When being a tourist has its advantages

For the hardcore traveler it would seem there is nothing more insulting than being marked out as a ‘tourist’. I’m sure you know the feeling…trying your utmost hardest to blend into your environment, look like you know how things work and then being utterly crushed when the waitress offers you the tourist menu or asks whether you’d like the menu in English.

In Buenos Aires earlier this year, despite having just learned Latin American Spanish in Panama, I was making a vaguely passable attempt at speaking the Castilian Spanish. Clearly, I was no local and explained to the waitress that we were indeed from the UK. She then proceeded to try and explain to me (in Spanish) how I should pour and drink my tea…now if there’s one thing a British person knows, it’s how to drink tea!

But really, what is so wrong with being spotted as a tourist? Granted you might not always experience the same vibe of a place as a bona fide local, but being a tourist can have its advantages.

As a tourist, you can…

i) Blame it on your lack of local knowledge should you happen to make a faux pas which has the locals tutting and clearly marks you out as a ‘foreigner’…perhaps something like forgetting to use the little plastic gloves to handle vegetables in a supermarket or whispering “stop please” on a local bus when all the locals bellow it out in a megaphone-like fashion.

ii) Be as curious as you like to find out more about your location without feeling too nosy or intrusive, because after all, that’s what you’re there for.

iii) Revel in the fact that for once, you might look like a tourist because you don’t know how something works, you don’t know what to do and you might actually have to ask someone, engage with a local and perhaps even end up making a new friend in the process.

Posted by | Comments (1)  | September 26, 2007
Category: Notes from the collective travel mind

One Response to “When being a tourist has its advantages”

  1. Kelsey Says:

    I completely agree Lea. We should all embrace our inner tourist.