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The Countries With The Worst Behaved Tourists

by SharonKurheg

As much as we humans are all part of a “global community” more than ever, there are still lots of differences between us. Where you’re raised usually plays a big role in how you’re raised and therefore how you present in public, since the social norms of different areas of the world (or even of different parts of the same country) can vary greatly.

Fortunately, COVID set aside for a moment, more and more people around the world are able to travel nowadays. With so many differences between us, on top of the stereotypes that arise from those differences (loud, obnoxious, demanding American, anyone? [I can say that; I’m from the U.S.]), there’s bound to be some finger-pointing in terms of who the worst behaved tourists are.

These are articles and surveys that have posted who their respondents said were the countries of the worst tourists in the world. Obviously, there are vast differences in what methods they used to gather this information, and I could only review surveys that were printed in English, but it still gives a bird’s eye view of what people are thinking. I also haven’t found any since COVID but honestly, that’s not surprising; some people still can’t travel, and others only just started recently. I included the link to each online publication so you can review the reasoning behind the responses.

  • Business Insider (U.S. publication, 2013) – (10 worst) Brazil, Italy, France, India, Germany, Australia, China, Russia, United Kingdom, United States
  • Forbes (U.S., 2012) – (10 worst) France, Russia, United Kingdom, Germany, “Other,” China, United States, Spain, Italy, Poland
  • MarketWatch (U.S., 2016) – United States, China,United Kingdom, Germany, Canada
  • South China Morning Post (Hong Kong, 2017) – (6 worst) China, United Kingdom, Germany, United States, Israel, Russia
  • Travel Weekly (U.K., 2008) – United Kingdom, India, France, Russia, Mexico
  • Yahoo! (U.S., 2014) – (5 worst) Russia, China, Germany, United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia
  • Yougov (international research data and analytics group headquartered in London, 2019) – (10 worst) Great Britain, Norway, Germany, France, Italy, Australia, China, Saudi Arabia, United States, Kuwait

Not surprisingly, it all depends on who you ask. However using this admittedly small sampling, you can see there are some countries that come up time and time again for having citizens that are among some of the world’s worst tourists.

Why does this happen?

That’s a simple one. Lack of cultural sensitivity. So many more of us can travel, but how many look to see what the cultural norms are of whatever country/ies they’re visiting and then actively take part in those behaviors while they’re visiting?

“When in Rome, do as the Romans do” goes a long way to being considered a polite guest of that country. Knowing your host country’s social and cultural norms for queuing, tipping, what to wear, blowing your nose in public, touching people of the opposite sex (even if you’re married), how loud to speak (or not), appropriate behavior for sacred places, even gender roles (however we feel about equality means nothing in a country where men are still #1), etc. – the people who live there are watching you and if you don’t adapt to their ways while you’re visiting, you’re going to be marked off as an “Ugly {Name Of Your Country}” and might be included in the next survey 😉

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13 comments

George November 8, 2019 - 7:18 pm

Fun to read (and think) about, but the results can largely be explained by polling bias, the availability heuristic, or a mix of the two. Travel Weekly seems to have focused on hoteliers, so that’s better, but they’re still subject to biases, maybe more (or more universally) than the general population.

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SharonKurheg November 8, 2019 - 7:22 pm

Oh, I know there were so, SO many ways for people to say, “But…” However even if we got through all those “buts,” I think the “true answer” would still be a conglomerate of answers, because of reasons 😉

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Amanda November 8, 2019 - 8:10 pm

If live in a “very touristy area”, anyone who is a tourist 99% of them come from any of the countries listed? But among servers, french tourists are the worst ! But French Canadian tourists are great !

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Mike D November 8, 2019 - 8:21 pm

Pretty interesting. My first thoughts were that those countries that were most listed, were also the wealthiest and have cultures that value travel. We’ve been to 35 countries now and do our best to be sensitive to cultural differences and we have also been discriminated against or have had people be abrupt but those instances have been far and few between. Hiking in New Zealand a few years ago, our guide was explaining that the economic boom in India has lead to a whole new generation of young Indians that can now afford a trip to places like India. He further explained that an unintended detractor was that many had no real exposure to environmental awareness, landscape sensitivity and preservation and he would often see groups trampling growths and such. Something I’d never really thought of. My own experience of trying to order Japanese food in Japan and murdering the language and pointing a lot only to be smiled at, I have always appreciated the tolerance of many and when walking around NYC in the US, have on occasion, been able to return the favor.

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wander November 8, 2019 - 11:08 pm

OK how about juxtaposing it with data of which countrys have the most tourists next.

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SharonKurheg November 8, 2019 - 11:19 pm

If I see it’s out there, I’d be happy to. In the few articles I used as reference, they had no such information. Perhaps you could steer me to a few?

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Christian November 9, 2019 - 12:44 am

While I agree completely with none of the above listings, there are some other factors that I think are worth mentioning. One is how many tourists come from a certain country. If you either get overloaded or just get a few that tend to act poorly, that can radically affect perceptions. Another factor is the type of destination. Ask a local in Cancun about gringos (I’m a gringo) and you’re likely to get a different view from a local in Mexico City. An additional point is whether tourists tend to travel in groups or as individuals, since individuals tend to be more humanizing than a herd and also tend to be more experienced travelers. Really the biggest factor by far for me is empathy. If you try to make some effort to understand the place you’re visiting, you will be a lot more welcome. There’s lots more considerations such as social graces, learning a few words of the local language, etc., but that’s what I consider the main criteria for what makes for a good or bad tourist.

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liveefficiently November 9, 2019 - 1:34 am

how come Nauru is not making the list?

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GlobalTraveler November 9, 2019 - 9:31 am

Easy- Chinese, Indians, Russian distantly followed by various other subgroups. Wailing Asian babies in business class long-haul, and in First/Business Class airport lounges. Odds are 1:4. Screaming, pounding-on-table Asian babies in high-end restaurants. Indians, perfectly healthy, riding in airport wheelchairs, simply despicable. The “Rude American” has been displaced to the end of the bad-traveler line.

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Hate racism May 21, 2022 - 8:53 pm

White kids was keep crying in business class. Not only in Asia, but the U.S.

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JohnB May 29, 2022 - 11:54 am

I distinctly remember the Chinese government educating Chinese travellers on what not to do in foreign countries. The list contained: do not pick one’s nose in public, do not urinate in parking lots to avoid paying rest area fees, do not litter, do not allow your children to urinate and defecate in aircraft aisles, not using tissues to blow your nose, etc. China knows they have a problem!

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SharonKurheg May 29, 2022 - 11:56 am

Meh. I’ve seen plenty of Americans do plenty of similar things.

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LSD May 22, 2022 - 6:21 am

Countries with large populations and those which send out the most tourists will tend to fall in this list.

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