There are some things in life that really annoy me: People who walk too slowly, un-tamed or muzzled children in public places, having a bird shit on your face (happened to me twice), vegans, stubbing my toe, pointless Facebook status updates, walking into glass doors, I could go on.. take all of these things and add them together, that’s roughly how I feel when I see a tourist being a dickhead in another country.
Is there a more disgusting display of inequality and greed than a fat tourist making an unjustified scene in a foreign developing country? I remember seeing an Australian woman, arguing over a taxi fare in Bali. While I’m all for not being ripped off, she was arguing loudly and violently over 5,000 Rupiah (about 50 cents). With a face like a bashed crab she was announcing to most of Indonesia that the driver was trying to rob her. Eventually the driver just gave up and drove off, leaving our overweight and verbally abusive tourist standing in the road, proudly smirking over her 50c win.
If 50c meant that much to her I’m not sure how she wrangled up the funds to get into the country in the first place. At the end of the day this tiny amount of money means literally nothing to a tourist form the 1st world in comparison to a Balinese worker who probably earns less money in a month then you spend on lunch every day.
When overseas (this applies at home to) I make sure I never act like a dickhead. It’s really not that hard, treat people with courtesy and respect, never yell at them or physically make them uncomfortable, simply, don’t do anything that in any way make you a jerk. Every culture is different and as a guest in another country you need to respect that, the rules you grew up with at home don’t apply here, open your eyes and see how the locals go about their business then play by their rules. The old saying ‘when in Rome’ comes to mind, and not the Ron Burgundy interpretation.
I’m not really interested in where the world’s worst tourists come from (as it happens CNN thinks it’s America) but rather in just never becoming one. A common setting for these volatile situations is when a tourist or traveller feels that they are being ripped off by a local. If this ever happens to you (and it probably will eventually) just relax, yelling is really not going to help with anything, stay calm and try and talk your way through the situation. You are a guest in another country, you might not understand the language or the unspoken rules of the place which sometimes can make you a target but there are simply no excuses for treating local people with anything but courtesy and if you are being ripped off in many cases locals who are around and passing by will actually help you.
Having my bike stolen in Japan or having to chase the little shit who stole my camera in South Africa were inconvenient events to say the least but making a huge scene in either case would never have helped anyone, these things happen, deal with it, and realise that they often make for a fantastic story when you get home. I have a friend who was ripped off in Vietnam by around $75 AUD, about 1.6 million dong (yes the currency is called the ‘dong’ and yes, while there every second sentence was a penis joke) while paying for a half day on the back of a scooter. Was he an idiot for not agreeing to a set amount before getting on the bike? Yep. But let’s be honest, he could afford it and he ended up having one of the best days in his life scooting around Ho Chi Minh City. If he’d made a massive scene it would not have helped in the slightest, it would also have ruined his experience, annoyed the locals and may have forced me to kick him in the nuts.
One of the most humbling experiences about long term travel is seeing how other cultures live and seeing life through their eyes. The simple fact that you have the opportunity to travel puts you in a very privileged posiiton that should never be abused with bad behaviour. It’s not rocket science, just don’t be a dickhead.