An Australian, an American and a Frenchman walk into a bar and order a drink. The Aussie orders a beer, the American a coke, and the Frenchman a glass of top-shelf red wine.

When it comes time to pay, all three scrounge around in their pockets. The Aussie offers to pay for everyone – the good bloke that he is; but the American loudly proclaims that it will be he who is footing the bill. The Frenchman, meanwhile, doesn’t say a word, and thinks to himself: let the uncultured brutes sort it out.

Cultural stereotypes are part of the travel lexicon, and we all like to poke a little fun at different nationalities and their ways. But how much of these stereotypes actually reflect reality, and how much are just bull $hit?

Here’s what I think…


The American


Stereotype: Loud, know-it-all and super friendly.

The truth: Americans don’t travel overseas as much as many other nationalities, and so the Yanks you do meet in Europe or Asia are going to belong to a special class of Americans who’ve decided to actually get a passport and see the world. And at least in my experience and in many of those I’ve met during my travels, Americans definitely exhibit that know-it-all mentality when on the road.

Example: you meet an American at your hotel or on tour, and within 60 seconds of meeting you they’re giving you the run down on what to hit and what to miss – even though they only just arrived the day before!

However, in their defence, they are exceptionally friendly and aren’t always loud. You just need to understand that their expertise on a destination is really very limited, despite how confident they sound…


The Australian


Stereotype: Laid back, drunk and crazy.

The truth: We’re definitely way more laid back than the Germans and we’re not as rule obsessed as other nationalities – again, to use the Germans as a counterpoint, we’re practically lawless!.

But the whole “Aussies are drunk all the time and crazy and fighting crocodiles” stereotype just isn’t true. Certainly some corners of the world attract exactly this breed of the Australian traveller (*ahem* Bali), but there are way more well-behaved Aussies giving our country a great name abroad than the badly behaved – at least, in my experience.

And no, despite our reputation for being crocodile wrestling Steve Irwin types, we’re not as tough as the world thinks. Well at least those of us living in the burbs.


The French


Stereotype: Rude, arrogant and don’t speak English.

The truth: I think the French have gotten the short end of the stick when it comes to cultural stereotypes. They are consistently reviled for not being friendly, for sticking to themselves, and for refusing to speak anything other than French.

However, in my experience (limited it may be at that), I don’t think the French are – on the whole – rude or unfriendly at all. In fact, they’re actually pretty damn nice – especially outside Paris and even more so in the south.

And the idea that they don’t speak English is again false – at least when it comes to the younger generation. Many do, but many are also too shy to speak it, and for a perfectly valid reason I learnt.

This was explained to me by a Frenchman I met at a hostel in Paris that had spent time living in Australia. He told me that many French feel extremely frustrated when speaking English because they can never perfectly articulate what it is they want to say in our language, and then face the consequence of people not really understanding their actual point. I’d get frustrated pretty quickly too if I was continually being misunderstood.


The Frenchman basically told me that his countrymen have pretty high standards when it comes to communication, and feel that if they can’t perform to those high standards verbally, then why even bother. They’re better off speaking French and at least getting their point across.

Which does lead us to one truth I think applies to the French. They do tend to be a little more arrogant than the rest of us, and set some pretty high standards in communication, food and culture. But this isn’t such a bad thing, as long as they don’t look down on the rest of us! And most don’t….most!

Do you think many of the cultural stereotypes that exist out there have some merit? Let us know in the comments below.