One Obvious Way to Spot an American in an Airport Security Checkpoint Outside of the United States

I was at an airport security checkpoint at Keflavik International Airport in Iceland on my way to Barcelona in Spain — which is a flight between two Schengen countries — when I spotted a man in line after he approached the area where belongings are placed in bins to be scanned.

One Obvious Way to Spot an American in an Airport Security Checkpoint Outside of the United States

I immediately knew he was American when I saw him taking off his shoes before going through the security checkpoint, which was not required at Keflavik International Airport — and sure enough, his passport was issued by the United States when I caught a glimpse of it.

By the time I noticed him, it was too late to let him know that he was not required to go through the trouble of taking off his shoes to pass through the security checkpoint at that airport.


One thing which I like about traveling in many countries around the world is that I usually do not have to remove my shoes, as is required of many people who pass through security checkpoints at airports in the United States but are not members of federal government trusted traveler programs such as Global Entry or TSA Pre✓

…and it is interesting — and somewhat sad — to me to see some people get conditioned over time as to have certain actions automatically become habits at times when they are not required to perform them.

Perhaps one day, the requirement for passengers to remove the shoes from their feet will be rescinded — and I believe that that time is long overdue…

Photograph ©2018 by Brian Cohen.

13 thoughts on “One Obvious Way to Spot an American in an Airport Security Checkpoint Outside of the United States”

  1. Evan says:

    Volume control – or lack there of.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      I have heard people say that, Evan; but Americans are not the only ones who can be loud…

  2. Donato says:

    One way to spot Americans at security. They are not aware that the Germans offer a 16 inch handled shoe horn to help people put their shoes back on.
    I wanted to photograph this super high tech device for referral to the powers to be at US airports. Sadly, nobody could authorize photographs in the area.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      I have never seen that, Donato.

  3. Arthur says:

    Even if I am in pre-check in the US, I sometimes take my belt and shoes off if they have metal in them (mainly certain dress shoes for work), not because I have to, but because I want to walk through the scanner and not set it off. It is the same with taking my jacket off when they always say you can leave it on, since my pockets are full of phone, charger, mifi and the rest. But when I am traveling and do not need to go to the office when I land, I will try not to wear anything with metal so it is not a problem.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      Like you, I prefer to remove metallic objects and pass them through the scanner myself even if I am in the TSA Pre✓ line as well, Arthur; but somehow, I do not consider this comparable to taking off shoes…

  4. Joseph N. says:

    White tennis shoes, no matter the weather. For me, that has always been a giveaway that I’m looking at Americans.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      That is an interesting point which I have not really noticed, Joseph N.

      I will have to pay more attention next time I travel outside of the United States…

  5. Sven says: A nice take on that by Jim Jefferies for the ones who haven’t seen it already.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      Thank you for sharing that video, Sven.

  6. Maureen says:

    It’s sad that the undertone of spotting an American is so derisive. I’m sure the Germans, Italians, Arabs, Asians etc. have their own peculiarities that make them stand out. It’s a tired topic.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      Perhaps, Maureen; but the point of this article is meant to call out the ridiculousness of being required to take shoes off in the United States — to the extent that it becomes an automatic habit — and not to point out the peculiarities of the nationality of anyone.

      1. Billy Bob says:

        It was also a potential vehicle for the subsequent derision, especially given the title, and that is something you can deny all you want here in public.

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