"Tourist" is not a four-letter word

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Mar 12th, 2004, 09:14 PM
  #1
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"Tourist" is not a four-letter word

I would just like to say that I enjoy traveling so much. It has only become an option for me since I have become an adult and pay for it myself. I hope to make up just as much lost time as possible in the time that is left to me.

As my title to this post conveys, being a tourist should not be a derogatory label placed on those who may not resemble the natives, speak the language, or fully understand the rules and customs of the people. All I have to do is open my mouth and it is obvious that I am from the southern United States. What is so bad about that?

All of my life I have dreamed of seeing for myself the many wonders of the world and now that the time is here, I plan to see as much as possible. If I do that wearing a color which offends, I do truly beg your pardon. I don't wear fanny packs at home and although I own a pair of white trainers, they are exclusively used for my powerwalking. I pack comfortable, stylish clothes in which to travel -- not all black -- not all chartreuse. That is entirely irrelevant to me. I want to see, I want to experience, I want to feel, I want to wrap the history and the passion around my shoulders and feel the era and place deep inside. Yes, I am a tourist. Hear my many questions because I want to know. Tell me of you culture because I want to know. Share with me your food and your traditions and when you travel to the US, I will be gladly reciprocate and show you all the southern US has to offer.

We should not be dreaded or disdained. We love to spend our money in your town. Here is your chance to educate us. Instead, sadly, we often bend under the appellation of "ugly american" and are brushed off as being of no consequence whatsoever.

So, do you want us, or not. Don't be shy.
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Mar 12th, 2004, 09:35 PM
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Loisde, It's not the natives who are telling you to "look and act like a native." It's the other tourists who post here.

I think to some it's a security issue. They are afraid of pickpockets and lately, of terrorists. I think it's a valid concern. Certainly if it bothers them, they should do everything they can to "fit in." At least it gives them a bit of peace of mind.

I think to a few it may be an insecurity issue and there's not much to be done about that.

Don't take it personally and certainly don't feel that natives of the places you are visiting won't accept you if you look or act different. I think we all realize it's a good idea to have a minimal grasp of local customs so we can avoid offending, but people will know you're a tourist and you will be forgiven for not know all the local customs. Often when you're pegged as a tourist, people go out of their way to help you. In the grand scheme of things, most people are very nice.

Good manners and common sense will take any traveler a long way.

I hope you enjoy your travels and make many friends.
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Mar 13th, 2004, 05:09 AM
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How very sensible.

I try to stay away from the more argumentative posts (after being horribly attacked be a regular over and over again last year). I prefer those that deal with what I consider the Holy Trinity of traveling--food, wine, and handbags ; ). That's probably why I'm a semi-regular, rather than a regular poster here.

But I can't resist posting this passage from Mark Twain in "Innocents Abroad". He is describing the people he calls Old Travelers--"those delightful parrots who have 'been there before' and know more about the country than Louis Napolean knows now or will ever know."

Here's what Twain says:

"Their central idea, their grand aim, is to subjugate you, keep you down, make you feel insignificant and humble in the blaze of their cosmopolitan glory! They will not let you know anything. They sneer at your most inoffensive suggestions; they laugh unfeelingly at your treasured dreams of foreign lands; they brand the statements of your traveled aunts and uncles as the stupidest of absurdities; they deride your most trusted authors and demolish the fair images they have set up for your willing worship with the pitiless ferocity of the fanatic iconoclast!"

Not that I'm saying anyone at Fodors fits this description ; ). . .


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Mar 13th, 2004, 05:42 AM
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Great thread. I agree that the locals could care less about what you wear, how you speak etc when you travel and that it is the people who view themselves as sophisticated world travellers (not tourists!) who have the arrogant attitude.

Actually, these people seem to fall into 2 categories. One is the category described by Mark Twain; people who want to use their knowledge to suggest that they are better than you and that you are an ignoramus.

However, there is a second category - the self-loathers. These are people who automatically assume that everyone else is better, and that American dress, food and culture are declasse and should be hidden as much as possible. They believe other peoples' customs are more sacred and that the tourist should get down on his hands and knees and kiss their feet in gratitude of being allowed to travel 3000 miles, spend much of his disposable income, provide jobs and prop up the economy (in some caes BE the economy) of some country where half the population has already emigrated to the US and the other half is currently applying for a Green card.

These people unfortunately dominate any discussion. Just try saying that you are going to wear sneakers or that you think that art galleries are boring, and they come out of the woodwork like cockroaches heading for the sugar bowl. So it is great to have a sane thread sane this.


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Mar 13th, 2004, 05:54 AM
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Very interesting thread, but it goes a lot deeper than simply the outward appearances and dress of the "tourist" in question.

All of us often fall into the trap of saying, "avoid that place -- it's so touristy". There is a broad line between what a local would enjoy after living in a city for a lifetime and what would be of interest to an outsider. I shudder to think what visitors would miss if they avoided the "touristy" places. No Eiffel Tower, no Louvre, not seeing the Colliseum, avoiding walking the Great Wall in China, the list could go on and on. I'm also always arguing against those native New Yorkers who tell visitors not to stay in Times Square because it's so touristy, that they should stay in a quiet neighborhood instead. Don't these people realize than many of us already live in nice quiet neighborhoods at home. We travel to New York because we want the bright and tacky, the noise, the lights, and all that we don't have at home. Again, there's nothing wrong with being a tourist.
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Mar 13th, 2004, 05:57 AM
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Aw, c'mon, folks, time to put the fun back in 'self-loathing'. Remember Monty Python's spoofing the flagellants in "The Search for the Holy Grail"? A line of monks, chanting in Latin, and hitting themselves on the forehead with boards...

What's Latin for "I am an Ugly Tourist"? (whack!)
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Mar 13th, 2004, 07:11 AM
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Patrick's post reminded me of one of my favorite "Yogisms"--

Nobody goes there any more, it's too crowded.

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Mar 13th, 2004, 07:38 AM
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Hi elle,

Isn't "Innocents Abroad" wonderful?
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Mar 13th, 2004, 07:46 AM
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ira--

I haven't read the whole book! I've been reading a new compilation of writings on Paris called "Paris in Mind" and it includes an excerpt from Twain's book (among others).

But it's on my list of things to read soon (with about 140 other things. . .)
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Mar 13th, 2004, 03:59 PM
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And don't forget the sequel, "A Tramp Abroad". I guarantee that after reading it you'll have an uncontrollable desire to get yourself to Heidelberg. Unfortunately, having done that, I can tell you modern Heidelberg just live up to the image created by Twain -- too many tourists!
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Mar 14th, 2004, 05:30 AM
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Oops, that should have said "modern Heidelberg DOESN'T live up to the image created by Twain..."
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Mar 14th, 2004, 05:48 AM
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I gree with Patrick's take on tourism. When I see touristy used as an adjective, I shudder BUT still plan to go anyhow. There is a REASON for all that humanity being drawn to the "wonders". Off the beaten track, usually means quaint, quirky not grand IMO. Judy
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Mar 14th, 2004, 06:13 AM
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I live in Williamsburg, VA in the United States. If it wasn't for tourists we would wither up and blow away!

It makes me proud that I live in a place where people come and visit from all over the world.

We know that from the spring until Christmas, certain roads are impassable, certain restaurants will be filled, and tourists will be lost! It's perfectly OK! I know that we could care less what people are wearing, or how they talk, or if they packed their bags correctly! We just want them to come and stay in our hotels, eat at our restaurants, and shop in our stores!
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Mar 14th, 2004, 10:53 AM
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I like the the original post but have to agree with a few others. It is your fellow tourists (and Fodors posters) who are making negative noise about being perceived as a tourist.

I have been to Europe, granted only four times so far, and can't think of a single instance where I felt local people were anything but extremely welcoming (French speaking Switzerland) or at least polite and tolerant (Venice and Paris).

So for Loisde, I must say I admire your spirit and thoughfulness as shown by your post, but would reexamine the last 2 paragraphs and who you are directing them to.
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Mar 14th, 2004, 11:30 AM
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In my backpacking days I used to think that backpackers weren't Tourists. We didn't like those "tourists". How stupid that seems now.

As for that "Ugly American" rap, its totally over done. I have witnessed loud, pushy, drunken, overbearing, insulting behavior from Australian, German, Italian, English, South African, and Canadian tourists.

Oh, and the time in Bath, England when I was with a Canadian in a bar. He was acting like a total jerk and told people he was from the US. The police came in and asked for his passport and the truth was revealed!!!
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Mar 14th, 2004, 11:41 AM
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Lois, it's like those who believe all Pariseanne
women are chic and wear scarves. It just isn't true. Like any big city or like here in Boston, depending what part of town, the dress code differs,
or one's life style. I think the best way to have a good time is to wear what makes YOU feel comfortable. The appropiate dress is no different than if we lived in New York, SF , Boston.
It's only we, Americans who spend time hre about what to wear. Our Euro friends will only tell you if you ask.
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Mar 14th, 2004, 02:36 PM
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For the record, "tourist" is a seven-letter word.
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Mar 14th, 2004, 06:07 PM
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It is nice to have various perspectives expressed in this forum. I intended nothing negative whatsoever.

I suppose that I am so grateful for these opportunities to travel that I am perhaps the opposite of "ugly pushy american." I am the "overly polite, so sorry if I have offended american."

I truly hope that I never lose my "golly, gee, look at that" perspective, no matter how common that may seem to others. I never want to get to the place in my life when I can find nothing to inspire or excite my senses.

I, and others like me I am sure, are looking for things to love, not things to hate.

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Mar 14th, 2004, 06:29 PM
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those qualities, Lois, make you a traveler who will find beauty wherever you go.
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Mar 14th, 2004, 06:36 PM
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Thank you, Cigalechanta.

If I sound like a 40-something, kids-out-of-the-nest traveler, that's exactly what I am.

My kids are applauding me; my husband is right beside me. I am the luckiest of women.

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