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Obnoxious Tourists

Rajen Bali

Our World has become a village. Due to continuing rapid improvements in air and other transportation, distances are shrinking. There is a much greater urge-and-means with an ever-increasing number of people globally, to travel and see/experience sights/lifestyles/happenings which are different from their normal, daily life. People at all levels are willing to spend good money and time to pursue The Great Tourism Experience. But!

This ‘But’ is about the behavior of many tourists. They often do not realize – or forget – that what may be unusual/strange/exotic for them is quite normal for the locals. I mean it may be strange for the tourists to see women covered from head-to-toe, with only their eyes visible through their veil, it is just a normal custom for the locals. Many countries have strict laws about dress/alcohol for the tourists, but others can be rather liberal. So, in many such places, displaying vast areas of tanned flesh, at the seaside or elsewhere, – especially by the ladies – hurts the sensibilities of the local people. Mostly, the requisite restraint and good manners by the tourists are most conspicuous by their absence. Not showing due respect to local customs and norms is obnoxious behavior. Often, going to the extent of being way-beyond-obnoxious. So, do take the trouble of finding out the local customs of the destination you wish to visit and respect the local’s way of life. This especially applies in showing due respect in dress/behavior when visiting religious shrines.

Air travel is the most common form of travel for international travel. It is also a very convenient mode of travel for local travel in many countries. So, the tourist’s behavior is on display from the time you go the airport. Bad behavior includes – while on the ground - fighting for a trolley, jumping queues, fighting/arguing with the airline ground staff, immigration and customs authorities. Remember that all these people are just doing their job, and following laid-down rules/procedures aimed at ensuring flight safety. If you have any differences, do put across your viewpoint in a polite/firm manner. DO NOT shout or abuse.

While in the air, good behavior becomes all the more important, due to restricted space and other constraints in-flight. The most common form of boorishness is the bad behavior towards the cabin crew, especially the flight attendants. Never forget that even if they are serving you to provide food and comforts to make your flight enjoyable, they are not your servants. Treat them and talk to them with respect. Do not take “Coffee, Tea, or Me” seriously! It was just an interesting book.

Talking loudly and shouting, putting your hand baggage in a manner that causes inconvenience to others, moving about aimlessly and pushing your knees in the back of the passenger in front, are some other minor crimes. But the Big One is getting drunk and boisterous, making a nuisance of yourself to the cabin crew and fellow passengers. Never forget that even if the crew tolerate a great deal, the Captain is in command, and has the authority to get you behind bars after the landing.  Drink to enjoy yourself and not as if liquor is going out of fashion and you have been chosen to hasten the process. Do not join the ranks of the infamous British football fans and some Indians already ‘famous’ for their in-air drunken behavior.

From the moment you land at your foreign destination, you are like an ambassador for your country. Your behavior is often – mistakenly? – accepted as the general behavior of your countrymen. Before you undertake your travel, ensure that you have all the papers required by the authorities at your destination airport. Refrain from arguing or talking loudly to the airport authorities at immigration and customs. Do not act smart and answer the questions truthfully. You may think you are clever, but they deal with a great many passengers on a daily basis. If you have dutiable goods, declare them and do not try to sneak through the Green Channel. If caught – and there is a great possibility that your fate will be????

Good behavior at the destination airport is similar to that that of your departure airport. Do not be in a tearing hurry. Remember, you are on a holiday and a few minutes here or there do not matter at all. While collecting your checked-in baggage, do not hinder others.

Some of what we have talked about is equally applicable to travel by sea, rail and road. Good behavior by the tourists is appreciated everywhere. And Bad Behavior detested.

We have been talking about what may only seem ‘small things’ to many. But these are vital for you being viewed as a ‘Good Tourist’.

So, be mindful of how you conduct yourself as a tourist. Go as a tourist and return as a friend.