Why would I write a letter to an American Tourist? Isn’t stereotyping humanity’s worst habit?
Labels ruin plenty. But Observing with care, mingling with a group, yields a common idea – It’s not about right or wrong, but what one truly feels. As I met American travellers over the past years, I noticed common threads.
Like a cherry on top, with my blog’s growing stats, the USA takes second place in the number of travel blog readers, while my own folks rank one. I do receive a fair amount of queries and questions from both nations when they plan the trip. So here is a letter to my American readers and tourists whom I met on the road.
Dear American Tourist,
You have that special curiosity that makes you read travel blogs more than anybody else. Kudos to you for being the true champions of exploration! Let’s raise a glass to your insatiable thirst for knowledge and cheers to your inquisitive spirit!Whether the world wants it or not, knows it or not, your nation is one of the biggest influencers!
The world wars and politics almost revolve around your country. The Petrol prices are also mentioned in your currency name worldwide as a standard. Your nation has created billions of jobs, and many of my folks work for the companies birthed in your nation’s womb. Your passport is one of the top 5 strongest in the world with which you can travel to more than 185+ countries, without having to bother about “How to get Visa.”- I am jealous of you for this, but I know what it took for you all to get there – Hard work is always rewarding.
Some travellers I admire, such as Rick Steves, Drew Binsky, Matt Long, Kate McCulley and Mathew Kepnes, are from your mighty country.I’m no political pundit and won’t be cracking my head over your leader’s strategic moves in Iraq and Afghanistan. Let the experts handle that brain-teasing stuff! But I’ve got a bucketload of questions and messages to pass along to you, so lend me your ears and stay tuned!
Have I travelled to the USA?
Nope! As of 2023, I haven’t travelled to the USA. As a cinema lover and Carrie Bradshaw admirer, I want to wander in your country. Especially in West Virginia because of John Denver’s “Country Roads” song. As an architect, how can I forget to explore F L Wrights’s creations? The plans are ready, but our pockets are still empty.
Then what is this conversation based on?
As of 2023, the USA population is about 340 million. I am writing based on about 60 or 70 Americans I have met on the road. The chances of me conversing with you guys on the street is more because you and I share a common tongue. Of course, my mother tongue is Kannada. But most percentage of Indians speak decent English. And many of you are friendly, approachable and aren’t hesitant to talk to people like me!
I met a lot of you on walking tours!
The two-hour walking tour with a local guide reveals many things about the place to visitors like you and me. I am a curious person, and many of you are. All the walking tours I have taken in 15+ locations across 13 nations had at least one American traveller in that. Americans want to hire guides more than others – This shows how curious you are to learn about other cultures and places. Kudos! So here I go – bombarding you, my dear fellow American tourists, with my questions.
Are you here to learn or preach?
Proud patriots everywhere, including you, love their homeland. But on tours, I have encountered some of your folks school the local guides with history lessons.Take my experience at the Philae temple in Egypt, where the guide used “Head of the column” instead of “Capital” to explain Roman-Egyptian columns with petals.
As an architecture history teacher, I couldn’t resist the urge to enlighten him. Our guide, Mahmoud, was grateful for my intervention and confessed his struggles with American tourists. Many American tourists he has guided only associate “Capital” with money, cities, and the alphabet. And were agitated when he used the term “capital” for an architectural element.
Our lovely guide Mahmoud got an English lesson from his group of American tourists several times, and now he wonders what on earth to tell the Americans! Certainly, not all Americans share this perspective, but some feel compelled to challenge the “Scientific or Architectural Standards of the world.”
What is History?
In Vienna, our walking tour guide explained how the Hofburg family was part of world wars. Hearing those brutal spine-chilling facts about Hitler and how Austria rose after letting go of the monarchy was enthralling. She also mentioned a piece of article near Melk that belongs to the pre-historic stage. Meanwhile, a young American couple commented, “These aren’t as interesting as the history of how Disneyland at Anaheim in California was built in the 1950s.”
Our witty guide asked if they hailed from the land of dreams, and sure enough, they nodded with pride. With a smile, she redirected them, reminding everyone that we were at a Memorial against war and fascism, not a theme park gate. Let’s save the Disney talk for the right setting and stay historically entertained!I know – your theme parks are amazing.
Many Americans’ idea of a vacation is going to theme parks! But was it right to compare World War facts to fairytales?
Food in America tastes better.
North America’s history dates back to the pre-historic period, including the Mayan period. Unfortunately, Christopher Columbus landed on your lands in the early 1500s who was supposed to land in my country and slaughtered Native Americans. But kudos to you folks for federally recognising 567 tribal entities in 2016.
So with more European settlers and a few Native Americans, your nation is full of diversity. When the European settlers decided to unite the states and frame a constitution, America took birth. Since then, your country has seeded the thought of “Living the American Dream” and provided a home to Billions of people. And guess what? We Indians are also chasing that dream. Telugu, one of India’s 26 nationally recognised languages, is the second-largest growing language in your country! Thank you for accommodating so many of us!
Your country is super multicultural!
Is it really true that you have the best food in the world?
For example, during my Vienna walking tour, one of your people from California kept saying, “Trust me, guys, Austria isn’t a place for food or wine. Come to California – we have the best wine.” FYI – I loved Austrian food and wine.
Czech-origin American citizen whom I met on my sailing tour in Santorini said, Greece’s Gyro is nothing compared to what you guys get back in New York!
While we munched fries in its birthplace Belgium, I overheard a group of American tourists saying fries at any McD outlet in the USA taste better. Is it so?
Also, I was told that Americans make pretzels better than Germans. Anyways I didn’t like Pretzels much. But is American pretzels better?
I know these opinions are subjective. And I can’t deny your fellow people’s word without trying it. Plus, as a multicultural country, you will have Italian pizza makers in your nation. But you know what? Food tastes the best in its birthplace, so I’m eager to try the veggie delights in the USA myself and then opine on your words.
The constant boasting about Italian, German, and Thai food being better in the USA adds to the allure of “Living the American Dream” for non-Americans. So, I’m all in for a culinary adventure!
Sushi and Sake in Japan Vs USA
When I stood in shock watching how they dragged giant Tuna fish at the Toyosu fish market auction in Tokyo, Ashrith stood there drooling. The other two groupmates, who spoke Mandarin but were from New York, constantly said – “Back in New York, sushi is made in XYZ manner and tastes much better than in Japan.”
They also claimed that Sake in the USA is prepared better! But tell me, how is it possible! There may be a Japanese masterchef in America cooking for you – But can you generalise so that USA sushi and Sake are better than Japan’s?
Democrat Vs Republican.
Asking strangers about their political views is like prying into their bedroom activities—totally private and offensive! On a train journey to Dachau in Germany, an American family smiled at us while I explained to my mother what a concentration camp was. After beaming back and a hello, we chatted about how it is to be travelling in Bavaria.
The old couple asked us about Indian politics. Finding it weird, we expressed a little of our views. The lady asked, “Out of the parties you have, who are Democrats and Republicans.”
The world revolves around the USA a lot. I know right and left wing, secularists, fascists and monarchs. But assigning labels to a non-American country’s parties with Democrats and Republicans is weird! I replied I didn’t know and said Indian politics works differently than the USA’s.
The unsatisfied couple seemed to discuss among each other to assign the role of Republicans to some Indian party may be!
Is it common among you folks to have a political discussion? In India – it is! Some of us refrain from it, but we won’t ask foreigners whom they voted for!
Public Transport Vs Private Cars
My travel plans are as spontaneous as a firework show, but I have a USA bucket list that’ll blow your mind! Staying in an FL Wright-designed house in Wisconsin, exploring his buildings in Illinois, hitting the Guggenheim Museum, Arizona, hiking in at least 2 national parks and oh, 100 other things in New York – I need 45 days for all this madness!
As the 4th largest nation in the world, you have different time zone for states! I read many facts and theories on why the USA has substandard public transport. So let us not talk about that. But why do most of you want to drive even when the public transport is excellent – I am talking about places like Japan and Austria.
But even in Japan, which has the best public transport system, I saw some Americans who still want to drive. You drive on the right lane. Indians, Japanese and 70+ other nations drive on the left lane. On their way to Nagano in winter, I met a family of Americans who whined that driving on the left lane was wrong!
But what is this obsession with not using public transport even when it is good? Isn’t it good for climate change? Plus you experience a place better when you travel by public transport!
Why is this place named after a USA City?
It is super cute that your country has named some of its towns after ancient historical places in another part of the world.
Amman used to be Philadelphia, and you’ve got a place named Memphis! I believe you guys have “Venice”, too!
A friend of yours was arguing with his local guide at Amman Citadel “They must have named this place Philadelphia after the American state, not vice-versa!” Cute kid vibes, but tweaking historical names to claim greatness?
I know, the real American history buffs there must be wondering, this girl is being over dramatic – Trust me, I am not!
The “Précised Coffee”
Rumour has it coffee orders are as complex as solving a Rubik’s cube blindfolded in the USA. When I order a Cappuccino, I specify it should be strong, and I mention the size- end of it. But I read that you customise the temperature, kind of milk, and some particular quantity of syrup and foam! Is it all social media fluff, or are you really that precise?
And wait, is it a coffee or a milkshake with all that vanilla and chocolate action?
In walking tours, the guides plead, “Americans, venture beyond Starbucks!” But do you guys take Starbucks love overseas too? It’s like a global coffee affair! Similar thing I saw in Istanbul too – While we were looking for affordable Turkish coffee (I don’t like Turkish coffee), Starbucks seemed to be full – It wasn’t just you. But there were many other English speaking guys crowding the pretty Starbucks.
The world is wide! English isn’t a universal language. Some of us speak English, and others don’t. So when you are in a non-English speaking nation like Japan or Jordan, why do some of you get restless? What is the point if the universe spoke English and lived like Americans?
I know it isn’t easy to cruise when we don’t understand the local language – But isn’t it the fun and adventurous part of travel?
Lake Michigan and the Aegean Sea
Oh, I love Ozak and Martie Bryde’s house! I always want to spend some time by the lakeside in the USA.
While Ashrith and I were soaking under the sun on the open deck of our yacht after taking a dip in the chilling waters of the Aegean Sea in Santorini, a teenage girl from America joined us. I was shivering despite the strong sun because I am not used to cold water swimming.
The entire boat was chatting about Santorini, the volcano and that aroma rising as our yacht captain began barbecuing the prawns. Seeing my shivering, the American teenager proudly said she doesn’t find it tough as she swims in Lake Michigan – Oh, that is good for you.
The Broadcast Service began
Her parents and younger sister joined us on how awesome the shores of Lake Michigan are and why everyone must visit one of the particular Michigan beaches. They even claimed the USA has the best coastline, and the father ultimately passed the verdict – ” If one doesn’t see Lake Michigan, they are missing out on the world’s best lake.” Until the whole “Lake Michigan” drama began, all other passengers were included in conversations about Greece, Santorini and the food we were about to eat.
But once your friend began to talk, the conversation turned to broadcasting service! I know you all love your country. But is it necessary to show and claim it everywhere?
Spirituality and Conspiracy Theories
We all believe in some or the other non-scientific theories! You and I are no exception. But one of your old men wasted my 30 minutes at Giza, claiming that he has proof of aliens building Egypt’s Great Pyramids. He also suggested that we should become Rajneeshi! Politely we agreed to disagree, and we escaped! Apart from their own nation’s space research program, everyone knows NASA. And it is the case among many.
So we all know you are the pioneer in planet stuff ( and I haven’t understood Interstellar yet). But why does one of your men argue with locals that the Pharaohs didn’t build, but humans? Who knows, your man may be proved right in the future. But don’t you feel it isn’t right to hurt local sentiments?
So, all I want to say is……
Your nation has every geographical feature – from desert to snow mountains. Multiculturalism has brought all kinds of food to you.
This may make many American tourists wonder why they should go elsewhere when they have the best! Understandable. The point of travelling is to get opened to new cultures, traditions and people! If we keep comparing Nation A with Nation B, we forever be stuck in the loop of pinpointing faults.
My experience with American tourists doesn’t stop here – I met your folks who wanted to convert Petra’s trails to camping sites. A lady I met in Turkey mentioned that she can’t imagine going to a country with the suffix “Sthan” cause everything beyond Central Europe is dangerous.
I was even part of helping the host of a small homestay at Ella in calming down an American family who was angry at the host for not having “Continental” food in the menu. That family believed that having at least one American breakfast item should be mandatory in every part of the world.
So let us all be not in that “My horse is better than yours.”
It isn’t just Americans who do this! I have met many Indians living in the USA telling me I am wasting my life by living in India! A person I know said that the New York subway is better than that of Tokyo until I showed him both cities’ network maps. Your country is so captivating that it makes my own people forget their motherland.
So I hope you utilise your freedom and wisdom to explore the world more and better, spreading love rather than the agenda. “America is the greatest nation of all.”
The whole point of this conversation is to clear my doubts better. In fact, I am planning to write a letter for Indians and Chinese sooner!
My beloved American tourist, I would love to hear from you and correct me if I am wrong in what I asked you. Also, non-Americans, share your similar questions here so that we all can know better.