Recently, an online survey in skyscanner.net has aggregated the feedback of about 1200 visitors regarding their experiences abroad. Here’s a link to the original article (also here, here and here), where the results are summarized in the form of a list of the “rudest” nations for travelers: France is ranked 1st, Russia 2nd, and the United States receiving only 3.39% of the votes in the 6th place right after China in the 5th.
World’s Rudest Nationalities:
1. French 19.2%
2. Russian 16.6%
3. British 10.4%
4. German 9.9%
5. Chinese 4.3%
6. American 3.3%
7. Spanish 3.1%
8. Italian 2.3%
9. Polish 2.2%
10. Turkish 2.1%
But this all sounds more informative than it really is. Here are some notes on possible inaccuracies in the survey:
- The survey is biased towards countries that were visited the most! A better survey would have been: Pick a random person from country A, ask for her opinion on the specific country B. In the current survey, however, participants voted for the “rudest” country in their travels, which led to a bias towards countries “B” that were visited the most! (see example implication below, right after this list)
- Such a survey would have been more helpful if it allowed viewing the results per pairs of countries: “Given that I’m from country A, let’s see how people from my country A viewed their experiences in country B”. Instead, the current survey’s results are very noisy: American tourists might perceive French (country B) people as “rude”, while tourists coming from the Spain might think very differently about the same France (the same country B). We don’t see these important cultural differences reflected in the survey’s results. The survey’s results are noisy as they aggregate the feedback from all voters on a specific country, regardless of the voters’ origin.
- Only 1200 visitors have filled the survey, in a site (skyscanner.net) that receives quite a lot of traffic. Why is that? This indicates a possible high bias in the nature of the participants. For example, only the very opinionated people took part, or only those who really had something to complain about.
- Contributing further to the bias is the way the survey questions are phrased. If you get 1 vote to choose the “rudest” country, it sure isn’t the same as voting for the “nicest” one. Asking whether someone likes an item is a totally different question from whether she hates it (just to be fair: The original survey didn’t ask for just 1 vote for the “rudest” country, but instead asked for other aspects; nonetheless, our claims still hold).
Some example implications:
- France, Russia and the UK: Don’t worry you’re the top three. It might simply mean that you are the top visited countries by the survey’s participants, and that’s actually a good thing.
- Example implication of the “results aggregation problem” discussed above: We don’t have data on the distribution of origin countries for the voters, but let’s say that a significant portion of them is British. Assuming that these voters won’t pick their own country as the “rudest” for tourists, this means that many votes were essentially biased in UK’s favor. And yes, this implies that UK is currently ranked (in the actual survey’s aggregated results) in a better place than it deserves…
And finally, one last humble opinion to share: People aren’t really “rude” to each other. The friction between two people from different cultures stems usually from their cultural differences, and not from some national personality disorders… so it’s not “do I think that this country is rude to tourists” that was tested here, but instead: “how I view the locals’ behavior in light of my own culture’s norms and values”.
 UPDATE, April 25: After a short inquiry with Skyscanner’s team (private communication), it was revealed that in fact more than 60% of the voters were of Great Britain (see example implication above).