When In Rome…

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The adage is “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” According to the Boston Globe, the tourism industry is having a backlash in many countries globally because people forget that when they go to a foreign country, they are the guest in that country. And to paraphrase another adage, “Their house, their rules.” As guests, we cannot do as we please or act as if their house is our house.

The World Committee on Tourism Ethics and validated by the United Nations World Tourism Organization published a code of conduct for responsible tourist, which asks tourists to value local traditions and customs; support the local economy; respect the environment; be careful when visiting wilderness areas, heritage, archaeological or others that seem fragile and / or valuable; and to be an informed and respectful traveler.

Treating people with dignity and respect is to understand ‘when in Rome, do as the Romans do.’ I count myself lucky that English, rather that Mandarin, which is spoken by more people on earth than any other language, is the International Language of Business.

Even though English is the International Language of Business, when I am outside of the United States, I try to learn a few phrases of the primary language of the host country. I understand that the host country’s citizens are doing me a courtesy by speaking to me in English at the hotel, restaurants, airport, train station, etc.

Many countries are tired of visitors who disrespect their customs and norms. The complaints are far and wide from Bali, Singapore, the Netherlands, Peru, the United States, Italy, New Zealand, etc. Tourists trampling the tulips in Amsterdam to take selfies, running naked on the streets of Bali or at Machu Picchu and vandalizing historical sites, such as, the Coliseum.

Outside the USA, I have seen street vendors ask tourists not to take their pictures and the tourists do so anyway; and visitors going to museums and touching the paintings. The visitors seem to believe that they run their host’s house.

Here in the United States, I saw a Black American woman standing in a store talking to a clerk and even though there was plenty of room to go pass, a man from another country told the Black woman, “Move!” And when she responded, “You don’t just tell people, “Move.” He responded, “This is a free country, I do whatever I want!” She did not move and responded, “It’s not that free. Go around!”

Decades ago, when Americans from the USA went to other countries and behaved badly, the nomenclature was to refer to Americans as ‘the Ugly American’. Today tourists are earning the sentiment, “GO HOME, TOURIST” from Venice to Machu Picchu to Auckland.

While the majority of tourists are well behaved, agents of the tourist industry need to remind tourist that it is important to respect the culture, norms and antiquities of the host country. “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” The tourist is the guest in the house. It’s the host’s house, their rules.