The Ugliest Travel Behavior, Part II

December 8, 2018

Let’s get into the holiday spirit with some of the worst humanity has to offer! I’m addicted to bad customer service stories, so it seems only appropriate I kick off December with some examples of bad behavior in the travel industry. Do you have any to add to the list?

5. “It’s flat!”

Thailand: the source of some of the worst expat behavior I’ve seen on this planet. Putting aside older men taking advantage of the sex industry, there are plenty of drunkards who will do or say anything after they get a few Changs in their belly.

Take one Australian guy I encountered at the 7-11 in Ao Nang. He was at the front of a long line of people brandishing an open beer can at the clerk, who didn’t appear to know any English besides “thank you” and “hello”; he was confused as to why a man had returned with a beer he had just purchased and started drinking. Repeatedly, this guy just started saying “it’s flat”, followed by a response in Thai indicating he didn’t understand, and again… “IT’S FLAT!”

…he was arguing the point for a few minutes over a beer than cost less than two dollars. It wouldn’t be the first time some people think the solution to breaking a language barrier is repetition followed by volume.

4. Riding elephants

We’re long past the days when posting a picture of you with a “tame” tiger to IG was considered acceptable; we were ignorant then, and hopefully not as many people are now. In order to make a lot of these creatures docile enough for tourists, they are beaten, tortured, caged, and conditioned until there’s nothing left of the animals we see on the outside.

The same is true for riding elephants; elephants that have been taken into captivity and caged for their early years to condition them for white people to ride on their backs live significantly shorter lives than those in the wild. A Couchsurfing friend of mine knew all of this and seemingly respected it, but when it came time for her to go to Thailand she paid for a ride just to get that picture – disgusting hypocrite.

3. “Don’t give me attitude.”

Airplane behavior has the potential to be some of the worst, due to the stress of arriving early, getting through security, and being jammed into a metal tube next to two farting children. With the exception of the middle school baseball team and a handful of crying babies, I’ve rarely seen bad behavior from children on airplanes, but I have been witness to a number of adults forgetting they live in a society.

On one particular flight that was close to full, a man asked to be reseated so he could be closer to his friend several rows up. The flight attendant was as attentive as she could have been, but still had to attend to other passengers and get the plane ready for departure. As she was checking in with the man and politely explaining he would most likely need to wait until they were at cruising altitude to change seats, he showed his true colors by spitting out “don’t give me attitude” in a demeaning tone.

The flight attendant’s smile went slack as she stated, “You know what? You can just stay right here.”

2. “Oh, happy day.”

For the most part, I found Kiwis to be extremely hospitable, open to tourists, and laid back. However, like anyone else in the travel industry, sometimes the repeated requests from customers can take their toll on bus drivers.

On one such occasion, our InterCity bus was making a brief stop in a random part of the North Island. A few passengers got on, but one who looked to be from China hesitated. Approaching the bus driver cautiously, he stumbled through a question in fractured English. Apparently the driver was in no mood to help with dignity, because he spoke to the man like a child, complete with exaggerated gestures and baby talk: “You here, you go here, then everything okay, oh happy day.”

1. Ranting racist in hostel

You would think that lunatics ranting about religion or the “evils” of brown and black people would be relegated to dark street corners, where they can be ignored and left to vote for Steve King in peace. Though hostels aren’t always the benchmarks for good behavior, they are without question examples of diversity: cultural and racial.

This is one reason I found it so shocking for an overnight American guest to approach another from somewhere in the Middle East, accuse him of being a terrorist, then go on a racist tirade – thankfully the recipient didn’t seem to understand everything. Though that was bad in and of itself, I found the hostel staff’s reaction more concerning; he did essentially tell the idiot to shut up, but let him finish his laundry and take his time rather than booting him onto the street immediately.

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