I’d pretty much ignored the ‘naked tourists cause earthquake in Malaysia and get sent to jail‘ story until I read this rather terrible article, the basic premise of which is: yes British people behave badly abroad but compared to the awful things that we liberally allow foreigners to get away with in the UK, Brits abroad are saints. I’ve never lived in a major tourist area coming from Bradford (maybe Haworth counts?) so I was rather interested to learn about the disgraceful things that foreign tourists get up to that was so shocking we’d be sure to give them a very stern look (if tutting quietly and rolling our eyes first hadn’t worked). I was looking forward to scandalous tales of rampaging Romans running amok – grateful that for once it wasn’t Brits drinking themselves around southern Europe. But nothing. Unfortunately, there weren’t any examples other than the writer’s dislike of people wearing burkas which I’m not sure really apply to most visitors to the UK. How disappointing. And when I did a quick survey of UK friends no-one else had any tourist horror stories either, just people walking too slowly and getting in the way. The usual mildly irritating stuff.
But, back to Malaysia and leaving aside the issue that these tourists caused an earthquake (we can agree that it’s unlikely, but no more mad than UKIPers saying that gays cause floods), is there anything wrong with getting your kit off in a public place when on holiday? Are we two types of traveller, those who have the ‘do as the Romans do approach – an almost moral belief that we should be respectful of other people’s cultures or the Las Vegas principle – what goes on in Vegas stays in Vegas. You’re on holiday, the usual rules don’t apply‘?
I didn’t walk up Uluru/Ayers Rock when travelling in Australia as our guide told us that the Aboriginal people would rather you didn’t. So I didn’t. But is it always possible to understand the culture, rules and laws of the place that you’re visiting, possibly only for a short time? Talking to people and reading up before and during your travel might help. However, research is really not a holiday must for some people, far too much work when you’re just looking for a bit of fun and sun and sea. We can also be far too precious about travel. I’m no fan of the traveller always seeking the undiscovered and the unspoiled just so they can say they were one of the originals. I can’t stand a tick-list or bucket-list and I never ever want to ‘do’ a country.
For me, it’s more a question of people treating the places they visit as if they exist solely for their good time. That their holiday overrides all else, without a thought that their presence, naked or not, might be less than a total pleasure for the natives. A holiday which can quickly descend into frustration when their chosen paradise isn’t quite as perfect, permissive and welcoming as they had believed. Enjoy your holiday, but have a bit of bloody sense would be my motto.
Fly Dubai has tried to prepare tourists with its 40 Tourist No Nos from around the world.
Never mind the naked mountain climbers, here in Rome it’s more the too short shorts and flip flops that are everyday tourist eyesores. My personal tourist no nos for a visit to the eternal city are:
- Selfie Sticks – ugly, self-absorbed and dangerous. I regularly have to dodge them or have my eye gorged out. Banned at the Colosseum. Completely agree. Either get someone else to take your photo, or don’t bother and just enjoy being here. You won’t be as pretty as the backdrop behind you.
- Paddling in a fountain – the fountains of Rome are beautiful, but they are not open-air pools. You can usually drink from a water fountain nearby to cool off, but please don’t be tempted to put your feet in them. Hundreds of years old, they are fragile and get broken easily. Expect people to be seriously pissed off if you do go for a swim.
- Carving names into ancient monuments – don’t write or carve bits out of the Colosseum. It’s not always all about you. The Colosseum doesn’t need to know that you were there.
- Huge tour groups blocking pavements – why would you want to travel around with 60 other sweaty people, getting cross in the heat and being herded about like cattle? I’d favour 10 people maximum groups. Or have a nice relaxing passeggiata on your own. The best thing about Rome is discovering it for yourself.
You have been warned.