10 Backpacker Stereotypes You’ll Meet on the Road

There is no doubt that having an open mind and a level of tolerance for differences in cultures is essential for any backpacker during their travels overseas. I also believe that there is no such thing as a ‘typical’ traveler, that not all backpackers from the same country necessarily bear resemblance to each other, and that where in the world an individual comes from should not affect how they are perceived and treated when traveling.

However, in the spirit of poking fun at some stereotypical quirks and cultural differences, and with a hint of political incorrectness, below is a list of the top ten backpacker region stereotypes (including my own!) that you may have encountered during your world travels…

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1 – The American Backpacker

americanbackpackersYou will hear this backpacker immediately upon entering the hostel. Loud, enthusiastic and friendly, the American Backpacker either travels in large groups of young college girls or guys, or, if a little bit older, travels hans solo. The delightful college girl American Backpacker wears pajamas during the day and tight bright clothing at night, and is never without numerous layers of make up and hairspray, and the college boy American Backpacker has usually found their way to Central or South America on a cheap flight from Miami and are ready for a week of drinking and partying.

In contrast, the older single American Backpackers are usually travel bloggers, photographers, or hippies that are trying to find the deeper meaning in their travel experiences. All American backpackers give themselves massive kudos for being one of the 20-30% of American citizens that own passports and like to brag about anything remotely ‘foreign’ they have done on their travels. Depending on the type, great for partying the night away or discussing the meaning of life.

2 – The European Backpacker

Usually travels in pairs, stays in the private rooms, and spends much of the time speaking to only each other in their native language. The European Backpacker is ridiculously good looking but very quiet and reserved, until copious amounts of red wine are consumed.

Usually has way more money than the rest of the hostel combined and can tell smug stories of expensive trips and activities which others could only dream of. Great for when you want to pretend you are not a grimy backpacker and go to a nice restaurant or bar for once.

3 – The Canadian Backpacker

canadianbackpackerCan spot these a mile away due to the prevalence of Canadian flags sewn on to their backpack and the ‘ey’ at the end of every sentence (“Canada, ey”).

Always friendly and impeccably polite (unless you mistake them for their louder cousin, American backpacker). Often stoned. If you hit them, they will apologize. Great for switching rooms to get away from the snorer.

4 – The Israeli Backpacker

The Israeli backpacker tends to travel in large packs after doing their time in the army. Easy to find as they will be the ones haggling at every spot. Friendly and always speak impeccable English, but are slightly scary and a little smelly. Great for when you want the best deal at the local kebab shop.

5 – The Asian Backpacker

Very rare breed of backpacker. Quiet and courteous (until they have a beer), the Asian Backpacker usually travels in small packs with large cameras and a multitude of electrical equipment in a Hello Kitty backpack. Great for when you need that s150 charger you left at home.

6 – The English Backpacker

englishbackpackersThe English Backpacker travels in a massive group with other suntanned/burnt/fake-tan orange English Backpackers. Friendly but often spends time whinging on a hostel balcony.

Usually has enough money to find English booze and fried food thanks to the pound. Usually on a Gap Year. Always up for hostel drinking games, and able to drink nearly as much as the Australian Backpacker (and often goes home with one). Great for having a laugh at the pub.

7 – The South African Backpacker

Another rare breed. Usually men. Very arrogant and most have the crazy eyes, but they come complete with a divine accent and amazing abs. Can handle a shotgun. Great for when you need a handyman to fix the hostel bunk, someone to protect you in a dangerous part of town, or when you have a hankering for a backpacker fling.

8 – The Australian Backpacker

drinkingbackpackersFriendly, adventurous and laid back, but can be annoyingly loud and is the centre of every party once drunk. Always the one that does the stupid dares.

Can be found traveling in packs, pairs or alone, but if alone will often have run into a cousin/friend/acquaintance at every stop, however remote (“maaaaate, didn’t realise you were over here in the middle of the amazon jungle. lets go for a drink.”).

Great for when you want to start drinking at 9am and have a skinny dip in a public fountain.

9 – The New Zealand Backpacker

Often confused with its Australian cousin; can be distinguished by their questionable fashion sense and hilarious pronunciation of the phrases “fish and chips” and “six, please”. Very friendly but usually a little reserved in large groups. Well experienced in camping and ‘tramping’ (hiking) and is at home in cold and mud and snow.

Extremely loose on the booze and has the ability to do even crazier things than the Australian Backpacker when provoked, especially if from Dunedin. Great for a laugh when ordering six beers, or for borrowing clothes when the weather is chilly.

10 – The Irish Backpacker

irishbackpackerNot to be confused with the English Backpacker, the Irish Backpacker is usually a little older and travels in pairs or by themselves. Like a homing pigeon, this gem of a backpacker always manages to find the best deals on a pint at any time of the day and is friendly and inclusive of all other travelers.

Loses the ability to speak English after a few alcoholic beverages but good at miming their usually hilarious drinking stories. Great for a friendly face if traveling alone.

Further reading:

Photo credits:
Americans by greggoconnell on Flickr, Canadian by wisely on Flickr, Irish by Barnacles Hostels on Flickr, English and Drinking by Happy Little Nomad on Flickr

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Leave a Comment

Older comments on 10 Backpacker Stereotypes You’ll Meet on the Road

Ashley Brown
22 July 2009

As a person who is fairly well traveled I find this article to be completely inaccurate, bordering on offensive.

Ahi Kerp
22 July 2009

I didn’t find it offensive and though it was an amusing article. But the stereotypes seemed either very broad (Americans are loud, English whinge, Irish drink), or just the opposite: too focused. I would guess this was based on maybe a couple of particular people the author knew. Nothing wrong with that, but not a lot of people will be able to identify with the stereotypes. Overall, though, I recognized a lot of people I’ve known. Nice article.

Natanya
22 July 2009

I had to laugh because I was nailed as an older American backpacker (except for be loud). I felt that the that the other stereotypes way over the top and a bit broad. Funny only if taken as dose silliness.

Cristina Dima-772
22 July 2009

HeHe really fun. Yes, I’m a European backpacker, travel wt my husband and stay in private rooms at hostels. I don’t drink any alcohol so cannot vouch for that part.
And yes, I’ve seen some of the breeds presented :)

Ian Rose
22 July 2009

I think if it’s not taken too seriously (read the introduction), it’s funny. No one is saying these are universal – stereotypes don’t arise out of nowhere.

gojonesgo
22 July 2009

I agree with Ashley: same old, tired, inaccurate and borderline offensive stereotypes. Why rehash them (yet again)? But, hey, at least the grammar sucks too!

Ben Brown
23 July 2009

Great article. However, some of these comments are pathetic. As an offensive, New Zealand backpacker with crap fashion sense and an inability to be speak proper, I think this article is tops and some people commenting need to relax and have a drink (or six).

Amrith Sudhakaran
23 July 2009

Loved that bit about Canadians and the pic was just awesome!

How come you haven’t met any Indian Backpackers?

Destiny
23 July 2009

Another stereotypes I have observed:
Americans always tend to be so offended and has the biggest problem with stereotyping. I’m an American, so bite me.

Nic

LyndenC
25 July 2009

Canadian’s say “eh”, not “ey,” and if you listen closely, Northern Territory Australians and Kiwi’s say it fairly frequently as well :)

Joe_boarder
25 July 2009

Great article! Anyone who was offended should re-read the intro and learn to have some fun.
~American Backpacker going on 4th passport and fully transitioned from group college parties to Hans Solo soul searching :-)

pangaeanshift
25 July 2009

I am the epitome of the Canadian Backpacker. “Sorry” is my second most favorite word after “eh” :P Loved this article!

kitwhelan
29 July 2009

GREAT article! I totally fit into the American type, then & now :)

Anne-Sophie Redisch
30 July 2009

Fun article. Even though European backpacker is a fairly broad category (quite a few differences between, say Scandinavians and Greeks)oddly, the description fits most of us.

vmcnult
04 August 2009

As an Irish Backpacker, I think this is a fun and an extremely accurate article :-D

jessus
04 August 2009

Fun & good for a laugh. (And yes, the Canadian spelling is “eh” )

Anonymous2023
06 August 2009

Ashley Brown, as a person experienced with pompous and self-absorbed travelers,I find you to be unable to take a proper joke, overconfident in your on judgments, and all around far too arrogant.

Lorraine Godfrey
07 August 2009

Hahahahaha. I didn’t expect to enjoy this article so much. But Amy has nailed it! She’s good at observation and putting it into a brief, funny package. Thanks Amy.
btw, I’m the older solo American : )

David Nava
07 August 2009

As the older solo American on my 3 passport, I can say I’ve encounter all 10 stereotypes. One of the reason we all travel are for these brief encounter.

Funky Tee
07 August 2009

The American stereotype is dead on and as an American I find it very funny.

Takuma Ogihara
17 September 2009

Ha Ha Ha… the commenting is almost as funny as the article itself. And yes, I have to agree, stereotypes are stereotypes, and people need to chillax. By the way, I am loud, blog about my travels and onto my 3rd passport. Oh, but I also carry a big camera and get even louder after my second beer. Guess what? I’m Japanese-American, aha hahaha.

Have fun guys!

flipnomad
14 November 2009

i’m an asian backpacker, though i dont carry that much gadgets hehehe… this post is really entertaining… :-)

Claire Baker
21 December 2009

Lovin this article!! Too funny!

VagabondQuest
03 March 2010

Entertaining article, eh :)
I’m Asian/Canadian backpacker. Asian backpacker is quite rare indeed, and I do apologize when somebody bump me.

travelersatlarge
04 March 2010

Wow, I got a good laugh out of this one, because most of it is SO TRUE. I am also well-traveled (and one of the loud meaning-of-life blogging American backpackers), and I didn’t find it at all offensive – after all, you prefaced the whole thing with the word “stereotypes,” so of course people should not expect it to hold true to every single person they meet on the road.

xoloitsquintli
04 March 2010

As a person who is fairly well traveled I find this article to be somewhat accurate, bordering on hilarious.
Chill Ashley, chill…

Beachcombers
05 March 2010

Not to sure about the Israeli backpacker description. Friendly was not the first thing that leaped to mind. Aggressive, arrogant, rude, nihilistic perhaps….But Israeli chicks are super hot!

John Lambert
08 March 2010

Anyone who has ever stayed at a hostel can agree with most of these…..I think that the author needs to break the European further to include German and Italians.

Anders Griffiths
08 March 2010

What about the Welsh and Scottish backpackers? and No we do not act the same way as the English when traveling, however the friendliest people I’ve met have been from mainland Europe most notably the French, The Germans however, always meet other Germans and they speak so loud in their native language.

bevus
25 March 2010

The canadian term is “Eh?” not “Ey”.
for example – “I just picked up a fat sack of B.C’s finest Kush eh.”

or – “Canada bred the best hockey players from Gretzky to Crosby eh?”

or – “I’m just gonna run down to Timmies and get a double double eh”.

I would suggest that you change it.

LilaBear
15 March 2011

LyndenC – Northern Aussies say ‘ay’, not ‘eh’ like Canadians. Just FYI :)

I agree people need to take a chill pill.. as an Australian who prefers to travel in a small group and does not get drunk (drinking only 1 or maybe 2 drinks) and would never do the stupid dares, I think this is hilarious because I know a lot of Australians who ARE exactly like that!

Erik Gonzalez
16 March 2011

and whats up with the latinamerican backpackers???

Melanie Ehler
01 April 2011

Sooo funny. My favourite line is “If you hit [a Canadian], he’ll apologize.” I just couldn’t stop lauching at that.

Carlos Maschieto
09 April 2011

quero falar e receber noticias em portugues

YearAroundWorld
16 April 2011

Social science agrees that stereotypes are accurate more often than not. Everyone does it (unconsciously). It’s assumed that not everyone fits into their stereotype…

That said, I’ve encountered plenty examples of all mentioned above! :)

avalonadam
22 April 2011

I think you were being far too kind Amy. Stereotypes become so due to repeated characterists of a particular group observed by many people. I have one for my own sub group- Older English backpacker- Looks scorfully at antics of all BP’ers below 30. Complians about noise in the hostel but too tight to get a hotel. Makes very public attempts at speaking badly the local language when english is widely understood by locals anyway, just to appear cultured. yes, I’m guilty as charged.

avalonadam
22 April 2011

Oh way to kind on Israeli backpackers. Yes travel in a group probably due to fear of ambush due to teh army mindset still in place. Haggles to the point of rudness, ‘Chill out Avi, its a market , not a checkpoint in the occupied territories’.