Home Travel 20 Ways You Can Spot An American Tourist From A Mile Away

20 Ways You Can Spot An American Tourist From A Mile Away

by SharonKurheg

When Joe and I went to Austria in 2016, we stayed at the Goldener Hirsch, in Salzburg. The most amazing thing happened when we arrived to check-in. We got up to the front desk and saw that the clerk was on the phone. So we quietly waited. He saw us approach and although he had been speaking German on the phone, he momentarily stopped the conversation to tell us in English he’d be right with us.

He told us in English. How did he know? Is it really that obvious? The bellhops had already taken our luggage and we had no telltale signs of being Americans – not even a baseball cap! 😉 But yeah, it seems that we’re pretty easy to pinpoint.

A similar topic was brought up on Reddit a while back; “Besides their accent, what’s one way you know a tourist is American?” The answers were very interesting:

These aren’t all the answers – there were actually nearly 19,000 replies. But there are some highlights…

We wait to be seated at a restaurant

When visiting Paris my wife and I learned they don’t seat you at restaurants. You just walk in and sit down at an available table. We figured it out after standing around at the entrance a few times. Then we started noticing other American tourists doing the same.

We’re impressed by old things

Girlfriend used to work on a farm and an estate in the U.K. and would often have Americans in awe of the old buildings. One once said, “Some of these buildings are older than my country.”

We talk very loudly

While in Korea, I was casually talking to a friend on the bus in a regular speaking voice. Not even a minute later, the lady in front of us turns around in her seat and says very casually, “please calm down.” I guess American volume is noticeably louder.

How long or how far?

I don’t have much experience in foreign countries as an American but I heard we “measure” distances in time. (Ex. It is 4 miles to our destination vs It takes 7 minutes to our destination.)

Silly us – we ask where the restrooms are

I mean, obviously the accent was then heard too but in my little village in Scotland I was in the pub and a woman politely asked the barman where the restrooms were. He didn’t know what she was on about and then it obviously clicked. “Ye mean the toilet? Aye hen it’s joost back ‘err.”

The ketchup thing

They ask for ketchup.

We’re very specific about where we live

When they introduce themselves they never say they’re from America. Mostly just the state/city they’re from.

We expect stores to be open as late as they are at home

They’re looking for a store open at like 11 pm. Even if in most European countries stores close at like 7-8 pm.

We’re superficially friendly

Saying “Hi, how are you?” to the barista, servers, retail workers. My country doesn’t quite have that culture so I find it really sweet.

We like our drinks COLD

Extra ice in their drinks.

We are confident

I have never seen someone walk so confidently in the wrong direction like an American can.

The absolute fearlessness of asking anyone on the street about anything. I don’t mean this negatively, I’m just saying I’ve seen Americans approach people both in my home country and abroad starting conversations with them that I wouldn’t dream of because they look shady or just plain scary.
Example, I was in Newcastle and I see a bald-headed skinny man with face tattoos and a tracksuit suddenly asked, “Hey bud, d’ya know where…” It’s quite admirable.

Our love affair with peanut butter

It sounds very weird, but everyone who buys peanut butter where I work turns out to be American.

We’re well trained

I hear that we Americans can easily be spotted in the airport by the fact usually were use to taking off our shoes in TSA

We smile a lot

When I went to Italy with a friend, I couldn’t figure out why everyone greeted me in English before I said a word. I don’t wear running shoes outside of the gym, I dress pretty posh, I can’t remember the last time I owned a baseball cap, and I try to have a basic grasp on the local language. How can they tell I’m American? My friend told me, “It’s because you’re smiling at them.”

Went to Russia once, and they knew because I smiled too much

Our politeness gives us away

Whenever I hear someone say “ma’am” I know they’re American.  Like one time I was in Lidls and there was an American family asking someone who worked there if they sold “cell phones” and when the woman said they didn’t they were all “oh okay, thank you for your time ma’am! Have a great day!” which is much more cheery than the average Scot.


Americans will try to tip everyone, even in countries where tipping isn’t a thing/is considered a serious insult.


Our shoes (I suspect this was one of our giveaways in Salzburg)

I walked into a museum in Germany and the women selling tickets greeted us in English. We were dressed conservatively and hadn’t said a word, yet she knew. I asked her how, and she said, “it’s your shoes.” Indeed, I was wearing running shoes.

We’re outspoken

At my local aquarium the other day I heard a lady very loudly say, “Have the penguins gone to bed? Can we not see them? Y’all the penguins have gone to bed y’all missed em.”

Just look in the mirror for this one

Baseball caps, University spirit wear, cargo shorts, free t-shirts from events with ads and text all over them, and for the older Americans they always seem to just kinda stand in the middle of everything looking around.

Some of us fit the stereotype (although many don’t)

I taught English in Japan. One of the ways we got the students to speak was to make them guess where we were from because they had a hard time differentiating between American, British, Aussie, etc. accents. After a year, none of them ever guessed I was American so I asked them why: “Americans are fat and loud. You’re small and quiet!”

This one is kind of specific, but kind of funny. And yeah, probably true LOL!

I was at a beach where music was playing and “Sweet Caroline” came on. I told my sister (we are both Hispanic, but I live in the US): “Hey, if you are wondering who here is from the US, you are about to find out.” 10 seconds later: PA PA PAAAAAA

*** Many thanks to Barb S. for her help with this topic!

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary


derek November 29, 2019 - 8:15 pm

Shoes were mentioned. Another way are facial features and body habitus. One can look at someone and often tell “this person is Korean, Japanese, mainland Chinese (Chinese from Taiwan and Hong Kong can be very hard to distinguish), French, Italian, Russian, etc” Sorry, Greeks don’t look like Irish.

The way clothes fit also is a sign

Chris November 29, 2019 - 8:51 pm

I actually am quite proud of myself when I’m traveling overseas and someone starts talking to me in their own language and not English.

Christian November 30, 2019 - 12:40 am

Any idea how the front desk person at your hotel knew? Did you ask? Another thing we do is ask questions that may be impolite. I do it too sometimes.

Joseph N. November 30, 2019 - 12:20 pm

I have to give dittoes to the shoe thing. When I was an exchange student, the way i could always pick out the American students in a crowd was their white leather sneakers.

Clothes in general too, because Americans tend to wear baggier, less fitted clothes.

derek November 30, 2019 - 2:15 pm

Once someone asked me for directions in French and it was not a French speaking country. I gave them the correct directions even though I was also a tourist in a foreign country.

Marie November 30, 2019 - 2:18 pm

I agree about shoes. I first went to Europe in 1969 and could tell fellow Americans , first, by their shoes!
Great article.

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[…] Ways to Spot and American Tourist: I loved reading this post on Your Mileage May Vary. When we were traveling in Russia, our silly smiles gave us […]


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