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World's Worst Tourists

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This just in: As the news breaks that British of all stripes celebrated last week's royal wedding by evacuating the country and enjoying a jolly holiday abroad, a new poll's been released that, I'm sorry to say, ranks U.K. travelers the "World's Worst Tourists."

According to the Skyscanner travel search website, Brits are the worst offenders in four out of five categories including 'not attempting to learn local language', 'being drunk and disorderly' and 'not trying local food and drink'. Their lousy (read nonexistent) tipping habits were also unmatched. Americans followed with a close second in 'not attempting language' and 'being drunk and disorderly' and a coveted third place for 'being rude' behind the Russians and Germans. The poll included responses from 49 countries around the world.

I'm not sure how these ratings strike you, but as an annoying American abroad (and a guy who's lived three years of his life in England), I found myself scratching my head a bit over this British ratings sweep. In truth, I was seized by a secret jealousy. As a Yank, I hate to cede the top spot in a competition of any kind. Hold on a sec, I thought. Not so fast! I'll get on the blower and chat up some real-life Brits to see if they agree.

I felt confident that Union Jack waving tourists would defend their honor to the last sip of bitter. And put us Americans back in our rightful place: on top. Or, er, at the bottom. "Really!" responded Jan Pinckard when I told her the survey results. Pinckard grew up in England, but now lives in the U.S. "Very interesting," she added, "and very true, or so I would surmise." But wait, I objected, trying my hardest to stir the pot. Aren't you peeved -- just a little? Don't you think we Americans are uglier abroad? Pinckard just stared. "In fact," she said, "I was surprised you Americans ranked worse than the Russians in being 'drunk and disorderly'."

Whoo boy! Better find someone crankier. I turned to Pat and Ken Harrison, two more English expats who hail from London and Yorkshire, respectively, but make their home nowadays in Rhode Island. "Well," said Pat, "the average British tourist (ourselves excluded of course) expects everyone in the world to speak English thanks to the British Empire. In the 1960s and 70s if no English was spoken, Brits thought that shouting really loud would make them understood." Yeah sure, I cut in, but... "And not only that," continued Harrison, "drunk and disorderly seems to be a sign of the times in the U.K. these days. It seems that some pubs can stay open 24 hours now if they wish and that, along with many other factors... seems to have contributed to a profound loss of what were once accepted norms of behavior."

Down to my last hope, I got in touch with Martin Gould who, accompanied by an English wife and English dogs, lives in Surrey, England. Surely, Gould would scramble the local Spitfire squadron and take up arms against these accusations. "What can I say?" responded Gould, wasting zero time weighing in. "I suspect that it is only we Brits who would genuinely believe that the recipient would be insulted if you over-tipped! As for 'drunk and disorderly' it's unfortunately just a way of life over here. Any naturally reserved Brit turns to the bottle to help unwind a little." Wait! Stop! I objected. But it was no use. "You must remember," continued Gould, "that throughout our history 'tourism' has meant invading foreign countries, occupying them for years and doing our utmost to turn them into England replicas abroad. Consequently, anywhere that doesn't serve bacon and eggs for breakfast, chips with every meal and a stiff gin and tonic at sundown can't really be called civilized." Rising to a crescendo, Gould added that Britain's fourth place in 'being rude' was "slightly surprising," but, he noted, "I'm sure it's only a matter of time before we get to the top spot."

This is where I cut him off. No way, I said. We're ahead of you British tourists in that category. We're a solid number three in rudeness. Number three across the globe! We Yanks have our pride. And at least as long as I'm alive, we're not giving up that prestigious place without a fight.

Questions for discussion:

  1. Where do you think that Russians would rank in the list of the world’s worst tourists?
  2. Are you good or bad tourists?
  3. When you travel, do you make an effort to experience the local culture and sample the food? Do you interact with the locals?
  4. How do most Russians behave in foreign countries? Do they find it easy to adapt?
  5. Are they good at mixing with the locals?
  6. Why do you think that British and American tourists have such a bad reputation?
  7. Do they deserve it?
  8. Have you had much experience with foreigners in Russia? How did you find them?
  9. Who do you think are the worst tourists in the world?

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