9 Ways to Travel Like an Asshole, Endanger Yourself, and Be Hated by Locals

Many thanks to our friend Tino Hautum for the photo (and no, he’s not an asshole)

In this year of travel I have had several experiences of idiot travelers that have amazed me to the point that I am moved to write on the subject.  In fact, these people seem to be common enough that I am convinced there must be an “Association of Asshole Travelers” that I am not privy to but that has a huge membership.  Since I don’t like secret societies I have compiled here a list of their behaviors.  Perhaps by taking on these behaviors ourselves we can one day be allowed into the association.  If you would like to be considered for the AAT, I recommend becoming adept in as many of these as possible.

1.  Do not attempt to speak the local language – Remember, no matter where you may be traveling, YOUR language (we’ll assume it’s English here since you’re reading this)  is dominant and all locals should speak it fluently in order to serve you well.  If you find yourself not being understood you have a few options:

  • Speak your language more loudly – ideally, raise your voice to the point of a near yell.  When you are speaking English loudly, non-English speakers will surely begin to understand you.
  • Continue to speak English but take on an attitude – the attitude here should derive from the idea that “these people are here to serve me, how dare they not be fluent in English”.  The new tone of your voice will surely create English fluency in the local person, accelerate the rate at which they may hate you and maybe even endanger you (it’s a 3 for 1)!

2. If you attempt to speak the language, do it poorly and with attitude – you may be driven to the point that you must attempt a couple of words in the local language. Attempt as few as possible and make no attempt to mimic a correct accent.  If you are not understood you may revert to the choices below #1. (speak it more loudly and take on an attitude).  Here the attitude derives from the thought, “Damn it, I’ve said a word in your language and now you should understand me – why the hell don’t you speak English anyway?!”.

3.  Ignore societal norms and do whatever you please – there are a myriad variations with which you could achieve this. I will recount real life examples I have seen that you could mimic or you may create your own.

  • Example A – when boarding a public bus as a group of traveling friends, you and your friends should each take up two seats, splaying your bodies across both.  Seated in this sideways manner you will be free to talk with your 7 other friends if you yell loudly enough.  When local people board the bus, no matter how crowded it becomes, continue to take up two seats each.  No matter if they are coming home from hard days of work or school while you’re on your way from the beach to nightlife.  I mean, you’re spending money in their country, right? For extra AAT credit, you can speak loudly about the people on the bus, assuming that no one else will understand your English.
  • Example B – pay no attention to local dress norms on the beach.  It does not matter if everyone is wearing swimwear.  You should be able to sunbathe in the nude if you so choose.  Ignore the norms and show your full glory.  How dare that life guard slap you with a life preserver and tell you otherwise?!
  • Example C – assume that local people should want to learn about your culture.  When in a group of local people who are having to work for you (in this case drivers and tour guides) open a discussion about your own culture and teach the locals all about it whether they appear interested or not.  In the example I witnessed, the local people were given a thorough explanation of American football, the teams, players, how to play, the times of the Super Bowl, etc.  Despite the locals’ outwardly smiling faces I could see that this guy was directly on his way to AAT membership.

4. Speak openly and in public about your illegal activities – This example was taken from our group of 8 friends on the bus. Yes, believe it or not, they were having a grand time talking about how and where they were going to smoke weed that night. I was so amazed that I thought this strategy deserved its own category. By speaking openly and in public about your illegal activities you can ensure self danger. You might even end up in jail, even though Michael’s House is probably a better place for you to end up. Surely, there is a special AAT honor if you achieve this.

5.  Do not bother to understand the local money – When buying anything, at the point of payment, simply produce a large pile of cash in your hands and let the vendor or cashier sort it out for you.  Why should you bother to learn how to count this funny looking money?  That’s the locals’ job.  This strategy is not as strong as some others since while it may endanger your pocketbook, it may result in love from some locals.

6.  Assume that everyone you meet is ready to cheat or rob you – be sure to engage locals in lengthy discussions and explanations about why they are charging you any sum for any good or service.  They are most likely trying to cheat you – so be sure you make them PROVE why the rug they spent 60 hours making should cost you more than $7 U.S.  It doesn’t matter if you can’t really have this discussion because of language barriers.  In fact, if they can’t speak fluent English they should probably take a hit on the price.

7.  Assume that all local food is suspect and will probably make you ill – Here it would be best to insist on eating only in chain restaurants that originated in your home country.  I mean, a Mexican made McDonald’s hamburger must be better food than any local cuisine that is surely full of bacteria and other suspect ingredients like local vegetables and/or spices you may not have heard of.  No matter what anyone else wants to eat – you must not touch your lips to foreign germs!

8.  Drink to the point of oblivion and trust that others will care for you – One of my favorite mornings in Brazil began by spending 2 hours trying to revive a tourist from the sidewalk where he was passed out.  Unable to tell me his name or where he was staying I was finally able to get him into our apartment where he passed out on the bed but at least I knew he was safe.  From his accent I could tell he was from the U.K.  The one bit of information he was able to get across was that he was scheduled to depart Brazil later that morning.  He did not have any id or a wallet.  After passing out on the bed he later began screaming the name “Maverick!”.  That was a clue.  So I walked to three local hostels and finally found the real Maverick (hostel manager) who came with a helper and got this guy out of my care.  I never heard if he made it home that day.  At any rate, I am sure that he has climbed to the top of the AAT and may even be an officer by now.

9.  At any point that you are disappointed in service, throw a temper tantrum – Last but not least, having a temper fit is sure to qualify you for the Association of Asshole Travelers.  No description that I could give would be better than simply providing you with a video example.  Make careful note of how this woman falls to the floor kicking and screaming.  (and for those of you worried that this woman is actually in a desperate situation and should not be used for this example, the translator of the video did not believe this was the case)

Of course, my examples are limited by my own experience.  I imagine you may have some of your own.  I’d love to hear them!

42 Comments

  1. I've seen lots of people behave like that when traveling – it's embarrassing. If someone visited their home and behaved in that fashion, they'd be thrown out, so why behave like that in someone else's home?
    My recent post Safe Travel Tips

    • I know. I wish I had a video of every one of these because I think if people saw their own behavior sometimes they'd be appalled.

  2. oh, my GOD! This is unbelievably hilarious and sad at the same time. Being a bit of a traveler myself I totally recognized each and every behavior (minus, perhaps, the English language, since I'm Romanian :-) ). I think we should really do such an association and take pride of NOT being its members. Dunno if it makes sense, but I think it would be really funny to wear a (real) badge stating: "I am certified NOT to be a member of AAT".

    Thanks for sharing, had a good laugh :-)
    My recent post 7 Personal Development Lessons – Kung Fu Panda Style

    • Thanks for reading Dragos! It makes me happy that I gave you a laugh because I've certainly been entertained many times by your writing.

  3. Truly shocking! Get this woman a job in acting. I feel so bad for her traveling companions….how very embarrassing for them! Hopefully for her as well is she ever see the video

    • Yeah, one man is her husband who keeps asking her to calm down. I feel badly for them too! I think the other person is an airline employee. Great to have you here Teresa!

  4. Unfortunately, such behavior isn’t limited to travelers… As an expat (actually, I prefer the term immigrant) I see expats behaving in all of the above-mentioned ways in their adopted home. :(

    • You’d hope that some time in a country would bring a bit more understanding and sophistication but perhaps it doesn’t always.

  5. Great article here. I laughed at points 1 and 7. There are many travelers who disrespect the cultures of other countries and I think you're article is a good parody of that. It teaches people how not to act and be hated by the locals.

    As for this random video of a woman yelling, it has got to be one of the funniest videos I have seen for some time. I really didn't expect my morning to start off like this. I wonder why she was so mad though. Didn't she realize that there was a video camera recording her entire time? Sigh…

    • What I understand from another version of this on Youtube that is translated by someone fluent in Cantonese is that the woman and her husband (man in the dark suit) arrived at the airport at the minute the flight was supposed to depart. She was on her way to New York and was given another flight on the same day. The reason for the strength of her reaction is unknown (maybe she is mentally unstable or maybe just a prime member of the AAT). I recommend watching a parody of this video also in Chinese where a guy misses an elevator. It's pretty funny!

  6. Wow, I didn't know this was common as I had an unpleasant bus ride with some Americans on my way to Amsterdam (I am American myself and was embarrassed to be at that very moment). What you explained in example 3a is right on point as to what I experienced. *smh*
    My recent post Chris Pastras Interview from “The Run Up”

    • I'm kind of sorry to hear it's common. Actually, though my experience in 3a was of Kiwis traveling Brazil. I guess we Americans are not the only culprits! I imagine there are some all over the world, I just can't understand them as well in other languages!

  7. OMG. Loved the headline. Loved the article even more. I laughed till I cried. Too bad people act like this. They miss so much. They really just ought to stay home.
    My recent post Ever wonder why some onions are yellow, some red and some white? Me too!

    • Thanks Ann! Yeah, I often think these people might be better armchair travelers. I feel embarrassed and sorry for the local people who have to try to deal with them and maintain the semblance of pleasantness.

  8. I wonder what the membership of Association of Asshole Travelers could be… I think the secret member handshake would involve explaining how great the members' countries are :)
    My recent post The World's Smallest Niche Business

    • Good start. Each person should probably speak loudly in their own language and perhaps cover their money belt with their other hand. We should do a video of it!

  9. One of my favorite traveling a–holes was a big red-faced American guy who paced up and down the train platform in Yokosuka Japan, yelling and making a scene while slapping his own head (the signs were in English, by the way). I thought about helping him out, but the way he was stomping up and down the platform was too much fun to watch.

  10. I think that one of the points not fully made here is that when we're visiting another country, we should act like guests and not the owners. Like it or not, we're unofficial ambassadors of our countries and when you act like an asshole, you're telling others that that's what it's like in your country. Furthermore, many foreign destinations are still very fragile and precious. Because of that, one might try as much as possible to minimize their presence–to simply observe. I mean, isn't that why we've chosen to leave our familiar homes in the first place?

    • Good point, Richard. Often people in the countries we visit cannot afford to visit us in our home countries so the only exposure they have is through media and tourists. I'm afraid to think of what their impressions are from our media. As tourists we have an opportunity to improve the opinions about our home countries or further degrade them.

  11. Haha, that has got to be the funniest article I've ever read.
    My recent post Hospitals Can Make You Sicker

  12. Brilliant! Number 6 had me really shaking me head! Having spent a lot of time in India, I am repeatedly shocked and saddened by the displays that tourists put on while trying to bargain in the hopes of getting an extra five rupees (10 cents) knocked off the price of a $3 item. Perhaps it could also be said that members of the AAT spend half of their time comparing every aspect of a new country to their own countries while proudly stating, "This would never happen at home!"
    My recent post Unexpected Encounters With Intriguing People

    • I'm with you. There may have been a couple of times when I felt a price was overstated in my travels but for the most part I've been shocked at how little has been asked for when compared to prices I would pay at home for lesser quality. People often don't understand the time and care that goes into handmade goods.

  13. It's not just the locals but other travellers get annoyed too.

    As a Brit I'm usually let down by my side by too much alcohol being consumed.

    Couple of guys (Brits again) in my dorm went out for drinks in Thailand, 2 hours later (yes… not even that long) they came back making a noise and shouting about the 'ping pong' show they just saw. After waking everyone up they fell asleep, an hour later one of them vomitted down the wall onto a poor Australian guy below. I felt quite ashamed of my country at that point. We had to move him into the lobby on his mattress while the cleaners got to work and everyone in the dorm was moved into a spare room.
    My recent post How to Pick Your Backpack

    • You know, sometimes I think as fellow tourists we're more aware of how rude someone is being because we can understand the language. And you're so right – this kind of behavior negatively affects everyone! What a gross story you have!!

  14. Hey, you make it sound like being an arsehole is a bad thing. While I agree with almost all of of your points and generally behave, and treat others, like a civilized human being, sometimes it can be a case of reacting like an arsehole or being a placid victim.

    On occasions someone is trying to cheat you. You know it, they know it and it's time to throw your toys out of the pram, kick the cat and metaphorically put your head out the window and shout 'I'M NOT TAKING IT ANYMORE'

    My most notable temper tantrum was the f*ck me up the arse dance performed in Egypt. In an unsubtle attempt to convey through body language what I thought of a particularly ridiculous price for the local ferry to Elephantine Island – 20 times the official rate for locals, five times for foreigners, as displayed on the sign right in front of me – I mimed pulling down my trousers to suggest I didn't appreciate their attempt at a shafting. It was made more silly when two of the touts joined in and the three of us hopped and jumped loudly down the promenade looking like three big angry chickens.

    It all ended in laughter for everyone (except the mad guy who wanted to cut my throat and dump me in the Nile) and, after finding my mysteriously absent girlfriend, we boarded the boat for the official price.

    PS. I can't see the tantrum video (I'm guessing it's on Youtube which is banned in Turkey) but judging from other peoples' comments on it I'm so very glad there were no cameras around at the time of my little dance.

    • Hi Dono, If you can't see the video you might want to read my post on how to watch video from outside the U.S. at

    • Hi Carmen and Richard, I fully agree with you that local nationals shouldn't be excluded from their own cultural sites and that funds from us tourists can play an important role in preserving and maintaining those same sites. Had the guy charged me the official rate – which was four times that for locals anyway, as stated on the sign literally right behind him – I wouldn't have batted an eyelid (it had been rather a long day too).

      What I didn't mention in the tale above is that on getting off the ferry someone ran up behind me and I genuinely thought it was the mad guy about to stab me. It wasn't, it was just someone in a hurry.

      I spent a month in Egypt. Any longer and I'd have returned a gibbering wreck as it was the most stressful, tiring place I have ever travelled. Yet, out of the 30 or so places I've been to, it is also my favourite, mostly because of those greedy, devious, lying, funny, generous, wonderful Egyptians. I can't wait to get back there and enter the fray again.

      Many thanks for pointing me in the direction of your non US video post.

  15. hello, If you’re preparing for world travel you may be wondering what, … 9 Ways to Travel Like an Asshole!

  16. hello, If you're preparing for world travel you may be wondering what, … 9 Ways to Travel Like an Asshole!

  17. HI, 

    Guys your 9 ways are really so good guys and very useful. 

    Thanks guys for your tips. 

  18. This blogs would be  very useful to all who  wants to visit in other country. Respect is  very important. 

  19. Theres something that changes in people. I saw a young twerp in his 30s say to the building owner “do you know who i am”. Especially in the third world Americans in particular but not limited to Africans and wealthy Indians become completely arrogant to lowly paid staff at times.

  20. Doing those will get you killed on a country you never knew anything about or knew anyone other than your stupid self. Always be gentle and kind when speaking to people you don’t even know. You just might be surprised that you’re already talking to someone so special while having fun activities in Maui.

  21. IkilledAlahlol666 07/04/2013 at 3:44 PM

    Sounds like some angry rag head camel jockey pricks just couldn’t take any more US/UK dicks visiting India, bet ya’ll gladly grabbed their money though, greedy terrorist fucks! And for fucks sake!, when YOU stinky fucks visit the US, by all means, please DON’T shower for at least one hot summer month, bring your unwashed and unwiped ass/foot/arm pit funk, assfire breath, fleas, ticks, nits, lice, gonorrhea, typoid and stupidity with you, stay for ten years as a taxi driver that nobody wants to enter due to the deadly PU Fumes you shit skins emit!! LOL .. The ENTIRE world know you sand niggers, gook and pineapple island fucks only want big American dorrah (That’s Dollar in your shit language!) and WILL scam, scum, cheat and kill white US civilians any chance you get!

    • shut up you fat piece of white trash goober filth. You stupid dumb ass faggot white cock sucking losers are so fucking stupid.

    • they’re not grabbing our money, we’e just paying them to tolerate us

  22. Recently I was extremely low on money and debts were eating me from all sides! That was UNTIL I decided to make money.. on the internet. I went to surveymoneymaker dot net, and started filling in surveys for cash, and surely I’ve been far more able to pay my bills!! I’m so glad, I did this!! With all the financial stress these years, I really hope all of you will give it a chance. – s5zj

  23. what a fab post! just found this and laughed lots, as it sounds just like our view! you may like our most recent post along the same line – http://thegrumpyflumps.wordpress.com/2013/12/09/finding-yourself-or-losing/

  24. Thanks for all these wonderful tips. I’ll be sure to use each, and everyone of them.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.

*