He walks through the city with an arrogant demeanor. His baggy shorts and large t-shirt clash with virtually every other piece of clothing worn. A camera hangs at attention, slung over his shoulder in case he sees something worthy of a picture he will probably never look at again. His hands, of course, are stuffing famous foods from the area into his mouth. He’s the American Tourist, or at least the most blatant stereotypical American tourist I can conjure.
Moving on to the Highlands, our views of busy city streets, parks, and rugby stadiums have been replaced by field upon field of sheep as well as placid blue lochs. Although our landscapes have changed, some aspects still remain: we are Americans, and at times we are tourists. Whether visiting the famous Eilean Donan Castle or just walking through the small towns, one of my greatest fears while traveling is the possibility that I, in some way, may act like the American Tourist.
The stereotypical American tourist, as I have mentioned in previous writings, is one of my favorite topics to discuss with locals. On this trip, however, I believe the entire ethnographic group has attempted to assimilate into the Scottish culture well. I have noticed very few explicitly ethnocentric tendencies, and we have at least been aware when those occur. My opinion, though, is only half the matter. Fellow ethnographer Matt Hansen’s local friend Julie Lee mentioned she knew we were tourists straight away – our backpacks and semi-casual attire evidently stood out on the affluent grounds of St. Andrews University.
Determined to learn what the Scots think of the American Tourist, I began questioning the many people here in the Highlands. Our tour guide, Craig, claims the first picture that comes to his mind when I mention the American Tourist is National Lampoon. As shown below, I think we have all managed to hurdle this stereotype. Hopefully you realize that picture, although quite incriminating, is a fictitious representation (it’s the best I could do with my available resources). Ian, a mountain climber I met at the Aviemore Bunkhouse, phrased it well by arguing there are so many different cultures in America that it’s difficult to sum it up with just one image.
My sample may be small, but I think it’s safe to say we have been a fairly conscientious group. No, we are not wearing shorts, t-shirts, and snapping photos while consuming food like that American Tourist. The man I described at the beginning of this post has not been tagging along with us here in Scotland. We may appear American to the locals, but rest assured we’re representing our country in a dignified manner.
Blogged by Matt Gantz.