Now that the snow has left us Torontonians for a few months, The Americans are coming back in droves.

Tourism is a huge part of our local economy and although it brings millions in revenue to our city. It also brings with it thousands of Americans. Nobody ever ventures farther outside of the perimeter of the maps provided by the hotels that accomidate tourists and everyone sees same sights that were put there for the tourists to see.

A resident of Ohio is rarely seen in Scarborough.

How to Spot an American Tourist

Americans carry maps of Toronto in their hands yet still ask for directions.
Look for the double decker buses.
Eat at Wayne Gretzky's. Note the families consuming every morsel on their plates.
Look in Nicholby's.
Shop in the Toronto Eaton Centre and note the people asking what the exchange rate is on their purchases.
Spot the cameras.
Listen for accents. (the more southern, the funnier.)
License plates from Michigan, Pennsylvania and New York are a dead giveaway.
Marlboros and Camels all have foreign scents.
Visit the CN Tower

Americans are fascinated by the politeness of the homeless people in Toronto, as the bums say "Thanks anyway" when you don't give them change. Also, if you offer to take an American Tourist's picture for them with their camera, they're apprehensive and then shocked when you don't run off with it.
American tourists are even more visible in foreign countries, such as China. Due to the difference in language, they have immense difficulty communicating to the Chinese, who are clueless about what they mean by their wild gestures. It is quite humorous seeing an American lift his arms into the air in frustration while the Chinese person smiles (in Asian cultures, smiling is a method of expressing embarrasment). Here are a few things point out that the person is an American tourist in China:

There are many more, but this is all I can think of. Also it isn't only the Americans that do this, most Westerners do. But the Americans are the most visible that's all.
I was sitting on the train from Versailles back to Paris . Just before the train left, a group of loud American tourists filled the benches behind me. They each wore shirts that said things like "I love Paris" or "Got Rome?" proudly emblazoned under pictures of "must-see famous stuff." The following experience confirmed to me that the American tourist is one of the most unpleasant creatures on the face of the planet, which almost justifies the rude way the French treat them.

For the next hour I heard one woman in particular from this group complaining--loudly--to her sympathetic and equally inane travelling companions about how hot it was and how the French were so rude and she couldn't believe how they didn't have all the signs doubled in English. She assured her friends that in America we are always so accommodating to foreigners and she hasn't really been there, but she's sure that all the American national monuments are translated into whatever language the tourist needs, and why can't the French do the same? And why can't they speak English to her (she's sure they know how they just won't because they're French). Oh, and can you believe those bathrooms, she wonders? The lines are so long, and, imagine! you have to pay some nominal fee; in America our bathrooms are FREE (and dirty) the way they should be in any democratic, God-fearing nation--and there are more stalls. Oh! She just can't believe how sweltering hot it is and the French don't have drinking fountains. Next time, she assured her friends (and the rest of the train compartment who could still hear), she wasn't going to come to France at all, but rather go to Las Vegas, because, she's heard, they've built an exact replica of the Eiffel Tower there, and it's not as far, they speak English, and she's sure the bathrooms would be in better condition.

The Ugly American. A great stereotype in that it is so easy to find examples when you travel - or more specifically when you live in a place long enough as an expat and you cringe everytime you hear those voices a few decibels too loud and the complaints about bathrooms, food and the surliness of those natives. The level of survice that just would not fly in Peoria, etc.

In Barcelona, Paris, Urbino, Seoul, Ho Chi Min City - I've skulked down sidestreets or ducked into stores to not be associated with one of my tribe...

I've even seen myself transmogrify into that fat, hawaiian-shirt wearing ogre at moments. In the countryside a few hours northwest of Ulaan Baatar ride back was over 8 hours late. I was furious and hungry and found myself yelling at the driver - a young Mongolian guy.

Another time in a cave near Cat Ba Island in Vietnam. My flashlight - which I bought in Korea before travelling on to Vietnam - was more powerful than the guide's. When he realized this he asked to use mine, actually didn't ask but just kind of gestured towards it. I gave it to him for a while but then got frustrated bumbling in the relative dark. So I asked for it back. And left him in the dark and the group without a leader.

Both incidents are relatively minor but for me became little memories that I wince at. Both reactions (or overreactions) were moments in which my American (I use this term provisionally) expectations for how things should work, how things should run, overwhelmed my desire to be in a different place and observe how things are. Egotism (or more precisely egocentrism), possesiveness, an obsession with time and schedule and the desire to be served... all these traits were at work in these two little episodes. Exactly what you are trying to escape by traveling far away and yet what you come to find in your core, the lesser angels of your being.

But to characterize this as American? That's silly nationalism. I livesd and worked with Canadians, Australians, Brits, French people and Koreans. It has so much more to do with class and a certain blindness. A Canadian colleague trying to barter down on a watch on a Korean market when the starting price was about half of what it would be at home. A Korean aquaintance who thought nothing of answering a cell phone during a concert.

The Ugly American, the American Tourist has more than become globalised. Really it is the international class that has enough money to travel and who has certain expectations of how thay will be treated while having little concern about others. The kind of person who wants to be entertained and informed; the one who expects that money is the key into any meaningful exchange and buys the better things in life. This character used to be American but today is no more 'American' than MTV - it's now truly a transnationalist class. I see them just as easily as I try to fight the gawking crowds to get home at the 32nd and Broadway subway stop as I would on the Champs-Elysees with their cornfed, red-nosed faces and upside-down maps...

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