The Dumbest Things American Tourists Have Done Abroad

The stigma of the "ugly American" tourist is a sadly well-earned one. While tourists from other countries certainly have done their share of stupid activities, Americans seem to have a special knack for hitting up another country and quickly doing everything wrong.

Carving initials into the Roman Colosseum

Visiting the Roman Colosseum is fine. Touring it is fine. Taking a selfie with it is fine. But taking the selfie next to your initials, that you just carved into the nearly 2,000-year-old monument, most certainly is not. So, of course, some Americans did just that. 

In March 2015, two women from California were checking out Rome with their tour group when they decided to go off on their own and attack the Colosseum. Literally. As reported by The Guardian, the two women used a coin to carve what appear to be their initials — J and N — into the walls of the amphitheater. They then took a selfie with their handiwork because there's nothing more helpful to law enforcement than violators creating evidence of their own crimes. It wasn't needed, though, because a cop all but caught them in the act and kicked them out. It wasn't exactly a war crime, but the women most likely had to pay a fine that could have paid for an exquisite Italian dinner if either had used their heads.

Sadly, the women's attitudes toward the Colosseum isn't atypical, given its crumbling state. According to a spokesman for the Special Superintendency for the Archaeological Heritage of Rome, "Museums are treated like churches, sacred places where there are things of great value. Whereas the Colosseum is an incomplete building which has already been robbed." Luckily, most people respect the ancient structure, recognizing that a normal selfie with the former home of man-eating lions is all they need to prove they were there.

Taking nude selfies in a Cambodian temple

For some people, no place is too sacred to be sophomoric. In this case, two American sisters decided a Cambodian temple was the perfect place to take selfies. While naked. It was not the perfect place.

According to People, in February 2015, Arizona sisters Lindsey and Leslie Adams traveled to Cambodia and visited the Angkor Wat temple. They decided, as many people do these days, to take a selfie inside. But they didn't take just any old selfie — they, in the words of a local policeman, "lowered their pants to their knees and took pictures of their buttocks." Why they decided to do that, nobody knows. But we do know that the police had no sense of humor about this, arresting the women, fining them $250 each, deporting them, and banning them from the country for four years.

Amazingly, just a few days before, Cambodia had arrested and deported three Frenchmen for doing the same thing. And just a few days before that, nudes of several Asian women taken in that temple had gone viral, embarrassing Cambodian officials and prompting them to take action. Something about that temple clearly inspires exhibitionism, but whatever it is, the country would definitely like it to go away.

Giving the Nazi salute in Germany

Making the Nazi salute is a jerk move, no matter where you are, the kind of thing best left to "edgy" college freshmen. But if you're in Germany, it's doubly bad, since they really don't want to be reminded of Nazis, ever. An American tourist recently learned that, the hard and painful way.

According to the Associated Press, in August 2017 an unnamed American was reportedly drinking heavily in Dresden, Germany. The alcohol told him it was be a wonderful idea to give the Nazi salute, right out there in the open. There are two problems with that. First, the Nazi salute is illegal in Germany, as is anything else having to with Nazism. Second, one guy took such umbrage to the salute that he punched out the American tourist and then ran off. That guy wasn't looking for viral fame — he simply saw someone he felt needed to be punched and then stepped to the plate.

It's unknown if either man was ever charged with anything, even though both technically broke the law. In the case of the drunken American, however, it might be punishment enough knowing he got knocked out in public for pretending to be ultimate evil.

Tagging a Tokyo construction wall with black marker

While vandalizing a construction site's wall isn't as insensitive as vandalizing a church or a timeless monument, it's still ridiculous and wrong, which is why the American who went to Japan and did it found himself in Japanese jail.

According to Japan Today, in November 2017 an American named Brendan Michael Tracy was drunk and wandering the streets of Tokyo's Shibuya area at 3 a.m. He apparently couldn't find anything better to do at that time of day, so he grabbed a black marker and scribbled "NYC" on the white wall of a construction site. And he might've gotten away with it too, if it weren't for those meddling cops standing around doing their jobs. One caught him in the act and arrested him. To Tracy's credit, he confessed quickly to his crime. Against his credit, he committed the crime.

Peeing in a Mexican lagoon, then getting an arm bitten off by a crocodile

Sometimes tourists do something stupid and pay for it by getting arrested, fined, and possibly deported. Those are the lucky ones. Others pay through harsher means, like losing their arm to a crocodile.

According to Riviera Maya News, in July 2017 a man named Cal Monzon was drinking around Cancun's Hotel Zone. At around 3:30 in the morning, Monzon realized he had to pee, and instead of going back to his hotel or even peeing behind a bush, he chose to relieve himself in a nearby lagoon. That's bad (and disgusting) enough, but unbeknownst to Monzon, something was swimming in the lagoon at the time. That something, an angry crocodile, was less than thrilled about having his home sullied, and bit down on Monzon's arm as hard as it could. The croc ripped his arm straight off, which should be enough to sober anyone up.

Luckily for Monzon, a nearby security guard heard his screams for help and got him right to a hospital. He wound up having the rest of his arm amputated, so unless he gets a huge arm-hook to become an even more badass version of Peter Pan's enemy, it's safe to say this trip to Cancun was not worth it.

Stealing the ruins of Pompeii

Of all the things to steal, stealing the ruins of an ancient city makes perhaps the least amount of sense. Taken away from the context of the city it originated in, you're probably just looking at slabs of rock. But to a couple American tourists visiting the remains of Pompeii, the city left such an impression they had to try to bring it home.

According to Italian news site Il Mattino (and translated by The Local), in September 2014 two tourists were checking out the sights of Pompeii when they decided one particular piece — an artifact from one of the buildings — would make for a wonderful souvenir. So they grabbed the piece of rock, which weighed roughly 30 kilograms (or about 66 pounds), stashed it in their luggage, and headed for the airport. They actually made it that far, but airport officials noticed something amiss, found the slab, and made an arrest. Presumably, the whole Mt. Vesuvius thing was still fresh in their minds, making this bit of petty theft the last straw.

The tourists, far from returning home with the ultimate conversation piece, now had something else to talk about: the charge of "appropriation of state heritage" that suddenly hung over their heads.

Getting stuck in a space meant for abandoned babies

Italy's cullas de la vita, or "cradles of life," are places where parents who can't care for their babies can safely abandon them — alarms will alert medical personnel to a baby's presence, and they'll come to collect the kid. It's a safe and noble way to ensure all babies have a chance at survival, so of course Americans had to get drunk and sully its good name.

According to various Italian news sites (and recapped in English by Tuscan Traveler), in July 2013 a pair of drunken American tourists were wandering Florence. One decided to use the Piazza San Remigio culla de la vita, which was only 4 feet high and 2 feet wide, as a dancing booth. Her friend helped her squeeze in. Once the girl was all the way in and the glass window was shut, she began to sing and dance, unaware that neither she nor her friend could open the glass again. Only the medics, who were notified when the door closed, can do that. Once they arrived, however, they saw no baby, just drunken 20-somethings, who are objectively far less cute.

Instead of instantly freeing the girl, the medics called the police. This caused her friend to get more friends, who reportedly yelled at the medics and threatened them with legal action. (Murica!) Ultimately, they let the girl go, because the police were taking too long to arrive. Besides, they really didn't need an angry drunk girl damaging the culla and making it so actual babies couldn't use it.

UCLA basketball players shoplifting in China

It's never a good idea to shoplift. It's even worse in a foreign country, where you might be less familiar with the justice system or the local language. It's a really awful idea to do it if your goal is to be a famous professional athlete. That didn't stop a few UCLA hoopsters.

As reported by CNN, in November 2017, the UCLA men's basketball team traveled to China to open up their season abroad. Three of their players —  LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley, and Jalen Hill — decided they wanted sunglasses. So they did the smartest thing imaginable: they went to the Louis Vuitton store near their hotel and just took them. They clearly weren't very sneaky about it, because they very quickly found themselves arrested and detained.

The story quickly grew long legs, as LiAngelo Ball's father is LaVar Ball: loudmouth, marketing guru, and father to NBA up-and-comer Lonzo Ball. Pressure grew for China to release the trio quickly, rather than hold them for months. It eventually involved President Donald Trump, who claimed to have worked to release the students, something LaVar denies. In return, Trump tweeted that he "should have left [the students] in jail," a statement that made basically nobody involved in this story happy at all.

Ultimately, the three returned home, but were suspended indefinitely by UCLA, according to ESPN. That's not good for their NBA dreams, but it beats spending months, possibly years, locked up in China. Stick to stealing balls from each other, boys.

NBA player tagging the Great Wall of China

Being famous makes it an extra-terrible idea to be an ugly American tourist, as you're almost certainly going to get caught and shamed en masse. Just ask Bobby "Not The Singer" Brown, who toured China and endeared himself to absolutely nobody in the process.

As reported by the Washington Post, the NBA star was in China with his team in October 2016 for the league's annual Global Game. He took some time to check out the Great Wall of China, as many tourists do. Then, for whatever reason, Brown chose to scratch his name and jersey number right onto the Wall. Then he posted it on social media, where he was almost immediately criticized and shamed. Comments included, "Are you proud of your carving? This is a part of world heritage, not the toilet of your home," which isn't the kind of thing anyone wants to hear, especially if they're a celebrity and have a reputation to uphold.

Brown quickly deleted his post and wrote up an apology, saying "I respect the Chinese culture, I made an honest mistake ... hope you forgive me." What makes his vandalism extra baffling is that, according to China Daily, officials had set up a "designated area for graffiti" at the Mutianyu section of the wall, over two years prior. There, anyone who really wanted to write their name on the Wall could totally do it. Brown vandalized a different spot because what fun is graffiti if you're allowed to do it?