Thursday, February 24, 2011

Guided Tours "Ugly American Syndrome"

Here is a thing to remember when planning your trip. For many this will be a once in a lifetime event. If that is the case then you should make use of the internet and learn something about where you are going. We tend to think that we have to see everything in as little time as possible. Along with that we have certain expectations. I think that we need to look at those expectations. As tourists in a foreign country we can't really expect the people there to communicate with us in our language if there's is different.
I've seen people complain, for example that after taking a tour of someplace they've never been before, the thing that bothered them most was that the tour guide didn't speak their language. Okay in this case English. I fail to understand this at all. When you sign up for a tour you know BEFORE you start that it will not be in English. If you sign up for it then you have no right to complain. I think this will change as more smart phones or other internet capable devices get into everyone's hands. Until that time I've always figured that I've never been there before and I'm glad to see the sights. I've also found that there was someone within the tour group that could help with some translations.
There is a dichotomy in this method of tourism. We've planned, we've saved and we've paid to 'see' certain sights. Then when we get there we decide to be frugal. I'm sure that if you are taking a tour then there has to be a tourist souvenir shop where you are. Postcards are usually now in several languages and if you are visiting a castle there is always a book or pamphlet in the tourist office. In almost all of the churches in Germany I've visited there has been a pamphlet that was available in English for a small donation.
I'd say that if you let the fact that there were no English tours available where you visited then you should just let that fact go. Yes it can be frustrating but then again if you just let yourself see where you are and try to imagine what it would have been like when it was new then you really don't need an English tour.
Turn situations like this into a positive experience. Struggle with the language. I've found that if I try to speak in their language the people there are much more receptive than if you walk up to them and ask them if they speak English. In fact I'm one of those that will play dumb if you walk up to me and ask me if I speak English. I learned as a kid; "When in Rome do as the Romans do." We've seemed to have forgotten that. Don't expect that everywhere you go in Europe that people will speak English I'm sorry to say if you do you'll be greatly disappointed.

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