I remember when I first arrived in the UK, it was the last day of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations and both tourists and locals were out in force trying to catch a glimpse of the royal family. It was also when I realised there is no smoke without fire, and that some stereotypes actually have merit: I discovered the loud American tourist.
It seems that every year around May or June the UK is inundated with an influx of Americans that are kicking off their European summer odyssey in London. You can pick them out of a crowd easily, with their hoodies prominently boasting the name of whichever college that they are currently attending. Even if they are not wearing a college sweater you would be able to hear them coming from a mile away. The sound of an American twang disturbing the ritualistic silence of the Tube is like a soundtrack to the British summer.
Normally you will come across the American tourist somewhere around Westminster, shrugging their shoulders at the intricately designed Houses of Parliament, or in Piccadilly Circus, cynically comparing it to Times Square. You will find them in hotel lobbies, invariably meeting other Americans and bonding over their shared disappointment with all things British. Of all the tourists in London, the American is hard to miss.
There was one instance in which I intentionally sought out Americans in London. It was 4 July – Independence Day. Some quick Internet snooping revealed that a pub in Parsons Green was hosting a huge event for Americans. Thinking to myself that I would take any excuse for a party, I slid into my faded Yale University T-Shirt and jumped on a train.
The moment I walked in, I felt the exact same feeling that so many Americans must feel when they come across one of their own in London. Within seconds I was taken aside by a girl with a southern drawl: she had spotted my shirt and wanted to tell me all about a friend of hers that was currently studying at Yale.
I had set myself up for embarrassment. I should have expected to be taken as an American college student if I walked into an Independence Day event wearing it. What should I say? That I shamelessly wore the shirt of a university that I did not attend, in an ironic swipe at American tourists?
No. I wish that I had done that. Instead, I put on my best American accent and did my best to bluff it. It seems that, while American tourists have their flaws, no one quite beats an Australian expat when it comes to making a situation worse.