“Sightseeing” often has little to do with authentic local culture

“The sightseeing items which can be confidently guaranteed and conveniently and quickly delivered to tourists on arrival have these merchandisable qualities precisely because they are not native expressions of the country. They cannot be the real ritual or the real festival; that was never originally planned for tourists. Like the hula dances now staged for photographer-tourists in Hawaii, the widely appealing tourist attractions are apt to be those specially made for tourist consumption.”
–Daneil Boorstin, The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America (1961)

Posted by | Comments (3)  | August 20, 2007
Category: Travel Quote of the Day

3 Responses to ““Sightseeing” often has little to do with authentic local culture”

  1. Sheila at Family Travel Says:

    I’m going to go out on a limb here and ask the “So what?” question.

    Just because I see a hula performance at Oahu’s Polynesian Cultural Center or the Big Island’s annual Merrie Monarch Hula Festival or even the Kodak Hula show in Waikiki doesn’t mean that I haven’t experienced the “real ritual.”

    Naturally it is packaged for me, otherwise I’d have to drive all over the islands to find it, but I should not have to somehow feel guilty that someone has brought me a bit of their culture to enjoy without me having to beat the bushes.

    I’ve lived overseas in Asia, the Middle East and Europe, and I’m certainly aware that many of the best experiences with other cultures are not the packaged ones, but in its time and place, a packaged cultural experience is better than none at all.

    Sure, I’m a tourist. So, what?

    Thanks, Sheila

  2. Roger Says:

    I can see the point of what both Roff and Sheila are saying here, and they both have valid conclusions. Let’s also think about the performers for a moment. We cannot judge their motives very easily, but I think we would all agree that we should respect their efforts to portray their cultural heritage, even if it is not in the most ideal context.

  3. Michael Says:

    I agree – in general. But, unless you can basically live in a place for a while there is no way you can catch everything that is associated with that place. Sure, going to the actual Carnival parades in Rio is the best thing. But not all of us can be there at that exact time. So going to recreations is the next best thing. If you always waited for the “perfect” occasion, you would never go anywhere. So try to be authentic, yes. But more important is to just get out there.