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'Now I Remember Why We Stopped Hanging Out'

Mar 28, 2024

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have long dreamed of taking what used to be called The Grand Tour, and at last I am about to do this. But things seem to have changed to the extent that every place I will be going now hates tourists.

Sure, their official sites are warmly welcoming, stressing how friendly the people there are. But it doesn't take much surfing to find the people themselves carrying on about what they really think of strangers.

In a way, I get it. I don't like tourists in my city, either, though I know that local businesses need the money. I just don't look forward to vacationing among people who hate me on sight.

I know people who claim that they are not really tourists but "travelers," or some sort of silliness, and they're not fooling anyone. And don't tell me to try to pass myself off as a native, because the minute I open my mouth, they'll know I'm not. Maybe even before. Besides, I'm proud of being an American.

When I travel in the states, I often strike up conversations with strangers on planes or buses, or while waiting in line at stores, museums or wherever. Some of these conversations have been interesting, and I have even made a couple of friends that way.

Would it be possible for me to have such conversations with foreigners? Or would they automatically assume that I'm a nuisance?

GENTLE READER: Well, they have had their share of those, as have you in your hometown.

So did host countries during the Grand Tours of the 19th century. For every tourist who went to absorb culture, there must have been two who went to misbehave where no one they knew would find out about it. Or who managed to do both. Among his more interesting exploits, that devoted Hellenophile Lord Byron carved his name on the Greek temple at Sounion.

The difference is that then, acts of vandalism and other outrages were seen only by immediate witnesses. Now they are photographed and posted around the world. Indeed, the posting is often done by the vandals themselves.

Miss Manners does not need to tell you not to deface monuments, wear bathing suits downtown, or shout when people do not understand English. Nor to make unfavorable comparisons between that country and yours.

And you have apparently known to choose nonthreatening venues and inoffensive conversational openers.

So she will add only a geographical note: Seek out uncrowded places. People who have been jostled by tourists are annoyed, even if they are tourists themselves.

In other words, don't plant yourself in front of famous monuments to take selfies.