The original article is written in Italian and you can read it here.
Americans. I love this wonderful people, regardless of their well known flaws. I had the chance to live and work with them throughout the years. Their character and attitude toward life has always gained my simpathy. And that is even more true when they travel abroad. What I love about them it's their enthusiasm and the eagerness to swallow any kind of experience in order to come home with a suitcase full of wonders. But, above all, I love their naivety as they cross multiple borders very little aware that the countries they're stepping into are much different then their own.
As an Italian in London who works in the tourism industry I meet Americans on a daily basis. Chatting with them, sharing their experiences, listening to their expectations is always truly enjoyable. But, sometimes, I get to hear things beyond my comprehension. Their way of thinking is different. Their culture is different. Their world view is different. Then again, I can't help to be stunned and at the same time laugh in my mind when I cope with questions like the ones which follow.
"Where can I find a Walmart?"
One day I had this American tourist who asked me where he could find a Walmart. For the record, Walmart is the largest supermarket in the world in terms of income, but it's only present with that brand in the United States, Canada and Mexico. In few other places of the world, such as in the UK, it controls other local supermarket brands.
Anyway, this is the conversation how it followed:
"We don't have Walmart here in UK"
"I suppose they didn't want to expand in the European market"
"It's the largest supermarket in the world!"
"Not here in Europe"
"I can't believe it. I already asked the concierge and he told me there is no Walmart here"
"Are you telling me you asked the same question to someone else and you couldn't believe it, and now you're still asking this question to me and still can't believe it?"
Now, unless this guy thought that repeated queries could make Walmart magically appear somewhere, there was no remedy to his frustration. This is only one of the many episodes which show how often Americans think their neighbour's garden is like their own. It must be told, however, that when abroad Americans refuse to step into places like McDonald's. They may expect to find the same commodities they have at home, but they actively seeking for new experiences, especially when we talk about food. Italian people could learn a lot from them.
"Do you accept dollars?"
That's my favourite one. It's the most common question from the American tourists, who seems not to accept the fact that their currency is not valid abroad. It is actually understandable: the American dollar is accepted, if not welcome, in several Third World countries, as is value is higher than the local currency's. Just like euros (and that feeds the black market of currency).
It does happens, though, that Americans are taken aback when they try to pay with dollars and are told it's not possible. When I explain we use pounds in England, they reply they've been able to use American dollars in countries like Egypt or Mexico. Try and tell them the pound is way stronger than the dollar. Not to mention those who come to London after a tour around the EU countries, and think they can use here their spare euros. I try to think with their mind and follow their logical thread: considering the United States are a federation of states which all use the same currency, the European Union must be the same. Well, thanks for your trust fella, but we're still working on it.
"My room is too small!"
"And I can barely move!". This complain is the most frequent I get to hear from the American tourists. Many of them can't even walk into the hotel room that soon experience a claustrophobic attack, and immediately run to the reception to ask for a change. When they're told that it's the standard room, the American customers make a point they can't really accept that. So they get the free upgrade. Quite similar to a well known Italian technique, I must say…
What I really can't come to terms with it's this sort of default behaviour they have when they talk about the size of their room: they claim that with two people and the luggages one can barely move. And then they mimic the movements of a person crawling along the side of the wall, like they were walking on a cornice of a skyscraper. Everyone does the same. EVERYONE. Maybe in the high school they all attended a class called "How to complain to get a free upgrade". And then you look at those infamous rooms and they're not as small as they want you to believe. Well, sure you're not sleeping at the Ceasar's Palace. But does everything always have to be so big?
Well, those are my personal experiences. As laughable as they are, I don't think they belong only to American people. Or, at least, similar anedoctes may belong to American, likewise to Italians and to many other people. However, there's something I'd like to add. Every time I've been asked by American tourist where I'm from, and I say I'm Italian, their eyes start to shine. If they've ever been to Italy they start to talk about their trip, how fabulous has been and the unnumbered wonder they have seen. If they've never travelled to Italy before they never miss to say how the country is on their bucket list. And if I don't reveal my nationality, and ask which of the European countries they loved the most, ninety percent of the times the answer is always the same: Italy. I don't hear that often when they talk to people from other countries. As Italians, I believe we should all be proud of it.
[All images from Wikimedia Commons]