12 August 2011

Imagine all the people...

Westminster Abbey
As a victim of the incurable Travel Bug, I heartily enjoy listening to fellow travelers' stories of their own globe trotting adventures.  However, what I hear more than I care for are remarks such as, "France is lovely but the French are rude," "Germany is stunning but the Germans are cold as ice," and "Russia is great but the Russians hate life."

Often I think to myself, on which planet were these people traveling?  Believe it or not, in all my travels I have never encountered any such manner of people.  I have dealt with bus drivers, ticket salesman, waiters, policemen, hobos, gypsies, border patrol, drug smugglers, train conductors, store clerks, and the mafia.  Sure, some of those run-ins may have left me thinking, "gee, that guy was having a bad day," but I certainly wouldn't slam down the big rubber stamp labeled RUDE upon his family, neighbors, and all of his countrymen.

I am a firm believer in the "you-get-what-you-give" ideology.  If you're nice, people are nice to you.  This method has about a 95% success rate. So I'd go with it. I feel like those who stereotype an entire nationality are those who, first, heard such-and-such about the Venezuelans (for example), then believed it, then went to Venezuela expecting the Venezuelans to live up to that stereotype.  And they got what they gave.  It's a vicious cycle, folks.

"Look, kids!  Big Ben!  Parliament!....Big Ben!  Parliament!..."
 I want to make a shout-out to London.  I can't be bothered to look up accurate statistics, but I will go out on a limb and say that London is one of the biggest, most inhabited cities in the world.  And by far the most ethnically diverse.  Filled to the brim with rude French, cold Germans, bitter Russians, and such-and-such Venezuelans.  Shockingly, I didn't encounter a single one.  The only people I talked to (and I talk to a LOT of people) were extraordinarily helpful, generous, and kind.  I asked an older chap at a newspaper stand how to get to the Temple of the Knights Templar.  Not only did he give me directions, but he sang me a lively medley of songs about California after hearing where I'm from.  An usher at the Royal Albert Hall couldn't have been sweeter, even though she blatantly knew we didn't have tickets and probably snuck in in the first place (which we did).  A business man waiting at a bus stop during rush hour hooked us up with a free bus ride (more like illegal bus ride, but it was still nice of him).  The cashier lady at Harrods spent 5 minutes teaching me the whole British currency system while the line of customers behind me grew exponentially.  But she nor they were fazed to the least degree.

I guess what I'm trying to say is...be nice.  And expect people to be nice.  They're like dogs--they can sense fear.  And that is my travel advice for you.  Bon voyage!

Ze Tube

Buckingham Palace

Royal Albert Hall

Tower Bridge

1 comment:

  1. Drug smugglers and the mafia? You need to tell me those stories. I like that picture of you on the subway bench. And is that Tom? He's cute.