Good Tourist/Bad Tourist

To be a Good Tourist you need to follow these simple rules.

A Good Tourist

Language Rules

  • expects that no one will speak English
  • learns a few expressions such as Thank You and Good Morning in the language of the country they are visiting
  • always carries a phrase book
  • says No hablo Español and not Do you speak English?
  • apologizes for not speaking the language and is very grateful when someone does speak English
  • sees every encounter with a local as an opportunity to practice Spanish

Food Rules

  • eats whatever is put in front of them without complaint
  • is willing to try almost all items on a menu
  • never expects English menus
  • uses the phrase book to translate the menu
  • never wipes the table in a restaurant with a serviette before they eat
  • know when it is appropriate to eat ice and when it isn’t
  • is willing to try food from street stalls and vendors

Money and Commerce Rules

  • always exchanges their dollars for the local currency
  • would never extend their hand full of local coins to let the vendor pick out the right change
  • tries to avoid paying with a credit card so that the local merchant doesn’t have to pay a fee
  • haggles enough to show they understand the process

General Behaviour Rules

  • never makes comments out loud about what they don’t like
  • tries never to judge the quality of what is before them
  • accepts the noise as part of where they are
  • never criticizes what they are experiencing as inferior to what they have at home

How to Treat Locals Rules

  • always asks permission to take a picture of a local
  • smiles at locals
  • does not intrude into the lives of locals unless invited
  • does not lecture children who beg about why they aren’t in school

Bad Tourists

These rules are simply good manners and Bad Tourists do the exact opposite. The Bad Tourist exists everywhere. They are easier to identify when they speak your language as you can understand what they say and know they are a Bad Tourist. Everyone has their own stories of The Bad Tourist.

Bad Tourist Stories were the cause of the Smug Gang. One day while sitting quietly in the Jardin, Tom Jordan and John Morgan overheard one Bad Tourist talking to another Bad Tourist about THESE PEOPLE…. Tom smiled at John and so began the first Shared Bad Tourist story. The next day they were talking to Miriam Waddington in the Jardin and told her their Shared Bad Tourist. She responded with a Tsk Tsk and told her own Bad Tourist story. As often happens with Bad Tourist stories there is a competitive element of the Worst Bad Tourist Story, so Tom and John decided to hold a Bad Tourist Story Night. Each person would share their most recent or best Bad Tourist Story and revel in their own sense of knowing how to be a Good Tourist. The Smug Gang had begun.

This group is not about colors or clothing but about the Story. In fact there are several Gangs that are about the story. The Too Many Gringo Gang, I Wouldn’t Want to Live There Gang and I Assimilated Gang are all variations on the Good Tourist/Bad Tourist Story. Sometimes it is a Good Gringo/Bad Gringo Story or a Good Expat/Bad Expat Story but the story line is always the same-  the clueless and the clued.

The Bad Tourist is always insensitive, unaware, and ethnocentric. The Bad Tourist is caught in a Disney warp.  Since they don’t live there, then they believe that it isn’t a real place.  It is a Tourist Attraction staffed by actors and/or employees with funny accents.  The Bad Tourist always compares where they are with home and finds it wanting. The Bad Tourist speaks (and will always only speak) English and only carries US dollars and credit cards. The Bad Tourist is loud and demanding and critical.

Members of the Smug Gang are always sensitive, aware and multicultural.  The Smug Gang is caught in the Travel Trap. It started with backpacking in Europe or South America upon graduation from college and continued until they Found Heaven and became that interesting person they always wanted to be.  The Smug Gang always find it better in a foreign country than they do at home – people in other countries are always warmer, friendly, more family oriented, happier, simpler, less driven by money than people at home. The Smug Gang speaks Spanish and several other language. They carry a wallet full of money from other countries. Wherever they are they sit quietly under trees hoping to overhear another Bad Tourist and have another Bad Tourist Story for Bad Tourist Story Night.

Seems they are as judgmental about Bad Tourists as Bad Tourists are about locals but isn’t that what smug is.