Thursday, March 22, 2007

On Monday I made my weekly resolution to avoid the vulgar. To avoid the vulgar and all vulgarity. To avoid in fact anything beginning with “vul-,“ be in the vulva, the vulnerable or vultures, because particularly on Mondays everything with the vul- prefix grosses me out.

But I digress. I ask you: what is worse than being an American abroad and being confronted with vulgar American tourists? Quite consciously and apparently proud vulgar American tourists? I tell you: nearly nothing is worse.

Four Americans get on the train. I guess they’re 18. They’re swigging away at some alco-pops that look like green beer, and planning their week loudly, apparently for the benefit of everyone who delights in the American accent. In the American accent and vulgarity. Their week is going to consist of drinking as much as motherfucking possible. And mac and cheese. And why can’t you buy it in a box in motherfucking Germany? And did you hear about the two guys from Lancaster who dug up the dead body and decided to fuck it? Did you wonder if the body was still warm? Or if it was a young body? Did you ask yourself how long had it been buried? Or where they bought the condoms before they set to it? Har har!

But I digress. I must urgently refresh my resolution eschewing vulgarity, and it's only Thursday. I don’t think getting drunk in public is cool, especially in a foreign country, no matter if you are truly unintelligent or just think it's cool to be stupid. If you are really that stupid you should be in an assisted living home. Vulgarity is not funny or cool, and being regular joe asshole is not cool. And being American is not inherently cool. Um, at all.

I felt like I was in that scene with the frat boys in Borat, except there was no Borat, and no movie camera goading them on.


Andrew Shields said...

Right after I first moved to Berlin in 1991, I became extremely aware of the American junior-year-abroad students traveling on their rail passes. Even when they were not vulgar (and they weren't vulgar that often, at least back then), I noticed how they always seemed to believe that they were where they belonged, no matter where they were. Or to put it another way, that they had a right to be wherever they were, and to behave in the same way that they would have behaved if they had been in New York City or Minneapolis or Oberlin or wherever. The young Americans traveling together did not seem to have much respect for the countries they were traveling through; it was almost as if those places did not exist as separate cultures, but just as place for Americans to travel through.

Anonymous said...

Although I am completely on the same page with this, and have at numerous times been dismayed by the vulgarity of Americans Behaving Badly in Europe, I think it would be disingenuous not to recognize that tourists from other countries can also be vulgar, and embarrass their compatriots just as easily. While living in London one year and attending Evensong at st.Pauls at a very packed St. Paul's Cathedral, my partner and i sat next to an extremely elegant elderly German couple; the wife exquisite and clad head to toe in Escada. In the row behind us were 4 scruffy German college students, who during the service removed from their enormous backpacks sandwiches, crisps, and mineral waters, swigging and chomping loudly through Bach, Hndel and several hymns. The elegant lady, mortified, whipped around and admonished them in German -- "This is a church, stop behaving as though you were on a picnic!" Vulgarity among Americans abroad is recognized by other Americans, but it is not their exclusive province.

SarahJane said...

Of course they can. if you go over to Andrew's blog, you'll see the conversation continue. Nevertheless, the reason Americans jar me most is because I am American. That's all.

Liked the story about the Germans. Germans can be as vulgar and bad mannered as anyone, as evinced by their most widely circulated newspaper, Die Bild Zeitung ( Read by more people in the country than anything else, everyday it features a naked lady on the cover with some idiot caption, under a headline story usually aimed at inflaming the population.


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