I’ve lived over half my life in other countries, and I’m always a bit surprised at America’s perception of the rest of the world when I come back, probably due to the great distance between us and them. For example, many people here seem to have a chip on their shoulder when it comes to Christianity, but when it comes to Islam or Buddhism, they think it’s either criminally misunderstood or a cool philosophy that people don’t actually treat as a religion. I have complex feelings about those things, but they are not so black and white and they don’t generalize or trivialize both the shortcomings and wisdom from such religions and/or philosophies. The “Noble Savage” trope is common among us Americans — the idea that the religions and ideas east of us are more romantic and in touch with the nature of things, but our prudish and judgmental ways are lame and, well, boringly familiar.
When these same types of people see something they don’t like within the U.S., they say things like, “this is why everyone hates Americans” or “this is why American tourists suck.” I recently saw comments saying that when they traveled, natives from other countries avoided Americans with disdain, or even spoke harshly to them, simply because they were from the U.S. — I have heard this several times. Of course, these innocent American tourists were doing nothing wrong, it’s all someone else’s fault — Donald Trump, the U.S. government, other noisy tourists, drone strikes in the Middle East — anyone and anything but the person telling the story.
I have lived in three countries outside of the U.S. for anywhere from 13 months to 9 years, and visited just under 20 — I have found these ideas to be grossly untrue, and it continues to feed into this strange notion that many Americans are obsessed with: “We are the center of the universe, and we suck.”
Before we get started, I just want to say that if you’re an obnoxious tourist then no one is going to like you, American or not. In my experience, Americans can be annoying as tourists and they can be cool — if I had to generalize I would say they are certainly not the worst.