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Spot the Tourist

It isn’t that I “stand out” so much as stick out—as in sore thumb. I’m the type of person that would prefer to ‘blend in’ with he crowd, but it was never my fate to do that.   Over the years there have been many reasons for my inability to blend in, but these days it is enough that I’m a tourist a lot of the time.  We all know the telltale signs that shout “Hey!  I’m a tourist!”

  • Camera over the shoulder
  • Map & guidebook in hand
  • Following a leader with a rubber chicken (or equivalent) hoisted high above the crowd
  • Clothes  — often depicting the previous port of call (see my previous comments on this)
  • Tote bags – especially those with the name and logo of the tour company
  • Hats one would never wear at home
  • Brand new walking shoes
  • Sunburn

I’m sure you get my drift.

I’m not suggesting that there’s anything wrong with looking like a tourist—Heavens no!  Indeed, it’s part of the fun of travel—anonymity gives you license to look like a goose if you want to, so long as you respect the local cultural standards.

I do find that tourists in groups can sometimes be obnoxious, however.  It doesn’t matter where they are from—maybe a mix of nationalities—there seems to be this feeling of being inside a big bubble that isolates them from everyone else. Inside this bubble they can laugh too loudly, talk too loudly, and make general pests of themselves to waiters and others.  Perfectly nice, polite individuals seem to be transformed into insensitive clods the minute they are in the midst of a little enclave.  I’ve seen it all over the world—in restaurants, trains—wherever travellers gather in groups. I hasten to add I’m as bad as everyone else when I’m in a group.

Why do we do it?  I understand the dynamics of group behavior in other situations, but for the life of me I can’t quite get it with tourist groups. Is there a sociology student out there looking for a project?

Even on board ship it’s easy to identify tables where diners are a group, not just a collection of people seated together.  It doesn’t matter whether they started out as a group, or bonded over dinner and became a group—they’re the ones having fun!  Aha!  Now I’m getting warm.  I think I may have just cracked it: the reason a noisy group is irritating is not because they are behaving differently, but because they are having fun and I’m not.  Hmmmm.  I guess it doesn’t really need a sociologist to figure that out.  Rats. I thought I was onto something.                 MM