“Don’t be a dick, kids. Don’t be a dick.” — Wil Wheaton
I’m not going to name names in this post. The events being referred to, however, may seem familiar. I’m going to start out with this simple statement: When you travel, you are a representative of your country. You are an ambassador for your people. You are a guest in someone’s house. You don’t have to be a high-profile celebrity to make us all look bad on an international stage. You just have to forget the common sense and manners your mama (hopefully) taught you.
Here a few quick examples of what not to do in a foreign country to avoid making the rest of us look like total d-bags.
Don’t Touch the Art!
The American tourist who sparked outrage in Florence after he snapped a finger off a priceless 600-year-old statue of the Virgin Mary in a museum was today revealed to be an emergency surgeon from Connecticut.
This goes for any museum, but especially ones with priceless 600-year-old statues. I don’t care if you want to get a closer look. I don’t care if you’re a doctor. You don’t just risk breaking the statue but robbing us all of a chance to see a priceless work that has survived generations of wars and turmoil that could have blown it to bits. Your thoughtless, selfish action is an insult to all the sacrifices that have been made to protect that statue over the years.
Respect the monuments and cultural heritage of your hosts. It doesn’t matter how hot it is; do not go swimming in a public fountain in Rome or anywhere. I understand that some one may fall in or there might be a spontaneous act of love like Forest Gump and the Reflecting Pool. But when you dress in a bathing suit and take a dip in a fountain that in many ways is still a public water source you are making an ass out of yourself.
Don’t Try to Be Impressive (Because You’re Not)
We witnessed this one in person. A single dude staying at our tented camp on the Serengeti was sitting at a table with another group of travelers waxing on (and on, and ON) about the “circle of life” as if he stumbled onto that concept all on his own. He sounded like a pretentious d-bag.
Please, Don’t Break the Law
I think this last one goes for anywhere, at home or abroad. Don’t urinate in public, don’t trash a gas station bathroom, and don’t lie about it to the police.
When you behave badly you make the rest of the respectful travelers feel embarrassed to say where we are from. I want to say with pride I’m from the USA. I once lied while traveling and said I was from Toronto because of a recent (and particularly bad) incident on the part of a fellow citizen. Most of the time when someone asks I say I’m a Marylander.