What Foreign Governments Tell Their Citizens About Travel to the US: Don’t Sunbathe Topless, Healthcare is Expensive, and Americans All Have Guns

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.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. I’m Canadian who’s lived in the US and owns a home down south; that all sounds pretty much spot on.

  2. Interesting about Austria warning its citizens about the taste of water, which of course varies a great deal from place to place within the U.S. But then Austria surely has some of the purest-tasting water in the world. I love Austrian beers and I think one of the reasons they taste so good must be the quality of the water.

  3. I’m Chinese (American-born), and have to say that is extremely good advice for mainland Chinese people who have no manners and no morals. 🙂 this article is hilarious and so true!

  4. While the third one is not true, those who do have guns have enough to make up for those of us that do not, with the state I live in having more guns than people. I believe, although I don’t have the statistics at hand, that if the guns in the US were distributed evenly, there would be enough for everyone to have one (or it might have been every adult to have one), with quite a few left over.

  5. Gary, about the picture with the Asian guy in a bathrobe: how do you know he’s Chinese? And from China?

  6. The guy in the bathrobe is tacky, no matter what his nationality! Robes are for the pool, the spa and the room, no where else! I have seen so many people do this, and in so many places. I think the worst is when I see the robes at the breakfast buffet on a cruise ship. I have been on all the lines and I have seen this occur even on the premium lines.

  7. Gary, since you didn’t answer my question, you obviously don’t know he’s Chinese, and from China, so you’re making a dangerous assumption: just because he looks Asian, you conclude he’s Chinese, and from China, and on top of this, you blame his behavior on a whole country, instead of on that one person only.

    @JohnB: I agree, and I too have seen several people in bathrobes, including on cruise ships, and all of whom were white.

  8. @Jeffrey

    The guy in the robe could be Japanese. I understand that the Japanese in spa resorts and ryokans (in Japan), change into robes on arrival. Then they wear the robes for their entire stay. Although this pic doesn’t look like it was in Japan. I still it is tacky to wear a robe to breakfast, where the practice is to wear street clothes.

Comments are closed.