Once while on my way to class in Germany, I watched a group of young travelers board a bus and rush to the back, where they proceeded to lounge back with their feet up on the seats and provide offhand commentary about everyone near them very loudly in their native tongue. Unfortunately, their native tongue was not one of the lost languages spoken only by a handful of individuals on the planet. It was English, a language pretty readily understood in most urban areas around the world. When I leaned over, feeling like an overbearing Grandma, and reminded them they weren’t the only English speakers on the bus, they seemed taken aback. Naive? Oblivious? Just being teenagers? Hard to say, but as I watched them and others like them stumble through town, I began to wonder if there was some sort of checklist going around on how to be an obnoxious tourist. If there is, it probably looks like this.
Assume Everyone Speaks Your Language
Never politely ask someone if they speak your language or know someone who might be able to help. Certainly don’t make an effort to learn a few useful phrases in the language of the country you’re visiting. Instead, belligerently demand whatever is you need to know quickly and loudly in your native language. Become frustrated and rude when the person you’re asking doesn’t understand.
Assume Nobody Speaks Your Language
Now, just for fun, turn around in another situation and do the exact opposite of what’s listed above. Assume nobody around you speaks your language, despite the fact that it’s the international language of business, and talk about everyone around you as if they don’t understand.
Stand in the Middle of the Street
You’re on vacation and you’re a tourist. You don’t need to pay attention to traffic or road signs or people trying to walk by you on the sidewalk. Obstruct all pedestrian traffic. Stand in the middle of the road or the doorway of a shop with your nose in a your map or guidebook. Be sure to hold up all traffic as you try to get that perfect shot of the town square. For bonus points, wander into the street and look around in confusion as cars honk at you.
Get Completely Hammered
You’re on vacation and Europeans like to drink, right? They have huge festivals just for alcohol so it’s no big deal if you get so hammered every night that you can barely remember your own name. Swig wine from a bottle in the street, pass out in the bushes, run screaming from bar to bar, it’s cool. For bonus points, visit a more socially conservative region of the world and become upset that you can’t find alcohol easily. When you do find alcohol, make a complete idiot of yourself and deeply offend those around you.
Be Very Loud
In shared public spaces, be sure to speak as loudly as humanly possible in order to ensure that everyone around you can hear your conversation whether they want to or not. In bars and restaurants, spend the evening drinking and becoming progressively louder as you try to speak over one another. Ignore stares of everyone around you.
Wear Whatever You Want
Wear your bathing suit around town. You’re in a coastal area and you’re on vacation so it’s not a big deal if you show up at the grocery store or a local restaurant wearing your G-string. For visiting religious sites, wear shorts and a tank top.