Recently a friend (and fellow travel agent) of mine made a really wise statement. She said something along the lines of, “when you travel, always remember that you are a guest somewhere.”
Now let’s talk about the word “guest” and just what kind of connotations it has. A good host will always try to make their guests feel welcome. But at the same time, a good guest will work hard to be kind and grateful to their host.
Some people get this concept, and some people don’t.
I am going to make a generalized statement that has MANY exceptions. But like so many things, it only takes a few bad eggs to make the whole batch look bad.
And we look bad.
Lots of travelers, but primarily Americans.
Yup, I said it. (Remember that part about exceptions though, people!)
And I’m going to get straight to the point without sugar-coating it.
There are too many people going abroad with the mindset of “Hey, I’m spending all this money, I’m allowed to treat people like shit!” Or, “I spent so much money that I expect everyone I deal with to kiss my ass and wipe it too!”
Oh yes, we travel agents come across these people. When I travel, I SEE these people. I hear them doing their thing. And as you all know I have a little insight into the other side of that world (the side of the mis-treated worker), as I hear Miloš’ horror stories as well.
It has got to stop!
First, let me give people a little lesson in the style differences of customer service between continents. I feel this is really important to address. In the USA, we are taught to put on the happiest smiliest face possible and treat every customer like a king or queen. The “customer is always right” mentality prevails. (I know a thing or two about customer service, having had part time jobs in the retail sector practically my whole life.) That is the style in THIS country. It is how we are trained. It is our norm.
However, that is not always the style in other countries. (Which is why many Europeans coming over to the US think they’ve landed on some weird planet of fakey-fake super-nice aliens.) When you travel over to Europe, you will hardly ever get the American level of “customer service.” It is NOT because people are trying to be rude to you! It’s just that culturally, in those countries customer service is about being efficient and doing what needs to get done. They were not trained to kiss your ass. They were trained to do their job and get you what you need. Done. Boom.
(Now I haven’t been to every country in Europe, but I’ve been to these, so I feel like I do have some experience from which to speak: Austria, Croatia, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, France, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, England, Wales. The only European country where I’d say they come close to American customer service is Switzerland.)
It makes me truly upset to see travelers being rude to people in customer service positions because said guest doesn’t feel they are being sufficiently brown-nosed. I saw it when I myself was on the cruise with my family. I saw people giving attitude to the servers at meals, or to the people at the reception desk, or to the housekeepers. These workers are trying to do their jobs as best they can, and yet they end up having to deal with such horrible treatment and attitudes. How would you like it to be in a job where you are away from your home, family, loved ones, and friends for eight months? And that’s having NO days off. None. Working close to slave labor, and then getting treated like that??? Yes, yes, Miloš and I had a wonderful time together on his three week vacation, but the rest of the eight-month season, he’s away on a ship working with no days off. We don’t get to be together. We don’t get to see each other. (Except on video chats. Obviously you know that’s not the same.) Nor does he get to see his mother. Or his friends. This situation is the case with every single employee on these ships. It’s really damn hard. As if that wasn’t bad enough, there’s the people who treat them like crap on top of it. Just because their vacation cost a lot of money.
It just makes me so angry. And lo and behold, I have a platform from which to express my sentiments!
I love to travel. I love to go to new and exciting places, as well as nostalgic favorites. I also feel like I’ve figured out how to travel when it comes to dealing with people in places all over the world. It’s simple – it’s called kindness. Compassion. Realizing that every person we come into contact with is a living breathing human being that has feelings. And loved ones they care about. And a life. And struggles. We all need to step back and realize that we are not the center of the universe, but an essential and important element that makes the world the wonderful varied place that it is!
So I beseech every one of you to go out with kindness – be it at home or when traveling to far off locations. Have a little empathy. See others for the individuals that they are.
Be good. It will come back to you. I promise.