Globe trotting grumbles

Chiang Dao Temple, Thailand
Chiang Dao Temple, Thailand

Hubbie and I have our biggest ‘differences of opinion’ whilst we’re travelling, simply because we’re not used to spending so much time in each other’s pockets. Whilst these episodes are slightly irritating (at least for hubbie, who has yet to win an argument), they pale in comparison to the following aspects of travelling that will have me grumbling for days after the event. Whether it’s the rudeness of fellow tourists, coping with cultural differences or simply being grumpy after a bad nights sleep, there’s usually some niggling aspect to threaten even the coolest cucumber in the patch…

Hubbie in Trastevere, Rome

Hubbie and I are normally the best of friends, except when he ruins my photos….in Trastevere, Rome

TOP GRUMBLES

Queue Jumping

Ok, so I’m from England, where we really know how to queue! This integral part of life on the island stems from the 19th Century when rural populations moved en masse to towns, as well as from the World War II ration lines. Whether proud of our queuing heritage or not, it certainly has it’s benefits. Everyone knows their place, no-one falls out, and it gives the rest of the world a great opportunity for piss taking. Take us out of the UK however, and we’re often overcome by those more fiery nationalities (that secretly we’re jealous of!) who don’t know the meaning of ‘wait your turn’, let alone ‘form an orderly queue’. This means that we often spend twice as long as others trying to buy a train ticket, enter a museum or order ice cream. It’s just not natural to join in the shoving and pushing and on the rare occassions we do, I often feel a bit guilty about it afterwards.

Long lines at Topkapi Palace, Istanbul, Turkey

The consequence of lingering over breakfast, long lines at Topkapi Palace

Having said that, hubbie engineered some spectacular queue jumping when in Rome last June, and for once I felt smug satisfaction rather than guilt. We’d visited the Vatican Museums on a Wednesday morning, whilst the crowds were outside peering at the Pope through their binoculars as he addressed them from his balcony. It was a blessing in disguise for us as it meant far fewer people to elbow through inside. Getting into St Peter’s Basilica afterwards however was another matter. The hordes were thronging all around the square, and we estimated the queue was at least three hours long, something even us English weren’t prepared to do. Hubbie spied an opportunity and dragged me after him as he skirted the edge of the heaving mass, climbed around collumns and vaulted barriers (some more gracefully than others!) until we arrived at the metal detector queues, having shaved at least two and a half hours off our waiting time. Technically up until this point it wasn’t a queue, just a horde, so we didn’t feel we’d pushed in, just used initiative.

It was whilst standing in this next queue that a couple of Italians attempted to push in front of us, but hubbie and a Mexican chap ahead were having none of it and the disgruntled miscreants stalked off muttering oaths at us under their breaths. They managed to push in a few places behind us. In front of an English family who were still stoically doing their country proud after several hours.

Photographing People

There’s not often a minute goes by without my eye being glued to the camera, but one thing I’m very careful about is taking pictures of people. I either make sure I’m far enough away so they’re not offended, or I ask their permission. I know I’d hate it if tourists wandered into my village and started snapping me without so much as a how d’you do. So it really annoys me when other travellers stick their cameras in the faces of locals as if they’re some tourist attraction that doesn’t have feelings. It’s so rude, and doesn’t do us any favours either as we’re tourists too and often get tarred with the same brush. Take the easy option and use a zoom.

The tooth puller in Djemaa el Fna, Marrakech

Not sure I’d want to get any closer anyway – the tooth puller in Djemaa el Fna, Marrakech

Don’t assume I’m American

Sure, a lot of places we travel to are popular with tourists from the USA, and admittedly it is difficult to distinguish between dialects when listening to a foreign language, but please, just because we talk from a similar dictionary, don’t automatically assume I’m American. I just want you to get where I’m from right, if you’re that interested to care in the first place. Incidentally, when you understand that I’m from the UK, don’t then assume because it’s a relatively ‘small’ island, that I’ll know your friend John in London. Or support Manchester United.

American cowboys in the Grand Canyon...

Ok so maybe a little bit of me secretly wants to be an American cowboy like these dudes we came across in the Grand Canyon…

Football

Upon discovering we’re English, people (especially taxi drivers) often immediately ask the dreaded question “Ah, David Beckham, I know him, which football team do you support?”. I confess I hate football. At school I used to get sent off the football pitch in disgrace and made to do cross country running as a punishment for my lack of enthusiasm for a sport I figured just wasn’t for girls. Which was much preferable to being battered by a low-flying muddy ball and trying to avoid the flailing legs of nobbly-kneed boys yelling at me to get out of the way.

A universal language - local lads enjoying a game in Fes

A universal language – local lads enjoying a game of soccer in Fes

So in the taxi from the airport, the conversation goes something like this:

Taxi driver: “So you speak English, are you from America?”

Me: “No, England actually!”

Taxi driver: “Ah London, do you know my friend George?”

Me: “Probably not, we live in the North.” Taxi driver: “North?”

Me: “Yes, near a city called Manchester.”

Taxi driver: practically leaping out of his seat: “MANCHESTER UNITED, yeah!”

Me: half heartedly: “Yeah.”

Taxi driver: “Which football team do you support?”

Me: “I don’t.”

With a look of disbelief and utter contempt, the driver continues our journey in silence, no doubt with a few extra detours along the way to bump up the meter. Over the years I grew rather bored with this conversation, so to liven things up a bit, and hopefully prevent the taxi driver from taking us on the long route, the conversation now tends to go something like this:

Taxi driver: “So you speak English, are you from America?”

Me: “Erm, America, where’s that?”

Taxi driver :”President Obama, New York Yankees, near Mexico?”.

Me: “Oh okay, no, we’re from England.”

Taxi driver: “Ah London, do you know my friend George?”

Me: “Yeah we’re best buddies. But hubbie and I live in the North.”

Taxi driver: “North?”

Me: “Yes, near Scotland, in a place with lots of mountains and lakes. It rains a lot!”

Taxi driver: “Hmmm, do you know David Beckham?” Me: “Yeah.” Taxi driver: “He’s cool. Do you support Manchester United?”

Me: “Sure, they’re my favourite.”

With a look of sheer euphoria the driver continues babbling on about his favourite subject, and before we know it we’ve arrived, hopefully having taken the quickest route.

Learn how to say “thank you”

It irritates me when tourists don’t bother to learn how to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ in the language of the country they’re visiting. Sure, English is regarded as the universal language, but a simple gracias or shukran goes a long way in endearing yourself to the locals and stopping you come across as totally ignorant. And please don’t just talk louder to make yourself understood. That’s not how it works.

Buying clothes in the Mellah Jewish district of Fes

With a few simple Arabic words, Hubbie secures a good deal on a shirt that he’ll probably never wear, in the Mellah (Jewish) district of Fes

I can get by pretty well in Spanish (although hubbie never lets me forget one particular Guatemalan menu translation disaster) and always try to learn the language basics for whichever country I’m exploring. I even once learned some pidgin although I’ve yet to make it Papua New Guinea and for some reason the only two phrases I can remember now are “I love you” and “ants”. Really useful.

No, I don’t want my dessert before my main

Across South East Asia dishes are often brought out whenever they’re ready, and whilst this does mean they’re usually hot and fresh, do I really look like I want my fried rice when even my cheesecake is nothing but a distant memory? Once in Phuket we’d actually paid the bill and were leaving the restaurant before the rice made it to our table. Yeah, I know it works differently in other places, but I can’t be the only one to find this rather at odds with a decent dining experience.

Don’t say I’m lucky to travel

It’s got nothing to do with luck! I’ve worked bloody hard to get here, and gone without a lot back home so that I can venture that bit further when I’m away. I don’t spend my pennies on expensive nights out and the latest gadgets, and as I know one chinese takeaway equates to at least a couple of gourmet meals and a bus ride whilst on holiday, I do usually resist the Friday evening call of the sweet and sour prawns. Usually.

One less Chinese takeaway at home = having 3 different flavours of gelato at the same time in Rome! Without feeling guilty!

One less Chinese takeaway at home = having 3 different flavours of gelato at the same time in Rome! Without feeling guilty!

Do you agree or do I just moan too much?

2 Comments

  • Steve Fawcett says:

    Fully concur and to add a moan, loud tourists. I cannot stand tourists who seem to think that it is ok to talk at the top of their voice all the time. This seems to be particularly prevalent amongst Southerners and Americans, y’all!

    • Heather Cole says:

      Totally agree (although didn’t mention it because I was trying to be polite, you know, being English and all!). I think we’re naturally quieter than a lot of nationalities, so it does sometimes grate on our sensitive eardrums! 🙂

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