When we travel, we are often unaware of all the unique cultural norms of the places we visit. Because of that, travelers have a tendency to do or say things that are seen as being rude or, at the very least, insensitive to the natives of the place they’re traveling in. Of course, some people are simply rude by their very nature as well and do things that they know will offend the people around them just because they think they can get away with it—that no one will understand them or that they can just go home and will never suffer any consequences for their impolite actions.
For whatever reason, accidental or intentional, people often do very insensitive things. Many of us have seen this happen firsthand or heard stories from close friends that made us cringe at such offensive actions and words. Here in this list are some stories from internet users about times that they were traveling with insensitive people or saw tourists come to their home country and do something incredibly rude.
45. Appreciation Is Key
When I was in Cuernavaca, Mexico, I stayed with a host family. It was me and this kid who was obviously from a rich family. I was well received by the host family. I was polite and thankful, and I cleaned up (despite their refusals, I would clean our bathroom and restock it with soap at my expense—I try to be a good guest). I ate generally anything they fed me, often asking for seconds, because, well, the food was delicious, and no matter how many times I said how good it was, I felt like the only way to really show how much I liked it was to keep shoveling it in my mouth. Most of the locals seemed to agree with me.
But the rich kid? The complete opposite. One day, our host family did an American-themed cookoff. They made burgers and hotdogs. The rich kid refused to eat the hotdogs because he hated mustard and ketchup. He complained and complained, but this one stuck with me because as I was hanging out outside later that night, I overheard our host family through an open window saying to each other in Spanish how they were so angry at the rich kid. They called him a brat. When I told the kid later that night what I had heard, he just said that that was fine, they didn’t meet his needs and expectations, and he wanted to make sure they knew what they were. I gave up on him at that point. This entitled jerk was not going to understand that this place was not built to cater to him and that he could not just waste things as he could in the USA, because poverty in Mexico is abject poverty.
44. Baby Pictures
I’ve seen tourists from a country. I could take a guess at which country but will feel bad if I’m wrong. These tourists came up to my friend’s young baby and just picked him up without asking or warning whilst my friends were having coffee. Then the tourists ran off to a different part of the hotel to take pictures. Really not cool but they acted like it was totally normal wherever they came from, like us rushing up to them to try and get him back was the weird thing. So strange.
43. Not A Song For That Place
In Phnom Penh, Choeung Ek, the infamous ”Killing Fields”. A lot of tourists were walking through the site, most of them being very respectful: Quiet and contemplative as befits the setting. Except for this one Australian guy, who refused to turn his mobile phone to silent mode and insisted on taking phone calls. The worst thing was that his ringtone is the opening bars to AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck”.
42. People Speak Differently Everywhere
I went with a group of teenagers to Australia. The trip was partially funded by the People to People program. One of our stops was at a Native Australian Learning Center in Cairns. While the speaker was explaining the history of the word “Aboriginal” to us, about six kids next to me would not stop mocking the speaker’s accent until the speaker called them out on it. They continued to mock him until he calmly told them they could go into the other room. It was still very embarrassing for the rest of us in the group wearing the same uniforms… they were so ignorant and rude.
41. Don’t Lean On The Glass!
In London, at this history museum, there was an ancient Egyptian statue that at the least would have to be 2,000 years old and then there was this young, dumb tourist on his phone just leaning on the extremely old and probably fragile exhibit like it’s just a wall instead of an extremely valuable artifact.
40. He Learned Something Different
In a few different countries (where English is not their main language) I saw some tourists just flat out being rude over people there not being able to speak English. In Bosnia, I saw this one girl snap at a poor tram driver because he didn’t know English and she said something like, “God, where the heck did you go to school?!” She was completely ignoring the fact that when this guy was school-age, he was probably, you know, dodging bullets in a civil war instead of caring about English, not to mention the fact English might not have even been a subject in his school.
39. Vandalism In The Midst Of Horror
The screwed up stuff tourists do at concentration camps also happens in Cambodia. It was either the killing fields or another museum about the mass murder that happened and someone had the gall to use a key to engrave a message in a wall there. The message said something along the lines of: “This wouldn’t have happened if you followed the true God.”
38. Choosing Fun Over Respect
I saw tourists in bikinis and even shirtless in a Buddhist cave in Thailand. You should have your shoulders and your upper legs covered at a Buddhist site but they were swimming around half naked with their shoes on (another big no-no) inside a holy site. Then I saw two Russian morons actually try to carve their names into the cave wall. The guide quickly put a stop to that. This cave was a holy resting site for monks and followers of the Buddha and people were just sitting on their graves. Made me sick.
37. Oui, Madam…
I was sitting in a cafe on the Rue de Seine in Paris when this really fat woman stuck her head in the door and shouted, “Do you sell sandwiches here?” …We were all just stunned and stared at her for a second… She huffed out and said to her husband, “Let’s go somewhere else; they don’t speak English.”
36. Touching The Bones
In the catacombs under Paris, people touching the bones is a big deal. This wasn’t just Americans. I tried to do my part by telling them “Touchez pas!” (do not touch) but I can only do so much. Some people actually steal bones from there.
Oh, and some people had even drawn on the skulls. Like, what in the world are they thinking?
35. Meditation Interruption
I was meditating/praying at a temple in Cambodia. Then some old American guy yells, “Hey jerk, move! We’re trying to take a picture!” at me while standing on delicate temple ruins.
I was at a loss for words in the face of such ignorance.
34. Not The Place For A Slip ‘N Slide
At the Louvre, lots of parents let the children slide on the slick wooden floors, coming dangerously close to the art. Even if the guards from the museum called them out and told them to stop, they just went somewhere else to let the kids do it again.
33. McDonald’s, In France!
This one is pretty minor, but way back in high school I won a trip to Europe as part of a “Write an Essay” thing. Well, half a trip—I still had to scrape up money for the rest. But it was a super great deal. Because there were only a few people from my school, we got lumped with another school’s kids to make up a full bus.
We were in France, Calais, on our first stop there and in some restaurant. This kid’s mother who had somehow got herself appointed one of the supervising adults (ours were teachers, don’t ask me how she got in) ended up losing her cool at not being able to get a burger. She wanted a plain old burger and just lost it. She ended up yanking her kid up out of her seat and wandering out of the restaurant to find a dang McDonald’s.
And literally from then on, she and her kid only ate at McDonald’s for the rest of the trip, if at all possible, and she complained if she couldn’t get it.
32. During Service, Really?
I’m Catholic and I go to mass every Sunday (even when traveling in other countries). I know that *some* churches are beautiful, and they’re usually steeped in history, but please, please, please when a service is going on, have the respect to stay silent and to not take pictures and to follow the rules! The amount of tourists I’ve seen just being downright disrespectful makes me very sad. I understand that not everybody believes in god—that’s okay! I’m glad you can take the time out to appreciate the beauty of churches. But when a sign clearly says, “No pictures allowed” please don’t take pictures.
This happens a lot in Europe. The last time I saw it happen, I was having a Sunday service at Montserrat. Not only were the tourists taking pictures/selfies (with flash!) whilst the service was ongoing, they were also very loud and some were even eating! I’ve visited countless mosques and temples in my lifetime, and I’ve always felt uncomfortable with taking pictures inside, even when nobody’s around. I don’t exactly know if I’m allowed to, but I choose to err on the side of caution.
31. Everything US Is Better, Apparently
There was a guy who incessantly pointed out everything that was in any way different from the US, and talked about how the US version was better. As in, every road sign, every menu item, every store, everything. “Lidl? What a strange supermarket. Can’t beat old Winn-Dixie!”
30. There’s Other Money
I work at a tourist info center in Canada and most of our visitors are Americans. The weirdest thing to me is that the majority seem to think the world revolves around their country. Them asking me if our merchandise is priced in United States dollars (USD) and even what kind of currency we use in Canada is a daily occurrence. Also, when they pay using USD, they expect me to give them change back in USD. I’m like, no, I’d need a whole other till to do that…
29. Hollywood In Scotland
The first thing that comes to mind is while I was traveling in Scotland, when I was in a lovely pub, I saw some Southern-accented ‘Muricans come in and ask, “WHERE IS HOLLYWOOD?”
The gracious and patient host of the pub explained to them “I think you’re asking about the Queen’s sometime-residence, and it’s called Holyroodhouse?”
The tourists got angry, and continued to repeat their demands to see “THE HOLLYWOOD HOUSE IN, IN, UM ER THE SCOTLAND.”
The culturally insensitive things people do are endless. It’d be easy to make a long list, and it could be important if those who write/read them did their best to help use them to make a difference.
28. Never Assume
The British (and I believe a few Australian) tourists can be extremely condescending. They talk slow and/or loud and then making offhand comments thinking no one can understand them. And I saw some of this in Singapore, which is an English-speaking country! I got a lot of sign language from them because they automatically assumed I couldn’t speak English at first. Then they got offended when I called them out on it.
27. You’re The Ones Talking Weird Here
I was on a crowded train in Sydney during the 2000 Olympics. There were two couples, with heavy Texas twang accents taking very loudly about how they wished the Australians would just “speak normal English so they could understand them”.
26. A Good Question
A bunch of people in our group didn’t want to visit the most impressive mosque in Istanbul and they all had a stupid proud look like they were Christian martyrs who were doing their duty by refusing to go. Then why the heck did you choose to visit an Islamic country if you’re just going to look down on their culture?
25. Bad Reception, Good Sign To Go Elsewhere
I was in the war museum in Vietnam. Really gruesome stuff.
Then there was this Chinese tourist who answered her phone in the main section and apparently, it was a bad signal because she just kept loudly repeating “Wei? Wei? Wei?” (Hello? Hello? Hello?). She was being so loud while people were trying to be somber.
24. They Even Try To Help You Be Respectful…
When I was in Bangkok, going to temples you are asked to remove your shoes. So many western tourists refused. Also, you are expected to dress appropriately, and if you aren’t, someone from the temple will give you a robe to wear over your over your clothes. I saw several people remove their robes and go back to being inappropriate as soon as they walked into the temple.
23. Even Tourists Don’t Like Tourists
I went to Uzbekistan to visit family and the tourists were awful, even though they were few and far between. But I’m American so they would seek me out and/or I’d help them if I could see they were in a bind. They kept loudly talking about how it’s a jerkwater country and they only were visiting because no one they knew would ever go to “someplace like this”. It didn’t take long before I stopped helping people and began acting like I didn’t know English (even though I don’t know Uzbek) because they annoyed me so much.
22. No Wine In All Of Paris
I mentally prepared myself for rude Parisians the first time I went to Paris, after hearing all the stories on here and from my friends. However, I had completely the opposite experience. I tried my best to practice my high school French, and people either nodded to acknowledge what I said, or switched to English when they saw me struggling to remember a word.
One time, my husband and I found a restaurant for dinner and I asked for a table for two in French. They sat us down, took our order, and brought the drinks. While we were sitting there, an American family stepped into the restaurant, and the lady loudly asked: “DO YOU HAVE WINE?” The waiters just stared at her. So she repeated, slower and louder: “DO YOUUU HAVE WIINNEEE?” No reply. She turned to her husband and said: “Let’s try somewhere else.” So they all turned and trudged out to find a restaurant in Paris that serves wine.
21. A Heartfelt Letter
Dear fellow American tourists:
Talking louder and with more effort in your voice, as well as slower, does not make it so that non-English speakers understand. You just look like a rude, insensitive jerk.
The horrified fellow tourist who will now be telling people she’s from Canada rather than America
20. Rude Or Just Their Norm
I’ve noticed the somewhat cold/pragmatic way Chinese people behave in public doesn’t mix well with the overly apologetic British culture. There are bagfuls of times that a Chinese student has ignored me rather than hold a door open for me, and/or hasn’t said thank you when I’ve held the door open for them. I’m choosing to assume this is cultural rather than just being a whole nation of jerks!
19. Yelling Insults To Each Other
Australians in Europe. I kind of lost track, there were so many incidents. A typical one would be yelling across the plaza something along the lines of, “This dude is trying to screw me, how much are the bags over there?”
Those are not necessarily the exact words, but being insulting to the locals and obnoxious was their normal behavior.
18. Inferior Toothpaste
My stepdad is from Germany, has lived here several years, and still says insulting/weird/insensitive stuff on a daily basis. He won’t use American toothpaste, he gets toothpaste in bulk from Germany because apparently, our toothpaste is inferior. He complains about people, complains about our movies, just whines about it all. 99% of the time I could not care less about America, but when I hear him talk smack it makes my blood boil for some reason.
17. It’s One Big Church
When in the Vatican, people from all cultures (mostly Asian people though) go around talking loudly in the church, taking pictures with their flash on and even laying down on the floor to get the best angles. It’s just really disrespectful and depressing to see so much disregard for any place of culture.
16. Must Be Great.
There was one American tourist loudly proclaiming to his friends how great it must be to kill people while looking at war crimes exhibits in the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City.
He couldn’t even keep the noise down. Everyone within 20 feet could hear him.
15. Taught Young
Just last month: a roly-poly kid and his mother coming out of the gift shop at Stonehenge, eating, and the mother says, “Why are the flavors here so gross? Candy canes should be peppermint, the end!” And the kid says, “People in this country are gross and need to learn the American way!”
14. Not The Place For Noise
I was at a lavender farm in Maui, a great place. Anyway, it’s pretty high up and there’s tons of wildlife and nature to enjoy. It was drizzling a bit so everyone was quiet and it was peaceful. Then, this family of like 12 comes in who is 80% fat and start having the loudest, lushest conversation I’ve heard in my life. It was all about someone’s affair. Good god, they were so clueless and rude.
13. You’re Not In The USA, USA, USA
I was at the Coliseum in Rome in about 2002. It was peak flag-waving, God Bless America, post-9/11 time. This was a lovely sunny day. There were lots and lots of Americans about doing their usual American stuff when someone started shouting “USA! USA! USA!” Soon, more people joined in and more until the whole sound was echoing around the stadium. Lovely for them, I’m sure, but everyone else just tuned their annoyance-for-America dials up a few notches.
12. A Country, Not A Theme Park
In Greece, I saw two English people who were getting annoyed that they had to cover up with the provided cloths to enter a Greek Orthodox Church. They were calling it “absolutely ridiculous”.
Dude, this is their home and their place of worship. You don’t have any right to go in. They allow you to do that respectfully.
It’s a country, not a theme park.
11. A Tourist-Ending Fantasy
I recently visited Vienna and toured the catacombs beneath St. Stephens Cathedral. Near the end of the tour, you are guided into the Ducal crypt which contains the remains of several members of the Hapsburg Dynasty. Our guide told us several times in both German and in English not to touch anything. As we were leaving one of the men on the tour walks up to the largest sarcophagus and starts tapping on it with a closed fist like he doesn’t want to wake the person inside up. It inspired a completely childish fantasy of mine where the sarcophagus opened, the guy was dragged in and the closing lid drowned out his screams.
10. Ashamed To Be Like Them
I don’t really have a specific incident in mind, but drawing from several I’ve seen, from Africa and Turkey mostly. When you’re at a restaurant or a hotel, sometimes other tourists discuss the staff or the locals loudly in English, talking about how lazy, inefficient or somehow inferior “they” are. It happens all the time. Makes me ashamed to be alive, let alone American.
9. Inappropriate Dress Code
I was in the Maldives which is a surprisingly conservative Muslim country (i.e. women can’t work, alcohol is illegal, etc.) and in the airport, British tourists were in shorts and bikini tops. That’s perfectly cool on the resort islands but it is not okay in the capital, even in the airport.
8. Thanks Very Much For Pronunciation
Americans in South America seemed to think the American way of pronouncing vowels is just fine when speaking Spanish. It’s like they couldn’t fathom a different way of speaking.
Moo cho grassyas. Twats.
7. The Right Language
A few weeks ago in an Indian restaurant, there were a group of uni students, one of which was trying to look cool by ordering his food in very broken Hindi, to a Nepalese man. It was very funny watching them until my mum, who was born and raised in various parts of India and knows at least a bit of each language spoken there, leaned over and told them that the waiter didn’t know what they were saying any more than the guy trying to be impressive did. The guy’s friends had a good laugh about that.
6. But It Doesn’t Match!
Tourists not dressing appropriately at temples is a thing I’ve seen. In Bangkok, the temple workers were offering a woman a shawl, and by offering, I mean telling her she needed to wear it to enter the temple. The woman had a fit that it wouldn’t match her outfit. It was unbelievably disrespectful to their religion and culture.
5. Not Right, Even If They Couldn’t Understand
American men in the extremely touristy part of Bangkok making sexist and lewd comments about women. Just about everybody speaks English there, and even if the people there only knew a little English they would still have understood what they were saying due to the nature of the area.
4. Unintentionally Disgusting
I was in a café in the south of France. A big group of Chinese tourists walks in, orders food, drinks, etc. Then one guy goes to the toilet… And comes back out with a soggy trouser leg up to his mid-shin and little bits of stuff and wet toilet paper stuck to it and his shoe. He just acts as if nothing happened. The whole café is silently mouthing to each other, “What the heck?”
I’m pretty sure we all knew exactly what had happened: there have been plenty of news articles about Chinese tourists not knowing that you shouldn’t squat with your feet on top of western style toilets… I guess this guy learned that the hard way.
The crazy thing is that he got right back on his tour bus outside the café and no one did anything; none of his fellow tour groupies showed any hint of a reaction.
3. Held Against My Will For Pictures
This happened to me at Versailles: A group of Asian tourists literally shoved me into a wall and held me there while they took their picture. I said screw this and went to the garden instead. Absolutely no regard for anyone else. It was quite shocking.
2. I Was The Rude One, Accidentally
It was me. We were backpacking through the poorer parts of China, get up this massive hill and find a farm. In China it is super rude not to eat or drink what’s offered, I ate so much food on that trip because the people were so incredibly giving!
Now, it’s humid and disgustingly hot. This small farm we happened upon had super nice owners. They bring out a big frosted jug of cold water and start handing it out. I’m pumped and excited and took a big mouthful, I immediately gagged and then threw up… it was homemade rice alcohol and I had never had a drink before.
I felt terrible and they looked so upset.
1. Real Sadness Happened Here
To the people who try to take their “poetic” or “Instagram” pictures at Auschwitz-Birkenau: There are plenty of other beautiful places where genocide didn’t happen where you can get those type of poetically sad pictures.