While on Vacation, Be caringFriday, January 6, 2017
Tourists Gone Wild
For the Herald
To judge from recent reports, tourists of varied origin are running amok(1) — brawling (1) in airplane aisles, storming (1) hotel buffets, carving their names on ancient monuments and leaving a trail of trash at beloved scenic spots and sacred temples. Last year, the government of one of these countries became so embarrassed by the crass (1) demeanour (2) that its tourism authority published a “black list” to shame offenders.
State newspapers even offered tips in etiquette — “Cutting in line (3) is not cool” — but their valiant efforts are failing. During the National Day holiday week in October, for example, one tourist was expelled from Vietnam for mockingly burning local currency in a bar; while in Yunnan Province a woman assaulted her tour guide, then bit someone who tried to intervene.
The main reason why tourism may cause havoc these days is the number of tourists involved and the package tours taking packed bundles of people from one spot to another. The Chinese, to name but one, are now the world’s most numerous tourists — in that one week alone, they took a mind-boggling (4) 593 million domestic trips and six million trips abroad. With this as the future of travel, the outlook (5) is disconcerting. Take a world attraction like Venice: As I discovered on a recent trip to record a film about the life of Casanova, shooting in St. Mark’s Square had to stop every day at precisely 10 a.m. This was the hour when tour groups arrived, shouting at the top of their voices (6), stepping on toes and wielding (7) selfie sticks like swords.
But unruly behaviour is hardly exclusive to the 21st-century tourists. In fact, it may be an inescapable part of tourism itself. Freedom from constraint is at the core of travel’s appeal; no wonder it’s always getting out of hand.
When, in 2013, a teenager from Nanjing carved (8) a message — “Ding Jinhao was here,” in Mandarin — on Egypt’s 3,500-year-old Temple of Luxor, it caused a minor scandal. Yet he was part of a great tradition: Two millennia ago, tourists from ancient Rome were so graffiti-mad that they hired stonemasons to chisel their words on monuments up and down the Nile.
The more erudite visitors regarded this not as vandalism but as a literary exercise, composing poems that would link them to eternity. Some of this verse survives today: “The Sphinx is a wonder, a heavenly vision. Gaze upon her shape, this sacred apparition!” is etched (8) upon a paw.
The limestone of the Great Pyramid was once so covered in tourist scribble (8) that one Arab traveller guessed the words would fill 10,000 pages. On the plaster walls of the tombs in the Valley of the Kings, a favourite Roman remark was “Miravi” (“I was amazed!”). A cheeky one-upper (9) declared, “I was more than amazed!” The Greco-Roman writer Plutarch disapproved of such “nonsense.”
“Rarely is there anything constructive (10) or charming in their scribbling,” he sniffed.
The Greeks felt particularly victimised by boorish (1) Romans who came to “see the sights.” In 66 A.D., the emperor Nero took a yearlong holiday in Greece, partying at every stop and ordering snow to be brought from Mount Parnassus to chill his wine. At the Olympic Games, he annoyed the locals by adding epic poetry and harp-playing to the schedule of athletic events — his own songs provoking, one Greek spectator complained, “whole ‘Iliads’ of woe.”
Perhaps nothing is truly sacred to the tourist. In the Holy Land, mediaeval pilgrims got drunk, sang loudly and scrawled their family coats of arms on the flanks of Mount Sinai. Back in Europe, churches like Durham Cathedral in England were forced to hire toughs to work as bouncers (11) and eject the worst offenders.
The French could be just as rude. The Marquis de Sade, who knew a thing or two about misbehaviour, was appalled by the rudeness of his compatriots when he toured Italy in 1775. They were a national embarrassment, and the French government, he argued, should refuse them exit visas. In his novel Aline et Valcour, the marquis described Italian innkeepers as so wary that French visitors had to pretend to be English to get a bed for the night.
Gilded Age (12) Americans did not even have to go to Europe to behave badly: They had the West for that. In the newly established Yellowstone National Park, the city slickers (13) of the 1870s washed their socks in hot springs, carved their names on fragile volcanic rocks and chipped off fragments for their mantelpieces. And they gunned down any wildlife they could find.
In today’s era of mass travel, the mantle (14) of “worst tourist nation” has been passed around the globe with increasing speed. As the middle classes achieve the means to travel, they are denounced (by other countries) as disrespectful hicks (13), arriviste (13) provincials unfit for polite society.
The good news is that tourist habits evolve. Over time, as travellers gain experience, manners tend to improve.
It seems to be human nature to poke fun at other tourists’ misdemeanours (2) and not recognize our own. As Evelyn Waugh observed, “The tourist is the other fellow.” Perhaps the Marquis de Sade was right and none of us should be allowed to travel. Then we can all just misbehave at home.
Adapted from a story by Tony Perrottet, The New York Times
“running amok,” “brawling,”
“storming,” “crass,” “boorish,” (1)
The descriptions that the writer says to have read of tourists use actions such as “running amok” – in other words, “going into a frenzy, acting in a wild, unrestrained or dangerous manner,” as in There were some kids running amok in the restaurant after we finished dinner. They are said to “brawl” as well, which means “fighting or quarrelling angrily and noisily.” They “storm” around places too, that is they “move or rush tumultuously, violently, or angrily,” as in He stormed out of the room.
As regards adjectives that describe their characteristics, the writer uses words like “crass” (in the sense that they are stupid and gross, so crude and unrefined that they cannot discriminate or sense, they do not consider how other people might feel), as in a crass remark, crass comments, a crass error of judgment.
The Romans are furthermore characterised as boorish, which means “unmannered, crude, insensitive, impolite” as in somebody’s boorish behaviour, such as yelling for service in restaurants.
“demeanour,” “misdemeanours” (2)
See “To behave or not to behave?” below
“cutting in line” (3)
The idiomatic expression “to cut the line” is an American English equivalent to “jump the queue,” which means to go unfairly in front of other people who are waiting to do something, not to wait for your turn (in a line.)
Something that is described as mind-boggling is mentally or emotionally exciting or overwhelming in a way that makes it difficult to undertand it. Mind-boggling technology has turned our planet into a global village.
The outlook is the likely future situation, the prospect for the future, an idea about what a situation will be like. The long-term outlook for the economy is still a bit uncertain.
“at the top of their voices” (6)
If you speak, shout, sing or call somebody at the top of your voice (British English), or at the top of your lungs (American English), you do it very loudly, as loudly as your voice will allow. She shouted his name at the top of her voice but he was too far to hear.
If you wield an object – in this case a selfie-stick in the fashion you would wield a sword – you handle it and hold it, looking as if you are going to use it actively and effectively. She was met by a crazy-looking man wielding a knife.
“carved,” “etched,” “scribble” (8)
Further on in the article, the writer uses the verbs “carve,” “etch” and “scribble” as other instances of damaging actions performed by tourists. “Carving” is to make something by cutting into wood or stone. He carved the wood to resemble a small bird. “Etching” is the act of drawing or writing by cutting or scraping a surface, as in etching your name on the trunk of a tree. “Scribbling,” on the other hand, means to cover with marks or writing, as in a baby scribbling all over the first draft of my thesis.
“A cheeky one-upper” (9)
A one-upper is used to refer to an annoying person who responds to somebody’s account of their experience or problem by telling a similar story about themselves, usually with a much more stunning outcome. If this person is further characterised as “cheeky,” they are then impudent, rude and impolite.
“Rarely is there anything constructive” (10)
Notice the inversion of order of the “existential” subject there and the verb to be in the presence of a negative adverb at the beginning of the sentence. The stylist choice is for emphasis.
“hire toughs to work as bouncers” (11)
“Tough,” which is more commonly used as an adjective, is also a noun referring to a tough and violent person. These people were given the job of “bouncers,” i.e. a person who stands outside a place to stop people from coming in or force them to leave if they might cause trouble.
“Gilded Age” (12)
The reference is to a period between the Civil War and World War I in the United States. It got its name from the fact that the economy grew quickly, there was a lot of corruption in politics and there were many wealthy people living luxurious lives. “Gilded” carries the meaning of “covered with gold” but also, “having an attractive but often deceptive appearance.”
“city slickers,” “hicks,” “arriviste” (13)
These three terms are used in the article to refer to different groups of people. All of them contain an element of prejudice in their meaning and are in themselves disapproving in nature. A city slicker is somebody accustomed to living in the city and not suited to living in the country. The term can be used to imply that these people are dishonest or arrogant.
A hick, on the other hand, is an unsophisticated, unintelligent, boorish, provincial person, located in a rural area.
Finally, an arriviste is one that is new, as in a social position, somebody who is unscrupulously ambitious; a social climber.
“mantle” is a synonym of “position,” “role,” or responsibility that passes from one person to another, or, as in this case, from one group of tourists to another. Solomon took on the mantle of team captain this year. It is obviously used with an ironic twist in the article.
To behave or not to behave?
“Demeanour” is the way in which a person behaves towards others, their outward manner. It refers to the social non-verbal behaviours that characterise one person. It is usually used in combination with an adjective that describes this way, as in crass demeanour in the article. His happy demeanour puts everyone in high spirits / The man's demeanour made others suspicious of his intentions. Although this has an effect on other people in social situations, it is not a legal term.
When you speak of “misdemeanours,” though, the reference is to offences — minor ones, but still punishable by law. Therefore, if a person keeps a library book for a long time or if they steal a pack of candy, they are involved in a misdemeanour. And, if the person is caught in the act and proven guilty of the crime, they may have to either pay a small fine or serve a short term of imprisonment depending on the degree of the misdemeanour. More serious crimes, which are punishable by large fines or longer terms in prison, are called felonies.
More informally but not as often – and definitely not in the spirit of the article – “misdemeanour” is used to refer to an action that is bad or wrong but not in a serious way. Try to look at the situation as a series of little misdemeanours.
Apparently, as the article shows, tourists’ unruly behaviour has been around ever since travelling started. It is everybody’s task and duty to learn how to act in a place that is not home. So, as the year starts, and many of us may take a vacation trip, let’s stop and think, and behave – trying to find the best way to have the most fun without having our names etched in the criminal records of the tourist spot of choice.