Subtle Giveaways That Show You’re an American Tourist Abroad By Eliza Dumais

Americans drink excessive amounts of water

While at dinner with a friend in St.-Germain-des-Pres, I pointed out that I had finished my glass of lukewarm tap water and no one had refilled it. (In the States, a back waiter would’ve refilled the glass twice already.) She laughed and explained that Americans are notorious in Paris for over-hydrating (see: gallon challenge). Apparently, toting a water bottle like a handbag (Nalgene flexing) is a dead giveaway that you hail from the US of A — as is compulsively requesting water refills and blaming any/all maladies on inadequate water intake.

They rest their phones face-up on the dinner table

You shouldn’t do it in Philly, you shouldn’t do it in Peoria, and you really shouldn’t do it in Paris, where dining out still maintains an elevated, almost sacred tone. Once, while eating with three friends at a small bistro (no more than four tables) in the Montmartre neighborhood, my phone rang. Naturally, it was lying face-up on the tabletop beside my silverware. I shut it off quickly, before noting that everyone else seated at my table had their phones out as well — and that the rest of the tiny restaurant’s patrons were all looking at us disapprovingly.

They carry oversized backpacks stuffed with non-essentials

While there are plenty of actual backpackers traipsing around Paris in search of hostels, Americans are known for their bloated daypacks. While waiting in the grueling security line to enter the Pompidou, the man in front of me kvetched, in French: “How will we ever get through security when all the Americans brought backpacks the size of small children?”

They study a menu like it’s an SAT manual

“I trust you will need some time,” a waiter once told me in accent-heavy English, as he passed me the menu at an outdoor cafe in Belleville. “Espresso, s’il vous plaît,” I responded (I was a woman on a mission), and he paused, seemingly flustered that I had not, in fact, required “some time.” He told me that Americans in restaurants are known for their indecisiveness — they tend to read food and wine menus cover-to-cover as they debate one another about what they’d like to eat. “Parisians already know what they like,” the waiter explained. “They barely even glance at the menu.”

They say sorry all the time

I have a particularly charming knack for knocking over glasses, and on one occasion, while apologizing profusely to the bartender who was presiding over the section of the bar on which I’d just spilled water, he stopped me: “Americans say sorry too much — it’s such a waste of energy,” he said.

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