Loving your neighbour while on holiday

I am writing this from a small, Spanish volcanic island off the coast of Africa. I am very blessed to have been offered a holiday home of a friend for a time of relaxation, transition and reflection, and, a long overdue honeymoon with my beloved.
This time has been wonderful, full of restful, dream provoking sleep, warm beach days, world renowned astronomy observations and a slower pace of life. The roads are anxiety inducing for those afraid of heights (as I am) but for the brave who dare to look over the edge of the road to plummeting 400 meter cliffs, the dark volcanic rock rich with pine trees stark in contrast to the deep blue Atlantic Ocean with a splendid array of clouds in varying shapes, classification and colour offer a festival of visual stimulation and awe inspiring sense of wonder.
The local folks are focused on tourism and work very hard. Which is why part of this trip pains me. Before I continue, I must disclaim that I acknowledge my own imperfections and that I am not always a perfect tourist myself. I do try to take the log out of my own eye before taking the speck out of another persons eye. But I do try to represent my country and be well mannered, which can go a long way mediating language and cultural differences. In writing this I hope it brings awareness to you and to myself about how we treat others when we are vacationing.
And it seems that some tourist have let their manners also go on holiday. 
Most of the tourists here come from a dominating continental European country. Which is good for the economy and good for employment. But it comes with its cost. A cost to the local people who suffer their integrity silently for the sake of stability and employment.
Over the course of my visit I have seen wait staff and customer service personnel be treated with rudeness by customers with a sense of entitlement that is hurtful and embarrassing to witness. I have seen tourists speak in their continental language to servers without making an effort to speak Spanish (or even English). This is arrogant to assume that wait staff speak the dominant tourist language rather than the local language, which is not such an exotic one. I have seen customers simply wave their empty glass as wait staff walk by with a sense of urgency that makes one think the second coming is here. even if he wait staff are seating new customers. I have also seen a table of four pick up their table and chairs from a pub, without asking, and move it into a church courtyard nearby with better sun exposure and expected wait staff to serve them outside of the parameters of the pub. At another pub, some hikers entered, removed their shoes, shook the dust on to the floor, hung their socks on the rails of the chair and put bare feet on the spare chairs.
This tourist populous is so imposing that passerby have assumed I am one of the dominant tourist populous and greeted me in their own language or come to my table to ask for the ash tray in their own language without making any attempt to discern if I even understand their language (which I don’t). This despite the large glaring national flag of my own country proudly displayed on my bag. I find this sense of national identity of the dominant tourist populous to be a good thing but negatively oriented towards self aggrandisement that seems to be common place.
Jesus says “love your neighbour as yourself”. Plain and simple. In fact this is so plain that most world religions have something akin to this that developed long before Jesus time, which tells me that this is important to most of the world before God decided to become human in Jesus.
So how IS one supposed to be a good tourist? Simple. We should be mindful that we are in other folks home town with well established customs, language, rules of engagement and etiquette. It doesn’t take much research to find out these things either before hand or in situ. Treat others respectfully and try to learn a few words of the local language or at the very least get an app or a pocket dictionary. Meet people where they are at, my mother used to say.
Taking care of where we walk or photos we take is respectful. The other day I was in a very small village and the tourists outnumbered the locals. Coming from a tourist area myself I know we value tourists for what they bring but I also know how much it can disrupt daily life as tourists observe daily life of locals. For instance taking photos of funeral processions or a small home that lacks in amenities but is big on charm for the well to do tourist.
How we order food or ask questions is also a matter of politeness. What ever happened to etiquette? Just today I witnessed a tourist ask a museum employee about a local festival by pointing to the sign. The employee spoke Spanish and English and the tourist spoke the dominant tourist language commingled with hand motions. All communication broke down despite the employees best efforts to answer them slowly in English and Spanish but did not speak the dominant tourist language. The tourist simply waved her hands in dismissal without even saying “Gracia” for the attempt made by the museum employee. The tourist promptly turned on her heel to complain rather loudly to her companion. The poor museum lady sat down with a look of sadness and exasperation in her face. I can only imagine the rudeness she faces during the tourist season (actually I can because I have experienced it myself from tourists when I was working in a high volume tourist area the last three years).
There is a reason I have not mentioned by name the country of origin of dominant tourists. It is because I don’t want that particular country to be stereotyped or discriminated against. It is also because I refuse to single out one group of similarly behaved tourists and have a micro observation become a macro prejudice.
What I have observed has been far more than these examples, which may or may not be scandalous to the reader. But for me they are warning signs of a need for change in how we treat each other. The world is becoming more and more xenophobic, more silent yet louder voices with exhibits old familiar signs of a rapid decline in civility and humanity. Which is why treating others carefully and with respect is so vital right now. If this is how people treat wait staff strangers as subordinates then how must people treat those they know or perhaps employ and have even more power over? Tourist money does not buy power for the purchaser or allow permission to treat others as servants. Tourist money does not entitle one to walk about a village to observe it as some quaint little observatory to see how the under privileged live as a spectacle in a microcosm. The houses are people’s homes where life happens, the same living and dying that happens in rich homes as well, which are perhaps devoid of intimacy that comes from communities of those who are poor (yet rich in humanity).
While I am making close connection between this etiquette lacking spectacle that only brings opportunities for negative attention and a national association, I have yet to see this behaviour exhibited by other nationalities that are revealed by their distinct accents.
At the end of the day I can only conclude that this dominant tourist group has a sense of entitlement that allows them to ignore or disrespect those around them without any self reflection or awareness. Where this sense of entitlement comes from is beyond what I can imagine. Perhaps it is the financial security of their circumstances. Perhaps it is because the EU open borders (which they should be) create a perception that there are no separate countries with their own identity. Perhaps it is because folks are on holiday and they can leave their well behaved and respectful selves behind and can act in a way that no one will hold them accountable. Or perhaps it is because there is little awareness how behaviour impacts others. Or worse, they do know how they are acting and they don’t care.
What ever the cause I do hope that those of us who holiday elsewhere bring with us our patience, our care, our respect and our etiquette with us. After all, Jesus says love your neighbour as yourself. And he doesn’t limit our neighbours to the people who live next door.

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