Ever come across a loud American in a louder shirt? Special Correspondent Bernd Debusmann investigates a battle to change perceptions...
Alarmed by the relentless rise of anti-Americanism around the world, a business-backed group is trying to change the behaviour that spawned an enduring stereotype of Americans abroad - loud, arrogant, badly dressed, ill-mannered and lacking respect for other cultures.
For many years, much of the rest of the world distinguished between the United States and the American people.
Americans tended to get better ratings than their country and its policies. But recent surveys show that favourable perceptions of Americans have been shrinking while views on the world's only superpower grow increasingly hostile.
Enter Business for Diplomatic Action (BDA), a non-profit organisation founded by advertising executive Keith Reinhard after a worldwide survey of attitudes towards Americans convinced him that "our collective personality is one of the root causes of anti-Americanism".
"We are seen as loud, arrogant and completely self-absorbed," said Reinhard, chairman emeritus of the advertising agency DDB Worldwide.
"People see in us the ultimate arrogance - assuming that everybody wants to be like us."
This month, San Francisco-based BDA - whose board includes executives from Exxon and McDonald's - began distributing a "World Citizen's Guide" to corporate travellers.
Its 16 points are a mirror image of the behavioural patterns that earned Americans a boorish reputation in the first place.
Here's a sampler from the guide:
* Think as big as you like but talk and act smaller. In many countries, any form of boasting is considered rude. Talking about wealth, power or status - corporate or personal - can create resentment.
* Speak lower and slower. In conversation, match your voice level and tonality to the environment and other people. A loud voice is often perceived as bragging. A fast talker can be seen as aggressive and threatening
* Dress up. You can always dress down. In some countries, casual dress is a sign of disrespect. Check out what is expected and when in doubt, err on the side of the more formal and less casual attire. You can remove a jacket and tie if you are overdressed. But you can't make up for being too casual.
* Listen at least as much as you talk. By all means, talk about America and your life in the country. But also ask people you're visiting about themselves and their way of life. Listen, and show your interest in how they compare their experiences to yours.
"We Americans just don't listen," said BDA's executive director Cari Eggspuehler adding "listening is not an American trait."
More than 400 companies have expressed interest in the World Citizens Guide. Ten thousand copies have already been distributed and 30,000 more are now being printed under sponsorship from the National Business Travelers Association which works with BDA to push the initiative.
A proposal to the State Department to issue the guide along with every new or renewed US passport is still under review, according to Eggspuehler.
The new guide for corporate executives follows similar but more detailed tips for US students travelling abroad.
Compiled by BDA and students at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, that guide was sponsored by PepsiCo and handed out to more than 200,000 students.
An estimated 60 million Americans travel abroad each year and BDA's Reinhard sees all of them as potential ambassadors who might win the hearts and minds of their host countries.
When word of the new guide first filtered onto inter-net discussion groups, some participants were quick to point out that American travellers have no monopoly on boorish behaviour.
BDA's campaign follows several unsuccessful attempts by the government to "sell America," including a branding effort led by a high-powered advertising executive, Charlotte Beers. Under her leadership, the State Department's Office for Public Diplomacy produced a series of videos about Muslims thriving in the United States.
They were meant to show that the Muslim world had a mistaken image of the United States, but several Arab governments refused to air the videos, branding them propaganda.
Before Ms Beers resigned in frustration, two years after taking the job, she told a congressional committee: "The gap between who we are and how we wish to be seen, and how we are in fact seen, is frighteningly wide." ..SUPL: