Why Everybody Hates Tourists from America

This notion that the American tourists are obnoxious and nobody likes them has been around for a very long time. Where it came from, who started it and what substantiated it is unknown to me. It just somehow spread around, everybody knows about it and it’s considered to be an unspoken truth of international travel.

Needless to say – I was just as aware of the notion as everybody else is when I started my trip around the world. Still, I never took it for anything more than an urban legend that never goes away.

I spent two years traveling around South East Asia and had several encounters with travelers from the USA, but none of the encounters was long and/or deep enough to draw solid conclusions on. Things however started to come to a different light during my two month stay in Kota Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo.

Photo: Rainforest Lodge in Kota Kinabalu Where I Was Shown Why Everybody Hates American Tourists
Photo: Rainforest Lodge in Kota Kinabalu Where I Was Shown Why Everybody Hates American Tourists

I interrupted travelling and settled for two months to wait out the Christmas and New Year holiday seasons, to avoid needlessly overpaying the way I was forced to the year prior in Thailand.

World Challenge Borneo

During the course of my two months long stay in Kota Kinabalu, I had over a dozen encounters with groups on World Challenge tours. I spoke briefly with participants and the conclusion I drew from them was that these were spoiled kids of wealthy parents. For $6,000 a month, these kids got to see orangutans, hiked the headhunter’s trail, climbed Mount Kinabalu, visited caves, trekked jungles to reach spots where Rafflesia – largest flower in the world grew and did a whole lot of other things kids whose parents can’t afford to shell out $6,000 a month could never get to do.

On their month long Borneo Adventure, the World Challenge kids also made a stop in Kota Kinabalu and it just so happened, that many groups stayed in the Rainforest Lodge on Beach Street where I stayed. Each group consisted of people from the same area – they clearly knew one another quite possibly because they attended the same school or lived in the same neighborhood.

The fact that groups were not compiled of randomly selected individuals from different parts of the world could be easily observed by the fact that participants from each group spoke the same accent. The first group I had an encounter with were British. They were vastly respectful people, if a bit loud but only in the restaurant or other public areas.

Group of Australians which came in next was easily the nicest. Despite there being about 15 of them in the group, they kept their noise at acceptable levels affording other patrons to get peaceful rest.

Everything changed after the Aussies had left and a group of Americans checked in…

Obnoxious Americans

One would have to try really hard to find anything unpleasant about the experience with Aussie or British participants of the World Challenge Borneo who spent the Kota Kinabalu part of their tour in the Rainforest Lodge. Perhaps the only drawback was the need to wait for a long time just to get a turn at a toaster during lodge’s complimentary breakfasts. It was nowhere near the same when the Americans checked in.

There was yelling down the hallway at all times. There was slamming of doors so hard whole building shook in its base. There was banging on the walls and doors of other rooms as they kept chasing one another up and down the hallway like nobody else lived there. There was spit all over door knobs and floor cause they thought it was funny. There was…

The following day, when I came down to the restaurant to have breakfast, I overheard every other guest complaining about “those people who spent the entire night banging and yelling and rudely bad mouthing everyone who dared to ask them to keep the noise down“. Patrons from the same floor got no sleep whatsoever – I was one of them. Patrons from downstairs didn’t fare much better complaining of too much noise from what sounded like a heard of bisons chased by a pack of wolves on the upper floor.

Regardless, patrons from downstairs at least didn’t have to walk on floor covered with mud because the American kids thought it was funny to play a slide down the hallway, didn’t have to watch what they grab opening their door in order to avoid getting someone else’s spit on their hands and definitely didn’t get the noise level of us whose beds were right next to their screaming yaps.

This torment lasted for two nights. None of the rest of us who also stayed at the Rainforest Lodge thought it could get any worse after the first sleepless night, but the Americans made a point at outdoing themselves and made their second night twice as painful. With bloodshot eyes and nerves pushed to the limit, the relief we all felt after they’d checked out was epic.

Rainforest Lodge fell quiet again. It was possible to go to the room and take an afternoon nap. It was possible to get on a laptop and respond to emails without a headache. It was possible to use shared bathroom and not walk on pissed on floor. It was, afterall, just the way you would expect it to be when you patronize a temporary accommodation establishment.

The Return of the Americans

I was not the only traveler who chose Rainforest Lodge for a longer term stay. Decent discounts were available for those who prepaid for a week or more in advance which is what I took advantage of. Several other travelers did that too and since I used to see them at complimentary breakfasts and in the computer lounge, we all acknowledged to one another the relief we felt after the departure of the Americans.

Unfortunately, it didn’t last long. The same group of obnoxious and rude World Challenge participants from the United States of American came to stay at the Rainforest Lodge for two more nights a couple of weeks later. And just as was the case of the first time around, they turned everybody’s stay into hell.

All one could hear from other patrons was:

“No wonder everybody hates f$%king Americans”

…and I had to agree. All of a sudden, the notion that everybody hates tourists from America – the notion I thought was unsubstantiated, an urban legend if you will, took on a real form and proved itself as deserved, reasonable and warranted.

Sure, one can’t judge the entire nation based on action of a small group, but why was there such blatant difference between groups of the same age youth from other parts of the world? The only thing that set the group of rude, bothersome individuals from groups of respectful, decent people was the fact that the former were from the United States of America and the other from elsewhere. Could there be a pattern here we’d be fair not to overlook or ignore?

What this experience taught me was that in many common life situations, when people of other nations behave in a civilized way, showing respect for another by not interfering with their course of life in a negative way, the Americans do the opposite. Their complete disregard for another and expectance for others to put up with whatever they do because they are Americans makes them arrogant pricks who more than deserve the reputation that ushers their arrival.

True Yet Sad Life Story of Ha

The life story of Ha, the Vietnamese Prostitute who is not really a prostitute started as a fairly happy one, but turned into a very, very sad and frightening sequence of events. I met her on the first night she attempted to sell her body to men for money because she had no other option. So even though she had attempted a route of prostitution, she’s never ended up being one thanks to me getting mixed in an equation. Still, her true life story is very sad and I hope she as well as her daughter get to enjoy the life they deserves soon. The revelation of this life story started on the morning after our first night together, but it took several days and nights spent together to paste all the pieces together and get a clear picture of the nightmare these two girls live on a daily basis.

Being an attractive girl, Ha grew up with a lot of attention from boys. There was nothing wrong with it and every girl would have wished to be like her. Life was generally good, even though she grew up in Vietnam which came with its own ups and downs of the communist regime. At some point in her late teens, Ha went to Thailand where she met with that American guy. The fact that she was from Vietnam made her open to anyone from the Western world as that was the opportunity for her to escape rather limited possibilities of self application her home country was offering.

Said American man was excited to learn that Ha was from Vietnam because he saw vast business opportunities opening in this South East Asian country with introduction of inexpensive scooters to the Asian markets. At that time, the predominant means of transportation in Vietnam were bicycles. You may recall pictures of thousands of bicycles filling the streets of Saigon which were so popular in magazines like National Geographics. This was all about to change and motorcycles were to become the new pink in Vietnam, replacing obsolete bicycles as an improved, more exciting transportation option.

Ha was promised the American man would marry her if she helped him to start the motorcycle business in Vietnam. One thing lead to another and before you knew it, the two were in Vietnam, the man starting up a business that was bound to succeed and Ha ended up pregnant. When that happened and when the business started to rock and roll, the man who promised her heavens suddenly changed. He started ignoring Ha and kept cheating on her and doing it openly. Due to Vietnam’s weak justice system, the man kept sexually abusing underage girls but got away with everything as he was able to buy favors of any Vietnamese official that was in the way. In a corruption ridden country, he who has more money wins.

Having been left pregnant in Vietnam, where single mothers are socially unacceptable, Ha tried to pledge with the man who knocked her up to provide for her during pregnancy and fulfill his promise to marry her. He rejected the unborn baby and ordered Ha to stay away from him or else. She had nowhere else to go, no man would take a woman who’s pregnant with another man’s child, so she tried to appeal to him, but his true colors kept showing more and more each day. As his business grew, he used the money to run Ha and her family to the ground. Ha’s mother was forced into bankruptcy and had her house taken away from her while Ha was being threatened that if she doesn’t get out of his way or has an abortion, she will come to a sad end.

As the man kept sexually abusing new girls every day, many of which were way too young for sex, there were more and more of them that ended up pregnant. Several were found dead in dubious traffic accidents the police refused to investigate. Fearing that Ha could encounter similar fate, she stopped asking the man for financial support and marriage. Later on she gave birth to a beautiful baby girl.

The man who previously tried to force her into abortion, changed his attitude when he saw the little girl. She was the cutest baby in the entire world and he has decided that he wanted her for himself. Financially deprived Ha who saw her family hit rock bottom after the man who got her pregnant destroyed their lives saw something bad happening if little girl was to end up in the hands of a man who had previously sexually abused prepubescent girls on several occasions. But through his connections and corrupt jurisdiction, he was able to get the baby temporarily. After a month, Ha got the girl back and found baby’s vagina swollen and discolored. Being only four months old, baby was put on medication and it took more than a month for the irritation and bruising to go away.

The man refused all accusations that he had anything to do with it and threatened Ha that he would make her suffer or worse if she doesn’t stop snooping around. At the same time he demanded that she gives him her daughter for he liked the baby and wanted her for himself while keeping Ha out of her life. Ha tried to pledge with him but threats continued and violence kept growing until such point that Ha had to run away from the town where she lived and hide with her relatives at the opposite end of Vietnam.

That didn’t go over well with the man who wanted the baby and Ha out of his way. His men found her at the relatives but she was able to get away last minute and escaped to places where none of her relatives lived so there was nothing to connect her with the place. Being constantly on the run with little baby in the tow, Ha was unable to get a job and make enough money to provide for the little girl. Life of fear and deprivation became her true life story. She could not stay anywhere for an extended period of time and could not live as a free person. It went on like that for a couple of years but the man never stopped pursuing his revenge. He wanted her to pay for the nerve of not giving him her daughter as he demanded, and escaping his pursuit.

When little girl was 4 year old, Ha had no more places in Vietnam where she could hide so she escaped to Cambodia. She ended up in Siem Reap where one of her distant uncles lives. The uncle is Vietnamese born, but married a Cambodian woman and lived in Cambodia since. They have a small house on the outskirts of this popular tourist destination and this is where Ha and her daughter sought temporary refuge. She was in a foreign country, she couldn’t speak the language, only a little bit and she had her daughter who needed food to grow up. In order to make money in this environment, she attempted to do the only thing she could – prostitution. If it wasn’t for her daughter, she wouldn’t have done that, but she was able and willing to take anything just as long as she can buy some food for the little girl. That is when I met her.

This was why Ha has never acted like a real hooker. This was why she never got cold with me like hookers do with their customers after they’re done. But this is also why she had to ask me if I could give her some money to buy food for her daughter even though we never engaged in a hooker/john relationship. The details of her life story were shocking. This was not simply presented to me the way I am presenting it here. This was revealed bit by bit as I kept digging and digging, asking question after question until pieces of the puzzle started to come together and revealed the bigger picture. Ha was one strong woman, but she didn’t deserve to live like that. Nobody deserves to live in constant fear and run and hide all the time because your own country will not provide you with any protection from a man who has more money than you, so he can buy the justice to side with him. I knew I needed to help her, but how?