The Ugly American (and How Not to Be One) in the Age of Trump

Girl with selfie stick

Let’s officially rename these crazy things “narcissi-sticks.”

 I’ve just completed a 40-year study of “Ugly Americans” in Europe. I’ve concluded two things: If you’re being treated like an Ugly American, it’s because you are one; and (thankfully) Ugly Americans are much rarer now than they used to be.

Ugly Americans are not bad people — just ethnocentric. And, being ethnocentric gets you into a vicious downward cycle in your travels: You complain when things aren’t what you think of as proper, so you see fewer smiles and worse service, and you complain even more. You end up going home in a bad mood.

Of course, with an ethnocentric, “me first” president who sees the world as a zero-sum game (and is scaling up the “lawyers, insults, and intimidation” approach he uses in his personal life into America’s approach to the family of nations), Americans dreaming of a European vacation might wonder if we’re not all going to be treated as Ugly. Happily, the answer is no. While Europeans are sad to see our suddenly less-gracious country no longer a moral leader and an inspiration around the globe, they still welcome us as individuals. (But if you have a MAGA hat, I’d recommend leaving it — and the attitude it symbolizes — home if you want to enjoy the same warm welcome other Americans receive.)

For those of you that want to be seen not as an Ugly American, but as a beautiful one, here are a few things to think about before your next trip.