Is it Un-Cool to be a Tourist?


Feb 28th, 2013, 06:57 AM
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Is it Un-Cool to be a Tourist?

Somewhere along the line as I was a growing up a sheltered mid-western child, I learned that it was in bad form to be thought of as a tourist when you travel. That somehow you should try to blend in with the locals when traveling. No looking up at the skyline when in NY, "people will know you're a tourist!". Don't go to this place, or that place, because it's a "tourist trap". etc.

So, is it still looked down upon to appear to be a tourist in a city you are visiting?

I do like to find places the "locals" would go to as a way to experience the city I'm in, but I don't see anything wrong with checking out the "tourist traps" either.

What do you think?
Lizzy87 is offline  
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Feb 28th, 2013, 08:42 AM
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I think it may depend where you are traveling... Vegas - most people, especially on the Strip are tourist and there is so much to look at and most people are looking like tourist.

"Standing out" as a tourist to me is a different story! Fanny pack - dont!! Shorts and wild print shorts - don't. Standing still on a busy sidewalk to look around - don't.

I am HOPING that when I travel the locals are too busy carrying on to even notice little ol us taking in the sights of their amazing city.

Love this question!!!
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Feb 28th, 2013, 11:08 AM
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Most locals could not care less about tourists, one way or the other. I have always thought the entire premise kinda dumb.
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Feb 28th, 2013, 12:08 PM
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It's only the obnoxious ones that locals don't care for.

Also, a variation of what oh2doula is talking about.

Looking AND acting totally out of place for the environment you're in, is uncool to me.

I'm a blender by nature. I don't stop in the middle of the street and try to read a full Michelin map. I prefer getting lost to doing that. You can find out a lot about a city and its inhabitants by wandering the streets.

The only times I have trouble is trying to read a menu in certain languages. Even then, I get to have unexpected meals, that often turn out to be very good.
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Mar 3rd, 2013, 10:01 AM
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I am proud to be a tourist - I am very fortunate to have the disposable income to allow me to go other places just for the fun of it. I will be a tourist nextvweek, in fact and I have been counting the days

That said, I try not to be lame or obnoxious regardless of where I am - home or away. I wear appropriate clothing for situations, look presentable, be polite and pay attention to local custom, don't stop in the middle of sidewalks to read maps, etc.

Regarding looking at the NY skyline or whatever you came to see - yes, of course. I came to sightsee, I am going to see the sights - I just don't stand around in people's way while I do it.

For tourist traps- I define those as places without any cultural, historic, or natural value - designed specifically to seperate visitors from their money. The wax museum at Fisherman's wharf in SF comes to mind - or perhaps the whole of Peir 39. I tend to avoid those places. OTOH, Alcatraz attracts tons of tourists, but I don't consider a tourist trap because it has a lot of historical value to the area. It is very much worth a visit.
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Mar 6th, 2013, 12:43 PM
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I asked the question then had to disappear for a while. But I love the responses.

I think I dress appropriately, I try to stay out of people's way but I might be the one standing in the middle of the sidewalk looking at my map in different angles so I can figure out where I'm at or where I'm supposed to be... I'll try to watch that.

I actually live in an area populated mostly by "snowbirds" and tourists right now and mostly I'm glad they're visiting because our local economy could use them. However, I agree with Rastuguytoday that the obnoxious ones are the ones locals don't care for. For me it's some of their driving habits that push me over the edge.

I also like the response from november_moon. So lucky to be a tourist. I can't wait until I have more disposable income because right now I only have enough of that disposable stuff for a vacation ever three years or so and I want more!

If I come to your city, I will try to stay out of the way and not in the middle of the sidewalk

But after reading your responses I think it's cooler to be a tourist than it was protrayed to me as a kid.
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Mar 6th, 2013, 04:37 PM
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I agree with Rastaguytoday that the obnoxious tourists are the problem, especially the ones with a sense of entitlement.

Also, an annoyance to me are the tourists who get caught up with taking photos of themselves at tourists destinations, but once that's over they don't care. It's like bragging rights to them and they don't care to learn the history or meaning of the destination. I suppose this to do with the countless hours I've had to spend looking through my uncle's vacation photos while he hasn't been able to answer any of my questions about them!
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Mar 12th, 2013, 08:19 AM
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Interesting question. I think november_moon is spot on, and I too call myself a tourist with pride. To me, the whole traveler vs. tourist debate is silly and baseless - my favorite quote on the subject comes from Peter Mayle: "If you travel away from home for pleasure, you're a tourist, no matter how you like to dress it up." Well said.

I have no problem with seeing tourist attractions that are culturally or historically important to the area (e.g. the Book of Kells, the Sistine Chapel, Versailles), or taking time to enjoy a city's skyline or architecture from somewhere other than the middle of the sidewalk. However, I try to approach my whole trip as if I'm a guest in someone's home. I always learn at least a few basics in the appropriate language and make sure to remember the pleases and thank-yous when talking with locals. Dresswise, I don't attempt to blend in, exactly, but I also defer to local custom. In Bavaria, I'm perfectly comfortable traipsing around in jeans and hiking boots; in Paris, I'll swap the boots for flats and wear a nice top or blazer.

I agree with LindyB on the whole photo thing. I have a Facebook friend who recently posted more than 500 pictures of a 5-day trip to Europe. All I could think was, did she take her finger off the button long enough to actually soak up the experience?
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Mar 12th, 2013, 11:40 PM
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I live in a city that tourists like. Be a tourist in any way you want to be as long as it's not obnoxious. If you need to open a map on a street corner, fine with me. I may even help you. Def

As long as people get some idea how to do the basic things like driving in a different state.

Take the pictures if you want but edit out all but 5-10 to post or send.

I don't like it when people walk through an art museum snapping photos of every painting.

If they want to wear silly clothes and sombrero, it's not my vacation they should enjoy themselves.

Definitely do the “tourists things” I always wonder about people who post questions like, “I’m going to San Diego and want to get off the beaten path.” Then they mention they’ve never been to San Diego.
Go to the Zoo! It’s the finest zoo on earth. What do they want to see? Father Joe’s Homeless shelters?
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Mar 13th, 2013, 08:48 PM
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I'm elated to be a tourist, but not "the ugly American."
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Mar 19th, 2013, 08:04 AM
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I agree with suze. Geez, we're all tourists in one way or another. To me the only stupid tourists are the ones who refuse to ask questions of the locals cuz they're embarrassed or are too proud. Ask! I'm proud of my city and am happy to give information on routes or great restaurants. Look for a friendly face (or maybe someone not rolling their eyes in disgust...really, who'd want to hang with them anyway?) and ask away. It's cool finding our where people are from.
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Mar 21st, 2013, 05:26 PM
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" I can't wait until I have more disposable income because right now I only have enough of that disposable stuff for a vacation ever three years or so and I want more!"

Lizzy - I used to be in that position, so I know what it is like. I knew that I wanted to be able to travel though, so I made decisions that would help me get to a point where I could - basically I kept my cost of living low, even as my income increased. A lot of people's standard of living increases to fit their income, but if you can keep your standard of living stable, then your disposable income can increase.

I also started a travel fund - savings that I put away each month before I do anything else, earmarked specifically for travel. In the begining it was like $20/month, but as I got raises, I put more and more money away, and now I save a lot toward travel.

Another thing I did to satisfy my urge to travel before I could afford it was to do low-cost local stuff. Museums, parks, hiking, picnicing, camping, etc. Once you buy some gear, you can go camping for a week for next to nothing.
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Mar 22nd, 2013, 06:32 AM
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I am loving the conversation. I appreciate every ones comments.

november_moon - I get what you're saying regarding saving and keeping travel costs low. And, I do save what I can but with three "children" 15 to 24, it seems like the majority of my savings ends up going to them for one reason or another and then I have to start over. I know this too shall pass but I plan to take on a lot of the habits that you mention.

My other problem is I've inadvertently become a little bit picky about accommidations and dining, my taste tends to go to the more expensive on both and I figure if I'm going to go, I'm going to wait until I can afford to stay here and go there... I was fortunate enough to stay at some very nice hotels through travel for my job such as the Four Seasons in St. Louis, and a couple of the Ritz Carlton properties and it was just so nice. Excpecially Four Seasons, so it takes me a little longer to save enough but I feel ultimately it is worth it.

My upcoming trip to D.C. I took a risk on the hotel, as it is not a well known chain and the reviews are up and down but it is in Foggy Bottom near the Metro and we are staying for 7 nights, which is a long time for us. So, I gave up the very nice hotel for a longer stay.

I guess that's a little off topic, but I am feeling better about being a tourist
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Mar 22nd, 2013, 08:15 AM
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I would always give up some comforts for a longer stay. I require clean and comfortable.
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Mar 22nd, 2013, 03:57 PM
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I'm always envious of tourists as I wish that was me. My accent gives me away!!
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Jul 7th, 2013, 04:52 PM
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Seattleites usually avoid the top tourist spots till the low season.
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Jul 8th, 2013, 04:06 AM
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>Most locals could not care less about tourists, one way or the other. <

This is largely true but I can tell you that thieves and scam artists care very much about tourists and being able to pick them out.

That being said, when I was in Edinburgh in 2009 I heard several locals muttering "f--king tourists" as they tried to go about their normal business while the tourists stood around like deer caught in headlights. And more recently, last week at a church in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, an American family decided that the one of the pews near the altar was a good place to take a break and talk about where to have lunch and gossip. It took a few minutes of disapproving glares from the locals praying there for the tourists to get a hint that their talking was not appropriate or welcome there.
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Jul 8th, 2013, 07:01 AM
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sparkchaser - well those were clearly in the obnoxious class! It's really annoying even to another tourist (i.e. me, solo) when groups and even just couples hog the sidewalk (often narrow) like no-one else needs to use it and you have a choice of going at their speed or risking the road. Another big annoyance are people who decide to chat about their next destination while standing right in the middle of the best photo! Groups are especially bad as they concentrate on staying together and forget there are other people around. The whisper system does seem to have improved things a bit in museums, but I still have to dodge the groups to get to see anything.

On the photo thing - I've noticed that people think that their desire to take a photo of themselves in front of something (e.g. a waterfall) trumps my desire to stand and look at it. Maybe I need to start looking like I'm taking a photo even if I'm not!
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Jul 9th, 2013, 10:51 AM
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My 19yo son leaves today for a 15-day trip in Europe with his girlfriend. I am so jealous! He mentioned something he was planning to bring (I forget what) and DH said, "Oh, you'll look like a tourist." LOL . . . you mean the big bus they'll be riding in with "Expat Tours" painted on the side WON'T make him look like one?
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