The Ugly American Tourist Is Dead

This year, we decided to spend the Thanksgiving week in Greece. Due to other commitments, we could only squeeze five days for the trip. We squeezed Athens, Delphi and Santorini in those 5 days. The trip itself was amazing. Perfect weather. Not a drop of rain. No delays. I mean, doesn’t get any better than that.

The city of Αθήνα (as it is called in Greek) attracts millions of tourists every year. I cannot imagine visiting during summer. It must be a circus. Even this late in the year, there were hundreds of tourists. Mostly American. And Chinese. Oh, the Chinese!

We’ve all heard the stories of the ugly American tourist. They go to Europe, but expect America. They are loud and obnoxious.They criticize local customs, traffic, sanitation, weather, and everything else.

Fear not, however. The ugly American tourist is dead. Someone else has taken his coveted spot.

The Chinese are the nouveau-riche this millennium. And they’re not afraid to flaunt it. At Παρθενώνας ( the Parthenon), we saw a group of ladies shamelessly crossing barricades and ropes to sit on ancient stones and take selfies. At museums, we saw a woman touching sculptures and other exhibits in spite of the ‘Please Do Not Touch’ signs posted all over. This is probably why the Greeks have tons of officials walking around watching people. At the change of guard ceremony at the Parliament, a woman crossed the boundary, in spite of being told to stay behind a line. It was repulsive watching these guys break rules and conventions without a care in the world.

It is one thing to be overly enthusiastic about taking pictures at a historic site. We all do it. We all go bonkers, flipping out our cameras and phones, taking selfies to preserve for posterity. But this was utter disdain. Would they flout rules in their own country?

I was told they aren’t any better with taxi drivers either. They make them pull over and stop every few minutes for selfies. Their most frequently used phrase, “stop stop stop stop stop”. They take pictures of everything, the ground, the sky, trees, streets, and of course, the attractions.

On our trip to Santorini, as we drove the steep and winding road up to Ancient Thira, a van in front of me stopped in the middle of the road. For a moment I thought their car broke down, or just stalled on the incline (as it can happen to a novice driver). But no! The Aegean presented a breathtaking view from that vantage point. So they decided it was OK to stop in the middle of the road. Nationality of the occupants? No prizes for guessing.

Welcome to the new world order!