” and that will be one more nail in the coffin of America reputation’s abroad. This obviously works in any country, America included, not just France.

If I took the example of the metro it’s not random. For some reason, most of American student jerkiness I witness in Paris happens in the metro, which is also the place where most French people will encounter American students in their daily life.

That being said, and like many other things in life and on this planet, it’s always the loud minority that’s going to give a reputation to the silent majority, because of course most Americans students in Paris (and more generally, abroad) are decent people, but it’s the few jerks that give a bad reputation to all the rest. Locals won’t even notice the other decent ones or will consider them as decent people, not decent Americans. Life is not fair, I know. So if you’re a student abroad, be aware of that, of your own behavior, but also of your friends’ behavior. If they start doing something stupid in public, don’t just laugh, but try to prevent them from doing it.

Why is it Americans students (even a minority) that always behave stupidly in public places though is still a mystery to me. Other foreign students usually behave normally most of the time. But yeah, for some Americans, abroad, especially Paris, is some sort of Neverland where nothing is real and everything is designed for their own entertainment, as if the US was an island floating on a planet-wide Disneyland. I don’t think we’ll ever be able to change that, at least not until most Americans realize that they’re no different from anybody else and that their country is just one among more than 200.

So, how do you do not to be stigmatized as a “stupid American student”? It’s not that hard really. Of course, not wearing sweat pants is a good start, but unless you have a good sense of (international) fashion, chances that your clothes give you away as American are pretty high.

The answer has to lie elsewhere. It simply is in your behavior. I dropped a few hints in the previous lines, but basically always remember that:

- You’re in the real world, not some sort of fantasy world.
- You represent your country, whether you like it or not.
- Don’t do anything you wouldn’t do at home.
- Don’t do many of the things you would do at home.
- Basically do as Romans do, but also as Parisians do.
- But don’t try to appear or act French, you’ll fail (one of the funniest thing I can see in Paris is American students sitting at a café terrace, with a glass of wine and a cigarette just waiting as if something magical was gonna happen… hints: if you don’t smoke at home don’t pretend to do so in Paris, don’t drink wine in a café, wine is mostly consumed during meals, not in cafés).
- Be respectful of people you know, but also people you don’t know, you’ve never seen and you’ll never see again.
- Be respectful of yourself, don’t make a fool of yourself… ever…
- Don’t speak that loud. Americans don’t always realize that the “normal” volume of their voice is considered “loud” according to French standards. I know it’s hard to change such a thing that is so unconscious, but try nonetheless.
- Be friendly but not too friendly.
- And finally and most important, don't see the place as "abroad" but as "your current home".
Substitute "Paris" with "Seoul", and the vast majority of the Frenchman's advice applies to Korea as well.

The Korean will add one thing. Do as the best Koreans do, not as any Koreans do. One of the most common misguided complaint by an expat in Korea is: "Koreans do it too! Why can't I do it?" For example, there are plenty of Korean young men who get plastered on weekends, yell and pass out in the middle of the street. But that is not an excuse for you to do the same. Like it or not, for every negative action, you will be judged more harshly than Koreans who engaged in the same negative action. That's what it is like to live as a minority and an outsider. Your fellow Americans of color have been dealing with the same thing for years and years. Remember that, during Hurricane Katrina, black people "looted" food while white people "found" food? It is not fair, but it is to be expected.

But this post is categorized as a Wiki, and for a good reason. At the end of the day, the Korean has never really been an American in Korea in the truest sense. Therefore, he does not know the most common pitfalls that someone who is visiting Korea for the first time.

Readers, please contribute. Any small thing is fine.

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at


  1. Good advice which expats in HK should take it up, unfortunately I think you are attempting to plug a breech in a dam with your fingers. As the damage is being done and there are many many more people who will act arrogant than there are who will respect the culture.

    Case in point due to the crash of US/ European economies tons of people are seeing ESL in Korea as an easy meal ticket. They haven't even gone out there yet but on forums they are asking where to get drugs what happens if they get into fights etc. And everybody seems to stick together. I saw this in Hongdae and Itaewon more than once.

    But its same the world over, the Expats in Hong Kong all hang around in Wanchai or the midlevels.And think they are something special.

  2. You might want to check out "ABC News: Tourists Behaving Badly
    'What Would You Do?'" when they asked/paid two actors to commit faux pas in France.

    You'll be amazed at the results. Who got angry (other tourists--American) and who the waitstaff truly hate waiting on (the locals).

    Here's the website for the series: However, I don't have enough time to track down the videos right now. It did air as a series of "What would you do?" specials.

  3. I remember while studying abroad in Chile, some fellow American study abroad students liked to play a little game that more or less meant getting hammered and then seeing who could stand up for the longest on the subway without falling. I'm glad I never witnessed it or I might have completely lost all faith in my fellow citizens (instead of just most of my faith). Fortunately, or unfortunately, I don't think they played this game on the bus... a game which could easily have given them a broken neck at the way Chilean bus drivers drove back then (nothing compared to Korean bus drivers, folks... you haven't seen anything until you've been on a an old school bus in Santiago de Chile)

    Also, as far as talking loud... and being loud, I think that's what's gotten my American friends and I on the subway the most in trouble. When 10 Americans and Canadians step on the train together after a drink or two, I would imagine it's quite a cacophony... but we never realize it..

  4. My father frequently travels to various countries due to business, and one of his observations about many Americans abroad was that they assume that everyone speaks English, even in non-English speaking countries. So, for example, you'll have your typical American tourist asking a local for directions, and they'll start blabbing away in English and expect to be understood. In Paris, where many French people speak excellent English, a local might be inclined to see this as an example of "American superiority" and thus might respond in a negative way. Heeding my father's advice, I learned the German phrase for "excuse me" (entschuldingung) before I visited Berlin, and always began with this phrase when engaging a local. After that, I'd ask my question in slow deliberate English (not knowing any further German), and I found that people were always polite and eager to help.

    I guess the lesson to take away would be to be mindful of other people's culture and language when visiting a foreign country. The example above might not apply perfectly to Korea where English is glorified, but it can never hurt to show that you are aware that other people besides Americans populate the Earth.

  5. Pardon the plug, but maybe my
    open letter to first year English Teachers
    will have some helpful tips.

    Other than that, I'd say the best tip is simply to keep an eye on the people around: conversation partners, or the other people on the subway, or whatever. If their body language is agitated, dial it back; if strangers are staring, dial it back.

    The point about speaking loudly is especially true in Korea: because we're speaking English, it can irk some people -- speaking the language they struggle so hard to learn just niggles, for whatever reason.

    Another thing that's especially true in Korea is that if you take care of your appearance, you'll much more likely get the benefit of the doubt. If you're badly groomed, shaggy, wearing torn clothes, etc., people will be quicker to notice, and judge you, because pretty much everyone takes good care of their appearance here.

  6. I just think people who speak their language abroad, will always be seen as speaking loudly. Not only American. Everybody.

    It's just that a foreign language always stands out.

  7. @dr1ftFD: You really have a point, basic words are really important. Hello, Good bye, I'm sorry, thank you.

    And more is better.

  8. Thank you for the post.

    I will go out on a limb and admit that this might have to do with the education.

    That in some countries, they are taught (whether in classroom or throughout their lives..) that their culture is the only one that matters, and they have the right to change for the better when they happen to be in other countries.

    You've been in outside of the your home country for a long time you must know what I'm talking about. From my personal experience, this is especially true for Korean-Americans. I'm so surprised that many of them distance themselves from the country Korea. Why would they? Have you ever seen Swedish or Italian Americans shameful about their own countries? Their thoughts are dominated by the majority-thoughts, that somehow Korea and Asia as a whole is under-developed.

  9. The year and a half I spent living in Korea was mostly spent in the company of Koreans, not other Americans (as I wasn't an English teacher or affiliated with the military). The interesting side effect of that is that I found myself taking on the Korean opinion of foreigners, and to my great dismay, it's generally not a very good one.

    I would have to say one of the greatest faux pas -- and downright rude things -- that Americans commit is making derogatory comments about Koreans, Korean culture, and Korea in general in very public places in voices that could not help but carry over a wide area. I must assume that they assume that people don't understand them; what I find puzzling is that they are there for the very purpose of teaching people to understand the language they're speaking. Most Koreans aren't fluent in English, but that doesn't mean that they don't understand certain things, and even if they don't understand what you're saying, many times they can pick up on things like your tone of voice and your body language. If you really don't like something, you're entitled to that opinion -- but share it with others in private. Or better yet, not at all.

    Which brings me to another point. I found that the Korean people were usually hospitable, warm, and helpful, and I think it is because I spoke to them in their language and sought to understand and emulate their social interactions. Of course, it's probably not feasible for most to become fluent, but it doesn't take that much time or effort to learn basic phrases as a general courtesy (hello, excuse me, thank you, etc). You are, after all, in their country. Think how you would react if someone came up to you in America and starting blabbing away in Urdu or something. Investing a little time in this and in understanding some of the culture and the ins-and-outs of social interaction will get you far and keep you from being labeled a rude American. Plus, you'll enjoy the experience more and be less annoyed by things that "don't make sense" or are "stupid".

    Honestly, I could write a book on this subject...and many probably have. The bottom line: be polite, and educate yourself about the culture and the people.

  10. I think others have covered the basics, which are basically to speak the language as much as possible, at least ask if someone speaks English before you start speaking English, and to not be loud.

    I would echo AnnMarie's comment about not making fun of Korea. There are many things about Korea that are funny or cute, but constantly laughing about those differences in public places looks bad, especially since the people who hear you won't fully understand you.

    I wouldn't be enamoured with people I saw in Canada laughing at us for drinking coffee or having a leaf on our flag.

    I once spent an eternity (three stops) on the subway with a Canadian coworker who bellowed about everything at the top of her lungs, but I'd like to share this anecdote which is one of the stupidest things I've ever seen a foreigner do here.

    At a convenience store in Suwon station, there was an American trying to buy a drink. He handed the cashier a dollar bill, and the cashier just stared at it. The cashier tried to tell him that they wouldn't take it, but the American (likely a soldier) protested: "but it's all I've got!"

  11. Hey,
    Thanks for the quote.
    I feel honored. :)

    I don't have much to add to everyone's comments, but of course, I will...

    -dr1ftFD: Yeah, assuming the locals speak your language is a big no no. When an American tourist (because it's always an American... OK, I gotta admit it happened with a Spanish speaker once too) just speaks to me in English and assume I'll understand, I'll pretend I don't understand English. While those simple words uttered IN ENGLISH "Excuse me, but do you speak English?" will be enough for me to go out of my way to help them if necessary. It's all about respect and politeness.
    And yeah, knowing "excuse me" in the local language is always a good idea.

    -Tellos: No it's not a foreign language thing, it's not even an English language thing, it's an American thing. (even the Brits and Australians think Americans are loud).

    -Adeel: "but it's all I've got"!!! LOL
    Who in their right mind think they can use their own currency anywhere they go? (I have an answer for that, but if I mention it, I'll be accused of America bashing again)

  12. Just try to adapt and integrate yourself into the local culture / way of life as much as possible. Don't view this as a vacation place or someplace you can do whatever in.

    That being said, while I am an American I most certainly am not a ~guest~ in this country. Guest's are people you invite to an event or place out of good will / kindness. You treat guest's as special and they typically are not required to pull their own weight. If you have a job and are producing / providing some product or skill to the local economy (for a fee) then you longer qualify as a quest. Instead view yourself as a full functioning member of the society and act as such.

    One of my pet peeves that I have to constantly correct my Korean friends on. If they see a foreigner doing something retarded and make a conclusion that all foreigners of that class are that way, then I typically ask them if they would feel the same way about Koreans if they saw a Korean doing the same (or similar thing). The typical answer is "no but they are Korean", upon which I reply with "how does that matter".

    I don't let people pull the "your a weikook and wouldn't understand" card. I've lived here too damn long for that to even apply.

    In short, try to see Korea as your home, not as a foreign country.

  13. the korean, i cosign you on understanding the concept of being a minority. many a white male in korea could use an interactive lesson on that before disembarking the plane to incheon. it helps to explain 50% of the drama VISIBLE expats face. (no help for my kyopo friends unfortunately...)

    frenchman, as for americans being louder, you're right. it's absolutely true. neither brits nor australians open their mouths very wide when they speak so their voices don't project as easily. (seriously. they speak from their throats and the back of their mouth.)

    now, if CHINESE people think americans are loud, i'd actually take that seriously cuz i've never heard anybody whisper in chinese. lol.

    here's the video, from ABC somebody mentioned

  14. If I may make another suggestion on a lighter note -- take some time not only to acquaint yourself with the social culture, but also with the pop culture. There are quite a few foreigners who enjoy Korean music, movies, and television without speaking a single word of the language, and there are great resources on the web as far as finding and talking about these things are concerned. If you give it a try, it'll give you a completely different take on the experience you're having, plus it gives you something to talk about besides your point of view on being an expat in Korea. If you mention to Koreans that you're a crazy-huge fan of the Wonder Girls or 2PM or you think the latest drama is really good, you're 99.5% likely to endear yourself to them.

    Websites where you can watch Korean dramas (television shows, in other words) and movies with English (and sometimes other languages) subs:,,,

    A great website resource for Kdrama news and discussion:

    English-language Kpop news:

  15. I think one important difference between France and Korea is that the French are more diverse in their stereotypes. In France, people will see an American acting like a jerk and think badly of Americans. In Korea, people see a white guy acting like a jerk and think badly of Americans. It's often assumed that any white people are Americans or possibly Canadian.

    I have to agree very strongly with AnnMarie about being careful what you say around people. I hate hearing people speaking about me in Korean on the subway because they assume I can't understand anything. Sometimes it's flattering, but sometimes it's most definitely not (my Korean is admittedly bad, but enough that I can get the gist). I hate even more when I hear foreigners complaining about Korea in English. On any given subway car or in any bar, there's bound to be at least one person who can understand you perfectly well. I love the story David Sederis tells about standing on the subway in Paris while an American couple, assuming he is French, talks loudly about him.

  16. "I love the story David Sederis tells about standing on the subway in Paris while an American couple, assuming he is French, talks loudly about him."

    Don't tell anyone, but that's my favorite activity when I'm bored on the subway.
    Most of the time it's boring, but once in a while it's simply priceless.
    A few months ago, on line 8, between République and Bastille: "Then, we'll get off at Bastille, this is where the prison is, it's one of the things we must visit while we're in Paris."
    It was really hard to just not laugh out loud that day...

  17. It has been one of my missions to be a polite foreigner over here. (I'm teaching in Busan right now.)

    I'm polite at home, but I've decided to be extra-polite here. I make a special effort to give way to older people. I am also friendly to each and every person who says "Hello" to me, which is a lot on some days. I know some foreigners who find this really annoying, but I look at it as a good opportunity to reach out and leave a good impression.

    I also go home when I'm feeling burnt-out by the pushing and shoving. It's the best I can do. There are some days when I'd just get into a foul mood if I didn't.

    I'm lucky now that I have a good job. My first job was terrible and it was harder to stay in a good mood. But now that I have a great boss and co-workers it's much easier to stay in a good frame of mind.

    Oh yeah - and it's not very Korean of me to do so, but I'm super-polite and friendly to people who serve me in restaurants and stores and the lady cleaning the elevator whatever.

    Oh yeah, last one - learn some Korean. I'm working on it.

  18. When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

    Learn Korean - using even the basics will get you a better answer.

    Be polite - not necessarily to anyone and everyone 24/7, but err on the side of politeness.

    Don't allow yourself to be taken advantge of. If that comes into conflict with #2, be polite, but firm.

    Criticize other people or things privately and/or quietly. Few constructive things can come from a public drubbing of something or someone.

    Understand the Confucian order of things, even if you don't fit into it. There's a reason things are done the way they are.

    Remember the locals have a different culture, a different history, different religions (for some, a lack thereof), and different ways of showing respect towards someone. Merely one example of that is lying to save face. Hate it or understand it, they're going to do it whether you like it or not.

    Finally, YOU chose to come here - you weren't forced into the arrangement. If you can't hack it, go home.

  19. @Adeel

    Because Koreans would NEVER openly laugh at someone for looking differently, acting differently or talking differently.


  20. Again, Matt, Do as the best Koreans do, not as any Koreans do. One of the most common misguided complaint by an expat in Korea is: "Koreans do it too! Why can't I do it?"

  21. Do as the best Koreans do, eh? That's advice that Korea should probably take. That's a ridiculous double standard that no sane person should expect another human being to live up to.

    Why are Americans expected to be paragons of virtue when everyone else is as obnoxious(or worse) as Americans are? Again, another ridiculous double standard that no human being should be expected to live up to. American or not.

    So, let me get this straight. We've got Koreans and French complaining about the travel habits of Americans? Is this a joke? Could you have picked two worse stereotypes if you tried? The guy at "Ask An Underpants Bomber" wasn't returning emails last week? The acceptable hatred of all things American is palpable here.

  22. That's a ridiculous double standard that no sane person should expect another human being to live up to.

    Guess what? Racial minorities in America are expected to live up to the same "ridiculous double standard" every day. Quit your whining.

  23. I wanted to answer to that, but you gave the best possible answer.

  24. Matt seems like the typical, spoiled, ethnocentric white male brat from the U.S. that unfortunately South Korea is inundated with these days.

    In reality, if you could get English teachers who already had genuine respect and interest in Korea and/or Asia to begin with (before getting a job and heading over), all of this would be a mute point.

    It's only because you get jobless Joes who couldn't care less where they go, and are ingrained with many of the anti-Asian attitudes that prevails in the Anglosphere, that the stereotypes arise.

  25. Awww crap! I hate it when the few lazy, indulged, entitled-mentality Americans ruin it for the rest of us! :-) I was a foreign exchange student in a Spanish-speaking country and was told by my family and teachers to be very respectful of the culture and to accept with gratitude the people and everything that was given me. I hate beans and rice, but that was our food on a daily basis. I always said thank you and made sure I ate every bit of it. To be honest, the other 20 Americans (all of us from different U.S. states that were in the same exchange program as me) were very respectful and adapted very well. We all know that it's the one bad apple in a group that can stand out. We all want to be judged on an individual basis, but it's easier to just put a whole people group into one box and say, "They are like this." I just wish I could apologize for any American behaving badly in a another country and shake them and say, "Hey, who do you think you are?" Most of the Americans I know are very hard-working, very sincere, dedicated, honest, reliable, etc... but I know that doesn't represent everybody - just my own experiences. Don't be an arrogant American or arrogant anybody. Just shut up and learn from other people. :-)

  26. Well How not to be an Arrogant American? well isnt that a personality issue? Wether it was visiting your Friend's house in the US or visiting another country dont you have to be respectful of the place you are at? so be yourself yet polite to those who also show respect to you.

    The tips were awesome by the way, I must admit I been wanting to go to Korea to see it since my father's stories of being stationed there many moons ago and more so desired to go after watching the K-dramas... the pop culture there is definitely entertaining and I admire the production quality in some.

    @ AnnMarie I didnt know that sharing the love of their music and dramas would be an ice breaker,very cool to know.

    Another point regarding Arrogance when visiting another country...I watched the Globetrekker episode on South Korea and I was enjoying until the point where the host went to the fish Market in Busan and this lady fed the host a living squid, the guy spat it out, was so disgusted... I thought WOW they showed that! I thought it was rude actually, he could have said NO THANKS turn her down politely, instead of showing disgust like that...Im Puerto Rican( yah LOUD) and I hate it when non PR's who arent used to our cuisines or ingredients show exxagerated and overly dramatic disgust to food we love, I say keep it to yourself and just say "No I dont want it." Simple!

  27. I'm currently nearing the end of my year in South Korea and headed back to South Africa in a couple of weeks and in my limited experience I've found that obnoxious, brash, ignorant behaviour is not limited to people from America. In my time here, I've met plenty of "stupid" Canadians, British, South Africans, even Koreans etc. etc. all with this strange sense of entitlement. So I think all this advice applies to anyone living in or merely visiting a foreign country. In my time here I've learnt that being humble and polite gets you a long way with Koreans and will help you stay sane when everything around you seems like it's going out of control.

    Some foreigners come to South Korea with the attitude that their culture and way of doing things is the right way, anything outside this frame of reference is wrong, backward and illogical. In all honesty, there have been many times where I've felt frustrated, confused, exasperated, and cringed at certain things I've experienced and witnessed here but I try and remember that I'm not in South Africa anymore, things are done differently and work differently in this culture in the same way that some traditions and beliefs in South Africa may appear strange to some. My point is, remember to be humble, see things (not as right or wrong) but as different, be polite, open-minded and patient but at the same time don't lose who you are and your conviction. It's a difficult balance to achieve but not impossible.

  28. I am an Australian. I am learning Korean and i'm planning to go teach English their some time in the future.

    One thing really annoys me; I know Americans have a bad reputation in Korea but because of that, what i have witnessed is, i have a bad reputation in Korea. It really pisses me off because i'm not American.. i'm Australian. I suppose that's how things work because when your a foriegner and look the same, people will always lump you into the same catagory, no matter which country your in; the same happens in France, where ppl don't like us because the British and American's give us a bad reputation.

    What annoys me even more is that we have heaps more Koreans in Australia than we have Australians in Korea (which is not hard because we have a small population in Oz). So anyway, when i tell them i'm planning to go to Korea to teach English the Korean men (in particular) can't help but reveal their hidden dislike for ppl who teach English their. I suppose i get that. I mean, its like.. if someone came into your house, you hadn't invited them, they were enabled by someone else, then they proceed to get drunk and trash the place, all to leave the next day and leave you to clean up their mess.. then how would you feel? (i think Koreans would feel like that). But its unfair on me really because there are probably more which come to Australia and trash my house, and then they have the nerve to be angry with me for wanting to visit their house... and maybe i don't even plan to trash it, i just want to be a decent individual who experiences different things..

    Just my feelings anyway; thought i'd give my take on my section of the world and the way some Aussies might see things. There are always to sides to the story.. think about that Frenchies and Koreans.

  29. BRITISH people are consistently LOUD. Americans-- depends on the region.

  30. I agree with what you say, in general. However, I'd ask everyone to please consider the effect of their words.
    Americans are, perhaps righteously, disliked on sight the world over because our country's in many ways the most conspicuously exploitative fat cat in the world, and because we have many crass, boorish people.
    However, just as any country is represented in large part by regular people who try to be considerate of others and are just trying to get by, so is America.
    I agree with you, but I also agree with Matt, who says that it is not reasonable to EXPECT foreigners to assimilate. To have respect, yes. To refrain from doing things that would be shitty and rude anywhere, absolutely. To demonstrate some efforts at adopting local customs, of course. But not assimilation.
    You respond with 'but Americans are the original xenophobes!' Yes, of course America does that to foreigners, at high rates, and sometimes with grave consequences. Many of us despise it when foreigners are made to feel that they are by nature inadequate and cannot belong in any way, instead of appreciated for their differences, or at least respected. It's wrong in the US. I don't know if it's wrong in reverse, you can certainly say it's deserved if you like, but I can tell you it feels like crap for me, a foreigner in Korea, when people treat me this way.

  31. Of course complaining about people in their presence is rude, but more to the point is what is there to complain about? Alright the coffee is weak but as an American you will be used to that.
    Otherwise I can think of no non-English speaking place in the world that is easier to get around in than Seoul. The street signs are bilingual, the Metro (subway) uses Stars Wars technology, the place is safe, the people go out of their way to be helpful whatever they may be thinking in their secret hearts.
    So don't worry about it: if you approach people with a little bit of patience and a lot of goodwill, it will be returned to you in spades.

  32. Blogspot needs a "like" button on the comments section so I can agree with comments without having to reiterate.

    That said, a "moron" button woud be helpful as well.

    Do as the best Koreans do, eh? That's advice that Korea should probably take. That's a ridiculous double standard that no sane person should expect another human being to live up to.

    Matt, you're clearly forgetting the context of this statement, which was offered because someone asked for advice on not looking like an arrogant American, which you've clearly missed on just about every possible level.

    Let's not forget that this is advice that people have asked for, not just a random criticism out of nowhere.

    That said, one thing I noticed in Japan that continues to baffle me about the way many (not just American) tourists behave in countries without universal English capability is the reflex to just TALK LOUDER when someone doesn't understand, like volume is going to make a foreign language any clearer. I suppose just about everyone learns to do this in their own language, because when miscommunications happen, it's usually a lack of proper diction or volume (or hearing).

    Unfortunately, volume is not a magical translator.

  33. This comment has been removed by the author.

  34. "It really pisses me off because i'm not American.. i'm Australian. I suppose that's how things work because when your a foriegner and look the same, people will always lump you into the same catagory"

    This isn't a one way street with Americans and British at one end, and Australians at the other. It's a cycle. If you're western, people in most eastern countries are going to assume you're from the US, Australia, or Europe. That means that Australians behaving badly will just as easily conflagrate the negative reputation that western foreigners have in eastern countries, which then again gets turned back around on you. Don't pin it on Americans and Europeans alone. That's just as bad as the original misunderstanding.

    Absenting the discussion of courtesy in general, and all other opinions offered, I want to address this:

    You respond with 'but Americans are the original xenophobes!'

    Maybe I'm just being nit-picky about semantics, but that seems like a seriously ignorant argument for anyone to make.

    America's only a couple hundred years old. Pretty sure the fear of foreign things and people is just human nature. If that doesn't suffice as an explanation, the component words of xenophobia should be enough chronological context to kick America out of the "original xenophobe" pageant. Just through the understanding of language itself, we've got at least the Ancient Greeks to contend with.

    Maybe that's not obvious to everybody. Hey, language is my thing. I'm not saying there aren't ignorant people out there, but really?

    At least saying America (the US, really) is the worst in terms of xenophobia makes sense, because at least that's just opinion. That said, for a person from the US to automatically believe that the US is the worst in terms of xenophobia displays a sort of inherent self-centeredness that gives us the reputation we have.

    I'm giving no opinions about who is the worst, because I honestly don't feel that I have enough of a knowledge base to make that kind of a statement. I do, however, have enough of an understanding to stick my neck out on the line an say it's not America.

    Crack a history book. Hell, crack a newspaper. The past and the present both supply plenty of evidence that it's in our natures to be suspicious of what we don't know, and the only thing that "unknown" can do is try not to piss us off.


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