Saturday, October 04, 2008

The natives are reluctant...

The next time you're at a soiree and someone starts up about their last vacation to France or Italy and how they shunned the "tourist-y stuff" and "saw it like a native", invite them to dinner at Waffle House and a minor league baseball or high school football game.

How come people who are so pleased to think that they might have seen another country "like a native" are so willing, or even proud, to spend their whole lives as a tourist in their own?


"." said...

Minor league baseball - became an Ironbirds fan. Hold season tickets in the prime seats just off-center to the right of home plate. Steamed dogs, steamed crabs, beef brisket, good slaw, spicy boardwalk fries, ice cold beer, and funnel cakes for dessert. Barely twenty-somethings with skimpy "Esprit" garb nearly sitting on my head... What's not to like! Oh, and the ball game is entertaining, too!

Down home piedmont/bay-shore life is good. Granted I can't see company coming 20 minutes before they get here, like in Texas. And, there really is no place to bust caps with a Barrett, but there are considered offsets!! Small mom & pop ice-cream and dairy (the best!). Organic farmers that let me drive their tractors on the farm (because my wife wouldn't let me put an antique John Deere tractor on our front lawn as an ornament - it was just like the one I learned to drive on in '58).

Yeah, you're dead on target Tams - it's just a matter of taking it all in and enjoying the little things no matter where you are. Maybe I'll go get a job on St. Lucia...

Anonymous said...

Perhaps because being a native in their part of the USA does not actually involve minor league baseball, HS football or Waffle houses? Their life is more about Shiraz, Light-machineguns , bell-ringing and hot-tubs?

Vive la Difference!


As to avoiding touristy things in Europe, good or bad or trying to see things "like a native" allow them their minor conceit - unless they speak the language and lived somewhere for 3 months and worked - in which case they have a better case.

craig said...

I can't understand the "don't be a tourist" POV. Why would you go to Paris and spend all your time in out of the way bars or bistros while ignoring Notre Dame and the Louvre?

I mean, i love my pizza place, but no one should stop at Victor's and skip the trip to Gettysburg and Antitem.

BobG said...

"How come people who are so pleased to think that they might have seen another country "like a native" are so willing, or even proud, to spend their whole lives as a tourist in their own?"

Some people rate European peasants and culture higher than the American variety. Never could understand that attitude myself.

Peter said...

Ooh! You want "local flavor"? I'm on my way out the door right now to the annual Pie Festival at Lecompte. See:

for details.

There are allegedly 117 varieties of pie this year - and I'm going to do my best to sample all the unfamiliar ones! Yum!


Breda said...

I try to avoid soirees.

Rio Arriba said...

Interesting. Kind of a reverse snobbism in some of the responses. I do small-group tours in Ireland and I try to take my people to places that are NOT on the beaten path. Because I know the country I can take them to places that are just as good (and most are better) than the standard tourist fair. And no tourists to share with them either. Say what you will, but seeing a well-worn site with 200 other 'visitors' just doesn't compare with something even better with only a sheep or two to share it with,

The Old Man said...

If they can't get a dose of American reality in Waffle House, there's no hope for 'em.
(Double, scattered, smothered, capped,and peppered for me, please..)

global village idiot said...

In Defense of the Gringos...

Whenever I go overseas (without exception on Uncle Sam's dime), I do try to spend some time in the places you don't see on the maps. I try to learn enough of the language to at least say:
You're Welcome,
Pardon me,
Where's the bathroom?
One Beer, Please.

When I was in Korea, I got to see a little shrine on the side of a mountain. The monks get their supplies by a cable-car made out of a 55-gallon drum (I've still got the photos).

In Germany, a female officer and her German "mom" took me on a tour of German wine country. Got to see little houses in Rudesheim that were made a few years before Columbus sailed the ocean blue. Got lost in Wiesbaden, trying to figure out the public transit system, which looks like the wiring diagram for the Nimitz. Got fed up with that and took a cab, and when the Russian cabbie found out I spoke a little pa-Russkiy I ended up having a conversation in 3 languages on the way back to the base (exhausting!). Watched a soccer match in a little bar in Mainz and had a great time. Learned that the most important word you can learn in German is enschuldiegung which is a sort of "I beg your pardon." It's a key that opens many doors.

I've learned two things in my travels if I've learned anything:
-America is really the greatest nation in the history of the world, and
-Everyone else is more or less just like us; namely, a bunch of screw-ups. Oh, they may screw up differently than we do, but we're all so much similar than we are different.

I'd like to see Greece and Rome one day. Maybe while I'm on leave during this next Iraq hitch. I'll be a COMPLETE tourist there, as I speak neither Greek nor Italian.


phlegmfatale said...

Which is precisely why- in celebration of my birth month- I will hie me to the State Fair and gorge on chicken fried bacon, as Gawd intended Texans to do. Here's to life with all the grotty bits left in.

Oh, but stealth for Americans overseas is nigh impossible. Our very gait is different. If you watch people for the tiniest bit, that will jump out at you.

crankylitprof said...

"Soirees" are for pansies.

Go to a hootenanny, a jamboree, a BBQ, a party...never a "soiree."

Ted said...

Beats me, Tam. Unlike Paris, you're unlikely to be spat upon at the High School football game when someone finds out that you're american.

Neutrino Cannon said...


I believe the answer is there.

LabRat said...

Phlegmmy's right- my dad pointed that out to me before I went to Europe with my mother. Americans are instantly recognizable by the long stride no matter how well they've dressed to blend in.

I will give Anthony Bourdain credit- he realized this basic issue and now his travel/food show has included episodes on Cleveland, the Southwest, border country, Los Angeles, and other American destinations treated the same way as the foreign.

Jenny said...

Best travel story I ever heard came from a fellow that had traveled the Trans-Siberian Railway east to west, ending up in Moscow. By the time he arrived he'd picked up a good deal of local idiom, and was dressed native as native can be. So he was a little flummoxed when a man came up to him to ask in English -

"American, right?"

"Yes..... how did you know?"

"You were smiling."


Anyhow, the "Americans are dumb uncultured rubes, Europeans are suave nuanced sophisticates" shtick goes back to well before the Revolution if I recall right. I swear some of those old Tories would be right at home in the NYT editorial rooms today.

And rio, it's not that trying to experience other places "like a local" is a bad or snobbish thing - it's that doing so WHILE LOOKING DOWN ON ONES OWN culture that makes it a snobby thing. America's got some pretty darn cool stuff going on to, most anywhere you go.

Somerled said...

Tam, I'm living like a native all the time. A soiree is sitting round a kitchen table or the fire pit in the back yard with hillbillies just like me. I've always felt at home, too, with cultured people who respect others and exhibit fine manners.

When fools who think they're superior to everyone else are around, I look for the nearest exit. I don't like spending time with them in tourist or native class. Why ruin a nice breakfast at Waffle House with such bores?

Brigid said...

Went to the ballpark at Bricktown today - rode a little boat on a canal, ate New Orleans food with a Western twist and saw some original Remington art work.

Why go to Europe when there are wonders in your own back yard.

Roberta X said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
OA said...

Tam, you're highbrow. I go with an invite to the fair and all the corndogs they can eat. If they say "no", I know they're some kind of damned pinko.

Timmeeee said...

I've always thought that touristy stuff was cheap, artificial and overpriced, like Disneyland or Times Square. That's reason enough to avoid it.
I've never considered museums, art galleries and ancient ruins to be touristy.
The touristy stuff is not the real culture, it is distilled and prepackaged and designed strictly for foreign consumption.

joeronin said...

Try David Lamb's books Stolen Season...following minor league baseball, and Over the Hills. biking through small towns...Lamb always seems to write one of these after a stint overseas as a foreign correspondent....
And yes..PhlegmFatale is right...third overseas tour, speak russian fluently...and even when dressed all in local clothes, the gait gives me away....

Anonymous said...

Working for an big company, I go places that most of the locals would like not to be at. Normally they are very remote, not easily accessible and living conditions are difficult.

I have never once encountered one of those native type tourists in the real back country of the 2nd or 3rd world.

I hate those city touristy types. They are the ones that give Americans such a bad reputation and name that folks like me have to overcome.

staghounds said...

Jenny, you are dead right!

Our idiot grins shine like beacons.