Sunday, June 03, 2007

The beautiful tourist

Move over "ugly American", you've got competition. So says The New York Times as New York gears up to be overrun by European tourists this summer season. Lured by the absurdly cheap dollar, these vacationers, with a slippery grasp of the language and unaccustomed to tipping (20 percent?!?) and orderly queues (Italians... colpevole) will be walking-talking ambassadors of the EU abroad, stomping on flower beds and urinating on Broadway, no doubt.

Please report back to me on how it goes.

Here in Rome, you can't escape the clueless tourists who keep the otherwise shaky economy alive. The nationalities are easy to spot. The Americans, massively overweight and loudly informing everyone they have never seen such wonders before, walk around town dressed in picnic attire. The Brits are crimson after a day in the sun, boozing at sidewalk cafes. The Germans wear sandals and socks. The Japanese (and now, the Chinese) converge on landmarks in hordes. The Russians are guilty of all of the above.

But, guess what? I've traveled with the other side: Brits and Italians and Germans too. They're no better. After meals, Germans get out a calculator or strip of paper and tally up everybody's tab, down to the penny. The French and Belgians are cheap, so says Belgians and French I know. Italians, a bit jittery from the bad coffee, substitute the chemical withdrawal with nicotine. Cigarettes all day long. Who's the worst? According to an Expedia study from 2002 that really must be updated: the Brits. They are the most rude, gastronomically timid and incapable of picking up a few local phrases. Wonder how they'll fare in New York speaking that funny language?

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