I've never travelled to the fabled Tales of the Cocktail festival in New Orleans, so I decided to live vicariously through Camper English, who posted this article about last week's events. My favorite part is the line from the Barcardi guy who called booze the new music for eccentric enthusiasts. The quote is: "Now that there are no more record stores, (snobs) have moved on to coffee shops and cocktail bars." I about fell out of my chair laughing, having spent years working at Tower Records in the Castro (and being a big fan of High Fidelity).
It's not just booze, though. Eating, drinking, and travelling have long replaced music, film, and literature as the topic du jour of modern snobbery. People are now looking to brag about where they've been and what they've eaten, rather than what they know or understand. You know what's funny to me about travelling, though? The fact that there's a new American tourist caricature circulating around the world that has completely replaced the old stereotype we normally associate with National Lampoon's Griswold family. You know—the loud, fanny pack-wearing, doesn't-speak-the-language, and is-insensitive-to-local-customs type of person?
Modern Americans are so afraid of being cast as one of these clueless tourists that they've gone completely the other way, swinging far back to the other side of the spectrum. I see it all the time when David OG and I travel, but I was revisiting some old episodes of HBO's classic Mr. Show last night and I couldn't believe it when I saw that person here (it was like reading American Psycho and realizing it came out in the 1980s). Skip to the 1:00 mark if you don't feel like watching Bob's hilarious exchange with the donut girl.
Bob Odenkirk and David Cross did this sketch back in 1996, but I never really began to notice this behavior until I started working in the wine industry in 2007. You can see how ahead of their time these two were!
Today's stereotypical American tourist wants you to know that they are not one of those run-of-the-mill, touristy Americans who goes to all the obvious, touristy spots and wears a fanny pack and speaks loudly and doesn't even try to learn the local language. No, no, no. They are an educated American who is sensitive to culture, and who has studied abroad, and who doesn't go to the most obvious tourist locations when they travel. They've worked on a farm in rural France and even stayed with a local family in Cuernavaca, where they traded chores for language lessons.
It's the ultimate irony, isn't it? The attempt to escape what was once seen as typical, normal American behavior has become something quintessentially American! It's the new version of the American snob.