I Think I’m a Chinese Tourist

I spent the last month on vacation in Europe.

  Don’t judge me.

London, Barcelona, Rome, Paris. And many sites in between.

Each location had a few things in common:

1) amazing architecture

2) incredible history

3) selfie sticks

4) Chinese tourists

At first, the waves of Chinese tour groups bugged the hell out of me. How could you enjoy the wonder of the Sistine Chapel, the Eiffel Tower, the Mona Lisa with all these assholes waving cell phones and cameras in your face while wandering around speaking the wrong language??

Oh wait.

You’re thinking I’m just like them. Because I was in the same places, doing the same things, also speaking a foreign language.

But I’m not because I’m caucasian, not asia…asian, and I never got a selfie stick. Ever.

Also I never waited in line to get into Louis Vitton. Mostly because I can’t afford it, but still.

However, I will admit, as we passed by shops, and visited museums, we kept running into them: standing in front of the monuments we wanted to stand in front of, taking the selfies we wished we could somehow take without actually having to take a “selfie,” wearing the clothes we wanted to be wearing; . Admittedly, the Chinese had the best clothes of any tourists we saw. But still…

Tourists. So freaking annoying.

And here I was: one of them. I had my camera. I had my Rick Steve’s book. I once even joined a tour group.

I don’t like being like other people. When someone exhibits any behavior I don’t like for any reason, I want to believe I’m nothing like them.

But sadly, that’s not the case. Popular places are popular for a reason. And it’s a broad enough reason to appeal to all sorts of people. Even the pushy, personal-space-unaware, selfie-snapping type of people I don’t want to be.

Most the time, geography separates you from the harsh reality that you share certain interests with people whose habits or manners you don’t want to emulate. But with tourism, you don’t have the luxury of ignorance: you are standing face-to-face with individuals that annoy you and yet, somehow decided to be in exactly the same place as you at exactly the same time that you decided to be there, doing exactly the same thing. Except, half of them were way more pushy than I ever was. I promise.

So maybe it’s time to learn to start liking people more. Or maybe I don’t have to like them. Maybe it’s enough to simply accept I have something in common with them, and not be worried about the consequences of that.

I am so worried that if I don’t distance myself from the people exhibiting behavior and attitudes I dislike, I’ll become more and more like them in the ways I don’t want to be. I don’t want to be pushy. I don’t want to walk around with a selfie-stick. But I do want to see the Eiffel Tower, and walk the halls of the Louvre.

But, you see, people are multi-faceted. I’ve written before about trait ascription bias where you believe yourself to be ever-changing, while others seem very one-dimensional. People aren’t flat as we want them to seem. Superman can like the same sushi restaurant as Lex Luther and still be confident in the fact that Lex is a horrible human being. If you can accept that bothersome tourists with seemingly little taste and even less tact (ok, so I’m talking about the American tourists now) can by some kind miracle also appreciate the finer aspects & artifacts of world history, and maybe, just maybe, might be decent people that you’d want to have a drink with if you met them under different circumstances, then there might be hope for you to not be such a misanthrope.

It’s easier to look at people as simple and one-dimensional and not at all like you. Because once somebody is completely different from you, it’s easier to judge them. And we only judge when we want to feel better about ourselves. Insecurity in me seeks fault in you.

“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” – Carl Jung