“My friend, Paul. He travels a lot, you know, and when I told him I was going to Europe he told me to not advertise that I’m American. Like, he said that I shouldn’t eat like an American. You know – hold my fork and knife like Americans do. Well, shoot, I ain’t gonna hide that from no one, I told him. I’m gonna eat like an American, damn it.”
Three days into our bus tour of England, Scotland, and Wales and this was the most fascinating moment of the trip so far. Paul and his intriguing travel advice certainly piqued my interest as I sat eavesdropping on Margaret’s dinner conversation.
Just who was this Paul who charades as a non-American through his deft cutlery skills, I wondered? Is this undercover American really so travel savvy that he actually manages to go unnoticed by the astute spot-an-American radar all too prevalent nowadays in Europe? Similar to the many missile shields planted all over the Old Continent, I envisioned Paul relying on his wits to conceal his American roots from all potential attacks while abroad and returning to the homeland to share his many expert tactics for newbie travelers.
Just how does this charitable comrade do it, I wanted to know. And should all of us Americans follow his tricks of the hide-the-american trade?
Not eating like an American. I’m guessing that refers to anything involved in the eating process like no ranch dressing, holding your fork and knife a certain way, not drinking directly from the can, etc. And for Christ’s sake, Margaret, don’t even think about ordering a sweet tea with Splenda® and a lemon on the side!
What’s that, Beth? You want a cheeseburger? Sigh. Better stay home, darlin’. You’re never gonna make it in Europe, girl.
Maybe this Paul is really on to something. Certainly, his worldly advice is already used by international spies along with other useful chameleon practices, I’m sure. What must his routine entail before he hops on that flight to the European danger zone? I can just picture Paul burning off his own fingerprints and capping his teeth with a protective glaze just to go the extra mile. Of course, DNA will always get you in the end, but “better safe than sorry,” Paul always says.
I began to contemplate about what else Paul might advise in order to to evade the ever-so-present anti-Americanism that Americans seemed to have invented for themselves. So, I’ve compiled a list of what will be forever referred to as WWPDTHHA: What Would Paul Do To Hide His Americanness?
- No American flag shirts or hats. Unless it’s Ralph Lauren, which, obviously, are internationally accepted as non-labels.
- When ordering food, one must eat like a local. Callos? Yep. Haggis? Yep. Sweet and Sour goat nuts stuffed with umbilical fluid, roasted cricket butt and caramelized onions? Yep. And under no circumstances are you to order Freedom Fries, thinking that you are fighting the good fight. The local McDonalds cashier might be a double agent. Trust no one.
- Stop smiling so damn much.
- Your fanny pack must be on very tight. And please, under the clothes, rookies! Those sticky Europeans fingers are swift and agile. May be best to just staple it to your hip a bit. Personal security is sometimes painful.
- Americans never wear scarves. Get yourself a damn scarf ASAP.
- American mullet wearers may be met with hostility by European mullet wearers. Contrary to popular belief, there is no underlying brotherhood here. This is a unique situation among a unique class of people that can lead to potentially dangerous confrontations. It’s advisable to go mullet-less to reduce risk.
- Don’t ask anyone anything, ever.
- If you find yourself under intense scrutiny, it’s advisable to shout out something like, “Brilliant, old chap!” or “Bob’s your uncle!” or “Bollocks!” to throw them off your American scent.
- Fashion. Look, Margaret, I don’t want to insult you, but this is for your safety. Those mom jeans have to go. And no, you can’t replace them with khakis, Bill. You both should buy some skinny leg jeans, preferably in a bright color. What’s that, Mags? No, you can not have a matching purse to go along with your tight, pink jeans. It’s all about contrast in the Old Country. In fact …
- No matching anything, ladies. Tiger prints with neon something or other is a good rule to follow.
- Look, if someone inquires about your nationality, it’s best to avoid that age-old counsel that says you should respond that you are Canadian. It’s a dead giveaway and you can bet your boottom dollar that Canadians are on to us and they’re not happy aboot it. Best to play the offensive at the get go and proudly say that you are American Samoan. Just to screw with their European heads, you know?
- Money. If you have a hard time paying with unfamiliar currency and especially, those pesky coins that keep popping up, just pay with bills only. Don’t want to alert anyone to your lack of knowledge about the local currency, do we? Collect the coins as weapons in a tube sock that you can carry around with you for protection. You know, just in case your cover gets blown.
So, there you have it: The ultimate WWPDTHHA list that every American should carry with them when traveling. Never leave home without it!