Maybe we're not as ugly as we think. In a new poll, nearly two-thirds of American travelers said we're perceived more negatively in other countries than we were five years ago. But another poll commissioned by the same organization found a big surprise: In a survey of 1,500 European hotel managers, Americans were ranked second, behind the Japanese, as the world's best tourists.
In the poll, conducted in April by the online travel site Expedia's German branch, Americans were seen as the most likely to try to speak a foreign language and the most interested in sampling local food.
We came in third, behind the Japanese and British, as the "most polite" tourists, and third, behind the Japanese and Germans, as "best behaved." And - we're sure this has nothing to do with how the hotel managers view us - Americans were ranked far and away as the world's most generous tippers and biggest spenders.
On the other hand, Americans were seen, by an overwhelming margin, as the shabbiest dressers, the most likely to complain and the second noisiest. Who's louder? Only the Italians.
Some of the other findings: Russians were seen as the least polite travelers, followed by the Israelis and French. The stingiest tippers: the Germans, followed by the French and Israelis.
Italians, by far, were ranked as the best dressers, followed by the French and Spanish. In terms of slobby dressing, the British were a distant second to us, followed by the Germans.
Who's the most unwilling to try speaking in a foreign language? The French, the British and the Italians, in that order.
The Chinese are the most reluctant to sample foreign food, followed closely by - this is odd - the British, whose home cuisine is probably the world's most grievously mocked (a little unfairly, perhaps.)
And, finally, the overall award for "worst tourists in the world" goes to the French, with the Indians and Chinese taking home the silver and bronze, respectively.
So rather than Americans being completely unwilling to learn about a new culture, try new things, learn new languages, and so on and so forth -- not to mention the rudest or most stuck-up -- we find that it is actually the French who take home a medal in almost every one of those (negative) categories. Gee, maybe Americans aren't the rude, obnoxious, close-minded ones.
Somehow, I'm not surprised. I was surprised, though, to find the French in the best dressers category. The beret must be making a comeback!