Washington, D.C. - In what is believed to be its strongest travel
advisory ever, the U.S. State Department today warned Americans abroad
not to act like Americans.
|The US Embassy
in Bangkok, Thailand proudly displays the red, white and
blue flag of France.
The advisory was issued simultaneously in Washington by State Department
spokesman Richard Boucher, and in The Hague by a man who, in halting
Dutch, denied he was U.S. Ambassador Clifford Sobel.
Unlike previous alerts, which have warned Americans to keep a low
profile or avoid certain destinations, the new advisory notes that
it is now unwise to come across as American at all. As a result,
the State Department cautions U.S. citizens to avoid behaviors that
could cause them to be singled out as obviously American. These include:
- the wearing of white socks and tennis shoes.
- complaining if asked to share a bathroom.
- threatening to sue over bad service, television reception, or
In addition, U.S. citizens attempting to speak a foreign language
are urged to curb their Americanisms. For example:
Correct: Est-ce que vous l'avez aux autres couleurs?
Incorrect: Est-ce que vous, like, l'avez aux, like, autres couleurs?
The advisory immediately created turmoil overseas, particularly
for U.S. military personnel, who pretended to be French and were
forced to surrender.
The alert also caused confusion at home, as it seems to contradict
the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which has warned Americans
not to act un-American. In a press briefing this afternoon, White
House spokesman Ari Fleischer attempted to unravel the paradox.
"What we are saying is, when you are in America, you need to
behave like an American, particularly if you are not American, or
are Colin Powell. But when you are outside America, you should not
behave like an American, unless you are not American, in which case
we urge you to act American. Here I refer specifically to the NATO
representatives from Germany, France, and Belgium."
The advisory, Fleischer added, applies to all Americans, including
President Bush. "When the President is traveling abroad, he
will only act American while aboard Air Force One or in the company
of U.S. media. At all other times, he will attempt to come across
as Kosovian or Grecian."
Reached for comment in Brussels, U.S. Ambassador to NATO Nicholas
Burns said, "Qing wen, ren min gong yuan zai na li?"
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