Guide tells us how to behave abroad

Strategies

October 01, 2006|By Joe Burris | Joe Burris,SUN REPORTER

New booklet hopes to counter image of 'ugly American'

A New Zealand man asked that if we Americans can't learn to shut up and listen more often, "could you at least lower your volume?"

Reports out of the United Kingdom say many of its citizens believe our policies and cultures are making the world a more dangerous place to live. Some Australians think we're dumb, obese and arrogant; they use the phrase, "Oh, that's so American" as a putdown.

These are a sampling of sentiments that Keith Reinhard gathered from across the world while probing the depth of anti-American sentiment.

The former international marketing executive is convinced that such perceptions are widespread and growing.

He worries that such attitudes could usher in behavior that would give Americans who travel abroad another cause for concern -- along with the threat of being targets for terrorism.

Problem is, he says, American travelers are often at fault for such sweeping stereotypes; too many have scarce knowledge of and little regard for the cultures and norms they venture into. All too often, they talk down to their hosts.

Reinhard believes he has a way to dispel such perceptions: He founded the Business for Diplomatic Action, a group of educators, executives and citizens working to combat the spread of anti-American sentiment.

Though its primary focus has been business travelers, the BDA recently extended its efforts to all Americans going abroad with its World Citizens Guide, booklets and pamphlets that offer a crash course in nations' histories, religions, views, traditions, peoples and languages.

Reinhard says some folks ask why Americans should be concerned over such perceptions. He considers the recent alleged terrorist plot to blow up American jetliners that was thwarted in the United Kingdom.

Then he asks why shouldn't we?

"The rise in Anti-Americanism is a threat to our national security," he says. "The more people dislike us, the more easily they can be recruited by our enemies. In this global world, we need all the friends we can get."

WHEN YOU GO ABROAD

A few tips from the World Citizens Guide:

l Show your pride, but respect theirs. l Think as big as you like, but talk and act smaller. l Leave the slang at home. l Listen at least as much as you talk. l Speak lower and slower. l You'll never go wrong with a smile.

For more information, go to worldcitizensguide.org.

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