Eight Ways to Say “I’m American” While Traveling without Saying “I’m American!”

Travis W. King
12 min readDec 13, 2021
At the top of Table Mountain in 2010. I’m certain we had these flags because the World Cup was happening in Cape Town. Either way, this old picture makes me cringe a bit today.

Preface: Early on during my first solo trip, I was reminded by a nice guy from Colombia that his country — Colombia — is a part of “The Americas.” So are a lot of other countries. His point was that travelers and most folks from the United States identify themselves as “American,” which is just strange and feels pompous or myopic. Since then, I’ve always said: “The States…. Wisconsin… Milwaukee…,” in that exact order, whenever I’m asked where I’m from. I think it’s bizarre that we’ve claimed “American” as a single country out of 35 countries that make up The Americas. I will say “American” here when referring to individuals from the U.S.A. because it’s the most widely understood and used term — but in my heart, I’m still with the friendly Colombian. It’s strange, inaccurate, and egoistic (how very American).

Let’s begin — — —

I’m not sure who I was with. I’m not even sure where I was. This travel memory is one of those where all the edges are blurred, the vignette’s hazy border dialed up to 100, and I just remember this single question asked of me by a new travel mate over fried plantains and black beans. He might have been Belgian or Argentinian. I don’t recall. What I do remember is his asking me, “So, what part of the States are you from?”

I said, wrinkling my brow, “how do you know I’m from the States?” trying not to sound overly defensive. He was right, of course—I am from the States—and as I’ve traveled over the past 9 years I’ve come to realize there are a few things we do that are dead giveaways of our cultural ancestry. It’s not just chanting “USA! USA! USA!” (which, depending on the situation, ’Mericans can be known to do). It’s somewhat more subtle.

But there are a few common things that we generally do more often than folks from other countries (and sometimes, we’re the only ones doing this shit). Read on to find this well-traveled American’s list of the top 8 dead giveaways of being an American traveler.

Photo by Raúl Nájera on Unsplash
  1. Cutting EVERYTHING with the side of your fork
Travis W. King

Traveling, writing, & working abroad for 10 years. Former Remote Year Dir. of Community. Check out my travel memoir—Not That Anyone Asked—at www.traviswking.com