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Why do reviews from US guests tend to differ so much from other reviews?

From my more than 4 years as an active Airbnb host I’ve discovered some curiosities. One of the things I’ve noticed is how reviews from US guests in general tend to differ from reviews written by people from other countries.

Whereas most reviews tend to be short, accurate and balanced, many guests from the US seem to have a strong urge to tell the world, loudly and in detail, how disappointed or happy they are about something – often in a very exaggerated way.

Like the elderly couple who didn’t like the bedding. After their stay they rewarded us with a one-star score on every parameter, including location, communication, accuracy and arrival. As a host taking pride in making my guests feel comfortable and wanting to improve I asked them what was wrong apart from the bedding. “Nothing” they wrote me, they just needed to make me and everyone else know how disappointed they were with the bedding issue, by scoring EVERYTHING to the lowest score possible.

That being said, US guests often leave super positive reviews too (actually most of the time), if they are happy. It’s like everything is black or white.

From my experience, US reviewers in particular tend to use very strong words and characteristics to express how they feel, which can make things look very different from what really happened. This can in turn easily be misunderstood by other readers. Is this a cultural thing?

I have no problems taking constructive feedback and criticism, but from my opinion descriptions and reviews, positive or negative, should be accurate, balanced and honest, not blown out of proportions. As a host it’s very frustrating when people, if they are unhappy with one thing, sometimes try to make an impression there were lots of other problems that didn’t exist or rates EVERYTHING negatively.

Is it only me, or has anyone else noticed the same?

I’m writing a little more about this topic on my blog:

US reviews vs reviews from the rest of the world

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I know what you mean @Jan_J. I’m a Canadian living in the US so while I’m pretty much acclimatized to living here, I still do feel a bit “special” and see things as an outsider might see them.

Gross generalizations ahead: In my experience the reason for this is that the American market is new to the idea of staying in private homes. For the most part you can get a decent Holiday Inn Express room that looks exactly the same from Boise, ID to Seattle, WA. The rates are also not extreme, so an average family can afford to stay a few nights at a hotel on vacation. Here comes Airbnb and now families can actually stay somewhere interesting, maybe bring more family members and take a few more days, because now the budget can stretch a little further. But the mind is still set to that Holiday Inn Express experience. At a hotel you expect things to be different, and you expect a bed, a desk, a TV, a tiny coffee pot, a place to park. Now you get guests coming to your place, and it’s a home, but it’s not THEIR home, but it’s familiar enough that they feel that it should be exactly like their own place. WHy don’t you have the sheets they want? Why is your bed in front of the window, they prefer it away from the window, etc etc. So I really think the mind plays tricks on them and sets up a weird expectation because it’s not a hotel, but yet it’s not their home either. So they nitpick. Most of my American guests stay with me strictly out of a budget concern, not to live like a local.

My international guests always leave glowing reviews because it’s so ingrained in their travel history to stay in private residences, so the “different” doesn’t faze them. International guests want to save money too, or else they’d be at The Palace, but it’s not the only factor, it’s one of the factors in their decision. So they come equipped and prepared for it to be different, and they chuckle at the foolishness of a top sheet, but they simply fold it and put it away, or they think it’s crazy that we have the A/C so cold but they just turn it off and open a window, etc etc.

Not a very clear answer, but my coffee hasn’t kicked in yet :slight_smile:

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Interestingly I just had a Sikh Indian guest here who went to school here in the US. We were also talking about some cultural differences and specifically he wondered why Americans are so extroverted compared to Asians. As a retired social studies teacher I explained it as a result of American children being taught from a young age that the US is special. It’s called “American exceptionalism” if you’d like to look it up. Basically Americans think they are the greatest, everything they do is justified, everything they do is better. Obviously not every American agrees with this or acts it out in their personal life but it is very much a part of our culture. For evidence I’d point to a certain candidate for President. That said, here in U.S. almost all of my guests have been fantastic and left great reviews. My only “problem guests” have been two older couples, one American one Italian. Have you noticed an age correlation with your guests? Obviously you don’t object if your young Americans are raving about how great it is, only Americans who exaggerate complaints. And maybe is is only this one couple?

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Its funny you mention this as my DH(from Sweden) always says the same thing! I am from Euro but grew up in the US, so I have succumbed to the US custom of exaggerating and using very strong adjectives if things are good or bad. IMHO we Americans think our opinions matter in everything, and need to tell everyone about an experience that was above average or below average. We also need to tell you how to fix it if it wasn’t to our liking. :joy:

For example you ask me how something above average was and I will usually say ‘great! fantastic!’ As where my DH will say 'good. Ok. ’ If the experience was poor I would immediately tell you how to fix and and DH would politely avoid the question of ‘How was it’ and walk away.

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I like it though as you know where you stand. In the UK people can say one thing but mean another and it’s annoying.

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Interesting - I didn’t realize this since 99% of my guests are American and I am American.

The couple who gave you 1 stars all across because the bedding was not to their preference…that was a douchey thing to do. People like that have “control” issues and probably are used to businesses caving in to their every little whiny complaint.

Somehow in American culture the slogan “Customer is always right” and “Customer is King” got distorted from it’s original meaning, and consumers took it literally, exploited it…and many companies caved in. I think that mentality has passed though…and now corporate culture is “how can we screw over the American consumer and still keep them locked into a contract.”

Many Americans have not traveled outside of their own country. Some have never traveled outside of their own state. I echo K9Karma’s sentiment - yes, American children (I even remember this in Social Studies class) are taught they live in the best country in the entire world. Boy do I hope this has changed some since I was in school. But each new generation is taught how they are the best and brightest generation ever…so many Americans do think they are just so very special.

Maybe some of the overly joyous reviews are because many Americans barely take a vacation every year. So maybe they are high on life and just estactic to not be tied to their miserable work desk?

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It’s funny isn’t it? in the uk, nz and ozzie it’s the opposite and it shows up in society as https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tall_poppy_syndrome

Lots of my family and British friends think Americans can be full of themselves - but it’s just how they’re brought up in many respects.

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I have only hosted two American families so far, but none of them left a review. Both were very restrained and discreet, totally unlike the tourists you usually notice in Paris !

But indeed I have noticed while reading restaurants reviews on TripAdvisor that reviews from American are always exaggerated, it’s always the best or worst place ever ! They also seem very prone to leaving a bad review if only one small thing went wrong (like ten lines complaining that the waitress speaks little english, and only two words saying that the food is great. Bam! One star review).

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Yup… It is the YELP mentality… but I wouldn’t limit this aggravating trait to Americans. Have had nit picky reviews by guests of all stripes. Human nature I suppose… and also the Airbnb system which prompts them into sharing publicly about “how this host can improve.”

Hate the review system, as I have stated many times… my biggest complaint about Airbnb. Mind you I have 83 positive reviews, no negative reviews and a smattering of nit picks. Not too bad, but I still hate it!

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I concur! I’ve spent the last four years in SF and LA, and am still amazed at how little Americans living in these big, diverse cities know about other countries, and how much they presume works better here, despite the fact that there is so much to improve (particularly in my industry - healthcare)!

Oh, and I’ve definitely noticed a correlation between age and review score. I don’t think I’ve ever received 5* for cleanliness from anyone over 45 :frowning:

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Even I am embarrassed to be American and traveling sometimes as I am witness to my fellow countrymen’s obnoxious behaviors. Cringe.

An English friend of mine once told me that American tourists were easy to spot because of their tendency to wear white trainers. I always make sure to wear black Bjorn clogs for traveling! LOL!

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Yes. And then you will read the restaurant manager response where it says:

“We are sorry you did not enjoy your dining experience. You arrived after 10 p.m.and our sign states we do not seat after that time, as that is our closing time. But you pleaded with us because your child was hungry so we made an exception since other diners were still eating. You ordered the tuna melt for your child and the menu clearly states that our tuna melt is a tuna steak on a split English muffin topped with a sliced tomato, and melted mozzarella cheese. Your child was upset because he thought he was going to get a Starkist tuna fish can sandwich on a grilled cheese with Wonder bread. We went ahead and comped the tuna melt off of your bill, and promptly brought the peanut butter and jelly sandwich that your child ordered instead. The waitstaff began cleaning the other dining room as we were closed, and waited to clean the dining room you were eating in, until after you left. I am sorry you are able to view the waitstaff sweeping in the other room, and this made you feel uncomfortable. But please do come back and visit again, as we strive to make all of our guests happy.”

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How to avoid looking like an American tourist in Europe:

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Yup!!! Look at all the white trainers!

During the Dubya years, I had to wear a circle-slash-Bush button on my lapel, because so much of England hated the “sheriff.” Not to get overly political here, but I fear we might have to start wearing circle-slash-Trump buttons if the worst happens and we subsequently travel abroad.

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Kona - Now you have me on a roll. I really had no idea the white sneakers were an “American” thing - I always thought it was just a universal tacky thing. So then I googled it and found “How to Avoid Ugly American Syndrome”

  1. Ugly white tennis shoes. I see this all the time. American tourists are soooo easy to spot because they wear brand spanking new blinding white sneakers. I know where this comes from–it’s from all the suburbanites reading tour books warning them to “wear comfortable walking shoes.” Americans, who drive their cars everywhere, generally put up with uncomfortable shoes more than others. So how to buy comfy shoes is a mystery to them. They go to their local sports store or nearest LL Bean catalog and purchase special shoes just for the trip. If you don’t own comfy shoes that you can walk miles in, they please buy some! But don’t get white sneakers. Try Birkenstocks, Doc Martins, or some other shoes that don’t look like they were meant for exercise.

  2. Funny hats. Baseball is an American sport. Baseball caps are distinctive American head wear. Nothing screams “I’m an Ugly American Tourist” like a baseball cap–ok, the white sneakers are worse. If you are worried about getting sun in your eyes then wear sunglasses.

  3. Fat Fanny. I bet some guide book told you that a “fanny pack” would be a good idea. It would keep your hands free and deter pickpockets, right? Whatever. Seriously, would you wear one of those silly fanny packs at home? To work? To school? Then why on your trip? Backpacks are fine–get a small one. For women, use a purse! The same one you use at home should be fine. Yes, yes, I know “Beware of pickpockets.” And you should. But wearing a fanny pack is ASKING a pickpocket to come get you. Do you know why? Because ONLY American tourists wear them! Don’t be afraid to use your normal purse or school backpack (but please, please, pleeeeeease don’t wear the backpack on your front). Simply be aware of it at all times and wear purses bandoleer style.

  4. T-shirts, sweatshirts, and blue jeans. A trip to Europe is not a weekend driving in the country–even if you are spending the weekend driving in the countryside. Europeans, generally, don’t dress as sloppily as Americans. Think “business casual” all the times. When in doubt, wear all black. You’ll be mistaken for a British tourist. If you cannot afford a new all black wardrobe, then purchase a Canadian flag patch to sew onto your backpack. (But if you sew it onto your fanny pack, everyone will know you’re an American trying to be Canadian).

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Well. Tourist in Hawaii screams a whole other set of descriptors.

  1. Get the brightest red convertible you can. Nothing says tourist louder than a convertible. You will never see locals riding down the road with the top down. Why? We get too much sun as it is, and living here, we also know it can rain at a moment’s notice. If the convertibles are sold out, be sure to get a JEEP. You always think you may need 4WD but in truth, most of the places you could go off road are forbidden by the rental car company anyway.

  2. Travel as a pair. People who live here don’t generally travel as a couple in the middle of the day.

  3. Dress the entire family in matching aloha attire, and be sure to wear the shell lei that they gave you last night at the luau. Then there will be no doubt.

  4. Teva sandals are always a dead giveaway. Very few locals wear them. Get some “Locals” brand rubbah slippahs from Long’s and you will look waaaaaay more local in under five minutes.

  5. Snorkel, swim or beach go with zero protection. Most locals who recreate at the beach or in the water wear a long sleeve rash guard. We don’t let ourselves get toasted because we understand the sun here. . The sun is hotter than you think… we are at 19 degrees north latitude… which is VERY close to the equator. But don’t take our word for it. You only have a few days in Hawaii, so you might as well get torched to the third degree on your first day out.

  6. Complain about the bugs. Yes, it’s the tropics. Any other questions?

  7. Complain about the rain. Yes. It’s the tropics. Would you prefer a desert island?

  8. Complain about having to drive long distances. Yes, it’s the Big Island. Would you prefer the Small Island?

  9. Speed, honk, overtake and drive like a maniac on our windy, two-lane country roads. We know you are in a hurry to get to the volcano. But please. Slow down, this ain’t the Mainland.

  10. And finally, it’s MAHALO. NOT Ma-Hello. You are welcome… we enjoyed having you spend your money here and please come back again. With more money to spend. :smile: :sunny: :palm_tree:

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I do not agree, in the UK they also tell you exactly what they mean. They just use a less direct approach, you have to learn their language, The problem is most people are used to american english from the movies and tv shows, so they do not understand the Brittisch English.

Before I started my B&B I was in the automotive and worked a lot in the UK. The funniest meetings were when we had Americans and Brittisch in the same meeting on opposite sides, I never seen so much confusion…using the same words but speaking a total different language… lol

@Chris @Kirsty_Jane I think you guys are talking about the same thing, which is explained here http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/10280244/Translation-table-explaining-the-truth-behind-British-politeness-becomes-internet-hit.html

I’m British, and when I first worked outside the UK (in German-speaking Switzerland), a very similar PDF was circulated around the office to “translate” my emails :wink:

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Abercrombie is pretty big in Europe and so are NY Yankee hats for some reason. I have many Euro friends that only wear A and F because its a status thing here, mainly because there are no stores and its hard to find. Similar to Levis and Ralph Lauren :slight_smile:

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