A piece last week in Foreign Policy looked at the travel advisories foreign governments provide their citizens about visiting the U.S.
A foreign visitor to the United States once informed me, with great sincerity, that Americans are much more polite to one another than the citizens of his home country. I was pleased to hear this (See? Foreigners don’t all hate us!) — until he added that such courtesy is, of course, a life-saving precaution for Americans, since it’s well-known that everyone in the United States carries guns and will shoot at the slightest provocation.
The UK and France warn about humor being taken the wrong way — Brits because Americans have guns, and the French because Americans see sexual harassment everywhere (and have guns).
Brits, Germans, and Japanese are warned not to get sick in the States, because of the high cost of healthcare.
German tourists are warned not to get sick in the United States — healthcare in the United States costs so much that “often it is cheaper … to fly back to Germany and deal with [your medical problems] here.”
Austrians are warned against sunbathing topless, and that while tap water is safe it doesn’t taste very good.
The Chinese government offers etiquette advice.
One should use a knife and fork to cut food into small pieces before placing it in the mouth, and one should refrain from talking while one’s mouth is full of “food or soup.” Also, “do not smoke or spit while walking,” and “hold the door” for people behind you.
Most important, Chinese tourists are reminded that Americans believe in standing in line without shoving past the people standing in front of you: “Do not jump the queue! In the United States, when many people are queuing for services … they will be lined up to wait in the order they arrived. Failure to comply with this order could lead to unnecessary disputes.”
(China will also track down citizens who behave badly while abroad.)
The Russian government, though, is impressed by public restrooms.
[T]he Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs notes wonderingly, “public restrooms are well-marked,” and one can generally use the restrooms in coffee shops and hotels.
Most amazing of all? True, America’s streets aren’t paved with gold — but its “public toilets are always and everywhere free.”
Most importantly, don’t joke about bombs or terrorism.