Indian tourists are not the world’s worst!
We Indians are not the world’s worst tourists. The French are. Something to smile about? Ummm, not really. We are actually second worst! 😦
In a tourist etiquette survey (carried out by Expedia, a travel website) the Indians were second worst, followed by the Chinese and then the Russians. The survey was conducted in Europe amongst 15,000 European hoteliers who were asked to rate tourists on ten attributes: Politeness, willingness to try out local cuisine, the state in which tourists left their rooms, the tips they gave, the way they dressed, how noisy they were, how considerate they were…
So why did Indians score so badly? Don’t we know it? We are the rudest people on earth! On this attribute we scored worse than anybody else. Well, rudeness is a national past-time in India…who hasn’t been at the receiving end of the indifference of a sales girl/boy, the brusque tone of a government official, the sneer of the security guard, the insulting tone of a school principal, or who hasn’t experienced the shove from the suited booted guy standing behind in the queue or borne the rude honking of the car behind? Rudeness unfortunately is an everyday phenomena in India. You get so used to it that when someone is polite, its a mild shock.
Rudeness isn’t the only reason why Indians scored badly. Indians who travel aren’t eager to experiment with local cuisine. This too is well known to us and to travel agents. In fact we had heard so much about this that we are careful when we take a trip. We prefer to travel in family groups. Eating samosas in Cairo or puri bhaji in Beijing is not my idea of fun.
However, there is a reason for a reluctance on the part of Indians to experiment with food. Its a cultural thing, and I feel those who conducted the survey should have taken it into account. Firstly, in India, food is central to one’s existence (like it is to the Chinese) and the variety of cuisines in different parts of India and the extraordinary variety of dishes is testimony to that. For Indians, having just a couple of dishes on the table is sacrilege. A complete meal will include a sabji, dal, rice, chapatti, finely chopped salad, chutney, pickle, papad, lassi or dahi (yoghurt)…and a sweet dish. At least. And this is just a meal…I am not talking of evening snacks and breakfast…the variety of Indian food is in fact quite mind-boggling. And in every part of India the food tastes different. There is no way that an average Indian will be satisfied with the western cuisine. Its not just the variety that Indian food offers, its also the taste. Indian tastebuds are attuned to spicy food or at least mildly spicy. Even mildly spicy food would be difficult for westerners to eat. And most important Indian food is vastly different from European cuisines. The variety of spices used, the kind of oils, the methods of cooking, everything is extremely different! There is far more similarity between what Americans and Europeans eat. Therefore to evaluate an average Indian by the same yardstick as the Americans isn’t correct.
The Americans (inspite of their high score on noisiness) stood second in the survey and their willingness to experiment with food was one of the reasons. The Americans also won out because of their generous tipping habits.
Again, I don’t think its fair to evaluate people on how much they tip. American currency is strong and in any case they earn far more than people from most other countries…in fact I am sure that Indians must have scored poorly on tipping (unfortunately I could not get hold of the survey online) but as I said its not fair to compare Indians with Europeans, the Japanese or even the Chinese where tipping is concerned. We are the poorest nation in that sense. The rupee is weak even compared to the Chinese yuan. Naturally, we want to make every rupee count.
Its a cultural thing as well. In India we lack a tipping culture (though this is changing due to western influences). We haggle over the taxi fare and do not like to pay a paisa over the meter fare and we hate it if anyone hankers for a tip. People are getting a salary aren’t they..thats mentality of the average Indian. In fact in India, even saying thank you is not the norm and no one thinks it rude. When you do something for others, you do it out of the goodness of your heart and thats understood. Actually, Indians are basically helpful by nature, an emotional people who often go out of their way to help others, and they do without expecting a tip or a thank you. I think its a great quality but try telling that to those who conduct the surveys! The survey has judged people on superficial attributes.
However it is true that Americans are generally well meaning and friendly. During our trips abroad, no Europeans even made eye contact with us, but Americans would always do so…and smile as well. And when I had traveled to the US, I remember people would smile and say how are you…complete strangers! In the UK we did not experience any kind of friendliness from the local people.
Apparently the French are the worst tourists because they are pretty clannish, don’t mix and don’t like to try out local cuisine or speak the foreign language! We had three large groups of French tourists with us when we went on a Nile cruise. And can you believe it, during three whole days together on the same ship, none of them even looked at us? We made friends with a couple from New Zealand though.
Coming back to rudeness…Indians generally speak loudly and this can make them appear to be ruder than they actually are. Overall we are a noisy people…but one cannot automatically assume that this is a lack of consideration or label it as bad behavior. Most families who are noisy feel its normal bohemie that they are exhibiting…that its natural when they are out in a large group. They are very tolerant to noise from others too, being used to community living. India is a noisy place anyway, even without people yelling! So I guess many Indians have simply no idea that they are disturbing others. Its very difficult for an European to understand the level of back-slapping closeness that Indians tend to share. I am not advocating noisiness…no. All I am saying is that to label noisiness as a lack of consideration is a little too harsh. The fact that the Italians came a close second when it came to ‘bad’ behaviour proves the point. The Italians are known to have close relationships with family and friends. And as a nation, Italians are used to expressing ourselves…on just about everything…like the Indians.
Another reason why Indians lost out in this survey was because they left their rooms in a bit of a mess…I needn’t say anything further! A look at our streets and we know the survey is probably accurate!
So who are the ideal tourists then? Why, the Japanese ofcourse! Don’t we all know how quiet, and polite they are? I have interacted with Japanese businessmen and their politeness is awesome, even irritating! One never knows what they are thinking. So on the politeness score its not at all surprising that the Japanese scored the maximum! The Swiss were third in the survey, after the Americans. The Swiss scored high on politeness and consideration for others.
So the extraordinary politeness of the Swiss and the Japanese and the adventurous spirit and friendliness of the Americans has placed them in the top three slots.
As for the British, they were fifth from last. They didn’t so well as they scored low (as compared to the Swiss and the Japanese) on politeness and tipping too.
Well, these surveys aren’t worth much…but what they do tell us is how the world perceives us. And its not at all bad thing to try and improve the perception.
(Photo is a stock photo. Taken by me in Egypt and copyrighted)
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