Five Reasons Americans are the BEST Tourists!

Every six months or so I see an article about the terrible behaviors of American tourists traveling abroad. As a long-time domestic traveler, I just took those at face-value since I wasn’t able to confirm or deny any of the claims made by the authors. Now that my travels have hit the international circuit, I have to say that my perspective has changed and I’m no longer sure that those articles really carried a lot of water. low toleranceAre we really as bad as they say or do the authors just have a low tolerance level for those not from their own homeland? I suspicions are towards the latter and I’ve created this post to explain why.

Americans, like any other visitor to a foreign country, are going to be lost especially in regards to local customs and behaviors that differ from their own culture. No place is every going to be exactly like home and no tourists is ever going to be exactly like a local neighbor. Therefore, I have decided to break the mold of travel writers and provide some evidence on why American are the BEST tourist in the world. I mean, we claim to the best at everything else so why not keep it going on the world stage!

1. Respecting Space
I’ve read that the United States is the land of abundance. Huge food portions, gigantic egos and cars that are bigger than some houses are just a few examples of the American obsession with size. Although, those can be seen outright, one thing we have in great abundance is personal space. According to the World Bank, Americans enjoy 5,000 square meters of open space per resident. This means that every person in the country could spend their time doing donuts in their own personal school parking lot and never hit another car. We like space…a lot!

Many popular travel destinations can be completely opposite. Not only for the country or city itself, but also for those who travel from even more dense areas. People from these places just grow accustom to being so close to everyone else which also means they have no issue violating the personal space of others. close talkerThey’re not doing it to be rude, it’s just they’re way of life. Americans on the other hand will do just about everything we can to maintain the space around us. We also do our best to extend that courtesy to everyone else. Breathing on other people’s necks, touching while riding public transit and even kneeing people in the butt who move too slow (yes, that happened to me) is taboo. If you happen to see some Americans wondering down the streets on your hometown, you can guarantee they will keep their distance. And be thankful!

2. Money to Spend
America has a lot of space while at the same time, we also have a lot of money. We are by no means the richest country in the world (despite what many actually believe) but our personal income does rank in the top five. Add the fact that our tax rate is lower than most of the other countries on the list and you will see that, in most cases, Americans have more expendable income to burn…and we love to spend it!

In 2016, Americans spent over $123 billion on international travel. Only second in the world to China. When we come to your home, we come packing…with cash! Not only do American’s spend, we will buy all the cheap, mass-produced tourist crap you can throw at us with as much of a markup as you can handle. This along with our obsession and having an “authentic” experience is where the locals can rake in the big bucks. leaning towerOf course, by our standards, authentic refers to doing the exact same thing that thousands of other people have already done (and already posted on Instagram) yet for some reason we still think it’s special. Venice gondola drivers figured this out years ago and the price tag for them paddling you down a sulfur smelling canal with 5,000 of your closest friends has skyrocketed. Be on the lookout world, whatever experience spot your locality has to offer then Americans are your cash cow…one photo at a time!

3. We Don’t Hold Grudges
One thing America is really good at is pissing off the rest of the world (there I said it!). We come by this naturally. Our country started because a bunch of old, business men got tired of drinking tea and decided to chuck boxes of it into the ocean and start a war. peaceFrom that point on, it was just one fight after another. Great Britain, Mexico, Germany, Austria, Vietnam, Iraq…you name, we’ve fought it. Yet despite all this aggression, we for some reason have a burning desire to visit the countries we have either beaten down, or those who have handed us our own asses and told us to go packing. It seems like we have a middle school mentality when it comes to warfare; you fight, get up, shake hands and move on to get a juice box!

Out of the top international destinations for American travelers, the ones where we have fought extensive and bloody wars have steadily grown in popularity. Over the last few years, American tourism to Vietnam has increased over 30% making it one of the most popular places in Asia. And it’s not just the generations to come after the war traveling to these areas. Many veterans and even tours specifically for veterans of foreign wars are the ones heading there the most. This just shows that although we may be the world bully ever now and then, we’ll eventually let our defenses down and go enjoy the destination…maybe as a way to say, “Hey man, I’m sorry!”

4. Obsession with Sanitation
Every suitcase, carryon, backpack, purse, fanny pack or satchel either carried, dragged or worn by an American tourist contains one item in common…hand sanitizer. You will never find an American anywhere in this world without at least one tube of jellied alcohol stashed somewhere in their luggage. 457821This is just a single example of how crazy we are about sanitation and the lengths we will go to so that nothing funky from somewhere else in the world enters our bodies without at least having to wade through a sea of anti-bacterial, -viral, -parasitic concoctions.

Like Starbucks, shopping malls or commercials advertising pharmaceuticals, sanitation is just part of the American lifestyle. It’s forced-fed into our brains from the minute we pop out of the womb and continues throughout our lifetime. We take this mentality with us when we travel overseas by means of anti-bacterial products, preventative medications, water filters and even face-masks on some occasions. Of course, there are plenty of locations where precautions are needed and anyone traveling to these regions should take heed. Americans just seem to take this (like everything else) to the next level. Another tip to the locals: If you want a quick hand wash without going to the restroom, just look for the nearest Yank…we got you covered!

5. Discovering our Roots
One hot-button political issue in America over the last decade has been immigration. Depending on whichever polarizing media outlet you choose to frequent, this can either be a good or bad thing. The funny thing about U.S. immigration is that if you really stop and think about it, we’re all immigrants from somewhere (and no, that is not me taking a position…). That very fact (although, hated by one side of the aisle) makes for a great reason to travel. Americans, by and large, want to discover our heritage. And we will travel far and wide to find it.

Nothing solidifies this argument more than the impressive growth in genealogy services and products sweeping their way across the U.S. 4thCousinEvery day you see a new commercial advertising a different type of service allowing you to spread your DNA on some sort of swab or piece of paper and send it back to a lab for analysis. Of course, a red-headed mick like me doesn’t have to think too hard about where my ancestors originated but for many, this is a mystery. Once their newly found heritage is revealed, the next part of the journey is to travel to your soul’s original destination and pretend like you fit in. This American sense of discovery seems like a trivial matter, but I can’t help but think the rise in new popular tourist destinations isn’t at least somehow connected to this phenomenon.

So, there you have it. Solid and not at all sarcastically opinionated reasons why Americans are the best tourists. Although, I will concede that the occasional American jack-ass will ruin our image for some unsuspecting locals, in the grand scheme of things, we’re really not that bad. Having people visit from other parts of the world, wherever it is, is always a treat for both the tourists and the hosts. The hope is that we all continue to learn from each other and create a more unified global community. Ha, ha…yeah right. Let’s just do our best not to start another war!


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5 Cities, 5 “Go-To” Restaurants

One great thing about traveling is the chance to experience new things. New sites, new people, new cultures and, of course, new cuisines. When I’m on the road, I always try and eat a places that I cannot get at home or sample the local delicacy as a way of trying to grasp a real understanding of where I’m at. I’ve had real Philly Cheesesteaks (I prefer provolone, not Cheese Whiz), Maine lobsters, New Mexico Chile’s, New England Clam Chowder and all the great American BBQ (Texas Spicy, Memphis dry-rub and, still my favorite, Sweet Kansas City). I still have a lot of new flavors to try which is another reason my wander lust has never really gone away.

Although, new is good, sometimes familiarity is a nice thing as well since traveling itself is not always the pleasure-filled adventure us bloggers make it out to be. With this in mind, if there is a city I go back to often, I love having a “go-to” restaurant which brings forth good food, consistent service and a sense of comfort that you don’t always get from a hotel or airport. Whether it’s a simple coffee shop or a place of fine dining, this list is a sample of the restaurants I consistently visit when I’m jet-setting around the U.S.

New York, NY
NoHo Star
(330 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012)
New York has over 24,000 restaurants just in the Manhattan area alone which means you could visit a new one every day for the next 65 years and never eat at the same place twice. For someone like me who visits about four times a year, I’d have to live to be over 2,000 years old before I could even make it to midtown. As much as I love exploring new places and new areas of the city, NoHo Star is still one of my favorite places to go for breakfast, lunch or just relax with a cup of coffee.

noho-star07Located in the neighborhood of (you guessed it…) NoHo, NoHo Star sits on the corner of Lafayette and Bleeker streets and offers a diverse menu consisting of breakfast stables, interesting sandwiches and even Chinese options for dinner. The food has always been fresh and they have an outside dining area that adds to the people watching experience. I personally prefer their breakfast/brunch menu with basil scrambled eggs, omelets or even avocado toast (eat shit Tim Gurner). Top that off with some homemade jams and fresh coffee and I’m good to go for wandering around the streets of NYC. This is definitely a place to try on your next trip east.

Chicago, IL
Francesca’s on Chestnut
(200 E Chestnut St, Chicago, IL 60611)
Nothing says comfort more than a great Italian meal and I always to try to grab one at my favorite place in Chicago. Francesca’s has been a staple of the Chicagoland area for over 25 years with 19 locations scattered throughout the region. Because my work usually brings me downtown, I mainly stick to the location on Chestnut street a block away from the Water Tower Place and the Hancock Building.

francescasFrancesca’s is open for both lunch and dinner (brunch in some locations) and has a wide array of Italian antipasti’s, pizza, pasta dishes and fresh meat courses. They have a vast wine selection to fit every palate and I have found that their sommeliers are very accommodating when helping you find the perfect bottle in your price range. Add on a great dessert menu and you’ll leave needing to walk the entire downtown loop before attempting the buckle your pants again. It’s best to make reservations especially for dinner but don’t be afraid to walk up to the bar if you’re in town on your own. You won’t be disappointed…my guarantee!

San Francisco, CA
Brioche Bakery & Café
(210 Columbus Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133)
Sometimes simplicity is key when you’re out on the road and in need of a quick meal or pick me up. Brioche Bakery & Café, located on the fringes of Jackson Square, Chinatown and the Financial District, is a small but well established place to just stop and relax amongst the fast pace of the city. They’re limited seating, which extends outside along Columbus Avenue, gives it a cozy atmosphere to enjoy lunch, a light breakfast or just a cup of coffee. They also have free Wi-Fi and decent bathrooms which is a luxury in many cities this size.

brioche1Brioche offers a great selection of brunch items, hot and cold sandwiches, salads and other entries. Of course, being a bakery, you can also grab a freshly baked pastry, dessert or an assortment of artisanal breads all reasonably priced for downtown . They even have cakes you can order in advance although I’ve never been in the need on a trip to the Bay area. When the weather is nice, you can grab a drink and sit out on the sidewalk watching the always entertaining San Fran population go about their daily business. Drop in sometime and tell them Dr. People Watcher sent you…they won’t know what the hell that means but I can still pretend!

Fort Lauderdale, FL
Las Vegas Cuban Cuisine
(7015 W Broward Blvd, Plantation, FL 33317)
Ok, technically this place is located in Plantation, just west of Fort Lauderdale but for the sake of geographical referencing I’m leaving it be for this post. When I’m in the area, I can’t help but get a craving for Cuban food which I believe is a celebration of the culture this misunderstood population has brought to southeast Florida. Add to it the fact that every dish comes with a side of fried plantains and I’m hooked and coming back every chance I get.

lasvegas_plantation_insideLas Vegas Cuban Cuisine has been in business since 1984 when the Vilariño family decided to open their first location in Hollywood, Florida. What started as a small family restaurant has now exploded into 15 locations in the greater Miami and Fort Lauderdale areas. They offer traditional Cuban staples including Ropa Vieja (shredded beef), Masas de Cerdo (marinated, fried pork cubes), several different Emparedados (sandwiches) and much more. Their friendly service and family like atmosphere makes even the most naïve gringo (like me) feel right at home every time I return. I recommend stepping out of your culinary comfort zone and give Cuban food a try. You’ll be rethinking that embargo in no time!

Nashville, TN
The Local Taco
(4501 Murphy Rd, Nashville, TN 37209)
My obsession with this restaurant began in college at the University of Kentucky which I was excited didn’t have to end after graduation. With locations peppered across several cities in the south, I can get my taco fix without returning to Lexington and having to wade through a sea of college students, administrators and people I pissed off before heading north (it’s a family trait!).

local tacoThere are three locations in Nashville alone so no matter where I end up, I’m steps away from great food and great music. What else do you need? This small, but charming chain offers unique taco combinations, amazing tomatillo salsa and great sides that keep me coming back for more. Everything is made fresh and the company prides itself on acquiring local meat and produce in order to support the communities where their stores are located. Even as an order-at-the-counter style restaurant, the service has always been great and efficient which only adds to the quality of experience you can expect. If you find yourself in the country music capital of the world, go grab some great tacos before hitting up the honky-tonks. This is a winning combination all around!

Hopefully you’ll swing by one of these establishments or find a place yourself that becomes a go-to. If you have any suggestions, feel free to leave a comment below and maybe it will make the next list in the future!


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International Travelers Guide to American Airports

Despite questionable travel bans, negative media coverage and an a politically divided rhetoric surrounding the entire country, travel to the United States (U.S.) is still as popular today as it has ever been. Travel for leisure, business, academics and myriad of other reasons keep the U.S. as a top destination for people around the globe. With so many flying in and out of the country every day, your good friend, Dr. People Watcher, is going to take a break from ridiculing various airport subcultures and instead put his knowledge to good use for the sake of our soon to be foreign friends. Statue_of_Liberty_-_4621961395I’ve chosen to focus on the airports because in many cases this is the first impression a visitor will have of our country and I would like to make it a good one.

Here are some useful tips that anyone traveling from outside the U.S. can utilize to help make your trip easier, stress free and less likely to start an international incident!

  • Americans only speak English

No matter where you come from, the easiest thing to do is just assume that nobody in the U.S. speaks a language other than English. In fact, only 1% of Americans are fluent in a second language which compared to other countries is a complete disgrace. Therefore, learning a little bit of English before heading over is not only a good idea, but a necessity especially if you plan on spending time outside of the major metropolitan areas like New York or Los Angeles.

englishIn the airports, be prepared to go English only the minute you land. Some of the larger airports have multi-lingual signage but it is usually restricted to Spanish, French, and maybe Chinese. However, just like anywhere else, following the crowds will usually place you in the right direction. America does have a fairly diverse population (again, mostly in the large cities) so you can find help there. Still, brushing up on your English and downloading some translation apps will go a long way after you land.

  • Personal space is a necessity

One thing America has in abundance is space. As the #3 largest country in the world (in overall square miles), we have plenty of room to grow which is a point of national pride. Unlike cities in Europe and Asia that were built in close proximity for protection against invaders, U.S. cities were built with space in mind and stretch for miles in every direction. This has created a space themed obsession amongst our population.

personal-spaceWhen you land in the states, keep in mind that Americans are accustomed to at least an arm’s length of separation from anyone around them. When getting off the plane, waiting in line at customs and getting your luggage at baggage claim, be sure to put enough space between yourself and those around you. Also, enjoy this as a luxury add-on to your trip. If your home country doesn’t have the same practice, this will be a nice vacation in itself.

  • Tipping is an unfortunate custom

The U.S. likes to brag that its low taxes (compared to other countries) keep the economy strong by putting more money in the pockets of citizens and visitors. Of course, this doesn’t mean that we will find any way possible to nickel-and-dime you during your trip. Tips are not just common courtesy; they are pretty much required. tippingBoth in- and outside of the airport, you are going to be inundated with hands reaching out for an additional payment for everything from being served meals, to giving you a (paid) ride, and even transporting your luggage. At the airport specifically, if you use the curbside check-in, sit down for a meal or even get a cup of coffee, the expectation is 15-20% for a tip. Exceptions being at fast food restaurants and retailers.

The best thing to do is to budget a certain amount of tips into your travels plans. You can also avoid some tipping outlets by not using the curb side check-in, carrying your own luggage and utilizing shared service companies like Uber, Lyft and Airbnb. Of course, if you do run across a tipping situation, be generous. Many service workers rely on these to supplement their income.

  • Smokers are being phased out

Smoking is not allowed anywhere surrounding air travel including the plane, in the terminal and in some places, even within a certain distance from the airport entrance. This varies significantly by airport but many are phasing out the designated smoking areas to promote a healthier lifestyle amongst travelers.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Even outside of the airports, smoking is looked down upon. While growing up, most restaurants had both smoking and non-smoking sections which was abandoned city-by-city, state-by-state starting in the early 1990s. Of course, that practice was like having a pissing section in a swimming pool so it has been well received by most Americans. As a visitor who smokes, be conscious of where you can and cannot smoke especially near tourist heavy sites. You can still have your smoke break outside, but just keep it in your own lungs, not ours.

  • Security will be tight

After 9/11, airport security became serious business which has not subsided especially with the onslaught of terrorist attacks routinely happening around the world. With all governmental fingers pointing to sources outside of the U.S., visitors from just about any non-Western country can expect multiple layers of security while entering and exiting America. Even those from our more trusted allies are going to be thoroughly checked out upon arrival.

tsa-searchTo prepare, make sure you have all your documents ready and answer questions from security personnel truthfully and with a certain amount of confidence (uncertainty will just bring on more questioning). Don’t take anything personal as the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) folks are just doing their duties and trying to keep everyone safe. In the event you have to go through additional screenings, just continue my advice from above and all will be fine. Unless, of course, they do a cavity search…that part sucks!

In conclusion, I hope these tips help you have a more enjoyable experience state-side. With all the great things we have to offer (unnecessarily large food portions, an entitled yet whiney population and people everywhere running around yelling “America is the greatest country in the world”) how could you not have fun. Thanks and enjoy our little piece of the globe!


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