A Picky Eater Goes Abroad

Perhaps it’s just all those movies I’ve seen in which outlandish caricatures of people from other countries engage in huffy, exaggerated outbursts whenever a foreigner—usually an American, natch—commits a cultural faux pas, but I can’t stand the idea of doing so myself. Before I travel to another country, I do some homework. I research cultural differences and look for red flags of behavior that’s considered normal in America but would be unacceptable there. I try to speak the language. I make every effort to not attract any more attention than necessary. The idea of perpetuating the stereotype of the unworldly American tourist who doesn’t bother to learn the language or customs of the country he’s visiting, and expects all the locals to speak English and cater to him, is mortifying to me. The vast majority of visitors from other countries I have encountered in America seem to have done their due diligence when coming here, and most of them have learned quite a bit of English—which I find rather impressive, given how complex English is—so I figure it’s the least I can do. Continue reading