RASHMI OBEROI | 8 AUGUST, 2019
Why Are We So Badly Behaved (When We Travel)
A sense of entitlement
From airports to airplanes to hotels to resorts to public spaces… Indians are badly behaved and need to get a grip on this sad reality. I am a frequent traveller and spend a majority of my time observing people in various situations and the fact that I end up squirming or feeling embarrassed says a lot about how we behave in totality. Why do we forget that we are all ambassadors of our country or place of origin and need to convey a good impression of the place that we come from?
While each one of us is entitled to our quirks, bad behaviour is a big ‘No No’. From pushing, to shoving, to unruly behaviour during the flight, to hotel etiquette, to manners reflective of a tourist – Indians can be the worst. Making headlines across the world for such conduct reflects us poorly. We have got to make a conscientious effort to start behaving ourselves… And before we do that in foreign shores, let us first start doing it on home territory. It is only when we respect our surroundings and our country can we respect others.
Indians love to flaunt their money and power – and if they have it, they feel entitled and show off to such a level that it is sickening. Money to travel the world but no conscience when it comes to pilfering things that are not theirs. Deplorable behaviour by men in Thailand has resulted in Indian men being despised in that region. Stealing food at buffet meals has resulted in hotels putting up notices asking Indians not to sneak out food. Other hotels have signs asking Indians to follow a code of conduct. How utterly revolting! This is a true-blue cringe worthy scenario.
The fact is that bad behaviour by tourists ruins the image on an entire country and every traveller from that nation ends up getting flak. Naturally there is a bias in people’s minds based on the news they are reading, the behaviour they are noticing and incidents happening around them.
The entitled Indian traveller needs to change his psyche and fast. We need to respect other cultures, their rules, and understand boundaries. A majority of Indian tourists are loud, crass and insensitive. There is a code of conduct that has to be followed. I think a lack of exposure to the world and acceptable behavioural norms contribute significantly to this.
A lot of Indian travellers that exhibit this behaviour typically come from small towns and cities who have recently become affluent, and they genuinely don’t see anything wrong with their behaviour. That's not to say everyone from the bigger cities understands decorum better because sometimes they are the worst. Have you noticed how we love to jump up from our seats the minute the plane touches down... The aisle fills up so fast that no one can even think of navigating through the crowd. I always wonder if there is an emergency and the aircrew need to move ahead or to the rear of the plane – what in God’s name will they do? I never get up from my seat (always an aisle seat) till those seated a few seats before me start to move. I can feel the ‘neighbours’ squirming…their eyes boring into me in an effort to make me get up!
We also have the elbows out, legs wide apart kind of travellers, the ones who think that the free liquor means the whole bottle and not just a drink or two, the ones who carry the smelliest and oiliest of food to be eaten in the form of an air picnic, the ones who have no toilet etiquette, the ones who harass the cabin crew no end…the demanding ones, the whiny ones – basically the obnoxious traveller.
What really riles me is the number of Indian travellers in wheel chairs… and these are not the sick and the needy but the ones taking advantage and misusing a basic right of an ailing passenger. Saba Naqvi’s article about the middle class in wheelchairs hit the nail on the head.
The problem lies in the fact that we are not culturally sensitive and just outright refuse to learn about the customs of the place we are going to. Many of us have winced in embarrassment when we have seen a fellow countryman doing something culturally insensitive, while travelling abroad.
Such incidents are not alien and those of us who have discussed such horror stories feel we really need to change how we conduct ourselves - we refuse to stand in queues, we have no respect for other people’s personal space, we are matter of fact about littering and spitting, we think it is alright to talk loudly, jostle and push. So it should come as no surprise that we are not liked or appreciated as travellers arriving on foreign shores.
It is vital to remember that we are all ambassadors of our country – we are what India stands for… And so we need to understand the importance of being a good citizen - well-mannered, courteous and accountable for our actions. It’s the least we can do!