I did my best to represent the United States. With our status in the world in decline, it’s my duty as a citizen of this rich country to not let it slip even further. But I quickly learned that it doesn’t matter how awesome I may appear because for every me there are a dozen of other traveling Americans who just reinforce the stereotype: arrogant, fat, annoying, closed-minded, stupid, self-absorbed, insecure, materialistic.
First there were the three college-aged American girls visiting Barcelona. The two fat ones couldn’t stop talking about themselves, asking everyone where they could find a club that plays hip-hop because that is the only music they’re willing to dance to. They’d counter your observation about Spanish culture with nonsense: “Yeah yesterday I like went to the grocery store and the guy was so mean he didn’t have to like be that mean.” Drinking in their vicinity was even worse: “Oh my god I’m like so drunk this is my 12th shot I shouldn’t drink any more? okay one more I hope I don’t get as drunk as last night.” It was unbearable.
There were the standard-issue blondes from Chicago, also in Barcelona, who were older and less annoying but terribly uninteresting and cold.
There was the guy from Boston in Madrid. Every sentence he threw in “fucking” to appear cool and edgy. He busted his head in the shower and got blood throughout the room. “I thought hostels were supposed to be fucking crazy, where are all the bitches?!”
There was another American in Madrid who introduced himself as 25 Cent: “I’m half the color but all the attitude.” He challenged people to rap battles. And he was white (second from right). He said he was from L.A. and has done coke with Paris Hilton and Nicole Ritchie. I mean, who hasn’t done coke with Paris Hilton and Nicole Ritchie? His line, “I want to introduce you to the hostel of love,” did not get him as far as he had hoped.
How did it get like this? How come so many Americans possess the same negative traits? How did such anti-social behavior become a cultural phenomenon?
I don’t consider myself unique in wanting to meet interesting, socially-aware people who are open-minded, but the odds that an American fits this profile is low. Even the English, who share the most with us culturally, are much more tolerable than Americans. When you’re in your home country and consciously seek out international hang-outs to meet people who are not from here, you may have a problem.
The most interesting American I met in Spain was at a Monday night club party in Barcelona. He got into some trouble back home and moved to Spain about a year ago, where he currently deals drugs in various clubs. When it became obvious to him that I was not going to purchase drugs he befriended me and kept the drinks coming. He wanted to impress me and at that moment I wanted to be impressed.
He had a crew of four or five guys who acted as his entourage. As the temporary new member I had to be super cool and have a serious look on my face. He told me that drug enforcement in Spain is a joke, and the only time they make busts is more for publicity purposes than trying to reduce usage. I concluded that I do not want to be a drug dealer because of the late hours and unruly clientele.
The reason I came to Spain in late-August is not to put up with the heat and tourist swarms but to attend La Tomatina, the tomato food-fight that occurs in Bunol on the last Wednesday of every August. From Barcelona I went to Valencia, the third largest city in Spain that is about an hour train ride from Bunol. After a night out and two hours of sleep, I was ready for what would be the highlight of my trip.