Alright, maybe you're not, but lots of us apparently are--at least when travelling overseas. Our expressions, gestures, even basic body language can be misconstrued by the native populace around the world, leaving us looking a bit like the guy above.

It's not just Ugly American Syndrome. Although I will admit to having a red face (multiple times) during an Ireland, Wales, England, and Scotland tour with my parents a few decades back. My mom was keen to point out to most locals we encountered that "this isn't the way we do it back home." It was hard not to laugh when a waitress suggested that to "ensure the results you're expecting, perhaps you should secure for yourself the most readily available flight out of this backward land, and return to the paradise that is Illinois." Our server had apparently dealt with visitors like my mom before.

According to a piece up at Fox News, it's not complaining about the differences between the visitor's home and their current geographical position, it's more about cultural etiquette, phrases, and the absolute no-no's of any given nation.

Hand gestures, for example, can really get you into hot water:

Here in the U.S., you'd never seriously consider flipping the bird to a total stranger, right? (Just roll with this and say "Who me? No, never!") But when traveling abroad it's entirely possible to throw an unintentionally rude gesture at a well-meaning waiter, hotel concierge, or friendly passer-by--if you're not familiar with local customs. Say your waiter in Rio just asked if you enjoyed your steak dinner. Flash him the OK sign (a circle with your thumb and index finger) and--congrats!--you've just insulted him really badly. In the U.K., making a peace sign (or V for victory) with your palm facing inward is the equivalent of the American bird. In Spain, extending your pinkie and index finger from your fist is an insult.

Then, there are the difference regarding touching:

To touch or not to touch can be baffling overseas. Here in the U.S., we're relatively reserved compared with some European countries when it comes to the violation of personal space during a friendly conversation. But compared with much of Asia and Africa, we can come off as overly huggy. In Italy and France, maintaining eye contact and reaching out and touching the other person during a friendly conversation is considered more polite than standing there with your hands in your pockets staring over someone's shoulder. But in China or Germany, that level of touching will make the other person uncomfortable, and in some cultures, such as Nigeria, maintaining eye contact can be even be perceived as overly bold or threatening. As for public displays of affection, be prepared to reign them in if you're visiting most destinations in Asia and Africa, and keep a low profile wherever you are (perhaps with the exception of Paris) until you have evidence that, say, smooching on the sidewalk is commonplace.

Okay, so you're figuring you can easily go a couple of weeks without using any offensive hand gestures, and that whole "touching" thing is no big deal. Fine. But, you've got to eat, right?

Elbows off the table? Clean your plate like your mother taught you? Not so fast. Food etiquette varies widely from culture to culture and can sometimes appear to have no rhyme or reason. In the Middle East, India, and parts of Africa, keeping your elbows off the table isn't enough--you're not supposed to touch anything at the table with your left hand (it's considered dirty). In France, it's considered more polite to put your slice of bread on the table than to rest it on your plate. Slurp soupd in Japan and no one will bat an eye. Slurp soup in China and you'll be the Ugly American. In China, eating rice with chopsticks is expected, but in Thailand it's considered inappropriate (there, you should use a spoon). In Brazil and Chile, don't eat anything with your hands (no, not even fries). In Italy or Cuba, putting your cutlery on the right side of your plate means you're done with the meal. But in Spain, you'd place it on your plate to indicate that you're finished. Clean your plate in Ecuador and you'll be given seconds, but in Peru cleaning your plate is just considered polite. And remember whenever you sit down to eat in a group outside the U.S., there's a good chance you should wait for either the host or the eldest person at the table to start eating before you tuck into what's on your plate.

A lot of these problems can be avoided (or at least lessened) by learning some of the language:

Learn the magic words. We've said it before and we'll say it again: Learning a foreign language's basic phrases such as "Hello," "Goodbye," "Please," "Thank you," "Excuse me," "Where is the bathroom?" and "Do you speak English?" will endear you to the residents of any locale you may visit. It takes only a few minutes to master the magic words that can turn strangers to friends anywhere on earth.

This handy-dandy animated instruction guide should help in the do-and-don't departments:

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