Ways to Spot an American Abroad

If you've ever been abroad or spoken to a tourist visiting the States, they'll tell you that it's pretty easy to tell an American from a local. It's not our fault we're a proud country that wears our pride on our sleeve. Anywhere on the planet, people say it's easy to spot the pride of an American. If you're traveling overseas and don't want to be conspicuous then read this list.

Before the list starts, however, we want to stipulate that there's nothing wrong with sticking out as an American in another country, we just take a lot of our unique traits with us when we travel. Each culture has its own traditions and beliefs and that's why we're out of place somewhere else.

Requesting Ice In Drinks

You can often find cold wine and mineral water in other countries, but if anyone spots you asking for ice in your tap water or even your soda, you'll immediately be pegged as an American. Ice in beverages just isn't a priority in other countries.

Our strange obsession with watering down any beverage we can with ice is something that other countries will spot immediately. It'll also introduce you to foreign water that your body isn't used to or may not be filtered as much as you like.

Wearing Baseball Caps

Everyone loves baseball, right? It's one of America's favorite traditions and even today it's still a very patriotic sport even if we still watch more football. So what ties into baseball that we see everywhere in this country but not so much in others? Baseball caps!

Americans love baseball caps, we see so many wearing them and they are great for if it's a hot day out or you don't want the sun in your eyes. But when we take them with us overseas then you immediately stick out. Other countries aren't as keen on baseball and as such not many people will be found wearing the caps.

Wearing White Socks

In America, we often laugh at someone who wears socks with their sandals. But we bet that person's socks and yours are a bright white color, aren't they? It's a white... red flag that marks you as an American.     

Both in Great Britain and Europe don't seem to appreciate white socks the way we do. In those regions, everyone prefers to wear much darker shades of socks. So if you ever show you socks in a foreign country, they'll assume you got them at Macy's.

Perfectly Straight Pearly Whites

Dental care in the U.S. is big compared to some other countries. With that in mind, a lot of Americans either have straight, pearly whites or braces. So when you visit somewhere and display your perfect teeth, people might suspect where you come from.

In America, it's not uncommon for almost everyone around you to have bright white smiles that we don't think about what it's like in other countries. 


It's common for everyone to clap for a performance almost anywhere in the world. that's not the weird part. As Americans, we tend to clap for more than just performances. Sometimes you'll find applauding in movie theaters, or even planes landing safely.

This habit isn't very necessary, is it? Even in the States, we're sure it gets on some people's nerves sometimes. Maybe try applauding less for small achievements and more for big ones?

Saying "Bro" or "'Sup"

Slang is something specific to a region or culture. American slang and British slang is very different even though both nations are speaking English for the most part. People in Australia have a tendency to say "mate" while we Americans like to say "bro."

No slang is wrong, it's just different depending on where you go, so next time you say "bro" while someone's saying "gov'na" They're definitely going to hazard a guess at where you are from.

Fanny Packs

So here's a peculiar case, Americans never actually have fanny packs on them when they're at home in the States. But when we travel abroad we feel that we need to keep everyone safe on us at all times.

It could be because once don't have our car to safely store the things we feel obligated to protect them some other way by keeping them on us at all times. So when you go abroad remember that if you wear white socks, a baseball cap, and a fanny pack that you will be detected immediately.

Not Caring About Soccer (AKA Football)

If there happens to be a TV nearby soccer is on, or "football" as it's often called overseas. Then you'll notice how intrigued everyone is in the game. If you don't act interested too then they'll figure you for an America, especially in Europe where they take their football very seriously.

We aren't implying that not watching the game is bad or anything. We're just saying that soccer is a big part of the culture overseas just like baseball or American football is big here. You will be spotted if you don't take an interest in the sport.

Walking While Eating

In the army, soldiers are not allowed to walk while "engaged in activities that would interfere with the hand salute...or detract from a professional image." The biggest thing among this is eating.

We don't know how common this is overseas, but we know for sure that we really like to eat on the go. Other countries might prefer to be engaged in the meal alone and not do any other activities.

Not Understanding the Metric System

The metric system is a big thing here in America, Myanmar, and Liberia. But you'd be hard-pressed to find any other nation that uses this system. So when you're in a foreign country you might want to keep your feet to yourself.

Not even England, the inventors of this system, use it anymore! What does that tell you?  Just try to learn how a meter works in comparison to feet and you'll be well equipped if you go to any other countries.

Going to McDonald's

From a practicality standpoint, it doesn't make sense to go to the expense of traveling abroad, paying for plane tickets, lodging, and transportation only to eat the same subpar hamburger you can get two miles from your house.

But people do it—in fact, they seem to be the largest audience for McDonald's overseas, so much so that "Are they eating McDonald's?" is one question locals ask themselves to figure out whether a foreigner is American or not.

Drinking Too Much

Look, it's not that we can't hold our liquor. It's just that alcohol is way more taboo here than most other countries. When kids go some place that actually lets them drink, they don't know what their limit is because nobody told them how to drink responsibly.

Plus, we like to check out your hospitals since we spend two and a half times more on healthcare than you guys do. Americans want to learn your secrets.

Prudishness About Nudity

We may be able to drink our compatriots under the table, but that's where the risque behavior stops. We are, famously, a country that'll give a movie a harsher rating for showing a man gently making love to his wife than for showing the same man brutally murdering his wife with a baseball bat in slow motion.

If someone's in an art museum complaining that the woman in the Raphael painting isn't covered, that person is likely to be American.

Talking to Strangers

Granted, not all Americans do this, but for the ones who do, it's an immediate signal that you're from the U.S. It's not the accent that comes out when you open your mouth, it's the fact that you opened your mouth in the first place.

American friendliness is a little different than what you see elsewhere. Maybe that's why we're always warning kids about strangers with candy--we just don't know how to keep our mouths shut. 

Overly Sharing Your Feelings

It's not just that we're talking to the strangers. Americans are super, weirdly, intimately open with them. Maybe it's the security of knowing we're never going to see this person again that makes us open up like they're a bartender and we're four drinks in. 

But if you unload on a total stranger about how you're marriage is stalling, they're going to peg you for a Yank right off the bat.

Grown Men Wearing Shorts

Even when it isn't very hot outside, Americans LOVE to wear shorts. If you travel to India, for example, shorts are for children.

You won't get scolded, but they will think that a grown man wearing shorts is a little odd. Think about a grown man in NYC sporting a child's Spider-Man backpack. It's just not common.


Tipping is important in America because most waiters make less than $3 an hour and rely on tips to pay their rent. However, most other countries actually make restaurants pay their employees.

Tipping is baffling across most of Europe, for instance. That being said, Americans are sometimes too cheap to tip at all--even though we feel an obligation to. 

Your Accent

This isn't really something anyone can help. As hilarious as other peoples' attempts are to "do an American accent"—America is a huge country with tons of different accents—the timbre of your voice is still a massive giveaway.

And whatever you do--don't try to disguise it with a "local" accent. Unless you're just a linguistic genius, it's going to sound very bad. 

Trying Someone Else's Accent

Of course, when you're trying not to sound American, that's when you sound most American. We're notorious for being convinced that we can sound just like the people we're around.

And that's when we break out an Australian accent in London or a Northern accent in Wales. If you try this in the U.K., you should know that being compared to Dick van Dyke is not a compliment in this context.

Not Knowing a Foreign Language

We live in a country where you can drive for over 2,500 miles without leaving the country. You can actually fly in a straight line for 2,802 miles over American soil.

We don't grow up learning languages the way people do when the countries are crammed together like states in New England. We have Texas. There are whole countries smaller than Texas. Quite a few of them, in fact. Is our monolingual tendency healthy or useful? Probably not. But it's understandable, and it's definitely unique to the U.S.


Whether it's a question of day-to-day conversational volume, or shouting across a room to get someone's attention, Americans haven't quite nailed the "inside voice" thing just yet.

If the accent you speak with doesn't give you away, your volume will.

Not Knowing the Customs

It makes sense. We live in a country that takes up an enormous amount of space, and while we do have a lot of differences in accent, food, and culture, we're not used to studying up before we travel. Still, it's a good idea.

Learn what you can of the language instead of expecting people to speak English. Read about customs and manners. (Pay special attention to not making any obscene gestures.) You'll have more fun if you go in knowing what to expect, and you'll get along better, too.

When They Meet Other Americans Abroad

When Americans meet other Americans abroad, it may seem to an outsider that they have met their long-lost relatives. But no. These are complete strangers.

They'll get loud. They'll talk about what states they are from. And they'll let everyone else around them know they are from the States.

They Are Often...But Not Always...Overweight

We have one of the highest rates of obesity in the world. So the odds are higher than average that someone who is overweight is from the USA. Sorry, America!

And just a word of warning--not every culture is into polite fiction as much as the United States is. You very well may hear comments about your weight. 

Ordering Your Coffee "To Go"

Americans are always on the go and in a rush. In many places, especially Europe, they take their coffee culture seriously. And it's something that you should sit, sip, and take your time with.

If you're looking to grab your drink and dash, you're more than likely giving yourself away as an American visitor!

Pulling Out the Purell

Americans aren't cleaner. That's not what we are saying. But they do seem more preoccupied with germs than people in other regions of the world.

When it comes time to eat with your hands out in public, Americans whip out their travel-sized Purell bottles quicker than duel participant.

Wearing North Face Jackets

Maybe it's not surprising that Americans would wear American brands abroad. But what makes The North Face particularly American is how much of the outwear market it owns.

South Korea is getting in on the trend, as the brand has shot up in popularity in recent years.

Wearing Graphic Tees

If there's one dead giveaway from non-Americans that you are from the USA, is that your shirt will say things like "Choose Love" or "Seattle" or "USC."

Graphic tees, or t-shirts with text on them at all, are less common throughout, say, Europe. I say it's time to ditch these both abroad and at home--they're only one step above a bumper sticker. 

Unbridled Positivity

This isn't a knock against one culture or another. But Americans have an unending supply of optimism and a sense that anything is possible. Even more so, they think large change can happen quickly.

Not every culture is like that. Take the French, for example. Maybe it's not fair to describe them as pessimistic, but there is a definite sense of malaise throughout the culture.