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So are Americans less ‘ugly’ now?

The LAT’s Gregory Rodriguez suggests that multiculturalism at home, a weak dollar and the rise of other countries have made Americans more pleasant foreign travelers:

The ugly American — the stereotypically brutish, ethnocentric, bumbling traveler abroad — is dead. He’s gone the way of global U.S. hegemony, the strong dollar and mid-20th century American naivete.

Thirty years ago, the streets of major European capitals were awash with wide-eyed, culturally entitled, middle-class American tourists who were members of the first generation to take advantage of foreign travel. Once the exclusive province of the elite, the Grand Tour (albeit scaled down) suddenly became available to the average suburbanite, supported by modern transportation technology, a strong U.S. currency and America’s unparalleled international status.
[...]
Far from projecting an image of narrow-minded superiority, Americans abroad today are more reflective of the country’s expanding diversity and cultural sophistication. They come from a broader array of backgrounds and traditions. Many still have strong ties to homelands around the globe.

One recent survey of hoteliers even found that of all Western travelers, Americans were most likely to speak the local language, something I really, really find difficult to believe.

Oh, and then there’s the “foreigners like us because of Obama” stuff. And the “we’re becoming like them and them like us” stuff.

Read the rest on your own.

About the author: Just the administrator of this humble blog.

  • JG29A

    One recent survey of hoteliers even found that of all Western travelers, Americans were most likely to speak the local language, something I really, really find difficult to believe.

    Not too surprising, at least if it means “attempt to speak” rather than “have substantial proficiency in”. Many more Europeans are well-traveled, and they matter-of-factly tend to expect conversational English ability in an international context. (And thus surprised at how badly many wannabe-worldly Koreans fail at this.) Traveling Americans, OTOH, are a more narrowly self-selected group, and we probably tend to be hypersensitive to the stereotype. I certainly am. :-/

  • seouldout

    Why do so many writers think 30 years was 1960? It wasn’t. It was 1980, and in 1980 the US economy was in the crapper, Carter was president, and the US wasn’t riding high. BTW, The Ugly American was published in ’58 and made into a movie a few years later.

    Of the ugly Americans I’ve bumped into about 2/3rds are misbehaving Canadians cloaking their nationality behind the Stars and Stripes.

  • jlee

    Interesting (?) featured article linked at the bottom of the article.

    http://articles.latimes.com/2010/dec/20/health/la-he-v-steam-20101220

  • http://www.chiamattt.com chiamattt

    Of the ugly travelers I’ve met while traveling, 2/3rds were just ugly human beings. Their nationality had nothing to do with it.

  • Granfalloon

    I’ve always felt the 1960ish image of the ugly American came from not enough wealth in America, not from too much. That is, that only the wealthier Americans could afford to fly to different continents, and, let’s face it, rich people are assholes in any country.

    But I have no facts or statistics to back up this view, nor was I even alive during the time I’m talking about.

  • YangachiBastardo

    This article is overall accurate: after you enjoyed in the order:

    a) a business class flight with some Chinese businessmen (Cantonese) drunk on cognac at noon spending their time scratching their head and spreading their dandruff around

    b) dinner in a restaurant taken over by a a group of Eastern Europeans (Russians i assume) celebrating God only knows what shouting on top of their lungs to “turbo-folk” music and literally throwing glasses in the air

    c) attempting to buy a fucking present in a Bulgari shop, only to find it already occupied by some niqab-clad ritch bitch from camel land and her entourage, who spent a good 2 hours buying pretty much everything including wallpapers

    Well after all this you may feel like welcoming a group of drunk spring breakers from Indiana with tears of joy

  • YangachiBastardo

    That is, that only the wealthier Americans could afford to fly to different continents, and, let’s face it, rich people are assholes in any country.

    I tend to disagree with this statement, most of the very wealthy Americans i met were truly people of exquisite kindness…i’m serious.

    I’m inclined to believe it’s the middle-class-tourists-gone-wild who make the worst clowns out of themselves

  • Hatch SZ

    Americans are probably more sensitive in traveling than they used to be. At the same time, the tourist destinations during the ‘Ugly American’ phase did not realize how easy they had it with Americans.

    The survey that says American tourists are most likely to speak the foreign language at the tourist destination does not contradict the idea that Americans are less likely to speak a foreign language. Many non-Americans speak a foreign language, English, which most likely is not the language of their destination.

    Like it or not, you always represent your country when you travel/live abroad.

  • http://www.bcarr.com Brendon Carr

    Many more Europeans are well-traveled, and they matter-of-factly tend to expect conversational English ability in an international context.

    It’s pretty easy to be “well-travelled” in Europe. From nearly any place on the Continent, go 150-200 miles and you’re literally in a whole ‘nother country, with its own history, language, and quaint local culture. French speakers don’t have go too far afield to run into English, Dutch, German, Danish, Luxembourgish, Romanish, or Italian speakers. A little farther afield and you come across Czech, Slovak, Polish, Russian, Swedish, Estonian, etc.

    Drive 200 miles from St. Louis and all you can get is Illinois, Iowa, Arkansas or Tennessee, where the people are more or less like you, bitterly clinging to guns and religion. Two hundred in the other direction and you just get more Missouri.

  • JG29A

    @Brendon:

    Yes, I know, which is why I didn’t finish off with “…and that’s why Europeans are hella awesomer than I am!” I was making an assessment of fact, with no moral pronouncement intended.

  • Jashin Densetsu

    Two hundred in the other direction and you just get more Missouri.

    more missouri, more of this right bro http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JD7UCNYnp3o&t=1m41s

  • keith

    Americans are just people like everyone else. Some of the nicest people I’ve met have been Americans, some of the worst have been Americans. Brits or other Europeans, Koreans, Japanese, whoever all have wonderful, average or grotesque people in their groups. The only people who have really annoyed me as a group when travelling are Israelis. I wouldn’t generalise and say all Israeli travelers are c*nts, but all the ones I have met are. The Israelis I’ve met all spoke English, it’s what they say and how they act that’s annoying.

    When it comes to travelling even the French (who know, but refuse to use it in their country) use it abroad. When I was visiting Vietnam it was really amusing to see the French people who were there speaking to the older natives in French and the younger Vietnamese in English. Almost everyone who has a decent education in Europe can speak fluent English. Koreans generally are terrible at English, last flight I was on I had to translate the steward’s question of ‘Would you like anything to drink sir?’ into Korean for the poor Korean chap sat next to me. It freaked out the Korean guy (white bloke speaking Korean) and the steward (that guy doesn’t know any English?) and was actually very amusing to me.

    When I visit a new country, even briefly, I’ll have a stab at ‘hello’, ‘thank you’ and the basic stuff. The locals always appreciate it, and it’s simply good manners. A smile and a ‘thank you’ go a long way in most countries.

    Most Americans are very polite in my experience, especially the well traveled ones.

  • Baek-du boy

    At the end of the day we all know most Americans don’t even travel abroad.
    What percent of the population even has a passport?

    Whenever I encounter a North American accent (in Australia) I initially assume Canadian.

  • aaronm

    What YangachiBastardo said. I remember flying back to Jakarta from a business trip to a mining camp in eastern Indonesia a few years ago and wanting to go postal on a terminal load of loud, drunk, cheaply dressed noveau-riche Chinese while transiting through Denpasar. Koreans were like that a few years ago, but increasingly the ones I bump into here are model expats/travelers with amazingly good local language proficiency. The other thing likely to make me cringe is my own type, usually while on family holidays to Bali when Kuta resembles a suburb of Freemantle gone walkabout.

  • JG29A

    Whenever I encounter a North American accent (in Australia) I initially assume Canadian.

    It’s the darnedest thing — turns out that Australia actually keeps statistics on foreign arrivals! I guess you’d be wrong over 75% of the time. While Canadians certainly travel at a much higher rate, it’s nowhere near enough to overcome the order of magnitude difference in national population.

  • YangachiBastardo

    aaron: i read somewhere Chinese behaviour is particularly atrocious in S. East Asia to the point that overthere the stereotype of the Ugly Chinese is replacing the Ugly American and the Ugly Japanese of the 80′s

    Koreans here are role models of tourist behaviour and deep pockets, unfortunately mostly they’re confused (to their annoyance , i assume) with the Japanese

  • http://pawikirogii.blogspot.com pawikirogii

    ‘Koreans here are role models of tourist behavior and deep pockets, unfortunately mostly they’re confused (to their annoyance , i assume) with the Japanese’ yangachi

    please teach them the difference, yangachi. :-)

  • hardyandtiny

    “Americans were more rude when the dollar was strong,” said a longtime waiter at Madrid’s landmark Cerveceria Alemana bar. Today, he told me, they are más suave — more mellow.”

    Prepare for more rudeness.

  • YangachiBastardo

    pawi: you may be surprised to know that here in little Milano we have around 5000 Koreans (population of the city is around 1.2 mil.). Aside from chaebol execs the biggest group is fashion and music students. The latter demographic is the main driver of the local music school business: around one third of the total classical music school enrollment come from the Taehanminguk. They mostly seem like really, really quiet and shy kids…i honestly recommend Korean families to send them here for music training and stay the fuck away from places like Russia.

    PS

    this my fave G song:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qo2XtbvBNpg&feature=related

    but the whole album is pop dynamite

  • http://vmphotography.com.au hoju_saram

    I’ve also found Americans abroad to be a friendly lot, almost as friendly as Americans in America (East of Cali, anyway). My old man just got back froma road trip in the states and completely agrees. He’s 65, and it was a dream of his since he was a wee lad to travel around the US. He got together with his mate from high school, and they drove from LA to NY, a sort of bucket-list type deal. He couldn’t say enough about how friendly everyone was.

  • Hamilton

    My perception might be tainted by my experiences in Korea but at least half the time I have seen someone misbehaving and claiming to be “American” they were not, at least not in the US of A sense. I have also seen Koreans mistake English speakers almost instictively as being American (USofA type) at the near 90% level. For fairness sake I have also seen a few too many US citizens flying the maple leaf on their backpacks as a form of urban cultural camoflage.

    I think the Chinese and Russians I have seen in the last few years are really poor sports in other countries. They both cut lines, physically shove and don’t tip. I watched a large group of Chinese at a Japanese hotel spa go straight from the locker to spa even though the instruction sign was in Japanese, Chinese characters, and English with pictures detailed enough that you would know to wash off first without understanding any of those languages. They went straight back into their clothes without a soap bar hitting skin when they were done. Very uncool.

  • aaronm

    I have also seen Koreans mistake English speakers almost instictively as being American (USofA type) at the near 90% level.

    A particularly obnoxious female in a Cheongju restaurant one night told me (Australian) to “go back to LA”. I responded to her that I assuredly would the moment she fucked off back to Tokyo.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com setnaffa
  • slim

    “For fairness sake I have also seen a few too many US citizens flying the maple leaf on their backpacks as a form of urban cultural camoflage.”

    A witty Toronto friend of mine in Seoul back around 2002 used to always quip: “Buy a Canadian flag — they always come with backpacks sewn onto them.”

  • http://www.xanga.com/wangkon936 WangKon936

    Just FYI, but Gregory Rodriguez lives in Koreatown, LA:

    http://californiawriter.blogspot.com/2006/10/koreatown-in-la.html

    I’ve exchanged a few emails w/him. Good guy.

  • Richardx

    I have heard that when Koreans are flying that after landing, despite the “law”, they all stand up to get their luggage WHILE the plane is still moving?
    A recent article by a Brit mentioned that London is getting particularly nasty in the service sector while(he claims) that when he and his friends visit the colonies they are amazed at how friendly people are EXCEPT civil servants(think Customs) Yes, EVEN
    New York….
    I agree with some of the comments above about the Chinese…from SE Asia to Africa there is a ton of Chinese money pouring in which is welcome but also a lot Chinese….and after awhile the Chinese become not so welcome…

  • http://www.xanga.com/wangkon936 WangKon936

    Yangachi,

    It also doesn’t help that many Europeans, North Americans and Latin Americans have a poor ear for the differences between Japanese and Korean. They sound similar to many non-East Asians who are not use to listening to Asian languages.

  • http://pawikirogii.blogspot.com pawikirogii

    yangachi, i don’t know but as a korean, i would be scared to live in italy because i read that italians are increasingly hostile to non whites secondary to immigration. i don’t blame them but i wouldn’t want to be identified as an immigrant trying to get over. laas, i can always look at videos of the place!

    anyway, thanks for the g dragon song. haven’t listened to it yet but i plan to download it today and then manipulate it, ahem. i hope it’s as good as ‘heartbreaker’. you know, i have a commute to work so the other day, i found myself listening to that song for the whole drive! you know, you might not be catching this but these young singers are actually changing the pronunciation of some korean words and i just think it sounds so neat. for example, g dragon sings ‘…슬프게 해’ but he pronounces ‘해’ like 해이. that just sounds so frickin neat but i’m not sure why. if this new g dragon song you recommend is as good as you say, then i’m going to buy his whole cd so that i can make up for manipulating his video, ahem. have a good day, yangachi.

  • baekgom84

    Before I came to Korea from Australia, I had sort of taken the stereotype of loud, uncultured Americans for granted. Upon meeting them here, I have found them to be largely pleasant, polite and respectful, with the odd d-bag thrown in for good measure.

    Instead, most of the obnoxious, disrespectful and irresponsible foreigner weirdos that I’ve met here have largely been Canadian, although in fairness, the very best fellow foreigners that I’ve met here have also been Canadian. Whenever my Canadian friends and I encountered one of these weirdos, my delight in emphasizing the follies of their countrymen never ceased… until we all took a trip to Japan together where we encountered wave after wave of utter f*ckhead Australians. I hear it’s even worse in Bali and Thailand.

    So in conclusion, some people are cool and some people are losers. The end.

  • Hamilton

    “I have heard that when Koreans are flying that after landing, despite the “law”, they all stand up to get their luggage WHILE the plane is still moving?”

    This happens everytime I fly into or out of Korea. Other than that the Koreans are pretty well behaved. I only saw one problem older Korean on a flight who had lost his wallet and wanted to hold everyone on board until he found it. I felt bad for him and the flight personnel who were trying to calm him down.

  • cmm

    According to several Korean stewardesses who have worked international flights and whom I’ve polled on the issue, Koreans are their least favorite passengers, for actions such as those described above (specificly older Koreans). They tied with Singaporean passengers for this honor.

    Japanese passengers ranked as the best in the world, hands down.

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  • Darth Babaganoosh

    According to several Korean stewardesses who have worked international flights and whom I’ve polled on the issue, Koreans are their least favorite passengers, for actions such as those described above (specificly older Koreans).

    I’ve heard the same thing from my flight attendant friends/students as well. All of them worked for either KAL or Asiana, and were all trying to get work on with non-Korean airlines.

    This happens everytime I fly into or out of Korea. Other than that the Koreans are pretty well behaved.

    I’ve seen a lot more than that, mostly minor stuff, but still, the flight attendants had to get involved at one point or another to get whatever behaviour to stop.

    I had a not-so-minor dust-up with a cantankerous ajeossi on one long-haul flight back to Korea (he was drunk and swearing at anyone who looked in his direction). Almost had the air marshall pay me and him a visit before the FA intervened and calmed me down. Course, the ajeossi screamed at her, for how DARE a woman take him to task. He huffed and puffed and stormed off to the lav for a smoke and set off the smoke detector. The air marshall had a visit with him after all, and was met by Narita’s Finest at the airport.

  • http://pawikirogii.blogspot.com pawikirogii

    ‘ajeossi screamed at her, for how DARE a woman take him to task.’

    i’m sure you restored her honor, didn’t ya, oh knight?

  • http://pawikirogii.blogspot.com pawikirogii

    had a friend once who told me she hated being on flights with koreans or chinese because they were loud and didn’t pick up after themselves. she said the japanese were the opposite. i responded by saying the japanese sounded like good pets.

  • Acropolis7

    The reason why people abroad from the North American Continent saw soo many Canadian travelers is that 80% of those said “Canadians” were actually Americans. It was in our people’s interest as a Nation when travelling to take on the twin idenity of our northern Mounty Yukon brothers. After all we protect them by our radar missile shields, why can’t we change about to aboot; and say “eh” when travelling to lands that hate Americans if we can’t pose as Canadians eh ?

    At least every once in a while eh.

  • http://www.japonymous.com Japonymous

    Acropolis7 and other above. Really?? I’ve been an American expat for over 3 years now, and I’ve done my share of international travel, but, honestly, the only people I have ever heard that Americans posing as Candians story from is Canadians. I have never met an American posing as a Canadian overseas.

    My Candian acquantances would always raise some story about “than American” at McGill. Frankly, how many Americans choose to study in Canada to begin with? And, yes, I wouldn’t put it past an American at McGill to sew a Canadian flag on their backpack, but outside of that demographic, really??

  • guitard

    Richardx January 14

    I have heard that when Koreans are flying that after landing, despite the “law”, they all stand up to get their luggage WHILE the plane is still moving?

    I never quite understood this. It’s not like you gain anything by getting up early. In fact, you end up holding a bunch of heavy bags for several minutes longer than you otherwise would have if you had just followed the rules and not got up until the plane had reached the terminal.

    Typically I wait until I see the people at the front of the plane start moving forward before I even stand up. When I see people moving, I quickly get up, gather my things, and a few seconds later I’m walking toward the door.

  • seouldout

    I never quite understood this. It’s not like you gain anything by getting up early.

    Ah-hah! Little do you know, mate. When one is doing one of these popular 13-countries-in-4-days European excursions disembarking the plane 7 minutes earlier will allow you to squeeze in another country, say Andorra. It’s all about getting one over the man. And there just may be a delicious Korean restaurant in Carrer de la Unio in Andorra la Vella.

  • keith

    A little off topic, but Pawi’s obsession with knights and chivalry almost reminds me of Don Quixote at times. I wonder if he’s been in any ‘windmill fights’ with his trusty sidekick recently?

  • Darth Babaganoosh

    i’m sure you restored her honor, didn’t ya, oh knight?

    1-She handled him quite well enough on her own. No need for a rescue or “restoring her honour”. Why do you think he stormed off in a huff?
    2-Even if I thought she needed “rescuing”, I didn’t feel like sitting next to the air marshall in cuffs.

    You really need a new record, pawi. It’s broken.

  • Darth Babaganoosh

    i responded by saying the japanese sounded like good pets.

    Yes, because acting quiet and polite and civil is JUST like being a good pet. It’s got nothing at all to do with being a decent person cognizant of others around them.

  • Darth Babaganoosh

    I’ve been an American expat for over 3 years now, and I’ve done my share of international travel, but, honestly, the only people I have ever heard that Americans posing as Candians story from is Canadians. I have never met an American posing as a Canadian overseas.

    I have, but only once (in Europe), and more than 15 years ago.

  • yuna

    It’s simply related the percentage of rednecks in a country, and the subset of which can afford to/will travel abroad. Wouldn’t necessarily attribute it to be a national characteristic.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com setnaffa

    “Rednecks”… Yeah… Those famously bitter clingers to guns and religion…

    Unlike those highly-sophisticated folks who eshew toilet paper from various countries… Or those too worldly to corral their children or pets during the flight…

    By all means, attack the people who actually work for a living…

  • seouldout

    had a friend once who told me she

    Wa Wa WHAT?! That’s it… I’m calling shenanigans. Female friend. Think we were born yesterday?

    Get back to fawning over g dragon.

  • kimchikraut

    “It also doesn’t help that many Europeans, North Americans and Latin Americans have a poor ear for the differences between Japanese and Korean. They sound similar to many non-East Asians who are not use to listening to Asian languages.”

    Actually, on the first listen, I often confuse Japanese and people from Gyeongsang-do.

  • CactusMcHarris

    Yuna,

    Let me tell you about rednecks. They mostly only want to be with other rednecks. If there could be some redneck exchange program, the U.S. will be the better for it. If we can send Pawi to, say, Albania, I’m not sure Albania will improve but I think Pawi would.

  • lirelou

    I have two cousins (female) who travel Europe regularly, and do the Canadian flag on the backpack bit, making sure to speak French while they travel. The irony is that one was a landed immigrant in Canada for several years before becoming a resident of the Netherlands. Perhaps the supreme irony is that it is her sister who insists on doing so, and she’s employed in the U.S. by a Counter-terrorist think tank. I don’t think the Taliban really distinguishes between ourselves and our fellow infidels, the Canadians.

    The only irritating person I ever caught passing himself off as a Canadian was an American who carried a legitimate Canadian passport. I met him in Vietnam, and his reaction when I mentioned the thousands of Canadians who served in Vietnam convinced me that he was a former American who had “become” a Canadian sometime around 1968. It’s always good when we can dump our trash somewhere else, but Canada certainly deserved better.

  • Acropolis7

    Well I come from Michigan, like another poster here whom I respect. I can give a French Quebecian accent as much as Ontarian Toronto if needed abroad. Brittish Columbia, well that is another story.

  • Acropolis7

    When it comes to it, us Michiganders know that we are besieged by the United States Largest fresh water supply encompassed. Even if our state is in the present loosing a population, in the future we are Goldmines. Not to mention that we are the Midwestern Apple Pie of America which constantly produces two of the the top Ten Universities of the United States in our Peninsula. We Michiganians are like Koreans. we both come from a Peninsula. It ends there. However those in West Michigan get California beautifull beaches in the spring/summer. Those in East get Delta City run down…

  • Acropolis7

    Yes, that was a Robocop reference,

  • Acropolis7

    I lie, Michganians also can relate to Koreans when it comes to bone chilling temperatures in the winter. Due to being in a northern latitude peninsula.

  • wookinponub

    Bone chilling = minus 65 farenheit. Fairbanks. Static temperature. No wind chill. Tires frozen flat. Seat foam hard as rock. Battery frozen, WITH HEATER. Blow me. This ain’t cold.

  • seouldout

    @50 – Harbert’s nice, but SW Michigan on a grand day is 1/5 Door County on a mediocre one.

  • Maekchu

    #34..Total BS. You have no friends.

    Koreans have gotten to be better international travelers. I don’t see them all standing up before the plane reaches the gate so much anymore. They are still bumpkins in tour groups for the most part but I think the Chinese have the current crown for “Worst International Traveler” and its only going to get worse as millions more of them will have the means to travel soon.

  • seouldout

    ^ And you know why they became better travelers? Yep, you know why. Cuz there was a geezer, a white one, who said WTF!? Loudly. And hotels in Australia and SE Asia said… WTF?! No Koreans allowed. And back in Korea that geezer back from holiday asked Koreans… WTF!? And a decade and half later they finally figured it out. That’s some IQ power there. Figuring out stuff. Doin’ it… indigenously.

  • feld_dog

    Back in 2003-2004, I noticed a lot of Koreans standing up while the plane was still taxiing. But for the last few years, I haven’t seen so much. I just got back from Indonesia, and didn’t see it at all. Also went to Thailand last February–the same. I’ve heard reports this behavior is still rampant, but I’m not seeing it.

  • Darth Babaganoosh

    half dozen trips abroad in the last year, all with such behaviour “rampant”

  • Hamilton

    Feld_dog,

    Possible but odd. On the three flights out and two flights into Korea last year it happened on every leg. I would say on the last flight into Korea about 70% of the plane (all Korean) stood up with a couple of gentlemen noisely unbuckling and standing a few seconds after touchdown. Most people actually waited until the aircraft was pretty close to the gate. Cellphones popped out everywhere as well.

  • yuna

    They’re just lasing, it’s not that individually they have their own mind to think that they are going to get off sooner by standing up. That’s why you don’t see it at all surprisingly one or two people doing it. Either most of them do it, or non-at all. They have to reach the critical mass for that phase transition to occur.

  • WeikuBoy

    Relax. People everywhere, even in the U.S., still stand up as soon as the plane stops moving and grab their bags from the overhead bins, as if they’re going to get off the plane that minute instead of 10-15 minutes later.

    Take comfort in knowing that YOU are cool by remaining seated until it’s your time; and ask yourself if it wouldn’t be really weird if EVERYONE remained seated until he or she could actually leave the plane. (?)

  • Darth Babaganoosh

    People everywhere, even in the U.S., still stand up as soon as the plane stops moving and grab their bags from the overhead bins

    Yes, sure, AFTER the plane has stopped moving. Not seconds after touchdown, and still taxiing miles away from the gate.

  • WeikuBoy

    Yes, Darth, I get the distinction. But it’s a distinction without a difference.

    They’re still uncool; and, frankly, it would be weird if everyone were cool and waited to stand up until they could actually get off the plane. And as I’ve never seen anyone punished or even chastised for standing up before the plane comes to a complete stop, who cares?

    Koreans are still bad travelers (sort of), but in ways that have nothing to do with standing up too early on taxiing planes; and as others have noted, they are angels compared with the Russians and Chinese, who are the ugly Americans now.

  • Darth Babaganoosh

    But it’s a distinction without a difference

    Technically, one is illegal and the other is not.

  • SomeguyinKorea

    “A witty Toronto friend of mine in Seoul back around 2002 used to always quip: “Buy a Canadian flag — they always come with backpacks sewn onto them.””

    Your “witty friend” probably ripped off Rick Mercer or Howie Mandel. ;)

  • robert neff

    My first posting with Marmot’s Hole was about this subject (writing style sucked but….):

    Flights are often long, tedious, and uncomfortable, especially in the economy class. There are few distractions: the magazines are few, and on short flights there are no movies which leaves the remaining dubious pleasure — the meal, the only thing to break the monotony of the flight.

    It was the Korean woman in the row in front of me who provided me with a great deal of entertainment and the source for my first entry into the “Marmot’s Hole” blog. First of all let me make it clear that regardless of her nationality, this woman and her behavior would have attracted my attention. She was on the wrong side of middle-age and tried desperately to hide it with a thick layer of corpse-like white foundation and a dyed mix of auburn, brown and black hair. She dressed like an ajumma that was still trying to look like she was in her 20s.

    To be honest none of the above would have caught my attention except her unbelievable behavior during the meal. The flight attendant wheeled the refreshment cart down the aisle and the woman’s obvious delight, parked it next to her. While the attendant was busy serving the passengers in the front rows, this woman (we’ll call her 23C) like a human octopus, snatched a can of beer and two cans of cola and quickly stuffed them into her bag. When the flight attendant finally turned and asked 23C what she would like, 23C, unabashedly, announced that she wanted two more cans of coke and another can of beer. The attendant hid her vexation very well as the woman promptly deposited the new treasures into her bag. I could not believe the woman’s unashamed behavior, but she promptly outdid herself.

    During the meal she quickly deposited the bread and condiments into her purse and finished off her entree and then sat down in quiet contemplation. Perhaps she was pondering if she could smuggle the silverware out of the airplane. She actually picked up the fork and studied it for some time, but, realizing that it might be detected, she elected to leave it. When the flight attendant began to gather the trays in the front rows, our Mrs. 23C, like a good Samaritan, offered to take the Japanese passenger (23A)’s tray so that the Japanese passenger could read her newspaper. Perhaps the Japanese passenger was unaware, or perhaps she chose to ignore it, but no sooner did 23C have the tray she began to root amongst the uneaten food and unused condiments like a pig searching for truffles. The bread, chili pepper sauce, sugar, cream, salt, and pepper all disappeared into the large handbag. I was amazed, but 23C wasn’t finished amazing me.

    When the flight attendant and her cart worked her way down the aisle she inadvertently parked the cart next to 23C. It was a pig’s day in heaven. While the attendant gathered up the trays, Mrs. 23C began to rummage through the waste of our fellow passengers. Zip, zip, zip, item after item left the waste and became part of the secret trove in Mrs. 23C’s purse. The attendant actually had to wait for Mrs. 23C to mover her harvesting hands in order to deposit the trays into the cart. I was literally choking with laughter at the exasperated expression of the flight attendant. It was almost too much when Mrs. 23C actually asked the attendant (after the attendant had passed me) to hand her the two rolls that her vulture-like eyes had spied on some other passengers’ trays.

    When Mrs. 23C got up to use the lavatory I took the opportunity and peeked over the seat and looked down at her enormous handbag and noted that it was closed but stuffed. My imagination ran wild as I tried to imagine what it could possibly contain. Perhaps a roll or two of industrial-sized toilet paper — the fruits of a visit to the restroom in the airport? Was there a pen in her purse that a ticket agent had inadvertently set down in front of Mrs. 23C, and was now probably still looking for it, ignorant to the fact that it was in 23C’s purse?

    I wasn’t surprised when she returned from the lavatory with a stack of napkins that she had snagged from the attendants’ station. Naturally these napkins went into her bag.

    The more I studied 23C, the more I learned (and the quicker time passed). She was obviously a neat and compulsive person: she pulled out a wad of 10,000 won bills and straightened each bill and made sure that each was facing up. My army drill instructors in basic training were not as critical as she seemed to be. She also seemed to have money (probably saved a lot of money not having to pay for toilet paper, beer, cola, cream, salt and pepper) because she easily forked over 221,000 won for duty-free goods. I couldn’t see what she bought, but I am guessing it was several bottles of “Christian Dior Ultra Protective Whitening cream base SPF50″ (#25 on the duty free list in case you are interested) at $33 a tube. She was traveling alone to Japan whether to meet her husband or do a little shopping, but I am not sure. Like many people the policy of only one piece of carry-on luggage did not apply to her — at least in her mind.

    Once our plane came to a stop, she got up and in the manner of a defensive tackle, bowled her way through the milling passengers and through the curtain partition that separated the first class elite from we, the common class, economy.

    I am glad to say that this was the last I saw of my jet-set bag lady.