March 2, 2012 at 12:43 PM ET
Could there be something to that ugly American stereotype?
A new LivingSocial survey conducted among more than 5,600 respondents in five countries by Mandala Research finds that Americans self-rate themselves as the world’s worst tourists.
That assessment was shared by Canadians and Australians, while the Irish rated their British neighbors as the worst, and the British identified Germans as being the most boorish.
Following Americans (20 percent), 15 percent of U.S. respondents said the Chinese were the worst tourists, followed by the French (14 percent), Japanese (12 percent) and Russians (11 percent).
In addition to bestowing that dubious distinction upon their fellow Americans, four out of 10 U.S. respondents admit to having stolen or accidentally packed items other than the sample toiletries from hotels, with towels (28 percent) listed as one of the most frequently pilfered items.
The results of the online survey, conducted in the U.S. in February in the top 20 media markets and released Friday, has a margin of error of 1.5 percent.
Despite a common misperception that Americans don’t go abroad, the results show that we actually do get around , said Maire Griffin, director of communications for LivingSocial.
“We found that 78 percent of Americans have visited at least one other foreign country, and 36 percent have traveled to four or more foreign destinations,” Griffin told msnbc.com.
But Americans may not be such bad tourists after all, just more forthright about our flaws, said Michael Brein, a guidebook writer and self-billed travel psychologist.
“We tend to see being frank, open, honest — spilling our guts — more of a virtue than others may see it,” Brein said.
In contrast, citizens from some other countries might view those traits as a weakness, said Brein, who has a doctorate degree in social psychology. “Therefore, as a culture, we may be more self-deprecating,” he said.
For many years, America was the big kid on the block and was more socially and culturally isolated from other people around the world, Brein said. But in an increasingly globalized culture, he believes Americans are doing their part to blend in.
Of course, Brein stresses, it depends upon the individual.
“We’re a huge nation with all kinds of people traveling,” he said. “I have met many kinds of Americans who do not fit that [ugly American] stereotype at all.”
Griffin said that some of Americans’ favorite travel activities — such as taking photos, eating in new restaurants and meeting new people — lend to learning more about other cultures.
“That adventurous spirit and making new friends leads us into a place we can be better tourists,” she said.
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Joy Jernigan is a senior travel editor for msnbc.com. Follow her onTwitter.