Last month, CNN reported that apparently tourists find the French the least welcoming of all nationalities, while Brazilians are the most welcoming (you can read the full article here). I have to confess to feeling a slight sense of relief that Germany did not top this particular poll 🙂 In fact, we only come in at number 4, behind Russia and the UK.
The UK??? Now they really had my attention! I might be slightly biased but I’ve always found Brits to be incredibly friendly and welcoming. And so encouraging and appreciative of even the tiniest bit of English visitors speak. There are always exceptions, of course there are, but on the whole that’s always been my experience.
I wonder how people decide whether a place and its people are welcoming or not. Is it dependent on whether or not things go their way? Whether or not local people speak the visitor’s language, thus making things easy for him or her?
Particularly as tourists, we tend to come to a new place with so many expectations, and often with very little willingness to learn, to understand, to be challenged, to meet people on their turf. No wonder things often go so very wrong! A few things happen that confirm my preconceived ideas and suddenly I “know” that in [fill in appropriate country] people are rude/unwelcoming/arrogant/etc.
The article makes some very good points about differences in culture and values.
“The French are very protective of their language, and customers can get different responses for ordering in French or in another language,” said Lo. […] According to Yi, though queuing is a social norm in the West, it’s not a common behavior for Chinese people, “so [it] could be interpreted as being rude [by international travelers.] […] “[These waitresses] don’t have the confidence or language skill to handle foreign travelers. Sometimes, they’d rather avoid them,” said Lo.
So maybe the waitress I wrote off as being rude might just be feeling very insecure as I am making her speak a second language. And the man in a shop in the Middle East might actually be showing me respect by not looking me in the face.
It’s not easy getting over my emotional responses to things but not treating people as just a colourful backdrop to my holiday experience (bit like a theme park) and instead remembering that I am visiting people in their home, as it were (even if I’m paying), is very helpful. There is so much fun to be had by adjusting my attitude!
OK, getting down from my soapbox now 😉
And yes, there definitely are rude people in each and every country!
However, I still don’t understand how the UK could possibly come in at number 3!