Many thanks to our friend Tino Hautum for the photo (and no, he’s not an asshole)
In this year of travel I have had several experiences of idiot travelers that have amazed me to the point that I am moved to write on the subject. In fact, these people seem to be common enough that I am convinced there must be an “Association of Asshole Travelers” that I am not privy to but that has a huge membership. Since I don’t like secret societies I have compiled here a list of their behaviors. Perhaps by taking on these behaviors ourselves we can one day be allowed into the association. If you would like to be considered for the AAT, I recommend becoming adept in as many of these as possible.
1. Do not attempt to speak the local language – Remember, no matter where you may be traveling, YOUR language (we’ll assume it’s English here since you’re reading this) is dominant and all locals should speak it fluently in order to serve you well. If you find yourself not being understood you have a few options:
- Speak your language more loudly – ideally, raise your voice to the point of a near yell. When you are speaking English loudly, non-English speakers will surely begin to understand you.
- Continue to speak English but take on an attitude – the attitude here should derive from the idea that “these people are here to serve me, how dare they not be fluent in English”. The new tone of your voice will surely create English fluency in the local person, accelerate the rate at which they may hate you and maybe even endanger you (it’s a 3 for 1)!
2. If you attempt to speak the language, do it poorly and with attitude – you may be driven to the point that you must attempt a couple of words in the local language. Attempt as few as possible and make no attempt to mimic a correct accent. If you are not understood you may revert to the choices below #1. (speak it more loudly and take on an attitude). Here the attitude derives from the thought, “Damn it, I’ve said a word in your language and now you should understand me – why the hell don’t you speak English anyway?!”.
3. Ignore societal norms and do whatever you please – there are a myriad variations with which you could achieve this. I will recount real life examples I have seen that you could mimic or you may create your own.
- Example A – when boarding a public bus as a group of traveling friends, you and your friends should each take up two seats, splaying your bodies across both. Seated in this sideways manner you will be free to talk with your 7 other friends if you yell loudly enough. When local people board the bus, no matter how crowded it becomes, continue to take up two seats each. No matter if they are coming home from hard days of work or school while you’re on your way from the beach to nightlife. I mean, you’re spending money in their country, right? For extra AAT credit, you can speak loudly about the people on the bus, assuming that no one else will understand your English.
- Example B – pay no attention to local dress norms on the beach. It does not matter if everyone is wearing swimwear. You should be able to sunbathe in the nude if you so choose. Ignore the norms and show your full glory. How dare that life guard slap you with a life preserver and tell you otherwise?!
- Example C – assume that local people should want to learn about your culture. When in a group of local people who are having to work for you (in this case drivers and tour guides) open a discussion about your own culture and teach the locals all about it whether they appear interested or not. In the example I witnessed, the local people were given a thorough explanation of American football, the teams, players, how to play, the times of the Super Bowl, etc. Despite the locals’ outwardly smiling faces I could see that this guy was directly on his way to AAT membership.
4. Speak openly and in public about your illegal activities – This example was taken from our group of 8 friends on the bus. Yes, believe it or not, they were having a grand time talking about how and where they were going to smoke weed that night. I was so amazed that I thought this strategy deserved its own category. By speaking openly and in public about your illegal activities you can ensure self danger. You might even end up in jail, even though Michael’s House is probably a better place for you to end up. Surely, there is a special AAT honor if you achieve this.
5. Do not bother to understand the local money – When buying anything, at the point of payment, simply produce a large pile of cash in your hands and let the vendor or cashier sort it out for you. Why should you bother to learn how to count this funny looking money? That’s the locals’ job. This strategy is not as strong as some others since while it may endanger your pocketbook, it may result in love from some locals.
6. Assume that everyone you meet is ready to cheat or rob you – be sure to engage locals in lengthy discussions and explanations about why they are charging you any sum for any good or service. They are most likely trying to cheat you – so be sure you make them PROVE why the rug they spent 60 hours making should cost you more than $7 U.S. It doesn’t matter if you can’t really have this discussion because of language barriers. In fact, if they can’t speak fluent English they should probably take a hit on the price.
7. Assume that all local food is suspect and will probably make you ill – Here it would be best to insist on eating only in chain restaurants that originated in your home country. I mean, a Mexican made McDonald’s hamburger must be better food than any local cuisine that is surely full of bacteria and other suspect ingredients like local vegetables and/or spices you may not have heard of. No matter what anyone else wants to eat – you must not touch your lips to foreign germs!
8. Drink to the point of oblivion and trust that others will care for you – One of my favorite mornings in Brazil began by spending 2 hours trying to revive a tourist from the sidewalk where he was passed out. Unable to tell me his name or where he was staying I was finally able to get him into our apartment where he passed out on the bed but at least I knew he was safe. From his accent I could tell he was from the U.K. The one bit of information he was able to get across was that he was scheduled to depart Brazil later that morning. He did not have any id or a wallet. After passing out on the bed he later began screaming the name “Maverick!”. That was a clue. So I walked to three local hostels and finally found the real Maverick (hostel manager) who came with a helper and got this guy out of my care. I never heard if he made it home that day. At any rate, I am sure that he has climbed to the top of the AAT and may even be an officer by now.
9. At any point that you are disappointed in service, throw a temper tantrum – Last but not least, having a temper fit is sure to qualify you for the Association of Asshole Travelers. No description that I could give would be better than simply providing you with a video example. Make careful note of how this woman falls to the floor kicking and screaming. (and for those of you worried that this woman is actually in a desperate situation and should not be used for this example, the translator of the video did not believe this was the case)
Of course, my examples are limited by my own experience. I imagine you may have some of your own. I’d love to hear them!