People are like beer. We’re all basically the same wet, delicious stuff, except that we’ve been poured into different shaped containers called ‘countries.’ While we grow up thinking that our shape of container is the correct one because we fit in it so perfectly, we look around at the others and think that their ones are a bit, well, weird. We wouldn’t fit in them, anyway - square beer, round glass, etc. When we finally do get to spend a bit of time in other containers, though, we realise that all of the other beer is the same as us -- except in a different shaped container that it assumes is the correct one too, just like we did. How silly of us. That’s when we become slightly smarter tourists, drink more, and start to enjoy different kinds of beer as well.
However, some people are more like ice cubes, and it doesn’t matter which container you put them in, they’re still fucking ice cubes, bumbling around at the top of the glass and ruining the beer for everyone. We shall refer to these hopeless, opinion-frozen people as stupid tourists, and here’s a good guide to becoming one:
1. Nothing can protect you like a language barrier
If you want to be a truly stupid tourist you should avoid learning any of the local language no matter how long you stay, which will ensure all of the following steps are easier to achieve. At the very most, you should learn 'please,' 'thank you,' and 'sorry,' but use them interchangeably in all circumstances and contexts when pointing doesn't work.
For bonus points, you could even pretend you don't speak English very well, yet still dared to leave your little village and venture out into the big, wide world. That'll really blow their minds.
2. And the rest, as they say, is geography
History is such old news, really. I mean, who has the time? Not you. You're a stupid tourist. Your job is dancing around in a state of holiday euphoria, taking photos, and showering your finances upon everyone while being as culturally sensitive as a slab of foreign concrete.
For example, when visiting a country like Germany you might know there were some old, vague historical spats with the neighbors but that was more like a loud late night party that got a bit out of control and the police were called in, right? Right. Don't learn more. That frees you up to say things like, “Austria, that’s basically a mini-Germany, right?”
Fine. Alternatively, whenever anyone says that they are from a British city that is not London, you can ask “Is that near London?” If they say, “No, it isn’t at all,” then you can ask exactly how far away from London it isn’t. If they say, “it’s really, really far away. In fact, its the furthest place away possible. It’s on a bit of wood hanging from the edge of an island off the north coast of Scotland.” You should then ask them how long it would take to commute to London if they got a job there, like a real person.
“Hello, we've just teleported in, and are still grappling with the main concepts of the planet.” Image source: Electric Nerve
3. Money - it’s just numbers, man
The smartest way to be a stupid tourist is to see foreign money not as an alternate, competing system of currency, but a humorous real life equivalent of Monopoly banknotes. Paying for things abroad is different to paying for things at home, where the numbers beside the items in shops are anchored to a boring reality of consequences. No, on holiday you simply take out the maximum amount of foreign money your dumb brain estimates you could possibly spend, then buy everything you vaguely want until that number is gone. At this point, you can either moan about the situation for the rest of the holiday from the hotel, or use a cash-point to obtain another maximum amount of foreign money that your dumb brain estimates you could possibly spend again, then restart the countdown.
4. Can I just get one of everything? Thanks
With too-much-money in hand, it's time to skip merrily to the local supermarket, complete with its aisles and aisles of things you must choose by attempting to recognise the picture on the packaging. This is a lengthy but enjoyable process, as you get to become briefly acquainted with foreign cartoon advertising mascots, and the giggly names of cleaning products like Spaz! and Jizz!
Luckily, there are some international standards to help you: yellow tin means sweetcorn, cartoon pirate tiger means sugared cereal, and tall white box means liquid/semi-liquid product of cow. Beware, however, of pictures of fish. While they do still indicate fish, of course, it will be in a strange, new liquid you are not prepared to accept yet.
'Yellow tin' can also mean Shittos, of course.
5. Don’t fear change
Filling your basket with foreign products, of course, is the easy bit. You have all the time in the world to browse around, pick things up, put things down, stare at unknown items with intrigue, confusion, or horror.
Paying for things, however, is the tricky bit, and ultimately it is an exercise in keeping your cool under two overlapping pressures: 1. Interacting with a fellow human, sharing only the communicative devices of three words, pointing, and staring stupidly; and 2. Being part of a queue, which means you must be stupid, but quicker.
Because you are not going to hear/understand the assigned value of your bizarre collection of mystery goods, the simplest, quickest method of payment is to blindly hand over the biggest banknote you have. The cashier will then give you enough change to double your bodyweight. Put it in your pocket, move to the next shop, don't hear/understand what things costs, be too embarrassed to stand around counting your small coins, pay with the biggest banknote you have. Wash, rinse, repeat, until your hotel bedside drawer is an Aladdin's cave of one and two cent pieces.
Are you in the holiday mood yet? Yes? Brilliant. Just throw all your money at the screen and then in return you'll get one of our legendary Hipster Kits.
6. Two dancing hammer pickle breads, please
There is a secret game played by waiters and waitresses everywhere. Upon realising that a table of foreigners has entered the restaurant, the menus are switched from the normal ones listing meals and ingredients, to joke ones, which only contain lots of giggly words and prices that have been magically doubled.
While foreigners will study the cards for some time trying to hide their confusion at what is essentially a little book of scribbles, they will eventually pick then try to pronounce their choice to the waiter. The game can be won only if the waiter or waitress keeps a straight face as the customers earnestly orders ‘two DANCING HAMMER PICKLE BREAD and one NONSENSE FART PASTA, please.'
After your mystery meal, you’ll then need to get the waiter or waitresses’ attention to pay, without knowing the polite local custom to do so. Eventually, you will muster the courage to perform a well thought-out and elaborate sequence of pantomime gestures. However, as you've been sitting there with no plates and nothing in your glass for twenty minutes looking uncomfortable, the waiter will know you want the bill from the first sign of any erratic gesture. Everything after, from pretending to write on your hand, to mouthing 'bill' in your own language, to licking and sticking a banknote to your forehead, is simply theatrical decoration.
7. Question everything
To be a truly stupid tourist, you need to ask a lot of stupid questions. Not occasionally, but every time you open your mouth. Indeed, it’s best to phrase everything as a question, even answers. Think of yourself not as boring ordinary you, but more like the tourist host of a rapid fire quiz show. “How do I get to... yes”, “what’s the name of... thank you,” “what’s the word for Bier in English?”, etc.
"According to this map of Pyongyang, the Empire State Building should be right here..."
To be particularly annoying, when searching for a massive building/landmark, stand directly in front of it, and then ask the first person that walks past, “Excuse me, can you tell me where [massive building/landmark] is, please?” If they laugh or point directly behind you, ignore them and slowly unfold your giant 87-sided mega map. Then point at it, and say, “I think it’s somewhere near here, is that right?” Point at the wrong country.
8. Just the tip?
Tipping is the confusion cherry on the confusion cake. It's an insane human invention, anyway, let alone outside of your home territory, where the etiquette varies widely from place to place, resulting in the possible quantum phenomenons of either under-tipping, over-tipping, not tipping, really, really tipping, tipping too subtly, tipping too boisterously, tiptoeing around impolite tipping, putting just the tip in, etc.
Tipping is intended to be complicated for tourists because waiters know that when faced with the dilemma of seeming rude/being chased out of the restaurant by hairy men on mopeds, most stupid tourists will not only choose to tip, tip, over-tip, and keep tipping, but are also likely to contain pockets so full of loose change that they're actually delighted for the opportunity to unload a few heavy handfuls of them on to a little plate and leave the place with lighter trousers.
9. Variety is the spice of drunk
The key is to blend in.
Once your stomach has been primed with a new-flavoured plateful of mystery organic matter, it's time to attack yourself with foreign booze. Generally, because you've convinced yourself that the word 'holiday' implies 'being a bit different for a week,' your Inner Drinking Dial should be set to Sample. If done correctly, not-trying-the-same-beer-twice will soon devolve into trying a shelf full of regional wines, which will soon then devolve into drinking the local range of unknown spirits and cocktails.
Meanwhile, of course, you should devolve into a nonsense blibbering tourist arse.
10. I’ve got some more tips for you
With the booze flowing and the monopoly money unravelling like party streamers from your wallet in attempt to keep up, it's now time to tip again.
However, because you are no longer a stupid tourist, but a drunk stupid tourist, all care for cautious etiquette has gone down the bar's toilet, and been replaced with a new system of estimating value based on how attractive the person serving you is, dumb-drunk generosity, and a fleeting new clarity that life is too short, man; enjoying yourself now is what's important, dude; and money is only as important as you let it be, bro.
Unfortunately, this new shift towards appreciating life in the moment will probably be expressed less eloquently, with you on the floor, laying on your face, and shouting: “SHOTTTSSSS!!”
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