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I hate that the word “tourist” has become a negative thing, associated with travelers who are less cultured and hip and instagram-savvy than their jet-setting counterparts. A “tourist” is just someone traveling for pleasure, which is the majority of us at one time or another. Tourists are people too!
This compassion, of course, only applies when I’m being the tourist, not when annoying families are in my city blocking the entrance to the tube so that I can’t make it to work on time. Those tourists are terrible.
Joking aside (or about to begin, you choose), I think we should all up our tourist games this year and embrace what it really means to be a tourist in a new city. Here are some tips to keep in mind.
1. The bigger the map, the better
Leave your GPS-enabled iPhone at home. We’ve got no time for your tiny screens or inconspicuous directions. If you’re not holding up a life-size map of the city that is best held by 2 people, you’re not doing it right. Bonus points if your map has pop-ups of the most popular landmarks.
2. When the locals can’t understand you, talk louder
So you’ve tried your best to learn Spanish, but there’s only so much you can pick up on during the flight. Once you’re past ‘hola,’ you’ve got no clue what to do. In this case, JUST TALK LIKE THIS. Keep on repeating yourself and increasing your vocal strength until the shopkeeper understands that you meant “Looking for the ice cream.” The look on their face is not of confusion, but an international symbol for “yell in my general direction so I can understand your language.”
3. Don’t do your research
Being a tourist is about learning by doing, so why would you look things up before you go? There’s no reason to understand how their culture works or how not to be offensive to their customs. So what if you take a joke picture in front of a thousand year old memorial to a historic war? OOPS, DIDN’T KNOW!
4. Stop in heavily-trafficked areas
When you’re out and about, you’re going to want to observe the locals. The best place to do that is in busy areas where lots of people are trying to get somewhere. To get the full effect, go during rush hour and make sure to block as many people as possible. Sure, it may annoy a few people, but it will give you a taste of how they deal with confrontation and may provide you with some hilarious stories of the time you got yelled at by a businessman.
5. Channel your inner selfie diva
Selfies aren’t just a Snapchat pose, they’re a way of life. To make yours stand out, take selfies everywhere you can think that is slightly exotic. A Chinese McDonalds? Selfie. Random side street? Selfie. House that looks famous but you can’t remember where it’s from? Selfie. Next to a frowning soldier/policeman? Selfie. The room you’re being detained in after getting into a confrontation with a businessman on the tube? CAN YOU SAY SELFIE!